Monday, January 4, 2016

My Year in Reading: 2015

I read about 93 books  in 2015; this is significantly lower than in years past.  I blame the internet.  New Year's Resolution:  read less internet and more books!

In perusing my reviews at Goodreads, I didn't give any fiction or nonfiction for adults published in 2015 "five stars."  I did give a five star rating to The World In A Second by Isabel Minhós Martins and illustrated by Bernardo Carvalho, which I called "stunning and irresistible."  

Four stars went to Stone in the Sky by Cecil Castellucci, part of a young adult series about a space station and its inhabitants, including the strong female character Tula Bane; I said it "reminded me of a really good mid-season episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation" which is piece of fantastic-ness coming from my mouth.  I gave the first book in this series, Tin Star, five stars; although I generally hate series, I'm sort of interested to see what's next.

I continued the quest to re-read all Agatha Christie in chronological order, reading three of them last year.  Since the sad passing of Terry Pratchett, I'm going to re-read all of his Discworld books; I read two of those.  And our book club is reading the entire Harry Potter series; I finished the year reading books 1-4 and thoroughly enjoying that.

It was a very good year for re-reads and reading older titles, rather than things that are new.  Here is a list of some other books I read last year, in no particular order, that I really enjoyed.

Angel by Elizabeth Taylor (1957).  In the list of characters I've loved to hate over the years, Elizabeth Taylor's loathsome and self absorbed authoress  of the title certainly ranks near or at the very top.  

The Storied Life A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin (2014).  Pure fluff, but enjoyable all the same.  I had a hard time putting it down.

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel (2014).  I actually read this twice last year, and the second time submerged itself into my brain, heart and soul and lodged there, unforgettable and wondrously frightening and sort of beautiful.  If the world does indeed end, I hope I get stuck in a traveling Shakespeare troupe and orchestra rather than fodder for zombies.

The Book of Strange New Things by Michael Faber  (2014).  Meaty, slow, strong and good, using science fiction tropes to tell us about ourselves; although the aliens in this book are truly alien, completely beyond comprehension.  

The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell (2014).  I can't wait to read my next David Mitchell.  The Bone Clocks was like a being infected by a slow acting virus; the longer it sat in my system, the more it took over my thoughts.  It's a thinker, and also an adventure took.  Some of it didn't make a lick of sense, but I didn't care - I lapped it all up.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (1925).  The last time I know I read The Great Gatsby was in school - maybe even eighth grade.  I might have read it in college too.  It didn't matter; The Great Gatsby  is a lodestone for American literature; it's entered into our collective consciousness about what it means to be American, to be rich, to be from the East Coast, to be from Long Island, to be an outside, to love, and to lose.  

FDR by Jean Edward Smith (2007).  Probably the best piece of nonfiction I read in  2015; Smith uses the four most important women in Franklin Roosevelt's life to build the skyscraper that became FDR.  A magnificently written book.  

Malice at the Palace by Rhys Bowen (2015).  Sometimes series peter out; I was afraid this was happening to Her Royal Spyness, one of my favorite mysteries series.  Malice at the Palace brought everything I love about the series - screwball madcap murder and real minor royalty, roaring and romping back.

All Passion Spent by Vita Sackville-West (1931).  I can't do any better on this book than I did back in October 2015:  "In my personal pantheon of literary greatness, E.M. Forster is Jupiter, and other books, literary fiction in particular, are measured against the golden literary mean of Howards End (my perfect novel).   Of course, this is hyperbole (rhetoric?); but it's difficult not to compare anything written between 1900 and 1945ish to Forster (or sometimes Downton Abbey and occasionally Agatha Christie).  All Passion Spent lands squarely (and a bit heavily) into that box of delights, and falls short of Forsterian greatness.  But then in my literary comparisons, everything skates up to Howards End before falling off into the abyss of other novels not Forster.  At least so far.  Alan Hollinghurst has come closest."

A Single Man by Christopher Isherwood (1964).   This resonated with me;  it was bitter and sad, and certainly not the best book to read before I was turning 45 last year.  Incredibly well written - but could you expect anything less from Isherwood?

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