books

#reverb15: good reads

This prompt comes from Sarah & Kim: Good reads. What was your favorite book or reading of 2015? Why? Was it a different genre from what you normally read?  My reading this year was sporadic. I would read nothing for a month and then read a crime thriller in a few days. Usually, my favorite book is the last one I finished reading. This year, I read Station Eleven, after much prompting from my bookish friends. I loved it.

It's a tough book to describe; it's a post-apocalyptic novel, yes, about humanity trying to survive and rebuild, but it's also more than that. It's a dark and quiet powerhouse, but what I love most about it is the way the various characters cross paths. It's a story you have to wait out as it moves back and forth in time: before and after the pandemic that wipes out most of the population. The strength is the way the stories are paced and intersected, so that you get close to the characters and the people in their lives. I was hooked right away.

I also really enjoyed The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, which I read in two afternoons. Here's what I said about it in my Goodreads review:

I read this book quickly because it was so full of vibrant characters who I cared about almost instantly. The story unfolds in ways that are unexpected. There are small details that become important and secrets that are kept and shared that are not at the center of the novel, but all around the edges. In the hands of a lesser author, the stories, the characters, the plots themselves might feel inauthentic but through the strong writing off Ziven and the protagonist A.J. Fikry, all the pieces come together in a compelling and charming way. 

“We read to know we’re not alone. We read because we are alone. We read and we are not alone. We are not alone. We are not quite novels. In the end, we are collected works.”

Both of these books are the kind of fiction I do like to read, though both were very different stories.

I'm going to try to read more consistently next year. I'll set a goal of 15 books, a little more than 1 a month and perhaps I can get bank some books in January when I'm on break. What did you read that was great this year? What should I put on my 2016 list?

books that got their hooks in

On Facebook I was nominated by my friend, Tam to list 10 books that "got their hooks into my soul". I've written before about "books that changed my life," in my Ph.D., M.A., undergrad, adolescence, and girlhood . When I first starting writing these lists in 2008, I defined the criteria for my lists based partly on Kevin Kelly's (of Wired) definition, "“books that altered your behavior, changed your mind, redirected the course of your life. Books as levers.” What a great way to think about writing: as a lever. But a book that gets its hooks in might be a different experience altogether. It also gives me a chance to update things I've read lately. So I'm going to define "getting hooks in" as a book you can't stop thinking about, where the characters live with you, where when it is over, you are sad to be out of that world, and the books you keep recommending to friends.

In no particular order:

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

The Last Night on Earth Poems by Charles Bukowski

Tell the Wolves I'm Home by Carol Rifka Brunt

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series by Stieg Larsson

Never Let Me Go Kazuo Ishiguro

The Dream Sequence by Kate Hunter

The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt

The Undertaking by Thomas Lynch

Coraline by Neil Gaiman

What about you? What books hooked you, changed you somehow, acted as levers for you?