Goodreads Reading Challenge- 2015 Edition

Another year, another great reading challenge.  Let’s see how it broke down.

65 books.

There were several short story collections, a continuing favorite genre:

  • Stay Up With Me by Tom Barbash (exquisite)
  • There’s Something I Want You To Do by Charles Baxter (captivating)
  • The Opposite of Loneliness by Marina Keegan (technically this also could qualify as an Essay Collection, and potentially even a memoir/biography.  So inspiring and good!)
  • North American Lake Monsters by Nathan Ballingrud
  • Complete Stories by Dorothy Parker (I adore her; if I had a time machine I would go back and party with Dorothy!)
  • Vampires in the Lemon Grove by Karen Russell (LOVED!!!!!!!!!!!!!)

Oh, some poetry.  Lots in fact:

  • A Thousand Mornings by Mary Oliver
  • Night Thoughts by Sarah Arvio (70 poems about dreams, but also including some fascinating dream analysis)
  • The Door by Margaret Atwood
  • Come, Thief by Jane Hirshfield (loved this one)
  • The Complete Collected Poems of Maya Angelou (I had read several along the way, but never all in one collection.)
  • Wallop by Jordan Stempleman (he is so, so, so good, it’s not fair.  Others need not bother even trying)
  • No Matter the Wreckage by Sarah Kay (Yes!)
  • Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair by Pablo Neruda (he is the master)
  • The Gorgeous Nothings: Emily Dickinson’s Envelope Poems (this stunning collection has actual photos of envelopes and other scraps of paper Emily Dickinson wrote some of her original works on.  The words are typed out and there are explanatory essays as well.  Truly breathtaking)

There were some essay collections, many addressing, at least in part, one of my favorite topics, writers on writing:

  • Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay (I think she’s brilliant and completely hilarious, a rare combination)
  • More Bath’s Less Talking by Nick Hornby
  • Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls by David Sedaris (though this probably goes without saying, these are, in his typical style, more hilarious stories than “essays” per se, but I had to include this one somewhere)
  • Writers [on Writing] a collection from The New York Times (loved this very much)
  • Both Flesh and Not by David Foster Wallace (I want to be David Foster Wallace)

Other books on writing:

  • Quack This Way, written by David Foster Wallace, my hero and spirit animal, but also Bryan A. Garner, a genius in his own right
  • How to Read Literature Like a Professor by Thomas C. Foster (interesting, if somewhat (though I guess not surprisingly) pedantic)
  • The Sense of Style by Steven Pinker (an excellent, detailed guide on good writing)

A couple of memoirs, not my usual stuff:

  • Confessions of a Sociopath by *M.E. Thomas (*not her real name)(how could I resist a memoir, written under a pseudonym, by a Mormon attorney who is also a sociopath, not that I am all of those things)
  • Love Does by Bob Goff (inspirational and Christian-y, not my usual fare, but inspiring and entertaining)
  • Born on a Blue Day by Daniel Tammet (fascinating book shedding light on what it’s like to see the world as an autistic savant)
  • Naked in the Woods by Margaret Grundstein (enlightening look at what living an off-the-grid hippie lifestyle was really like)

Read some full-length non-fiction:

  • The Crucible of Doubt by Terryl L. Givens

Read some strange new stuff that sort of defies categorization:

  • Plato at the Googleplex by Rebecca Goldstein (this 480 page monster is heavy and heavy, but very good, especially if you enjoy philosophy and wonder about modern applications)
  • Dear Committee Members by Julie Shumacher (written as a series of letters, this was maybe the funniest, most entertaining book I read last year)
  • Dept. of Specluation by Jenny Offill
  • 84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff (not new, new, but new to me, an exchange of letters over several years; very candid and funny stuff)

Read a few of the books everyone else was reading:

  • The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
  • Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
  • The Grownup by Gillian Flynn
  • Hausfrau by Jill Alexander Essbaum
  • The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell

Read some oldies but goodies:

  • The Road by Cormac McCarthy (who I would be if for some reason I was not allowed to be David Foster Wallace)
  • Cities of the Plain, also by Cormas McCarthy (love this whole border trilogy)
  • As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
  • The Princess Bride by William Goldman (loved the movie forever, not love the book)
  • The Green Man by Kingsley Amis (it wasn’t Lucky Jim, but it had its moments)
  • Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
  • The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath (I love you Sylvia!)

Read some spicy:

  • Tampa by Alissa Nutting (NC-17 at least; if the seemingly countless accounts of teacher-student relations on the news leave you squeamish, this is NOT for you)
  • The Innocents by Cathy Coote (ditto)
  • Duplex by Kathryn Davis (less NC-17 than the others, but probably still belonging in this category.  Dark and strange and beautiful)
  • A Sport and a Pastime by James Salter (probably comfortably in the rated-R range, it certainly had its moments.  A Francophile’s dream)

Read some solidly good novels:

  • The Lost Boys Symphony by Mark Andrew Ferguson
  • Ajax Penumbra 1969 by Robin Sloan (a fun after-the-fact prequel to Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore)
  • An Object of Beauty by Steve Martin (yes, that Steve Martin; he’s a great writer)
  • Solar by Ian McEwan
  • Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson
  • The Secret Place by Tana French
  • Slade House by David Mitchell
  • The First Bad Man by Miranda July (could maybe put this in the spicy category; I love her short stories too)
  • We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler (best twist I’ve encountered in a book in a long time.  True surprise).

And finally, read some that are now at the very top of my must-read list for others:

  • Stoner by John Williams (maybe the most singularly perfect and “me” book I have ever read)
  • The Days of Abandonment by Elena Ferrante (masterful!  She is a genius!  Can’t get my hands on more of her stuff fast enough)
  • A Wrestling Season by Sharon Sheehe Stark (this secret gem is worth seeking out; a sheer delight!)
  • Summer House with Swimming Pool by Herman Koch (Koch may be the king of dark.  Between this and The Dinner, I think he gave me actual nightmares, but in a good way.  The Dinner would also go on this list, thought I read it a few years ago)
  • Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides (Eugenides is a modern master; I wish there were more books of his to read; brilliant!)
  • The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer (this sad but also hilarious look at childhood friendships and how they ebb and flow as the years go by spoke to my soul)

I think that’s it.  It was quite a journey.  I didn’t think about it much as I went; I just sort of read where the winds of fate and whimsy take me.  But looking back on the year now, I’m pleased with the variety of genres and authors.  A good balance.

I’m still not sure what to think of this whole goal system.  Having one keeps you accountable, and I am maybe slightly less likely to abandon a book knowing it “counts.”  But it’s also fun to keep track and look back and relive those wonderful reading experiences.  Can’t wait to see what 2016 brings!

One thought on “Goodreads Reading Challenge- 2015 Edition

  1. As you can see, I’ve also been reading and re-reading and analyzing and re-analyzing a lot of Blood Meridian so far this year. It’s slowed me down on my other reading for 2016, but now that it’s out of the way, hopefully we’ll be off to the races.

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