2015 was not one of the more distinguished years of my reading life, so it seems rather fitting that it’s the year I stepped away from assigning ratings to the books I wrote about. Partly because of that, and partly because the books that stood out and stuck with me did so for random reasons, I’m taking a different approach to my year-end book roundup. And since I wasn’t entirely sure I would do a year-end roundup at all, clearly a different approach was warranted. (Yes, I know we’re 10 days past year-end at this point, but I’m still reading people’s year-end posts, so I don’t think it’s too late to write one, and I hope you agree!)
All book titles listed in this post are linked to my reviews.
I read and reviewed 46 books in 2015.
I started reading at least 50, though. My first reading goal of 2016 is to go back to several books that I set aside during the latter part of last year because I wasn’t going to make review deadlines–now I want to make time to finish them, just for myself.
Books I picked for Shelf Awareness’ roundup of reviewers’ “Great Reads of 2015”
The Turner House by Angela Flournoy (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, April 2015)
Angela Flournoy’s debut novel could have been a sprawling multi-generational saga or a reflection on urban decay, but it’s wisely structured on a more intimate scale, centering on the members of the Turner family and the pull of their old home in a declining Detroit neighborhood.
Weather events have a natural dramatic arc that, when associated with people and places, leads to compelling narrative. In What Stands in a Storm, Kim Cross chronicles the impact of some of the 62 tornadoes that struck Alabama and Mississippi on April 27, 2011, a day of nearly 300 outbreaks.
After seeing young Kate Mulgrew recite poetry in a school program, her mother suggested that she choose whether she wanted to be “a mediocre poet or a great actress.” Mulgrew’s engaging memoir, Born With Teeth, highlights her acting career and offers a fine introduction to the writer she might have been instead
Books I read in audio, and then bought to keep on my shelves
Being Mortal explores various ways in which modern, developed societies deal with their aging populations. The combined effects of two significant shifts—from extended families living close together to smaller, more geographically-dispersed households, and the simple fact of longer lifespans—have created difficulties we’re struggling to address.
The major plot points are what lands Station Eleven in the science-fiction section, sub-category “post-apocalypse,” but science fiction has a long tradition of affording a framework for exploring larger themes of culture, morality, and the ultimate meaning of human life. Mandel’s novel stands firmly within that tradition.
This is a story to be experienced. Neverwhere is dark and light, terrifying and endearing, smart and silly. It blends the modern and the medieval into something timeless.
Other books that made an impression
Go Set a Watchman, by Harper Lee (I didn’t say it had to be a good impression, did I?)
I’ll wrap this with one more bookish thing that made a very good impression: my first book blurb, for one of my 2014 Books of the Year, was included in its June 2015 paperback edition.
Here’s to good reading in 2016!