My 2015 in fiction

My goal for 2015 was to read a fiction book a week by a different author. For a while, up until I went to work at a summer camp in Maine, I was way ahead of that schedule, but then I slowed down in the second half of 2015. It has been hard to read for pleasure ever since I started teaching high school literature a few years back.

55 in 2015

My year included 55 books by 55 different authors. Over half of those authors were women; a total of 28 compared to 27 men. Unfortunately I didn’t read that many books from different ethnicities. A paltry 16% were not white. The majority of these writers were black, with only three Asians and one Indian author. Not exactly something I’m proud of.

The American Literature teacher in me knew I would read a majority of American born writers, but I did read 11 non-Americans. However, the majority of them were from England, Canada, or Australia.

You’ll find a complete list of the books I read below, but first some superlatives.

Favorite book: Station Eleven – Emily St. John Mandel

This was one of the earliest books I read this year, but it has stayed with me the most. I have recommended it to numerous people and they all responded with glowing reviews as well. I appreciated the author’s ability to take an overused idea – a post-apocalyptic survival tale – yet add a refreshing view on what unfolded.

Least favorite book: The Orphan Master’s Son – Adam Johnson

I know I’ll get flack for not enjoying this Pulitzer Prize winner. Yet, it just didn’t resonate with me. Were there worse books that I have read this year? Sure. A handful. It was the hype surrounding this that really let me down.

Favorite book published in 2015: A Little Life – Hanya Yanagihara

Some people call it overly dense, but I felt that this epic tale of friendship was perfectly bloated. Yes, it’s long, but it was the only book to make me feel like shit. I mean that in a good way. I highly recommend picking this behemoth up if you haven’t managed to yet.

Least favorite book published in 2015: On the Run with Mary – Jonathan Barrow

Okay… This is sort of a cheat. Barrow died in the 1960s and this was an unfinished manuscript. Still, it was published this year. It is a short satire with overtly dark humor. I don’t want to bash it, but I would definitely not recommend it.

Top ten books I read this year:

Station Eleven
Emily St. John Mandel (333p, 2014, Knopf)

Redeployment
Phil Klay (304p, 2014, Penguin)

A Little Life
Hanya Yanagihara (736p, 2015, Doubleday)

Fourth of July Creek
Smith Henderson (480p, 2014, Ecco)

Did You Ever Have a Family
Bill Clegg (304p, 2015, Scout)

We Are Not Ourselves
Matthew Thomas (640p 2014, Simon & Schuster)

The Age of Miracles
Karen Thompson Walker (269p, 2012, Random House)

Fates and Furies
Lauren Groff (419p, 2015, Riverhead)

All the Light We Cannot See
Anthony Doerr (530p, 2014, Scribner)

Tell the Wolves I’m Home
Carol Rifka Brunt (355p, 2012, Random House)

Top ten books I read published in 2015: read here.

Crunching the numbers:

The longest book was Stephen King’s 11/22/63 at 839 pages. It was also the last book I read this year. I started it on December 28 and finished on December 30. At 135 pages, the shortest was the previously mentioned On the Run with Mary. I read 19,752 pages this year. The average length of the 55 books was 359 pages.

There was a variety of genres and styles. I didn’t track those as closely, but I can tell you that I enjoyed coming of age and familial sagas the most. I surprisingly savored speculative fiction more than I imagined. I did track point of view: 16 first person, 21 third person, 10 from multiple perspectives, and 8 short story collections.

I also read two books that will be published in 2016 (perks of my side job of interviewing writers and reviewing books): Samantha Hunt’s Mr. Splitfoot and the short story collection Fine, Fine, Fine, Fine, Fine by Diane Williams.

The complete list:

January (5 – 1,808p)

  • Everything I Never Told You – Celeste Ng (304 p, 2014, Penguin) – January 2
  • Redeployment – Phil Klay (304p, 2014, Penguin) – January 19
  • Wolf in White Van – John Darnielle (224p, 2014, FSG) – January 22
  • We Are Not Ourselves – Matthew Thomas (640p 2014, S&S) – January 28
  • The Girl on the Train – Paula Hawkins (336p, 2015, Riverhead) – January 31

February (6 – 1,681p)

  • What We Talk About… – Raymond Carver (159p 1981, Knopf) – February 1
  • Station Eleven – Emily St. John Mandel (333p, 2014, Knopf) – February 3
  • All the Birds, Singing – Evie Wyld (229, 2013, Pantheon) – February 7
  • One More Thing – BJ Novak (288p, 2014, Knopf) – February 15
  • Whiskey Tango Foxtrot – David Shafer (432p, 2014, Mulholland) – February 19
  • The Laughing Monsters – Denis Johnson (240p, 2014, FSG) February 28

