Reading in 2015 & 2016
In 2015 I was able to pick up my reading pace quite a bit compared to previous years and I think a large part of it was actually going to a physical bookstore and browsing for pleasure instead of just relying on Amazon. Changing Hands didn’t do much for my finances, but it did bring me a strong sense of joy.
Reading is one of those things that I find not only enjoyable (I mean, I enjoy watching shit like My 600 Pound Life, so that alone isn’t a great indicator), but fulfilling and genuinely engrossing. Goodreads has a fun annual reading challenge and at the end of the year they give you reading stats. Right up my alley.
In 2015 I read 35 books which broke down into 11,447 pages. The shortest book I read was The Nesting Place: It Doesn’t Have to Be Perfect to Be Beautiful by Myquillyn Smith (the spelling of that name kills me) at 199 pages while the longest book I read was Elizabeth of York: A Tudor Queen and Her World by Alison Weir at 572 pages. It was 572 pages of boring conjecture.
I rated quite a few four stars or above, but I think these were my favorite:
These books all pass the Marie Kondo test of bringing me joy as soon as I see and touch them. The middle three all kind of rewired my thinking whether it was about how to tidy, how to nourish myself or how to better manage my time. The two works of fiction book ending the non-fiction were wondrous works of art. The kind of books that take a bit of your breath away.
In 2016, here are the books I’m looking forward to reading:
We all know I’m kind of a selective germaphobe who has only willingly let one person touch my bed and weeps at the remembered scent of Pine Sol original. This is exactly the kind of book I want to read. Anecdotes about the “hygienic peccadilloes of kings, mistresses, monks and ordinary citizens”? I’m in. I might be one of the few people interested in how many baths people used to take or not take.
Covers like this one really appeal to the historical romance/historical fiction buff in me. The main character is named Mouse and she has “unnatural senses and an uncanny intellect” AKA she’s probably a witch. She supposedly saves King Ottaker, the Iron and Golden King,(hope he’s hot) and accompanies him back to Prague as his personal healer.
Speaking of witches, Stacy Schiff turns focus from Cleopatra to 1692 Salem for an account of the Salem witch trials and all that led up to it. This is still such a fascinating time period to me. One year, hundreds of accusations, and 20 people executed. I read Cleopatra last year and I really enjoy her writing style, so I can’t wait to start on this one.
I want to read this to reinforce the lessons of The Trust Cost. Because I can feel my resolve weakening. I’m going to beKondo-ing my closet and I feel hesitant to throw more things out if I can’t immediately replace them with things I love (or more likely, additional crap). But I guess the majority of it I never wear anyway . . .
In Overdressed, Cline sets out to uncover the true nature of the cheap fashion juggernaut, tracing the rise of budget clothing chains, the death of middle-market and independent retailers, and the roots of our obsession with deals and steals. She travels to cheap-chic factories in China, follows the fashion industry as it chases even lower costs into Bangladesh, and looks at the impact (both here and abroad) of America’s drastic increase in imports. She even explores how cheap fashion harms the charity thrift shops and textile recyclers where our masses of clothing castoffs end up.
Reimagined fairy tales with a dark, adult twist. I’ve always loved this concept. It works in fan fiction beautifully, so I’m very excited to read Michael Cunningham’s take. Erin read it and loved it, so I’m hoping to borrow it from her after I’ve gotten through my current backlog of books.
I got this one for Christmas from Loretta and I’m pretty psyched about it. It’s “the epic story of the rise and fall of the empire of cotton, its centrality to the world economy, and its making and remaking of global capitalism.” I love these type of books where the author focuses on one singular good and looks at its impact in history and today.
The empire of cotton was, from the beginning, a fulcrum of constant global struggle between slaves and planters, merchants and statesmen, workers and factory owners. Beckert makes clear how these forces ushered in the world of modern capitalism, including the vast wealth and disturbing inequalities that are with us today. The result is a book as unsettling as it is enlightening: a book that brilliantly weaves together the story of cotton with how the present global world came to exist.
