I used to love to read. I was one of those kids who stayed up late, hidden under the covers with a flashlight in hand, reading until I couldn't keep my eyes open anymore.
A few of my fellow bloggers (lookin' at you, Nora & Stephany) read, like, 75 books a year. I am not that kind of reader, not anymore, because, as much as it embarrasses me to admit it, I am so tethered to social media that I often choose it over book-reading without even really meaning to. I just get sucked in, you know?
But this bothers me, so at the start of 2015, I committed to reading a memoir a month. I know that's, like, nothing by most standards, but for someone who was reading approximately no books a month, it was a start. I opted for memoirs because I love them & would like to write one, but eventually, I transitioned to other books, too, especially my other favorite genre: YA novels.
In all, I read 23 books this year, & I expect to finish another two by the end of 2015 because I'll have some free time on my hands. I'm proud of myself & hope to do even better in the year to come. For now, though, here's a quick look, in no particular order, of the best books I finished this year:
Redefining Realness by Janet MockHands down the best book I read all year. Mock's memoir tells the story of her childhood in Honolulu, son of a broken family who grew up to be a beautiful, strong woman - a journalist, an activist, an overall role model. She is a powerful writer & a fascinating person, & I might've fan-girled out when she responded to me on Twitter
Not That Kind of Girl by Lena DunhamI know Dunham is a controversial character. Folks either love her or hate her, & I, for one, fall into the former camp. Reading her first memoir - an amalgamation of personal essays about family, love, fame, & feminism - made me feel like I could write a book, too, in part because her voice just feels so familiar & cozy to me, like it's coming from myself. I eagerly await her next go-round at publishing.
Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica KnollI loved, loved, loved this book, which I have described as "the book version of a soap opera." Is it particularly believable? No. Will it keep you guessing? Absolutely. I've been thinking about it ever since I finished it. Where can I find another book like this? Please tell me.
Orange is the New Black by Piper KermanAfter falling in love with the show, I was curious to read the real Piper's stories, & this book didn't disappoint. I'm not sure I would've liked it as much had I not already been a fan of the TV version, but I found this to be a really interesting & well-written take on a life far removed from mine (though I disliked the real-life Piper even more than the Netflix version).
The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne CollinsI reread this whole series before the final film came out, just because my memory is crap & I enjoyed the books the first time around & wanted a reminder of what to expect of the last movie. I had almost forgotten how much I loved the books, actually, & reading them a second time gave me deeper insight & a more nuanced look at the world of Panem.
Beyond Belief by Jenna Miscavige HillI've always been fascinated by Scientology, in a sort of "Isn't this so quirky & bizarre?!" kind of way - until I read this book. Miscavige Hill is the niece of the head of Scientology, the controversial & secretive David Miscavige. Reading the true stories & perspectives of someone who grew up in this cult-like church was, frankly, horrifying.
Saving Ruth by Zoe FishmanThis is a YA novel about a Jewish girl living in the Deep South, home from college after her freshman year & suffering from anorexia while trying to keep it a secret. When a young black girl nearly drowns on her watch at the local pool, it sets into motion an unavoidable series of conversations & events about race, family, & survival.
Ghost Boy by Martin PistoriusI first heard of this fascinating & terrifying story on the podcast Invisibilia. After suffering a childhood illness, Pistorius went into a coma, & though he eventually emerged from it, he was presumed to be brain-dead - when, in fact, he was fully conscious & just trapped inside his body for more than a decade.
The Girl on the Train by Paula HawkinsI heard mixed reviews of this book, but I liked it - didn't love it, but certainly found it to be compelling & unique. I wouldn't go so far as to make all the Gone Girl comparisons it's been getting, but it's a strange & suspenseful page-turner, to be sure.
Paper Towns by John GreenI read this book because I wanted to watch the movie; I'd never read a John Green book before. Though I enjoyed this one, I found it to be a tad bit too contrived, such that I was rolling my eyes a lot. Still, though I haven't seen the movie yet, the book was worth reading.
Nevada by Imogen BinnieI read this one after a glowing recommendation from my friend Robyn, who swore up & down that it was the best thing ever. It's about a transgender girl from NYC who basically walks away from her life & ends up out west, trying to mentor a guy she believes to be trans. My friend was right: It was a great read, despite the high emo factor.
Hope: A Memoir of Survival in Cleveland by Amanda Berry & Gina DeJesusI am perhaps weirdly obsessed with the Cleveland kidnappings, not least of all because I now live about a mile from where they took place. This memoir was a fascinating, horrifying insight into the lives of two of the three kidnapped girls & the monster who took them.
Signs of Life by Natalie TaylorThis is the memoir of a twentysomething woman who is suddenly widowed while pregnant with her first child, written from journals she kept during that terrible time. The reviews on Goodreads are terrible, calling her self-centered & worse, but I wholly disagree. I thought it was a powerful & honest look at a life nobody ever imagines themselves living, & Taylor handled it with grace.
I Am Malala by Malala YousafzaiIf I'm being honest, this book took me a long time to finish. I'm not much for international politics, & this was a pretty heavy read - to be expected of a girl who was shot in the head by the Taliban for supporting education for girls. I'm glad I got through it, though, as I think hers is an important story with an even more important mission, & I'll be paying closer attention to her from now on.
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse AndrewsI thought this book was going to be way more depressing than it is. Just read the title! But the author is a compelling storyteller who writes in an impressively authentic-feeling teenage voice, reminding you what it was like to be young.
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