2015 Year in Reading
There’s an old saying that the way you start the year determines what the rest of the year will be like. I began 2015 with friends in Canada, in a snow-covered ski town north of Montreal. It was one of the most idyllic New Year’s I’d ever had, spent cozy with friends in a beautiful house, drinking wine and playing games and cooking together in the kitchen. And 2015 did include a lot of time with friends and a lot of wine, but it also included a whole lot of other things, big and small, good and bad, happy and sad.
Like so many other years, there were achievements and failures and disappointments and fights and weddings and funerals and dates and break ups and concerts and trips. I don’t know if I place a lot of stock in that saying about how you start the year–where you go and what you do and what happens to you is totally unpredictable.
In 2015, I got a promotion. I went to San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, Chicago, Minneapolis, London, Edinburgh, and Huntington Beach. I saw more snow than I ever want to see ever again. I lost my grandmother and my great uncle. I had my first “real” publication. I made new friends. I ran two 5k races. I gave up on things. I was disappointed by people. I discovered new tv shows and bands and movies and podcasts. I took walks and cooked meals and wasted too much time on the Internet.
I read a lot of books–52, according to Goodreads. Reading is the constant in my life, one of the things I’ve always counted on, because reading nearly always comforts me, takes me away from whatever is bothering me in my actual life. I feel incomplete when I’m not reading a book. I don’t know what to do with myself.
I began 2015 reading Lord of the Rings, a total departure from my comfort zone. I’d joined a LOTR “book club” with a few friends in New York–I was curious what all the hype was about. The book club only met once, over Skype, and I made it about halfway through Return of the King, sometime in April, before I gave up. Just one of the things I started this year that I didn’t finish, but I can always go back. Maybe someday I’ll even watch the movies. But I think it’s fitting that I began the year reading the same book with friends, in an effort to understand, to learn about a world I knew nothing about, because this year, for me, friendship was hugely important.
The winter dragged on. I made my way through hip-deep snow and the epics of the LOTR trilogy. I read a few other forgettable books when I needed something lighter. In March, I read Tender is the Night, which I’d always thought I’d read before but never finished. This time, I finished it, in the midst of a Mad Men haze (another 2015 loss).
In the spring, I took a writing class I loved, and I read two novels: one I loved that no one’s heard of (Dorothy Baker’s underrated Cassandra at the Wedding), and another that I wanted to love but just didn’t (Celeste Ng’s Everything I Never Told You).
In 2015, thanks to a coworker who gave me The Faraway Nearby for Christmas last year, I discovered the magic of Rebecca Solnit and I now want to devour everything she writes.
In June, I read Dodie Smith’s I Capture the Castle, which I read after another coworker gave it to me for my birthday. It was one of those rare books that so totally surprised me–it was so strange and unpredictable and delightful and lovely. Another unexpected delight was Ali Smith’s How to Be Both, which sharply divided my book club between those of us who loved it and those who hated it so much they couldn’t finish it.
I treated myself to Heidi Julavits’ The Folded Clock, a deconstructed diary told in vignettes over two years, on a trip to the bookstore in early summer. The book, along with meeting Heidi at the Slice writing conference in September, cemented her as a hero of mine.
I began my Ferrante journey on my trip to the UK in July, reading My Brilliant Friend as I sped through the Scottish countryside on a train.
Other summer reading included Sherman Alexie’s Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, Amor Towle’s delightful Rules of Civility, Ann Patchett’s book of essays, This is the Story of a Happy Marriage, and Hannah Kent’s shimmering Burial Rites, which takes place in 19th century Iceland–a nice distraction from the July heat. I read most of these while sitting on a bench in the Public Garden during my lunch break, an indulgence I don’t take for granted.
In August, I read Station Eleven lying in the grass in a park in Minneapolis and Ta-Nahesi Coates’ Between the World and Me on a plane ride to a friend’s wedding in Chicago. I’m already looking forward to rereading that one–I don’t think I gave it the attention it deserved the first time around, too distracted by whatever else was in my head.
September’s book club pick was Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God, which I really should have read before now. I’m not sure if I’ve ever been as shocked by an ending as that book.
Then there was Fates and Furies, which I bought nearly as soon as it came out because I was so intrigued by the description. I think I’m still trying to process my feelings about it.
I finished The Light Between Oceans and tried not to cry while on a plane back to Boston from Seattle in November. And then, it was finally time to continue my Ferrante journey with Story of a New Name, which…wow. I can’t wait to get my hands on the third book. Thanksgiving was a good time to finally read Olive Kitteridge, which was a lovely book about love and loss and aging.
That’s a lot of books–and those are just the highlights. Looking over the list, I’m both proud and unsurprised to see that nearly every single book I read was by a woman.
2015 was a big, messy, sad year–but there were beautiful places and beautiful people and beautiful books.
I’m ready for 2016.