Back in December of 2017, I made the tough but right decision to stop travel blogging. It had become cumbersome to have to get the right photo and take notes during my travels so I could blog later and I wasn’t enjoying it anymore. I just wanted to relax on my trips and take things in without feeling a need to document it all.
Since then, I’ve moved on to other passions that excite me. Always an adventurer, I joined an area hiking club and have gone on several day hikes with them. I also bought a year long membership to Shenandoah National Park and plan to explore more of the park over the fall months and into winter.
My main project for the year though was a 24 book non-fiction reading challenge. I chose 24 books with the prediction that I could read, on average, two a month.
You see, I have almost always read fiction books. Particularly mystery, with only the standout non-fiction book thrown in (think big hitters like Lean In) throughout the years. I wanted to explore more topics through reading books on various topics. And, nine months into my challenge, I have completed that goal.
So what I have read this year? The topics I read were far ranging – from personal finance, to managing grief after the death of a loved one, to mass shootings in America, and several on self improvement and happiness.
I thought I’d highlight ten of my favorites by award category and provide the full list of what I read in case anyone is interested in a similar challenge or just looking for a good book to read this fall!
- Best Memorable Book – Sapiens discusses the history of humankind from the beginning of the human species’ creation up to the twenty-first century. The transitions of humans from hunter gatherers to the agricultural revolution and even how we’ve transformed from an industrial society to a service based one today is truly fascinating for anyone who wonders what our ancestors were like and what caused our species to change over time.
- Book That Missed the Mark – Assassination Generation is a book that explores media violence, and in particularly video games, and how they impact a more violent youth and in turn more shootings in our country. While the premise of the book makes sense, a lot of the “facts”that were used in the book seemed easy to poke holes in. While I think there is something to be said for making sure children play age appropriate games, I’m not sure I was convinced on the extent of how much the violence in games impacts their behavior and future actions.
- Most Useful – Smart Women Finish Rich explains why women need to be financially knowledgeable and why saving now and for your future is essential. I made several financial moves based off the advice in this book and was able to manage making several large purchases this year by planning ahead in the way described in the book. This should be a must read for all women!
- Best Relationship Book – Why Men Love Bitches is not a book on how to be a bitch, but more so on how to stand up for yourself, not take shit from men who use women, and how to keep the balance of power equal in relationships.
- The One You Would Read Again – Factfulness: Ten reasons we’re wrong about the world–and why things are better than you think was incredibly insightful in how the world has come a long way – extreme poverty has decreased, literacy and education for women has increased, and access for health care – world wide, has overall increased the past few hundred years. Hans Rosling, the author, also explained how rather than “first world” and “third world” countries there are really four levels of living standards and explained what each looks like and some countries that are representative of each.
- Best Autobiography – Gabrielle Union’s We’re Going to Need More Wine was a really engaging autobiography. I found Gabrielle’s ability to express her experiences really profound and honest. Without giving too much away, I would recommend reading it even if you don’t know much about her as an actress.
- Best “Happiness” Book – The Happiness Project suited my approach to finding happiness well because it treated it like a project. Many books on happiness, I have found, will talk about happiness but more in an abstract form (travel! quit your job! sell your belongings!) and not so much on how to incorporate it into your day to day life. The author, Gretchen Rubin, was able to find a lot of happiness without necessarily having to make huge, life altering changes and her thought process helped me think of ways to improve mine.
- Best Page Turner – Escape from Camp 14 was so captivating that I read the entire book in the span of 24 hours (keep in mind that my normal pace is one book every two weeks!). In what I’ll describe more in the next category, the fact that people could live under such oppressing conditions shocked me and I essentially gobbled up the information.
- Most Upsetting – Escape from Camp 14 and Born Survivors were the most upsetting books for me to read. Escape from Camp 14 talks about the experience of a North Korean labor camper who spent his life in a camp until he escaped to South Korea. The cruelty of the North Korean regime is shocking and frankly made me angry (and still does). Born Survivors is the story of three women who all were pregnant at concentration camps during World World II. It wove a story of how the Jews were first sequestered into ghettos and then later into concentration camps with the personal experience of each mother. The sheer lack of conscious by the SS in their mass exterminations of Jews and others they found unworthy was horrifying.
- Most Discussed in my Book Club – Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance. Everyone who read this book had a different outcome. I had heard it was a book that explained “Trump’s people” but reading it, it just felt like a memoir of one person’s experience with Appalachia culture and the poverty of the region. I was a bit uncertain of what to take away from reading it.
Other honorable mention: Evicted was an excellent book that explored the stories of families who faced multiple evictions in Milwaukee. The book showed how the poverty cycle breeds desperation and stress and is incredibly difficult to break out of.
I actually stayed true to only reading non-fiction books all year, with the exception of one fiction book – Emily Giffin’s novel All We Ever Wanted. My reading challenge me realize that one way to continue my education and understanding as a person is through reading non-fiction topics that interest me. I felt like I gained knowledge in personal finance, how to be happier, the psychology of humans and happiness, and on historical events like the Holocaust and humans as a species and our transitions over time. The books I read impacted me in a way I didn’t expect and made me feel more positive and holistic on my personal knowledge.
So what’s next? For this year, I will be spending the next month and a half or so studying for a certification at work and will likely not read any “fun” books during that time. But, starting in December or as a 2019 resolution, I would like to have each month or every other month have a focus. For example, reading personal finance in January, and then spiritual books in February, and so on. Having a goal to aim for really helped me in finding the time and diligence to read on a regular basis.
So, without further ado – here is the full list of books I read as part of my 2018 challenge, in order of when I read them.
Noelle’s Non-Fiction Reading Challenge – Goal: 24 books
- Smart Women Finish Rich by David Bach
- Option B by Sheryl Sandberg
- Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance
- Escape from Camp 14 by Blaine Harden
- Columbine by Dave Cullen
- The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin
- Authentic Happiness by Martin Seligman
- The Little Book of Hygge by Meik Wiking
- Sisters First by Jenna Bush Hager and Barbara Pierce Bush
- Harvard Business Review Guide to Project Management by Harvard Business Review
- Earned Value Management for Dummies by Kim Koster and Jason Kinder
- Boying Up: How to be Brave, Bold, and Brilliant by Mayim Bialik
- We’re Going to Need More Wine by Gabrielle Union
- You are a badass : how to stop doubting your greatness and start living an awesome life by Jen Sincero
- Sapiens : a brief history of humankind by Yuval Noah Harari
- The Line Becomes a River by Francisco Cantu
- The Last Black Unicorn by Tiffany Haddish
- Quiet : the power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking by Susan Cain
- Factfulness: Ten reasons we’re wrong about the world–and why things are better than you think by Hans Rosling
- Evicted : poverty and profit in the American city
- Why Men Love Bitches by Sherry Argov
- Assassination Generation by Dave Grossman
- Born survivors : three young mothers and their extraordinary story of courage, defiance, and hope by Wendy Holden
- Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes
Have you read any of the above? Let me know your thoughts in the comments if you have!