As a blog writer, I sometimes get an idea in my head, and then I must write that idea out before another one shows up. Okay, I do have a list of potential posts to write, but they all must wait until this one is completed.
And sometimes the post that must be written just isn’t that sexy. Still it is first in the queue.
This is one of those posts. I really just want to tell all of you that I read a lot this year. 30 books to be exact. Since having sons and finishing grad school–which was basically 15 years ago–I have barely managed to read a half-a-dozen titles a year. I don’t count sewing/quilting how-to-books which I read pretty much non-stop.
What is the difference? Well, travel is a big reason I am reading more. I look forward to getting on a plane and reading for hours and hours. But the bulk of all those books while traveling–I always felt I needed to have a quilt, a nonfiction, a novel, and maybe an art book–was, well, heavy. And then I got Kindle, and I began traveling with a bookstore, a library, or at the very least my home night stand.
I used to read during almost all waking moments when I was a pre-teen. I have a clear memory of the bus driver yelling. He yelled my name until the entire bus was laughing at the girl with glasses who couldn’t hear because she was reading.
There really is nothing like a good book.
I’m also reading more because I got a headset and an iPhone. I use the iPhone for taking pictures and for listening to Audible. I know I told all of you that I knit while on the treadmill, and this is true. But beyond that and a few other simple tasks such as doing laundry while l am talking on the phone, I really don’t multi-task. Maybe this makes me a simpleton, but I feel better when I am singularly focused. If I get my way, which is not often in this house full of guys, I also like to work silence. As I write this the Kansas City Chiefs play-off game and drumming are blaring in the background.
Having said that, there a few things the I can do while also listening to Audible–quilting and ironing are the best. And because I do these things frequently, I have managed to listen to several very good books this year.
A small, but real, disadvantage to reading on the Kindle and listening on Audible is that you do not get to enjoy the book covers in the same way. As a shout to book covers I am inserting them here.
My favorite listens for 2015 are–
- The Immortal Life of Henrietta Jones by Rebecca Skloot–this is a fantastic read of history, science and one family’s struggle to understand their place in the middle of it all.
- 10% Happier by Dan Harris–I like books about personal quests for meaning, and this was a good one.
- Me Before You by Jojo Moyes–This is a great listen. It is a sweet love story–caregiver falls for quadriplegic–and I liked it a lot.
- Breakfast with Buddha by Roland Merullo–This is a also a great listen. The reader is really good, and the story is a light look at what it might happen if a New York Foodie took a road trip with a Buddhist monk. This is the first in a trilogy, and I happliy listened to all three.
- Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl–This isn’t an easy listen, but it is excellent brain food. The author is a concentration camp survivor and this is the story of how he came to understand that experience.My favorite Kindle reads for 2015 are–
- All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr–I was very resistant to this book. I just couldn’t imagine how the plot would work. Well, read it and see. It is beautiful.
- My Struggle: Book 1 by Karl Ove Knausgaard–this is a memoir about a novelist trying to write a novel. This sounds a bit dumb or contrived, but it isn’t, it is brilliant.
- Preparation for the Next Life by Atticus Lish–I read this while on the road and each day I looked forward to night when I could read the next chapter. It is the love tory of a illegal Chinese immigrant and an Iraqi War vet. It will break your heart, and make you appreciate all that you have.
- Some Luck by Jane Smiley–I have always enjoyed Jane Smiley’s work so I was excited to start this trilogy. I am not sure it would be for everyone, but I truly enjoyed this hundred year story of an Iowa farm family.
- Purity by Jonathan Franzen–While my favorite will always be The Corrections, this latest Franzen novel contains the same good craziness.I needed to write this post not only to share with you what I have read, but to also solicit your advice. What should be next in my reading and listening queue? I’d love to hear about your favorite reads of 2015.
I have enjoyed listening to Dr Chistianne Northrup’s books, especially her lecture “The Power of Joy” (Audible). Rhonda Byrne’s The Power and The Hero (She is the one who wrote The Secret), The Practicing Mind by Thomas M. Sterner. I especially think you would love “A Curious Mind” by Brian Grazer!
Oh, a quilter AND a reader….my kind of favorite person!!!!! I need to try to listen to a book while I’m (trying) FMQ. Maybe it would seem less onerous. I counted the other day and I read 70+ books last year! Of course my kids are grown and I do have a bit more time.
