Reading Roundup 2015

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Remember back when I said I might publish more book reviews?  Hahahaha.  Clearly, that did not work.

But since I’m in looking back mode (yes, even at the end of February), here is what I loved in literature in 2015.

Best Vacation Reads

This summer I inhaled Kevin Kwan’s two novels:  Crazy Rich Asians and China Rich Girlfriend.  (They were just as good on the second reading.)

These are perfect vacation reads.  Light and fun, but well written and interesting.  They really have it all.  Exotic locales, high fashion and high rollers, family drama, and food descriptions that will make your mouth water.

I’d definitely recommend these for your next trip.  Just don’t start them the night before you need to be up early.

Best Memoirs

I couldn’t wait for Mindy Kaling’s second book, Why Not Me?, to come out.  Seriously, Mindy Kaling can do no wrong.  I might not have loved this one quite as much as her first, but I like her perspective on things, I love her writing, and I enjoyed getting a peek into her Hollywood life.

Similarly, I counted down the days for Jenny Lawson’s second, Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things.  This one I definitely did not enjoy quite as much as her first.  Still completely laugh out loud funny and a brave discussion on mental illness, but this one had more short blog post-type vignettes instead of the stories of Let’s Pretend This Never Happened.  I missed the crazy stories.

This isn’t really a memoir, but Judd Apatow’s Sick in the Head: Conversations About Life (and Comedy) is awesome.  Apparently, Apatow started interviewing comedians (ostensibly) for his high school radio show at 16, and he has kept doing it.  So many insights into funny peoples’ lives and work habits.  This also exploded my To Read and To Watch lists.  So many things I need to catch up on!  I mean, I’ve seen bits of Tootsie, but have I ever actually watched the whole things start to finish?

These weren’t original reads of 2015, but I know I reread Bossypants, Yes Please, and Confessions of a Costar at some point in the year.  These seem to be my will-read-again-while-trying-to-figure-out-what-to-read-next genre.

Best Series

In November, my friend blew my mind when she mentioned Robert Galbraith’s (AKA J.K. Rowling’s) next Cormoran Strike book, Career of Evil, would be dropping.  (This is a reason I should preorder books.  Imagine having new Cormoran show up on your kindle at some random time.  What a treat!)

This mystery did not disappoint.  I may not have liked it quite as much as The Cuckoo’s Calling, but definitely more than The Silkworm.  I think because it had more the suspenseful feeling instead of some of The Silkworm’s yuck out gore.  But you should read all of them.  ASAP.

The first half of my year was entirely taken over by Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series.  They really do suck you in.  Interesting idea.  Fascinating historical stuff.  Great writing.  (I mentioned before that the first is also a little bodice-rippy.  But not necessarily gratuitous.  It just seemed to be where the characters were then.)

I actually reread most of these again later in the year.  Even though I liked all of them, I realized that I enjoyed the first three or so quite a bit more.  Once they start including some of the next generation’s hijinks and move away from Claire’s first person perspective, I just didn’t like it as much.  Every time I think of these it motivates me to work on that trip to Scotland though.

Best Classics

I read The Fountainhead.  Not sure how, but I missed a date with Ayn Rand in high school and college.  This book made me regret that.  Maybe it was the size of the book or the subject matter, but this somehow seemed too weighty to tackle on my own.  So not true.  Completely accessible and completely fascinating.  This reminds me; I still need to tackle Atlas Shrugged.

Similarly Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre missed me in school.  I was leery on this one because (1) it seems like one that Jane Austen fans recommend and I don’t know why, but I just can seem to Austen  (I should probably try again.  I did enjoy Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.) and (2) I REALLY can’t on Wuthering Heights.

But after hearing like three references in one month to a “Jane Eyre kind of situation,” I resolved to uncover the mystery myself.  Also, duh, Wuthering Heights is a different Bronte sister.

