Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The Year I Started Reading: My 15 Favorite Books of 2015


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:
  1. Redefining Realness by Janet Mock

    Hands 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
     
  2. Not That Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham

    I 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.
     
  3. Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll

    I 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.
     
  4. Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman

    After 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).
     
  5. The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins

    I 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.
     
  6. Beyond Belief by Jenna Miscavige Hill

    I'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.
     
  7. Saving Ruth by Zoe Fishman

    This 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.
     
  8. Ghost Boy by Martin Pistorius

    I 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.
     
  9. The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

    I 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.
     
  10. Paper Towns by John Green

    I 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.
     
  11. Nevada by Imogen Binnie

    I 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.
     
  12. Hope: A Memoir of Survival in Cleveland by Amanda Berry & Gina DeJesus

    I 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.
     
  13. Signs of Life by Natalie Taylor

    This 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.
     
  14. I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai

    If 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.
     
  15. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews

    I 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.
So tell me: What are you reading? What should I add to my list in 2016? And are we connected on Goodreads?

Please note that my book review posts include Amazon affiliate links to the titles I discuss. If you buy a book using one of these links, I will receive a small percentage of commission. Please don't feel any obligation to use these links, but please also don't judge me too harshly for including them. 
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