2017 Book List

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In 2017, one of my goals is to read more books by women and by people of color. As part of my year of devotion and paying more attention to where I spend my mental energy, I’m keeping track of all of the books I read.

To do this, I’ve made this page an ongoing book recommendation page on my website where I’ll keep track of the books each month, and I’ll also share each month’s book recommendations as part of my newsletter.

You’ll find my book references tapping into a broader range of voices. Here are the book recommendations so far:

2017 v.1 — January 17th

Sex Object, by Jessica Valenti. Heartbreaking memoir. At times distinctly uncomfortable but important to read. I wish these stories women told weren’t true. I wish more of my men friends read these books and understood.

Between The World And Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates. A series of letters from a father to his young son. Simply outstanding.

Hillbilly Elegy, by J.D. Vance. Another brilliant memoir of what it’s like to grow up in the poverty-stricken hills of Appalachia. Reminded me of the plight of so many in America, and how many perspectives there are throughout this country.

2017 v.2 — January 31st

Roots: The Saga of An American Family, by Alex Haley. Incredible, long read about the ancestry and history of a family ripped from his homeland and brought into the markets of the new world slavery.

When Breath Becomes Air, by Paul Kalanithi. A talented neurosurgeon who studies language, mortality, and brain science is suddenly diagnosed with lung cancer. This is the book he writes in the final year of his life. I started sobbing at several points in the book—moving.

The New Better Off, by Courtney Martin. What does it mean to live a good life? And why are we still all blindly chasing after “The American Dream”? In her examination of what really matters to most of us, she uncovers how ritual, community, and meaning can be formed in ways both unexpected and everyday. This book puts words to so much that I too have been thinking about.

2017 v.3 —February 20th

Playing Big, by Tara Sophia Mohr. This month is all about re-reading a few classics, for me. The books that you buy on kindle and on paperback, and sometimes buy an additional paper copy of because you highlight it and use it so frequently. Every time I level up in my business and my work, and expand into the edges of my comfort zones, I re-read Tara’s notes on the different ways we feel fear, and remind myself that “playing big” comes with it a special, delicious, different kind of fear. The good one.

(I’m re-launching the Mastermind this month and it comes with all sorts of ways to expand as well as ways to doubt myself. It’s part of the process and it means that I’m working on something worth building.)

Body of Work, by Pamela Slim. In a world of work that can feel disjointed and disconnected, how do you find the thread that connects your story together? Pam was one of my first business coaches and taught me to see my multiple threads of employment as “projects” within a larger portfolio of work.

2017 v.4 —March 10th

The Big Leap, by Gay Hendricks. If you’ve heard of the idea of “Upper Limit Problems,” or the concept of transcending from working in your Zone of Excellence to your Zone of Genius, this is the book those ideas are from. Reading this again opened my eyes to a lot of ways in which I’m staying stuck in my “good” areas of working and not shifting into the areas where I’m truly phenomenal.

Nurture Shock: New Thinking About Children, by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman. This book filled me with new ways of thinking about my new son, as well as what it means to be a child, a teenager, and an adult. Called “one of the most influential books about children ever published,” it definitely opened my eyes, but also made me feel a bit neurotic about parenting for a few weeks afterwards. I wrote an extended review with chapter summaries about the book.

2017 v5 — March 28th

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, by Anne Lamott. This book, by one of my favorite authors of all time, takes us through the writing practice and the craft of being a writer, from those shitty first drafts to the weird ways we obsess over our work. She makes me feel normal, sane, and inspired to continue to write.

The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity, by Julia Cameron. This is considered one of the seminal books on creativity and creative practice, and, as a writer, I’ve gone through the book time and time again to continue to dig deeper. The 12-week program gets you inside of a life with a creative practice. She’s who I learned Morning Pages from, and I recommend going through this book several times in order to expand your own creative journey.

The Elements of Style, by Strunk & White. This classic little book helps me every time I have a question about English. It’s filled with little delights and helpful hints, and is not a huge book.

2017 v6 — May 15th

The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood. Now turned into a television series inspired by the book, I had to read the book first. A creepy, dystopian novel where birth rates plummet and women are forced out of work, and then into service in a strange, big-brother-is-watching-you world. It left a pit in my stomach, and I’m still thinking about it (as well as Station 11, another fiction book that won’t leave my mind).

Poser: My Life in 23 Poses, by Clare Dederer. A memoir inspired by a woman who takes to yoga and documents how her journey into learning more about yoga (fastidiously and then, obsessively) transforms her own life. Now, my one major beef with this book is that it was actually 28 chapters long, not 23, as billed. Because she did Child’s Pose four different times. I suppose… that makes sense.

The Year of Living Danishly, by Helen Russell. An easy, novel-like read of what one young couple learned by moving to Denmark and having their first kid. I loved being a fly on the window and learning about different work schedules (stop by 4pm! go home!), taking a long winter time to focus on “hygge” (cozy time), and how well their health care and social systems set people up for success.

How to Talk So Little Kids Will Listen, by Joanna Faber and Julie King. This book is ostensibly for small children, but could be tweaked to be a great management book, too. The key? Listen to people’s emotions, and, when replying to them, describe what they’re feeling and why they’re feeling it. It’s the trick to better communication for everyone. Rather than telling someone why they shouldn’t feel the way they feel, or skipping straight to fixing problems, simply telling someone that you see how they’re feeling works wonders.

2017 v7 — May 29th

Bleaker House. Strangely slow, yet still a page-turner. Debut novel from an MFA graduate who wins a travel fellowship to go anywhere in the world and write. She chooses Bleaker Island, and holes herself away for several weeks to attempt to write her novel on the coldest, darkest, loneliest place on earth. Parts of the writing moved quickly (the “Twosies,” as it were), and the introspective bits were slower and less captivating. Overall, enjoyed the book as a pleasant fiction read.

Captivate. I found out about the nerd of nerds, Vanessa Van Edwards, by listening to Jenny Blake’s podcast, Pivot, and devoured the entire episode. It’s behavior science meets research meets interpersonal psychology, and I’m loving it. 

On my radar:

On my radar but haven’t read yet: Radical CandorDrop The Ball, Unsubscribe, Grit, and Writing Down Your Soul.


  • Total number of authors: 22
  • Total number of books: 19
  • Women authors: 14 (64%)
  • POC authors: 3 (14%)

Got a great book you love? Send me a note and let me know what I should read next. hello (at) sarahkpeck (dot) com.

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