2015 was the year I stopped slacking off and started multitasking in earnest. There’s just too much good TV, film, literature, and podcast media out there. I used to have down time while (for example) walking from the train to the office, but this year I realized that life is too short not to listen to podcasts while (for example) walking from the train to the office. Result: my Gimlet media consumption is up 1000% percent, though I still don’t understand the draw of Serial.
But that is for another day. The day I write about my best podcasts of 2015. Stay tuned.
I feel like I read less than I should have this year. (Probably because I was spending so much time listening to podcasts.) I didn’t start tracking myself on Goodreads until the middle of the year, but my cuff records indicate I read between 140 and 150 books this year. Frankly, that is not enough. THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH.
I’d like to do something a little different with my Best Books this year. Rather than focusing on flash-in-the-pan Best Books—for which my love burned hot but short—let me talk about some books that will stick with me. Spoiler alert: None of them are Go Set a Watchman or Grey. Because…yikes.
2nd Runner Up: The Beautiful Bureaucrat by Helen Phillips.
Part allegory, part commentary, part dystopia. Short enough to read in a longish single sitting. Reviews compare it to Murakami and Atwood. I’d throw in Orwell, too. Granted: this is right in my female-bureaucrat-who-loves-dystopian-fiction sweetspot, but still.
1st Runner Up: Miss Colombia*
Winner: The Last Hundred Years trilogy by Jane Smiley
Look. It’s my list, and I’ll name a trilogy as top book if I want to. It’s called the Tolkien defense. Look it up.** The Last Hundred Years trilogy
of consists of Some Luck, Early Warning, and Golden Age. Each chapter in these books covers a year in the life
of the Langdon family. Book 1, Some Luck,
starts in 1920. Book 3, Golden Age,
ends in 2019. We follow one Iowa farm family through the generations, and the
great events of history—wars, economic boom and bust, Jonestown, 9/11—are filtered
through their experiences. Not every character gets fully-formed, but I’d say
there are 15 or so “main” characters covering 4 generations by the end of the
trilogy. And the thing is, 100 chapters (100 years) is plenty of time to get to
know these people. Since the whole trilogy is rooted in history (except the
prospective 2016-2019 chapters, of course), you know what’s around the corner
and get to anticipate how the various characters will be affected by it. Dramatic
As with any recommendation, your mileage will vary. These are simply some of my takeaways from a very good year of very good books. (But do remember that one of my recommendations from last year was turned into a movie that basically the entire universe loved.)
* This reference won’t make sense for much longer, so please allow it.
** Don’t look it up. I haven’t looked it up, so it’s probably some weird sex act on Urban Dictionary.