Books I Read in 2015
A complete list of books I read this year, and some of my thoughts
Since 2013, I've kept track of all the new books and movies I read and watch over the course of the year. It makes me feel stable, like the one constant I'll have is that I will always be consuming new media. This year, I decided to actually comment on what I've read instead of just filing the list away.
I read 38 new books this year, not counting some short graphic novels and rereads such as Giovanni's Room and A Separate Peace. I tried making an effort to read more books written by women/POC/queer people, and I think I succeeded in that regard. I'll continue doing that in 2016, obviously.
Here's to books!
1. Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
I had watched The Hours for the first time at the end of 2014, sobbed hysterically, and immediately ordered this book. And it was great! I think the first half was better than the second, just because it felt fresher and I hadn’t gotten used to the style of writing yet. But overall, solid and sad.
2. The Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael Chabon
I had never really read alt-history before this, so I had no idea what to expect. It was definitely one of the weirder books I read this year, and one that made me realize I don’t know anything about Judaism.
3. Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
A very important read, though sometimes it read like a slideshow from a “Racism 101” class. It’s all very important stuff, it’s just presented in a somewhat clunky way. The book is at it’s best when focusing on Ifemelu’s isolation in America.
4. The First Bad Man by Miranda July
This was totally bananas. Once I got used to being inside Miranda July’s head, I was able to enjoy the insanity of it all. I’d definitely like to read more of July’s work.
5. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
Sassy. Scary. Erotic. I don’t know how I’ve been calling myself gay without having read this book. A classic.
6. Cosmicomics by Italo Calvino
Gonna be honest: mostly skimmed this one because it was really out there. The story about moon cheese is perfect, and Liev Schreiber’s reading on Radio Lab is a must-listen.
7. Shut Your Mouth by Daniel Handler
Incest Opera!!!!!!!!!!! You should absolutely read this. Similar to The First Bad Man in tone and insanity.
8. We Are Pirates by Daniel Handler
This book was more about white male impotence than I would have liked, but the pirate sequences with the daughter were enjoyable enough.
9. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews
My summer YA pick, it was a pretty solid read. The main kid isn’t just a hapless geek stereotype for once. I doubt I’ll watch the movie.
10. A Single Man by Christopher Isherwood
Devastating. Read it on a single bus ride from NYC. Could not put it down. One of the more emotional experiences of my 2015.
11. So You've Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson
An interesting concept explored for like maybe 30 pages too long. The follow ups with people brought down by the Internet were the most interesting parts. Maybe he can write an addendum in five years.
12. Alice + Freda Forever by Alexis Coe
What a depressing true story, expertly told. Coe manages to show both sides of this ‘romance’ without forgetting the fact that Alice was a murderer. The movie adaptation will prove interesting.
13. All The Wrong Questions #3 by Lemony Snicket
This series is just okay. Talks down to kid readers in a way Series of Unfortunate Events never did. You’re better off just reading those books again. Fortunately, there’s only going to be four of these.
14. The Sculptor by Scott McCloud
The cover still sucks hardcore, but the story itself was great. It sort of dips its toe into the “Manic Pixie Dream Girl” well, but it never ruined the emotion for me.
15. The Waves by Virginia Woolf
Like The Sound and the Fury, I don’t think I understood anything that was happening, but there were some exceptionally well-written sections.
16. Go Tell It on the Mountain by James Baldwin
A beautiful exploration of faith, manhood, sexuality, and all other fun things. It was a very fast read.
17. Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee
Okay, setting aside the controversy and the probable notion that Harper Lee did not want this book released, I thought it was great. I am always in favor of stripping down childhood heroes, and Atticus Finch should be no exception.
18. What the Living Do by Marie Howe
I should not be allowed to read poems about someone whose brother is dying of AIDS.
19. Darker by Mark Strand
I should not be allowed to follow up “AIDS brother” poems with “suicide brother” poems.
20. Drown by Junot Díaz
Excellent short stories with just a hint of magical realism. I need to read more of his longer work in 2016.
