When Ryan and I first started talking about making a radical life change and creating a vision of the kind of life we wanted to build, a theme we found ourselves repeating was, “I wish I had more time to read.” We’d always tried to avoid excessive TV-watching, but between a long cold winter and jobs that left us drained and unhappy at the end of the day, it seemed like we were spending way too much time in front of a screen.
Once we moved into the camper (and especially after I got my birthday Kindle) my reading time dramatically increased. There were plenty of fireside mystery novels, but I also ready plenty of books that moved me, opened my eyes, or changed the way I think. These are my favorite reads of 2015.
The Long Way Home: A Chief Inspector Gamache Novel by Louise Penny
Louise Penny is my favorite modern author. Her Gamache novels inspired our best trip ever, a magical Christmas week in Quebec City. When she writes a new book, I tend to hoard it for **the perfect reading moment**, which is why I’m actually a book behind — her most recent book, The Nature of the Beast, came out this fall (Ryan gives it two thumbs up!). The Gamache novels are mysteries, but they’re so much more than that — they’re beautifully written, gritty without being crass, smart, funny, and moving all at the same time.
Unprocessed: My City-Dwelling Year of Reclaiming Real Food by Megan Kimble
Unprocessed is the story of how 26-year-old Megan Kimble decided to go an entire year without eating processed foods. Every month she tackled a new category, everything from dairy and meat to refrigeration and navigating the supermarket. Her stories about milling wheat, extracting salt from the sea, and slaughtering a sheep are engaging and thought-provoking, and definitely prompted me to take a closer look at my eating and shopping habits.
As a traveler obsessed with visiting new cities, I always love reading about what makes them tick. Walkable City was possibly the nerdiest book I read this year, but the in-depth analysis by city planner Jeff Speck was presented in a truly engaging and often laughter-inducing way. Part of our camper-life journey is finding Our Home — the place we want to settle long term — and Walkable City gave me lots to consider.
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo
I’ve already sung the praises of this book before, so I won’t say too much more about it here. Suffice it to say that if you haven’t read Marie Kondo’s book, and if you’re at all interested in the relationship of people and stuff, this is one you should definitely check out.
After reading Cheryl Strayed’s Wild I can say with some confidence that I’ll never thru-hike the Pacific Crest Trail. The Appalachian Trail, however, seems much more attainable — and I loved Bill Bryson’s hilarious and occasionally tortured account of hiking the trail as a middle-aged man. I haven’t yet watched the movie with Robert Redford and Nick Nolte, but I’m looking forward to seeing it.
As a troubled skin person, I pretty much bought this book because of all the #goals words on the cover: “Simple,” “natural,” “clear,” “calm,” “happy.” My skin is none of those things and I was desperate for change. I loved the focus on changing your skin from the inside and using simple solutions on your skin instead of assaulting it with chemicals. This book is a practical blueprint for healing your skin, and is also chock-full of simple recipes for natural skin products.
The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry: A Novel by Gabrielle Zevin
With A.J. Fikry I’m ending my list on a lighthearted and heartwarming note — two words that rarely describe my reading choices. A. J. Fikry is a cantankerous bookstore owner who is despondent about losing his wife and fatalistic about the declining sales at his small, quirky bookstore. In a chaotic chain of events, he loses all patience with his bookstore sales rep, his prized rare edition of Tamerlane is stolen, and someone leaves a baby at his store. The tone reminded me of Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, and this book — a fairly quick read — left me feeling all warm and fuzzy inside.
What were your favorite reads of 2015? Have you read any of mine?