totally top five 2k15: reading

I read fifty books this year! 53 of my 50 book goal, actually! Joining GoodReads (PS: BE MY FRIEND!) was super good for me! Even though I haven’t finished a book in… a while. But I am reading! Inching away at A Little Life day by day.

Anyway! Among those fifty books, I read several I loved! A lot! Because books are one of the things I love most in the entire world and you should all listen to me when I recommend them because I have impeccable reading taste.

5. Courtney Milan, The Duchess War – As part of my 2015 “Be more open-minded and less of a dick” campaign, I also decided to try out some romance novels! I read some really very bad ones, but I also got introduced to Courtney Milan because I am friends with people with very good taste! I can’t express how much joy this book brought me and how unbelievably good (and hot! and playful! and fun!) it is. Such a good surprise! The sex scenes are great (SO GREAT!) and the characters are engaging and likable and interesting and you fully believe that they are attracted to each other which is preeeeeeetty important for a romance. Also, it doesn’t fall into that trap where the conflict exists solely because two people won’t just TALK TO EACH OTHER which is one of the things I find most infuriating in romance-y type stories. I mean, there’s some of it, but you also kind of understand why these two wouldn’t just talk to each other already. I also really liked the prequel novella The Governess Affair and I will definitely read the rest in the series. I love that the non-romance stories are just as interesting as the romance and that the romance is funny and sexy and kind. Consent and tenderness are so, so key to her sex scenes and I live for them. Too good.

4. Maggie Stiefvater, The Dream Thieves – The first book in this series, The Raven Boys, was my very favorite book I read last year and I loved the follow-up as much, if not even more. The placemaking is phenomenal, the characters are awesome (Even the new ones! That can be so rare for a series!), the mythology is fun and expensive, and the characters and the relationships between the characters continue to develop in ways that are engaging and exciting. Stiefvater is a pro at exploiting the female gaze which is not only enjoyable, but refreshing, and writes dialogue that sounds real without actually emulating how teenagers talk. (Have you actually listened to teenagers talk? It’s mostly a nightmare.) I love everyone in these books, even when I don’t love them the way the author wants me to. I love the tension and the magic and the physical agony of anticipation. I love the villains in these damn books! I didn’t love the third book quite as much as the first two, but it didn’t dampen my enthusiasm for the series or make me any less overly amped for the next one. I love these books and I cannot wait until they get made into a terribly-casted monstrosity of a movie that I can scream about on the internet.

3. I finally read Bossypants this year and then I also read Yes Please! And Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? and I really, really loved all three. I made a conscious decision to try to read more books written by women and people of color this year and it has 1. introduced me to a ton of really good books and 2. probably made me a better person tbh. I thought I was going to love Yes Please more than I did and I don’t normally love Mindy Kaling, so I expected to not like it, but I actually think I loved her book the most. Surprises! All three kept me engaged (often while stationary biking which is a hard place to keep me interested!) and laughing and even moved and I’m so glad that, even with the things I didn’t love (Comedians love problematic garbage sometimes! It’s awful! Do better, guys!) I took the time to read all three of them this year. I also read Miranda Hart’s Is It Just Me? which I also loved and regularly quote. I read Kelly Oxford’s book too (Women! Comedians! I was having a time.) but it was awful, so.

2. Rebecca Stead, When You Reach Me – This book emotionally devastated me and I had to curl up in the fetal position and cry for like a half-hour after I finished reading it. Everything about it just felt so true and authentic and real, characters and setting, and it is so, so important to have that grounding in something science fiction like this. I have a hard time articulating why I loved this book so much, but I think it’s really because the entire time I was reading the story, I was just entirely inside of it. The world was so real and so emotionally resonant that it was almost overwhelmingly absorbing. This book not only made me want to write (always a sign of a really good book) but also made me miserably jealous that I didn’t write this actual book. Let me be Rebecca Stead! I read one of her other books this year as well and didn’t love it like When You Reach Me, but her writing was still wonderful and I will seek out lots more of her work in the future!

1. Gabrielle Zevin, The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry – I absolutely loved The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry and though I loved When You Reach Me pretty much just as much, I did not expect to end up liking Fikry at all, so it gets the edge. When I say “didn’t expect to like” what I really mean is, “REALLY ABSOLUTELY HATED A LOT FROM THE JUMP” but then it just… It course-corrected in all the right ways without invalidating the things I didn’t like and it was just so good. I don’t ever enjoy media about unlikable characters and I was really worried that this book would end up as just another on a pile of books I ultimately felt were a waste of time because I couldn’t connect to their protagonists, but Zevin did some masterful character evolution in this without it ever seeming unjustified or forced. There are great secondary and tertiary characters in this (Lambiase!!!!!) and women who are awesome and real and fleshed. When we were considering having a reading for our wedding (We did not, ultimately.) a passage from this is the only thing that came up for serious consideration. So, so good.

Honorable Mentions: Allie Brosh, Hyperbole and a Half | Gail Carriger, Etiquette & Espionage | Tom Perrotta, The Leftovers

Totally Top Five 2K15: Listening | Watching | Stuff & Things