2018 Reading Challenge: Book Recommendations

It seems like everywhere I look, people are starting reading challenges for the new year. Some are aiming to read 18 books, some 80… I set my own 2018 reading challenge at 55 books. The way I see it, that’s roughly a book per week, which I think is a reasonable, realistic goal. Some weeks I’ll go through three books for research, while one lovely, long book might take me a couple of weeks. It should balance out all right.

Setting a reading goal helps me to be thoughtful about what is important to me (reading books) and to be deliberate about managing my time to prioritize that.

I thought I would share some of my favorite reads from the past year and a half or so (this isn’t all of them, but a fairly good bunch). These books are all different from each other. I’m a big believer in reading all kinds of books, and not comparing them to each other. I love both a good piece of cake and nicely roasted vegetables, but I can’t really compare them to each other or rank them. I need them both in my life!


Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

  • Genre: Biography, Social Justice, Race
  • I feel like everyone knows this book as it was everywhere when it came out. It won the National Book Award in 2015 and is a must-read for all Americans.

The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben

  • Genre: Science, Nature
  • This shares surprising facts about trees that will make you think twice about what “humanity” means and your place in the world (for example: they mourn when a tree in their group dies, they communicate with each other) from a German forest manager.

The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson

  • Genre: History, True Crime
  • An incredible true story of what it took to set up the 1893 Chicago World Fair. You really get a sense of what the world was like then, the long-lasting impact of the fair, and how people could disappear for so long without any questions asked…

One Day We’ll All Be Dead and None of This Will Matter by Scaachi Koul

  • Genre: Essays
  • With humor and sharp observations, this Canadian author writes about immigration and being a woman today.

The Soul of an Octopus by Sy Montgomery

  • Genre: Science, Memoir
  • A wonderful exploration of the intelligence and consciousness of this mysterious sea creature


Before the Fall by Noah Hawley

  • Genre: Thriller, Suspense
  • One of my favorite quotes comes from this book:

“Because what if instead of a story told in consecutive order, life is a cacophony of moments we never leave?” ― Noah Hawley

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

  • Genre: Young Adult
  • One of the most popular books of recent times. So beautifully written, every sentence makes you stop, and yet you can’t stop reading at the same time.

All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood

  • Genre: Contemporary, Adult
  • This book stands out as perhaps a top two of the past year. Its beautiful writing and story will challenge you in unexpected ways.

The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir by Jennifer Ryan

  • Genre: Historical Fiction
  • One of my favorite books is The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, and this epistolary novel set during World War II has a similar feel. I spent a very enjoyable entire Sunday with this book.

How many books do you hope to read in 2018? And are there any books you really enjoyed reading during the past year or so that you recommend?

The Sleep Revolution

Michelle Chahine Sinno Sleep Revolution Arianna Huffington

“Modern science proves that it’s non-negotiable,” said Arianna Huffington at The Los Angeles Times Festival of Books on Sunday, April 10th at the University of Southern California campus. We need to sleep, and all scientist agree that “over 98% of humanity need 7-9 hours of sleep.”

The remaining 2% are not stronger or more dedicated to their work because they don’t sleep that much. They are literally mutants– with a specific gene that can be tested for, and you’ll know you have it.

This is Huffington’s primary message in her new book, The Sleep Revolution: Transforming Your Life, One Night at a Timewhich should definitely be on everyone’s reading lists, especially anyone thinking about balance their lives. Huffington divided the book into 2 parts: The science and facts behind why we need sleep, and tips and tools to help us sleep better every night.

This blog post has been a long time coming–after I attended her talk and the BookFest and as I make my way through the book–especially because of Huffington’s mission not only to educate us on the science behind our basic human need for sleep, but also because of what I think is her admirable goal of dispelling the idea that in order to succeed, we must sleep less. Many people seem to think that not getting enough sleep is a sign of ambition, hustle and drive. Huffington stated unequivocally that it’s simply foolish (and I agree).

First, there are facts that can’t be disputed. She explained:

  • $63 BILLION are lost to economy because of sleep deprivation, measured by productivity and health care cost.
  • Even though we’re now working longer hours than ever, last year we each lost 11 days of productivity (or about $2,280).

Then, there is common sense based on this “non-negotiable part of evolution.” Huffington said that we “need to stop being in awe of politicians who claim they don’t sleep.” I would add to that leaders in all fields, be it entrepreneurs, writers, teachers, and even parents. Watch this video from the event last month where she explains the link between effective leadership and sleep.

Michelle CHahine Sinno Arianna Huffington Sleep Revolution LA Times Festival of Books

I thought it was fascinating when she made the link between the state of our country and sleep deprivation: “The state of American politics,” she said, “Is a manifestation of how our politicians are running our country chronically sleep deprived.”

There needs to be a general shift in our culture with respect to how we view sleep. As individuals, we have an important role to play in how we revere lack of sleep as a mark and ingredient of success. Businesses have an important role too, and some are leading the way, including The Huffington Post: They have 2 nap rooms, and Huffington herself naps in her office with the curtains open because she “wanted to remove stigma.”

“At Huff Post,” she said, “We believe you’re going to be more productive if you nap, rather than having the fifth cup of coffee or third Cinnabon.

She encourages everyone to get 8 hours of sleep every night, and nap if you feel tired.

What was most helpful to me in her talk and in the book so far, is the idea of a “clear demarcation line between day life and sleep.” I simply hadn’t thought of it that way before. I thought of sleep as just one more thing I need to do every day, rather than a special time that can have some ritual and pleasure to it. As Huffington put it, “You need to disconnect and reconnect with something deeper in ourselves.”

Arianna Huffington Signed Copy Sleep Revolution

She also spoke to the idea of work-life balance, and sleep being an important component that we cannot skimp on because of delusions of how important our work is. She talked about cultivating “the recognition that however magnificent our jobs, we are more than our jobs…

“No one with even a remotely interesting job can finish everything they want to do in one day. We need to acknowledge that there are going to be incompletions, but the day is done.”

I personally now have a to-do list based on The Sleep Revolution, including getting an alarm clock that is not on my phone, so that I can keep all my digital devices outside of the bedroom. I’ll report back on more tools suggested in the book later in the summer when I’m finished reading and experimenting, but for now I wanted to officially add this to my recommended work-life balance reading list.

We all need to join the #SleepRevolution!



“We are more than our successes and failures. We are more than other people’s opinions.” ~Arianna Huffington 

During her conversation with LA Times columnist Robin Abcarian at the Festival of Books at USC in April, Huffington seemed to answer some of my burning questions that inspired my “A Working Life” Q&A series, which I got a real kick out of. I’ll be working on a separate post about more of her work-life balance, email, and disconnecting policies, but for now I’ll leave you with this:

Michelle Chahine Sinno Arianna Huffington Sleep Revolution


(I took this photo at the Lower Antelope Canyon in March).