Saturday, December 21, 2013

Best Books I Read in 2013

My favorite, life-changing books I read this year.

1.      Best Fiction: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

I don’t think anyone will argue with me on this pick. Gone Girl was one of the best-selling fiction books of the year, spending 8 weeks at #1 on the NY Times List. It has all the makings of a great movie too, which Reese Witherspoon is currently producing, starring Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike. I probably read the whole book in one weekend, and it was the most attended meet up of my book club. You won’t be able to put this one down.

2.      Best Non-fiction: Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg

Sheryl Sandberg (Facebook COO) took a lot of hits for this book encouraging women to “lean in” to their careers, sit at the table, don’t leave before you leave, and make your partner a partner. She’s been criticized as only being relevant to white, upper middle class women with nannies and six-figure salaries like herself (although I’m guessing hers is more seven figures), but I took away this main point: that our businesses, our lives, and our world is more complete when women are equally represented in the workplace. The Amazon #2 bestselling book of the year.

3.      Best Spiritual: What We Talk About When We Talk About God by Rob Bell

I’m a Rob Bell fan. His book Sex God, is probably one of my top 10 life-changing books. He lost me a little bit with Love Wins, but this one brought me back. Rob writes about how God is for us, with us, and ahead of us. I always find Rob’s ideas fresh, thought-provoking, and inspiring. You’ll have to read it yourself and see what you think.

4.      Best Self-help/Psychology: I Thought it Was Just Me (but it wasn’t) by Brene Brown

If you read my best books last year, you know I’m a huge Brene Brown fan. I love her Ted Talks, all 3 of her books, and her blog. While this isn’t Brene’s newest book, it is my close second favorite (after The Gifts of Imperfection) and the one that delves most into her research on shame. It’s still readable and relatable, in typical Brene fashion, with plenty of stories of women and the way shame shows up in their lives. It’s so good, I’ve used material with clients before and frequently quote her “shame categories” and “universal shame trigger” (body image) to my female clients, to normalize their experiences. I recommend this read for any woman.

5.      Best Daily Read: Jesus Calling by Sarah Young

I started reading this daily devotional over the summer and it has changed my personal time with God. I must not be the only one who thinks so, because Jesus Calling was Amazon’s #5 best-selling book of the year. Sarah gives you short daily readings written in the first person, as if God is talking directly to you, using Biblical passages. Read this daily and you’ll find more “peace in His presence” as well. 

What other books did you read this year that changed your life?

Best TV Shows of 2013

My favorite TV shows of the year.

1. Best New TV Show: Orange is the New Black

This show, that isn't even on TV (it's a Netflix original series), had a lot of buzz back in the summer when I started binge-watching it. Now I can say I can't wait for season 2! While Piper is soppy, spoiled, and flaky, the rest of the cast is a diversity of complex, multifaceted characters. On the surface, every prison stereotype seems to be represented (the lesbians, the prison lesbian, the junkie, the former track star with so much promise), but OITNB flips those stereotypes on its head by showing the back-stories of the women, the history that brought them to their prison sentences. The show is very edgy and liberal (pro-LGBT and anti-Christian), but what you’ll enjoy is the rich character development.

2.      Best old favorite that keeps getting better: The Voice

I’ve kept up with watching The Voice every season, but for a while it bored me. This season, with the original judges back (and goat-singer Shakira gone), it’s been better than ever!

3.      Best Comeback season: Revenge

Revenge’s second season was a mess: I couldn’t follow the story lines, random characters kept popping up (Emily’s foster brother) and then going away, and too many people died (Amanda, Declan). Now in its third season, Revenge has definitely made a triumphant comeback. By paring down the story lines and focusing on the one that matters most--Emily’s search for revenge against the Grayson family and hidden identity—the show is back to its soapy, juicy glory days. And Victoria’s snooty put downs, sheath dresses, and lustrous hair never disappoint.

4.      Best binge-worthy show: Breaking Bad

I had never seen this show before (so little time, so many TV shows), but started binge-watching it over Thanksgiving break on Netflix. Now I’m already on season 4 and totally hooked! If you haven’t seen it yet, the show’s nail-biting cliff-hangers and the characters’ descent into evil will have you addicted. You know what I'll be watching over Christmas break!

5.      Best cult favorite: Scandal

I started watching this show in its first season (I’m a Shonda Rhimes fan), but didn’t start becoming addicted until it became such a cult favorite. Boosted by their social network following and the many twists and turns, this show is can’t-miss if you want to have anything to talk about at the water cooler on Friday.

What are your favorite TV shows of the year? Others I've seen mentioned, but haven't watched myself include American Horror Story, Walking Dead, The Good Wife, Mad Men, Game of Thrones, and House of Cards.

Have you seen any of these? And are they better than the ones on my list?