The Best of What I Read in 2015

2015 was a big year of reading for me. I had always preferred fiction and shied away from meaty nonfiction until 3 years ago. At that point, I swung too far into the nonfiction side, feeling guilty whenever I read fiction and eventually reading only at a fraction of the time I had been prior. This year I finally achieved a semblance of balance, moving between YA and deeply informative nonfiction.

My rule of thumb was switching off between fiction and nonfiction pretty strictly (i.e. after each novel, a nonfiction, and so forth). This worked well for me and I’d be curious to hear what other techniques people have used to make sure that they read nonfiction too, without feeling embarrassed of their fiction time.


Nonfiction

Gut: The Inside Story of Our Body’s Most Underrated Organ

I’d recommend to: anyone curious about how their body actual works under the hood, anyone with dietary issues and concerns

The topic might sound dry but the writing is anything but. The analogies are at once both silly and apt and I really learned about a world that had been hidden to me.

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

I’d recommend to: people who actively dislike their cluttered homes and are struggling to make sense of how to decide what to keep and what to give away

Yes, I was swept up by the Konmari craze too. I really found her tips for seeing the true uses of objects (which aren’t always just frequency of use!) freeing and it allowed me to donate bags of books and clothing that I had struggled to give away before.

Garbology: Our Dirty Love Affair with Trash

I’d recommend to: naturally curious people who like anthropology and generally understanding how humans work and have developed

Another strange topic but incredibly enlightening read on how humans produce trash and what it says about us as a culture. Each chapter tackles a different section of the topic and gives you a new perspective.

Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea

I’d recommend to: folks who aren’t super familiar with the current situation in North Korea feels like for everyday people and how they can stand it

This was a fantastic introduction to what life in North Korea looks and feels like, as told by a collection of narratives. In spite of the harrowing experiences each person has, the no-nonsense approach to sharing their tales makes it really accessible.

A Taste of Generation Yum: How the Millennial Generation’s Love for Organic Fare, Celebrity Chefs and Microbrews Will Make or Break the Future of Food

I’d recommend to: anyone who finds themselves spending too much money at Michelin-starred restaurants, lining up for a specific street food item, or being more excited about the photo of the food than the food itself

Being a pseudo-foodie millennial who spent 2015 working at a startup directly involved in the future of dining, I couldn’t help but pick this one up. It made me think a lot about why I do what I do, in terms of instagraming photos of food to spending a significant amount of time learning to cook.

What Do Women Want?: Adventures in the Science of Female Desire

I’d recommend to: everyone who wants to understand how female desire works, what we do and don’t know about it

What can I say? I really enjoyed learning more about female sexuality and how it differs from men’s.

The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer (recommended by my friend Meredith)

I’d recommend to: people who are interested in the intersection of science and history

I basically knew nothing about cancer before reading this. This book made me realize just how much we all DON’T know about cancer still. A bit dry in parts but overall gave me a very thorough understanding of cancer’s development.

Triumphs of Experience: The Men of the Harvard Grant Study

I’d recommend to: people who enjoy psychology reads and want to understand how happiness and success change over a lifetime

An in-depth look at what the researchers who followed a group of men over time learned about life, happiness, and success.

Fiction

All the Bright Places

I’d recommend to: people who love YA, very human characters, anyone who wants to get a peek into the viewpoint of someone suffering from a handicapping mental illness

God, this book is beautiful and tragic and so human. Told through two vantage points, that of a young boy and a young girl who are falling in love, you see all of the triumphs and pains of relationships in which trauma and mental health issues play a significant role.

Love Minus Eighty (recommended by the delightful Sabrina)

I’d recommend to: lovers of sci-fi, fantasy, romance, and dystopias

I’m a huge sucker for dystopias (have you seen how much I’ve written about The Hunger Games online?) and this one had a fun premise combined with a feminist issue.

Birds of a Lesser Paradise: Stories and Almost Famous Women: Stories

I’d recommend to: anyone who thinks they don’t enjoy short stories

I’m not much of a short stories person but these two collections were wonderful. I would have read a full-length book of almost any of these and was just amazed by how rich of characters and situations she created for each story.

Looking for Alaska

I’d recommend to: fellow feminists, YA lovers

I know John Green is a polarizing writer in the YA realm but I’m a fan. I really enjoyed this one and Paper Towns because they were such clear condemnations of the maniac dream pixie girl trope and really force you to see the girl underneath the mystery.

Euphoria

I’d recommend to: anyone interested in the humans behind scientific discoveries

This book was a strange read, but the writing was beautiful and the story has lingered with me for months afterwards.

The Firesteel (written by Ash!)

I’d recommend to: all fiction lovers

I had no idea that Ash had published (or even had aspirations to write a book) until I saw her give a talk on it at our !GHC dinner. I immediately downloaded Firesteel and was swept up into the story. I enjoyed it so much that I read it almost in one sitting.

Keeper of the Lost Cities (recommended by my sister Alecia)

I’d recommend to: anyone raising a teenager, anyone who wants to someday publish a YA series / book

This series I don’t recommend for its quality, its story, or even characters. None of them are particularly good. What is impressive is that in spite of these issues, it’s become such a success amongst its audience and I think that’s reason enough to read them.

Fates and Furies

I’d recommend to: people who enjoyed Gone Girl

A lifetime, a marriage, told by first the husband, then the wife. Great premise but it didn’t quite meet my high expectations.

The Red Rising

I’d recommend to: YA fans, especially Hunger Games readers

Getting into this series was hard for me but I’m glad I did it. Another dystopia and enjoyable.

A Tale for the Time Being

I’d recommend to: people who like fiction

Two stories intertwine: a young Japanese girl being severely bullied and an older woman living in the middle of nowhere who finds the girl’s diary. I loved the girl’s story but found myself uninterested in the woman’s narrative.