This year I embarked on my biggest ever reading goal: 160 books.
I made it (as of December 30th) to 173.
My major thematic goals for this year included reading some classics I somehow made it through a Georgia public school education without reading (The Color Purple, Catch-22, A Clockwork Orange, Brave New World, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, One Hundred Years of Solitude), some theology classics I somehow made it through a world-class seminary without reading (Barth’s Dogmatics in Outline, Cone’s God of the Oppressed, Gutierrez’s Theology of Liberation), and some new genres (fantasy, high fantasy, and-oddly- Scandinavian murder mysteries).
I also tried to invest in books by authors of color (Angelou, Cone, Bhutto, Marquez, Gutierrez, Morrison, Walker, Shire, Ishiguro) and books dealing with racially-charged issues (Mandela’s Long Walk to Freedom, Cone’s The Cross and the Lynching Tree, Boyle’s Tattoos on the Heart, Ward’s Men We Reaped, Alexander’s The New Jim Crow), as well as books about feminism or with a feminist bent (Truly Our Sister, Men Explain Things to Me, Why Not Me?, Lean In, Sisters in Law) and innumerable books by female authors (among others, let me life up for you Benazir Bhutto, Marilynne Robinson, Tana French, Robert Galbraith, Emily St. John Mandel, Rachel Held Evans, Lily King, Pema Chodron, and Liane Moriarty).
Despite these efforts to branch out, I still spent the bulk of my reading in familiar genres: fiction (90+), memoirs/biographies (25+), and theology (25+). I was proud to find that interspersed here and there were 8 books of poetry, 5 books that could be broadly categorized as sociology or psychology, and 3 books that were straight up history.
So, why am I writing all this down? Partly for myself, because I like to do a book round-up at the end of each year. But also partly for anyone who, like me, makes relatively outlandish reading goals every new year and/or anyone who is always looking for new books to add to their own reading list(s).
So, without further ado, here are my winners for my favorite books I read this year, broken down by category. I highly recommend any and all of these books to any and all people, except that very last category, which I filled with books so bad I nearly couldn’t finish them. Enjoy!
Best Fiction: Ernest Cline, Ready Player One
(honorable mention: Emily St. John Mandel, Station Eleven)
Best Memoir: Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me
(honorable mention: Amanda Palmer, The Art of Asking)
Best Non-Fiction: Rebecca Solnit, Men Explain Things to Me
(honorable mention: Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow)
Best YA: Laura Ruby, Bone Gap
(honorable mention: Becky Albertalli, Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda)
Best Poetry: Warsan Shire, Teaching My Mother How To Give Birth
(honorable mention: Daniel Ladinsky, Love Poems From God)
Best Theology: Robin Meyers, Spiritual Defiance
(honorable mention: James Cone, The Cross and the Lynching Tree)
Best Series: Brandon Sanderson, Mistborn trilogy
(honorable mention: Pierce Brown, Red Rising trilogy)
Best Other/Non-Categorize-able: Jenny Lawson, Furiously Happy
(honorable mention: Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic)
Biggest Pleasant Surprise: Anna North, The Life and Death of Sophie Stark
(honorable mention: Hugh Howey, Wool)
Book that Won’t Leave Me Alone: Sister Helen Prejean, Dead Man Walking
(honorable mention: Lily King, Euphoria)
Best Newly Discovered Authors:
Biggest Let-Downs (Don’t Believe the Hype! I Could Barely Finish These!):
Jennifer Niven, All the Bright Places
Aziz Ansari, Modern Romance
Marie Kondo, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up
Mary Kubica, Pretty Baby
Mary Kubica, The Good Girl
So, there you have it. For more books I read this year, including reviews and ratings, see my Goodreads page here: https://www.goodreads.com/user/year_in_books/2015 (and friend me!).
Some ways that I (and you!) might consider investing in new and diverse authors next year are….
- More LGBT authors and books on LGBT history, issues, etc.
- Ethnographies (anthropological and sociological studies into specific cultures, tribes, and peoples)
- Memoirs by people of other religions, nationalities, races, and socio-economics than you
- Books of different media, such as graphic novels and books of photography
- Books from a genre you’ve never before been interested in (ever since failing to fall in love with JRR Tolkien as a child, I’ve given fantasy a wide berth. But thanks to some cajoling from wise and funny friends, I gave it another try this year, and could not be more pleased!)
Happy reading, friends!