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Wildlife Festival at Lyonia Environmental Center in Deltona - February 18, 2017

My 2016 top book picks!


As a book lover, my goal for 2016 was to read 52 books, or one book per week on average. I ended up reading 56 books in 2016 (and had started a few and didn't finish, which didn't make the count). My reading goal again for 2017 will be to read 52 books. 

My goal here was to post my top five book picks out of the ones I read this year. But I can't narrow it down to five. So I have picked my top six favorite books, and then two book picks that are good for making personal changes. As you will see, all of my top picks are nonfiction. I'm a nonfiction lover! I do read some fiction, but I'm more drawn to nonfiction. I did read one fiction book I really liked this year, called "My Name is Lucy Barton," which is by Elizabeth Strout. It's a short, beautiful book, that is a great addition another book of hers I love, "Olive Kitteridge."

Here are my top picks out of the 56 books I read in 2016:


My number one pick this year, "When Breath Becomes Air" was written by a young neurosurgeon, Paul Kalanithi, who is dying as he writes the book. I loved this book. It's beautifully written, raw, insightful, interesting, and provides you with plenty of food for thought. I found myself crying several times throughout reading the book. I really liked this doctor's attitude and reading everything he shared with us all. His writing style is beautiful and I think this book is a lasting gift to humanity.



Written by a lawyer who defends death row inmates, "Things I've Learned from Dying" by David R. Dow is thought provoking. The author has a unique writing style that keeps you interested, as he intertwines the stories of a death row inmate he is defending to try to keep alive, his aging dog, and his dying father-in-law. I found his work interesting and was drawn to the narratives about all three. This book made me cry, and it also made me think. A very insightful book that is well worth reading.


Written by a surgeon, "Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End," by Atul Gawande is an important book that will make you think about quality of life, nursing homes, aging, and what matters in the end. After I read "When Breath Becomes Air" (my top book pick), this book came up as a suggestion of one I should read as well. We are all mortal, although we don't like to think about being so, and this book makes you think about what does matter in the end. Whether it's the end for us or for our loved ones, the decisions we make do make a difference. Two thumbs up for this book being so open, honest, and thought provoking. It lays the foundation for a conversation that everyone should have so that end-of-life wishes are known.



My fourth book pick is "Meathooked" by Marta Zaraska. This is a great book on the topic of eating meat (something most Americans do 2-3 times per day). The author has done a ton of research and has done a nice job of compiling it all, sharing it, and keeping it interesting. I was hooked reading this book. I liked how she touched on so many aspects of why people are so "hooked" on meat, including historical, cultural, advertising, etc. As someone who has been a vegetarian (one that doesn't sneak meat as discussed in the book) for over 21 years, I found this book to be quite interesting and thought provoking. 



"Without a Map," By Meredith Hall is my number five book pick. I didn't want to put this book down. I was immediately drawn into Hall's life and wanted to know more and what happened as the years went by. She writes beautifully and although the story is her own, it is thought-provoking in that we all share some of these same emotions and experiences on some level. Our stories may differ, but we have all been hurt, lost, loved, grieved, contemplated, etc. Beautiful story filled with the things that make life and demonstrate the human condition.



"Stars Between the Sun and Moon" by Lucia Jang is a memoir of a woman who escaped from North Korea and made her way to the freedom of Canada. It's a heart breaking memoir that left me crying at the end, but it is so worth reading!


Here are the two books that I find will be the most beneficial for making changes in my day-to-day life:


"The Urban Monk" by Pedram Shojai offers a lot of good information and advice on living a more natural and healthy life in today's world. From meditation and soups to limiting the checking of your email, there's a lot of great advice here. This is the book that inspired me to make the switch to drinking a protein shake for breakfast every day (which it has been almost four months that I've been doing it around five mornings per week and it's been great for me!).



"Ethics in the Real World," by philosopher Peter Singer is one that will make you think. This book changed the way I see donating money, and that will never be the same again. I really enjoyed reading this book, which is a collection of his short essays, each covering a different moral issue. I may not agree with every one of his arguments, but I enjoyed reading them and and it certainly did open my eyes on numerous topics. This book gives you something to think about, as well as to have conversations about. Well worth reading!


- Jacqueline Bodnar

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