21. I Don't Care About Your Band by Julie Klausner
Julie Klausner has been one of my favorite people since I started listening to her podcast a couple years ago, and I was happy to find that her memoir is just as hysterical and depressing as the woman herself. Something about her writing makes bad relationship stories way less agonizing than usual.
22. Between The World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
A very quick and important read. Coates does exemplary work with difficult and heavy subject matter. Like Americanah, it leaned on some explanatory language, but it was necessary to get the point across.
23. Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari
Initially ignored this book because I assumed it was a collection of bad date stories from Aziz Ansari. Not the case. I’d say it’s most like Freakanomics, but focusing on dating and romance. I love seeing emotions and relationships broken down into cold, hard, data. Also, Aziz uses a lot of these stories in Master of None, so it was cool to see the inspirations here.
24. The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick
I saw Hugo when it came out but never read the book. I fixed that in about two hours this summer. Absolutely astounding.
25. Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick
I read this about three days after I finished Invention, and I loved this one too! I think the illustrations work better here since they’re telling a separate story from the words. It’s neat!
26. Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh so good. So raw, so emotional, so true, so 80s. One of those books that I devour. Thanks Rainbow!
27. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
A different beast from Eleanor, but still worthwhile! As someone who still writes fanfiction, I absolutely see its value, but can still recognize that my fiction classes probably don’t want Five Times fic. Cath’s journey is sometimes hard to watch, but in a cathartic way.
28. Overqualifieder by Joey Comeau
Joey is a pal of mine, so this review is somewhat biased: I loved Overqualifieder. As an epistolary novel told through cover letters, the devil is in the details. Joey is able to tell a complete, sad story in a speedy and chopped up manner. I’ve always admired his writing, and I’m glad he never fails to disappoint. I eagerly await his next work.
29. Even Cowgirls Get the Blues by Tom Robbins
Recommendation from my friend Elizabeth. An absolutely bizarre read, one whose plot hinged on the massive thumbs of a hitchhiking girl. Stumbles a bit in its resolution, but I got really damn invested in those thumbs.
30. Carry On by Rainbow Rowell
The concept behind this book is hilarious: it’s based on the fanfiction based on the series within Fangirl, but it’s not that fanfic, it’s Rainbow’s new story and it’s just wonderful. And gay! I’m a big proponent of gay. Also, loved the narrator shifts which worked so well in Eleanor & Park. Agatha’s perspective may have been my favorite. Excited to read this one again.
31. A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
I honestly don’t know if reading this was the biggest mistake of my life or a totally cathartic experience. Was this book brilliant? Was it just misery porn? I honestly don't know. I will probably read this book again when I'm not depressed.
32. This Book is Broken by Stuart Berman
This is a really neat history of the band Broken Social Scene. If you’re a fan of their music, it’s a must read. I really want this kind of book for The Weakerthans.
33. The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness
They killed the dog I hate this book
34. Welcome to Night Vale by Joseph Fink & Jeffrey Cranor
This was better than the podcast has been in months. I loved Jackie and Diane’s dynamic. The library sequence is a standout.
35. Hunger Makes Me A Modern Girl by Carrie Brownstein
Reawakened my love of Sleater Kinney. Brownstein is such a gifted writer, and her longing and fears are totally relatable. I wish there had been more time devoted to Portlandia, but clearly this book was about the band, so I can’t really complain. It almost makes me want to move to the Pacific Northwest. Almost.
36. Life on Mars by Tracy K. Smith
Contains the most hopeful “My Dad Died” poem I’ve ever read. Also fantastic Bowie references.
37. Not on Fire, But Burning by Greg Hrbek
One of my favorite professors wrote this disturbingly prescient book, which focuses on an alt-USA where Muslims were thrown into internment camps. Very upsetting.
38. The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith
CAROL CAROL CAROL CAROL CAROL CAROL!!!!!! I loved this book so much. Therese’s obsession and desire to be with Carol is agonizing, but so enthralling. It felt like the book had its way with me. I’m so excited to see the film.
Hooray! That's it! I'll upload my movies list in a couple days.