While 2015 included some difficult challenges, it was also a year I succeeded in reaching a few personal goals and even got to take a really amazing trip with my family to Walt Disney World. I definitely need to share more about that trip very soon, but today I’d love to focus on a reading goal I set for myself at the beginning of 2015. A couple of years ago I read Stephen King’s book On Writing, which is a wonderful combination of memoir and how-to on the craft of writing. If you haven’t read it yet, I highly recommend it, especially if you’re trying to improve your writing skills like I am. Mostly, though, because Stephen King is a heck of a storyteller and everyone should read this book at least once in their lifetime. One of the biggest pieces of advice that stuck with me from On Writing is that if you want to be a better writer Stephen King believes you must spend more time reading. It certainly makes sense to me, but I’ll admit I’ve been a pretty poor reader in my lifetime. When it comes to books, anyway. It takes a lot to keep my interest, so I often give up after just one or two chapters. Last year, though, I paid attention to recommendations from friends and read reviews before adding a book to my must-read list. For the most part, this method proved to be pretty successful and useful in helping me succeed in reaching my reading goal for 2015. Barely. By barely I mean that I think I literally finished my 12th book with only hours to spare, but success is success and I’ll take it.
If you’re like me and have a tough time finding books that will keep you interested, but appreciate input from others, I thought I’d take the time and share all of the books I read in 2015 with a recommendation for each one as to whether I think they would be worth your valuable time or if you might want to skip them and opt for something else. I’m pleased to say that for the most part I really enjoyed the books I read, but there were a couple that weren’t as enjoyable as others to get through. I’ll be honest, though, I’m no “book reviewer” by any means so my opinions of each book I read will be short and sweet and definitely won’t provide any major spoilers or deep insights.
12 Books to Read in 2016
1. Everything Matters by Ron Currie, Jr. was the first book I read in 2015. It was based off a recommendation I saw in a thread on a friend’s Facebook page, but what I didn’t realize at the time was that Ron Currie, Jr. basically grew up about fifteen minutes from where I grew up and in the same exact city as my husband. That was a pretty cool realization I made after I started to read Everything Matters. It brought me back to my childhood complete with mentions of specific streets and places I had been to as a kid growing up in Maine. The story itself isn’t necessarily one I would have chosen for myself, but I was pleasantly surprised and most importantly it made me appreciate my life and the people in it. Would I recommend Everything Matters? Yes, especially if you grew up in or have any kind of connection to the Central Maine area. The nostalgia alone makes this one worth it for me.
2. Where’d You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple – This one was definitely one of my favorites for 2015. Not only did I have a tough time putting it down, but it was a book I think I’d like to read again at some point. It’s a wonderful testament to the power of the love and the strong bond between a mother and daughter. It made me laugh, cry, and even get a little angry at times and that’s why I’d definitely recommend this one, especially if you need to a fun and easy read for your 2016 reading goal.
3. Wild by Cheryl Strayed – I’ll be honest. I read this one because it was made into a movie and a lot of people were recommending it. Cheryl is a tough cookie, there is no doubt about that. I’m not quite sure I could have had the courage to do what she did, but I loved following along on her journey of discovery and healing. Do I think I need to read this one again? Probably not. Do I think you should read it at least once? Absolutely.
4. The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion – I have to start off by immediately saying I’m a huge fan of the show The Big Bang Theory and the character in this book named Don instantly reminded me of Sheldon Cooper. He’s awkward, he’s quirky, but he most definitely has a big heart and is on a very important mission to find his future wife. He’s come up with a rather interesting way of going about it and even though on paper Rosie is not a match for him, his heart might have other plans. This one is funny and heartwarming and I’d definitely recommend it.
5. Me Before You by Jojo Moyes – If you haven’t already heard of this book I’d be quite surprised, especially since it was recently announced the film is coming out later this year. This one is an emotional one, there’s no doubt about it, but there’s also some humor and unlikely love story that promises to stick with you for years to come. Read this on. You won’t regret it. Just make sure you have some tissues close by.
6. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak – Not only was this book the longest one I read in 2015 (a whopping 592 pages), but it was also another one of my favorites. It takes place in 1939 Nazi Germany and while some of the details are difficult to read, they are also very necessary. This one is about a young girl and her family, who is dangerously hiding a young Jewish man in their basement, but somehow the power of books and reading help them all get through what is undeniably a frightening time for all of Germany. The Book Thief has also been made into a movie, but I personally haven’t seen it yet and I hope you don’t either, at least not until you read the book first.
7. Paper Towns by John Green – This book was getting a lot of hype due to the film release, which is one of the reasons I read it, but it also piqued my curiosity because I had read The Fault in Our Stars by the same author and figured I’d give it a shot. The first thing I’ll say is that I didn’t enjoy it as much The Fault in Our Stars, but it was okay. It was a decent combination of mystery and teen love and angst, but also pretty predictable. Read it if you’d like, but just don’t raise your expectations too high.
8. The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins – This is another book that everyone seemed to be raving about, so of course I had to see what all the chatter was about. If there is one genre I love when it comes to books it is definitely mystery/thriller and this one definitely fits that bill. I was on the edge of my seat through much of it and often had a hard time putting it down, which is always a good sign. It addresses some really tough issues, including divorce and alcoholism and introduces you to characters you’ll remember for a long time afterward. Read it. And then come back and tell me what you thought.
9. Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson aka The Bloggess – Oh boy, what can I say? I love this book hard. Not just because Jenny and I are totally besties, but also because she’s open and honest about some of the toughest stuff in life while also maintaining her special brand of humor. This book will make you laugh, it might make you cry, and it will probably make you cringe, but above all else it will leave you feeling less alone and that is the number one reason you need to read this book.
10. Rules of Civility by Amor Towles – Okay, I’ve got to be honest and say that this was one of those books I picked up and put down many times before actually sticking with it until the end. While I love a good period story (it takes place in 1937), this book left me feeling a bit disappointed. Maybe I had unrealistic expectations or maybe the circumstances just frustrated me at times, but ultimately I was bummed with how things turned out. I guess that’s good in a way because life (and books) aren’t always about a happy ending wrapped in nice little bow.
11. Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty – I doubt this is your first time hearing about this book and if you haven’t read it yet, you simply must. I loved it from the very first chapter, couldn’t put it down, and tried to slow my reading pace when I realized I was nearly finished reading it. I often wished I could sit and chat with Madeline, Celeste, and Jane and found myself feeling envious of their fictitious relationship. There’s murder, mystery, and a good amount of humor that will leave you appreciating the fact this book was a #1 bestseller. Put this one at the very top of your must-read list for this year.
12. Room by Emma Donoghue – If there was ever a story that embodies the fierceness of a mother’s love and the lengths she’ll go to protect her child, this book nails it. Jack and his Ma have the strongest bond a mother and child could ever have, but they each see their “world” so very differently. This book will keep you on the edge of your seat and draw you in as it both warms and breaks your heart, but the emotional ride will be so worth it in the end. I promise.
Okay, so if this list overwhelms you and you’re not sure which ones to place on your Goodreads shelves, let me share my top 5 favorites and maybe help you narrow down your choices a bit. I love Goodreads, by the way. It’s a great place to keep your book reading organized, to connect with friends who read, to read book reviews, and to set and stay motivated to achieve your own reading goal for 2016.
So here are my top 5 favorites from 2015:
Wow. It was harder than I thought it would be to pick just five, but I hope you find them helpful. Now it’s your turn. Did you read any great books in 2015? If so, please share them with me because I’d love to have some recommendations for my virtual bookshelf!