Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Books I Read In 2015

What’s that, you say?  All the 2015 posts should be done by now?  It’s two weeks into 2016 and I’m a little late, you say?  Pish posh.  Our Christmas tree is still up, so settle down, Mindy.

* * *

I used to be a reader, reading books by the stack.  I often spent whole days reading.

Then I had children, and this habit diminished.  Then I started writing regularly, and took to reading magazines and blogs, and it diminished even further.  Then I slaved through one too many difficult and boring books, and oh, look, a book.  Can I set my drink on that?

Then came 2015.

My kids were rarely reading for fun anymore, instead complaining about the boring books they were forced to read for school, having to complete stupid writing prompts about them and taking stressful quizzes about the subject matter to prove they read. 

I couldn’t take it anymore.  Reading is anything but boring, stupid, and stressful.  It is interesting, emotional, exciting, an escape, and yes, educational.  I wanted to teach my kids this, and more importantly, remind myself.  So I announced to no one in particular that I would read two books a month in 2015, for a total of 24 books.

And I did.

And then I read eleven more.

Look.  I’m no genius.  I’m not even a fast reader.  I often re-read whole chapters because I don’t pay attention.  Thirty-five books may not seem like many books to the average well-read person.  No matter.  I’m just a person who wants to read more, and I did, and I feel… well, accomplished.

Did my reading more immediately influence my children to read more?  Not really.  They still hate to read.  But I can’t help but feel as if the acts of reading in their presence and talking about the books I read and passing on the books I read and telling them about the books I think they’ll like is influencing them, somehow.  This is how the legacy stuff happens: obscurely, unevenly, slooooooowly.

And when they got new books for Christmas, they peered inside the covers instead of drop-kicking them across the room.  Which is a good start.

So let’s get to it – the list of books I read in 2015.

* * *

1. Yes, Please – Amy Poehler
2. Cold Mountain – Charles Frazier
3. The Reluctant Fundamentalist – Mohsin Hamid

I started out strong in January.  Amy Poehler’s memoir was a gift in more ways than one, and solidified my adoration of her and also the belief that we should be best friends.

4. That’s Paris: An Anthology of Life, Love and Sarcasm in the City of Light – Vicki Lesage, Ed.
5. Ghost No More – CeeCee James
6. Unanswered Prayers – Cassie Sperling

All books from authors I know or have connections through blogging. Stories about living in Paris, a memoir of surviving unimaginable childhood abuse, and an inspirational story of loss and love.

7. Outlander – Diana Gabaldon

Outlander is no joke, people.  This first book of the popular series is major.  It took me literally all month to read this book.  It’s also literally one billion pages long.  We also got hooked on the series on Starz, which my husband refers to as “That Time-Travel Show With The Sex.”  “Let’s watch this together.  You read these books, right?  Isn’t there a lot of sex in them?  I bet the show has a lot of sex – it is on Starz.  There’s sex in this, right?  The book has sex in it, right?” 

Sometimes all you have to do is listen to a person for thirty seconds to figure out what they’re all about.

Sigh.  Is that all there is? 

*Note:  There’s not that much sex in Outlander.  The book or the show.  Jeez.

8. Dragonfly in Amber – Diana Gabaldon
9. Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls – David Sedaris

After the second Outlander book I was over lengthy and detailed historical novels about time travel and not that much sex, really.  So I read David Sedaris’ latest for some light laughs, also to get up-to-date on his material since we would be seeing him live that month.  I wrote about my experience meeting him here.

10. Coming Home – Rosamunde Pilcher
11. The Art of Hearing Heartbeats – Jan-Philipp Sendker
12. Uganda Be Kidding Me – Chelsea Handler
13. Going off Script: How I Survived a Crazy Childhood, Cancer, and Clooney's 32 On-Screen Rejections – Giuliana Rancic

In May I read Coming Home for the fifth (sixth? tenth?) time, and LOL’d while reading Chelsea Handler’s latest collection of outrageous stories.  And before you judge me for my reading material this month, let me tell you that Giuliana’s book was a pleasant surprise.

14. Open Boxes: The Gift of Living a Full and Connected Life – Christine Organ

I did a review on Christine Organ’s book about connecting all the compartments of our lives instead of keeping them separate.  The review is here.

15. The Marriage Plot – Jeffrey Eugenides
16. Telex From Cuba – Rachel Kushner
17. Suite Française – Irène Némirovsky
18. We Were Liars – E. Lockhart

All really good books.  Suite Française was super depressing and haunting, The Marriage Plot academic, Telex From Cuba an interesting depiction of life in Cuba before Americans were driven out, and We Were Liars made my head explode.  I read that one in 24 hours. 

19. Cambridge – Susanna Kaysen
20. The Cat’s Table – Michael Ondaatje
21. NW – Zadie Smith
22. Eleanor & Park – Rainbow Rowell

Also a good group of books.  I have to say that out of the books I read this month, Eleanor & Park was my least favorite – I mean, it is young adult, so maybe that’s why.  I just found it… tiresome.  I recommend NW, though it’s not about the Pacific Northwest, which made me feel like a big dummy by the time I figured it out.

