Last week I talked about the best movies of 2015. But my followers will likely take more interest in today’s post: the best BOOKS!
Most of these did not come out in 2015, but this is simply a reflection on what I read this year.
Best Humor – The Disaster Artist by Greg Sestero
I am endlessly fascinated with the enigma that is Tommy Wiseau – writer, director, and star of the worst movie ever made, The Room. This memoir/semi-biography is told by Tommy’s hapless best friend, and other star of The Room, Greg Sestero. His stories about Tommy’s endless determination and baffling creation of this disasterpiece made it hard to put the book down. This was probably my quickest read of the entire year, because I couldn’t stop reading it. It was like watching a trainwreck….a funny, funny trainwreck.
Best Nonfiction – Primal Myths by Barbara C. Sproul
I read a lot of nonfiction, especially about mythology. There are quite a few myth books I could put on this list, but the best one I’ve encountered so far is Primal Myths. It is a massive summary of all the creation myths of the world, and best of all, it includes context. I read a book on Hindu myth earlier this year which was a very poor effort on the author’s part, because she spat out myths at random with no context or deeper analysis than the myth’s literal translation. Primal Myths always offers a few words about the peoples whose myth we’re discussing, and giving some speculation about the symbology and deeper meaning behind them. Which really helps the reader understand what the myth is actually about. Plus, it’s great to have all these creation stories in one place so I can mine them for ideas later.
Biggest Disappointment – The Martian by Andy Weir
I say “disappointment” somewhat lightly, because I did enjoy the film and Andy Weir is an awesome guy. I don’t aim to hurt his feelings or dismiss the fact that he got the public excited about science and space, because that is awesome. But this book was not really a novel. It was a guide for how to survive Mars. Due to all the hype and the fabulous premise, I expected this book to read like a gripping novel. Rather, it was quite obviously a series of self-published blog posts that had been assembled into a book and gained traction enough to become a bestseller…not unlike Fifty Shades of Grey, but at least this was a positive book about science and not badly written erotica! Does this make it a bad book? No. And I try not to diss things simply because they weren’t what I thought they would be. But I can’t deny I was disappointed by the execution of this one.
Book That Lived Up To The Hype – House of Leaves by Mark Danielewski
Some people claim that this book is pretentious. Some think it’s gimmicky. Some complain that you don’t really get “answers.” I went in knowing that the bizarre nature of Navidson’s house would never be explained, so I didn’t expect an explanation. And really, the book never makes that its primary question. I always got the feeling that what I really should be focusing on is the people, not the house. So it ended rather satisfactorily, for me. I also did not find it pretentious – and I’m very quick to claim that books are so – because every creative choice Danielewski made had meaning behind it. It didn’t strike me as gimmicky. Unfortunately, I’ve heard his other works are more gimmick, less substance, but this book had a lot of genius.
Best Writing Style – City of Saints and Madmen by Jeff Vandermeer
I only finished one novella in this semi-anthology – Dradin, In Love. Without a doubt, Vandermeer has one of the most beautiful writing styles of any author I’ve read. I don’t even really care what’s happening in the book – I just let his wonderful language wash over me and maybe some of it will stick. Maybe I can absorb his talent just by reading him! Or at least his imagination, because this guy is one of the most imaginative authors since H.P. Lovecraft.
Best Indie Book – Eating Bull by Carrie Rubin
I didn’t read many indie works this year, but I felt this book deserved recognition. I promise it’s not nepotism :P Eating Bull really was a great book, with one of the best villains I’ve read in years. It’s a thriller, it’s social commentary, it’s funny, it’s sad, it’s sympathetic. It’s also a pretty quick read, and I found myself scrolling through the ebook on my Kindle app in every waiting room or lunch break.
Best Classic Book – A Maze of Death by Philip K. Dick
So far, this is the only Dick book I’ve finished in my Dick anthology. Undoubtedly, many of them are better. However, for my first foray into Dick’s work, I found him to be an excellent author who has certainly earned his status as a science fiction national treasure. His writing is crisp and accessible, creating an immersive sci-fi world without getting bogged down in technical details. He created intrigue and tension from the first chapter. And in this book, published in 1970, he basically predicted 3D printing. This book also reminded me of The Maze Runner in some of its plot elements, so check it out if you’re a fan of that series. Next up, I’m reading his The Man In The High Castle, which was recently adapted for Amazon Prime TV.
I’ve tied these, because they offered great advice in two different tiers. If you’re at all interested in self-publishing, The Well Fed Self Publisher is a MUST READ. Peter Bowerman packs so much information into this book that my notes took up half a journal. I basically rewrote the book, because almost all his advice is important. He gets deep into details I never even knew existed before. This book does not tell you much about writing, but should be mandatory reading for anyone trying to be their own publisher. Because it’s obvious how many indie authors out there have not taken similar advice, and they make simple mistakes that cost them an entire career.
Bird By Bird’s advice on the craft of writing was stuff I already knew. But it resonated with my soul as a writer. It came just at the right time, as I was buckling beneath a pile of self-doubt and uncertainty. Anne Lamott and I have a lot in common, in both our anxieties and our worldview, and it’s inspirational to see how she coped with it. How she pushed past her walls and put herself out there, how surprised she was to see someone actually like her work. It reminds me that all great authors were once nobodies with a dream. And they’re just as surprised as anyone when they make it. In the same vein, I’ve finally snagged a copy of On Writing by Stephen King, and that is next on my writing books roster. :) I know, I’m late to the party!
After that, I hope to read 50 BOOKS in 2016! :O We’ll see how that goes. I’ll try to update my sidebar reading list before January 1st, so you can anticipate what I’m reading.
What did you read in 2015? Love or hate anything on this list? Let me know!