Find it at your library!

I think the best tidbit I took away from Anna Kendrick's book of funny personal essays was not to put too much stock in “nice.” Being nice, as Kendrick explains, usually means being compliant. It means not sticking up for yourself, or knuckling under when people try to push your boundaries. And in order to be a good person, the kind of person you want to be, you might just have to let go of the idea of being nice.

Oh man, did I need to hear that. Not earth-shattering advice, maybe, but absolutely freeing for a chronic pleaser who agonizes constantly about other people's opinions. Even people I don't like. Maybe especially people I don't like. I've already been working on setting boundaries and holding to them, even when people try to push me, but having Anna Kendrick's adorable voice in my head sure reinforces those decisions. Nobody controls me but me! Mind-blowing.

(I should probably give credit where credit is due and point out that Adam has been trying to convince me of this exact truth for years. His kneejerk response when he can tell someone is trying to force him to do something is to dig in his heels and lean all the harder in the opposite direction. So thanks, Anna Kendrick, for reinforcing the recalcitrance my husband has been cultivating in me!)

Of course, there's a lot to like in her book besides that one nugget of wisdom. She tells funny stories about growing up, performing on Broadway as a child, foregoing college to move to LA and pursue acting, all the way up to being nominated for an Oscar. A lot of the stories are geared toward that whole “I'm a regular person, just like you!” shtick, but somehow, in her bright and chirpy voice, it works. Granted, you'll probably enjoy the book a lot more if you're already a fan of Kendrick's movies, or if your childhood was spent singing, dancing, and performing and you can relate to that impulse to be the center of attention. (Not that I would know a thing about that.) (Have you heard my rendition of Someone to Watch Over Me? Let me go put on a spangly dress and do some vocal warmups while you prepare to be wowed!)

Adam and I listened to the audio version on a recent car trip, and it was just the kind of light, fun read to break up a long drive. If you're looking for a little whimsy to help you get through the holiday season, Scrappy Little Nobody should be at the top of your list.

Find it at your library!

This book is for those times when you want to shove a story straight into your brain with as little friction as possible. When you want plot coming at you nonstop like dodgeballs at elementary school recess.

Noah Hawley has written for television, which sometimes is code for “can't write anything but dialogue,” but fortunately he's able to keep the fast pace and juggle lots of moving parts without lapsing into monosyllables outside the quotation marks.

I chose not to read much about this book before diving in, because if it's being marketed as the “thriller of the year,” I'd rather go in knowing as little as possible to fully savor the experience. 'Twas a risky choice that almost backfired, since I therefore didn't realize it was about a plane crash and almost took it with me on a recent weekend trip to Chicago. Travelers take note: even if you're not superstitious, this might not be the thing to read at 35,000 feet.

If you're safely on the ground, however, you'll be instantly sucked into the many twisted layers of Hawley's plot. Why did the plane go down? Who were the people on it, really, underneath the sound bites and speculation of the 24-hour news cycle? What reasons might someone have had for wanting one—or several—of them dead?

And finally, how late will you stay up reading to find out the answers?