Happy 2016, nuts! I’m back… but this time, I’m here to fill your minds with something a little more substantial than selfies of me being fly in New York City (hard to top, I know). Alas, I give you: my favorite reads of 2015!
Now, before you get too impressed with such a book list, I will caveat this post by saying that most of these books were not actually published in 2015 – in fact, I don’t think any of them were. However, whereby Heather’s strategic placement on a table at Indigo or a late recommendation from a friend, 2015 is the year in which I read all of them. I write this post shortly after making a New Year’s resolution to read more in 2016 – like, a lot a lot more. And lucky for you, I will be sharing my reads along the way! Stay tuned for monthly postings on what I read and whether it was worth cancelling my Netflix subscription for*. Now, without further ado: the five books I read last year!
Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness by Susannah Cahalan
‘Brain on Fire’ was the best book I read last year. Published in 2012 (I was a little late to the show), the story depicts real-life New York Post writer Susannah Cahalan’s dark descent into apparent insanity at the young age of 24. Suddenly struck by aggressive mood swings, strong feelings of paranoia, and otherworldly hallucinations, Susannah’s world is turned upside down in a matter of weeks. Unable to properly diagnose her, family and friends watch helplessly as the world’s top-tier medical teams try and figure out how a smart, healthy young woman has been reduced to a present day Walking Dead extra. Told from Susannah’s point of view (spoiler alert: she survives), this novel paints a heartbreaking picture of a girl who could be your best friend (or you!) and the unnerving experience of losing her sense of self. I was deeply moved by Susannah’s ability to humanize such a rare and complex medical condition. Harrowing. Visceral. Unputdownable. I recommended it to every book lover I know.
Still Alice by Lisa Genova
By now, you are likely familiar with this title by way of the 2014 film adaptation starring Julianne Moore. Originally published in 2007 (I know, I know), ‘Still Alice’ tells the story of Columbia University linguistics professor Alice Howland. The movie was good – but, as I usually do in the book vs. motion picture debate, I firmly stand behind the opinion that the novel evokes far more emotion than the film. A vivaciously bright woman, Alice is successful in her career and blessed with a large, mostly happy family (there is always an angsty teenager, who is always played by Kristen Stewart). So when her sharp mind begins to fade, no one thinks early-onset Alzheimer’s could be to blame… until it is. As you witness Alice’s career and family begin to falter, you will be sideswiped with moments of emotion; like when Alice forgets where the washroom is in her home and pees her pants with her husband watching, or forgets her famous recipe for an annual family Christmas dish. Delicate and heartbreaking, this is a rainy day read to make you appreciate your blessings and the important things in life.
Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling
Changing pace to something a little more lighthearted, I present to you: MINDY! If, unlike me, you don’t see Mindy Kaling as your spirit unicorn/the funniest woman alive/your actual best friend, this might be a bit of a hard sell… but here goes. In this “series of essays” (which, by the way, I have learned is just another term for “hilarious and sometimes even irrelevant moments in one’s life”, and am now convinced every email I send is in fact a “series of essays”), Mindy follows up her hilarious first book, ‘Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns)’ with more of her signature wit on society, the workplace, and the strange world that is Los Angeles. You need not have read her first essay series to follow this one – it’s just less Matt Damon and Dartmouth, more waxing poetic on McDonalds/casual hookups/being a badass bitch. To put it simply: if you enjoy the type of self-aware humor that people like Mindy have curated, mixed in with the transcendent theme of an “outsider’s” view of the “inside”, then you will enjoy this book (and The Mindy Project on Hulu/Fox Canada. Obsessed). If any part of this description has made you roll your eyes or judge me, then move along, h8ter.
Rich Bitch by Nicole Lapin
Although possessing a kind of cringe-worthy, hashtag-y title, I recommend ‘Rich Bitch’ to any young woman looking for fiscal guidance in her life. If, like me, you have long felt like you missed some memo on what the heck a “bottom line” is, or how to calculate compound interest (no? just me?) – have no fear. Nicole gives a crucial crash course in personal finance from the stance of a modern woman; that is to say, a woman who doesn’t say nay to that Starbucks cappuccino or J. Crew blazer. With the help of well-crafted orginizational charts and personal examples, Nicole teaches readers how to manage money by putting their lifestyle and values into perspective – something that will not only lend ease to our wallets, but to our oft-confused minds as well. Plus she’s like, really smart (she’s an anchor on CNN and a graduate of Columbia, Northwestern, AND Harvard – what?!). Time to get rich + bitchy, nuts!
A House in the Sky by Amanda Lindhout
Okay, so this is not only one of my favorite reads of 2015, but actually one of my favorite books ever. ‘A House in the Sky’ is the memoir of Canadian journalist-turned-Somali hostage Amanda Lindhout. Written beautifully, this story is especially tormenting because it hits so close to home; raised in small town Alberta and hit with the travel bug, Amanda exemplifies the mentality of so many millennials today. Waitressing her way to plane ticket after plane ticket, Amanda travels with her boyfriend, travels with her friends, travels solo – until deciding to trade in her tray for a notebook and camera to pursue a career in journalism, covering the turbulent political sphere of the Middle East/Africa. The rest you can put together… captured along with her travel companion and their driver + guide, Amanda spends an excruciating 460 days in the captivity of Somali warlords. What makes this story stand out from the rest is the honesty with which Amanda recalls such a horrific experience; the impact of religion and faith on not only her captors, but ultimately herself as well. A must, MUST read.
Just realized all of these books have strong female leads… Not sorry.
* I obviously did not cancel my Netflix subscription.
Who might this guest be?
Shannon is a Tostito enthusiast who balances her unhealthy obsession writing reviews from her TripAdvisor account with a day job in Legal Marketing. She lives in Toronto, where she has yet to meet a carb she didn’t like. Follow her misadventures on Twitter @codeshanaynay.