The totals are in! Consulting my reading journal, I read 40 books in 2015. And I can honestly say almost all of them were quite good reads! Perhaps I can owe it to an article I read around this time last year (of course, I can’t find the link now…) that talked about how it was okay to not force yourself to read a certain number of books in the new year; to be deliberate about enjoying the reading process and, therefore, the book itself. This was good advice for me to s-l-o-w down and enjoy the reading ride. With this strategy in mind, plus this recent blog post from Modern Mrs. Darcy that discusses how you can maximize moments to read, I hope I can continue being a deliberate and intentional reader in 2016.
Here then, are my favorite books of 2015, broken down into the categories I most enjoy reading.
You often hear the question, “What is one book that has changed your life?” Unequivocally, Year of No Sugar by Eve O. Schuab has been that book for me. Prior to reading this in early 2015 I had already begun a journey of eliminating sugar from my diet, the impetus of which was to help manage my fall allergies. Yet, Schuab’s journey and layperson’s research was the added push I needed to realize processed sugar (anything that doesn’t come naturally from fruits & vegetables) is basically poison to my body. I now look at sugary treats as exactly that, a treat, rather than something I snack on routinely, or feel I have to have after every meal. As an unexpected byproduct, I’ve lost 15 pounds throughout the past two years, have hardly gotten sick, and have more energy than I’ve had in the past!
Another non-fiction book that came across my path early in the year was Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman. On a reading list I haphazardly followed, it fulfilled the category “a book made into a TV show.” Although I haven’t watched the Netflix series, nor do I plan to, I’ve heard the first couple of episodes follow the book well, then go a pretty rough direction. The book, however, was engrossing, compelling, and presented not only an insider’s look at serving a prison sentence for drug trafficking, but how the U.S. prison system is in vast need of reform.
2015 started out as I tackled a thooster (Ozark vernacular for “gigantic”) of a novel, 11/22/63 by Stephen King. Thankfully, I found it on sale for Kindle, which was a bargain and far more convenient than carrying around the 880 page tome. It’s been a year since I’ve read it, the only Stephen King book I’ve ever read, and I still often think about the plot, the place I created for the locations in my mind, and how immersed I was in its “what if” scenario. I know J.J. Abrams has a directed a mini-series that will release on Hulu in February…I’m still undecided on whether or not I will choose to tune in.
When I saw The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin for sale at Target this past summer, it piqued my interest. Since I’m always a little hesitant (read: cheap) about buying books without much knowledge of its reviews or a personal recommendation, I was excited to see that our public library system had it available as an e-book. I hastily downloaded it and found it charming, sad, containing good character growth, and, above all, a wonderful homage to the power and love of books.
Hands down, Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel was my favorite book of 2015. As I posted this summer, I found this to be a story of hope, community, and commitment to art, even in the midst of death and an uncertain future. It was a great blend of a post-apocalyptic, science fiction, mise en abyme (story within a story) and was the book I most frequently recommended to friends in 2015.
When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead won the Newbery Medal in 2010, and since I have missed reading some of the more recent Newbery winners, I wanted to cross this one off my list. Yes, it’s a kids story, but an extremely well written one, containing great depth of emotion, so I can easily see why this won the Newbery. I devoured it in a single day.
A librarian colleague, who is also a fan of children’s/YA literature, recommended A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd over a year ago. It appeared at our bi-annual Scholastic Book fair, so I bought a copy at his recommendation. In the past month I finally picked it up from my to-be-read pile and was captivated by this sweet story of family, belonging, home, friendship, kindness, and, of course, a little bit of magic.
My thanks to the folks at NetGalley for giving me access to pre-publication e-copies to both of these “foodie books!” Plus, I just realized they both take place in the upper Midwest – how interesting! The Coincidence of Coconut Cake by Amy E. Reichert was mentioned in my summer reading blogpost and was a perfect summer read: lighthearted, easy to follow, and contained delicious descriptions of, not only, the beloved coconut cake, but many other regional culinary specialties native to the Madison, WI, area…like cheese curds. Yum.
I received Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradal earlier in the year, but it ended up being one of my final 2015 reads. I would rank it as my 2nd favorite book of the year, behind Station Eleven. It read almost like a series of connected short stories, all of which had a central type of mouthwatering food/dish that starred in that section, then the stories of the supporting characters helped further the longer story arc of the female protagonist, Eva.
Therefore, if I ever travel to Wisconsin, Minnesota, or other parts of the upper Midwest, I’m sure I will not be disappointed with what find to I eat!
Now that 2016 is here, I’m equally excited to dive into some new, and new-to-me, books:
- 10% happier : How I tamed the voice in my head, reduced stress without losing my edge, and found self-help that actually works–A true story by Dan Harris (currently reading)
- See How They Run by Ally Carter
- Still Life by Louise Penny
- The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
- People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks
- something written by Jojo Moyes
- Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery
- re-read the Bible for a third time (last time was in 2012)
Here’s to reading adventures in 2016 that take us near and far, to moments where we encounter characters and plots that help us better understand people in our complex world, and ultimately to use each day to boldly share the stories we’re writing with the days of our lives.