Tuesday, January 05, 2016

2015 - Books Read

Here they are - the books I read in 2015. 30 in all. Not a bad year, but I'd certainly like to read more in 2016. Wouldn't we all?

The Bazaar of Bad Dreams – Stephen King
A wonderful story collection with maybe my favorite King tale ever at its center. (Herman Wouk Is Still Alive)

A Terry Teachout Reader – Terry Teachout
A collection of essays from one of my favorite culture writers. A wonderful overview of Sondheim in here, as well as an amusingly out-of-date piece on “quality TV” that suggests no TV series can ever stand as a true classic given that no one ever revisits an entire series the way they do a great novel or film. In today’s streaming and Peak TV world, that is simply no longer true.

Career of Evil – Robert Galbraith
The third in JK Rowling’s mystery series, the goriest, page-turniest, most personal one to date. Love that she has an ongoing mystery series going. It’s a good fit for her talents.

Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic – Alison Bechdel
Having listened to the cast album of the musical based on this graphic novel, reading it expanded and clarified some of the story, themes, and characters. A wonderful, personal, heart-breaking tale that never wallows in sentimentality.

Unfaithful Music and Disappearing Ink – Elvis Costello
An idiosyncratic, time-hopping, detail-stuffed musical memoir. I remain undecided if a firmer editorial hand would have made it better or snuffed out the flame of its shaggy charm.

Ms. Marvel, Vols 1-3 – G. Willow Wilson
Fun, feminist comics about a young Muslim teen in Jersey City navigating becoming a superhero.

Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets – David Simon
Exhaustively, devastatingly reported year in the life of the Homicide detectives in Baltimore. A dense, challenging read but a lively, passionately told one. One of those books that really opens a window on a world you thought you knew (here, from TV), but did not.

The Song Machine: Inside the Hit Factory – John Seabrook
A look at how pop hits are manufactured today that was fascinating, but that also felt like, having read excerpts and distillations of the book in two magazines, maybe worked better as a long-form article than a book.

The Children Act – Ian McEwan
Minor McEwan, but still worth reading. A small story about a judge whose marriage is in jeopardy and the legal case that commands her attention during this personal crisis. Explores the ethics of denying medical treatment for religious reasons with intelligence and fairness, but very clearly.

Freedom – Jonathan Franzen
A spellbinding novel about a family and its splintering told with great attention to detail and character. Franzen is a treasure.

Between the World and Me – Ta-Nehisi Coates
A searing and absolutely riveting personal essay on race and America told as if written as a letter to Coates’ son. The only book I read this year that I *know* I will read again. And again.

Stardancer – Kelly Sedinger
Old-school space opera, with princesses, latent abilities to be discovered, and hidden planets in crisis. Rollicking fun.

Finders Keepers – Stephen King
King attempts to come up with his own series of novels featuring the same detective, as so many have before him and as Rowling has been doing so successfully for the last few tears, but here in his second outing he takes over half the book before actually remembering to, you know, bring the detective back. Still, he manages to make it work, and to craft a wonderfully suspenseful ending.

Forcing the Spring: Inside the Fight for Marriage Equality – Jo Becker
Closely reported accounting of the fight that led to the Supreme Court case calling California’s Proposition 8 unconstitutional.

Red Rising – Pierce Bowen
First in a sci-fi trilogy that felt cobbled by its genesis in other, worthier tales of oppressed heroes rising out of impoverishment to take on the establishment.

The Unspeakable: And Other Subjects of Discussion – Meghan Daum
Collection of essays that grapple with interesting topics but that were in the end maybe too personal for me to latch on to.

The Girl on the Train – Paula Hawkins
Captivating mystery/thriller that for me missed the landing.

Bad Faith: When Religious Belief Undermines Modern Medicine – Paul Offit
A hackles-raising accounting of cases where children died because their parents denied medical care for religious reasons and the ongoing efforts to prevent similar tragedies.

Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End – Atul Gawande
A beautiful, deeply moving, immensely educational and passionate book about how we treat the elderly in this country, both in their later years and as they die. Coates notwithstanding, maybe the best book I read all year.

Paper Towns – John Green
Solid YA from the The Fault of Our Stars author that suffers in comparison to its more famous kin. Still, this is a compassionate, nicely told story about the search for identity in adolescence.

Life of Pi – Martin Yann
One of those books where you read it and say “Ah – now I get the hype.” A beautiful, lyrical mediation on faith.

Revival – Stephen King
Old school-flavored King. The ending was a little familiar and disappointing, but the journey there was fascinating and not a retread of prior stories or characters.

On Immunity: An Inoculation – Eula Biss
A beautiful little book on the history and metaphysical implications of vaccination. A bit pretentious, but sometimes that works just fine.

Difficult Men: Behind the Scenes of a Creative Revolution: From The Sopranos and The Wire to Mad Men and Breaking Bad – Brett Martin
An engrossing look behind the scenes of some of the best TV of the past decade.

Station Eleven – Emily St. John Mandel
A lyrical, quiet novel about the end of the world. Beautiful.

The Best American Magazine Writing 2014
A pleasure every year. I *love* these collections.

Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell
A grand and successful literary experiment that tells connected stories over eons. A great novel that has me itching to read more Mitchell.

Sondheim on Music – Mark Eden Horowitz
I can’t pretend to have understood a ton of this deeply technical series of interviews with Sondheim on the musicology behind his scores, but I found it utterly fascinating all the same. 

Until Whenever