It’s been quite a year, 2015. I fell in love; trained for a half-marathon; faced health challenges; saw one daughter change schools and start (pseudo) middle school; tackled my daughter’s health scare; watched my other daughter blossom in school; moved in with a boy; watched a lot of football; did a fair bit of writing; learned to step-parent; gained another dog; lost a dog; and spent a lot of time laughing and venting in betweens.
And because I am me, I spent a lot of time reading. Reading is how I cope, how I learn, how I practice empathy and devotion and new and meaningful interaction. It’s how I re-orient myself in the world. How I remember to breathe. Looking back at how I spent my reading year is one of my favorite year-end traditions.
So how did I do?
By the numbers. I read 215 books in 2015. That means for the first time since the divorce, I did not read more books than I did the previous year. (Do I care? Not one bit. I was going to top out at some point and this year I spent more time doing things than reading. But I was rather curious how long the upward trend would continue.)
Of the books I read, 28 books were starred as favorites. 117 books were written by women, and 98 by men. (That’s a 55/45 percent split.) That’s a stat I like. One I don’t: only 20% were authored by people of color. Shameful. I need to make more mindful reading choices in 2016. 46 books were considered part of the Young Adult genre. I far more preferred make-believe worlds to real one: 169 books were fiction, only 46 non-fiction. 27 books were memoirs. (Fun fact: while memoirs made up on 13% of my overall reading, they made up 59% of my non-fiction choices.) I read only 5 classics – far fewer than previous years, though I also only re-read 25 books, which is also much lower than usual. 164 of the books I read were borrowed from either friends or the library. I only had 3 books left on my shelves that I bought, but didn’t read (yet).
Favorites. Twenty-eight (or 13%) of the 215 books I read I loved enough to consider favorites. And because I have excellent taste, you want to know what they are, don’t you?
Counting by 7s – Holly Goldberg Sloan
Annihilation – Jeff VandermeerAuthority – Jeff Vandermeer
Acceptance – Jeff Vandermeer
Redeployment – Phil Klay
Tiny Beautiful Things – Cheryl Strayed
All the Light We Cannot See – Anthony Doerr
Chasers of the Light – Tyler Knott Gregson
The Last Policeman – Ben Winters
I’ll Give You the Sun – Jandy Nelson
Dead Wake – Erik Larson
Mosquitoland – Dave Arnold
God Help the Child – Toni Morrison
Twisted – Bert Ashe
The Waking Dark – Robin Wasserman
Prayers for the Stolen – Jennifer Clement
Ana of California – Andi Teran
Between the World and Me – Ta-Nehisi Coates
The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavendar – Leslye Walton
My Sunshine Away – M.O. Walsh
Persepolis – Marjane Satrapi
The Star Side of Bird Hill – Naomi Jackson
Ready Player One – Ernest Cline
The Tsar of Love and Techno – Anthony Marr
Stiff – Mary Roach
Sisters in Law – Linda Hirshman
The Heart of the Sea – Nathaniel Philbrick
Dryland – Sara Jaffe
I don’t know if I could rank my favorite books of the year, but if I had to pick a Top 5, in some random order, they would be: Vandermeer’s Southern Reach series, Tiny Beautiful Things, I’ll Give You the Sun, Mosquitoland, and Between the World and Me. At least, I think so. Ask me again in five minutes.
Challenges. You guys, I really had all of the fun – ALL OF IT! – with reading challenges this year! I participated in some #24in48 and 24-hour #readathons. I rocked #NonFicNov. I limited the number of new-release books I purchased (24, which was my max), while still reading an impressive 53 books published this year (god bless libraries), as part of a self-challenge. I read another presidential biography (Thomas Jefferson), in my quest to read one for each president (and all the First Ladies). And I read 13 Stephen Kings for my great SK Re-Read Challenge. (I’m up to Wizard and Glass.)
But my favorite challenge this year was BookRiot’s debut Read Harder challenge, in which the point is to read much more diversely across genders, genres, topics, publication dates, and what have you. I’ve posted updates throughout the year, but here’s how mine finished.
A book written by someone when they were under the age of 25: Purple Hibiscus, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.
A book written by someone when they were over the age of 65: God Help the Child, by Toni Morrison.
A collection of short stories: Ground Zero, Nagasaki by Seirai Yuichi.
A book published by an indie press: what purpose did i serve in your life? by Marie Calloway, published by Tyrant Books.
A book by or about someone that identifies as LGBTQ: Adam, by Ariel Schrag.
A book by a person whose gender is different from your own: The Ghost in the Electric Blue Suit by Graham Joyce.
A book that takes place in Asia: Silence Once Begun by Jesse Ball.
A book by an author from Africa: Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Adichie.
A book that is by or about someone from an indigenous culture: The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven by Sherman Alexie.
A microhistory: Stiff by Mary Roach.
A YA novel: Counting by Sevens by Holly Goldberg Sloan.
A sci-fi novel: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline.
A romance novel: Sweet on You by Laura Drake.
A National Book Award, Man Booker Prize or Pulitzer Prize winner from the last decade: Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo.
A book that is a retelling of a classic story (fairytale, Shakespearian play, classic novel, etc.): Lost Boi by Sassafras Lowrey.
An audiobook: Gerald’s Game by Stephen King.
A collection of poetry: Chasers of the Light by Tyler Knott Gregson.
A book that someone else has recommended to you: Bossypants by Tina Fey.
A book that was originally published in another language: Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay by Elena Ferrante.
A graphic novel, a graphic memoir or a collection of comics of any kind: Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi.
A book that you would consider a guilty pleasure: The Best of Me by Nicholas Sparks.
A book published before 1850: Memoirs of a Madman by Gustave Flaubert.
A book published this year: My Sunshine Away by M.O. Walsh.
A self-improvement book: Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed.
A nice group of books, no? My favorite part is that there were 25 challenges, and 8 of the books ended up in my 28 favorite books of the year. Nearly a third of my favorite books came from the Read Harder challenge. I can’t wait to see what I find for next year’s challenge!
So there you go. A small glimpse into my reading life from this past year. Probably a much bigger glimpse than you wanted, but we readers – we are voyeurs. And I can’t wait to show off for you again next year!
Happy New Year’s everyone! See you in 2016!