One of my goals for 2015 was to invest more in my own reading. And I seem to have done just that. Despite what felt like whole months of reading not at all (November, mostly), I still managed 42 books, and almost 11000 pages (10894, to be exact).
It was a year of non-fiction (due, mainly, to teaching AP English Language and Composition, and wanting to consciously engage out of my own reading and thinking and learning), with just over 40% falling into that category (including, rather tellingly, almost all of my highest rated reads of the year), and it was a year of audio books (being able to simultaneously read AND shop, cook, do dishes, stretch, etc., is a wonder) — I owe almost half of the year’s reads to my iPod and the setting that allows one to listen to books at x2 speed.
Here are some of the highlights:
Best “Just Fun” Book
Rainbow Rowell’s Landline — I think it safe to say that Rowell (who continues to surprise me with how right she gets it) has secured her place as my new favorite author in this category. As I wrote on Goodreads, Landline was delightful: “A book on par with hot chocolate, warm blankets, falling snow, Christmas trees, frosted cookies, fairy lights, and the laughter of family. There is brokenness in the world, but there is also wholeness. This is a book that celebrates the latter.”
Runner up: Holly Black’s Doll Bones. I’ve long enjoyed Black’s imagination, but this was in a league of its own. Her propensity for Gothic horror, handled with a subtle and masterful touch. Bridge to Terabithia-esque, but (dare I say it?) better. A book about friendships, magic, and growing up.
Dorothy Sayers’s The Mind of the Maker — Metaphor, theology, literary criticism: this book is an example of thinking at its most creative. Thought-provoking and interesting. I want to read it again.
Runner up: Mary Oliver’s A Poetry Handbook. This was mostly common sense, yet somehow still burned with vision. (Though not a book, Henry David Thoreau’s “On Civil Disobedience” also took me by surprise. I did not enjoy Walden, so was not expecting to be so impacted by his call to political integrity.)
Annie Dillard’s An American Childhood — This is a book I wish I had written. Despite the difference in our worlds, she somehow captures all the unnamed truths of childhood and reveals them to me anew.
Runners up: C.S. Lewis’s A Grief Observed and Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking. Both, in their way, love letters.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah — A thought provoking and enjoyable story, well told.
Runners up: Margaret Atwood’s Moral Disorder and Other Stories (an excellently crafted narrative; not so much a collection of short stories as a fragmented whole) and A.S. Byatt’s Possession (a complexly woven, enjoyable tale).
The Autobiography of Mark Twain — Simply excellent. It felt like it lasted a lifetime (in the best way possible). The hugeness of the character (and life) housed therein was staggering. Like the Tardis, bigger on the inside.
This was also the year that I discovered Librivox recordings. Far from imperfect, but freely accessible (and without which I never would have encountered Elizabeth Gaskell’s The Grey Woman).
Most Read Author
Flannery O’Connor with 3. Each one torturous, powerful, and tinged with grace. Some of the most memorable reading of the year.
Runners up: Karen Blixen and Rainbow Rowell, each with 2.
Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises — I detested it fairly strongly while reading, but it’s truly grown on me in retrospect. A masterpiece in the marriage of form and content.
You can find a more complete list of my year’s reading here.