23. Fangirl – Rainbow Rowell
24. The Good Neighbor – A.J. Banner
25. Are You Happy Now? – Richard Babcock
26. Five Little Peppers and How They Grew – Margaret Sidney
27. Jane Eyre – Charlotte Brontë
28. A Hopeful Heart – Amy Clipston

Kids went back to school, and I was on a tear.  After blowing my wad on Amazon, I turned to some free books on my Kindle.  The Good Neighbor was a quick mystery that I enjoyed (I don’t usually read any mysteries) and Jane Eyre was read along with my son for a school unit because yes, I’m *that* mom.  My favorite, though, was Five Little Peppers, a book that I’ve had in my possession since I was seven and never opened until now.

29. Anne of Green Gables – L.M. Montgomery
30. Anne of Avonlea – L.M. Montgomery
31. Life and Other Near-Death Experiences – Camille Pagán

Can you believe I never read Anne of Green Gables before now?  I devoured two of the series, having loaded the entire collection onto my Kindle a couple of years ago.  What was really difficult about reading Anne in this way was that I read two out of 12 Anne books and 142 short stories, and my Kindle says that I’m only 14% of the way through it all.  And that sort of makes me want to put my head down and cry quietly for a little bit.

32. Fairyland: A Memoir of My Father – Alysia Abbott
33. Where’d You Go, Bernadette? – Maria Semple

Fairyland won my heart this month, a book that I’d been wanting to read for a while.  A memoir about being raised in San Francisco by a single gay father during the time of my own childhood, I was amazed and intrigued by our vast differences in upbringing as well as devastated by her first-hand experience of the 1980s AIDS crisis in that part of our country.

34. Beautiful Ruins – Jess Walter
35. The Burned Bridges of Ward, Nebraska – Eileen Curtright

Maybe it was the holiday season busy-ness, or the fact that these books weren’t mind-blowing nor written by outrageous comedians who make me pee in my pants laugh on the regular, but I was underwhelmed by this pair of free Kindle books.  Ah, well.  Deck the halls and all that jazz.

* * *

So there you have it – my books for 2015.  I originally didn’t make a goal for 2016, because I don’t like to set myself up for failure, but I sort of feel like I should.  My friend Katie of Sluiter Nation set a goal for 40 books, so maybe I’ll do the same.   She also already wrote her Books of 2015 post, because she’s on the ball and not L-A-M-E like me.  I sort of feel like I’m copying her, but no matter; she’s an English teacher, so she knows that copying other people’s work is cool if it’s referenced correctly. 

What are you going to read this year?  Anything?  Let me know!

At the very least, tell me what free Kindle books you’ve read that are worth the time.  Please, help me make better choices in life.  There are children to influence here.



  1. 1. I came over to read this before realizing you linked to me. AW!
    2. We Were Liars = head explosion in the best way possible.
    3. I have never read Anne of Green Gables
    4. Is the Marriage Plot good? I REALLY liked Middlesex and I just liked Virgin Suicides (but I blame reading that on my Nook instead of as an actual book. It matters. Books are not as delicious to me on electronic devices. I know. I am a SNOB.)
    5. 40 books means we will earn a 40 of beer. Or something.

    1. You totally inspired me to do a 2016 goal, so it was only natural that I link to you. Plus you give me lots of new ideas for what I should read next.

      I liked The Marriage Plot. It was sort of plodding, but I like plodding sometimes if it's done right. It was a big book about little lives, and I really felt connected to the characters by the end of it. I felt almost the same way after reading NW. I haven't read Middlesex yet. Not sure why.

      I like books on Kindle, but not when you've read two 300-pagers and it says "14% complete." SOB.

  2. Oh and 6. you didn't say what you thought of Fangirl. DID YOU LIKE IT OR NOT YOU WEIRD E&P HATER!

    1. I didn't really like it either - the main character was sort of a whiner. I'M SORRY, RAINBOW ROWELL FANS. I just couldn't relate to the feel or subject matter of either of them. Did I pick the wrong two RR books to start? Maybe I should have picked the ones she wrote about adult characters.

      The covers are appealing.

  3. Of these, I've only read 6. I didn't finish Fangirl, but devoured Eleanor and Park. I thought Where'd You Go, Bernadette was just ok, and enjoyed Open Boxes. I don't really remember Jane Eyre and feel like I should revisit it. I feel like I can't even discuss We Were Liars. My mind is still blown.

    Agree with Katie that I sometimes need an actual book. Depends on the book, but it does matter, for me.

    1. I thought the same about Bernadette. I liked the character, but the trip at the end went a little too long for me. I wished that someone would have died. Like me when I was reading it. HA ha OMG totally joking. Do people read comments anymore?

      You know what? I enjoyed it, but it wasn't one of my faves.

      On the other hand, I loved Jane Eyre. My ninth grader did not want to discuss it with me.

      I like Kindle books, but only when I'm sure I won't spill anything on it. Plus it's a drag when the battery's dead and I left the charger at home.

  4. You know I met Guiliana at BlogHer a few years ago... She's totally tall and super skinny. Like you. :)

    I only read a couple of these but this makes me want to go back and write down what I read in 2015... if I can remember (I've slept since then...)

    1. She is super skinnier than I have ever been. But thank you for thinking so. ;)

      She is also super smart and an extremely hard worker. And outgoing and fun and strong, which I always suspected of most people you see in the celeb world, but I never read their memoirs before. She has had quite a life.