The 12 books I loved in 2015

I couldn’t put books down this year. Maybe it’s because books allow you to live dozens of lifetimes over the course of a handful of hours. Maybe I miss the constant learning from school. Maybe I’m just getting old.

I read books on occasion growing up, but rarely more than a few per year. CliffsNotes were one of my closest companions through school. So, consider me fairly surprised when I ended up reading 61 books this year.

Whether it’s for personal growth or simply enjoyment, I’d recommend reading more in 2016. I know it’s not realistic for many to read a lot, but you can make just a little bit of time. Reading for 15 minutes before bed means you can finish at least a book a month. And it’s more relaxing than spending that time before sleep online. Even if you only have time to read two books all year, here are some suggested pairings.

. . .

Brutal moments

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

“You spent so much time explaining yourself, your work, to others — what it meant, what you were trying to accomplish, why you were trying to accomplish it, why you had chosen the colors and subject matter and materials and application and technique that you had — that it was a relief to simply be with another person to whom you didn’t have to explain anything: you could just look and look, and when you asked questions, they were usually blunt and technical and literal.”

Your Fathers, Where Are They? And the Prophets, Do They Live Forever? by Dave Eggers

“ — So you used restraint there.
— I always try to.
— Okay. I want to keep that statement in my back pocket for a little while. This concept of restraint is interesting to me. So what other calls were there that night?”

. . .

On life and death

On Immunity: An Inoculation by Eula Biss

“If we imagine the action of a vaccine not just in terms of how it affects a single body, but also in terms of how it affects the collective body of a community, it is fair to think of vaccination as a kind of banking of immunity. Contributions to this bank are donations to those who cannot or will not be protected by their own immunity. This is the principle of herd immunity, and it is through herd immunity that mass vaccination becomes far more effective than individual vaccination.”

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory by Caitlin Doughty

“So masterfully do we hide death, you would almost believe we are the first generation of immortals.”

. . .

On being black in America

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

“I did not tell you that it would be okay, because I have never believed it would be okay. What I told you is what your grandparents tried to tell me: that this is your country, that this is your world, that this is your body, and you must find some way to live within the all of it.”

Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine

“Words work as release — well-oiled doors opening and closing between intention, gesture. A pulse in a neck, the shiftiness of the hands, an unconscious blink, the conversations you have with your eyes translate everything and nothing. What will be needed, what goes unfelt, unsaid — what has been duplicated, redacted here, redacted there, altered to hide or disguise — words encoding the bodies they cover. And despite everything the body remains.”

. . .

Strong voices

Man v. Nature: Stories by Diane Cook

“Think of the wind. It sweeps over the entire sea, gathers all that fresh air just to deposit it at our doorstep.”

Gutshot: Stories by Amelia Gray

“‘Attention is the most worthless currency on the planet,’ I said. ‘When you treat it like it’s precious, you’re blinding yourself to the possibility that you might find it elsewhere. And it’s everywhere, attention is.’”

. . .

On empathy

How To Be Black by Baratunde Thurston

“This country is our home, and we helped build it both physically and morally. The struggle of black people in America, therefore, is the struggle of America itself to, as damali put it, ‘get behind its own dream.’”

We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

“Gender matters everywhere in the world. And I would like today to ask that we begin to dream about and plan for a different world. A fairer world. A world of happier men and happier women who are truer to themselves. And this is how to start: We must raise our daughters differently. We must also raise our sons differently.”

. . .

Short stories

Phoenix by Chuck Palahniuk

“The essence of being a parent was the shift from being the person who is watched to being the person who does the watching.”

Kaleidoscope by Ray Bradbury

“The first concussion cut the rocket up the side with a giant can opener. The men were thrown into space like a dozen wriggling silverfish. They were scattered into a dark sea; and the ship, in a million pieces, went on, a meteor swarm seeking a lost sun.”

What are some of your favorites? I’d love to add them to my reading list. Let me know.

Andy Newmanreading list