I could’ve sworn I wrote a “favorite books of 2014” post, but can not find it. Regardless, they were so good I still remember them: The Goldfinch, The Signature of All Things and All The Light We Cannot See. A year later, I am still recommending these books to people.
I read more books in 2015 than ever before (I also kept the best, if still incomplete, record so that may have something to do with the high number) totaling 30 books, 5 of which I didn’t finish yet or quit. I wanted reading and books to be more prevalent in this space hence my reading life and library haul posts.
*Note – I’m linking to the author or publisher’s page about each book because I do not do Amazon affiliate links nor do I have a Goodread’s account… and b/c sometimes reviews by the general public are insane to read and I’d rather not send more eyeballs their way. Instead, ask your best friend what they just read and go read that. Basically I’m writing this post so I can send this link to my friends when they ask the same of me.
Without further ado, my favorite books of 2015:
ONE – Station Eleven
::sigh:: Station Eleven was just so gorgeous. Take one of my favorite genres (post-apocalypse, though this time it’s post-pandemic), add in a major dose of commentary on the value of art, tie a bunch of seemingly unrelated characters together through vignettes of pre- and post-flu lives, add a (comic book) story-within-a-story, and sprinkle some hope and man, Emily St. John Mandel nails it. Could be one of my favorite books of all time. The language alone is worth the read. “What I mean to say is, the more you remember, the more you’ve lost.” Yes, this.
What I remember while reading it: That I was still so sad from the first miscarriage. How the language took my breath away. And a traveling circus, which just made me want to read The Night Circus again.
TWO – Bel Canto
Let’s just talk about Ann Patchett for a second because I could joke 2015 was the year of AP for me. Not only did I read Bel Canto, which was grace on the page, but I read State of Wonder and it seems she and Ms. Gilbert are besties, so she also popped up in my Big Magic read-a-long. Somehow by complete accident, I’ve read almost half of her published works (and This Is A Story Of A Happy Marriage is on my 2016 TBR). In short, I’m an AP fan and Bel Canto is at the very top of my list. Character-driven stories are my fav and you’d be surprised to know that this poetic novel about a political hostage situation is driven by the people involved and not by the chain of events. Using the omniscient third person narrator to move from person to person in a room and opera to tie everything together, this story still feels real to me.
What I remember while reading it: feeling terribly exhausted from so much travel, reading in bed in the afternoon, barreling through and savoring.
THREE – The Secret History
Have I told you how much I’m a sucker for the New England / boarding school setting? Or when the narrator is an aloof wallflower who is desperate to become somebody? Or when the rest of the characters are smart, spoiled and probably alcoholics? (See also another 2015 read of mine The Interestings – really good, but not top 5 good). There’s murder, conspiracy and really fantastic language. It’s a rambling, long (560+ pages), melodramatic read, and I loved it. In fact, I could argue I liked it better than The Goldfinch mostly because The Secret History’s ending was more satisfying for me. Either way, def top 3 for the year.
What I remember while reading it: how much it reminded me it’s been a while since I read a John Irving novel. June gloom. Pass the whiskey.
FOUR – The Martian
The Martian is not my typical read (see above top 3), but it was excellent, made more so by simultaneously listening to it on audio book with H. Mark Watney is a smart-ass botanist astronaut stranded on Mars. His keen sense of humor and resourcefulness battle against the elements in a part science class, part rescue mission narrative. It’s a fast, smart read. And if you want to know – I liked the movie, but not as much as the book. Obvi.
What I remember while reading it: Getting to talk about it with H because he was also “reading” it (audio book). H sitting in our living room chair, explaining the science to me, and me being so happy we could talk “books”.
FIVE – Ready Player One
Another out of character book for me, but one that was oh-so-awesome. Promoted as Willy Wonka meets The Matrix, we’re back to another favorite genre of mine, dystopian, plus science fiction. You follow teenager Wade Watts aka “Parzival” through a treasure hunt game-within-a-game of the virtual reality world called OASIS. The game maker, who is obsessed with 1980s, has died and left his fortune to the player that can crack the code. Commence video game, movie, and TV puzzles with references to more 80s pop culture than you’d think could be stuffed into one book. Also, an awesome audio book listen. Highly recommend if you have a teenager who could be reading more.
What I remember while reading it: Wanting to read it every second of the day and it being over way, way too soon (it reads so fast!). And again, listening to it on audio book with H.
I couldn’t leave Big Magic off because it really was a great read. It was also the first time I tried a read-a-long on the blog. I heard it’s fabulous on audio book as Gilbert reads it to you herself, and maybe if I had that version, it would’ve made my top 5. Unfortunately, my reading experience felt like a lot of revisiting the topics of conversation Gilbert’s been covering on her Facebook page. This makes sense as she used that space to test and tease content. I’m all for that – I just found my familiarity with the content lessened the a-ha moments. Still, totally worth mentioning.
What I remember while reading it: Reading at the kitchen table with a highlighter. How much Gilbert’s explanation of inviting in and playing with inspiration is another way to talk about pregnancy and the path to parenthood. Seeing Gilbert live in Pasadena on her book tour.
Last but not least, I finally read a Stephen King novel and it was spooky, engrossing and wwwaaayyyyyy better written then I expected. I don’t know why I thought SK wouldn’t be a great read as I love love love his memoir On Writing, but I held some unfair bias that SK would be “below” my typical reading some how. Bag of Bones put me in my place – it was a great reading experience.
What I remember while reading it: Sitting on the couch of our Airbnb during the Manhattan Beach stay-cation. Basically overindulging in reading to balance out the major stress I was experiencing at work.
What about you? What were your favorite reads, and favorite reading memories, of last year?