There are a lot of BEST OF lists on the internet, and I thought I'd post one of my own before January got away from me. I read 36 books in 2015. I'd be able to finish more if I gave up a hobby or two, or spent less time reading blogs, but this seems like the right amount for now---an average of three books a month. When we're traveling I usually get more reading done, so that helps average out the months when I'm home and overcommitted. What interests me the most about this list is that it's heavily fiction. Only three of the nineteen non-fiction books ended up on my top ten this year. I think that's unusual. So here they are, though not ranked in this list from #1 to #10. That was simply too hard.
This was one of our book group books this year, and although I wasn't particularly excited about reading it, I absolutely loved it. Even though I knew the outcome before I ever started reading the book, I was on the edge of my chair, rooting for the team in almost every race. I was fascinated by the popularity of crew in the 1930's. A good friend of mine's son races competitively (he recently placed in the Pan-American games) and there are not crowds of thousands lining up to watch those races today. I also enjoyed the descriptions of how the boats were built, though one member of our group found that too repetitive.
I was a bit reluctant to read this book, but I'm so glad I did. I would love to be part of a discussion group about it; the issues and themes are so complex and so important. The first two sentences are: "Lydia is dead. But they don't know this yet." A young Chinese American girl has died, and slowly we begin to see from each family member's recollections a picture of her life at home and at school. The subtle communication that parents give their children, sibling rivalry, parent favoritism, quiet but effective bullying at school---there's lots to think about in this novel.
I'm not quite sure how I came upon this book, but I've recommended it to many of my friends. It begins in a small town in Turkey where a man's grandfather has died. When he travels from Istanbul to the family home, he discovers that his grandfather has left the family estate to unknown stranger in California. His travels to find the heir uncover a long and tragic history as well as a powerful love story.
It had been a long time since I read an espionage novel, and this is an unusual, but engrossing one. It takes place over a dinner in California between a former CIA agent and a current CIA agent who was formerly a colleague. I had to reread the ending twice to be sure I had gotten it right!
I'm afraid I usually think of Kristen Hannah as an author of "beach books," but this one got so much press that I decided to read it. I could barely put it down. It's the story of two sisters in France during World War II separated by geography, ideology, and circumstance. It's a tale of survival and love at the home front and on the lines from two women's perspectives. I probably need to reconsider reading some of her other novels.
This book is also set during World War II in Germany and France. It was another of our book group choices, and everyone in our group loved it. It's a complicated story of a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths cross during the war. It's beautifully written, suspenseful, and ultimately a story of redemption and goodness.
I'd read a lot of good reviews of this book, and was reacquainted with it when we visited the Northshire Book Store in Vermont this fall and saw one of their review cards. Shortly afterward, I found it on the shelf in our library and picked it up. Colm Tóibín writes masterful character studies. You won't find a lot of action, but you'll come to love the characters as they navigate their lives. Nora is newly widowed, the mother of two young sons, and trying to find her place in a world suddenly unfamiliar to her.
Shortly after I finished Nora Webster, I was in a lovely independent book store in Winnetka, and purchased a copy of Brooklyn. It begins in the same Irish village as Nora Webster, and takes place before Nora Webster. I liked this book just as much as Nora Webster, if not more, and was delighted to discover it was about to released as a movie. Tracy and I saw it a few weeks ago, and although the book is better (almost always true), it's a wonderful movie as well, and now has received several Oscar nominations. This one is ultimately a love story, and that is the focus of the movie. Read the book first!
I wrote a long blog post about this book earlier. It transformed my daily planning, and I'm still using all I learned. You can find that post here.
I loved Gretchen Rubin's The Happiness Project, and was very disappointed in her sequel, Happiness at Home so I wasn't too sure about reading her latest. I'm glad I did. I learned a bit about myself (always a good thing), and found the research about how we create habits, break habits, and maintain habits both fascinating and helpful.
I've spent the better part of two days (with help from Tracy and the Goodreads staff) trying to export all my books from Shelfari to Goodreads. Shelfari will cease to exist come March, so I have no choice. It's been quite a process. At one point, over 900 books showed up on my Goodreads account, most of which I'd never heard or, let alone read. Over 100 books migrated with no date read. I keep a written journal as well, so I can at least identify the year, and I'm almost done updating that. I'll be glad when it's done! I still have to figure out how to get the Goodreads' widget on my blog. I really like the Shelfari one, so I'm bummed about that.
I'd love to know some of the books you enjoyed in 2015.