Friday, January 8, 2016

Books of 2015

A list of what I read in 2015 (in chronological order, not necessarily what was most interesting or my favorite). Should have been more, but I'm working on it. Not listed: Harry Potter in German. (But that's only because I didn't quite finish it, but I'm counting it in my head because that was a lot of effort.)

Like any year, my goal for 2016 is to read more and cross off more books in my list of books to read than add to it.

Dataclysm - Christian Rudder 
Written by the man who founded OkCupid. Overall a super interesting book, if you're into a lot of facts (I am), but accompanied by the stories that back those statistics up. He compares what people write in their OkCupid profiles, and uses all those facts (how tall they want the girl to be, how much money they want the man to make) and compares them to what people actually want. He did this by looking at who went on dates, who started in relationships, and in the end, who left the website and/or got married.

Sensation - Thalma Lobel
A book about the brain, and how we can sense things that we don't know we're sensing. The title of a test being written in green will help you to perform better than if it were written in red. It was fascinating to read about, knowing that despite what we want to believe, we all have stereotypes, prejudices and beliefs about the world that are pretty engrained in our brains.
Let's Pretend This Never Happened - Jenny Lawson This book was ridiculous but in the good kind of ridiculous. Read it in 2 days because I couldn't put it down. It was a quick read, too. Sometimes when people write books like this, you wonder how everything within it can be true and have happened, but I guess that's what separates comedians from the rest of us: a childhood filled with taxidermy.

The Art of Hearing Heartbeats - Jan-Philipp Sendker
It was on my list of books to read, and one day at the library I started searching for thos books. This was there, and was the easiest to find. My list of books has been in existence for probably 5 years, meaning that half the books I don't remember putting on the list in the first place. This was on of them, but after reading it, it became clear why it was on my list. (It was most likely recommended by someone, social media or a book review, as a lot of books make their way on my list in that fashion.) A story about a girl who goes in search of her father, after he disappears from NYC when she's an adult. She travels to his home country of Burma, and learns a lot while she's there. For me, someone who prefers non-fiction books, the melding of culture and a narrative was perfect.
The Picture of Dorian Gray - Oscar Wilde
Reading this was part of my quest to finish my 101 in 1001 (more on that later). This definitely counts as a classic, so one book down. I knew, from allusions in culture, that it was about a man who doesn't age, but that was about it. And teh book is a little more than that. Very well written, as is evident by how many quotes from this book made it into the note on my phone entitled "Good Quotes." There were so many of them that I now have a note dedicated solely to them. Some solid advice in that book. 

Crazy Rich Asians -  Kevin Kwan
Remember when I spent a summer in Singapore? Reading this book was a similar experience. It's coming out as a movie, which should be interesting to see how they adapt the book. Also, it should be a visually beautiful movie, just because of the backdrops. But they also made up that there was a giant secret section of land in Singapore, and it's not like there's a lot of space there, so some movie magic might take place there. There's a sequel but so far it's not on my list. Maybe next time I go to Asia. Or the beach.

Tell the Wolves I'm Home - Carol Rifka Brunt 
Mysterious and funny and sad and depressing and inspiring and weird and one of those that make you think. Many quotes from this book made it into my phone's list of good quotes, because it was sort of a haunting book with a very specific storyline that likely you can't directly relate to, but the quotes can be vague enough to be appropriate in several situations.

The Secret History - Donna Tartt 
I would say I'm not one for fiction, but clearly I am. This is a fantastic book, sort of dark, but while being funny and smart and interesting. It's about a group of intellectual (and sort of moody, weird and strange) kids at a small university in New England and some weird things happen, but the weird things are weaved in with amazing writing, so you barely notice. I meant to read one of Tartt's other books, but this one got to me first in the library.

It Was Me All Along - Andie Mitchell
I don't read her blog, but read blogs of people who read her blog and (I think) are friends with her and promoted her book when she was writing it and then when it came out. It's funny and honest and sad and happy and makes you feel happy and sad and then happy again. It has a happy ending, but half of the book you're wondering whether it will.

Paper Towns - John Green (again, the first time was in 2012) 
I read this book again because the movie was coming out and I couldn't remember as many details as I wanted to. I was in Germany, I figured it might be beneficial to see the movie in German, especially after I read the book again. But in that reading, I realized why it was one of my favorite books - he's a writing genius. The dialogue, the situations and the way John Green phrases things are what make his books perfect. It was because of those exact reasons that I decided to see the movie in English, assuming the German version wouldn't live up to the book. Sadly, I was wrong. The English movie didn't even live up to the book, which was upsetting and a shame, because the movie (especially after the Fault in Our Stars) could have been remarkable. Next time, John Green. (But that doesn't mean I don't still love the book.)

The Opposite of Loneliness - Marina Keegan 
With the same name as the essay she wrote for her graduation at Yale, this book is filled with essays with writing that should be above a person just graduating college. (Though I suppose that if you go to Yale and study English, complete with a job lined up at the New Yorker, this is what you should expect.) Haven't read the essay? Here's another link so you can make sure to read it. Made me want to write but also go have a life but also think about life and the fact that she wrote all of this before she was 22 is amazing.

Both Flesh and Not - David Foster Wallace 
I'd read a few things by DFW, but not enough to be able to tell you about it. I now can. It's a collection of stories by him, some book reviews, some stories he'd written for various magazines and publications, but all of them obviously well-written, with sentences that lasted an entire page and descriptions of things in ways you'd never think to describe them, but after reading them, you realized that's exactly how you'd describe it, and the fact that he's describing it the same way makes you realize the continuity of life. (Or something.)

Eat and Run - Scott Jurek
Made me want to become a vegan for all of two hours. Then I remembered my love for dairy and meat and foods that don't come right from a tree. From the running side, very inspirational but I'm not going to be even thinking about running a 100-mile race anytime soon.

Oblivion - David Foster Wallace
David Foster Wallace wasn't someone whose work I was very familiar with until this year, after I saw a "This is water" quote and looked up the story. (Read it, it's worth it.) And then I read everything else of DFW that I could get my hands on, and after about a month of it, had to stop because I thought my brain would start thinking in giant, run-on sentences that go from one topic to another with nothing more than a comma or a set of parentheses. (The next book waiting to be read is a DFW, because it's been a few months and maybe I'm ready for it by now.) This book has a list of words (with definitions) from his apparently giant, ongoing vocabulary list. I made my own vocab list of new German words this year while in Germany, so why not have one in English?

Me Before You - Jojo Moyes 
This book has been somewhere on my phone's list of books to read, but because the list has somewhere around 100 titles, it took a while. Once the library finally got me my copy, I read it in two days. Coming out as a movie this year, the book is probably better to read first before seeing the movie, and not only am I excited for the movie, but I'm excited to see if it can be as good as the book.

Yes Please - Amy Poehler 
Having started and not finished this book about a year ago, I was surprised how light of a read it was and how easy it was to breeze through it. I laughed out loud (who doesn't with Amy Poehler?) several times, both with her writing and the guest chapters she includes written by SNL friends. I'm told the audiobook (read by her) is well worth your time.

Primates of Park Avenue - Wednesday Martin 
I read this review in the NYTimes before the book came out, and then the book made my list. I figured that a NYTimes reviewer was going to be biased no matter what, it's a book about something the reviewer could be very defensive about, or something she has strong feelings about either way, so wanted to figure out for myself. The analogies between anthropology and the women of the Upper East Side are sort of much, but an enjoyable read nonetheless. But if you're looking for an enjoyable look into the Upper East Side, watch Gossip Girl, it's better.

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