Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The Big Book Post

It's the most wonderful time of the year: time to reflect on the books I've read in 2015! I always end the year with a Big Book Post (see previous Big Book Posts).

I finished my reading challenge, completing my sixteenth of sixteen books yesterday, and just in the nick of time.

Books read, in order
Dec-Jan: The Mathematician's Shiva, by Stuart Rojstaczer
Jan: Yes, Please, by Amy Poehler
Feb: Ender's Game, by Orson Scott Card
Feb: The Year of the Flood, by Margaret Atwood
Mar: Good Omens, by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett
2013-Apr: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality (HPMOR), by Eliezer Yudkowsky
Apr: Gulp, by Mary Roach
Apr: Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn
May: Rats, by Robert Sullivan
Jun: The Poisonwood Bible, by Barbara Kingsolver
Jul-Aug: Neverwhere, by Neil Gaiman
Sep: Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline
Oct: The Namesake, by Jhumpa Lahiri
Nov: Welcome to Night Vale, by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor
Dec: Paper Towns, by John Green
Dec: The Sirens of Titan, by Kurt Vonnegut

The best and the worst
I read a bunch of books I really loved this year, but it's not hard to choose a favorite. Poisonwood stands out above the rest. It was a fascinating story and well-told. A close second was HPMOR, which I've been reading since 2013 but the final 21 chapters were only published this year, so I'm counting it as a 2015 book. It's brilliant what Yudkowsky's done with the Harry Potter story, and if you can bear the length (over 2,000 pages) and the stigma of fan fiction, I highly recommend it.

It pains me to say it, but Rats was the book I liked the least this year. The topic was interesting, but the writing wasn't really flowing smoothly into my brain. Interestingly, Poisonwood and Rats were loaned to me by the same friend.

By the authors
I read ten books by men and six by women.
I read three Brits (Lahiri, Gaiman, and Pratchett) and one Canadian (Atwood). Everyone else was born in the USA.
The oldest (and deadest) author I read was Vonnegut (b. 1922), followed by Atwood (b. 1939, and very much alive), and then Pratchett (b. 1948) who died WHILE I was reading Good Omens. Sorry guys. All other authors are younger, and living. I couldn't find ages for the authors of Welcome to Night Vale, which I suppose is appropriate, since time is weird there. I am assuming they are the youngest of the authors I read this year.
This was my fourth time reading Atwood, my third and fourth times reading Gaiman, and my fifth time reading Roach. The rest were new to me.

By genre
1 memoir
2 non-fiction (biology and nature)
13 fiction
 - 3 YA
 - 4 Sci-fi
 - 4 Fantasy

Ender's Game is the first in a series I will probably not continue.
The Year of the Flood is the second in a trilogy I probably will finish.

By publication date
The oldest book I read was Sirens of Titan, published in 1959. Everything else was published in the 90s or later, including two books published this year: Welcome to Night Vale and HPMOR (sort of).

By setting
Settings include New York, Newport (RI), Boston, Columbus, Chicago, Orlando, Oklahoma, Missouri, Wisconsin, Georgia, Night Vale (California?), Atwood's vague concept of the future North America, London and the English countryside, Yudowsky's alternate Hogwarts, the Belgian Congo, USSR, Calcutta, Mars, Mercury, Titan (moon of Saturn), elsewhere in space, and the human digestive tract. Specific time settings range from WWII to 2044, but Ender's Game certainly goes beyond that (if it takes place in our reality), and as was previously mentioned, time is meaningless in Night Vale (and out of it).

I watched the movie of Gone Girl. I started watching the movie of Ender's Game but didn't finish it, and I have yet to see The Namesake movie. I'm very much looking forward to the movie of Ready Player One and the HBO miniseries being made of Atwood's MaddAddam series (of which Flood is a part).

Book clubs
I didn't read any of these as part of a book club, but I was inspired to read The Namesake because my college fraternity chapter selected it for their book club. I tried to read along with them and participate, but I ended up zipping through it. Plus, I'm sure I read Welcome to Night Vale at the same time as many (tens of? hundreds of?) thousands of fellow fans worldwide.

Reading in interesting places
I read Ender's Game on a cruise ship.
I saw many subway rats while reading Rats (although the book focuses on rats in alleys).
I read The Sirens of Titan on Titan.

Where I got them
Borrowed: Yes Please and Paper Towns (Sara), Neverwhere (Scott), Ender's Game (dyAnne), Gone Girl (Talia), Rats and Poisonwood Bible (Charlene), Ready Player One (Matthew)
Gifts: Mathematician's Shiva (Bethany), Sirens of Titan (Sara)
Bought: Flood (The Word in Greenpoint), Good Omens (The Word in Jersey City), Gulp (Strand), Night Vale (Amazon)
Read online for free: HPMOR
Just had it: Namesake

Looking ahead

  • My first priority for 2016 is to tackle the pile of books I got for the holidays, which will achieve several goals: reading books within a year of being given them, feeding my Sarah Vowell obsession (Lafayette in the Somewhat United States), and reading more non-fiction (the stack is almost entirely non-fiction).
  • Reading the books Lindsay got me for my birthday will intersect with the gift goal, the non-fiction goal (David Byrne's How Music Works) and the Neil Gaiman obsession (Trigger Warning).
  • I would like to complete the MaddAddam trilogy by reading Margaret Atwood's MaddAddam.
  • I've recently discovered Vonnegut and I've taken a year off from Murakami which is too long.
  • I have a shopping bag full of books from the shelves of a friend who was purging before a move, and I plan to delve into it starting with Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City series.
  • The first two bullets in this list contain plenty of non-fiction to choose from, but in case I need more, I'd like to prioritize Guns, Germs, and Steel and A People's History of the United States.
Happy new reading year!

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