I read some really good books this year. I became a regular reader again, thanks to living in the future and being able to carry my library in my pocket and read in the dark. I always have a book going and during some parts of the year I would read every day. I definitely gravitated toward certain themes and types of books, though not exclusively. I like a book that really rips me open and dives deep.
side note: If we’re not already, please friend me on Goodreads. I like nothing more than scrolling through what other people are reading. And if you write a snarky review or comment I really want to read that. (Truly one of my greatest joys as a reader is trolling through Goodreads reviews, especially negative ones)
Here are 7 Books I Read in 2015, That I Loved, in no particular order:
The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan
This was my surprise hit of the year. I am notoriously cynical about romance-y type books, my eyeroll threshold is quite low. But this swept me up like a lovely, sweet romantic comedy. It was light and fun and had just the right amount of plot twists to keep me going. It didn’t read to me as silly or cliché, and the cheese was just the right amount to be charming.
Not My Father’s Son: A Memoir by Alan Cumming
There seems to be two kinds of memoir: the “Famous Person’s life is interesting because they’re famous” and “Interesting Person’s life is interesting and they just happen to be famous.” This is the latter. Alan Cumming delves deep into processing his tumultuous childhood with an abusive father. He pieces together his family history, going back and forth between his discoveries and analysis in 2010, and stories and descriptions from his youth. This was a gripping read, extremely well written, and the fact that Cumming is well known served only to catch my eye to pick up the book.
Widow Basquiat by Jennifer Clement
After I read Prayers for the Stolen I wanted to read everything I could by Jennifer Clement. Unfortunately, there isn’t a whole lot I could get my hands on (I just looked at Amazon right now and other than these 2 titles, there are only 2 others listed and they are only available used or out of stock). This book is a poetic and gritty depiction of the life of Clement’s friend, Suzanne Mallouk, as the partner and muse of avant-garde artist Jean-Michel Basquiat. You know how people say they would listen to someone with a nice voice read the phone book? I think I would read the equivalent of Jennifer Clement writing the phone book.
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
This should be required reading for all Americans. The writing is beautiful and he distills everything down to the most bare and basic idea, cutting right though the complexities. Every time I have tried to write about this book I cannot. It challenges the way I think and brings his perspective into sharp focus for me. (My friend Jennie wrote about this better than I can here)
Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman by Robert K. Massie
I find ye olde monarchs fascinating, and Catherine did not disappoint. This is nonfiction that read like fiction. She led such an interesting life, beginning as a young German princess who was then married into the Russian monarchy. I was particularly interested in reading about her within the context of the Age of Enlightenment. Political ideas were shifting and she, along with other worlds leaders, was beginning to change philosophies. Spoiler alert: the horse thing is not true.
Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass
This should be required reading for all Americans; I’d be surprised if it isn’t already in many high school curriculums. Having learned about the atrocities of slavery in school, it was still quite striking to me to read Douglass’s first hand account of his experiences as a slave and as a free colored man. I found particularly interesting his appendix where he differentiates between “the Christianity of this land” and “the Christianity of Christ.” And very sobering is the fact that he does not describe how he escaped slavery because at the time he wrote this, he did not want to alert slave owners to the ways by which slaves were escaping.
Blubber by Judy Blume
I can’t remember clearly if I had read this as a kid or not. But reading this as an adult really made me squirm. Judy Blume took me right back into that space where girls are mean to each other. Her descriptions of bullying and teasing are so spot on.
And here are 5 Books I Didn’t Like Even Though Lots of Other People Loved Them I am picky and particular and also an enigma. The feels these books gave me range from snore to rage:
Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng – Oh my god talk to each other. So much conflict could have been avoided or solved if the characters just nutted up and shared some thoughts and feelings. I realize that is the point, but it just made me angry.
Not That Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham – Maybe I’m old, but I was annoyed with Lena Dunham in Girls and here is just more of the same whining. I realize a memoir is particularly self-centered to begin with, but this is walking millennial cliché. I just couldn’t take the lengths to which my eyes had to roll in my head. Get off my lawn, Lena Dunham.
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel – snoresville. I just didn’t care about the characters. What did it all MEEEEAN? Why didn’t we find out anything deep like the backstory of the prophet or what happened the year somebody can’t remember or the PLANE?
Carry On by Rainbow Rowell – It pains me to list Rainbow Rowell here, but this just isn’t my thing. And I kind of knew that going into it. I read and loved Fangirl, but I skimmed over all of the Simon and Baz parts. I’m a hard sell on fantasy novels to begin with and here the story was all white noise for the kissing parts. I’ll read any kissing scene Rainbow Rowell wants to write.
Honorable Mention: The Martian by Andy Weir – I really could put this on both lists. I couldn’t put it down, it is a GREAT story. But there were some major things missing for me. Faced with certain death, the only human on an entire planet with no hope of rescue for years and not one tear or ounce of human emotion? No journal entry to serve as a letter to someone he missed? No emotional artifacts left behind in the event that his body is recovered? You sir, are a robot.