January 8, 2016

2015 By The Books

As a final sendoff to 2015, I'm taking a look back at my year in reading and presenting some statistics and favorites. I wrote a post of this kind last year (though somewhat to my surprise, never before that), and it's interesting to see what did and didn't change in my reading life.

In 2015, I read 36 books, which is a huge decrease from 2014's tally of 66, but I'm okay with those numbers. 2014 was an outlier because I did very little writing, so I filled far more of my days with reading. I was happy to make writing my primary focus again in 2015, and producing a full revision and a new first draft left me just enough time to match my 2013 book count. I hope to continue reading 3 or maybe 4 books a month, but I'm not likely to get through more than that unless I enter another non-writing period, since I apparently read much slower than most bookish people. This is only a problem because there are just so many books I want to read!

I enjoy the challenge of writing a summary and review for every book, and I expect I'll stick with the monthly reading recap format that I returned to in 2015. I also post all my reviews to Goodreads, along with occasional status updates on books in progress, so you can follow me there.

Similar to the year before, my 2015 reading leaned heavily toward new and recent releases. I read 17 books published during the year, and I often managed to start new books during their first month or two, which made me feel trendy. Most of the rest of my reading was catching up on books from the past few years, so I only read 8 books published prior to 2010. The earliest of those is from 1960.

Unlike the previous two years, every book I read in 2015 is by a different author. The small qualifier is that I read Claudia Rankine's poetry book, CITIZEN (review), and also a book of essays she co-edited, THE RACIAL IMAGINARY: WRITERS ON RACE IN THE LIFE OF THE MIND (April reviews). As it happens, those are 2 of the only 4 books I read in 2015 that aren't novels. The other exceptions are the graphic memoir FUN HOME by Alison Bechdel (September) and the short story collection NIGHT AT THE FIESTAS by Kirstin Valdez Quade (March). All the departures from my novel reading tendencies are great, recommended books.

2015 saw the final installments of two series I adore. Both concluded with excellent books that are among my top picks of the year. ANCILLARY MERCY by Ann Leckie (October) ends the Imperial Radch trilogy, an epic yet intimate tale of an artificial intelligence who travels the galaxy seeking revenge on the dictator who destroyed her ship as she comes to terms with her new identity. OF NOBLE FAMILY by Mary Robinette Kowal (May) is the fifth chapter of the Glamourist Histories, the story of a Regency-era couple who are renowned experts at performing the magic of their world and get mixed up in a lot of adventures as a result. While these two series are quite different, both insightfully examine issues of gender, race, and class in the course of their stories, which is only one of the reasons I think they're both wonderful. Now that the series are done, you can safely get started reading (though both authors have indicated they may write new, different stories within these worlds).

My other 2015 favorites:

EVERYTHING I NEVER TOLD YOU by Celeste Ng (June) takes a heartbreaking look at the secrets and misunderstandings that divide a family after the beloved middle child dies suddenly.

THE COUNTRY OF ICE CREAM STAR by Sandra Newman (March) is my post-apocalyptic pick for the year. It's a captivating adventure set in a world without adults and narrated in an invented future dialect.

A GOD IN RUINS by Kate Atkinson (June) presents a fascinatingly non-chronological narrative charting the life of a RAF bomber pilot and his family. The novel is a companion to Atkinson's 2013 LIFE AFTER LIFE, my favorite book of that year.

SAFEKEEPING by Jessamyn Hope (September) follows several troubled characters as their intriguing quests collide at a kibbutz on the verge of financial ruin.

THE SIGNATURE OF ALL THINGS by Elizabeth Gilbert (July) is the unexpectedly gripping, historically and scientifically detailed account of a woman botanist in the 1800s.

MAKE YOUR HOME AMONG STRANGERS by Jennine CapĆ³ Crucet (September) tells the emotionally compelling story of a first-generation college student who finds herself out of her depth at school and no longer able to connect to her family back home.

Along with reading books in 2015, I had the good fortune to attend three big events celebrating books. I wrote all about the great times I had at FOGcon, the Bay Area Book Festival, and Book Riot Live. I already have plans to be at FOGcon again this March, and I'm hoping to also make it to the others in 2016!

Good Stuff Out There:

→ Dustin Illingworth at Literary Hub considers the origins of book titles: "a by no means complete listing of Bible-looted titles would have to include: East of Eden, The Violent Bear It Away, Song of Solomon, The Golden Bowl, The Wild Palms, Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, All Rivers Run to the Sea, and literally hundreds of others. This practice brings to light a truth regarding many of our finest authors; namely, that they are often textual archaeologists (and literary cutpurses) of the highest caliber, secreting away turns of phrase and pocketing gorgeous fragments for future works of their own."

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