My Top Ten Books of 2015
I set a lofty goal for myself on goodreads.com for my reading last year: 175 books. What I didn’t anticipate was packing up a home we’d lived in for 14 years, buying another, and moving. That seriously cut into my leisure reading…and my leisure! But with the help of audible books, and my volunteering at a elementary school and middle school in Norman, I eeked out my goal.
LOTS of books, and most of them I rated at a 4 out of 5…I liked a lot of books, but didn’t love them. I seldom finish books I’d rate 1 or 2, but often stick it out for 3’s
My Top Ten include five fiction, five nonfiction, one reread (no, I didn’t include To Kill a Mockingbird, even though I did reread it), and including my ‘Honorable Mention’ books, four audible books.
So, who didn’t make my Top Ten? Some amazing authors: Sarah Vowell, C.S. Lewis, John Steinbeck, Jane Austen, Hunter Thompson, Raymond Chandler, Judy Blume, James Patterson, John Grisham, Donna Tartt, Nicole Krauss, Ray Bradbury, Tobias Wolfe, Jodi Picoult.
What DID make my list? Books that moved me…made me laugh or cry or shiver. Books that taught me something deep about myself and the world. Books that made me proud…or ashamed…to be human. Instead of reviewing each again, I will link to my initial review, and just provide a short impression here.
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr – a novel set in occupied France during WWII. Two young characters take us through their lives: a blind French girl and a young Nazi soldier. One day brings them together.
The Alex Crow – Andrew Smith is one of the most inventive authors out there…this is a time-bending, place-bending, mind-bending story of redemption and survival. I will gladly go anywhere Smith’s narratives take me…I’m in good hands.
Read Between the Lines by Jo Knowles – the cover says it all…a day in the lives of several characters, either students or teachers at one school…and each vignette ends with…that bad word. The voices were pitch-perfect, as was the frustration the suffered.
The Killer Next Door by Alex Marwood– a British murder mystery that gave me chills in the middle of my summer walks…depraved, twisted and suspenseful. Set in a perfectly seedy rooming house full of secrets. Loved the ending.
Shotgun Love Songs by Nickolas Butler – I never would have heard of this one, except it was an audible deal. Set in the upper Midwest, several narrators, all friends from high school, wrestle with becoming adults and doing the right thing. I recognized these characters and this place.
Honorable Mention: American Gods by Neil Gaiman– another audible. The production was masterful, with different actors performing characters’ words. But the story and the allusions and the quest…they were magnificent.
Symphony for the City of the Dead by M.T. Anderson – breathtaking…Leningrad, WWII, Stalin, and one incredibly talented composer. Dimitri Shostakovich does battle with them all through his music, especially his Leningrad Symphony. We must never forget.
Hoosier School Heist by Doug Martin, an online friend. -- As a native Hoosier, I read with dread what reformers have done to my home state. I read with deep fear what I see happening in my adopted state, who seems to be a few years behind this deliberate dismantling of public schools.
Stonewall by Ann Bausum – WHERE was I? Summer of Love…summer 1969. Stonewall Inn in NYC was the scene of an early skirmish for gay rights. I read, horrified that I was only now learning about this blatant overreach by authorities.
There Are No Children Here by Alex Kotlowitz. Written in 1992, I fear nothing has changed for children living in poverty. Kotlowitz followed two brothers and their mother in the nightmare of the Chicago project. This was my reread – another audible. Something so intimate hearing these words. Our children deserved, and still deserve, better.
Year of the Jungle by Suzanne Collins – Yes, Hunger Games and Gregor Suzanne Collins. This picture bookhttps://www.goodreads.com/book/show/15929160-year-of-the-jungle is a touching memoir of the year her daddy went away to Viet Nam, and how her family lived without him. Collins never breaks her tone or voice here. Impressive.
The Teachers We Need Vs. The Teachers We Have by Lawrence Baines – a Norman friend and OU professor. Baines analyzes alternative certification paths to teaching while explaining clearly that the US is the only country that tolerates any but a rigorous, challenging path. He taught me that by many standards, TFA is downright demanding.
I love the fact I am an omnivorous reader…hard to categorize. I love that I have given myself permission to read whatever catches my fancy…it may be a recommendation from a friend, or a great book cover, or an intriguing book blurb.
This year, I’ve readjusted my goal down a bit, but will not change a thing. I’ll let books find me and move me.