Nonfiction | Notes From Class

Books I Read in 2015

A complete list of books I read this year, and some of my thoughts

Since 2013, I’ve kept track of all the new books and movies I read and watch over the course of the year. It makes me feel stable, like the one constant I’ll have is that I will always be consuming new media. This year, I decided to actually comment on what I’ve read instead of just filing the list away. 

I read 38 new books this year, not counting some short graphic novels and rereads such as Giovanni’s Room and A Separate Peace.  I tried making an effort to read more books written by women/POC/queer people, and I think I succeeded in that regard. I’ll continue doing that in 2016, obviously.

Here’s to books!

Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf

        I had watched The
Hours for the first time at the end of 2014, sobbed hysterically, and
immediately ordered this book. And it was great! I think the first half was
better than the second, just because it felt fresher and I hadn’t gotten used
to the style of writing yet. But overall, solid and sad.

The Yiddish Policemen’s Union by Michael Chabon

         I had never really read alt-history before this, so I had no
idea what to expect. It was definitely one of the weirder books I read this
year, and one that made me realize I don’t know anything about Judaism.

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

        A very important read, though sometimes it read like a
slideshow from a “Racism 101” class. It’s all very important stuff, it’s just
presented in a somewhat clunky way. The book is at it’s best when focusing on
Ifemelu’s isolation in America.

The First Bad Man by Miranda July

        This was totally bananas. Once I got used to being inside
Miranda July’s head, I was able to enjoy the insanity of it all. I’d definitely
like to read more of July’s work.

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

        Sassy. Scary. Erotic. I don’t know how I’ve been calling
myself gay without having read this book. A classic.

Cosmicomics by Italo Calvino

        Gonna be honest: mostly skimmed this one because it was
really out there.  The story about moon
cheese is perfect, and Liev Schreiber’s reading on Radio Lab is a must-listen.

Shut Your Mouth by Daniel Handler

        Incest Opera!!!!!!!!!!! You should absolutely read this.
Similar to The First Bad Man in tone
and insanity.

We Are Pirates by Daniel Handler

        This book was more about white male impotence than I would
have liked, but the pirate sequences with the daughter were enjoyable enough.

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews

        My summer YA pick, it was a pretty solid read. The main kid
isn’t just a hapless geek stereotype for once. I doubt I’ll watch the movie.

A Single Man by Christopher Isherwood

        Devastating. Read it on a single bus ride from NYC. Could not
put it down. One of the more emotional experiences of my 2015.

So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson

        An interesting concept explored for like maybe 30 pages too
long. The follow ups with people brought down by the Internet were the most
interesting parts. Maybe he can write an addendum in five years.

Alice + Freda Forever by Alexis Coe

       What a depressing true story, expertly told. Coe manages to
show both sides of this ‘romance’ without forgetting the fact that Alice was a
murderer. The movie adaptation will prove interesting.

All The Wrong Questions #3 by Lemony Snicket

       This series is just okay. Talks down to kid readers in a way Series of Unfortunate Events never did.
You’re better off just reading those books again. Fortunately, there’s only
going to be four of these.

The Sculptor by Scott McCloud

        The cover still sucks hardcore, but the story itself was
great. It sort of dips its toe into the “Manic Pixie Dream Girl” well, but it
never ruined the emotion for me.

The Waves by Virginia Woolf

       Like The Sound and the
, I don’t think I understood anything that was happening, but there
were some exceptionally well-written sections.

Go Tell It on the Mountain by James Baldwin

         A beautiful exploration of faith, manhood, sexuality, and all other fun things. It was a very fast read.

Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee

       Okay, setting aside the controversy and the probable notion
that Harper Lee did not want this book released, I thought it was great. I am
always in favor of stripping down childhood heroes, and Atticus Finch should be
no exception.

What the Living Do by Marie Howe

        I should not be allowed to read poems about someone whose
brother is dying of AIDS.

Darker by Mark Strand

        I should not be allowed to follow up “AIDS brother” poems
with “suicide brother” poems.

Drown by Junot Díaz

        Excellent short stories with just a hint of magical realism.
I need to read more of his longer work in 2016.

