Friday, January 01, 2016

Year-End Book Wrapup '15

This year I read 39 books (and lots of fanfiction, oops). 19 were by women and 17 were by men, and 3 co-authored by both.  I read 8 of the books on my wishlist for last year, and didn't get to 12 of them.  I can't believe I didn't even hit 50 books. In fact, that's my main reading resolution for next year: read 50 books. Lots more after the lists.

Top five books of the year:

1. Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
This book is just terrific, in a different way than I was anticipating. Do yourself a favor and read it if you haven't yet. It's not a broccoli book at all; it's a fun but expansive read.

2. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
There was some backlash against this book during the Tournament of Books, and it's not undeserved; I agree with some of the criticisms that it was a bit sentimental. But I loved it all the same and was profoundly moved by it; a very close second for my favorite read of the year.

3. The Martian by Andy Wier
I read this book twice this year and saw the movie. If I wanted to impress you all with my erudition I would put Don Quijote on here instead and pretend I enjoyed one of the great masterpieces of literature more than The Martian, but that would be a lie.  I don't pretend that it even comes close in terms of literary merit, but based on pure entertainment, The Martian wins.

4. Blackout: Remembering the Things We Drank to Forget by Sarah Hepola
A wonderfully written memoir, up there with Liars Club. Super good.

5. The Southern Reach trilogy by Jeff VanderMeer
Gets this year's Station Eleven Award for books that lingered with me long after I finished them. This was particularly true about the first book in the series, Annihilation. Awesome trilogy.

Runners up: Don Quijote, The Bone Clocks, Dead Wake, Seveneves, A Constant Love, Fates and Furies, A Confederacy of Dunces, Brown Girl Dreaming, Dept. of Speculation. And obviously Macbeth is one of the best things I read this year, but not a novel so it gets its own special side award.

Once again, the Tournament of Books has a way of picking winners -- I wouldn't have read Southern Reach or Dept. of Speculation otherwise, and All the Light was a finalist. Already salivating over the 2016 longlist...

Bottom three books:

1. 50 Shades of Gray by E.L. James
This is a gimme. I knew it would be terribly written, but thought it would at least be full of kinky sex, but it was not. As far as erotica goes, she is no Chuck Tingle. And again, as previously admitted, I do read fanfiction.

2. Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan
Fell flat, and the narrator being men who have died from AIDS came across as patronizing. I was not the audience for this one.

3. Live from New York by James Miller and Tom Shales
This is actually mostly great, but the "updated" version was my biggest disappointment of the year. New interviews were tacked on and lacked depth, the the introductory material was notably worse. Could have been so much better.

I've started giving up on books that I don't like, which means that I rarely get to the end of a bad book anymore. No honorable mentions here, really.

As for next year, as I said, read at least 50 books is my main goal. I would also like to read A Hundred Years of Solitude as my "classic I should have read by now" selection for the year, plus Between the World and Me for its cultural importance and as much of the Tournament of Books as I can handle. And Best American Short Stories 2015, since I enjoyed last year's so much! I'm actually in the middle of the Finnegans Wake river chapter. I'm going to let go of the dream of some of the other ones. Clean slate!

I'm also intrigued by the Read Harder Challenge. If I were applying it to last year, I would have completed the following: Read a book out loud to someone else (I have a four-year old so, of course); Read a middle grade novel (Brown Girl Dreaming); Read a post-apocalyptic novel (Seveneves); Read a book over 500 pages long (Don Quixote); Read a book, then watch the movie (The Martian); Read a play (Macbeth); Read a book with a main character who has mental illness (several); Read a book dealing with feminist themes (Dept. of Speculation, among others); Historical fiction set before 1900 (A Constant Love); Horror novel (the Southern Reach trilogy). I almost did one in the decade I was born -- Confederacy of Dunces was published in 1980.

I'll see how I do this year. I have some ideas about what I'll read for each category, some leftover from last year, but I will swap out as needed: 

Total: 24/24

[X] A horror book: Slade House apparently counts -- I got it for Christmas
[X] A nonfiction book about science: Come as You Are
[X] A collection of essays: Men Explain Things to Me, Gratitude
[X] Out loud to someone else: King of the Cats (read; not reviewed)
[X] Middle grade novel: The Graveyard Book
[X] Biography (not memoir): Into the Wild
[X] Dystopian or post-apocalyptic: Find Me (on my Kindle already)
[X] Published in the 1970s: The Dog of the South
[X] Audie-award-winning audiobook: The Graveyard Book
[X] Over 500 pages: A Little Life           
[X] Under 100 pages: Gratitude
[X] By or about a transgender person: If I Was Your Girl

[X] Set in Middle East: An Unnecessary Woman
[X] Author from Southeast Asia: The Sympathizer
[X] Historical fiction set before 1900: The Signature of All Things
[X] First book in series by person of color: Blanche on the Lam
[X] Non-superhero comic in last three years: Lumberjanes, Vol. 1
[X] Book adapted into movie (then see movie): Olive Kitteridge.
[X] Nonfiction about feminism:  Men Explain Things to Me  
[X] About religion: Uncovered
[X] About politics: Double Down  
[X] Food memoir: Tender at the Bone
[X] A play: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
[X] Main character has mental illness: Let's Pretend this Never Happened 

As always, looking forward to a brand new year of awesome reading, book clubbing, and blogging. Follow along and talk to me about books, won't you?

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Blogger Unknown said...

Thanks for the tips, I keep referring to this when I need inspiration. xo

10:27 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Thanks for the tips, I keep referring to this when I need inspiration. xo

10:30 PM  

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