Amy Clark

December 2016 Must-Reads

December 2016 Must-Reads from

My goal this month was to finish strong despite doing ALL THE THINGS for the holidays! Thankfully, I ended up taking this entire week off of work and have spent it curled up with a great book until the wee hours of the morning. I’m completely off schedule, have no idea what day it is, have slept in every morning, and I am loving every minute of it.

 My GoodReads goal was 75 books and I ended up clocking in at 85. I am feeling PRETTY proud this year!

Stay tuned next  week for my best of 2016 list and our 2017 MomAdvice Reading Challenge printable.  If you haven’t joined our book club yet, get on it! We just announced our first six books for the year.

I will be sure to post these in January for you, as well, if Facebook just isn’t your thang!

7 Must-Read Books from December 2016

Today Will Be Different by Maria Semple

Today Will Be Different by Maria Semple

I may be one of the only people in the world that wasn’t a big fan of Where’d You Go, Bernadette.  Semple’s latest book has gotten a lot of buzz though so I thought I would give her books one more try this year. I am SO glad I did because this book was laugh-out-loud funny, wildly quirky, and such a relatable read as a mom. Based on the reviews of this one though, if you were a fan of her first book, you probably won’t love it. And if you didn’t love her first, you might feel completely differently about this latest installment.

This book is the day in the life of Eleanor Flood. Just as we all do, she wakes up with a big list of things that will happen if she can pull off the perfect day. Working out, being a good mom, being nicer to her annoying friend, sex with her husband, etc… Of course, the first thing that happens is that she gets a call from school letting her know that her son, Timby, is faking sick again. Eleanor’s day continues to progress with finding out her husband is not going to work (where is he!?!) an old colleague comes back to see her for a lunch and share his career success story (it’s better than her career story thankyouverymuch), and a long ago family secret starts resurfacing that she’s kept buried forever.

Wildly adorable and adventurous- I loved every page of it. Semple even pulls off an abbreviated graphic novel in the middle from Eleanor’s career days as an artist. I had a good giggle over the pictures of these two sisters.

Even better news,  Julia Roberts is also slated to play Eleanor Flood in a limited television release of an adaptation of this book so read it before you see it!

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this one when you are done!

4 Out of 5 Stars

The Nix by Nathan Hill

The Nix by Nathan Hill

If I was going to select one buzz book that actually delivered this year, it would be The Nix. Samuel is a professor and struggling writer who has found solace in an online alternate world as an elf.

No, I am not kidding.

His coping mechanism is to escape into this world and not address why his marriage failed and why he can’t write that book.

When he receives a call that his mother has been arrested for assaulting a politician, he is baffled. Not that his mom would do this necessarily, but that it has been over twenty years since he has spoke with her. The thing is, it has made national news and he can’t seem to come up with a book idea for his publisher. He strikes an agreement with his agent to write a telling memoir of being abandoned by his mother. This memoir will require to get to know her better and the life she lead.

The book jumps around in time from the ’60’s hippy love movement, to Samuel’s childhood friendship and first love, to his current struggling adult life.

I was laughing out loud through many parts in this as Hill’s chapters read like many short stories that have been gathered together. The stories from Samuel’s childhood, in particular, have a cinematic quality to them. As the wife of a gamer, his online world made for a lot of hilarity for me (especially when Samuel decides to end it all). Perhaps, one of my favorite scenes is when a student cheats and then justifies it in only the way a Millennial could making my sides split from laughing. It’s basically a million short stories all pulled together as Samuel tries to figure out why his mother would leave him and if they can come together again.

Did it need some trimming? YES! I am sure that the story could have been tightened in many places.

That, however, did not take away from my enjoyment of this incredible book!

5 Out of 5 Stars

Miss Jane by Brad Watson

Miss Jane by Brad Watson

If I was going to pick a book that surprised me the most this year in its beauty, it would be, Miss JaneWatson pens the story of his great-aunt, Miss Jane, and her struggles with a genital birth defect that alters Jane’s life path greatly. Set in the early twentieth century in rural Mississippi, Jane knows that she is not like other girls. Her struggles with this defect every moment of her day are told in ways that often feel unfathomable.

Her kind doctor takes her under his wing and has honest discussions with her about limitations and continuing research to try to help her. He becomes her confidant in a time of true loneliness. As she ages, she knows that her biggest hurdle will be having her own love story and Watson writes poetically of Jane’s love for a boy. Yet, in a time when a woman’s most useful task is to bear children, Jane knows that her love story must be a different one and she bravely accepts what this path looks like.

The peacock design on this cover is beautifully woven into this story and brings together all the beauty in this gorgeous book. It reads like a well-versed literary classic. I doubt you won’t fall in love with Miss Jane too.

Get this on your book pile stat! You can also join us for our January discussion of this one in our book club group!

5 Out of 5 Stars

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

This book has been on my to-be-read list forever, but I felt like I needed to mentally prepare for this one. This is the least glossed over story of slavery I have ever read and it is brutal in its honesty and the writing completely wrecked me at times.

