The Best Books I Read in 2017

It has been a long time since my last post. During 2017, most of my focus was on achieving my health coaching certification. I accomplished that goal last week and will be sharing more about my coaching journey in future posts. One of my key priorities for 2018 is to blog much more consistently. I am kicking off my 2018 blogging with my annual list of the best books I read—those I rated four or five stars in Goodreads—during the previous year.

Alphabetically, within category, here are my favorites from 2017:

Business

  • Main Street Entrepreneur: Build Your Dream Company Doing What You Love Where You Live, Michael Glauser—I really enjoyed this combination of memoir and business manual. In 2014, cyclist and business professor Michael Glauser biked across the United States, interviewing 100 small-town entrepreneurs along the way. In this engaging and informative book, he distills their wisdom and lessons into nine key principles for building an entrepreneurial business.

Health

  • Gut: The Inside Story of Our Body’s Most Underrated Organ, by Giulia Enders—Enders does an amazing job of explaining in an interesting, entertaining and accessible way how our gastrointestinal health influences our overall health. She takes a broad and complicated topic and, with a sense of humor and a knack for appropriate simplification, makes it easy to understand. I consider this a real talent, for both a writer and a scientist.
  • Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked, by Adam Alter— As the mother of a 13 year old, I found this book both enlightening and alarming. Alter makes a compelling argument about the addictive risks of technology in our modern world.
  • Miracle Mindset: A Mother, Her Son, and Life’s Hardest Lessons, by JJ Virgin—This is an incredible story of an amazing recovery pushed by a mom who was committed to never giving up on her son after a horrific accident. JJ Virgin is well connected in the alternative health community and drew upon those resources to give her son every possible chance. She shares her lessons about the importance of mindset in overcoming intimidating odds and surviving terrifying traumas and stressors.
  • N of 1: One Man’s Harvard-Documented Remission of Incurable Cancer Using Only Natural Methods, Glenn Sabin—Sabin emphasizes the role of nutrition and explains the personalized supplementation regimen that helped him achieve long-term remission from incurable leukemia. Although he was clear that his story was not prescriptive, it was inspirational and thought provoking.
  • Proteinaholic: How Our Obsession with Meat Is Killing Us and What We Can Do About It, by Garth Davis—Bariatric surgeon Garth Davis delivers a meticulously researched explanation of the array of health problems associated with the of the overconsumption of animal protein in the US. He also shares his personal journey from sickly meat eater to vibrant, plant-based athlete. What he learned in his research has completely transformed his life and practice.

History

  • Learning to Breathe Fire: The Rise of CrossFit and the Primal Future of Fitness, by JC Hatch—Although I am not a CrossFitter and, after reading this, don’t really think it is the fitness discipline for me, I was intrigued by this part-history/part-memoir, and I learned a lot about the CrossFit culture.
  • The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America’s Shining Women, by Kate Moore—This is a well-researched historical account of women whose story deserves to be told. Young girls and women were recruited by corporations to highlight watches and military dials with radium-laced paint during the 1910’s and 1920’s. The dangers of their work were hidden (even from the women themselves) by their companies, and the painters endured horrendous suffering, disfigurement and death. Moore honors the women who rose from their suffering to fight for justice and legal protection for workers.

