Thursday, January 14, 2016

best of 2015 | best books

Follow what I read and chat with me about books on Instagram: @funnelcloudrach | #booksandbeverages

One of my few successes in 2015 was reading a lot of books. Since we weren't able to travel much, I escaped through reading and found my adventures in the pages of books. I crossed 43 titles off my list this year, but still it never seems like enough. What is it about the desire to read more more more?

While I tend to read books of a variety of subject matters by different types of authors, I also challenged myself with some new genres (science fiction, poetry) this year, thanks to the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge. (Stay tuned for a separate blog post on this.)

Here's what I read in 2015:

Dear Daughter by Elizabeth Little
A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra
Delancey by Molly Wizenberg
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
The Giver by Lois Lowry
Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann
I Know This Much Is True by Wally Lamb
Shakespeare Saved My Life by Laura Bates
Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant? by Roz Chast
Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami
Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
Lucky Us by Amy Bloom
Things Fall Apart by China Achebe
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson
Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
The Empathy Exams by Leslie Jamison
The Leisure Seeker by Michael Zadoorian
Men We Reaped by Jesmyn Ward
A Little Lumpen Novelita by Roberto Bolano
The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henriquez
Redeployment by Phil Klay
The Liars' Club by Mary Karr
Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi
Family Life by Akhil Sharma
Dog Songs by Mary Oliver
The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple
Enjoy Every Sandwich by Lee Lipsenthal
Little Pretty Things by Lori Rader-Day
Survival Lessons by Alice Hoffman
Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill
Euphoria by Lily King
Garlic and Sapphires by Ruth Reichl (audiobook)
Make Good Art by Neil Gaiman
An Exclusive Love by Johanna Adorjan
How to Tell Toledo from the Night Sky by Lydia Netzer
The Sleeper and the Spindle by Neil Gaiman
Selfish, Shallow, and Self-Absorbed: Sixteen Writers on the Decision Not to Have Kids by Meghan Daum, et al.
The Opposite of Loneliness by Marina Keegan
The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer
Dear Life by Alice Munro

Total number of books: 43
Fiction: 29.5*
Non-Fiction: 13.5*
By Male Authors: 14
By Female Authors: 29

The Opposite of Loneliness included both fiction and non-fiction essays.

I'm having a harder and harder time picking favorite books because I feel like I've been reading a lot of A-minus/B-plus books lately - that is books that I enjoy while reading and am interested in what's going to happen and are well-written, but seem to lack a bit of magic that fully draws me in and leaves a lasting impression. I'm glad I read so many 'good' books this year, but the truly A-plus books are hard to find. I have favorites from this year, but none of them seem to make my all-time list of the best books I've ever read in my life.

My top three books this year were all novels with well-developed plots and characters that really sucked me into the book. (I also seem to gravitate towards colorful abstract covers!) These favorites all had a bit of magic to their stories:

Favorite Books | Euphoria
                             I Know This Much Is True
                             The Interestings
And honorable mention goes to All The Light We Cannot See. This book was beautiful and was well-deserving of the Pulitzer. I also really enjoyed The Book of Unknown Americans.

But there were many others that deserve recognition and made me think about why I read. The answer is always "for entertainment", but some books I read purely for fun (novels) while others I read to challenge myself or learn something (non-fiction, difficult subject matter, classics I should've read in school, genres I'm less familiar with). The novels/memoirs are usually the ones that become my favorites, but there are books in the second category that are also worthy of recognition: Redeployment and Men We Reaped for their difficult subject matter. Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant? - a graphic novel that was both sad, funny, and most of all, relatable. The Opposite of Loneliness for the incredible writing talent of a young author who's life was tragically cut short at age 22. Selfish, Shallow, and Self-Absorbed for its thought-provoking, controversial, relatable, and heart-breaking essays, not just about the decision to have or not have kids, but about the human experience and the challenges that life dumps on us throughout every stage of being alive. Good stuff.

And since I love to talk about books, what were your favorites in 2015? Do you have any reading goals for the coming year?

Once again, I'll be working my way through the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge and trying to read more more more in 2016...

+ See what I read in 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014.


Jillian said...

Love that you post these every year and that you read so much! It's an inspiration. I've started going to the library much more, but I'm TERRIBLE at starting the books right away and thus returning things on time. Last week it got so bad that a librarian actually left me a voicemail asking me to please return a book. Haha!

I used the #booksandbeverages hashtag recently and wanted to check- do I remember correctly that you asked people to join in? Or are you using it most to track your own? I forget and want to make sure I don't muddle it up :)

Funnelcloud Rachel said...

Thanks, Jillian! Lots of people use #booksandbeverages and I love seeing what other people are reading so feel free to join!

I tend to check out waaaaay too many library books at once and then often have to return them before I get to read them. But I figure it's better than spending money on stacks of books that sit unread on my shelf!

little green field book said...

I'm a library/digital library book hoarder too! I don't know why it's so satisfying going to the library and coming home with a stack of books, but it is. I stopped buying books after one of our moves because I was sick of hauling books all over the place, many that I most likely would never read again. I still buy graphic novels, cookbooks, and photography books though.

I have been doing the goodreads book challenge every year for the past couple of years. I always start off so strong, go AWOL in the middle of the year, and then try to speed read books to meet my goal. I just like to challenge myself to read more books than I did the year prior. Otherwise, I'm good at making lists, not good at checking things off the list...

Funnelcloud Rachel said...

I hear ya, Veronika. 3-4 years ago I decided to stop buying books, and I've stuck with it. It seems like such a waste of money/space to buy books I'll only read once, so now I love the library. I have the same exceptions as you - I use my Amazon reward points to buy myself cookbooks and occasionally art/photo/graphic novels.

I'm actually going to try to limit myself to 3 checkouts at a time this year to break the cycle of the overwhelming stack on my nightstand. But I don't have a lot of self control! (I've got a huge TBR list that I'm using as a bookmark this year.)

Karen Travels said...

I am adding Euphoria and The Interestings to my to be read list! I love the other 3 on your top 5.