7 Books That Changed My Life in 2016

7 BOOKS THAT CHANGED MY LIFE IN 2016 / nicolemcaruso.com

What we read forms our worldview, and these books expanded mine in ways I so deeply needed in 2016. I have always loved to read, with the exception of textbooks on physics and trigonometry in high school. Every year, I see positive changes on my journey of personal development come from what I read. If I am ever trying to master a task or understand a concept I need to take part in it in order to understand it, and reading helps me do just that. 

Here are 7 books I read in 2016 that changed my life.


This book helped me identify the things that make me proud of who I am; the ways that I shine and the talents I can share with the world. Each book comes with a code to take the test. After scoring, you will receive your strengths, and other helpful resources to explore how to best use your strengths day to day. It remains a little book of encouragement that I come back to when I need some warm fuzzies and a little motivation. 


Before seeing the film Karol: The Man Who Became Pope I had never known much about Pope John Paul II. Though I was raised a Catholic from birth, I didn't grow up with a firm understanding of Catholic teaching until I chose to explore it more as a high school student. I watched Karol during a study-abroad in Rome the summer before my senior year, and fell in love with the human person of Karol Wojtyla (if you watch the movie, you will see why).

Jason Evert's book shares not only a detailed history of Karol Wojtyla's life, with anecdotes and stories that stunned me, but the Five Loves of his life that he devoted his life to, both as a young man and as Pope John Paul II. He was so human, so loving, and so connected to God. There were times in the book that I could not comprehend the courage, gentility, and spirit of service that this fellow human being lived. It made me want to get outside of my comfort zone, and start living more fully the life I have been given. 


If you read last year's Mother's Day Gift Guide, you know I included Elaine Sciolino's book as a perfect little literary getaway for moms of any age. I still stand by that, and moreso, I am so grateful this little book dropped into my lap as a gift from one of my brothers-in-law. 

Sciolino was previously Paris Bureau Chief for the New York Times, and she moved from the US to France with her family with plans of only staying a few years. The result is her experience in one of the oldest, and possibly most authentic neighborhood in Paris, with witty stories and a big reveal of what it's really like to live there. For me, the book got me back in touch with my love of travel, my love for exploration, talking to shopkeepers and asking random strangers where they bought their shoes. It reminded me of why I love life in a city, and has helped me incorporate some of the things I love about city life back into my reality of the suburbs of Northern Virginia. I hope to escape to Par-ee one day!  


In my November favorites video, I featured a mini-review of this book. Dr. Michael Breus is a renowned sleep doctor, and this book outlines his recommendations for the different circadian rhythms we all follow based on 4 mammals that follow similar schedules: the lion, the bear, the wolf, and the dolphin. Dr. Breus's website thepowerofwhenquiz.com gives a sneak peek into what your Sleep Chronotype might be, and allows you to make small shifts in your daily schedule to maximize your productivity. 

I am a wolf, which Dr. Breus defines as "night-oriented creative extroverts with a medium sleep drive". I've never been a morning person and always felt guilty for it! But now, I follow some Wolf recommendations for my day with great success. 


As a new parent, I was absolutely clueless as to how I wanted to discipline my daughter. My husband Stephen felt completely unprepared for the pandora's box that is Terrible 2s. Our daughter is one of the most conscientious, kind little beings on the planet, but has outbursts just like any of us. I wrote in to a google group of moms pleading for help with discipline, and though the group is made up of so many different types of women, who all parent differently, nearly everyone who wrote me recommended this book. 

I never stopped to wonder why my toddler was upset that I picked out one pair of leggings versus another, or why she didn't want me to tie her shoes, I just reacted to her behavior in the moment. Usually, I would just try to end the crying as quickly as possible and move on. What this book taught me is to stop and ask why.

I'm still not perfect at holding onto my patience in the midst of an uproar, but this book showed me the importance of being source of calm in a flustered moment, how to use language that teaches her to express how she feels, and to make a misunderstanding a moment of connection, as opposed to a moment of torture. As I read more and more of the book, and practiced the suggestions that suited us, I noticed a huge difference in the number of tantrums, and also in the way that she could explain herself. There are still many times I find myself leafing through to read my marginalia, and I would recommend this to any parent. 


With all of my health issues that have surfaced in the last year, protecting my fertility has always been on my mind. Dr. Lana Asprey, who wrote the book with her renowned Bio-Hacker husband and founder of The Bulletproof Diet Dave Asprey, recovered her fertility with diet and supplements. She was able to naturally birth two healthy children, and she shares all of her recommendations with heavily annotated research to back her claims. I had epiphany after epiphany reading this book, and after following a few of the recommendations, saw my cycle and hormones regulate. I wish I read this book before I became pregnant! Then, maybe I could have avoided symptoms of morning sickness, gotten the right prenatal supplements, and found ways to eat clean but with the right amounts of fat, carbs, and protein to grow a healthy baby. There is so much wisdom in this book for women's reproductive health, and I don't think it's ever too late to read it. 


Dr. Gregory Popcak and his wife Lisa have written many books about Catholicism and parenting, marriage, relationships, and more. As I mentioned earlier, the majority of my life I was Catholic, but did not have a deep understanding of my faith. Now that I am raising my own child, I was looking for resources that could show me how to teach my daughter about our faith, without compartmentalizing it to church on Sundays. This book intertwines the Catholic family life with attachment parenting-esque techniques for raising children that thrive emotionally and spiritually.

I think one of my favorite tidbits I incorporated into our family, was to teach the reminder for children to say No Thank You, as opposed to just No. I can't tell you how many times I had to hold in a burst of laughter when my daughter screamed, "NO SANK YOU" when I asked her to do something she didn't want to do.