December 14, 2015

A year in reading.

My first memory of the past year is from Pender Island in British Columbia. It is early in the morning on the first day of 2015, so early that the sun is just breaking out from the horizon and everyone else is still asleep, and I am sitting by the fire—actually, the smoldering-but-still-warm ashes in the fireplace from last night’s fire—reading Tom Perrotta’s The Leftovers and waiting for everyone to wake up so the day, and the new year, can begin.

At that time, I had no idea that Mr. Perrotta’s novel was already being made into a television series; I finished the book in two days and thought to myself that it would be appropriate for adaption into a screenplay. It was a reminder, after a 2014 full of reading primarily non-fiction, that there was joy in fictional tales, as well.

I read twenty-five books this year—I fell one short of my goal for twenty-six—along with approximately 1,600 articles in magazines, periodicals, or web publications. In that list of articles I made a conscious effort to include about a hundred pieces of short fiction; with my books, I made sure that no more than half were non-fiction works.

The decision to read more fiction paid off handsomely in May, when I picked up a copy of Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven after seeing it being discussed and recommended by a few close friends. It was easily the best novel I read in 2015, and I am tempted by my propensity for superlatives to claim it the best novel I have read this decade.

That is not to say I haven’t read other wondrous works; while Ms. Mandel’s novel clearly stands out, the year has been filled with literary delight—this delight often took the form of powerful, challenging prose and narrative—in such works as Marilynne Robinson’s Housekeeping, Gabrielle Zevin’s The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, Adam Levin’s Hot Pink, and Merritt Tierce’s Love Me Back.

My list of books to read in 2016, many of them already stacked precariously on my bedside table and the sitting in my public library queue, is long and varied. I will endeavor to reach the prolificacy of my youth, when I used to read more than a book a week, but am setting my immediate goals at the more realistic number of forty. Among that list, just like this year, there will be gems; I look forward to relishing in that literary delight in the weeks to come.

(Inspired by The Millions’ Year in Reading tradition.)