This year I read 135 books. Each year I blog about my favorite books, an idea I got from the incomparable Aaron Swartz.
What follows are the books I most enjoyed in 2015.
*The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury – Reread from childhood. Very fun and says a lot about the era in which it was written.
*Be Cool by Elmore Leonard – Always entertaining. Chili is a character who can navigate dangerous situations without ever needing to touch a gun.
*Bernard Cornwell – Sharpe’s Escape, The Last Kingdom, The Pale Rider, Sharpe’s Battle, Sharpe’s Devil, Rebel, Gallows Thief, Stonehenge, Lords of the North, Waterloo. Bernard Cornwell is just great, great, great. All of his protagonists, all of his antagonists, all of his action sequences – just wonderful.
*Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt. Very well done.
*All Involved: A Novel of the 1992 LA Riots by Ryan Gattis. Excellent. Utterly gripping and masterfully written. A terrific book.
*Bedwetter by Sarah Silverman – Endearing, honest, and funny as ever.
*In Fifty Years We’ll All be Chicks and President Me by Adam Carolla – There is nothing like a good Adam Carolla rant.
*I Must Say – Martin Short – Fun and sadly nostalgic as he looks back on his life. I was particularly fascinated by the Toronto scene in 1972 – Ivan Reitman, Paul Shaeffer, Gilda Radner, Eugene Levy, Victor Garber, Catherine O’Hara, John Candy, Brian Doyle Murray and Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Alec Trebeck – what an amazing group to be friends with when you are 21 years old.
*Yes, Please by Amy Poehler. It offers a glimpse into her life and her opinions, though I wanted more.
*Dad is Fat and Food: A Love Story by Jim Gaffigan. He is a master of his craft; his delivery and method are just excellent
*Heartburn by Nora Ephron. Much humor and cleverness.
*American Again: Rebecoming the Greatness We Never Weren’t by Stephen Colbert and the writers of the Colbert Report. Really terrifically clever.
*I Like You and Simple Times by Amy Sedaris – Funny and irreverent. She is a gem.
*Good Omens – Terry Pratchet and Neil Gaiman. Very witty and British.
*Joan Rivers – Diary of a Mad Diva – Her delivery is just fantastic – I had quite a few belly laughs. I hope this classic style of Jewish comedy does not become a thing of the past.
*P.G. Wodehouse – Something Fresh, Carry on Jeeves, Stiff Upper Lip, Jeeves. Astonishingly delightful, meticulously plotted and crafted, and just superb in every line.
*Bill Bryson – In a Sunburned Country, A Brief History of Nearly Everything, I’m a Stranger Here Myself, A Walk in the Woods, The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid, One Summer: America 1927, Neither Here Nor There, At Home. Charming wit and self-deprecation. A wonderful writer and fascinating on any topic.
*David McCullough – The Wright Brothers and Truman. Such a wonderful writer.
*Jonathan Stroud – The Screaming Staircase, The Whispering Skull, The Hollow Boy, The Amulet of Samarkand, The Golem’s Eye, Ptolemy’s Gate, The Ring of Solomon. Just delightful. Really wonderful world-building. The Ring of Solomon might be a perfect book.
*Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith (J. K. Rowling). Extremely well-plotted. A captivating tale.
*Lee Child – Deep Down, The Affair, Never Go Back, Personal, 61 Hours, A Wanted Man, Worth Dying For, Gone Tomorrow, One Shot, Running Blind, Bad Luck and Trouble, Nothing to Lose, Make Me. The Jack Reacher books are a ton of fun. Granted, Jack Reacher is nearly omniscient and omnipotent, but the mysteries and the action are always taught, intelligent, and supremely entertaining.
*Barry Eisler – Killing Rain, The Last Assassin, Requiem for an Assassin. Really fun. A cool-blooded and methodical freelance assassin – very clear and logical.
*Bunker Hill by Nathaniel Philbrick. The great story behind an incredible moment in American history.
*Transcendent Speculation on the Apparent Deliberateness of Fate in the Individual by Arthur Schopenhauer. Tremendously insightful. Delves deeply into the idea that people are the authors of their destinies far more than they often realize.
*The Wisdom of Joseph Campbell by Michael Toms. Campbell was a profound teacher about life, not just myth.
*I Am Legend by Richard Mathison. Groundbreaking for 1954.
