2015: Favorite Books and Year in Review

Where did the time go? How is tomorrow the last day of the year? I’m sure that I am not the only person who feels this way, but the last few months especially just seemed to fly past. The weird warm weather isn’t helping, either. In some ways I am completely baffled that we’re at years end, and in others I’m confounded that it’s not already March 2016. Oh well, neither here nor there.

I had such high hopes for reading and blogging in 2015, and they mostly did not come to pass. For one thing, I only read 32 books. That’s got to be a new low. (Except it isn’t—I only read 32 books last year, too. WHAT? Serious 2015 resolution fails. Yowza.) The truth is, though, I spent a lot of the time I could have been reading doing other things (cough*Internet*cough). Seriously, I really did waste a spectacular amount of time on the Internet this year. I wouldn’t mind that so much if it meant I had been writing reviews or commenting on blogs I enjoy. But no. Instead, I spent most of my time looking at Twitter and feeling anywhere from slightly to completely outraged by any number of things. My second biggest time-waster was Facebook, which I never liked much but has in the last year turned into meme spam factory. I find myself scrolling through all these damn memes just to see real pictures or updates from people. It’s like the Easter egg hunt of the damned.

I joined two challenges (TBR Double Dog Dare and #10BooksofSummer), but only completed the first one. For the TBR Double Dog Dare, I did a great job of reading my own books from January to April, something I’ll probably do again this year even if I don’t join a formal challenge. This is probably the first year since I started blogging that I don’t really want to buy anything. Usually I get some kind of gift card to spend on books and I rush to spend it all before the new year. I have some money to spend but instead this year I’m just putting a bunch of items on my library hold list. I’m tired of buying books and not reading them, and I want to be dedicated about not adding to the stack until I can pare it down some (that was a goal last year, too, so here’s a grain of salt to go along with this statement). I think I’ll save my gift cards for something I know I really want—and for REAL books. If I realized anything this year, it’s how much I enjoy reading physical books. I’m not knocking my e-reader (and I’ve started using Google Play books in addition to the Kindle app), but I spend so much time at a computer (for work) that spending time looking at the paper page has become a relief of sorts.

Even if I only read 32 books this year, I am happy to say that only a few of them were duds (at least for me). I found several new authors to follow (and four new series…why do they have to be series?): Sara Gran, Jeff Vandermeer, Elena Ferrante, Robert Galbraith/J.K. Rowling. I read three books that have been on my TBR since I started blogging (My Antonia, Cloud Atlas, and Possession). I finally read a book I bought way back when it was published in 2005 (Assassination Vacation).

And so, on to the favorites. Overall, my favorite book of the year was Patti Smith’s M Train, which I did not get a chance to review here, mainly because when I sat down to do so, it felt more like I was trying to write about a personal conversation with a good friend than writing a book review. Smith writes with such earnestness and generosity of spirit about the things she loves or has loved and lost. She loves books, is hopelessly addicted to The Killing, and compulsively watches Law and Order. She becomes obsessed with Haruki Murakami’s The Wind Up Bird Chronicle, ponders the loss of a favorite coat, buys a house, endures Hurricane Sandy. Reading M Train is like reading the journal of a highly artistic and observant person, except that it’s not like a journal at all because she wants you there with her.

My other favorites: Assassination Vacation made me laugh so hard I cried and instantly made me a dedicated Sarah Vowell fan. My Antonia reminded me yet again that simple stories neatly told can often be the most spectacular, and the same can be said of my last book of the year, Kent Haruf’s Our Souls at Night. Cloud Atlas knocked my socks off, but not in ways I would have expected; I thought it would be very post-modern and intimidating, but instead found it was just plain old-fashioned storytelling from someone with a serious mastery of language and style (and genre). Skippy Dies was a book I loved for its humor and depth, so much so that if I do buy anything it will probably be Paul Murray’s latest, The Mark and The Void. Elena Ferrante’s My Brilliant Friend is probably one of the best books I have ever read about the nuances of female friendship. And finally, Annihilation was one of the most unusual books I’ve ever read and makes me grateful yet again that I discovered book blogs, because without them I would still be reading in the same narrow veins of literary fiction.

And then there were the page-turners: Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead, Seating Arrangements, Big Little Lies,  The Hand That First Held MineThe Signature of All Things, Into Thin Air, The Son. All in all, I had a great reading year, even if my volumes were low.

And so for 2016, I’m going to challenge myself to read at least 50 books. Some of the things I have lined up (East of Eden, Angle of Repose, An Instance of the Fingerpost) are not exactly small books, but I am feeling confident that with a little dedication (and a little less Internet), 2016 could be an outstanding year for reading. Happy New Year to you all!

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6 comments

  1. Happy New Year, Priscilla! I can’t believe I still haven’t read Patti Smith, especially when I’ve owned a copy of Just Kids for years. Over the years I’ve come to value the ratio of books read to books enjoyed more than quantity on its own, so in that light your year is a definite win.

  2. You have some great books on this list! Into Thin Air is one of my favorites. I also really liked Skippy Dies, Cloud Atlas, and Assassination Vacation. East of Eden is a wonderful book, I hope you like it!

  3. Ana, Happy New Year! Most definitely, enjoying the books we do read is more important than any number. I do hope you get to read Patti Smith soon. M Train is very different from Just Kids, but they are both beautiful gems.

  4. Happy happy new year, lady! It sounds like your quality of books was high this year, and I know it will be in 2016 also — East of Eden is one of those books I’ve been meaning to tackle forever and have just been really daunted by its length. Props to you!

  5. Happy New Year to you, Jenny! I hope your holidays have been wonderful. East of Eden is daunting…I know it will be good, but without dedication I’m afraid it will take me months to get through it!

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