I read 57 books this year, which is a 42.5% increase over 2014 (don't check the math), and the year isn't even finished yet. I'm happy to pat myself on the back for something, believe me, although I'm not sure what sort of achievement this counts as. I can't swear that it made me wiser or cooler or better at anything. Did it? Maybe. Should it? Maybe not. Who cares? Do whatever you want.
I won't go nuts and commit to reading more than one book a week for 2016, so my next resolution is to read with a more critical eye—less to make judgments than to see how and why—and then to actually write about what I'm reading (as my 2016 list grows and grows and grows). Seems like time to cash in on that valuable English lit degree, so look for Kari's Thoughts on Books & etc., right here at a future near you.
In the meantime, these were some of my favorites from 2015 and come very highly recommended (by me). Only two of them are novels, which seems new and surprising for a person who used to read fiction almost exclusively and would never have imagined otherwise:*
- The Good Lord Bird by James McBride
- Man at the Helm by Nina Stibbe
- Laurel Canyon by Michael Walker
- The Shepherd's Life by James Rebanks
- Poverty Creek Journal by Thomas Gardner
- The Light of the World by Elizabeth Alexander
- 100 Essays I Don't Have Time to Write by Sarah Ruhl
*I listened to this "On Being" podcast while I shopped for groceries this morning; it's a conversation between Krista Tippett and Mary Catherine Bateson, who's the daughter of anthropologists Margaret Mead and Gregory Bateson. They talk about marriage at one point and Bateson says something about how marriages need to evolve and grow in the same way that babies evolve and grow: parents understand that their children will change from week to week but people in relationships don't necessarily expect that from a partner, which is one reason marriages fail (as Lillian Hellman puts it: "People change and forget to tell each other.").
It's so easy to get stuck in the mindset that we are who we are, that we like what we like and hate what we hate, but how much easier it might all be if we could remember that nothing about us is settled or static, regardless of our age; we shift every day (per Wendell Berry, "we are either beginning or we are dead.") Maybe I read to remind myself of that.