Memoir/Biography

  • Chancers: Addiction, Prison, Recovery, Love: One Couple’s Memoir, by Susan Stellin & Graham McIndoe—Jointly written by a couple, this book has a unique and conversational tone. Their story is powerful and must have taken a lot of courage to share. It provides insights into prison life, immigration issues, addiction and love.
  • Disrupted: My Misadventure in the Start-Up Bubble, by Dan Lyons—This memoir of a man in his 50’s attempting to move from a career as a well-respected journalist to a marketer in tech start-up HubSpot was absolutely fascinating, highly entertaining and also really scary.
  • Forward: A Memoir, by Abby Wambach—Wambach tells the story of her soccer career and the rest of her life with engaging detail. She shares honestly and openly about her struggles to love herself, accept her sexual orientation and feel worthy in the world.
  • Girl in the Woods: A Memoir, by Aspen Matis—This was a powerful book that I thought about during the day when I couldn’t read it and was sad to finish. Matis’ vivid storytelling of her epic journey on the Pacific Crest Trail after being raped her second day of college affected me deeply. Her brave effort to become the author of her own life revealed additional layers of complication that were both fascinating and remarkable.
  • Glitter and Glue, by Kelly Corrigan—I liked this book from the beginning, but it grew on me more and more as I read. Corrigan recalls the five months she spent working as a nanny for a family in Australia, after the children’s mother had died of cancer. The experience causes her to reconsider her relationship with her own mother, and she tells the captivating story of her nanny experience, while sharing personal reflections of her own maternal connection.
  • Hard Time: Life with Sheriff Joe Arpaio in America’s Toughest Jail, by Shaun Attwood—This book was more memoir than I expected, but that is what made it so interesting to read. I anticipated an exposé of Joe Arpaio, rather than a fascinating story about Attwood’s own experience with imprisonment under his reign. I thoroughly enjoyed the book as it was, and I did learn about the conditions in the jail.
  • If Nuns Ruled the World: Ten Sisters on a Mission, by Jo Piazza—I loved this book. Piazza tells the fascinating stories of 10 nuns who are doing great things in the world—from combating human trafficking to working for nuclear disarmament. Piazza’s vivid descriptions of the women recalled for me fond memories of the Catholic sisters who have played important roles in my life, both in school and in my nonprofit work.
  • In the Sanctuary of Outcasts, by Neil White—A unique twist on a prison memoir, this book tells the fascinating story of White’s stay at a prison that was also the last leprosy colony in the US—in the 1990’s! His story was gripping, moving and utterly surprising.
  • Inferno: A Doctor’s Ebola Story, by Steven Hatch—This is a great account of Hatch’s tenure as a volunteer physician during the 2014 Ebola crisis in Liberia. He does a great job of providing both factual and personal narratives of the epidemic.
  • Lucky, by Alice Sebold—This is Sebold’s courageous account of the terrifying rape and beating she endured as a college freshman in 1981. She details the brutal attack and the ensuing legal and medical experiences, but she also reveals the deeper internal and interpersonal repercussions of rape among women and between racial groups, when the victim and perpetrator are from dissimilar backgrounds. She acknowledges that some women may make different, yet valid, choices than she about how to handle and cope with a rape.

Personal Development/Coaching

  • Designing Your Life: Build a Life That Works for You, by William Burnett & Dave Evans—This is an outstanding guide for people of any age who want to live an authentic life doing work that is exciting and meaningful to them. Based on a very popular course at Stanford, the authors, who are both engineers, apply design theory to life design. There are excellent and unique suggestions for finding and creating one’s own path. It is one of the best career books I have ever read. I have recommended it to many of the students I advise.
  • Healthy Brain, Happy Life, by Wendy Suzuki—This excellent book combines Suzuki’s personal growth journey with solid neuroscience to explain why exercise, intention and meditation make clear and important changes to our lives and our brains. There are a lot of useful suggestions that anyone can implement to improve their own lives.
  • Living with Intent: My Somewhat Messy Journey to Purpose, Peace, and Joy, by Mallika Chopra—Written by Deepak Chopra’s daughter Mallika, this book provides an accessible and practical guide to incorporate more conscious living into busy, modern lives. She does it in a way that combines memoir with advice, making the book an engaging read.
  • Peak Performance: Elevate Your Game, Avoid Burnout, and Thrive with the New Science of Success by Brad Stulberg & Steve MagnessThis book details several key practices for improving performance and satisfaction across the whole spectrum of our lives. Stulberg & Magness offer useful information and clear instruction for implementing their suggestions. I particularly like their discussion of purpose, and I appreciate the science they include in support of their suggestions.
  • The Power of Moments: Why Certain Moments Have Extraordinary Impact, by Chip & Dan Heath—So many good ideas in this book! The Heath brothers give practical steps for creating impact in daily life. They present a great deal of data in support of their recommendations for making mundane moments meaningful, enhancing any relationship and doing purposeful work.

True Crime

  • Closing Time: The True Story of the “Goodbar” Murder, by Lacey Fosburgh— This book, written in 1977 about a 1973 murder, compassionately explores the lives of both the victim and the murderer.
  • Doc: The Rape of the Town of Lovell, by Jack Olsen –This is the unsettling true story of a small-town doctor who used his position of power to rape generations of women in a conservative, religious community. It is a well-written, emotional account of terrible crimes and vicious supporters.