I’ve been an avid reader since I was young. The time I spent reading subsided in high school and college, when I was usually too busy doing homework and working various restaurant jobs to read books for pleasure. After graduating from college in 2012, I moved to England and reintroduced myself to a passion I’d been too far away from for too long. This 2015 year has been filled with time spent reading.
1. “Zeitoun” by Dave Eggars
What a fantastically-written, true story about a Syrian man and his experience before, during, and after Hurricane Katrina. I was inspired by the kindness this man showed to others, and appalled by the lack of kindness shown to him. This is a sad, but eye-opening tale of a horrific natural disaster in New Orleans, through the eyes of one man.
Note: I feel compelled to share an article I just read, about Abdulrahman Zeitoun. The book is still amazing, but this article is leading me to believe the story might have some holes in it. I’ll let you be the judge.
Clearly, you’ve heard of this book which is the first in the “Harry Potter” series. I first read “The Scorcerer’s Stone” when I was a kid. My grandmother gave it to me for Christmas, based on a great tip from my mom.
I immediately started reading it, only to return to Lutheran grade school where my teachers wouldn’t allow me to read it, due to the obscene amount of brainwashing dark magic (Sense my sarcasm?) contained in the book. The graphic and violent Stephen King books I frequently toted around were okay, of course.
Anyway, I did what many kids would do when they are told not to do something. I read “Harry Potter” anyway. Mostly at home, though.
Returning to this book series was one of the best things I did in the year 2015. I alleviated any post-travel boredom by losing myself in tales of flying on broomsticks, making friends with house elves, and eating fabulous meals in the Great Hall.
One of the most impressive elements of the “Harry Potter” series, is the way you can grow up with the books. Not only do the characters mature in both age and magic, but the language becomes more adult, and the subject matter becomes more serious. Never did I recognize these things more than when I binge read the series as an adult in 2015.
5. “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” by J.K. Rowling
Many years after first reading “Goblet”, I opened the book and found little bits of grated Parmesan
Cheese in between the pages. My mind returned to a moment in my childhood house, where I was sprawled out on the living room floor, devouring popcorn topped with Parmesan cheese while reading the exact same copy of “Harry Potter and The Goblet of fire”.
This is the book where things start to get really dark and serious, and when the reader might realize that some of these magical world issues are not all that different from “muggle” world issues.
7. “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” by J.K. Rowling
8. “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” by J.K. Rowling
9. “The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon” by Stephen King
Stephen King has been captivating my imagination with his stories since I was young. His writing makes me feel like I’m in each book next to each character. To this day, I have a great amount of respect for King. Unfortunately, I don’t read many of his books with the same enthusiasm I once had as a young adult.
“The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon”, however, never fails to capture my whole attention (of course, any book about the Appalachian Trail has an excuse to draw me in). Although, the little girl in the story seemed unrealistically intelligent for her age, at times, I absolutely love the psychological adventure she goes on in the woods, somewhere along the Appalachian Trail. Her will to survive, and her critical thinking skills, are almost adult-like, yet her school-girl Tom Gordon crush and her need for her family remind the reader that she is still a 9-year-old child.
10. “Wild” by Cheryl Strayed
The only reason this book is number ten on the list, is that I’ve put the books in the order in which I read them throughout the year. But, quality would put this book near the top. Now that we’ve got that covered, let’s get to my review.
As soon as I saw the preview for “Wild”, the movie, I had to see it. As soon as I saw the movie, I had to read the book. I waited weeks for a copy of this book to be delivered to my library, and when I finally picked it up off of the shelf, I tore into it with a hunger I hadn’t had for a book since… Well, since I read the Harry Potter books, a few months earlier. So it wasn’t that long, but it was still quite a fierce hunger.
That hunger was fed and eased in such a satisfying way, by the quality of Strayed’s storytelling. I was absolutely enthralled by her portrayal of her childhood, her deep loss and the poor decision-making that followed, and her detail-by-detail experiences along the Parcific Crest Trail.
If you are looking for a great adventure book, I highly, highly recommend this one.
Books Read (as opposed to devoured)
I’m not meaning any harm by the title of this section, but there are certain books I connect with more than others.
1. “Divergent” by Veronica Roth
I started reading this book after seeing the movie in theaters. I didn’t really know too much about it, other than the fact that I was entertained by the first movie. My wife read the whole trilogy first, as I was reading the “Harry Potter” books. Her response to the “Divergent” books wasn’t great, but I decided to read them anyway.