It is the story of Cora who is leading, the difficult life of a slave and is brutally mistreated over and over again. When a fellow slave, Caesar, receives word about a new underground railroad that has been built, he and Cora try to escape to seek freedom. Ah, but freedom isn’t ever easy to achieve especially in this awful world.

Whitehead envisions in this story an actual underground railroad with conductors and in a Gulliver’s Travels twist, each time Cora gets off, she is in a different place with different rules. In one town, she is respected, educated, and treated with respect. In another, black face shows ridiculing her people are on display in the town park. In another she has to remain hidden in attic for months on end to protect herself and the family who houses her. It gives the reader a chance it experience that shaky ground, that uncertainty, that feeling of never feeling safe. The reader gets to experience the tiniest of fractions of this painful and true story of many slave stories that Whitehead has gathered.

I listened to this one and it was a great audiobook if you are looking for somewhere to spend that audio credit.

It’s brilliant, it will gut you, and it is important.

Everyone should read this story.


5 Out of 5 Stars

Imagine Me Gone by Adam Haslett

Imagine Me Gone by Adam Haslett

Haslett’s novel is hitting all of the top book lists and winning many awards this year so I was looking forward to diving into this one.  Listed as a TOP 10 NOVELS OF THE YEAR — TIME, Newsday, TOP 10 BOOKS OF 2016 — San Francisco Chronicle, 20 BOOKS THAT DEFINED OUR YEAR – Wall Street Journal, ONE OF THE YEAR’S BEST BOOKS: Barnes & Noble, BookPage, BuzzFeed, Elle, Financial Times, Huffington Post, Kirkus, NPR, Refinery29, Seattle Times, Shelf Awareness, WBUR’s On Point, LONGLISTED FOR THE 2016 NATIONAL BOOK AWARD and ANDREW CARNEGIE MEDAL FOR EXCELLENCE IN FICTION, and KIRKUS PRIZE FINALIST…you know, just to name a few….

This is a family drama chronicling the life of a father who is struggling with mental illness and how this illness, in turn, affects their children and his wife. Told in alternating viewpoints,(from the wife to the children) it shares how their father’s illness alters their life course as they grow older.

The struggle for me with this one wasn’t that it was so depressing to read (it was!), but that I struggled to connect with the story and its characters. One of the son’s is so pretentious that it was painful. Honestly, Haslett didn’t build enough of a story around the father for me to really feel attached to him or his struggle. He does provide a great foundation though for showing how illness can alter your life path and how one can shield themselves from finding true love because they have learned to distance themselves from others.

Haslett is a brilliant writer, but like many of the buzz of books of 2016, this just didn’t connect with me in the way I would hope a dramatic story like this would.

3 Out of 5 Stars

The Girl Before by Rena Olsen

The Girl Before by Rena Olsen

I love a good psychological thriller and this debut is a solid one. I think this is one that surprised me in its depth and it gave me a lot to think about after I finished it. It isn’t the typical thriller story that I have been reading over and over again in 2016.

Clare is removed from everything she loves in an instant when her home is invaded and her husband and daughters are taken from her.

The last thing her husband says to her is say nothing.

The story alternates from past to present and begins to tell the story of Clare in a very different way than the reader might expect. Clare isn’t necessarily leading the life you probably think she is and her love story is a little off. Something just doesn’t feel right and that growing sense of dread of what she might be involved in begins to intensify as the story unfolds. The story actually tackles a news topic that I think you might want to understand better and the victims of it.

If you love a deep psychological story, this is for you. Please know that this one is dark and contains violence and sexuality in it. I would recommend this for fans of Behind Closed Doors or Pretty Girls!

4 Out of 5 Stars

Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist

Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequest

If you want to start your next year out right, this book is for you. Niequist really explores our lack of presence in our lives as this becomes overshadowed by busy schedules and pleasing the wrong people in our lives. Basically, this book is giving you the side-eye, overcommitted extrovert. You know it is!

Shauna shares her own struggles of overcommitting, guilt about what she isn’t doing, and how we look for validation through social media instead of the people sharing our home.

Yup, it hit me right in the gut.

Why are we so scared to sit in silence and what can be learned from a slowed down life? This soulful way of living is something I hope to embrace in 2017 and this book just seemed to speak to me at the right time in my life. If you are seeking present over perfect, you should pick this one up.  I just know it would be a great way for you to start your year too as you shift your focus from others to the people that should be the most important in your life.

4 Out of 5 Stars

Read With Me

Read With Me This Year:

January Must-Reads

February Must-Reads

March Must-Reads

April Must-Reads

May Must-Reads

June 2016 Must-Reads

July 2016 Must-Reads

August 2016 Must-Reads

September 2016 Must-Reads

October 2016 Must-Reads

November 2016 Must-Reads

  December 2016 Must-Reads from

What should I be adding to my library bag? Leave your suggestions in the comments below! Looking for book ideas? Check out our entire Book section of the site! Don’t forget to friend me on GoodReads! xo

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Published December 30, 2016 by:

Amy Clark

Amy Allen Clark is the founder of You can read all about her here.

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