Sunday, December 27, 2015

Year-End Programming, Part 1

In the last few days of 2015, I'm going to re-cap my year in reading.  This was the second year I resolved to read 52 books.  I love this resolution, and I plan to continue it indefinitely.  It's a major life-brightener.

This year, I've read 61 books so far, including these 20 audio books.  Audio books definitely "count," and in most cases, the reading experience is enhanced by the narrators, who elevate characters and description in sometimes surprising and curious ways.

Here are the best audio books I've listened to in 2015 - the top 5 with brief descriptions, in alphabetical order by author.  Hip hip hooray!

Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith.  Read by Robert Glenister.  I anticipated this mystery - the third in the Cormoran Strike series - more than any other book this year, I think.  My love for J.K. Rowling, who writes these novels under a pen name, endures, and the long sentences and quirky characterization in the Strike novels rocket me right back to Hogwarts.  Of course, at Hogwarts, women don't have their body parts hacked off and mailed to detectives.  This was delightful, suspenseful, and pretty gross in the serial killer sections.  Just so you know.

Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert. Read by the author.  Very rarely, you get to hear a book read by the author.  It's a cool experience for sure, as the author presumably emphasizes the parts that she wants to emphasize, adopting a gentle or firm or definitive tone at will.  Big Magic was a book I needed just when I read it, and Elizabeth Gilbert's voice is one I appreciate in my ear when doubt and fear get in my way.  This is a book I will return to.

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins.  Read by Clare Corbett, Louise Brealey, and India Fisher.  Probably everyone has read this monster hit. Like millions of others, I loved it. Rachel, an alcoholic with a faulty memory, cracks cans of gin and tonic on her London commuter train and watches a "golden couple" she's named Jess and Jason drink coffee on their terrace while the train is stopped at a signal.  When "Jess" disappears, Rachel realizes she may have critical information in the case and becomes deeply and uncomfortably entwined in the investigation.  Engrossing.  Addictive. Kept me doing chores with my headphones on for hours.

The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty. Read by Caroline Lee.  Again, this book has spent many weeks on the bestseller list, and you've probably already read it, but still.  I loved this book and Lee's charming and warm narration.  Here's the story: Cecilia's husband is on a business trip when she discovers a letter from him in the attic, to be read only in the event of his death.  Tess, meanwhile, escapes to her mother's house after her own husband confesses that he's in love with her cousin-slash-best friend.  Finally, Rachel has been mired in grief for the many years since the murder of her daughter.  The stories, all humanizing and ultimately hopeful, intersect and morph.

Big Little Lies also by Liane Moriarty.  Also read by Caroline Lee.  This is the first time I've had two books by the same author on a best list.  Big Little Lies also features three interesting and believable women and their intersecting stories about love, parenting, and grief.  It's also warm and emotionally immediate.  I'd call Moriarty's utterly readable and popular novels "guilty pleasures" if not for the tight, clever, and basically first-rate writing.  I'll be reading more of hers in 2016 for sure.

And that's the top five!  Of course, I noticed that most of these have huge fan-bases already and you're probably not getting any ideas for new titles.  I feel sort of bad about that, but these are my top five and that's that.  Just in case, here's a link to my favorite audio books of 2014.  

And here are my next favorite audio books of 2015:
And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini
Without You, There is No Us: My Time with the Sons of North Korea's Elite by Suki Kim
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi
The Knockoff by Lucy Sykes and Jo Piazza

And here are the others I liked, minus the one I didn't:
Zebra Forest by Adina Rishe Gerwitz
Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library by Chris Grabenstein
Alex Rider: Point Break by Anthony Horowitz
Stormbreaker by Anthony Horowitz
Euphoria by Lily King
H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald
The Hand that Feeds You by A.J. Rich
The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion
The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin


mm said...

I've been looking at H is for Hawk. Would it be worth reading?

KC said...

I think H is for Hawk is definitely worthwhile. There are two strands in the book - the one about the author and her grief and her hawk. I give that strand an A+. There's another strand about the author T.H. White who was also a falconer. I didn't find that strand to be compelling, and I kept wishing she'd go back to herself. Overall, I give the book at B+. Lots of people think it's totally fabulous, though. You might.

LH said...

I listened to 4/5 of these. May have to start the Galbraith series if I ever finish my stupid book that I hate