Sunday, January 3, 2016

2015 in books

I read 40 books in 2015 and ranked them from the worst to the best, in my opinion.

40. Diary of an Oxygen Thief- Anonymous The author should remain anonymous because this should really be called Diary of a Douche Bag. I think the most disappointing part about this book was how hard I looked for it and how much I anticipated it.

39. Send in the Idiots- Kamran Nazeer Profiles of individuals with varying forms of autism. Sounded interesting but I can sum this entire book into one sentence-- There are varying degrees of autism ranging from very high functioning to very low functioning and it affects individuals' lives in many different ways. The end.

38. After Dark- Haruki Murakami The most boring Murakami I've ever read. Don't let this stop you from reading his other wonderful works (1Q84 and Norwegian Wood!!)

37. The Girl on the Train- Paula Hawkins This was supposed to be the Gone Girl of 2015 and it wasn't. The main character was awful and it was predictable and anticlimactic.

36. Department of Speculation- Jenny Offill Like a bad collection of Tumblr quotes.

35. The Girl in the Spider's Web- David Lagercrantz The latest Millennium novel and a serious disappointment. Lisbeth was not the same badass Lisbeth I had grown to love from Millenniums 1-3 and the story dragged on.

34. Nervous System: Or Losing My Mind in Literature- Jan Lars Jensen This is about an author's nervous breakdown in anticipation of an upcoming book publication. It was funny at times, but a little dull. I remember putting it down for several days and almost forgetting about it.

33. Liars Poker- Michael Lewis My attempt to understand investment banking. Spoiler alert: I still don't get it.

32. Slouching Towards Bethlehem- Joan Didion I was inspired to read this after reading Goodbye to All That, a collection of essays about New York City. I thought this would be more about New York City, but most of the stories were about Joan's life in other parts of the country and then the one essay about New York was a letdown.

31. Let the Great World Spin- Colum McCan One of those books where the first 100 pages I was like, what is this about? But McCan weaves seemingly unrelated stories together in a poetic way.

30. The World's Strongest Librarian- Josh Hanagarne Uplifting memoir about a man diagnosed with Tourette's Syndrome and his struggle to live with the disease and how he learns to cope with it. Funnier if you're Mormon.

29. Brain on Fire- Susannah Calahan The story, not the writing is what is incredible about this book. Fascinating medical memoir about a rare brain disorder. Susannah does a great job piecing together her own personal accounts with that of her doctors and parents to tell the story of her encounter with Anti-NMDA Receptor Autoimmune Encephalitis.

28. Chuck Klosterman IV: A Decade of Curious People and Dangerous Ideas- Chuck Klosterman Great collection of pop culture essays ranging from Britney Spears to McDonald's to Radiohead. A little dated, but fun to look back on the pop culture phenomenons of the early 2000's.

27. The Girl Who Played With Fire- Stieg Larsson I re-read the last two Millennium books in preparation for the new one released this year. I loved this series and I love Lisbeth Salander.

27. The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest- Stieg Larsson ^^

25. All the Light We Cannot See- Anthony Doerr Ok everyone I know who read this absolutely loved this book and I'm wondering if maybe I missed something? It was well-written and a beautiful story but felt kind of juvenile to me? I felt like I was reading Number the Stars, as in I would have loved this book a lot more if I was younger but reading it now I was underwhelmed. Granted, it did win the Pulitzer and really is a lovely story of friendship, but not at all the life-changing novel I was expecting.

24. Never Say Goodbye- Sari Botten This is the sequel to Goodbye to All That which I promise was great, because I still haven't listed it. It's a collection of writers', actors', artists' etc. essays on New York City and mostly how they are in love with the city and can never leave.

23. Love: Ten Poems- Pablo Neruda Not my favorite collection of Neruda poems, but still gorgeous prose.

22. House of God- Samuel Shem Do not read if your spouse is currently in medical school. This is like the Real World: Hospitals in America. It's the dark side of medicine and I'm honestly convinced was the actual inspiration for Grey's Anatomy. Lots of sex, lots of death and lots of douche-y doctors. But really darkly funny.

21. Toms River- Dan Fagin Very interesting read about the effects of a chemical dye plant in Toms River, New Jersey to the citizens of the small town. Fagin weaves a tale of secrecy, greed and the resiliency of the human spirit.

20. This is Where I Leave You- Jonathan Tropper Still haven't seen the movie, but I heard the book is better because you get more of the dark humor. Really funny. This family is a hot mess.

19. The Innovators- Walter Isaacson Walter Isaacson is a fantastic biographer and this is another great nonfiction read about the different discoveries and inventions which have shaped the technology we enjoy today.

18. Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair- Pablo Neruda These are the words you secretly (or not so secretly) wish your significant other would say to/write about you.

17. Einstein- Walter Isaacson This was another excellent biography and made me appreciate the genius who was Albert Einstein. He also includes great anecdotes from his wives, children and colleagues which made you remember he was also human.

16. Goodbye to All That- Sari Botten I haven't been to many cities so I always feel silly saying New York is my favorite, but it truly is. It always seems so magical and unlike any place I've been. There is a feeling of giddiness and wonder every time I get off the train at Penn Station. This book put to words that feeling and made me ache for New York City and empathize with those who had to go back.

15. The Diviners- Margaret Laurence I remember I was pleasantly surprised with this book. Starts off describing the lives of Canadian hicks but focuses on the life of one specific hick named Morag whose life ends up being a lot more interesting than her rural hometown. Morag is a witty and strong female character and her inner monologues always made me giggle.

