Thursday, December 31, 2015

Favorite Books of 2015

This year I finished reading 41 books. That doesn’t include the ones I started but, for whatever reason, didn’t finish.

The library and the church and the synagogue provided incentives this year. The library now has a winter and a summer reading challenge for adults! I had to read a lot of books for church. My husband started a book club at the synagogue.

Here are my favorites from this year. 

Notre-Dame de Paris, by Victor Hugo (bilingual version on Kindle).  Also The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, by Victor Hugo, trans Walter Cobb.

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, by Rachel Joyce
It is rather inexplicable that at this point in my life I would love a book about an elderly person walking, but I really liked this book.  I found it to be a compelling story, with plenty of grief and loneliness, but also love and beauty.  There’s lots of tea drinking and letter writing, which in my view puts it in the ranks of a great English novel.  Harold seemed to me to end up being very like Jesus – caring for people in spite of them,  always listening, giving away the very last thing he has, sacrificing himself in order to give life to Queenie.

No Fond Return of Love by Barbara Pym
This is the opening line:
There are various ways of mending a broken heart, but perhaps going to a learned conference is one of the more unusual.
As is usual in a Barbara Pym novel, there is much acerbic wit, romantic confusion, and tea drinking here.  I love it!

The Invention of Wings, by Sue Monk Kidd

1984 by George Orwell
I am not sure whether to include this as a favorite book, but I list it here because I think it is an important book.  Our book club will discuss it in January.  This is my third or fourth time reading this book, and every time I have been appalled at the hopeless world the book creates.  With this reading I saw a number of parallels, if a bit imperfect ones, with current-day politics and with the internet.  Big Internet Brother is watching you, and don’t you forget it.  Hate Week is coming up soon, leading up to the parties’ conventions in July 2016.   Preparations for hate have already begun.  And remember, we have always been at war.

The two I list here are religiousy.  I did read some non-religious nonfiction this year, most notably Devil in the White City, which I wrote about briefly here and The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander which I wrote about ponderously here.

Discovering the Other (Kindle version) by Cameron Harder – about church renewal.

Pastrix: The cranky, beautiful faith of a sinner and saint, by Nadia Bolz-Weber
One of my favorite quotes:
I find liturgical dance to be neither liturgical nor dance and is often performed by liberal, middle-aged women with lots of scarfy things going on.
But there is plenty of serious stuff: addiction, sobriety, theodicy, Wiccan worship, grace, forgiveness.  I’ll leave you with one last quote.
My former bishop Allan Bjornberg once said that the greatest spiritual practice isn’t yoga or praying the hours or living in intentional poverty, although these are all beautiful in their own way.  The greatest spiritual practice is just showing up.
Thanks for showing up here and reading my blog.  It is a great comfort and encouragement to me. 

Now it is your turn. Do you have a favorite book that you read during 2015?  Feel free to link to your own blog, if you wrote about books there.

(If for some bizarre reason you want to see the entire list of books I finished this year, here's the list.)


Karen (formerly kcinnova) said...

YES to The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry! I'd add a few others as well:
All the Light We Cannot See
The Ship of Brides, by JoJo Moyes

...and right now there are more but my brain isn't firing on all cylinders. I haven't even managed to keep my list up on Goodreads, although I've been trying. Off to read your big list, too.

smalltownme said...

Non fiction: I loved The Boys in the Boat, Hotel on the Place Vendome. Lost Wake.

Fiction, too many choices. Beatlebone by Kevin Barry stands out recently ...also A Manual for Cleaning Women, by Lucia Berlin, I am partway through. Short stories, vivid and real.

I have a huge stack of unread gems.

Cookbooks: The Food Lab,The Scandi Kitchen, Zahav.

It's exquisite torture to work in a book store. So many books, so little time is the truth.

Patience_Crabstick said...

I love No Fond Return of Love! Sometimes I think it's my favorite Pym novel, but then I change my mind for one of her others. It's hard to pick a "best" Barbara Pym.

Anonymous said...

I read Harold Fry and adored it, too! And I really enjoyed The Invention of Wings. Fredrik Backman is my new favorite writer, and Barbara Pym is on my "to read" list. I feel like I'm missing out.