One cool thing that happens as you get older is that you embrace your quirks, your manic tendencies. For example, I have to unpack everything the second I get home from a trip or I imagine I’ll, I dunno, explode or choke to death on mini-toiletries. I’m okay with this. I think it’s just swell and not at all creepy or batshit insane. I also have to keep track of all the books I read each year and set little reading goals for myself. It makes me feel like I’m accomplishing something. It makes me feel nice and structured and, like, super punk rock. Like I’m in school but way better because I say what I read and my syllabus kills, you guys.
I do this post every year but usually it’s the top 10 books. This year that was going to be torture since I read 71 books (I usually read anywhere between 30 and 40) and they were all really good. Well, most were. I only felt lukewarm about a couple of them. People kept recommending really good shit and I kept inhaling really good shit. It was glorious. So, my list is 5 longer than usual but it’ll be fine, I promise. If you want even more recommendations, check out these lists from years past: 2014, 2013 and 2012.
My goal from last year was to reread Dracula by Bram Stoker and Frankenstein by Mary Shelly and to read On The Road by Jack Kerouac, The Age Of Innocence by Edith Wharton and Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier. I read and enjoyed them all, some more than others. Dracula and Frankenstein held up for me but I’ve decided not to include any rereads on the following list in the interest of culling the herd. I also reread The Stand by Stephen King, which I was thrilled to find is still perfect.
That said, here are my 15 favorites in no particular order:
- Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel: I loved this one so much I bought it for my little sis for Christmas. I’m a sucker for anything post-apocalyptic and anything about theater. This moody and layered novel has both plus it’s so strange and interesting, I dove in and read it in a day or two.
- The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman: I’d just read my first Neil Gaiman book (The Ocean at the End of the Lane) and I liked it so much that I borrowed this little gem from my friend’s 11-year-old kid. It’s the tale of a boy growing up in a graveyard. You don’t really need to know much more than that. It’s basically wonderful.
- Girl in a Band by Kim Gordon: I’m a fiction girl and I don’t normally jump to read these types of books but I read and enjoyed Patti Smith’s memoir and I’m a long-time Kim Gordon fan so I eagerly dug into this one. Guess what? It’s fucking awesome. She doesn’t hold back. When you’re reading it, you feel like you’re at a bar listening to her spill her guts over a few pints instead of reading the same thing every other fan is reading. If you like Sonic Youth or if you’re a rock fan over 30 -particularly a female over 30,- I bet you’ll like this one.
- The Goddess of Buttercups and Daisies by Martin Millar: I didn’t know there was a new Martin Millar book out when I found this in my local bookstore. The resulting squeal could be heard for miles. I read this whole thing the same afternoon lying on the couch in the front room. My husband says he could hear me giggling from the back of the house. It’s about Aristophanes participating in a playwriting competition. There are spirits and nymphs and Amazonian warriors. Look, it’s delightful. The perfect book for the theater geek in your life or shit, buy it for yourself.
- The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern: I straight up picked this book because of the cover. What’s inside is cool too. A story about a spooky circus with truly magical participants. I liked how moody and evocative it was and I think you will too.
- Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier: I put this on my goal list for 2015 because it’s one of my mom’s favorite books. I was stoked to find out why. It’s gripping and witty and it gives you that same dark lost feeling that Wuthering Heights does, only -full disclosure- I liked this book much much more. I get why this is a classic and why it’s classified as gothic romance; this book is goth as fugg, y’all.
- The Martian by Andy Weir: The main complaint I’ve heard about this book is that it’s too science-y. But I didn’t find it too science-y and I haven’t seen the film yet so it’s not too Matt Damon-y (the other complaint floating around by people who think they’re hilarious). To me, it was a fascinating and quick read about a subject I wouldn’t normally give two shits about. I mean, there’s not even any vampires or aliens. Sorry about the spoilers.
- Secondhand Souls by Christopher Moore: This one still makes me laugh when I think about it. But, it’s more than just funny. The sequel to A Dirty Job, this tale is set in -where else?- San Francisco and is about, you know, soul collectors, banshees, tiny Frankenstein’s monster-esque creatures dressed like Shakespearean players and the Golden Gate Bridge. Because DUH. It’s dark and hilarious and you’ll laugh your way through it just like I did. You might even be compelled to hug it when you’re done just like I did but back off, man, that’s my thing.
- Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff: I was a bit disappointed because I’d been reading this title as “Fates and FURRIES” because, I mean, there are feathers on the cover but this book is not about people who get off by dressing up in bear suits or whatever. However, I still liked it. There’s a reason it’s on all those ‘best of’ lists. It’s complicated and dark and it leaves you wondering if deep down you’re a monster or not. If everyone you know is a monster. It gives you two sides to the story, which is always interesting storytelling. I liked it.
- How We Are Hungry by Dave Eggers: A friend loaned me this book of short stories after I told him that I had just read (and disliked) The Circle. He was like, no no no, this is good Dave Eggers and he was so right. The stories are clever and weird as hell and a couple of them made me throw my hands in the air and wave them like I just didn’t care but I did care! My favorites were “After I Was Thrown in the River and Before I Drowned” and “Your Mother and I” but they’re all just terrific.
- All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr: I only let myself read one World War II book a year for my own sanity. I’m glad I chose this one. It’s about a blind French girl and a German boy in occupied France. It’s beautifully written and gutting in a gorgeous way. When I finished it, I legit cried for a while but man did I feel smarter for having read it.
- Ready Player One by Ernest Cline: I inhaled this and then I passed it along to Tim and he inhaled it too. I’ve heard people say there’s too much 80s nostalgia crammed into its pages but that didn’t bother me at all. I found it to be a charming super entertaining -I’m just gonna say it- ROMP. It’s a fun page-turning romp. A great way to spend a day or weekend.
- Wild by Cheryl Strayed: Ugh. This book. I just wanted to know what everyone was on about so I read it with every intention of eye-rolling but the eye roll never came. I thought it was brave (I know, sorry) and gripping and just ‘guts hanging out’ honest. I related to so many things in the book and I found it to be so ‘I am woman hear me roar’ empowering that I bought it for all my girlfriends for Christmas. Hey, whatev, sue me.
- The Magicians Series by Lev Grossman: Okay, I know, this is three books SUE ME AGAIN. This series was pretty much built for me to love it and love it I did. I’ve recommended it to anyone who’s talked to me at a party since I finished it. It’s basically adult Harry Potter meets emo The Chronicles of Narnia. On acid. So so good, you guys. I mean, weeeeee! For real.
- Wool Omnibus by Hugh Howey: I read about this book somewhere and then I forgot about it. When I finally remembered, I bought it for my husband but he was having so much fun reading it that I got super jealous and started it myself. I’m now on the second book in the series (Shift) and I’m obsessed. The book is set in an underground silo because the world is uninhabitable. And it just gets more and more interesting from there. That’s all I’m saying. Please check this book out. You won’t be sorry.
And that’s it. That’s the list! 2015 was a great year with great reads and I hope 2016 is too. This year my reading goals are: reread the Harry Potter series (got it for Christmas omg), Catch-22 by Joseph Heller, Calico Palace by Gwen Bistrow (Because that’s where my name comes from. I’m named after the heroine, Kendra, not Calico or Palace LOL.) and all the Ernest Hemingway short stories, even the ones I’ve read before. Hold me to them, guys.
Hope your 2016 is full of good books! Cheers and happy reading!