I recently re-sorted my sidebars on the blog, including updating my Recent Kindle Reads list with books I enjoyed in 2015. Just as I have little time and mental bandwidth for blogging, I have similar obstacles to book reading, as opposed to shorter things like articles and news. I do read a lot for work, of course, as well as write, hand-in-hand, but not fiction. That generally gets relegated to vacations and trips, with a tail into the time that follows as I get hooked into something and continue with it until work again eats my brain.
Anyway, I've been thinking about my kvetching in the prior post, which upon re-reading I realize is terribly repetitive if an accurate reporting of what consumes my thinking whenever I attempt to blog. (Hmm, being consumed and eaten, a pattern there.) And I've wanted to write something else to sweep that post past, but it's the doldrums of the year so there's nothing much to report. But, having re-arranged my book list, I thought I might briefly note some books I enjoyed last year, which I tracked on Goodreads (without reviewing except to click on the number of stars).
I started out in January reading a collection of Anthony Doerr's short stories, having just read his beautiful All the Light We Cannot See in December (finished off during a trip to see my dad). I read Memory Wall in January and came back to his writing in February, reading The Shell Collector, both books full of captivating stories beautifully written. In between those two collections, I read Roxane Gay's gripping An Untamed State, set in Haiti and involving the kidnap of the American daughter of wealthy Haitian immigrants.
In March I read the lovely The Speed of Light by Elizabeth Rosner, a story told in three voices, a brother and a sister whose Holocaust survivor father cast his shadow over their lives, and their Central American housekeeper who has her own painful past.
In April I tried to get through Bettyville by George Hodgman, but gave up on it. It needed a good editor I hadn't the patience to find the nuggets of goodness within it. That appears to have depressed me enough that I didn't read anything else until June, which must have provided some time off and a trip as I read a few that month. Annabelle Gurwitch's I See You Made an Effort: Compliments, Indignities, and Survival Stories from the Edge of 50 was light and entertaining, even for someone over that edge. The Girl You Left Behind, by Jojo Moyes was a bestseller set in France during WWII featuring a French woman billeted by the Germans, very similar to one of the subplots in Irène Némirovsky's Suite Française. I thought it was interesting enough reading, but just not as good as many other WWII novels I've read. Next, I read Kent Haruf's posthumously published Our Souls at Night, a novel of mature love in a plain town written in Haruf's luminously spare prose. At the end of June, I read The Descent of the Lyre by Will Buckingham, on a friend's recommendation, and loved entering its mythical world so beautifully written.
A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson was my summer vacation read, and yes, not especially light beach reading by so well done. I 'd read her Life After Life and probably enjoyed that more, but this latest was still an excellent read. I followed that up with The Orphans at Race Point by Patry Francis after D had read and enjoyed it while we were on vacation near Provincetown, the setting for much of the novel. A very good read as well, and even more enjoyable for having just been in Ptown.
In October, I read Harriet Wolf's Seventh House of Wonders, by Julianna Baggott, a beautifully written and unique tale that I think I would have enjoyed much more if my readings weren't in snatches of time here and there. There are various threads to follow and I was feeling rather too scattered, but I admired the writing and when I could get into it I enjoyed it very much.
In December I needed a new book to read for my trip to see my dad, and kept running into too many stories I felt I'd read already and I wanted something from some different world. Watercolours by Adrienne Ferreira was just the thing, set in Australia about an artistically gifted 11-year-old boy from an eccentric family and the young teacher who comes to the little town where he lives and tries to encourage his talents. The next book I read and last of the year, The Ambassador's Wife by Jennifer Steil, was also set in a very different world, a fictional Arab country (the author had lived in Yemen) with another artist as the central character, the bohemian American wife of the British ambassador. The book had some uneven moments, but it offered a fascinating look at that part of the world and was a good read.
I'm currently reading Lucia Berlin's A Manual for Cleaning Women, a collection of short stories that are very short, very original, and extraordinarily good. But I think I need to find another novel to sink my teeth into, leaving Berlin's stories to pick up when I only short bits of time to read. I have a long list to choose from...