Reading has really become a top priority for me lately. I’d say it’s just above Vanderpump Rules, but just below yoga. That’s a significantly important spot on my list.
It has always been something I enjoy doing, but when I was in school I always felt I should be doing academic reading (especially as an English minor, which ensured literature aplenty to fill up my reading roster), and during my first couple years post-college, I was so overwhelmed with work and staring at a computer all day that the last thing I wanted to do was pick up a book at 7:30 p.m. on a Tuesday. Now, it’s about all I can wait to do nearly every day.
I have officially come full circle, back to my third grade self. Back to being nerdy and bookish, and I love it.
I absolutely credit this change to having a job that finally fits me and my personality (read: non-corporate and non-stuffy-office job) and that doesn’t make me miserable. I have a much more flexible schedule and less stress thrown my way as a freelancer and a nanny, that’s for certain.
Because I have more time now than ever to put toward my creative aspirations, reading has seemed to go hand in hand. After reading more books recreationally last year than I had in the previous five combined, I find my inspiration to be soaring, my mind to be expanding, my writing to be improving, and my time spent in far more productive, stimulating ways.
No, duh. These are all no-brainer side effects of reading, which readers and nonreaders alike could tell you. But I will say that it’s pretty awesome to witness the expansive change in my own life as I’ve picked up more and more books the last several months, and I only wish I had pushed myself to read more even when I was in the thick of school and work anxieties. It probably would have alleviated some of my distress if I blocked out time to fit in a few chapters every week.
So, what have I been reading? I have a wide range of book tastes (we’re talkin’ murder-mysteries-to-cookbooks wide), but as I’ve been working on outlines and chapter drafts of my own book (very, very much so still in the works, and probably will be for some time), I keep returning to thrillers, since that’s what I want to write.
You know, the Gone Girl-esque, Girl on the Train-ish story lines.
I’ve found a handful of other twisty-turny titles, which I’ve recapped here, below, plus I have been loving the accounts and backstories of people I admire. I’ve started to read quite a few of those, as well, like The Magnolia Story, by Chip and Joanna Gaines (a MUST-READ for anyone pursuing entrepreneurship and chasing dreams — or just if you’re as obsessed with Fixer Upper as I am).
Last year, I started recording titles of books I finish reading inside a journal, along with a short recap, the date I finished the book, and whether or not I enjoyed the writing, plot lines, etc. Basically, enough short notes to know if I would read another by the same author.
It has already come in handy so many times just for personal reference, since I have a horrible memory and often can’t remember a title I read four or five books ago. I highly recommend this practice if you’re an avid reader, or even if you like reading every once in a while and want to remember and see all that you’ve read over a certain span of time.
Without further ado, here are six books I’ve recently read that are entertaining, well-written, page-turning magic. Enjoy, dear fellow book worms.
The Magnolia Story by Chip Gaines, Joanna Gaines, and Mark Dagostino
Watching their show, Fixer Upper, made me feel like I knew them on a personal level, but their story involves way more than I could’ve imagined: the growth of their sweet relationship and how it almost never happened; each of their childhoods, interesting and very telling in their own ways; the birth of businesses and babies, coinciding busily; partnership; hard work; high highs; and lows that might have ruined some people, but not the Gaineses. The writing is simple and beautiful, but their story is far more beautiful than it is simple.
The Kind Worth Killing by Peter Swanson
Hey, Peter. Are we related? I sure hope so, since this book was CRAZY good. A man discovers his wife is cheating on him with their vacation home contractor, and when he gets drunk and tells this to a stranger in an airport, he’s soon convinced that maybe there’s a type of person who doesn’t deserve to be alive, namely, his wife. Moral lines are crossed, drama ensues, and predictability goes out the window with this roller coaster of a novel.
Before I Go to Sleep by S. J. Watson
Okay, remember the movie 50 First Dates? This is the book version of that, just with a lot more darkness, mystery, and a sharp turn you would never guess. Christine wakes up every day with no memory of how old she is, where she is, or who the man is next to her in bed. Luckily, he’s made a journal of her entire existence — or at least most of it. A few missing pieces that don’t add up cause her to begin working with a doctor to patch together parts of her life that she can’t remember, which is essentially everything. Christine realizes soon she should not trust the one person who is trying to get her to trust him the most.
The Girls: A Novel by Emma Cline
If you haven’t heard of this book, you might just live under a rock. I just finished yesterday and could not put it down after about a quarter of the way in. It started a little slow, but holy smokes, does it ramp up fast. Evie is a self-conscious fourteen-year-old (who wasn’t at that age?) in the late ’60s who hates her parents and wants an escape from her mundane life. When she happens upon a group of other young girls who live on a nearby “ranch” with Russell, an older man whom they all seem to worship, she’s hooked on the allure of their free and happy lives — until things take a mean turn for the worse.
All the Missing Girls by Megan Miranda
(Do you see a theme here with my reading materials? Told y’all: I’m loving a good thriller these days.) A woman, Nic, returns to her small, Southern hometown 10 years after her high school graduation — and 10 years after the disappearance of her best friend — to help her brother sell their father’s home, since he’s been moved to assisted care for Alzheimer’s. After her arrival, another girl from the town, Nic’s neighbor in fact, disappears without a trace, and Nic is forced to come to terms with what really happened 10 years ago in order to solve the new conundrum.
Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick
Anna Kendrick is definitely scrappy, but she’s no longer a nobody. Her book is a package of hilarious essays on growing up in a normal middle class family while trying to break into Broadway and performing professionally, and all the awkwardness that comes with a teenage girl going through regular teenage girl stuff, plus being mildly in the limelight. I’m still reading this one, but it’s a good palette cleanser from some of the heavier stuff I’ve been reading, as you may be able to tell.
Tell me what must-read books you’ve devoured lately in the comments below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I’ll add them to my reading list!
Photography by BRASS TACKS & co.