A couple of years ago I made a pledge to myself that I would start reading more. It wasn’t a New Year’s resolution, but more of a personal challenge to regain a love for a hobby that I used to engage in regularly as a child and a teenager.
There’s so much to learn about the world, and I want to make sure I continue to keep myself intellectually stimulated. And since I’m no longer in school, reading is one of the best ways to accomplish that.
But the key is that I wanted to want to read. I didn’t want to force it.
Over time, I found myself reading more and more. From devoting 20 minutes a day, I was soon spending an hour immersed in a book. Most of this year, I carried my Kindle around with me everywhere and would even spend my spare minutes reading.
And though I’m not one to set a book challenge in a calendar year, I recently counted the books I read in 2015, and was proud to realize that I completed a nice, round 20.
So I’d like to take a post to just recap my year in literature, mainly for my own personal documentation, but also maybe to offer people some quality recommendations. I also think you’ll find that my book checklist comprised a healthy variety of genres.
Books are listed in order they were read.
- Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic and Madness at the Fair that Changed America by Erik Larson. A compelling non-fiction that tells the dual narrative of the formation of the inaugural World’s Fair in Chicago in 1893, coinciding with the misadventures of serial killer H.H. Holmes, who preyed on young woman within the city. It’s being made into a movie, rumored to be yet another Martin Scorsese/Leonardo DiCaprio collaboration.
- Abhorsen by Garth Nix. The final book in a popular fantasy trilogy –I read the first two in 2014 — that takes place in alternative magical universe that’s divided by two kingdoms.
- All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. Beautifully written, Pulitzer Prize coming-of-age historical fiction of a German Boy and a blind French girl whose lives eventually intersect in World War II Europe.
- Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline. Interweaving narrative about a rebellious teenage orphan who befriends a nonagenarian woman who once was part of the Orphan Train movement in the early 1900s, a program in which abandoned or homeless children traveled by train from city to city seeking adoption.
- The Cold War: A New History by John Lewis Gaddis. A condensed, accessible overview for young people of the five decade-long conflict that shaped the geopolitical landscape we live in today.
- All of the Shah’s Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror by Stephen Kinzer. A detailed account of America’s involvement in a history-changing coup in Iran in 1953 that removed an emerging Democratic government and replaced it with a oppressive king.
- The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah: World War II fiction about a French girl who risks everything by joining a secretive, underground network in German-occupied France to escort downed Allied pilots back into combat.
- The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins. A thriller surrounding an alcoholic, recently divorced woman whose drunken stupor prevents her from remembering what happened during a fateful train ride that may or may have not involved a murder. Is being made into a movie in 2016 starring Emily Blunt.
- Paper Towns by John Green. A teenage coming-of-age romance about a boy — and his friends — who sets out on an adventure to find the love of his life, Margo Roth Spiegelman, his next-door neighbor who’s recently gone missing.
- The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker. A historical fantasy fiction of a golem and a ginni who take residence among humans in 19th century New York City.
- The Lemon Tree: An Arab, a Jew, and the Heart of the Middle East by Sandy Tolan. A beautifully written non-fiction centered around two families, one of them Jewish immigrants and the other Palestinian, that illustrates the basis of the whole Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
- No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the U.S. Surveillance State by Glenn Greenwald. The book by the man who Edward Snowden confided in after he leaked top secret NSA documents to the press in order to expose the agency’s intrusive spying on American citizens.
- On the Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta. A young adult novel about an Australian girl at a private school who, by learning about five children from her town who were linked by tragedy 18 years ago, discovers secrets about her own life.
- The Martian by Andy Weir. A science-fiction of an astronaut who, after being thought for dead, is abandoned on Mars, and his miraculous struggle to survive while NASA tries to rescue him. Was made into a movie in 2015 starring Matt Damon.
- The Rosie Project by Grame Simsion. A hilarious and charming fiction based in Australia about a very intelligent but neurotic man who sets out on a project to find the ideal wife. But he gets side-tracked along the way when he meets the beautiful Rosie. It is also being adapted into a movie.
- Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. An epic science fiction in which the world is now lived through a virtual online universe, called OASIS. After its founder dies, his will sets off a monumental quest to locate secret keys within OASIS in order to inherit his fortune. Steven Spielberg is helming the film adaptation.
- The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown. A nonfiction about a group of boys who row crew at Washington University, and come to represent the U.S. in the 1936 Olympics. It encompasses the themes of personal drive and overcoming obstacles as well as any sports story ever told, and, wait for it, is also being made into a movie.
- Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. A post-apocalyptic tale that intersects the lives of several characters both before and after a plague that wiped out the majority of the world’s population.
- Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer. A first-person account of the 1996 Mount Everest Disaster that resulted in the death of eight climbers. Was one inspiration for the 2015 film, Everest.
- Lindbergh by A. Scott Berg. A mammoth biography about aviation hero Charles Lindbergh, who is far and away one of the most interesting Americans to ever live.
And there we go. Happy reading in 2016, my fellow bookworms.