At the end of each year, I love taking a look at all the books that have been my companions during my commutes and the quiet moments at home (see my posts from 2014, 2013, 2012, and 2011). I’ve loved reading since I was a kid, but I’m not as speedy as some of my friends on Goodreads — meaning that I finished 13 books over the course of 2015. A bit short of my goal of 24, but I think I can live with that. :) There are a few more that I’m currently working on, which may or may not get finished before the year is over. They’ll just have to be added to my reading list for 2016! In any case, I hope you’ve got a nice hot cup of coffee or tea ready, because this post is on the long side…
Read in 2015
In previous years’ posts I’ve just listed the titles with links to reviews I’d posted on the blog, but I got really behind on my reviews this year and basically never caught up. Oops! To remedy that, I’m also sharing mini-reviews here. Another new thing I’m trying this year is ranking the books according to how much I love them. Such a hard task and actually kind of arbitrary since many of them I love in very different ways — but I’m giving it a try anyway…
1. Hunger Makes Me A Modern Girl, by Carrie Brownstein
A fan of Sleater-Kinney long before Portlandia, I knew immediately that I must read this book! What I didn’t expect was how many of Carrie Brownstein’s words would sound like my own thoughts, only expressed a million times better than I could have. Growing up in the Pacific Northwest in the same generation as me, sometimes I felt like she was reading my mind. She does an amazing job of baring her soul and exposing her own weaknesses and really showing what Sleater-Kinney’s music is made of, but without revealing too much that could be painful for those closely connected to the band’s history. Loved it!!
2. Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End, by Atul Gawande
Finally an honest look at two related topics that most people would rather just avoid. What does it mean to grow older? And how do we look mortality squarely in the face and decide to focus on quality rather than quantity of life? Particularly this last question is a heartbreaking one. At the very time I was reading this book, friends had just lost their small son to terminal cancer and had quite openly wrestled with this issue. I promise you this book will make you uncomfortable, but it is oh-so-worth it.
3. Snow Falling on Cedars, by David Guterson
This novel takes place during a conveniently forgotten and shameful era in American history that’s come to the fore once more — the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. Set in the Pacific Northwest, the story centers around the trial of a Japanese American man for suspected murder. Wonderfully well written and made me long to spend a winter in the Puget Sound. In your heart you want to believe that our country has grown beyond these prejudices, but it sadly seems that we have not — which makes this novel worth reading more than ever.
4. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, by Betty Smith
Why did I wait 37 years to read this book? An absolute classic novel of a girl coming of age in the Brooklyn of the early 1900s. Broke my heart in so many ways, mostly because I know Francie Nolan’s story of poverty and suffering was reality for many thousands of immigrants and New Yorkers during that crucial period in US history.
6. Fates and Furies, by Lauren Groff
My first (and definitely not last) book by Lauren Groff. I loved it! But I agree with many other readers that the first half (told from the husband’s perspective) is much less interesting than the second half (told from the wife’s). But her narrative wouldn’t be half as much fun without his. In other words, stick it out and you will be rewarded.
9. It Starts with Food, by Dallas and Melissa Hartwig
A convincing read that was successful in getting me to give Whole30 a try. I appreciate the scientific backing of the authors’ claims, but I still felt like they were dumbing the whole thing down a bit. I would have liked even more information and evidence! Still, it has changed the way I look at food, even if I don’t think it’s feasible to eat strictly Whole30 over the long run.
10. Kyrgyzstan: Central Asia’s Island of Democracy?, by John Anderson
I picked up this book at the recommendation of a friend since I’m working on a project about the country. Although a bit dry, the book provides a good primer on Kyrgyzstan — at least up until 1999, which is when it was published. Not surprisingly, I kept asking myself how things look today in comparison, but at least it’s a start and offers a good look at the country’s history.
11. Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage, by Haruki Murakami
Honestly, it’s been several months and this book has basically faded away from my memory. I enjoyed it while I was reading it, but some of Murakami’s other tales made more of an impression on me (like this one and this one).
12. Go Set a Watchman, by Harper Lee
Ok, yes, entertaining but still a bit disappointing if you’ve come to idolize the characters from To Kill a Mockingbird. It definitely felt like an author’s ok-but-not-great first try at a novel.
13. Howards End, by E.M. Forster
I know it’s a classic, but I really could not absorb myself at all in this book Despite having been a major Jane Austen fan, I’ve apparently completely lost my taste for novels centered around the social rules and conventions of turn-of-the-century England.
To Read in 2016
There are so many good books out there right now, so I have high hopes for my reading adventures in 2016! Who knows, maybe I’ll even hit my goal of 24? But for now I’ll keep my list a bit shorter…
- Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, by Susan Cain
- A Constellation of Vital Phenomena, by Anthony Marra
- Lila, by Marilynne Robinson
- The Bone Clocks, by David Mitchell
- Euphoria, by Lily King
- The History of Love, by Nicole Krauss
- All Our Names, by Dinaw Mengestun
- The Time Traveler’s Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger
- The Forty Rules of Love, by Elif Shafak
- The Signature of All Things, by Elizabeth Gilbert
- The Passage, by Justin Cronin
- Arcadia, by Lauren Groff
- Hard Choices, by Hillary Clinton
- Life After Life, by Kate Atkinson
- Die Hellen Tage, by Zsuzsa Bánk
What are your favorite books from 2015? Are there any I should adding to my list for 2016?