Thursday, December 31, 2015

Books Read in 2015

Every year I attempt to track the books I read, and in recent years, I've tried all sorts of different ways to keep the list. Most recently I've been using Goodreads, which I find fun and useful. A tool is only as good as the time you put into it, however, and I confess I sometimes slipped up and still forgot to note what I read. I also don't use Goodreads to track our family read-alouds, which I continue to keep in a side bar here on the blog.

One thing I like about Goodreads is that they send you a little year-end "your year in books" note, in which they provide some enjoyable stats. This year they told me that the shortest book I read all year was Mary Oliver's Why I Wake Early. They also let me know that among all my books, it was the highest rated one on their site, which just goes to show you that you don't need a lot of words to make a big impact -- especially when you're an amazing poet like Mary Oliver.

The longest book I read this year was (no surprise): David McCullough's Truman. I finished that early in 2015, but the satisfaction of reading such a well-researched and beautiful biographical tome has stayed with me. I am grateful for the way in which McCullough captured Truman's time and presidency, giving me a sense of almost having "been there." And Truman will forever after be on my list of most respected presidents.

Other fun stats from Goodreads are the "most popular" and "least popular" stats. I find these interesting to ponder. What these stats reflect is how many other readers who use Goodreads happened to have read a book I also read, so it's not precisely an accurate reflection of a book's popularity (or worth). Still, it came as little surprise again that over half a million (!) readers joined me in reading Andy Weir's novel The Martian, while only 55 other Goodreaders joined me in reading the profound essays in James K.A. Smith's Discipleship in the Present Tense. I enjoyed both in very different ways, but it probably doesn't take much of a leap to tell you which book influenced me the most and will stay with me longest. Thank you, Jamie Smith.

2015 was also the year I finished P.D. James' Adam Dalgliesh series, just a few months after James passed away. It was the year I finally read and loved Richard Adams' classic Watership Down (a book we read as a family) and made the delightfully funny acquaintance of P.D. Wodehouse's Jeeves and Wooster. I also continued my foray into Arthur Conan Doyle by reading his Sherlock Holmes novel The Sign of Four. 

Later summer found me immersed in the world of Harper Lee, first as I tiptoed somewhat gingerly through the novel draft Go Set a Watchman and then as I enjoyed Charles J. Shields' loving biography of Lee, Mockingbird.

Besides P.D. James, I enjoyed some of the cozy mysteries of Patricia Wentworth and also returned to J.K. Rowling/Robert Galbraith's mystery world with The Silkworm. I also started Alan Bradley's novels starring the young girl detective Flavia de Luce

Some of my favorite spiritual formation type reading this year, beyond Smith's book already mentioned, came in Timothy Keller's book The Prodigal God, and a re-read of Henri Nouwen's beautiful book The Return of the Prodigal Son.

I didn't read enough children's fiction this year, but several of the books I read in that genre were memorable: Jeanne Birdsall's The Penderwicks in Spring, Linda Mullaly Hunt's One for the Murphys and her Fish in a Tree, and Kwame Alexander's Newbery award winning novel in verse, The Crossover.  Many of the books I read in this genre were recommendations from my sweet Jedi Teen (or else I happened to pick them up while she was reading them). I read several other good mid-grade books that somehow didn't make the official reading list.

A book that colored our family's dinner-time (and other time) conversations for quite a while was Tom Standage's The Neptune File. It made me realize that we need to read more science books written at an engaging, popular level. Similar to that are history books written in an engaging, lively fashion, such as Nathan Philbrick's The Mayflower and the Pilgrims' New World, which I also enjoyed this year.

While this isn't quite a full list of my reading -- it leaves out many family read-alouds, Bible reading, more devotional reading, favorite re-reads, a couple of pop culture reads, cookbooks, and plenty of books I read "at" but didn't read in their entirety -- it does a pretty good job of capturing at least a snapshot of my reading year.

I look forward to the new (and old) books I will meet in 2016!

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