14. Still Alice- Lisa Genova Heartbreaking memoir about the effects of Alzheimer's disease on a highly successful academic and how she did her best to battle the disease. I cried. The movie is also great.

13. Ordinary People- Judith Guest Depression is something I have always struggled to understand. This book is an excellent portrait of the disease and its effects on those who suffer from it as well as their loved ones. It doesn't try to glamorize the it and is simply told, but profound.

12. Oblivion- David Foster Wallace Excellent collection of short stories from the master himself. My favorite was Good Old Neon, but all of them had a stroke of brilliance, or several.

11. The Martian- Andy Weir The kind of science fiction I could actually get into. Funny and apparently scientifically accurate. My favorite part of this book was the main character's final reflection on the human race and its ability to come together in the face of disaster.

10. The Girls Who Went Away- Ann Fessler Probably the biggest surprise of 2015. I grabbed this book haphazardly before a trip. It was one of those books I found at Goodwill for $1 and thought, eh that looks kind of cool. This is the story of the hundreds of young women who surrendered their children to adoption in the time before abortion was legalized in the United States. There were so many different accounts and the most impactful thing I learned was the simple fact that not all women who give up children do it out of choice, but many times necessity and it is a heartbreaking and awful process to give up a child you don't want give up.

9. The Emperor of All Maladies- Siddhartha Mukherjee Probably the most complete biography of cancer that exists. This was another re-read and I'm glad I took the time to do so. So informative and includes so many different aspects of cancer that you don't even think about.

8. White Oleander- Janet Fitch Gorgeous dark haunting prose. The story of one girl's journey through the foster care system and growing up without her mother/best friend. I flew through this one.

7. The Empathy Exams- Leslie Jamison Or How to Feel Feelings. A collection of unrelated topics and how in each situation we can express or feel empathy in some way.

6. My Brilliant Friend- Elena Ferrante I started this series and have tied the first three for sixth place, although I did like 1 and 2 more than 3. The Neapolitan Novels tell the story of Lila and Elena, two girls growing up in rural Naples. There are so many things I loved about these books-- Lila and Elena's tumultuous and often contradicting relationship, Ferrante's simple but brutally honest prose and feeling like I was in Naples and watching the events of Lila and Elena's lives unfold. Friendship, love, betrayal-- I like to think of them as beautifully written and more intellectually stimulating soap operas. I'm saving the finale for 2016.

6. The Story of a New Name- Elena Ferrante ^

6. Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay- Elena Ferrante ^^

3. A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do- David Foster Wallace My favorite collection of essays I've ever read. DFW is so smart. I've said it so many times, but he has the uncanny ability to put into words exactly what I've thought about so many things from the mundane to wildly exciting to simply bizarre. After reading this book, I couldn't help but feel sad that we lost such a gifted writer. What kinds of things would he have to say about our self-absorbed generation? What would he think about hover boards, fashion blogs or Instagram? My heart breaks thinking of the possibilities.

2. The Stranger Manual- Catie Rosemurgy A reminder of why I love poetry. I admire/envy the ability people have to string together words that make me feel joy/sadness/pain/adoration so acutely, it's as if they personally defined certain experiences for me, like they wrote a dictionary according to me and my life experiences. That's how I felt when I read this book. I have to share my favorite lines with you so you can get a glimpse of what I'm saying:

Maybe one body is simply insufficient.
So they change their minds and decide 
to stand by one another's side for years.
They bring flowers and carpet and children
into the act. They refuse to move, ever.
They act as if they've found the only hospitable
spot on earth. I love it when they do that.

1. A Little Life- Hanya Yanagihara Oh my word. I started this book on December 30 and finished January 1 and truly felt I saved the best book of the year for last. I stayed up late reading this (like 2 AM late), which is a big statement for me because I like to be in bed by 10:30. It consumed my thoughts when I wasn't reading it and I quickly rushed through things I needed to do so I could sit and read it. I want everyone to read this, but it is not for everyone. There are pages which are so horrifying and sickening, I had trouble finishing. This book is about a group of four friends, but particularly one member of the group named Jude. It follows their lives from their early twenties through careers, relationships, families and for some of them, death. This is a book about friendship, heartbreak, loss, love, kindness, evil, shame and pretty much every emotion in existence. It is graphic, disturbing and dark, which is why I shy away from recommending it heartily to everyone. In contrast to those dark passages, there are pages that made me weep because of the beauty of pure, honest, human kindness and love. I can't stop thinking about this book and the characters and am suffering from a severe book hangover. I don't want to start a new book because I want to leave the memories and thoughts of this one fresh in my mind a little longer. Like I said, it's not for everyone, but if you do decide to read it, please let me know what you think and let me talk about it again with you.

Thank you for reading with me. I had so much fun creating this list last year, I was so excited to do it again for 2015. Please share your favorites with me as well since I'm always looking for new titles and be my friend on Goodreads! It's a great place to share titles and read friends' reviews about books. Happy new year and happy reading!


  1. Love your recommendations! I just ordered two books from your list. I agree about girl on the train.. Several people recommended it to me and I felt obligated to follow it to the end but hated it. Boring, predictable, shallow... Glad I wasn't the only one who thought so hah

  2. Yay! Which ones?

    And yes you are so not alone I was very disappointed with it.

  3. I'm so inspired that I literally just created Goodreads account. I used to love reading sooo much and got out of the habit in college. Now i'm all in. Thx for the motivation <3

  4. Great recommendations, as always! Thanks for posting. I'm excited to check some of them out

  5. I'm excited to look up many of these and add to my list to read. Also I've been wanting to break into Murakami but wasn't sure where to start, so I'm glad you mentioned some of your favorites/his best!

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