2015 Book List

List of my reads this past year! Would recommend the titles in bold. Feel free to leave book suggestions below.

  • (F) Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman, 5 stars
  • (F) American Gods by Neil Gaiman, 3 stars
  • (F/NF) This Blinding Absence of Light by Tahar Ben Jelloun, 3-4 stars depending on the day
    • Chilling story of the concentration camp Tazmamart in Morocco and the survival of a fictional (based on real?) character who survived 18.5 years of horror.
  • (F) The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert, 1 star
    • Found the protagonist annoying, the side characters flat, and the plot slow.
  • (NF) Reinventing American Health Care by Ezekiel Emanuel, 3 stars
    • Good, but also biased, primer on the ACA
  • (F) The Chronicles of Narnia (Books 1-7) by C.S. Lewis, 4 stars
  • (F) Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card, 5 stars
    • Hard to believe I didn’t read this Scifi book as a kid. Great science fiction that introduces a plethora of ideas  on human psychology, morals, and technology that I might have missed if I read it as a child
  • (F) Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, 4.5 stars
    • Novel on a woman’s journey through understanding identity and race. I felt like there were also some unfinished threads in the story. Overall a wonderful read that really sucks you into Ifemelu’s life. I think I really appreciated this book because Chimamanda points out some really American qualities. Even though her descriptions were sometimes critical of American mannerisms (“And they overused the word “excited,” a professor excited about a new book, a student excited about a class, a politician on TV excited about a law; it was altogether too much excitement.” (165)), it reminded me of things that I actually really like and miss about American society. Saying we’re always excited about things and being extremely optimistic are things that I didn’t really notice until living abroad.
  • (NF) The Bookseller of Kabul by Åsne Seierstad, 3 stars
    • Annoyed and upset by how Afghan culture views women. Women don’t have rights. Also makes me annoyed by organized religion and people who blindly follow religion because the Bible/Koran/Torah/etc. “says so.” People who don’t think for themselves and follow rules just because they fear punishment from some higher power that may or may not be are a danger to society because these people can easily be manipulated
  • (NF) The Zen and Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig, 4 stars
    • I didn’t realize this was non-fiction until I read the Afterword. I think knowing that it’s non-fiction would greatly change the way I perceived the book. Pirsig’s theories and philosophies remain ever-relevant to our 21st century world.
  • (F) Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan, 2 stars
  • (F) Honeydew by Edith Pearlman, 3 stars
    • Found collection of short stories so-so. Didn’t particularly strike a chord.
  • (F) The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon, 2 stars
  • (NF) Dead Wake by Erik Larson, 5 stars
    • Superb read on the Lusitania, another Erik Larson classic
  • (NF) The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo, 2 stars
    • Some basic ideas in terms of tidying up (throw out stuff before organizing, do it all in one go), but author has a kind of weird approach to inanimate objects. Was hard for me to take the author seriously at times…
  • (F) The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri, 3 stars
    • Like many of Jhumpa Lahiri’s other works. Not as strong as her first set of short stories, The Interpreter of Maladies. Nevertheless I really enjoyed her depictions of Gogol’s experience as a first generation American. I think my experience as a first gen. American could easily have resembled much of Gogol’s childhood if it weren’t for my extremely independent/do-things-her-own-way/jump head-first mother.
  • (NF) Idea Man by Paul Allen, 3.5 stars
    • Paul Allen’s memoir started out as “ehh” for me. The beginning came off a bit like a bitchy high school girl’s attempt at painting her super popular best friend (aka Bill Gates) in a bad light. But that just may be me. I really enjoyed the book once he finished talking about the Microsoft part of his journey. He’s lead a really interesting life and it was neat learning about his various business ventures and philanthropic causes. Would definitely have bumped the book up to 4 stars if it wasn’t for his “[Bill Gates] did this wrong and he is hard to work with and I had all the great ideas” section in the beginning.
  • (NF) On the Move: A Life by Oliver Sacks, 4 stars
  • (NF) One of Us by Åsne Seierstad, 5 stars
    • Åsne Seierstad’s piece on the massacre in Norway was heartbreaking. I constantly shivered while reading this book, especially when she wrote on the lives of two of the victims, Simon Sæbø and Bano Rashid. I picked this book up because I wanted to understand why and how someone could have so much hate–how someone can kill. I felt intense anger at the killer and grief for the victims, survivors, and families. Tissues are an absolute must. If you do not enjoy being around other people when crying, read it in a private place. What is difficult for me to comprehend is how I can put down the book and continue with my life while so many families must deal with the repercussions of one evil man’s actions day in and day out.
