Popular Books Read and Unread in 2015

I like to track my reading in multiple ways, for which I use the various OCD tracking tools on LibraryThing. One way is to track what I read during the year as compared to what others were reading during the same period (here’s the list). It interests me to see what trends emerge.

Here are the most popular books I read last year that multiple others also read:

I can recommend all of these!

Now here’s a selection of what everyone else was reading that I chose not to read, and why:

  • The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins: So many people were reading this and talking about it, that I was sure it would be a letdown. Let’s just say that I’ve been burned by uber-popular thrillers in the past.
  • All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, which won the Pulitzer and all, yadda yadda yadda. Let’s just say that I couldn’t bear taking on yet another World War II book at this time.
  • The Rosie Project by Graeme Simpson, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley, and Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple: As we all know, we shouldn’t judge books by their covers (or titles), but these seem way too cutesy for my tastes.
  • The Girl With All the Gifts by M.R. Carey: I actually picked this one up and read the first few pages, but I am sooooo tired of zombies. Burned out big time.

Feel free to try to convince me I made a mistake passing any of these up in the comments.

Top Five Reads of the Year

Here are my five favorite reads of the year, a nice mix of old classics and new discoveries. Please post your favorite reads of the year in the comments. (These are books read during the past year and enjoyed, but not necessarily published in 2015.)

  1. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel (my essay on a kinder, gentler apocalypse)
  2. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
  3. The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
  4. A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki
  5. Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer

Note: I don’t include rereads in my top 5 list. If I did, I would have to add The Haunting of Hill House, We Have Always Lived in the Castleand Frankenstein to this list.

Links for readers: Ebooks vs paper redux

“The pile of unread books we have on our bedside tables is often referred to as a graveyard of good intentions. The list of unread books on our Kindles is more of a black hole of fleeting intentions.” — Craig Mod

The New York Times says print is far from dead, and Craig Mod asks if digital books will ever replace print. After a torrid but brief love affair, I admit that I have been reading less on the Kindle and succumbing more to the allure of physical books. I still use the Kindle for throwaway books, travel, library books, and sampling. I think it is a terrific tool that has its uses, but it is not a replacement for books as objects. When I catalog my reads, I always categorize Kindle books as “read but unowned,” because books on the Kindle do not feel like they are really mine.

Margaret Atwood again: She says now is not the time for realistic fiction. When is it ever the time? If you’re looking for some wonderfully unrealistic fiction, try Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach trilogy, among the best books I’ve read all year; here’s a piece about writing it by VanderMeer in The Atlantic.

Let’s wrap up with a couple of fun infographics: one celebrating banned books week, and one celebrating Halloween monsters.

Recommended Reading: Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer

Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer is everything I liked about Lost, but much better executed. An expedition of four unnamed female scientists ventures into the mysterious Area X, and bad things happen. Area X, like the island in Lost, is a weird, unsettling, indefinable place where disquieting things happen that cannot be explained. Those who venture into it are irrevocably changed. The atmosphere in this book is thick and growing thicker. This is, in my opinion, a horror novel, and it is very effective at building disquiet in the reader, as well as a sense that reality is fundamentally untrustworthy.