Thanks for sharing your list. I’ve read at least half of them and now I have more ideas.
Elena Ferrante’s books. There are four in the series about Naples starting with My Brilliant Friend. I LOVE them. Descriptions of childhood and beginning to understand who you are in relationship to the larger community that are the best I have ever read. I’ve read the first two books and am waiting to start the third — I just want to savor each one.
At the moment I’m reading the second book in the Mars trilogy by Kim Stanley Robinson. They are: Red Mars, Green Mars and Blue Mars. Complemented by The Martians (short stories), followed by 2312(which I’ve read) and then by Aurora – which has just come out so I haven’t got yet. Now, this is science fiction – which I love – about the colonisation of Mars and the development of interplanetary travel and occupation of other planets. But the reason I am enjoying them so much is not just because of the sci-fi part of it – it’s because it is also about philosophy, politics, economics, climate change, terraforming of other planets, rampant imperialism, and how to reject it and build a better society. Very long but unputdownable! I read the paperbacks, haven’t yet got to enjoy Kindle or Audible – prefer the feel of the paper page. I suppose I’m a reader of long novels – my favourite book of all time, which I read at least five times, is War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy. That is also about trying to build a better society… as well as history, philosophy, romance…
I loved your post, Maria. I too used to read with a ravenous passion as a teen and pre-teen, although I don’t recall my school bus driver having to yell at me for being too engrossed in a story. I was usually pretty anxious to get back off the bus. Reading helped to pass that time. Afterwards, university, grad school, and family and job obligations got in the way of reading for fun.
Thanks for the reading list. Also like you, The Corrections will remain a favourite. It reminds me of my family. 🙂
The Marriage of Opposites by Alice Hoffman was really good, and so was The Dovekeepers, also by her. I also really enjoyed Circling the Sun by Paula McLain. I love my Kindle too.Allows for big type and less heavy books😄
Thanks for sharing your list, Maria, and I enjoyed your blog readers’ comments, too. I recommend On the Move by Oliver Sacks. If you have an Alaskan library card, you can read or listen to many books (such as this one) for free–just google Listen Alaska.
I’ve realized I hate reading books on a screen so I’ve neglected my Kindle a great deal. I think it would be torture to read several of these books and I bet you’d have the same reaction to my beloved zombie/magic/supernatural etc books. but we definitely agree that books in general are fabulous. I spent a great deal of my childhood reading books while my parents dragged us around the country. Sometimes I’d get out of the car and go visit a place (Jamestown, Williamsburg, Washington DC) but I distinctly remember choosing to read instead of seeing Mt Rushmore.
I used to read like that when I was a teenager too! And I have trouble sitting still, not stitching, and reading now. My trouble with audible books is that sometimes I don’t like the reader. So its good that you mentioned the reader in your reviews. I have enjoyed reading Abigail Thomas’s books. Her book, Three Dog Life, was recommended by an art quilter, Jane LaFazio. And when I attended the Nancy Crow workshop several years ago, the quilter next to me was from Canada, and she recommended Crow Lake, by Mary Lawson, a Canadian author, and the book is set in Canada. I loved that book. And then, while I was listening to This American Life (LOVE listening to this while I am working in the studio) I heard an interview with Jim Cheek. The story of his childhood–unbelievable. So I got the book he wrote about it, The Color of Love. Heartbreaking, but also couldn’t stop reading. Don Miller’s Blue Like Jazz was one of my favorite books from several years ago.
Thanks for all the recommendations. I would like to read a bit more in the coming year. And also try Audible, because sooner or later I will run out of This American Life podcasts to listen to!
My all time favorite audio book is You’re Not Doing It Right written and read by Michael Ian Black. He’s a stand up comedian and has been of lots of tv shows, but this book is about easing into adulthood, marriage and having kids. It’s witty, honest, irreverent and funny. As cliche as it sounds, it made me laugh and cry.
The Light Between Two Oceans
Is my favorite. It’s a story about love and mercy.
It’s an older book, but I liked it a lot. BEL CANTO by Ann Patchett. I expected it to be dead serious, but it was humorous, and the humanity came out.