  • (NF) An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth by Col. Chris Hadfield, 4 stars
    • A lot of neat insights into the ISS and life on space
  • (NF) tiny beautiful things by Cheryl Strayed, 3.5 stars
    • An advice column turned book with beautiful reflections on relationships. Humans are messy beings. Enjoyed reading Strayed’s advice for these people’s problems as it brought up many situations that would have left me paralyzed
  • (NF) Wild by Cheryl Strayed, 4 stars
    • Strayed’s descriptions of her challenges on the Pacific Crest Trail were hilarious. Strayed depicts a lovely coming of age story, illustrating many challenges I have been lucky to not have had to face.
  • (F) All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, 4 stars
    • While I was sucked into Marie-Laure’s story as a blind girl and Werner’s childhood in Nazi Germany, I found some of Doerr’s character descriptions patently unbelievable. For example, Werner’s sister Jutta, at the age of 12, criticizes her brother on following the crowd and criticizes Germany’s actions abroad. The way Doerr portrayed it seemed too simple (hindsight 20/20, but right in the thick of it? I think not) and highly unlikely. (I guess I’m also hesitant to give this book 5 stars because this story’s characters cannot compare to Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief, which I hold as the gold standard for all WWII related fiction.)
  • (F) A Sudden Light by Garth Stein, 2 stars
    • Did not like the characters nor plot
  • (NF) The Reef: A Passionate History: The Great Barrier Reef from Captain Cook to Climate Change by Iain McCalman, 3.5 stars
    • Provides a history about the discovery of the GBR, how white imperialists saw and portrayed the aborigines, and how climate change threatens to destroy the entire reef ecosystem. Only 3.5 stars because it is a little dry at points
  • (NF) Lost Kingdom: Hawaii’s Last Queen, the Sugar Kings, and America’s First Imperial Adventure by Julia Flynn Siler, 4.5 stars
    • Tells Hawaii’s history and how America annexed the Hawaiian Islands. It’s a wonderfully written book and I felt all sorts of emotions (sadness, anger/rage, wonder) while reading about the overthrow of Lili’u. Mostly rage toward the white men/superiority complex and “Manifest Destiny” for stealing from the native Hawaiian people. And anger toward missionaries who “came to the islands to do good, and they did right well.” In fact, I’m extremely skeptical of evangelical/missionary christians who march into countries to “do good” and end up wreaking havoc and taking what’s NOT theirs. Another lesson: don’t be in debt to another person/corporation. No debt and you own your decisions and destiny.
  • (F) The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton, 2 stars
    • Picked the book up because it’s set in Amsterdam and I love Amsterdam. Was really disappointed: story line was so-so, didn’t find the characters convincing, and minimal descriptions of Amsterdam itself.
  • (F) Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman, 5 stars
    • This is a Gaiman classic. An adventure story complete with beautiful characters, a plot with twists and turns, and plenty of phantasmagoric descriptions/insights on our normal world. The story is splendid from start to finish. (It seems like a lot of fiction that I’ve read recently really lacks a quality, substantial ending.)
  • (NF) The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz, 3 stars
    • Not planning on starting a company any time soon, but read it anyway. Disliked his style of writing, but he made some interesting points
  • (F) Anasi Boys by Neil Gaiman, 3 stars
    • I hesitate to give this novel 3 stars..I thought the beginning was slow, but it picked up near the end. Loved the two protagonists, but the antagonist was so detestable that it pained me to read about him.
  • (F) The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood, 2 stars
    • Standard Atwood dystopian society type book, but didn’t enjoy it as much as her others
  • (F) Where’d You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple, 1 star
    • Filled primarily with banal gossip amongst yuppie moms. Didn’t like the writing style: I don’t think (hope) anyone actually writes emails like those in the book.
  • (F) The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey, 2 stars
  • (NF) Gut by Giulia Enders, 4 stars
    • Informative and easily digestible read about our digestive system!
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