Wednesday, December 30, 2015

My excellent year of reading (with update)

(UPDATE: In rereading this post, I realized I had left off one of my *favorite books of the year read in October. I've now added it, raising my total favorites to 22. And growing.)

Everybody's doing their end-of-year recaps, so why should I be any different?

The most popular way of recapping is to do the "top 10" list. I pulled up my list of books read in 2015 and tried to narrow my favorites down to a top 10. I couldn't do it.

Next I thought I would pick a favorite book from each month of reading. I've read 98 books (so far) in 2015. Surely there would be one special book in each month that would jump out at me when I tried to make my list. Nope.

I made a list of all the books that I read and truly, unequivocally loved and then tried to narrow that list down to a bloggable few. I found I couldn't bear to exclude any of them.

So, here it is - my list of...um...my 21 22 favorite books
read in 2015. Some old; some new; some rereads and most read for the first time, with links to my reviews of them. They are all winners!

January:

Fourth of July Creek by Smith Henderson; a gripping tale of a social worker for the Department of Family Services in Montana and his efforts to save lost kids. 

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins; one of the best sellers of 2015 but don't hold that against it. It's a thriller worthy of that genre.

February:

Middlemarch by George Eliot; one of those classics that I had always intended to read but never got around to. I got around to it in February. I'm glad I did. 

March:

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr; a much-praised, award-winning book that surprisingly lived up to all that hype.

Lamentation by C.J. Samson; another entry in one of my favorite historical fiction series. I'd been waiting for it for a long time. It was well worth the wait.

April:

The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen; a look at the Vietnam War through Vietnamese eyes.

All the Old Knives by Olen Steinhauer; a thriller featuring old CIA operatives and a tragedy that they can't forget.

May

A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson; a view of the Todd family that we met in Life After Life as seen through the eyes of another sibling. Another tour de force by Atkinson.

June:

The Martian by Andy Weir; a stranded astronaut, his struggle to find resources to survive, and finally the desperate race of a united humanity to bring him home. It is a page-turner in the best sense. 

The Children Act by Ian McEwan; a beautifully written, thought-provoking story of the law and how it is interpreted and applied by human beings; a story about human possibilities and resilience. 

Barchester Towers by Anthony Trollope; an oldie but goodie, the second in Trollope's Barsetshire Chronicles series.

July:

The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey; voted by many aficianados of the genre as the best mystery ever written, it is hard to argue against that assessment. For those of us who are fans of mysteries, this is one terrific read!

August

Dune by Frank Herbert; with this book, I returned to one of the loves of my youth and found to my delight that it was just as mesmerizing as it had been all those years ago.

September:

Arthur and George by Julian Barnes; the creator of Sherlock Holmes is the detective/hero of his own mystery in this complex story by one of my favorite writers.

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov; Nabokov was one of my favorite writers in my twenties. He was so good that he could almost make a pedophile understandable. At least he showed us how the pedophile Humbert rationalized his actions. 

October:

Let Me Be Frank With You by Richard Ford; "Love isn't a thing, after all, but an endless series of single acts." Perhaps truer words have never been written.

Flaubert's Parrot by Julian Barnes; a strange little book that lingers on the bookshelves of my mind; almost uncategorizable - but maybe that was Barnes' point.

*Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff; the story of an unusual marriage as seen through the eyes of its two members - one who believes the whole thing was fate and one who knows that the furies, too, played their part. 

November:

The Japanese Lover by Isabel Allende; another mutigenerational family saga featuring a strong woman at it center - Allende's specialty. I love her writing.

Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert; rereading Flaubert's masterpiece after many years was a strange experience. I was able to see it from a different perspective but found that the story had lost none of its power.

December:

My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante; reading this story of two brilliant young girls growing up in a violent and stultifying Naples society of the 1950s was an incredible and eye-opening intellectual and emotional experience.

The Narrows by Michael Connelly; I do love reading mystery series and Michael Connelly's rate at the top of my favorites. This book quite surprised me by being perhaps my favorite in his Harry Bosch series so far.

It was a real struggle for me to narrow my list to only these 21 22; there are several others that missed the list by only a hair. I really have had a most excellent year of reading in 2015. On to 2016!

12 comments:

  1. Love your list. I should sit down and do one, too. I'm with you on Lamentation...finally (!!!!) and another winner.

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    1. Maybe in another five or six years we'll get another Matthew Shardlake book! Samson is such a meticulous researcher and writer.

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  2. Loved reading your list. I usually do a top 25 for the same reasons. I guess we know how to pick our books, right? I am intrigued with the Josephine Tey (have not read her yet), The Sympathizer is on my list, and you are the second blogger today to have Fourth of July Creek on your list.

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    1. I only choose to read books that I think I have a reasonable chance of enjoying. Life is too short for bad books. I am bemused by bloggers who give us lists each month of books they didn't finish because they were so disappointing, or who seem to relish telling how awful their read was. They must read for different reasons than I do. As for the three books you mentioned in your comment, I can wholeheartedly recommend them.

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  3. Excellent list, Dorothy. I tend to include in my list most books that are rated 4 and 5 stars because I can't possibly narrow them to ten. I like your style of listing them month by month.
    Hope next year is another great one for reading.

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    1. Any year of reading tends to be a pretty great year for me. Happy reading in 2016, Carmen.

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  4. It looks like I'll end the year with about 40 read. This has been the year of re-reading for me though. I've re-read lots and enjoyed every bit! You're right, life is too short to force yourself to read things that you don't think you'll enjoy!

    I'm aiming for a book a week in 2016 - some new and probably some old. I'm keeping a paper journal now instead of using GoodReads. It's harder to list re-reads on that site.

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    1. Sounds like a plan and a worthy goal. Good luck with it and happy reading!

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  5. I concur with your revised addition/edition! Such a wide variety of responses to Fates and Furies in the reviews. I wonder if a reader has to have/had been married for quite a while to really appreciate what Lauren Groff accomplished.

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  6. Looks like an interesting list Dorothy, I just need to find where to apply for 4-5 more hours in the day so I can get back to reading 2 books a week like I used to – haven’t done that since I started blogging and I miss it.
    Wishing you a happy New Year and all the best for 2016!

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    1. I find that setting a goal helps and being on Goodreads helps me keep track of things. My goal this year was 98 books and I will exceed that by one - finished up my 99th today. I think I may ease back a bit though for 2016. Happy New Year to you Helene, and I hope you do find time for reading in 2016.

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