2015 [in books]

I thought I’d seen a sorry amount of theater in 2015, then I looked at the list of books I’d read in the course of the year. Can 5 books even be called a list? How sad that’s all I made it through!

But if I think about it, though the number of books I read is low, my eyes were not short for words these last twelve months.

THE INTERESTINGS – 2015 started off with cold weekends bundled up in my apartment hot coffee, an indulgent breakfast and a good book. Meg Wolitzer’s contemporary story of six friends whose lives and life experiences span decades and criss-cross each other in every imaginable way. Wolitzer’s ability to juggle so many characters yet make each unique and recognizable create for a truly ensemble piece of a novel. Word is there’s a film version in the works, as would be expected for a novel so well received.

WORLD GONE BY – A copy of Dennis Lehane’s latest novel appeared on my desk one day, completely unsolicited and unannounced. So I did what any self-respecting bookworm would do: I read it! Lehane also wrote the books that became some well-known dark films: Mystic River, Gone Baby Gone and Shutter Island, and World Gone By is a similar mystery. This time, Lehane heads back a few decades and revisits a character featured in two other books. Perhaps it’s because I haven’t read those others, but though it did fill in some otherwise boring train commutes to work, I found this one generally forgettable.

BEAUTIFUL RUINS – I’d been hearing about this novel for quite a while without ever really knowing much about it. It just kept popping up on my radar, so finally I picked up a copy. A fictional narrative plopped into the middle of the very real production of Cleopatra, Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton’s epic film, the book is equally intimate and grand in scope as it takes the reader from a remote Italian cove to the midwest and back again.

THE ALCHEMIST – I picked up this best-seller for work, as we released a film about the author over the summer. Apparently it’s a fable that has changed the lives of millions, and I found nothing objectionable about it in that regard. My life has already been changed by a book, so the lessons and revelations of the story of a young man in search of meaning and love didn’t exactly land as philosophical bombshells, but I can understand why for some people this is a guiding force of a novella.

AMERICANAH – On the suggestion of a friend, I picked this one up towards the end of the year after taking a book hiatus in favor of Pocket-ed articles and digging out of an ever-growing pile of magazines. I don’t think I’ve ever read a novel set in Nigeria, and the perspective paired with the elegant prose and timely themes turned this one into a paperback I carried in my purse in order to log a few pages whenever I could.

A few years ago, I became so overwhelmed by the number of books I owned that I’d never read (it’s a sickness, me in bookstores) that one January day I set out a stack of books that would be my reading list for the year. And it worked – it gave me a focus and as I finished one book, I knew exactly which one to pick up next. As I look at a shelf of unread books now, including All The Light We Cannot See,  The Art of Fielding, and several familiar authors – Elizabeth Gilbert, Jonathan Tropper, Ian McEwan – I’ll do the same for 2016, and maybe do better to get through more than five this year!