This one, like many of the other books on this list, was recommended by the NPR Book Concierge which is my new favorite thing to look forward to at the end of each year.
The book’s summary reads like a manga come to novel life: “Gunslinging, chain smoking, Stetson-wearing Taoist psychopomp, Elouise ‘Lou’ Merriweather might not be a normal 19-year-old, but she’s too busy keeping San Francisco safe from ghosts, shades, and geung si to care much about that.”
I’ve been wanting to read more steampunk-type novels, so this should be a good start.
This is another one from NPR, about a contagion that causes blonde women to randomly attack and kill the city’s inhabitants. I’m kind of interested to see what else Margaret Atwood said besides just “wow” because honestly, it could have been “Wow! This book sucks!” Quotations like these are all so tricky, especially when movies advertise on TV and they flash huge complimentary quotations and the attributions are in size two font and when you finally freeze frame it’s some TV station in South Dakota.
But since NPR recommended it, I will read this and hope the author isn’t just fictionally punishing the blonde people in her life.
So this book traces the history of unmarried women in America and how these women have shaped the nation. Rebecca Traister started the book in 2009 when the the number of American women who were married dropped below 50% and the median age of first marriages had risen to 27 years old from the average age of 20 to 22 years old. The statistic is that only 20% of Americans are married by age 29, compared to nearly 60% in 1960. She started researching and realized that the so-called phenomenon of single women in America is not a new one.
I’m curious about what’s happening now, even though it’s been covered a lot in the media, but I’m even more curious about the lives of single women in history. I’m pretty sure this isn’t going to be a work focused on sad spinsters with cats, so I’m in.
Zen Cho is a Malaysian fantasy writer living in London! How awesome is that? This book is about a freed slave and magician, Zacahrias Wythe, investigating why England’s magical stocks are drying up. What exactly are “magical stocks”? I’m intrigued. I hope this intertwines some Asian magic tropes alongside more westernized magic tropes.
Come on. Read that title. Of course I’m interested in this book! It’s a kind of voyeurism on my part since my dating history is pretty empty. This book is a social history looking into what led us to our contemporary dating scene.
In Strangers Drowning, celebrated journalist Larissa MacFarquhar digs deep into the psychological roots and existential dilemmas motivating those rare individuals practicing lives of extreme ethical commitment. The donor who offers up her kidney to a complete stranger; the activist who abandons possessions to devote himself to the cause; the foster parent who adopts dozens of children: such do-gooders inspire us but also force us to question deep-seated notions about what it means to be human. How could these do-gooders value strangers as much as their own loved ones? What does it really take to live a life of extreme virtue? Might it mean making choices as heartbreaking as the one in the old philosophy problem: abandoning a single family member to drown so that two strangers might live?
Very interesting premise. Occasionally I’ll come across some article in People about some couple that has 18 foster children and wonder, why? How? Mer. Ethical dilemmas in the written form are my cup of tea. Not so much in real life.
This is the last in the series and I’m hoping it’s a return to form to the first book, Ancillary Justice. The first book was a confusing read at first: an Artificial Intelligence system controls a military ship in space, part of a huge annexation happy empire known as the Imperial Radch. The ship, Justice of Toren, also controls hundreds of human bodies that have been implanted with the ship’s AI, which are called ancillaries or more musically referred to as corpse soldiers.
I don’t want to spoil the rest, but as the book continued, it picked up speed. I’m usually awful at reading sci-fi/fantasy books because the politics throw me off and the names offend me, but after the first couple of chapters I could not stop with this book. I cared so much about the Justice of Toren and her ancillaries and Lieutenant Awn and ughhghghghgghg. That’s the succinct recap of my feelings about this book. I have lots of feelings about this book.
The second one didn’t engender the same kind of intense feelings, so I’m hoping the third one will.