66 books my friends recommend

Why is a post about books on my blog about letter writing? Well, like correspondence, it’s a print vs. digital thing. Even though I’ve dramatically increased the snail mail correspondence I send and receive, I haven’t cut down on digital communications. Yes, you can enjoy both. The same goes with books: I love the smell and feel of a new book, purchased from a local bookshop and perhaps recommended by a staff member. But I also appreciate the convenience and portability of a Kindle download, especially when it’s combined with a GoodReads Deals offer.

Like I fell back in love with letter writing in August 2014, I started falling back in love with reading in 2015. Keep in mind that I read, write, and edit for a living, so I’d drifted away from reading for pleasure over the years, and, after years of writing about technology, I have completely lost my fiction-writing chops.

For the first time in the history of forever, I’ve been diligently working on a New Year’s goal—a reading challenge—throughout the year. On January 1, 2016, I decided to try to read 52 books in 2016, and I started tracking my list using GoodReads. I’d joined GoodReads in January 2013, but then mostly forgot about the site. In 2016, I’ve found myself visiting frequently to add to my Read or Want to Read lists, and to see what my friends were reading and recommending. (Because I’ve been trying out new genres, taking recommendations, and want to enjoy the process, I made a rule that if I read about half a book and still am not into it, I’m allowed to mark it as Read and move on.)

Here are a few books I loved this year, and a bit about who recommended them:

  • Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel: I was at a tech conference a few months ago, talking to a group of friends about books. I mentioned that I hate zombie and apocalyptic stories, when a friend replied, “I read an apocalyptic story you would like.” I insisted that I wouldn’t, and she assured me that this book was different, not depressing, and it was full of hope. And she was right—this might be my favorite book this year.
  • Life After Life by Kate Atkinson: I think someone at a book store recommended it. I don’t remember, but whatever… it was awesome and I loved it.
  • All Things Cease to Appear by Elizabeth Brundage: My friend Stephen King recommended this to me. (And by “my friend” I mean “an author I follow on Twitter” … and by “recommended this to me” I mean “recommended this to all his Twitter followers.”) Two enthusiastic thumbs up.

The other night, I’d finished reading I Capture the Castle and started on All the Light We Cannot See, when I was wondering what my Facebook and Twitter friends were reading. So I asked them, and they responded. I added most of their recommendations to my GoodReads Want to Read list and decided I should share their recommendations.

I left a few recommendations off the list, including horror genre (I can only read those when I’m not living alone), “people die from cancer or suicide” genres (I can’t ever read those), software development books, and books that are out of print, that I’ve already read, or are about wood working and sports. (What can I say—I have a neat mix of friends.) Oh, and I included two books I’d already read—one of them I loved and binge-read, and one bored me half the way through, but lots of my friends loved it so it made the cut.

For your reading pleasure, here are 66 books my friends have been reading:

  1. Where the Dead Pause, and the Japanese Say Goodbye: A Journey by Marie Mutsuki Mockett
  2. The Right Kind of Crazy: A True Story of Teamwork, Leadership, and High-Stakes Innovation by Adam Steltzner and William Patrick
  3. Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by by Atul Gawande
  4. Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert (My friend said, “Thought it was gonna be a super touchy feely woo woo chick lit book…and it was, but that turned out to be exactly what my butch ass needed,” so now I’m intrigued.)
  5. All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy
  6. The Hour of the Land: A Personal Topography of America’s National Parks by Terry Tempest Williams
  7. The Unseen World by Liz Moore
  8. The Night of the Gun by David Carr
  9. All Families are Psychotic by Douglas Coupland
  10. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
  11. Open Season (Joe Pickett #1) by by C.J. Box
  12. Your Heart is a Muscle the size of a Fist by Sunil Yapa
  13. Oreo by Fran Ross, Harryette Mullen
  14. Deep Simplicity: Bringing Order to Chaos and Complexity by John Gribbin
  15. The Lemoncholy Life of Annie Aster by Scott Wilbanks
  16. The Selection series by Kiera Cass
  17. Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson
  18. Rise of the Rocket Girls: The Women Who Propelled Us, from Missiles to the Moon to Mars by Nathalia Holt
  19. The Sound of Gravel by Ruth Wariner
  20. Bukowski in a Sundress: Confessions from a Writing Life by Kim Addonizio
  21. The Atomic Weight of Love by Elizabeth J. Church
  22. The Portable Veblen TLE by Elizabeth Mckenzie
  23. True Crimes: A Family Album by Kathryn Harrison
  24. In Zanesville by Jo Ann Beard
  25. Tuesday Nights in 1980 by Molly Prentiss
  26. The Tsar of Love and Techno by Anthony Marra
  27. Undaunted Courage: The Pioneering First Mission to Explore America’s Wild Frontier by Stephen E. Ambrose
  28. The Soul of an Octopus: A Surprising Exploration into the Wonder of Consciousness by Sy Montgomery
  29. The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper by Phaedra Patrick
  30. Double Star by Robert A. Heinlein
  31. The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson
  32. The Hidden Half of Nature: The Microbial Roots of Life and Health by David R. Montgomery, Anne Biklé
  33. The Years of Rice and Salt by Kim Stanley Robinson
  34. The Chocolate War (Chocolate War #1) by Robert Cormier
  35. Big Science: Ernest Lawrence and the Invention that Launched the Military-Industrial Complex by Michael Hiltzik
  36. The Devil’s Workshop by Stephen J. Cannell
  37. Girl Waits with Gun (Kopp Sisters, #1) by Amy Stewart
  38. The Martian by Andy Weir
  39. The Girls by Emma Cline
  40. Documenting Light by EE Ottoman
  41. The Museum of Extraordinary Things by Alice Hoffman
  42. The Nix by Nathan Hill
  43. The More of Less: Finding the life You Want Under Everything You Own by Joshua Becker
  44. Wherever You Go, There You Are by John Hampel
  45. Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War by Nathaniel Philbrick
  46. Sweetland by Michael Crummey
  47. Rainbow Pie by Joe Bageant
  48. The Etymologicon: A Circular Stroll through the Hidden Connections of the English Language by Mark Forsyth
  49. Wild Seed (Patternmaster #1) by Octovia E. Butler
  50. Stork Mountain by Miroslav Penkov
  51. The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom
  52. Glory over Everything: Beyond The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom
  53. The Bone People by Keri Hulme
  54. The Beekeeper’s Apprentice (Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes #1) by Laurie R. King
  55. The True Game (Land of the True Game #1-3) by Sheri S. Tepper
  56. Slade House by David Mitchell
  57. Some Possible Solutions by Helen Phillips
  58. Bread, Wine, Chocolate: The Slow Loss of Foods We Love by Preeti Simran Sethi
  59. Blindness (Blindness #1) by José Saramago, Giovanni Pontiero (Translator)
  60. The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson
  61. Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory by Caitlin Doughty
  62. The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers
  63. Dune (Dune #1) by Frank Herbert
  64. The Hobbit (Middle-Earth Universe) by J.R.R. Tolkien
  65. Underground Airlines by Ben H. Winters
  66. Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything by Joshua Foer