Books I Read in 2015

This time last year, I made a resolution to read less and live more. I failed miserably on both counts, oops. I read 95 books in 2015! And one was Infinite Jest, which should probably round me up to 100 at least. I think this might be a personal record.

If you’re interested, here’s the list (there are also lists from 2010-2014 under the Books menu tab above):

Books I Loved

The Eye in the Door by Pat Barker (novel)
All the Birds, Singing by Evie Wyld (novel)
The Mismeasure of Man by Stephen Jay Gould (nonfiction, a refutation of biological determinism)
The Stone Carvers by Jane Urquhart (novel)
Scoop by Evelyn Waugh (novel)
Consider the Lobster by David Foster Wallace (essays – this was a reread)
Marry or Burn by Valerie Trueblood (short stories)
Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates (novel)
Fools of Fortune by William Trevor (novel)
Pro by Katha Pollitt (nonfiction, abortion rights today)
Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston (novel)
Meaty by Samantha Irby (essays)
Bomber by Len Deighton (novel)
Not That Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham (essays)
Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace (novel – this was a reread)
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr (novel)
Garner by Kirstin Allio (novel)
The Old Wives’ Tale by Arnold Bennett (novel)
Building Stories by Chris Ware (graphic novel)
Lowboy by John Wray (novel)
Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh (humor)

Books I Liked

The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters (novel)
The Handbook for Lightning Strike Survivors by Michele Young-Stone (novel)
Spying in Guru Land by William Shaw (nonfiction, silly British cults)
In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens by Alice Walker (essays)
Against Our Will by Susan Brownmiller (nonfiction, rape)
The Flying Troutmans by Miriam Toews (novel)
The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss (novel, fantasy genre)

Books I Appreciated In Various Ways

Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill (novel)
Beyond Belief by Jenna Hill (memoir, Scientology)
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel (novel)
The Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson (novel, fantasy/sci-fi genre)
Texts from Jane Eyre by Mallory Ortberg (humor)
Hemlock and After by Angus Wilson (novel)
Gone from the Promised Land by John R. Hall (nonfiction, cults/NRMs)
Look Homeward, Angel by Thomas Wolfe (novel)
One Man’s Justice by Akira Yoshimura (novel, translated)
The Splendid Things We Planned by Blake Bailey (memoir)
Cults: Faith, Healing, and Coercion by Marc Galanter (nonfiction, cults/NRMs)
Goodbye, Columbus by Philip Roth (short stories)
Love Marriage by V.V. Ganeshananthan (novel)
Committment and Community by Rosabeth Moss Kanter (nonfiction, intentional communities)
Darkness Visible by William Styron (memoir)
Both Flesh and Not by David Foster Wallace (essays)
The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters (novel)
Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card (novel, sci-fi genre)
My Life in CIA by Harry Mathews (experimental/uncategorizable)
A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin (novel, fantasy genre)
The Ballad of the Sad Café by Carson McCullers (short stories)

Books I Could Have Skipped

The Sweet Hereafter by Russell Banks (novel)
An Untamed State by Roxane Gay (novel)
The Fermata by Nicholson Baker (novel)
Why Waco? by James Tabor and Eugene Gallagher (nonfiction, Waco incident)
Do Not Deny Me by Jean Thomspon (short stories)
The Moronic Inferno by Martin Amis (essays)
The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas (novel)
New Religious Movements edited by Dereck Daschke and Michael Ashcraft (nonfiction, cults/NRMs)
The Day of the Locust by Nathanael West (novel)
The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf (nonfiction, beauty industry and patriarchy)
The Last Victim by Jason Moss (memoir)
Foundation by Isaac Asimov (novel, sci-fi genre)
What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami (memoir, translated)
All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren (novel)
Uncle Tom’s Children by Richard Wright (short stories)
Born to Run by Christopher McDougall (nonfiction, running)
Picture This by Lynda Barry (graphic novel)
Henderson the Rain King by Saul Bellow (novel)
Rock Springs by Richard Ford (short stories)
The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov (novel, translated)
The New York Trilogy by Paul Auster (novel)
Comprehending Cults by Lorne L. Dawson (nonfiction, cults/NRMs)
Rule of the Bone by Russell Banks (novel)
The Best American Short Stories 2014 edited by Jennifer Egan (short stories)
Communities of Dissent by Stephen J. Stein (nonfiction, cults/NRMs)
Rashomon by Ryunosuke Akutagawa (short stories, translated)
The Beginners by Rebecca Wolff (novel)