I like to listen to audio books and quilt. Nothing like a good actress/actor to bring life into a story.
Still Alice. Compelling, difficult, outstanding.
I listen to books on my phone while sewing and walking but also read (Kindle or hardcopy) in bed at night. Like you I read voraciously as a teen and young adult but completely lost the habit until I retired a year ago. My favorite books from the past year are: 1)fiction, A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra – one of the best books ever, IMHO. 2)nonfiction, The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert. 3)nonfiction, 2 books, The Beautiful Struggle and Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates, 4)nonfiction, Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson 5)Memoir, How to Catch a Frog by Heather Ross (YES, the fabric designer Heather Ross). 6)fiction, We are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler, WARNING there are spoilers everywhere, don’t read a single review or even the blurbs on the back cover, just read her printed text.
I love your blog!
I forgot to mention that you might enjoy Goodreads.com. You could follow me, for example!
Try the sequel to Me Before You, After You. Aren’t you dying to know what happens to Louisa? I also have loved all of Jojo Moyes other books. I, too recommend the Elena Ferrante books and A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler. And all of T.C. Boyle. Quirky and fascinating. Thanks for the list.
Oh, I forgot. Have you read The Dive from Claussen’s Pier? The main character’s love affair with sewing and her Bernina rings so true. It’s not the main point of the story, but it made me think how crucial being at the sewing machine is to my life.
Boy, do we share the same taste! Most of these are my favorites too and “Corrections” is still at the top of my list. I’m happy to get new suggestions from you and your readers. I enjoyed the second volume of My Struggle as much as the first. Just started the third so can’t speak to that. Loved Celeste Ng’s Everything I Never Told You, about how little we really know others, even those we are close to. And if you don’t mind very dark subject matter mixed with absolute beauty “A Little Life” by Hanya Yanagihara and “Ruby” by Cynthia Bond, couldn’t put either of them down. Thanks!
I love your list and the Henrietta Lacks book was one of my all time favorites. On that same note is Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life Of Hughette Clark. An interesting biography. I also recommend A Tale For The Time Being by Ruth Ozeki. It’s a beautiful story about a Japanese girl and her family.
I read so many great books last year, too many to mention here. But my most favorite read of the last several years was Middlesex by Jeffery Eugenides. If you’ve not read that, you must!
Folly, by Laurie R. King. After that, read her stand-alone but related book, Keeping Watch. If you like mysteries, I also highly recommend the Gamache series by Louise Penny. Be sure to read them in order, as there is a continuing story line. You might also like The Snow Child, by Eowyn Ivey.
I love your lists of books. My daughter suggested, and this summer I listened (via library OVERDRIVE audio) to Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables. I was so familiar with the musical stage production (Thanks to Andrew Lloyd Webber), but the back story you get with this massive book is something. I listen to OVERDRIVE audio while I sew, and have listened to nearly 100 this year. I love mystery, action adventure and sometimes a good old historical fiction. One that I found very interesting was The 19th Wife, by David Ebershoff; giving an interesting look at the settlement of Utah by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I have a “goodreads” list on my blog wall if you go to my actual page. I am always looking for new authors and titles. I am adding your books to my lists at the library now. I did get through a few “real paperbacks” while traveling this year too.
Hey! I listened to the Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks too, this year! It was great!
I always like seeing other people’s book recommendation lists. Thank you for yours!
Have you read or listened to anything by Mary Roach? She writes entertaining non-fiction. I really enjoy *Stiff*, but it’s about cadavers. Less gruesome is *Packing for Mars*, which is her exploration into the space programs of various nations.
To echo a previous commenter – I listened to Middlesex a few years ago, and also really enjoyed that. I like the narrator very much.
My favorite read of 2015 was probably *The Magician King*, by Lev Grossman. It’s the last in a trilogy, and I very much enjoyed the first two.
I also liked A Tale for Time Being by Ruth Ozeki after reading what others wrote. We just read Don’t let’s go to the dogs tonight by Alexander Fuller, a memoir about her family living in Rhodesia and two other memoirs of her life which are equally fastinating. I am just starting Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher by Timothy Egan which is about the life and immortal photographs of Edward Curtis. Room (about a woman kept locked in a small building who has his baby and finally gets away with the child) which I didn’t want to read but was excellent about survival.