March (4 – 1,974p)

  • The Goldfinch – Donna Tart (775p, 2013, LBC) – March 13
  • Fourth of July Creek – Smith Henderson (480p, 2014, Ecco) – March 17
  • American Pastoral – Phillip Roth (423p, 1997, HMH) March 24
  • We Need New Names – NoViolent Bulawayo (296p, 2013, Reagan Arthur) – March 28

April (6 – 2,112p)

  • Salvage the Bones – Jesmyn Ward (258p, 2011, Bloomsbury) – April 3
  • All the Light We Cannot See – Anthony Doerr (530p, 2014, Scribner) – April 5
  • The Age of Miracles – Karen Thompson Walker (269p, 2012, Random House) – April 10
  • The Yellow Birds – Kevin Powers (226p, 2012, LBC) – April 12
  • Swamplandia! – Karen Russell (336p, 2011, Knopf) – April 20
  • Child 44 – Tom Rob Smith (493, 2008, Grand Central) – April 23

May (5 – 2,101p)

  • Freedom – Jonathan Franzen (561p, 2010, FSG) – May 9
  • Tell the Wolves I’m Home – Carol Rifka Brunt (355p, 2012, Random House) – May 14
  • The Orphan Master’s Son – Adam Johnson (443p, 2012, Random House) – May 24
  • NW – Zadie Smith (402p, 2012, Penguin) – May 30
  • A Visit from the Goon Squad – Jennifer Egan (340p, 2010, Knopf) May 31

June (2 – 913p)

  • Broken Monsters – Lauren Beukes (448p, 2014, Mulholland) – June 9
  • Telegraph Avenue – Michael Chabon (465p, 2012, Harper) – June 27

July (4 – 1,260p)

  • The First Bad Man – Miranda July (288, 2015, Scribner) – July 15
  • The Dog Stars – Peter Heller (320p, 2012, Knopf) – July 22
  • Girl at War – Sara Novic (336p, 2015, Random House) – July 26
  • Lila – Marilynne Robinson (272p, 2014, FSG) – July 31

August (4 – 1,344p)

  • Church of Marvels – Leslie Perry (320p, 2015, Ecco) – August 8
  • In the Country – Mia Alvar (368p, 2015, Knopf) – August 21
  • Among the Ten Thousand Things – Julia Pierpont (336p, 2015, Random House) – August 25
  • Kitchens of the Great Midwest – J. Ryan Stradal (320p, 2015, Pamela Dorman) – August 30

September (6 – 2,073p)

  • Everybody Rise – Stephanie Clifford (369p, 2015, St. Martin’s) – September 6
  • To Rise Again at a Decent Hour – Joshua Ferris (352p, 2014, LBC) – September 8
  • Did You Ever Have a Family – Bill Clegg (304p, 2015, Scout) – September 13
  • The White Tiger – Aravind Adiga (288p, 2008, Atlantic) – September 16
  • Fates and Furies – Lauren Groff (419p, 2015, Riverhead) – September 20
  • The Turner House – Angela Flournoy (341p, 2015, HMH) – September 29

October (4 – 1,628p)

  • Mislaid – Nell Zink (256p, 2015, Ecco) – Oct 8
  • Against the Country – Ben Metcalf (336p, 2015, Random House) – Oct 18
  • A Brief History of Seven Killings – Marlon James (704p, 2014, Riverhead) – Oct 28
  • The Tsar of Love and Techno – Anthony Marra (332p, 2015, Hogarth) – Oct 31

November (4 – 1,334)

  • A Wild Swan – Michael Cunningham (134p, 2015,FSG) – Nov 7
  • Hotels of North America (208p, 2015, LBC) – Nov 11
  • A Little Life – Hanya Yanagihara (736p, 2015, Doubleday) – Nov 15
  • Refund – Karen Bender (256p, 2015, Counterpoint) – Nov 24

December (5 – 1,876)

  • On the Run with Mary – Jonathan Barrow (115p, 2015, New Vessel Press) – Dec 8
  • Fine, Fine, Fine, Fine, Fine – Diane Williams (136p, 2016, McSweeney’s) – Dec 10
  • The Mare – Mary Gaitskill (464p, 2015, Pantheon) – Dec 18
  • Mr. Splitfoot – Samantha Hunt (322p, 2016, HMH) – Dec 22
  • 11/22/63 – Stephen King (839p, 2011, Scribner) – Dec 30
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