Books I Actively Disliked 

The Summer We Fell Apart by Robin Antalek (novel)
London Fields by Martin Amis (novel)
Innocent by Scott Turow (novel, courtroom genre)
The War of Art by Steven Pressfield (nonfiction, craft book)
Rubyfruit Jungle by Rita Mae Brown (novel)
50/50 by Dean Karnazes (memoir, running)
War for the Oaks by Emma Bull (novel, fantasy genre)
The Map of True Places by Brunonia Barry (novel)

Other Books

(These are other books I read, but can’t rank in the same way, as they aren’t really what I consider “books” — that is, they’re informational writing in book form, but they aren’t intended to be literary in any way. So in lieu of rating them, I’ll indicate whether I found them useful or not. I read most of these for work.)

The Gift of Fear by Gavin de Becker (self-defense advice, somewhat useful)
Running for Women by Kara Goucher (running advice, not useful)
Drive by Daniel H. Pink (management advice, not useful)
The Introverted Leader by Jennifer B. Kahnweiler (management advice, not useful)
Work Rules! by Laszlo Bock (management advice, not useful)
Hardball for Women by Pat Heim (management advice, dated but still somewhat useful)
Crucial Conversations by Patterson, Kerry, etc. (management advice, not useful)
Managing Humans by Michael Lopp (management advice, not useful and also really off-putting)
Leading Change by John P. Cotter (management advice, pretty useful!!!)
Execution by More Old White Men (management advice, not useful)
The Children of God by Deborah Davis (memoir)

(Opinions were formed in 2015 and may or may not be justifiable today.) 


  1. Kathryn P. says:

    Extremely impressive quantity and breadth of reading! I’m particularly intrigued about “Books I Actively Disliked” if you feel like elaborating at all. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Elizabeth says:

      Well, I don’t like to be overly negative, but since you ask… 😉 With the novels, they were all just extremely poorly written to the point that they read like self-published books. The one exception is the Amis — he can write, but this particular book is stupid and offensive. With the other books — the Pressfield was just trite. Plus, with many of the prolific writers he holds up as examples, he completely ignores the fact that they were able to write so much because their wives/servants were taking care of everything else for them. With 50/50, I don’t know how Karnazes’s ghost writers were able to take something as interesting as running 50 marathons and make it about as involving as reading about someone’s dental appointments. The guy has all the personality of a block of wood, and there wasn’t even any useful running advice!

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Pam Kocke says:

        I read London Fields when I was in my 20s and thought I was soooo sophisticated. (It was in the middle of my intense Anglophilia.) I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be able to get through it now – my time is way too precious. That said, if you saw the stuff I read this year, you’d probably defriend me.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Elizabeth says:

          Ha, I read Money in my early 20s and thought it was really clever, and I think if I reread it now, I’d probably think it was garbage (and misogynist).

          And no way – I don’t judge anyone’s taste in literature. It’s all very subjective! 🙂


          1. Pam Kocke says:

            I wish there was a way to see how many books I read this year. I really need to use Goodreads more.


            1. Elizabeth says:

              I keep a running list in an Excel spreadsheet.

              Liked by 1 person

  2. You read some awesome books this year!! That’s amazing:) Good luck in 2016!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Alex says:

    That’s an incredible number and some wonderful book choices. What’s your philosophy on the ‘books you actively disliked’ – read to the end or toss when you’re sick of it?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Elizabeth says:

      I finish almost everything I start, but once I’ve realized I dislike a book, I start to read faster. I have probably three reading modes: close reading, regular reading, and speed reading. If it’s a bad book or a purely informational one, I speed read. 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  4. WanderingOn says:

    What a feat of reading! Well done. I was sorry that most of the informational books were “not useful” for you. 😔 Having completed my masters in 2015 it was the informational reading matter I found the most inspirational, but I’m hoping 2016 will get me back on track with reading more generally. I will be making reference to your list, especially as I would also put “All the light we cannot see” on my list of favourites.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Elizabeth says:

      I got at least *something* useful from all of them, but most of them, the entire book just wasn’t really necessary for the takeaway.

      I think you’ll love All the Light! My expectations for it were so high based on all the praise that I was fairly certain I’d be disappointed, but it lives up to the hype. 🙂


      1. Elizabeth says:

        Err, I just realized you’re saying you *already* read All the Light and it was one of your favorites, too. Ignore me. 😛


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