Our Favorite Books, Gadgets, & Tools of 2016

It’s our favorite time of year!

And that’s not strictly because we start compiling our “Must Read Books” list for next year, or because we get to watch our dogs treat snowfall as though it were a manic cornucopia of never-before-seen chew toys falling from the sky.

Don’t get us wrong. We love making book lists (and then consequently failing to read all of the books we want to read, getting sad and reminding ourselves that it’s a good problem to have: all the great books, so little time, a vicious cycle bibliophiles understand deeply). And, yes, dogs in snow is as joyful to watch as just about anything.

The main reason this is our favorite time of year is simple:

End of year lists!

So, with this post, we’re going to be creating our own end of year list, with a few of our favorite things from 2016 (note: these lists could also include holiday gift ideas too!).

But, before we get into that, let’s do a quick roundup some 2016 end of year/holiday gift lists we are adoring:

Okay, now it’s time for our end of the year list! For this list, each Winning Edits team member will list a couple of different things (books, gadgets, tools, etc.) that made an impact on their 2016 in some way. These “things” are important to us. They serve us in our personal lives as well as our work lives, and we feel happy about sharing that with you.

So, let’s get to sharing!

The Winning Edits 2016 Favorite Books, Gadgets, and Tools

Jennifer’s Favorite Book of 2016:

I love reading about why others do what they do, the lessons they've learned, and their overall process. In her latest book, In the Company of Women, Grace Bonney did an excellent job highlighting a diverse group of women whose work speaks for itself.

For example, she interviewed Nikki Giovanni, who is a poet and professor in Virginia, and her pull quote hit me right in the heart. She says, "All mistakes teach us something, so there are, in reality, no mistakes. Just things we learn."

Right after that quote hit me in the heart, my head got on board and started nodding in agreement. It's sometimes hard not to kick ourselves when we mess up, but I love the idea that mistakes are allowed—encouraged, even—as long as we learn from them.

Buy your copy of In the Company of Women here!

Janna’s Favorite Tool of 2016:

When I discovered the Bullet Journal I immediately took to the flexible system it offers to organize monthly goals, daily tasks, and to track progress toward goals or habits.

There’s an official Bullet Journal book, but it’s more than just the journal itself. It’s a method that people have adopted and customized based on all different types of ideas and projects. There’s an entire community around it, and it’s particularly popular in the crafty DIY world, which isn’t necessarily my thing. I keep mine more simple. But I think that’s what makes it such a great method: you can adopt it and make it work for you however you want.

There are tons of YouTube videos of people showing how they use it and the hashtags #bulletjournal and #bujo are also super popular for sharing photos of different implementations.

Try out the Bullet Journal yourself!

Photo via the Bullet Journal Blog.

Photo via the Bullet Journal Blog.

Mindy’s Favorite Gadget and Book of 2016:

10% Happier by Dan Harris came out in 2014, but I read it in 2016. It’s my favorite book that I read this year. It’s about a skeptical journalist’s path into a meditation practice, and I found it very entertaining. While I’m interested in adopting meditation as a practice, there are a lot of elements of it that make me hesitant—and Dan hits on every one of them in his book. Will I lose the nervous edge that keeps me running? Do I really want to hear what my brain has to say if I turn off all distractions? Will I become a bore at parties because I talk too much about meditation?

Buy your copy of 10% Happier here!

Because I’ve already extolled the virtues of YouTube Red on the Winning Edits blog (No commercials! More app features! Unlimited music streaming!), my favorite tool of 2016 is my very favorite pen, the Lamy Al-Star Fountain Pen (I prefer the fine nib) with an ink refill converter.

I’m very picky about pens, and I used to switch pens styles constantly, trying to find the perfect pen. This is it: lightweight aluminum with a wide barrel means it’s more comfortable than a disposable pen for longer writing projects. With the converter, I have to fill the ink about once a week; I’ve been using the pen for three years and I’m still on my first pot of ink. After three years of use, the pen’s purple paint is getting a bit chipped, but the nib is still in great shape and the cap still closes with a satisfying clip.

It’s a great entry-level fountain pen. With a pot of ink and the converter, it’ll cost you about $45—considering how much I used to spend each year trying out different rollerball pens, I’ve saved money.

Get a fun writing tool for yourself here!

Non’s Favorite App and Book of 2016:

I just started meditating this year for the first time. It’s been a challenge to maintain my discipline with it, especially when my dog thinks it’s play time or, even more distracting, fart time. 

But despite the challenges to adopt it with regularity, and the sometimes overwhelming anxiety or depression that get in the way, I’ve pushed through and now have a semi-regular relationship with meditation thanks to a cool app called Headspace.

I dig Headspace because it’s simple. I didn’t want anything that would be too complicated or that would seem judgmental in some way. I just need a kind, understanding robot telling me what to do: Breathe in. Breathe out. Please refrain from thinking about New Comic Book Day. Breathe in. Breathe out.

The results so far? Honestly, I’m getting much better at being present, and avoiding the anxiety trap of future thinking and “Why on earth did I do that thing?” thinking. I’d recommend it for any humans, but since I’m speaking to you, I’d certainly recommend to writers, entrepreneurs, and authors whose lives tend to be a bit more frantic (like mine!).

Get your Headspace on here.

Photo via Headspace.com

Photo via Headspace.com

As for my favorite book of 2016, I have so many of them. Don’t you realize that’s like narrowing down your favorite particle of air to breathe? Gosh. So, I’m going to just list one of my favorites; not the favorite, as that’s impossible.

But the one book I will mention is Not a Self-Help Book: The Misadventures of Marty Wu by Yi Shun Lai. Full disclosure: Yi Shun is a friend of mine, so that may be construed as bias. But hear me out, please.

Not a Self-Help Book is a beautifully written novel about a Taiwanese woman named Marty Wu. Yi Shun describes the book as Bridget Jones’s Diary meets The Joy Luck Club. And that’s a perfect description. The book is hilarious and lyrical. It’s inspiring and heartfelt. It’s best trait is that it is a wholly human coming-of-age story about self-discovery and identity. And you should read it.

Buy your copy of Not a Self-Help Book here!

Matt’s Favorite Sleep Hacks & Tools of 2016:

Power naps are absolutely essential to my optimal daily productivity. When I’m “on,” I take a nap somewhere between 1-3 p.m. for precisely 20 minutes. This amount of time is proven, scientifically, to be enough to refocus brain activity while not allowing the brain to drop too deeply into REM sleep patterns, which are difficult to awake from. I can easily extend my working day by 90 minutes with one 20 minute nap . . . and the quality of all of my working hours are noticeably better as a direct result.

Consistency is key; taking regular strategic naps daily makes each successive day that much more focused, productive, and positive. When I “fall off the bandwagon” of this daily habit, it absolutely affects my mood, productivity, and focus, and negatively so at that. This concept of a strategic daily “mental reboot” plays into polyphasic sleep theory, which I believe in. It supports related evidence about the power of a daily meditation.

Within that universe, I have grown to rely on the Bedtime feature of the latest version of iOS, which more easily allows you to plan your sleep patterns in REM cycles as well as the brain.fm website/mobile app, which optimizes musical patterns to match your preferred working mode.

Sleep FTW!

Learn more about iOS 10’s Bedtime feature here, and brain.fm here.


Holiday gift ideas. Ways to make your 2017 more awesome. Insight into how we editorial nerds operate. Whatever you take away from this, we hope you enjoyed our end of year list!

As a recap, here are all of the items:

Do you have any favorite books, tools, apps, or hacks you discovered in 2016? We’d love to hear from you!

Thanks for reading!

@WinningEdits
Work with us!