2015

What I Read in 2015

Best Worst HandsMy goal was to read 30 books this year and fill out my Book Bingo Card and drumroll please… I did! Here’s what’s worth mentioning, good and bad.

Best Book Published in 2015: Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf. Now, I probably only read five books that were published this year, but this took my breath away. In traditional spare prose that packs a punch, Haruf’s final, posthumously, published work is a heartbreaking work of staggering genius.

Best Book Regardless of Publication Date: All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. Thank goodness I read this book before it won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction or I might never have picked it up. Those Pulitzer people aren’t the arbiters of such great taste. However, if I won one for say, book-blogging, I would brag the hell out of that shit… oh let me tell you. Here’s where my writing partner and I, aka Snotty Literati, reviewed All the Light We Cannot See.

Best Book I Reread: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Obviously. One of my book clubs read it in anticipation of Go Set a Watchman’s release. I even pre-ordered it. Ugh. In the end, I couldn’t do it. I cancelled Go Set a Watchman, I mean, Amazon gets enough of my money, and I went on knowing in my heart of hearts that TKAM is the best work produced my Ms. Lee, and likely the Greatest American Novel. Period.

Best Book by an Author I Have Read Before: I Am the Messenger by Markus Zusak. This is the same guy that wrote the wildly popular and all-time favorite of mine The Book Thief. Once an author reaches the kind of fame they do with a book like The Book Thief, their other works can rarely match up. And I Am the Messenger doesn’t… but it’s still really, really good. It definitely reads as more YA than the supposedly YA Book Thief, but I can’t recommend it enough.

Best Book I Read with The Book Babes Book Club: Not counting the aforementioned books that were all read for book clubs, I am going with A Man Called Ove, by Fredrik Bachman. Translated from Sweden, this is the sweet tale of a crotchety old cranky crankenheimer whose life gets softened and turned around in ways he least expects. It’s totally a feel good book without the artificial corn syrup that can be mixed in by lesser talents.

Worst Book I Read with The Book Babes: The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George. Let me spare you. It has moments of lovely phrasing, and then wording that hits your beautiful reading experience like an elderly man flashing you out of nowhere. Unless this is your thing, move along. So many books. So little time.

Best Book I Read with the First Draft Book Club (FDBC) at Changing Hands Bookstore: Again, not counting any previously mentioned books, Did You Ever Have a Family by Bill Clegg. You may recall Clegg from his 2011 memoir Portrait of An Addict as a Young Man. This literary agent-turned-sometimes-writer has some real talent. The story centers around June Reid, and the unfathomable event—losing her daughter, her daughter’s fiancé, her ex-husband, and her boyfriend in a house fire. It takes June escaping across country and the interconnected stories of others to understand what actually happened. Now, I didn’t read his memoir but dove right into his first novel, but I couldn’t put this debut novel down. He says is love is behind the scenes, working the deals, but I would love to read more of his fiction.

 Worst Book I Read with the FDBC: Gold Fame Citrus by Claire Vaye Watkins. Let me start by saying she’s a strong writer and someone I will likely read again. But this book was just not my cuppa. In the end, which I didn’t get to because I couldn’t finish it, Watkins had clearly done her homework, but it seemed she thought this term paper could be tweaked into a novel that would please her professors and the reading public. It just didn’t work for me. But, hey! It might work for you. It did for tons of way more important people than I am who put it on their Best of 2015 lists.

Best Book I Should Have Read by Now: It’s a tie between Bel Canto by Ann Patchett and Americanah by Chimamanda Ingozi Adichie. Why do I ever wait to read anything by Patchett… it’s a wonder. But here’s what Snotty Literati thought of Bel Canto. And, when you are done with that, you can check out our review of Americanah.

Best Collection of Short Stories: I finally got around to reading The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien. I wasn’t going to read it, but Snotty Literati reads the National Book Award fiction winner each year and Jennifer said, “If we are going to read Redeployment by Phil Klay, then we have to read the best war stories ever written.” And there you go. Well, kudos to Jennifer. I don’t know if The Things They Carried are the best war stories ever written, but they are damn good, and scary, and sad… so very sad. But mostly, they are important. You should read them if you haven’t. Here’s our review of O’Brien and Klay’s collections.

Best Non-Fiction Read: I don’t read a lot of non-fiction, even though I do buy my fair share of it. This year, I read Daring Greatly by Brene Brown. It’s a non-traditional leadership book, but I think it should be required reading for everyone. Brown, a PhD in social work, has spent her life studying vulnerability and shame. She breaks down the harm of living in shame (and we all do) and the riches that can be achieved with living more authentically and vulnerability. It’s not new age-y, it’s not self-help mumbo jumbo—it’s real and it’s good.

Now, I would love to hear from you! Please share in the comments what you loved, hated, and were indifferent about this year.

 

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Americanah

My Snotty Literati cohort and I finally got to one of the best books of 2013, Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Read our review of Americanah and see what we thought. SPOILER ALERT: We loved it!

Sunday Sentence | October 25

DYE Family

“There’s a lot of resentment simmering underneath the smiles and so good to see yous and no problem, happy to do thats of this town.”

Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf

Our Souls at NightHaruf is one of my favorite authors. A quiet storyteller that delivers heartbreaking works of staggering genius. Our Souls at Night is the story of Addie and Louis, both widowed and in their 70s. Addie walks down the street to Louis’ house one evening with a unique proposition:

I wonder if you would consider coming to my house sometimes to sleep with me.

What? How do you mean?

I mean we’re both alone. We’ve been by ourselves for too long. For years. I’m lonely. I think you might be too. I wonder if you would come and sleep in the night with me. And talk.

And so begins a different kind of relationship. One of great intimacy. One that shares secrets, past stories, dreams, companionship, and complications. This book will likely make my list of favorites for the year. Possibly even an all-time favorite. The writing is beautiful. It broke my heart and made it smile.

Bel Canto by Ann Patchett

Bel CantoAnn Patchett’s Bel Canto is considered by many to be her best novel. But the ending gets a lot of people all fired up. Or pissed. Or both. What did Snotty Literati think? Well, read on and find out what my writing partner and I had to say and then chime in the comments with your own thoughts.

http://onelitchick.com/snotty-literati/bel-canto/

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