Reading seems a solitary pastime, but most readers find they can improve the experience by sharing their literary explorations with others, turning their silent dialogue with the author into a more extended conversation. Your Humble Narrator confines most of his book talk to Goodreads, and has not composed an end-of-year superlatives list in many years. Bearing in mind, though, the pleasure of reading more communally (so to speak), I realized my blog readers might enjoy hearing about some of the more memorable books I read this past year, and perhaps share their own discoveries and warnings. Here, then, is a summary of the high, low, and weird notes struck by the 140-plus books I read in 2015:
Most Overrated: The Seven Storey Mountain, by Thomas Merton. I read the original version of this, and Saint Augustine both told a better story and took less time to come to the point.
Famous Author of Whose Works I Read Several and Forgot Nearly All: Agatha Christie
Work I Was Obliged to Read for a Public Address and Found Surprisingly Entertaining: True Grit, by Charles Portis. If you haven't read it, do yourself the favor.
Favorite Non-Genre Novel: An Unnecessary Woman, by Rabih Alameddine
Works that Allegedly Treated of Bureaucratic Institutions but Actually Had More to Do with Superheroes: The Utopia of Rules, by David Graeber
Other Non-Fiction That Left An Impression: Escape from Camp 14, by Blaine Harden; Missoula, by Jon Krakauer; The Sixth Extinction, by Elizabeth Kolbert; Between the Moon and Timbuktu, by Nina Sovich
Works of History That Made Me Feel, in Contrast to Their Very Talented Authors, Like a Fast-Aging Mediocrity: Real Native Genius, by Angela Hudson; Gathering Together, by Sami Lakomaki
"This Year," the Disembodied Voice in My Head Declared, "You Must Read Two Monographs on the Delaware Indians, And They Shall Be:" A Nation of Women, by Gunlog Fur; Lenape Country, by Jean Soderlund
Primary Source I Was Pleased to Find at Half-Price Books: The Shipwrecked Men, by Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca
Best History I Read This Year: Black Earth, by Timothy Snyder
Genre Author of Whose Works I Read Entirely Too Many, Perhaps Driven by Compulsion: Eric Flint
Weirdest Novel of the Year: Sign of the Labrys, by Margaret St. Clair
Books That, after I Read them, Made me Feel Like Every Page Dripped Slime: Victoria, by Thomas Hobbes, a reactionary screed masquerading as a post-Collapse novel, whose heroes cosplay Prussian aristocrats and Constantinian legionnaires, refer to African-Americans as "orcs," and massacre college professors. Like you do.
Sci-Fi Novels I Actually Enjoyed: A Darkling Sea, by James Cambias; The Red: First Light, by Linda Nagata; Windswept, by Adam Rakunas; Chasing the Phoenix, by Michael Swanwick; The Martian, by Andy Weir; Implied Spaces, by Walter Jon Williams
SF-related Non-Fiction Book Good Enough That I Was Willing to Spend $18 for the Ebook: Hot Earth Dreams, by Frank Landis