Tuesday, January 5, 2016

2015 Reading Highlights

2015 was a really good book year for me.  There are never as many uninterrupted reading hours as I wish, but thanks to audiobooks, the kindle iphone app, and a giant purse that can fit whatever new release I've picked up at my library's drive-thru window, I'm always ready to read when an opportunity arises.  Also, I took Facebook off my phone in June, which has freed me up for many things, including more (non-status update) reading time.

All you need to know about my selections is that I didn't overthink them and that I borrowed heavily from my own Goodreads reviews for the blurbs.  I'm booksandcarbs, by the way, if you want to find me on Goodreads.

Favorite 2015 Reads Published in 2015 (in no particular order)

The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan
This novel imagines the love story between a Kate Middleton-esque character (except American) and a Prince William-esque character.  Fun, fun, fun, but not pure fluff.  Is the fairy tale life only a fairy tale?  Some of the dialogue was cheesy, but I was 100% absorbed.  Hated taking breaks because I just wanted to follow the romance.

The Mountain Story by Lori Lansens
This book left me with a full heart.  A riveting survival story that is also a tale of friendship, family, and ultimate acts of love.  Five stars.

Dietland by Sarai Walker
Refreshingly subversive.  Do not be fooled by cupcake on the cover.  Plenty to think about in terms of gender roles, body image, and standards of beauty.  Would be a great book club selection.  Some people might hate it, but everyone will have something to say about it. 

All Together Now by Gil Hornby
This book just made me happy.  So many of the story elements I love:  strangers become friends, community bands together, woman learns her own strength, fresh start, music as a bridge, British setting.  Call it cheesy or boring if you want.  Haters gonna hate.

Circling the Sun by Paula McLain
Fictionalized portrait of a real woman, Beryl Markham, and her extraordinary life and loves in colonial Kenya.  Horse trainer, aviator, memorable woman.

Voracious: A Hungry Reader Cooks Her Way through Great Books by Cara Nicoletti
As a hungry reader (literally) myself, I really enjoyed this memoir, even if I am not motivated or talented enough to try any of the recipes inside.

A Window Opens by Elisabeth Egan
A mom and wife tries to figure out "what all" she wants and "what all" she can have.  The motherhood details rang very true.  Would be a good book club choice.

Who Do You Love by Jennifer Weiner
My favorite Jennifer Weiner book since Good in Bed.  Really loved it.

The Admissions by Meg Mitchell Moore
Was planning to avoid this book because I thought the college admissions race was familiar territory for me from fiction, non-fiction, and my years as an ACT/SAT tutor.  So glad I read it.  Expertly plotted.  I was often a ball of anxiety rooting for this family to find its way.  It really made me think about what I want for my children and will stick with me for a long time.

Favorite 2015 Reads Not Published in 2015
In This House of Brede by Rumer Godden
This book is from my "I'll Thank Me Later List."  Over 600 pages about a woman who leaves a professional career to become a cloistered Benedictine nun.  I absolutely loved it.  I am envious of and inspired by those who have a religious vocation.

Pomfret Towers by Angela Thirkell 
Delightful to me, but I am really into British books where nothing super exciting happens and yet everything happens.

Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend by Matthew Dicks
So glad I tried this one, despite a premise (story told by imaginary friend) that sounded like something I would hate.  I gushed about it last month.

Reading Series Update for 2015
The Fatal Flame by Lyndsay Faye -- Worthy end to the fabulous Timothy Wilde trilogy that begins with Gods of Gotham.  New York City in the early days of its police force.  Great character-driven detective novel (but more than that).

Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith -- The only thing I hate about the Cormoran Strike books (this is the third) is finishing one and having to wait at least a year for the next.  Don't keep me waiting, J.K. Rowling!  I would recommend reading them in order.  The first is Cuckoo's Calling.

Chief Inspector Gamache Series by Louise Penny -- I've read the first five this year.  I'm not obsessed, but I enjoy these mysteries with their well-drawn characters, idyllic setting (minus all those dang murders), and the ways Penny weaves art, poetry, and literature throughout.  The first is called Still Life. 

After You by Jojo Moyes --  You know what, this book is not the ugly-cry powerhouse that Me Before You was, but it's a really good book and definitely worth reading if you loved the first.

Winter Stroll by Elin Hilderbrand -- The second book was another satisfying holiday read.  Bring on the final installment!  Start with Winter Street if you can steal some time to read near the tree next December.

Learned Something and Liked It
Sure, you can learn something in every book, but I learned a lot of things from these.
Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain
I hope the insights from Quiet will make me a better parent, a more content person, and a more sensitive friend, spouse, and teacher (if I ever go back).  No matter where you are on the introversion/extroversion spectrum, you can learn from this book.

The Opposite of Spoiled: Raising Kids Who Are Grounded, Generous, and Smart About Money by Ron Lieber -- plenty to think about here

Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari -- interesting, thoughtful, well-researched, and sometimes horrifying overview of romance in contemporary America:  texting, sexting, online dating, cultural norms and more   

Honorable Mention -- These books are enjoyable, satisfying reads!
In Some Other World, Maybe by Shari Goldhagen:  Relationships, coincidences.  Set in Cincy, Chicago, and L.A.  I dug it.

Maybe in Another Life by Taylor Jenkins Reid-- A Sliding Doors-esque story.

In The Unlikely Event by Judy Blume -- your grade school idol does not disappoint

Little Beach Street Bakery by Jenny Colgan -- breezy summer read

Movie Star by Lizzie Pepper:  A Novel by Hilary Liftin -- TomKat in novel form.  Better than US Weekly!

The Perfect Comeback of Caroline Jacobs by Matthew Dicks -- humor but also revenge, forgiveness, friendship, parent/child ties

Ally Hughes Has Sex Sometimes by Jules Moulin -- and why shouldn't she?

Bargain Bonuses -- I'm always snapping up audible.com Deals of the Day.  Two of them this year were surprisingly satisfying:  The Nothing Girl by Jodi Taylor and Keep Your Friends Close by Paula Daly.

What were your 2015 Reading Highlights?  Do tell.  Please.


  1. I can't believe I missed The Fatal Flame, as I loved her other books. Just downloaded the audiobook, although I've read the prior two (non-audio), so the audio might clash with the voice of Timothy already in my head (?)...we'll see. I added several of yours to my Goodreads list. Thanks MEP!
    Looking back at 2015, this was my jump into audiobooks (with your help) and I really enjoyed Goldfinch and Ready Player One. I also got into celebrity (audio) books--with Amy Poehler's "Yes, Please" at the top of my list of all books for the year.

    1. I think you'll enjoy The Fatal Flame on audio! I can't imagine not listening because I love the guys who narrate them. Different narrator for third book than first two, but still very good. So glad you are enjoying audiobooks! I listened to Rainn Wilson's book and it was better than I anticipated. Very interesting life.

  2. I am so glad that I've read so few of these! Now I have a game plan at the library. I trust your book instincts implicitly.

  3. Wow, I've read none of these ... and I've got lots to look for at the library now! I absolutely loved The Rosie Project and The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion, and I devoured everything by Liane Moriarty. I also am perhaps the last person on Earth to do so, but I read all three of Gillian Flynn's books this year and enjoyed (not the right word since they're so dark) and also The Girl on the Train, which I liked.

    1. I'm the dork who's too afraid to read Dark Places or Sharp Objects ... one of these days when I am feeling really strong!