A couple of months of unexpected long-distance commuting meant that I ended up reading 88 books in 2015 rather than the 60 that I’d originally planned.
Not all of them were good. I had 8 books that I either didn’t finish or wished I hadn’t wasted my time on.
This is a much higher number that I want to see next year.
I was fortunate enough to read 6 truly memorable novels this year.
“Station Eleven” and “The Girl With All The Gifts” often seem to find themselves classified as “post-apocalyptic dystopia” novels but both of them are much more than that.
“Station Eleven” is a beautifully told story about how the need for art that speaks to our imagination and our emotions is strongest when we are dealing with personal or global adversity.
“The Girl With All The Gifts” is a fresh, surprising and skillfully told take on a well-worn theme, that moved beyond scenario and plot to become a character-driven view on what makes us human and how the stories we tell each other change the world.
“Life After Life” defies classification other than to see that it is originally, emotionally intense, hard to put down and impossible to forget. As we experience, time and again something that was not quite the same life, the intensity of the experience grew and it became clearer and clearer that there is no right answer to a life. It is what it is and we must do what we can to make the best of it.
“Norwegian By Night”, “The Readers Of Broken Wheel Recommend” and, “My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She’s Sorry” are all Scandinavian books, translated into English, which still outperform the native-English novels I’ve been reading.
“Norwegian By Night” handles big themes in a form that is somewhere between noir-thriller and a sort of “Catch 22” book of remembrance. It looks at what war does to those who survive it, at the way in which memory and identity twists around one another and the importance of doing what needs to done to protect those we love.
“The Readers Of Broken Wheel Recommend” is a charming book about how reading creates community and how communities create readers. It’s a love story that is as much about the love of reading as it is about the love people have for each other.
“My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She’s Sorry” tells the story of an almost eight-year-old girl confronting grief and loss while pursuing a quest set by her grandmother. It is a unique novel that spoke directly to my emotions while still giving the rest of me plenty to work with. A truly wonderful book from an author I will read more of.
My year was dominated by reading novels that are part of series. The two that stand out are the Kate Shugak novels by Dana Stabenow, and the new Bo Blackman series by Helen Harper.
Over the course of twenty novels, Dana Stabenow completely engaged me with the life of Kate Shugak: as a person who solves mysteries and dispenses her own form of justice, as someone who shapes the life of her Tribe and the way life is lived in the Park and someone who is passionate, loyal, brave. It was a great ride while it lasted and along the way, I got a virtual tour or Alaska that felt real and exciting.
Helen Harper’s series about the Bo Blackman’s journey from rookie investigator to iconic but reluctant vampire to dangerous rebel grabbed me by the throat this year and wouldn’t let go. I loved her alternative Britain and admired the way Bo changed from book to book, becoming gradually but inexorably more monstrous. I look forward to more in 2016.