I Don’t Care About Your Band by Julie Klausner

        Julie Klausner has been one of my favorite people since I
started listening to her podcast a couple years ago, and I was happy to find
that her memoir is just as hysterical and depressing as the woman herself.
Something about her writing makes bad relationship stories way less agonizing
than usual.

Between The World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

        A very quick and important read. Coates does exemplary work
with difficult and heavy subject matter. Like Americanah, it leaned on some explanatory language, but it was
necessary to get the point across.

Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari

        Initially ignored this book because I assumed it was a
collection of bad date stories from Aziz Ansari. Not the case. I’d say it’s
most like Freakanomics, but focusing
on dating and romance. I love seeing emotions and relationships broken down
into cold, hard, data. Also, Aziz uses a lot of these stories in Master of
None, so it was cool to see the inspirations here.

The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick

        I saw Hugo when it
came out but never read the book. I fixed that in about two hours this summer.
Absolutely astounding.

Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick

        I read this about three days after I finished Invention, and I loved this one too! I
think the illustrations work better here since they’re telling a separate story
from the words. It’s neat!

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

        Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh so good. So raw, so
emotional, so true, so 80s. One of those books that I devour. Thanks Rainbow!

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

       A different beast from Eleanor,
but still worthwhile! As someone who still writes fanfiction, I absolutely see
its value, but can still recognize that my fiction classes probably don’t want
Five Times fic. Cath’s journey is sometimes hard to watch, but in a cathartic

Overqualifieder by Joey Comeau

       Joey is a pal of mine, so this review is somewhat biased: I loved Overqualifieder. As
an epistolary novel told through cover letters, the devil is in the details.
Joey is able to tell a complete, sad story in a speedy and chopped up manner. I’ve
always admired his writing, and I’m glad he never fails to disappoint. I eagerly
await his next work.

Even Cowgirls Get the Blues by Tom Robbins

        Recommendation from my friend Elizabeth. An absolutely
bizarre read, one whose plot hinged on the massive thumbs of a hitchhiking
girl. Stumbles a bit in its resolution, but I got really damn invested in those

Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

       The concept behind this book is hilarious: it’s based on the
fanfiction based on the series within Fangirl,
but it’s not that fanfic, it’s
Rainbow’s new story and it’s just wonderful. And gay! I’m a big proponent of
gay. Also, loved the narrator shifts which worked so well in Eleanor & Park. Agatha’s perspective
may have been my favorite. Excited to read this one again.

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

        I honestly don’t know if reading this was the biggest mistake
of my life or a totally cathartic experience. Was this book brilliant? Was it just misery porn? I honestly don’t know. I will probably read this book again when I’m not depressed.

This Book is Broken by Stuart Berman

       This is a really neat history of the band Broken Social
Scene. If you’re a fan of their music, it’s a must read.  I really want this kind of book for The

The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness

        They killed the dog I hate this book

Welcome to Night Vale by Joseph Fink & Jeffrey Cranor

        This was better than the podcast has been in months. I loved
Jackie and Diane’s dynamic. The library sequence is a standout.

Hunger Makes Me A Modern Girl by Carrie Brownstein

        Reawakened my love of Sleater Kinney. Brownstein is such a
gifted writer, and her longing and fears are totally relatable. I wish there
had been more time devoted to Portlandia,
but clearly this book was about the band, so I can’t really complain. It almost
makes me want to move to the Pacific Northwest. Almost.

Life on Mars by Tracy K. Smith

        Contains the most hopeful “My Dad Died” poem I’ve ever read.
Also fantastic Bowie references.

Not on Fire, But Burning by Greg Hrbek

        One of my favorite professors wrote this disturbingly
prescient book, which focuses on an alt-USA where Muslims were thrown into internment
camps. Very upsetting.

The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith

        CAROL CAROL CAROL CAROL CAROL CAROL!!!!!! I loved this book
so much. Therese’s obsession and desire to be with Carol is agonizing, but so
enthralling. It felt like the book had its way with me. I’m so excited to see
the film.

Hooray! That’s it! I’ll upload my movies list in a couple days.