I was pleasantly surprised.  This wasn’t intimidating to read.  It didn’t feel like a school assignment.  This book made me want to poke around for what else I missed in school and reminded me that newer is not always better.

Best Self Help

After SO MUCH BUZZ, I finally got my own copy of Marie Kondo’s Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.  I know this book has haters, and I didn’t run out and implement everything in the book, but I enjoyed it.  (You know I’m a sucker for minimalist stuff.)  Even though it sounds a little woo woo, I really like the idea of thanking items for their service to move them along.  You, item, served a purpose in my life and I thank you for that, but now your purpose has been served.  Yeah, I know.  But try it before you knock it.

I haven’t picked up her second, Spark Joy, but I’ve heard good things. Anyone tried it?

Best Book

I finally got around to reading Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See.   This had been on my radar.  A friend talked it up based on my apparent penchant for WWII reading.  Once I got around to reading it, I wondered what on earth took me so long.

If war stories aren’t your thing, don’t worry, it isn’t a battle story.  Also, Doerr’s cadences are fascinating.  His writing doesn’t just carry you through the story, but it makes you sit and appreciate how beautiful words can be.

Not My Cup

I’m trying to be better about not finishing books I’m not into, but I did have a few duds this year.

After hearing that fans of Gone Girl would like The Girl on the Train, I was psyched.  I finished it, but it wasn’t for me.  I think it was just a general feeling of squeaminess.  Some of the alcohol stuff might have hit a little too close, and I don’t like to read about things happening to kids.

Shawn Smucker’s The Day the Angels Fell also wasn’t for me.  It seemed like an interesting premise, but I think I just found it too hard to read to really get into it.

Anyone on this blog knows that Laura Vanderkam can do no wrong for me generally, but I didn’t love I Know How She Does It, particularly compared to some of her other work.  Some of the issue was format, which is not the book’s fault.  This would be much better in hardback than on kindle because it is really hard to read the time tracking spreadsheets on the kindle.  Yes, you can click around and enhance.  Yes, you can click a link to view them.  But it really killed the user experience.  As to the actual book, there are definitely some useful nuggets, but the advice felt pretty repetitive throughout the book.  At least to me.  Also, I find real people stories equal parts inspiring and frustrating.   They give you good ideas for things to try, but they also seem to suggest, why can’t you do this to?  At least to me.

What are you reading lately?  Anything to recommend?  I’m on the hunt for new stuff!  Also, I’m trying harder to keep my Goodreads up to date if anyone wants to be friends over there.

P.S. Looking for even more books?  Try the Reading Roundup from 2014.

 

8 thoughts on “Reading Roundup 2015

  1. maggie says:

    I may have told you that 2015 was going to be the year of all the reading, and I actually did pretty good. I recently looked back at the reading list to see how it went, and here are my thoughts:

    Books I liked (*really liked and highly recommend):
    Without You, There is No Us*; The Goldfinch*; Enders Game; Gone Girl; To Kill a Mocking Bird; The Bean Trees; Station Eleven*; The Martian; Where the Red Fern Grows; Winged Obsession; Go Set a Watchman; Girl Waits with Gun*

    Books I got through and didn’t want my time back, but eh:
    Marley and Me; Holy Skirts; Lost in Shangri-la; Rosewater; Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy; Of Mice and Men; The Girls of Atomic City; Code Name Pauline; H is for Hawk

    Books I did not like and would not recommend:
    Fates and Furies; Room; Charlie Wilson’s War

  2. kristiina says:

    I didn’t love Girl on the Train, either! Which character were we supposed to be rooting for?? The therapist, maybe 😉 Rachel was really hard to get behind….for a variety of reasons. I’m hoping Emily Blunt can change that in the movie adaptation!

    I’ve been reading murder mysteries…nothing noteworthy. Having a good book is SO AWESOME to be able to turn to when you’re stressed or just want some me time. It’s like having a friend..ha! 🙂

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