Here you’ll find my favorite reads of the year. I’m always looking for a good book, so please feel free to leave a comment with your favorite as well! (I’ll add new books to the top of the page.)
Running is My Therapy: Relieve Stress and Anxiety, Fight Depression, Ditch Bad Habits, and Live Happier- Scott Douglas
I was intrigued but a little concerned with the book’s title “Running is My Therapy” as my personal and educational background thought it sounded quite limiting.
I’m glad to report that the book was much more expansive than the title suggest, which includes looking at all the research studies that suggest exercise/running is an effective treatment for mental health challenges, but also looking at other modalities such as talk therapy, mindfulness, connection, and medication, in addition to acknowledging the limits of running. I definitely recommend this book for anyone interested on the topic!
(Spark is another awesome books that looks at exercise and the its effects on the brain.)
Biased: Uncovering the Hidden Prejudice That Shapes What We See, Think, and Do- Jennifer L. Eberhardt, PhD
Full of stories and statistics on prejudice against people of color. For me as a human and counselor, it is important for me to always be aware of the biases (that I’ve gained growing up and living in mostly/all white communities) so I can call out the myths in my own mind.
The Moment of Lift: How Empowering Women Changes the World- Melinda Gates
A thorough account of how and why empowering women brings everyone up.
Let Your Mind Run: A Memoir of Thinking My Way To Victory – Deena Kastor
I’ve read more positive mindset books than I can recount. They inspire, and then I forget. Kastor’s boot was a great reminder, but her words have stuck with me a bit more. I’m not sure why. Maybe because I like her running stories and I can relate as a running coach. Or maybe because her positive oozes through the page. As I read, I kept thinking “I want to be more like that.” As so my practice has begun.
The Push: A Climber’s Search for the Path – Tommy Caldwell
I’m not a climber, but I loved this book. Tommy has a way of connect with the audience with his description of the mental challenges he faced both on the wall and in life. The reader can also feel him come alive has he climbs his favorite routes amidst beautiful scenery.
What Made Maddy Run: The Secret Struggles and Tragic Death of An All-American Teen -Kate Fagan
I won’t say too much about this one, mainly that anyone involved in a young person’s life, especially young people who grow up in middle to upper class neighborhoods with constant pressures to perform and go to college. In this book, author Kate Fagan follows the story of Maddy Holleran, who ran track at and Ivy League school. Kate pieces the story together through Maddy’s family and friends, also doing extensive research on mental health and the current world of our young people.
The Newcomers: Fining Refuge, Friendship, and Hope in an American Classroom – Helen Thorpe
Another accidental find at the library that I am so happy I picked up. For a year and a half, Thorpe observes an ELA class at South High School in Denver of newly arrived immigrants (or newcomers) just starting school in the United States and learning a new language (though may already speak several languages). A large part of her words are dedicated to the students growth and development in class and in school, but Thorpe also visits some of the student’s families to get a better idea of what her students have survived and what they’ve carried with them into the new country. Thorpe also adds in a visit one of the countries in which a few of the students hailed From, exploring what life was life for them living in a refugee camp. As a backdrop, the book was written from 2015-2016, in the midst of controversial president election.
The Magnificent Mountain Women- Janet Robertson
I highly recommend The Magnificent Mountain Women to any of my friends in Colorado who want to learn more about the general history of the Rocky Mountains as well as the women who left their impact on the state. The book includes the first summits of Longs Peak and Pikes peak by women, homesteaders, botanist, “The Women’s Park” (Mesa Verde National Park), and modern climbers. (Robertson started off in her preface acknowledging that she left out the history of Native American women, and that much of the written records came from people with some privilege.)
Educated: A Memoir- Tara Westover
Wow. This is Tara’s first book and I can’t wait to read her next! In this first book, she tells the story of she was raised in a Mormon family on a farm, homeschooled until her father decided the kids should help him with work. Amazingly, she studied for the ACT and got a score high enough to get into BYU…and eventually earning a PhD. There’s a lot more twists in her story that that, but I’ll stop typing before I give any spoilers. (On a side note, I was reading this on the plane and the woman next to me started telling me how much she loved the book!)
Becoming- Michelle Obama
Michelle Obama is a true story teller, and in her stories are lessons about life, love, and challenge. Not only am I amazed how about her journey and her achievements, but how she dealt with raising a family in the White House in such a authentic and elegant style.
Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone- Brene Brown
If you’re like me, you may have never felt like you ever fit in. School groups, work peers, family, etc…always the different one. This book helped me realize that actually, that’s okay. It’s not about fitting in, but belonging…and knowing we belong everywhere.
Way of the Peaceful Warrior- Dan Millman
The spiritual book that is not a “how to”, but a non-fictional/fictional story mix that inspires, makes the reader think, and captivate the reader in Dan’s descriptive words. This book was recommended to me by my sister, and then I heard the Spiritual Adviser at the rehab center where I intern recommends it to his clients…and I have grown from the wisdom the story holds.
Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs- Johann Hari
Hari wrote this book before writing Lost Connections, though you could see the elements of this book leading to the former. In this book, the controversial Hari dives into the history of the war on drugs, describes horrific stories of what it’s like for some addicts in prison, reveals terrifying yet remarkable information from interviews with addicts, drug dealers, and drug lords. And, with insight from leading doctors, countries who have changed their laws from arrest to help, and advocates from all backgrounds, Hari offers suggestions on how we can help put an end to the drug war.
Lost Connections: Uncovering the Real Causes of Depression- And The Unexpected Solutions- Johann Hari
I don’t know where to start my praise for this book, but then again, I don’t have to when it has already been praised by Elton John, Hillary Clinton, Bill Maher, Arianna Huffington, and more. Without the least bit of exaggeration, I truly believe that if everyone read this book, the world would be a better place. For a very brief summary, Hari uses research (and a ton of it), journalism, and personal stories that delve into what depression is not (a brain disease), what it’s true causes (re: not symptoms) truly are (often societal), and what we can do to start making things better.
North: Finding My Way While Running the Appalachian Trail-Scott Jurek with Jenny Jurek
I’ve read a lot of athlete books over the years. Most I like, though they just tell a chronological story. Others have heart. There’s lessons and meaning behind the story. The suck you in. That’s North. Like most adventure books I read, I flipped to the last page in a matter of days, making myself close the book at night to get some sleep. And yet it also made me pause and reflect later on, philosophically thinking about ego, adventure, death, relationships, and a human’s ability to endure. The book was made even better as Scott’s wife and AT crew chief, Jenny Jurek, shared her own perspective on their adventure.
Orthorexia: When Healthy Eating Goes Bad- Renee McGregor
I first hear Renee McGregor speak about orthorexia on the Tina Muir podcast. Orthorexia is a relatively new term (my computer keeps trying to spell check it!) that revolves around the ideas of correct and clean eating. Having suffered from anorexia nervorsa as a teenager and still having disorder eating many years after that, Renee’s words instantly resonated with me. With that being said, I didn’t agree with everything in her book, but I did agree on her main messages. Anytime we obsess over anything, things get dangerous and remove joy out of life. Additionally, orthorexia and eating disorders are primarily mental, not physical. They revolve around attempts to feel good enough, to achieve, to create harmony in one’s life by displacing anxiety elsewhere.
In the Realm of the Hungry Ghost: Close Encounters with Addiction- Gabor Mate
Honestly, I can’t say this better than Amazon’s Review:
Based on Gabor Maté’s two decades of experience as a medical doctor and his groundbreaking work with the severely addicted on Vancouver’s skid row, In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts radically reenvisions this much misunderstood field by taking a holistic approach. Dr. Maté presents addiction not as a discrete phenomenon confined to an unfortunate or weak-willed few, but as a continuum that runs throughout (and perhaps underpins) our society; not a medical “condition” distinct from the lives it affects, rather the result of a complex interplay among personal history, emotional, and neurological development, brain chemistry, and the drugs (and behaviors) of addiction. Simplifying a wide array of brain and addiction research findings from around the globe, the book avoids glib self-help remedies, instead promoting a thorough and compassionate self-understanding as the first key to healing and wellness. In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts argues persuasively against contemporary health, social, and criminal justice policies toward addiction and those impacted by it. The mix of personal stories—including the author’s candid discussion of his own “high-status” addictive tendencies—and science with positive solutions makes the book equally useful for lay readers and professionals.
The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Body, Mind in the Healing of Trauma- Bessel Van der Kolk
This book is revolutionary on how we (our society) looks at trauma and our approach to treating it. The book presents a holistic view on trauma and recognizes how the body stories trauma and gives techniques on how to release stored trauma.
The Whole Foods Diet: The Lifesaving Plan for Health and Longevity- John Mackey, Alona Pulde, and Matthew Lederman
For those of you who know me, you know that I am self-proclaimed nutrition, plant-based, and vegan nerd and have read many of the top books on the topic. This new addition to the library gives a wonderful summary of the top research, insight from leaders and well-renowned doctors, stories of personal transformation, and some great (and pretty simple) menu ideas. John Mackey also makes a compelling case in the books last chapter on the ethical side of vegan diet.
Peak Performance: Elevate Your Game, Avoid Burnout, and Thrive with the New Science of Success- Brad Stulberg, Steve Magness
Now one of my favorite books in the performance genre, Brad and Steve fill the pages with top research and stories to make a captivating read. The topics they explore, like stress, sleep, habits, purpose, and much more, not only give the reader personal insight into their own life, but give opportunities to expand and enhance your own life (whether it has to do with athletics, business, or all-around).
Walking to Listen: 4,000 Miles Across America, One Story at a Time- Andrew Forsthoefel
Honestly, I picked this book up not really expecting to like it, especially as he was walking the road and not a trail. However, the book beautifully intertwined his philosophical musings, the stories of those he met (the stories of America), and the introspective insight one can only achieve by making peace with solitude.