The LT Year in Reading: 2015 Edition

December 30, 2015 at 4:42 am 2 comments

cristo age-of-license
Which books made our little readerly hearts sing this year? Which books did we finally finish — for better or worse? And which books changed our outlook? Check out Kate and Corey’s picks for their best (and worst!) reads of 2015:

Most Fun Read
Corey: Does having the most fun while reading it count? If so, my most fun read this year was Naomi Novik’s Uprooted. It isn’t a “fun” book, per se (mixed in with the magic and romance, there’s kidnapping, murder, and all-out civil war), but I still had tremendous fun reading it.
Kate: The Rosie Project, Uprooted and Kushiel’s Dart were all majorly fun for me. None of those are really…fluffy, persay, but I had a lot of fun reading them!

The Shock and Awe Award for Most Surprising Read
Corey: I’m not sure what I was expecting with Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Buried Giant, but I was still surprised by it. Plot- and genre-wise, it is nothing like any of his previous work, but thematically it fit right in with Remains of the Day in its dealings with memory and aging. Reading it was an ongoing surprise.
Kate: Kushiel’s Dart by Jacqueline Carey. I expected a sort of porny, sub-standard, Fifty Shades of Grey-with-angels kind of thing, but wow. That’s not at all what it was. It was a sweeping, epic, woman-focused bildungsroman with themes of love, friendship, morality and loyalty. Amazing.

“Hey, I didn’t know that!” Award for Best Nonfiction Read
Corey: A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson barely edges out Simon Garfield’s excellent On the Map. With one mind-blowing fact after another, it’s impossible to compete with Bryson’s accessible and fascinating take on nearly everything.
Kate: Inside of a Dog by Alexandra Horowitz. It gave me a lot of insight into the little wolf in my living room!

Best Reread
Corey: Oh man, I had so many great rereads this year! But I think The Magicians by Lev Grossman takes the cake. I loved it the first time around and it was even more meaningful in the reread. Plus, 2015 was my first time reading the whole series, which was an amazing experience.
Kate: I agree. It would be hard to beat the experience of rereading the first two and finishing with the third. I also enjoyed my A Song of Ice and Fire reread immensely.

Worst Reread
Kate: Madame Bovary just irritated the heck out of me the entire time. Like, woman! Snap out of it! Stahhhhhp!
Corey: For me, it was Tasha Alexander’s Lady Emily books. I still like the first one all right, but the rest just seem to get sillier and sillier as the writing gets worse and worse. She should have stopped while she was ahead!

darkershade    the-rosie-project
The Peter Mendelsund Award for Best Cover
Corey: A Darker Shade of Magic! It was visually arresting, but also so appropriate and thoughtful.
Kate: I love the cover art for The Rosie Project — minimalist, but evocative.

Best Premise, Worst Execution
Corey:
Libba Bray’s A Great and Terrible Beauty. It seemed to have everything going for it, but then was so meh in the execution and ending. Sigh.
Kate: The Hour I First Believed by Wally Lamb. I was just kind of bored by it…not one of his best. Also, Outlander for runner-up. I liked it, except for the rape, which constitutes about a third of the book.

Worst Premise, Best Execution
Kate:
The Post-Birthday World by Lionel Shriver. Seems like it would be cheesy, but it’s brilliant and beautifully constructed.
Corey: I think I have to give this one to Charlie Lovett’s The Bookman’s Tale. It soared where so many other bookish mysteries with similar plots have floundered.

Fates and Furies Cover Image

Best Library Loot
Kate: Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff. Waiting for this to come up as available was excruciating.
Corey: Daniel O’Malley’s The Rook for sure! It was the first book I checked out my new local library after moving and I literally couldn’t put it down — I stayed up almost all night to finish reading it.

Biggest Drag / Biggest Disappointment
Kate: Lean In. Sorry, Sheryl. To be fair, Villette by Charlotte Bronte was also sort of a drag, though it was very Bronte-esque.
Corey: Sadly, I think Bossypants was my biggest disappointment this year. A memoir by the amazing Tina Fey should have been a contender for Favorite Book of 2015, but instead, it felt like a prolonged joke book. So disappointing.

Most Satisfying Read
Kate: Middlemarch by George Eliot. I have been trying to read this book since approximately 2009, I would guess, and to finally work my way through it is nothing short of immensely satisfying!

uprooted

Best Recommendation
Corey: Some years ago, Eva of A Striped Armchair recommended Laurie R. King’s The Beekeeper’s Apprentice to me and I finally found a copy this year — and loved it!
Kate: Both Corey and a coworker recommended Uprooted to me, and it was a fantastic way to cap off my year! Amazing. Post potentially forthcoming.

Books We Didn’t Get To (things that languished at the TBR all year!)
Kate: I made a huge effort to finish off my TBR list this year, but Quiet by Susan Cain and Cooked by Michael Pollan didn’t get finished. Again.
Corey: Good for you! I didn’t work through nearly enough of my TBR list, so sorry, Umberto Eco: The Prague Cemetery spent another year unread, poor thing.

Book of the Year
age-of-licenseCorey: I’m going to have to go with Lucy Knisley’s An Age of License because this book quite literally changed my life this year. Knisley’s book inspired me to reassess my life and make some pretty major changes — I quit a job that was making me miserable, uprooted and moved to be closer to my beloved family, traveled around the Eastern U.S. and Western Europe for two months, and refocused my energies on working towards a career I actually love. Plus, she rekindled my love of drawing and doodling, something that had fallen by the wayside and really brings me joy. I’m not sure what more you could possibly ask of a book, so Age of License is definitely my Book of the Year.

cristoKate: This was my year of big books and finishing large books that had previously intimidated me, including Middlemarch and Far from the Madding Crowd, but my favorite was The Count of Monte Cristo. I had always been terribly intimidated by Dumas, and this work in particular — it always seemed like something I should read, but I was, quite frankly, scared of failing to finish. But after probably six weeks (four?) of reading, I can honestly say this is one of my new favorites, compelling and complex and already slated for a future reread (and a future post).

That’s it for us and 2015! Chime in below with your favorite reads from the past year and we’ll see you all in 2016. A very happy New Year to all our followers — here’s to another amazing year of reading!

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Entry filed under: Collections and Lists. Tags: , , , , .

A Purposeful Year: Corey’s 2015 Reading Plan Wrap-Up Post The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Dagny  |  December 30, 2015 at 10:42 am

    I dearly love The Count of Monte Cristo! I’ve read it three times over the years.

    Another I loved was Madame Bovary. I haven’t read it lately, so now I’m wondering how it would fare on another reread. Some books I loved when younger, don’t always engage me years later.

    Reply
    • 2. Kate  |  December 30, 2015 at 11:40 am

      Dagny — I understood Madame Bovary more and identified with her more on the second read. I first read it in high school, and I think it was maybe a little dense and hard to emotionally connect with — it’s hard to identify with a bored housewife when you’ve never even had a boyfriend.

      At the same time, rereading it as an adult about Emma’s age and as a married person, I found myself more frustrated by her actions. I got that she was bored, I got that she felt trapped, I understood that society was placing constraints on her, etc. But she is a child who never really grew up, who never was able to see past an idyllic wedding to the life she was about to lead, and even her attempts to escape that life were, if not childish, acts of an immature person who cannot see the consequences of her decisions.

      So while the reread wasn’t a complete failure in the sense that I got more out of the work a second time, and I understood why it’s so revered, I still didn’t love it.

      The Count, however…oh man. Wonderful. I suspect that one will be a wonderful reread. :)

      Reply

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