2015 in Books

For my look back at a year of reading, I’m going to borrow a format from my friend Chrissy Hennessy (whose site is well worth a visit to read a lot more writing about reading, and some of her own published work, even if she frustratingly doesn’t have a link to her short story about the woman who compulsively dates circus performers).

 

Number of books I read in 2015: 31

 

How I consumed them:

Read with my eyes: 26

Read with my ears: 6

 

Genre Breakdown:

Novels: 22

Nonfiction/Bio/Memoir: 6

Short stories/essays: 2

Graphic novels: 1

 

Total pages I read in 2015: 11,750 (a steep drop from my all-time high of 15,102 in 2013)

 

Month I read the most books: March (6)

 

Month I read the fewest books: October (0; I started five or six books and abandoned each)

 

Most fun I had while reading a book

Easy Riders, Raging Bulls – Essentially pure, uncut salaciousness, and probably 95% spurious, but a peek at the inner workings of my favorite period in American film was a nonstop pleasure.

 

Most interesting

Manson – According to John Mulaney, I don’t have much longer on my typical young man’s fascination with Charles Manson, so I savored this very well-written and thoroughly-researched look at his life, the era that defined him, and the one he defined.

 

Most disappointing books by authors I love

Telegraph Avenue – Michael Chabon wrote four of my favorite novels, and then one that made me say “Fuck you” aloud in my car multiple times as I listened to it.

Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World – It’s definitely starting to feel like if you’ve read one Murakami you’ve read them all, and while I love his work, by the seventh time around, it gets a bit exhausting, and this one seemed to have the least at the core out of any of them.

Revival – The book that finally broke the “Eh, it’s Stephen King, I might as well pick it up” streak that I’ve been on for about fifteen years, and that hurts, but man, I hated this book.

 

Most overrated

A Little Life – I couldn’t put this book down, and it certainly affected me, particularly towards the middle, but as it trudges on, it starts to feel a bit cynical in a “Oh man, you thought that chapter was fucked up? You ain’t seen nothin’ yet” attitude, like the author was experimenting on her characters and her readers rather than engaging with either. I can see why people love this book, and I did devour it, but punishing readers and characters does not equal art.

 

Most underrated

Funny Girl – I’m not sure if this book is underrated, since I don’t know anyone who’s read it, but it was definitely better than I expected it to be, and easily one of Hornby’s best, and his best in a good long time, with a deep, broad look at an era and a culture, and characters I never wanted to say goodbye to.

 

Best book of 2015

Fates and Furies – You can find plenty of outrageously good reviews of this book, so I’ll just say: they’re all correct. A daring, emotional, captivating read.

 

Best book I read this year

Infinite Jest – This book is thrilling, and weird, and funny, and way, way more fun to read than its reputation as an Important Book would have you believe. Yeah, it can be like a tough day at the gym—sometimes it’s exhausting, but when you take a breather, your whole body hums. It’s an undertaking, it’s a project, and there are whole long chunks that I have no real use for, but it’s hard to quibble with something that’s one-hundred percent unlike anything that’s ever existed. There’s a reason this one’s considered a work of genius.

 

The year’s full reading list, chronologically:

 

V. – Pynchon

Silver Screen Fiend – Oswalt

Slaughter-House Five – Vonnegut

The Invisible Man – Wells

Revival – King

Funny Girl – Hornby

Vineland – Pynchon

Lord of the Flies – Golding

The Violent Bear It Away – O’Connor

From a Buick 8 – King

Horseman, Pass By – McMurtry

Telegraph Avenue – Chabon

Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World – Murakami

There’s Something I Want You to Do – Baxter

You Don’t Know Me But You Don’t Like Me – Rabin

We Have Always Lived in the Castle – Jackson

Z for Zachariah – O’Brien

The Rules of Attraction – Ellis

Infinite Jest – Wallace

Easy Rides, Raging Bulls – Biskind

A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again – Wallace

Every Love Story is a Ghost Story – Max

Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself – Lipsky

Maddadam – Atwood

Night Shift – King

A Little Life – Yanigahara

Breakfast of Champions – Vonnegut

Dolores Claiborne – King

Cat’s Cradle – Vonnegut

Manson – Guinn

Fun Home – Bechdel

Fates and Furies - Grof