Fortunately, the story has some great ideas in it. Unfortunately, the implementation of those ideas was not enjoyable to me. I finished the trilogy only to get to the end, which isn’t really how I plan to read books in the year 2016.
2. “Insurgent” by Veronica Roth
3. “Allegient” by Veronica Roth
4. “A Thousand Splendid Sons” by Khaled Hosseini
This was a very great, but very hard, book to read. It was heartbreaking. The story is about two womens, and how their lives become intertwined in a very unexpected way, during the rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan.
5. “A Walk in the Woods” by Bill Bryson
I read this book based on the excitement I had after seeing a preview for the movie, and also based on a friend’s recommendation. I love Bryson’s humor and his obvious passion for the Earth, the plants and animals that occupy it, and the way people treat it.
However, I struggled through his lengthy rants about specific species of plants and animals along the Appalachian Trail, the historical lessons on the creators of the Trail, the towns and parks along the way, and the Appalachian Trail itself. I liked learning about those things, but I would have preferred those sections to be shorter, and to have been able to read more of his stories about actually hiking along the Trail.
6. “The Mouse and the Motorcycle” by Beverly Cleary
It was a pleasure to read this book for the second or third time in my life. It was as lighthearted, imaginative, and adventurous as I needed it to be at the time, when I had just finished a few books with very heavy topics.
I’m pretty sure we read “The Mouse and the Motorcycle” as a class when I was in grade school or middle school. I can remember my plump, white-haired teacher in a conservative flower-patterned dress, standing behind a podium at the front of the classroom. She would call on students to read, paragraph-by-paragraph. When it came to reading, my hand was always flying high in the air, in hopes of being chosen next.
As the school’s literature teacher, she also read the “Narnia” series to my class when I was younger. Many of these books I was required to read, fed and enhanced my imagination and my desire for adventures.
7. “When Love Hurts” by Shaquanda Dalton
I am happy to share the title of the first book of Shaquanda Dalton’s “Jaylen and Jessica” series with you. Dalton is not only my coworker and friend, she is a great writer who inspired me to get serious about my own writing.
I was immediately reeled in by this love story. It’s well-balanced with love, friendship, drama, romance, passion, and jealousy. Jessica is smart and determined, and struggles to find a path that satisfies both her heart and her mind.
8. “Choke” by Chuck Palahniuk
I was very disappointed by this book, especially because of how much I loved Palahniuk’s “Fight Club”. Although I know it’s part of Palahniuk’s style, I thought “Choke” was unnecessarily vulgar. Also, by the end of the book I still had unanswered questions, which really bugged me.
My wife read an article earlier this year about how to be happy and content in your life. She of course shared it with me, knowing that I enjoy happiness and contentedness too… Who doesn’t? One of the tips in the article was to stop reading a book when you aren’t enjoying it.
This is my list of the books I had to let go, despite emotional connections to both of them:
1. “The Shining” by Stephen King
I have no issues with this story, the writer, or the movie, but I just don’t think it was the right time for me to read this book. My heart wasn’t in it, so I had to let it go.
2. “Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe” by Fannie Flagg
The story in this book is my go to story, whenever I am feeling bummed out. “Fried Green Tomatoes”, based on the book, has been my favorite movie for as long as I can remember. Throughout my life, I’ve had it on both VHS and DVD. I felt that I owed it to the creator of the story to finally read the book.
Well, as much as I love the story, after seeing the movie so many times, I couldn’t wrap my mind around the differences between the movie and the book. I couldn’t see my beloved characters in different lights. I couldn’t learn about new characters, or read the weekly gossip column. Worst of all, I couldn’t have the relationships I love so much, mean something different in the book.
With much hesitation and disappointment, I let the book go. The story, however, will always remain with me.
Ending on a great note
1. “Blame” by Michelle Huneven
I’m closing out 2015, after reading this incredible book about a woman who is imprisoned by both the state of California, and the guilt of having killed a mother and a daughter in a drunk driving accident. This book had me after the first or second chapter. It’s not just a book about a crime, it’s a book about a woman’s life and what she does with it.
What books took you on adventures in 2015?
Share your favorites in the comment section. I’d love some recommendations!
Thanks to all my readers, for taking the time to read my 2015 book list! I’m looking forward to another fabulous year of reading (and of course, writing) in 2016.
Happy New Year to all!!
You always know where to find me! I’m Two Tents Down!
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