Over the last few years, I've curated a collection of books to give my thumb (and my mind) something other to do than scroll through Instagram at night. With the intention of escaping technology altogether, I buy print. Hard-cover, soft-cover. Fiction, non-fiction. This past year I read everything from a story about a self-made news host to several classics I missed in high school. I hope you enjoy the colors, the feel, and the wonderful tangibility of these books should you decide to give them a read as well.
Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert (2015)
I'll be honest. I didn't realize Gilbert was the one who wrote Eat, Love, Pray when I picked up this self-help hit. And while I didn't read that book, I strongly disliked the movie. Needless to say I went into Big Magic with low expectations. But as someone who had just been diagnosed with an especially low sense of creativity, I dove in and came up with a nugget of wisdom. We're all creators in some capacity—but only if we want to be. My takeaway is that if you can stand a little magical realism and find yourself needing a kick in the butt to get started on some project you've been putting off, Gilbert is the perfect fit.
Catch-22, Joseph Heller (1961)
Ever since graduating college, I regretted that no one ever assigned me this famous title. I decided to take matters into my own hands this year and read the 544-page behemoth without doing even the slightest background check on the thing. Days later I found myself up to my elbows in a twisted World War II plot that was not only riddled with vocabulary I didn't know, but satire that struck me as uniquely masculine. It wasn't until somewhere near page 300 that I decided this would be one of my favorite books. The complexity of Heller's epic and ironic tale challenged me in a way few books do these days, and his characters are still making me laugh months later. Your library isn't complete until you have this book on your shelf.
Plunder and Deceit, Mark Levin (2015)
There's a reason I consider myself better informed than most people my age, and it's because I get my facts from places other than the mainstream media. In this numbers-based doomsday account, Levin explains how big government has led us to the exploitation of youth in America. It's a yoke we carry that most of us don't understand–and probably never will–unless by some miracle we become self-confident enough to broaden our sources and listen to the other side. Realistically though, the truth is that books like this will never be consumed by anyone without a pre-existing interest in the subject.
The Fountainhead, Ayn Rand (1943)
Most of you know that there are few things I'm more passionate about than Ayn Rand's novels. This was my second time reading The Fountainhead, and it was even better than the first. It's a story about an architect fighting the idiocy of our higher education system and big government that warps into an action thriller, complete with bombs and a multi-million dollar yacht. As with her more-famous novel Atlas Shrugged, Rand paints the classic robber baron in light that is refreshing (at least for us independents), logical, and relevant today.
West of Here, Jonathan Evison (2011)
Wow. Simply, wow. I carried this book to South Africa this year and gorged myself on it's 486 pages while on international plane rides. A tale of truly epic proportions, West of Here documents the story of the Elwa Dam on Washington's Olympic Peninsula and those involved in its history. With overlapping storylines that feature indians, frontiersmen, and the modern-day heritage that follows (including somewhat depressing bouts of alcoholism and domestic abuse), Evison gets my vote for the most entertaining read of 2016.
Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury (1953)
This famous story was also one I missed in school, so I took the chance to cross it off the list this year. In his dystopian novel, Bradbury flips the idea of the firefighter on its head. Instead of putting out fires, they instead set fire to each and every remaining book. Futuristic televisions have become the replacement for all reading (and truly all thinking) and we watch as the main character struggles to determine what is right and ultimately, what to do about it. To be honest I now confuse this book terribly with Orwell's 1984, but I genuinely loved Fahrenheit 451 and its message that reading is empowering, liberating, and should never be taken for granted.
Making the Case, Kimberley Guilfoyle (2016)
My Mom handed me this book earlier this year, and so I set to reading it in the dedicated manner of completing a classroom assignment. While it was far from complex, the story was exactly what I needed to hear after my post-vacation blues in the spring. Now a co-host on Fox News, Guilfoyle explains her rise to success despite numerous setbacks as a child. What struck me the most was her optimism and belief that any job, no matter what it is you're doing, offers you a chance to improve your character and position in life. If only we all remembered that on the daily.
Speculator, Doug Casey & John Hunt (2016)
My Dad shipped me this novel a few months ago, and after taking one look at the cover I was immediately turned off. But as soon as I flipped the thing over and saw the rave reviews from many like-minded individuals (including Whole Food's John Mackey) I got to work. Another long read, this adventure novel dives head-first into the story of a gold mining claim in one of the most remote parts of Africa. The protagonist is a freedom-loving 20-something with an exacting moral compass and a massive self-made bank account. With a sexy IRS agent hot on his heels and a brewing guerrilla rebellion, this is just the first installment of the series. If you can't tell, I'm totally hooked.
The Buddha Walks Into the Office, Lodro Rinzler (2014)
The second book I read in 2016, I think it's already time I take another look between the cover on this one. Rinzler applies basic Buddhist principles to your every-day cubicle and inbox environment in order to help you not become a jerk at work. While the takeaways are not exactly earth-shattering, there were several excellent points I'd like to carry with me on a day-to-day basis on compassion, leadership, and language. Rinzler also includes exercises to cultivate virtue and essentially figure yourself out, which would be helpful for anyone no matter your work situation–or religion.
Stehekin, Grant McConnell (2014)
If you haven't heard of Stehekin yet, you must be living under a rock. The location became Insta-famous within the last few years as Pacific Northwesterners realized this amazing location in Eastern Washington was sitting right under their nose. Accessible only by seaplane or boat, I've been camping in Stehekin with my Dad since I was a kid. So when I saw the cover of this beautiful book staring at me in a quaint bookstore I bought it without even flipping through the pages. McConnell documents what life was really like in this wild-west outpost, and how the tourism industry has changed it over the years for better or worse. A lovely, peaceful read that reminded me of Thoreau's Walden, although with just a few more characters.