While I love all of the year end best of lists, I’m not a fan of making them myself. Two main reasons for this: a) I’m not very good at it and b) I don’t find it a satisfying way of looking back at a year of reading. The best of list is just too reductive: a list of ten or twenty books couldn’t possibly capture the ways that books and reading touched my life in the past year. I want to look at the best AND the worst, at the surprises and disappointments, at the changes in my tastes and habits. This is why I’ve so enjoyed this year’s batch of “A Year In Reading” over at The Millions. Lots of different readers taking lots of different approaches in looking back at their year in reading. I’m stealing the format used by Garth Risk Hellberg here.
I started the year with 2015 Pulitzer Prize Winner All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. I went into it skeptical (no, I really don’t think I need to read another WWII book, thank you very much) but ended up really enjoying it. Inspired by the literary start and some new bookish friends, I jumped straight into David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest. It was an overwhelming endeavor, and I gravitated towards genre (a few of the Peter Grant books, some Gail Carrier, Lev Grossman’s The Magicians), graphic novels (I heart Saga so much), and some re-reads (the always great Good Omens and Outlander) as an antidote. This is also the season when I learned I am missing some sort of people-ability because I was the only person in the world to not love The Martian.
I worked my way through Infinite Jest during the spring, and looking back, it shows. I read seven books over three months. My brain was exhausted. Highlights from spring: finally learning to really love listening to books through Sarah MacLean and Gail Carrier whose audiobooks are a delight; not liking Girl on the Train; more Saga!; finishing Infinite Jest, loving it, wanting to immediately start re-reading it.
Post-Infinite Jest, my reading was decidedly eclectic. Highlights include Sarah Waters The Paying Guests (kinda sexy and moody); Kazuo Ishiguro’s Remains of the Day (spare and beautiful); Allie Brosh’s Hyperbole and a Half (comics about dogs and depression, good stuff); Courtney Milan’s The Duchess War (feminist historical romance is always a good thing). There were some frustrations: Maria Doria Russell’s The Sparrow (not nearly as good as Book Riot had led me to believe plus some epic Mary Sue action); Meg Wolitzer’s The Interestings (click here for my reaction to this book); and Tom Perrotta’s The Leftovers (just a big ol’ pile of meh). This is also the season I started my Jane Austen on audiobook listening kick. I cannot say enough good things about Juliet Stevenson’s performance of Emma.
Fall brought with it vacation (and vacation reading) and the discovery of some new book loves: Julie James’ FBI/US Attorney series and Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel’s legacy series. The thrill of falling in love with a book was balanced out by disappointment with some longtime favorites (Jeaniene Frost’s Beautiful Ashes, J.R. Ward’s Covet, and Susan Elizabeth Phillips’ Heroes Are My Weakness). I was apparently in the mood for genre this fall and dipped back into Ben Aaronovitch’s Peter Grant books, catching myself up so that I’m now waiting impatiently for the next book. Getting ready for an upcoming vacation to the Napa Valley, I also found myself reading books on wine (and writing about others here). Fall is also the season when I started this blog! I don’t write nearly as much as I’d like and am still floundering a bit for my focus, but all in all, it’s been a great experience and has only enhanced my reading life.