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2015 BOOKS IN REVIEW
30 December 2015
Every year at the end of December, I do a review of the books I read throughout the year. Last year, I only read 36 books, or a total of 11,543 pages. This year I increased that significantly, reading 57 books, 18,746 pages.
Of the books I read,
28 were "real books" and of those 18 were books I read at
I broke the subject matter down into genres:
16 were what I call "blood and gore" books, technically
The non-fiction category was mostly biographies or autobiographies, or books like "Acquired Tastes" by Peter Mayle, which tells his experience of being sponsored to find out what it's like to spend a year living as an ultra rich person enjoying things like Havana cigars, top of the line liquors, 5 star restaurants and hotels, first class transportation, specially made shoes and suits, etc. (Nice work, if you can get it!)
I actually read three books by Mayle. The other two were "A Good Year," the story of a man who loses his job and inherits a villa in the South of France and his adjustments to the life there; and "A Dog's Life," which I described as "the story Marley would have written if a real life dog could have written."
Of the autobiographies, my favorite would be a toss up between Rob Lowe's "Stories I Only Tell My friends" and Alan Cummin's "Not My Father's Son." I listened to both as audio books, and both were riveting. What a difference between Lowe's privileged childhood in Malibu and Cummin's violent one in Britain. I've come to think that listening to an autobiography read by the subject is much better than reading it because there are nuances that don't come across on the written page (like Kristen Chenoweth's story, which I read a few years ago, which includes bits of her singing). Lowe's follow-up book, "Love Life," wasn't nearly as interesting, though the relationship between him and his sons was beautiful to read.
Scary stories would be "Stolen Innocence" by Elisa Wall, the story of a girl raised in the Fundamentalist LDS church and her story of abuse and ultimate escape, and "Elephant Girl" by Jane Devin, a child who escaped an abusive parenthood and her struggle to become a successful adult. The latter book suffered from lack of an editor, as it was self published and far too long. There were places where you wanted to roll your eyes and say "Come on now!"
A disappointing biography, but not surprising, would be "Angry Optimist" by Lisa Rogak, which follows Jon Stewart's career and paints him as a less than likeable person, which I had heard rumors about, but I still like his public persona.
I thought I had already read all the books I was going to read about dementia, but found four more this year. "Can't We Talk about Something more Pleasant?" by New Yorker cartoonist Roz Chast was a book I shared with Jeri, as it is the story of Chast's relationship with her parents before, during, and after the onset of their dementia. "While I Still Can" was written by early onset Alzheimers-diagnosed Rick Phelps, written to help caregivers understand what it is like to be him. (I found that one very helpful in understanding what is going on inside my mother's head.) He also set up a group on Facebook, which has thousands of followers and which has been so supportive to everyone who participates. "My Roller Coaster Ride with Sallie" was more a soul-baring story about a daughter's trials with her mother, while "A Dignified Life" by Virginia Bell and David Troxel offers more practical ideas for dealing with a loved one with dementia.
Books written by friends included a re-read of David Gerrold's "When HARLIE Was One," and a newly published book, "How to Live Well with Chronic Pain and Illness" by Toni Bernhard, who asked me to review her book for Amazon, which I was happy to do. The third book was "Trowsering Your Weasel" written by not exactly a friend, but fellow blogger Murr Brewster, who is the funniest blogger since Marn gave up years ago.
There's also a "Miscellaneous" classification which includes "Behind the Scenes at Downton Abbey" (a book I read at Logos), "Of All the Gin Joints" by Mark Bailey, which is a great bathroom book, since each "chapter" is only a page or two; and "The Wicked Stepmother" a fairy tale from Kenya, which I read because one of my sponsored kids mentioned reading it. Strange book.
Of all the books, my favorites include Stephen King's "11/22/63" which shows that going back in time to change things has unexpected consequences. I also enjoyed Emma Donahue's "Room," which I probably would not have finished if I had been reading it, but the voice of the young boy, Jack, who narrates this audio book, was so compelling that I couldn't stop listening to it. And surprisingly, I loved "The Martian" by Andy Weir, a story I would never have picked up if it hadn't been a book club selection, but it was fascinating.
Disappointing books included the much-touted "The Goldfinch" by Donna Tartt, another book club selection, which was much longer than it should have been and ultimately I think I liked it, but didn't always like it throughout the book. I also labored through "Americanah" by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, which gives a not entirely pleasant view of America by a Nigerian, living here for 6 years and observing the overt and covert racism that goes on. I also learned more about African hair than I ever knew.
I read 4 Ruth Rendell mysteries and 5 Harlan Coben books. Rendell's best books feature Inspector Wexford and each of them made me wish I had started with book one because reading them out of order is confusing, since the series seems to cover his entire career as a detective.
As for Harlan Coben's Myron Bolitar books, I loved them and listened to them all as audio books, though in the last one I read (there are two more) the original narrator, Jonathan Marosz, was gone and Coben read the book himself. Suffice to say he is a terrible audio book reader and I'm glad to hear that the next two will have a regular professional narrator, though not Marosz, whom I will miss.
I do love looking back over the year and see what my reading
life has been like. I look forward to seeing what new adventures await
me in the pages of books in 2016.
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