Now that I finally got around to sharing all the new films I watched last year, I thought I’d share all the books I read in 2015. This is somewhat influenced by Justin Blanton’s annual tradition of posting the books he’s read, though I don’t quite have the interest in ranking these books as he does. By the way, you should read Justin’s thoughts over at Anxious Robot; great to see him writing regularly again.
I’ve always been a reader, but never a very diligent one. I’m trying to change that, and I think I did a pretty good job last year. I read twenty-three books last year, which is way over the ten I read in 2014. Not bad.
Lately I prefer to read paper books over ebooks. For one, most of the film books I want to read aren’t available in electronic form, but also there is still something about holding a book in my hand that I prefer. I think it’s that I like flipping ahead to see where a good breaking point will be. Yes, ebooks can sort of do this by telling you how many “pages” remain in the chapter, but what if I don’t want to wait for the next chapter? What about when I’m looking for a paragraph break?
A number of the books I read last year were audiobooks, which I find I prefer most of all when an author reads his or her own memoir. In the case of John Hodgman’s The Areas of My Expertise, the audio production is so integral to the experience, it feels like the audiobook is the canonical version of the work. I don’t think I’d want to “read” it any other way. If for nothing else, this book is amazing for its “Top Spots for Crabs” bit. It still cracks me up every time.
My most-read author last year was Philip Roth, including the incredible audiobook version of American Pastoral, read by the late Ron Silver. It is a shame that we lost Silver before he could have read the entirety of Roth’s library. His performance is pitch perfect; he will forever be the voice of Nathan Zuckerman in my mind. (Silver also read I Married a Communist, Roth’s follow-up also narrated by Zuckerman; maybe I’ll give it a listen later this year.)
I don’t think I could choose a favorite book from the last year. If I had to choose a least favorite, it would probably be, oddly enough, The Martian, which is the basis for my favorite film of the year. The film did away with everything I didn’t like and made something wonderful out of it.
Père Goriot is the first Balzac novel I’ve ever read. I’ve been meaning to read some ever since I fell in love with The 400 Blows, in which Antoine Doinel nearly burns down his home by building a shrine to the author. Long ago I started (but never finished) François Truffaut’s Correspondence, 1945-1984, and as a young man he would invoke Balzac’s name over and over again. So I’m glad I finally got around to it. I enjoyed the novel, which painted a vivid and enjoyable a picture of 19th century Paris.
What else can I say about these twenty-three books? I wrote a few words on some of them over on Goodreads, so you can follow me there to see more specific notes on any of these. All of the book links below are affiliate links to Amazon (except for Lillian Ross’s Truffaut interviews), so I thank you in advance if you go and buy any of them. So here it is: the books I read in 2015:
- Thank You, Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse
- The Middlesteins by Jami Attenberg
- The Big Screen: The Story of the Movies–and What They Have Done to Us by David Thomson
- The Areas of My Expertise by John Hodgman
- Francois Truffaut from The New Yorker, 1960-1976 by Lillian Ross
- The Mysteries of Pittsburgh by Michael Chabon
- Brief Encounters: Conversations, Magic Moments, and Assorted Hijinks by Dick Cavett
- An Improvised Life: A Memoir by Alan Arkin
- The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary by Simon Winchester
- Shock Value: How a Few Eccentric Outsiders Gave Us Nightmares, Conquered Hollywood, and Invented Modern Horror by Jason Zinoman
- American Pastoral by Philip Roth
- Père Goriot by Honoré de Balzac
- The Inventor and the Tycoon: A Gilded Age Murder and the Birth of Moving Pictures by Edward Ball
- Projections 4: Film-Makers on Film-Making by John Boorman
- Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott
- The Double and The Gambler by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
- The Martian by Andy Weir
- The Breast by Philip Roth
- Letting Go by Philip Roth
- Diary of the Fall by Michel Laub
- The Reverberator by Henry James
- The American Cinema: Directors and Directions, 1929-1968 by Andrew Sarris
- Brave New World by Aldous Huxley