Best Books of 2015 (Me Edition)

In 2015, I set out to read 100 books, and I read 173. You can see the whole list at Goodreads, which I like not for the community so much as the fact that when I’ve used a Word document in past years, I never actually kept track of what I was reading.

My Favorites (not in order, and most likely incomplete):
1.) Teaching a Stone to Talk: Expeditions and Encounters by Annie Dillard–Annie Dillard is ever amazing, so in 2015 I re-read Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, and then I read Teaching a Stone and Holy the Firm for the first time. All three of them could be on this list.
2.) The Sandman, Volume 10: The Wake by Neil Gaiman–Over the course of 2014 and into 2015, I bought one volume each month of The Sandman in those great remastered editions that are out. I finished the year with the first pre-order I’ve ever made, Sandman Overture. I couldn’t tell you which of the volumes are the best, so I picked this one, because it was the first goodbye.
3.) The Graveyard Book (Graphic Novel edition) by Neil Gaiman and P. Craig Russell–I have a copy of the original novel, but I haven’t yet read it. I checked out these (volumes 1 and 2) from the local library, and they are just fantastic.
4.) The Summer of the Great-Grandmother (Crosswicks Journals, Volume 2) by Madeleine L’Engle–I read the Wrinkle in Time books as a kid, as well as a couple of her Austin family books, but only when I reread the first three Wrinkles in my late 20s did I really appreciate them. Her non-fiction is great too, and this one is about grief. Shelve it next to C.S. Lewis’ A Grief Observed; Henri Nouwen’s The Inner Voice of Love; and Nicholas Wolterstorff’s Lament for A Son.
5.) Boxers & Saints by Gene Luen Yang–Yet another two-volume, actually Boxers and Saints, which together give an intertwining fictional first-hand perspective of the Boxer Rebellion in 1900 China. It is so well told, and so charitably told to both sides and the people caught in the middle.

Stinkers of 2015 (also not in order, but pretty much complete)
1.) The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande–If you could take an article and stretch it into a book by repeating yourself again and again, and then sell millions of copies of it, you would too.
2.) Princess Academy by Shannon Hale–So bad. So boring. Only some of that is because I’m the wrong audience.
3.) Why Men Hate Going to Church by David Murrow–Someone somewhere has coined the term hateread, but this wasn’t reading something I knew I would hate for the pleasure of hating it, but reading it in hopes that it would offer me something I might be close-minded to. I read it hoping it would move beyond the Men are from Mars-level of discussion, but it never really did. The best it has to offer is more in terms of thinking through how the Gospel is often irrelevant to blue collar US Americans.
4.) The Bedwetter by Sarah Silverman–Silverman is not at all a favorite comic of mine, but she says funny things sometimes, and parts of this book are funny too. But, like Aziz Ansari’s book as well as Tina Fey’s and Amy Poehler’s, there is not really a book here, just some stories that eventually trail off and then end.
5.) Pray, Write, Grow by Ed Cyzewski–Just look at the title! It could be great and perfect for me. But it is a book in need of an editing job, an example of the perils of self-publishing, even when you’ve been published by traditional publishers elsewhere, as Cyzewski has. It lacks structure and depth, and it’s just not good.
6.) Batman: The Dark Knight, Volume 2 (The New 52): A Cycle of Violence by Gregg Hurwitz and David Finch–I am not at all well-read in traditional superhero comics, just the ones that will break out into being called literature by critics. But this is terrible, and it does not make me excited for anything New 52. Lots of violence, but no point or humor or even pointlessness to it. And that gross, obviously-a-computer type of visuals.
7.) Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell–Some YA lit shows teenagers as actual humans. Here we have some soap opera kids who probably think Romeo and Juliet are the greatest lovers of all time.
8.) Insurgent (Divergent, Book 2) by Veronica Roth–The awfulness of this book makes me think the first book’s success affected this one creatively. I think Roth must think good writing is “tell, don’t show.” So much inner monologue on the same level of Eleanor and Park.
9.) The Grand Design by Stephen Hawking–It’s a lot of fun when Hawking talks theoretical astrophysics, and it’s a lot of frustrating when he talks religion, philosophy, and history. Unfortunately, he does a lot of the latter in this book.
10.) Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari–I’ve always been ambivalent towards Aziz Ansari, probably because he got famous really young, and only then did he mature as an artist. He was great on Human Giant, likeable and hilarious on Parks and Rec, his second stand-up special leapt beyond his first. But if you want to know what is in this book, see it in a wonderful form on Master of None. And if you want to read a book on how to make relationships work, read some John Gottman…instead of Modern Romance.

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