*Nos4a2 by Joe Hill. Fun, imaginative, and very well-executed.
*Horns by Joe Hill. I really enjoyed this book. Extremely original and inventive. The character is sort of like a modern day Gregor Samsa.
*Michael Lewis – The Blind Side, Moneyball, Flash Boys. Michael Lewis has such a gift for making arcane topics accessible and weaving them around inspiring underdog stories.
*Winter’s Bone by Daniel Woodrel. Some gorgeous and specific writing. Ultimately, I wanted a more proactive hero and a greater sense of retribution, but the writing is beautiful.
*Brent Weeks – The Way of Shadows, Shadow’s Edge, Beyond the Shadows. Very fun.
*The Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger. A guilty pleasure like Crazy Rich Asians.
*Trick Baby by Iceberg Slim. “The Sting” seems to be completely ripped off from this book! Iceberg Slim is a supremely gifted writer with an amazing ear for dialog and description. It’s like reading the best of Kerouac, Ginsberg, or Burroughs.
*Sex on the Moon by Ben Mezrich. The entertaining true story of a NASA intern who stole priceless moon rocks.
*David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell. Always delightful, entertaining, and user-friendly. Malcolm Gladwell would be the ultimate dinner party guest.
*Elon Musk by Ashlee Vance. I want to read about Elon Musk forever and ever.
*On Writing Well and Writing About Your Life – William Zinsser. Very clear and persuasive. Use only active verbs. Always write for clarity. Tell a story and make a point. Be honest. Put yourself into the writing – your personality and character. Style is honesty.
*Michael Jordan by Roland Lazenby. Really inspiring story.
*The Odessa File by Frederick Forsyth. A fascinating premise.
*Cleopatra by Stacy Schiff. A really fun biography.
*Bright Lights, Big City by Jay McInerney. Sensational. Truly moving. Experimental for a point – the 2nd person narration creates the perfect feeling of dissociation.
*The Heist and The English Girl by Daniel Silva. Lots of fun ideas.
*A Hot Gluegun Mess by Mr. Kate. Shocking and outrageous stories told with honesty and wit.
*Tom Cruise: The Anatomy of an Actor by Amy Nicholson. Thoughtful and insightful and a great coffee table book. We still don’t know much about Tom Cruise, but he’s definitely an icon, a singular talent, and an inspiration.
*All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. Such strong, gripping, evocative writing.
*Daily Life in the Roman City by Gregory S. Aldrete. Really accessible and comprehensive accounting of Roman life – very thorough and enjoyable.
*The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. Interesting ideas on productivity.
*To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. I reread from childhood. Extraordinarily great writing. The protagonist is just so loveable – excellently capturing childhood in the South.
*The Power of Full Engagement by Jim Loehr. Lots of good productivity ideas to be mined in here.
*The Runaway Jury by John Grisham. At first I didn’t quite get it because there was no clear protagonist. But the book was just so darn clever and imaginative and thought-provoking it completely won me over and had a terrific conclusion.
*The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolley. While I’m skeptical of any professed guru, the book makes a lot of great points.
*Michael Connelly – Angel’s Flight, Echo Park, City of Bones, The Burning Room, The Drop, A Darkness More Than Night, The Black Box, 9 Dragons. Really gripping and well-constructed mysteries. The hard-boiled Los Angeles cop who rails against the political unfairness of the system is a character we’ve seen before, but in Connelly’s hands, it’s perfectly executed. Each book is completely satisfying.
*The Prom Goer’s Interstellar Excursion by Chris McCoy. Wonderful. Sensationally verbally clever – just fantastic.
*The Prophet by Khalil Gibrain. Some parts I agree with; some parts went over my head.
*The Pregnant Widow by Martin Amis. Some moments of true profundity, some moments of great humor and wit, and some moments of unalloyed honesty about the true nature of relationships. Some really beautiful and bittersweet meditations on age, as well. I think this is Amis’s parody of “the British novel.” It’s like an upside down E.M. Forster or Jane Austen.
*Slam by Nick Hornby. So much poignancy, realism, and depth, for a book that is putatively YA.
*What is the What by Dave Eggers. Pretty astonishing story about The Lost Boys of South Sudan. A bit exhausting to read given the subject matter but eye-opening and important.
*The Circle by Dave Eggers. Filled with interesting ideas; this is very much in the vein of Aldous Huxley.