Good Reading 2015
As always, this list covers books read during 2015, regardless of publication year. I rarely stay current with new releases, and whatever books I do acquire tend to simmer on my shelf for months and even years before I finally crack them open. The envelope, please…
1. Toni Morrison, Song of Solomon (review)
2. John Howard Griffin, Black Like Me (review)
3. Harry Mark Petrakis, A Petrakis Reader (review)
4. Bohumil Hrabal, Closely Watched Trains (review)
5. Ben Tanzer, After the Flood (review)
6. William Maxwell, They Came Like Swallows (review)
7. John Darnielle, Wolf in White Van (review)
8. Isaac Bashevis Singer, The Spinoza of Market Street (review)
9. Joseph G. Peterson, Gideon's Confession (review)
10. H.L. Mencken, A Religious Orgy in Tennessee (review)
Honorable mention: Pär Lagerkvist, The Sibyl; J.M. Synge, The Aran Islands; Herman Melville, Moby-Dick; Willa Cather, O Pioneers!; Tom Williams, Don't Start Me Talkin'; Jack London, The People Of The Abyss; John Williams, Stoner; Suzanne Collins, The Hunger Games trilogy.
Re-readings: Herman Melville, Bartleby the Scrivener; F. Richard Ciccone, Royko: A Life In Print
As I started to compile this list, my first thought was that it hadn't been a very good year in reading, but as I looked over the titles I realized that impression was mostly due to having devoted so much time (four or five months) to Herman Melville and Willa Cather, both of whom underwhelmed me (though I did admire O Pioneers!, and give Melville a lot of credit for the sheer audacity of Moby-Dick). I finally realized that it was indeed a very good year, which is really underscored by the high quality of books that only made honorable mention - especially Lagerkvist and Synge, whose books I enjoyed enough to give as Christmas gifts.
Toni Morrison, quite frankly, blew me away - this is the first time I've ever read her, and I'm now really looking forward to digging deeper into her work. Same for Petrakis, a longtime Chicago writer who for some reason I had never gotten around to reading. And John Howard Griffin's landmark book should be required reading in every high school in America, especially during this era of racial divisiveness.
My friends Ben Tanzer and Joe Peterson came through again, my old favorites Hrabal, Singer, Mencken and Maxwell again failed to disappoint, and John Darnielle proved himself to be every bit as great a novelist as he is a songwriter.
I read a personal record of fifty books this year (due to both diligence and favoring shorter books), and I'm aiming for forty-five this year. I don't have any specific reading projects in mind right now, other than to read many more female authors than I have in the past.