2015 may have been the year of escapism for me in fiction. Not in the genre specifically; more in the sense that I craved books set in another time, with characters of different ages and ethnicities and life experience than myself. The memorable books had faraway settings or fantastical realities or clear journeys/goals for the protagonists.
Which is why, as I look back on the books I read, many run together in one long (vague) adventure. Admittedly, I read a LOT of fiction this year. Double the nonfiction I read. So choosing my top five favorites was REALLY hard. Plus, if I’m honest with myself, sometimes its hard to write little summaries of books I read 9 months ago [so much life has happened since then!] without giving away major plot twists. But I love a good story, so it’s worth the attempt to remember the best ones this year.
Here we go, in no particular order:
1. The Rosie Project, Graeme Simsion
The Rosie project was a breath of fresh air. It had the tale of a love story, but delivered in the most unusual of tones. I’ve had a couple friends with Asbergers, so the way Don talked/thought/operated made sense to me. And the way he tackles projects (or should I say Projects) may have driven me crazy in real life but came across positively (almost endearingly) in the story. Reading this became my happy place when life was chaotic. I can’t say much more without taking away from the fun, so go get it! Plus, it’s set in Australia, which gave me all the feels.
2. Ready Player One, Ernest Cline
This is the nerdiest book I’ve read in years, and I loved it. It’s a sci-fi lover’s dream, with references every 2 minutes to be caught if you’ve got ears to hear. It’s the story of a post-apocalyptic planet Earth, where all but the most physical human functioning happens online. People go to school there, meet people there, work there. Like any good gamer story, there’s a quest (literally, they call it a quest), and easter eggs and planets and references for every flavor of nerd there is. Plus a ton of 80’s references, some of which I got but someone a bit older than me would get more of. It’s also just a fun story! I had FUN reading it. I listened to it as an audiobook, which added something to the telling, I think, because a sarcastic Wil Wheaton read it.
3. Dodger, Terry Pratchett
This was my first Terry Pratchett book, but he’s been on my radar ever since one of my British friends couldn’t stop comparing everything he read to Pratchett during our study abroad in Sydney. When this popped up as an audiobook under my library’s “suggested for you” section, I grabbed it. I don’t know how the style compares to his other novels, but this one follows a street urchin-type through a season of his life. But the fun part is that it’s chock full of Dickens references. Main character’s name is Pip, but goes by Dodger. Charlie Dickens is a reporter who meets Dodger and the two have some altercations/adventures. Because it’s been a few months since I read it, I can’t remember all the points of connections, but if I told you it would ruin the fun! My favorite person to show up wields a shaving razor and nearly takes Dodger down for the count. Read it for yourself and see!
4. Beautiful Ruins, Jess Walter
This book’s plot felt a little random to me. In fact, I almost didn’t include it here. It has a good ending but it’s not a happy book. All the characters start out stuck in a rut, except for one Italian guy who seems slightly crazy. The book covers three countries and several generations. It goes from World War 2 to Hollywood to reality TV to Cinque Terre. The ending didn’t tie up in a neat little bow as I so often hope, but it felt like a real story, with the amount of resolution and growth you would see if you knew these people in real life.
5. The Time Traveller’s Wife, Audrey Niffenegger
I know this book came out years ago. I saw the movie in college, and remember enjoying it but not much more other than it being sad. It’s a fascinating concept. I’ve already demonstrated my inner nerd earlier in this list, so we can gloss over how much I enjoyed the time traveler aspect. I also really liked the fact that they didn’t fret too much about explaining the actual science behind it but instead chose to deal with the real ramifications of time travel. You’ve got to learn to protect yourself, find clothes, not get arrested, feed yourself. I found that aspect fascinating. The moral repercussions intrigued me, but the book didn’t do more than allude to them. It’s breathtakingly sad – one of those books that when I finished it, I carried the sadness around with me for a couple days. Niffenegger kept the tension of a great love story fated to be complex and hard and tragic still beautiful and attention-holding – and not just the “watching a car accident” kind of attention-grabbing. Plus there’s the whole question of to what degree did these two people get to independently choose each other? Because their experience of time is different, each had their initial attraction phase of the relationship during a time when the other was already in love with them. Weird. And so so good.
How most of these books were actually consumed this year.
This year, I’m hoping to keep up the pace and shoot for 70 books again. This time I’d like to read more nonfiction, and make a bigger dent in reading the books I already own. (So many! I’m currently not buying any more books until I make more progress in reading them.)
You can check out my favorite nonfiction reads this year here.
Your turn: what’s the best thing you read last year? What should I add to my list?
all images copyright Teaspoon of Nose