The Best Books I Read in 2015

My entire life, I have been kindly be described as a voracious reader. In fourth grade, my idea of a great recess was one in which I got to sit quietly alone and absorb a chapter in whatever fantasy novel I was currently toting around. I read while walking, over lunch, and at night falling asleep. I read Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire until binding literally fell off. Books were my first true love, and the feeling of complete escape is one I will never forget. Books, and a little later, writing, allowed me to create for myself the most magnificent life I could imagine.

Reading is so important to me that it makes up 1/3 of my list of deal breakers in relationships: no littering; no smoking; must be a reader. (But seriously, nothing good comes from someone who litters.)

Unfortunately, law school takes up 90% of your time and 150% of your mental energy and leaves almost zero time for reading. When A read ten Supreme Court biographies in a row, I began to feel bad that I hadn't really read anything I loved since beginning law school in 2013. I was such a non-reader at that point I was turning into my own deal breaker, while A was lounging around next to me devouring a new SCOTUS biography weekly. So, for my 2015 resolution, I decided to read 25 books, mostly fiction, mostly by women. Compared with my old reading habits of a book a day, 2 and a little books per month seemed easy. Of course, nothing in law school is easy, and I barely scraped my goal of 25 before ringing in 2016. 

25 books was more than enough to remind me why I feel so fucking in awe of the world every time I read a new book. So on that note, if you're looking for a little escape from the January blues, here are my favorite books I read in 2015, in no particular order, because all books are kind of the best books, right?

Furiously Happy - Jenny Lawson

I was really looking forward to this book because I love Jenny Lawson's blog. Her writing about living a hilarious life in the face of anxiety really resonates with me, and I loved the book just as much. A quick read that will make you feel ecstatic to be the weird anxious person you really are. Especially if you are the type of weird person who is super into ethically sourced taxidermy, which ... you do you, ok? 

Favorite quote: "Like my grandmother always said, "Your opinions are valid and important. Unless it's some stupid bullshit you're being shitty about, in which case you can just go fuck yourself."

Get it here

The Miseducation of Cameron Post - Emily M. Danforth

I went through a big YA thing this year. I don't know. It was weird but also great. YA just gets better you guys. It turns out that all those amazing YA books I read when I was actually a YA still exist and even better MORE PEOPLE ARE STILL WRITING SUPER AMAZING IMPORTANT YA BOOKS THAT I WOULD NEVER GET TO READ BECAUSE I'M NOT A YA! So get your YA on, it's worth it, I promise. Teenagers feel EVERYTHING so deeply it's kind of magic to remember how that felt. 

Miseducation is about a young lesbian in '90's Montana, which reads a lot like '90's midwest to me. After her parents die, Cameron is in a haze of grief and falls in love with her the cowgirl butch dream girl, Coley. When Cameron and Coley are found out by Cameron's conservative grandmother and aunt, she is sent away to be re-educated. The only thing I wanted more of from this book is pages -- I wanted everything to be drawn out longer so I could savor it more. 

I think it says a lot that I finished this book sitting on the ground at an outdoor food festival in Tucson, AZ, completely unable to be distracted from its compelling storyline by the delicious food around me. 

Favorite Quote: "I just liked girls because I couldn't help not to."

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My So-Called Ruined Life - Melanie Bishop

I can't believe I didn't read this until this year. It came out in 2014, and I didn't read it because ??? Idk, I guess I wasn't in my YA mindset yet. I read this shortly after Miseducation, and I'm glad I did, because they go perfectly together. In My So-Called Ruined Life, sweet, smart, and mouthy Tate McCoy's world is shattered when her mom is murdered and everyone around her is treating her like her world is made of glass (boy I know that teenagehood feeling... minus the murder part). I particularly love how authentic all of Tate's relationships feel, especially her relationship with her dad and her best friend Kale. I can't wait for the next book in the series. 

This is a quick read perfect for a lazy day when you want to curl up and fall away into the story of someone that could have been you in another life. 

Favorite Quote: "Nobody wants to date a girl who has 1) mandatory therapy, 2) a mom in the grave, and 3) a dad in jail. I give people the heebie jeebies. I am a walking reminder of the whole mess. Ruin." 

Get it here.

Swedish Lessons - Natalie Burg

Ok, this is another one I can't believe I waited so long to read because I'm a memoir junkie. I bought a copy when it first came out, in 2013, but somehow (SOMEHOW) haven't read it until now. Sorry Natalie, I regret it! Natalie's memoir chronicles the year she spent in Sweden as an au pair after leaving the United States and a crappy relationship. She goes to Sweden to take care of a couple kids for a year and ends up essentially the indentured servant of a cult leader. This book is everything I love: funny, honest, and bizarre. I actually (actually, literally) laughed out loud to myself. Multiple times! I know the author in real life, so I got the plus of being able to hear her voice in my head as I read it, but trust me, you'll still find it hilarious. 

Favorite Quote: "Where was my usual fear of flying? Nowhere in evidence. How was I not fretting over a midair collision? It was a mystery. Had I forgotten to count the onboard children? I always counted kids on my flights. It was my secret recipe of anxiety-induced OCD and superstition: the higher number of children the better, because (obviously) God was less likely to allow a plane packed with his little angels to crash than one filled with crummy adults. Not this time. All of us crummy adults were headed home, and that was all I needed to know."

Get it here.

The Fault in Our Stars - John Green

I almost didn't want to include this book because it felt kind of like including Twilight because everyone already knows and loves it. Right? RIGHT? But in the end, I decided to include it anyway, because I loved the book and it teetered just enough on the edge of way too depressing to read to keep me going. I generally stay far away from cancer books but like I said, I was having some manic YA streak and everyone loves John Green. The love story was sweet, and that's probably all I need to say about it because a million reviews have probably been written. I was rooting for both Hazel and Augustus and I loved them through the end. 

Favorite Quote: "Sometimes, you read a book and it fills you with this weird evangelical zeal, and you become convinced that the shattered world will never be put back together unless and until all living humans read the book."

Get it here

How To Grow Up: A Memoir - Michelle Tea

Every lesbian loves Michelle Tea. It's mandatory. I love her because I saw her read on a Sister Spit tour in Tucson and Dorothy Allison read too and my heart was more filled up than it maybe has ever been from the words of others. So a book of essays about growing up (and living as the oldest person in an apartment where mold takes over the fridge) is exactly what I want from her. Because she grew up, lately, and got married and had a baby, and this book talks about all the mistakes and bridges that took her there. Sometimes it reads as a bit advice column-y but I'm willing to forgive her for it. #lesbiantrust. 

Favorite Quote: "I spent the past decades alternately fighting off adulthood with the gusto of a pack of Lost Boys forever partying down in Neverland, and timidly, awkwardly, earnestly stumbling toward the life of a grown-ass woman: healthy, responsible, self-aware, stable. At 43 years old, I think I've finally arrived."

Get it here.

Yes Please - Amy Poehler

You guys, Amy Poehler is a fantastic human being. I devoured Bossypants by Tina Fey and this was just as delightful. This is the perfect book to get your feminist rage on for a minute and then enjoy a great pep talk about being a badass woman who can do whatever the fuck she wants! Amy did it! We can too! Just read it, there's no way for me to do it justice. 

Favorite Quote: “It takes years as a woman to unlearn what you have been taught to be sorry for.” 

Get it here

Mennonite in a Little Black Dress - Rhoda Jansen

This is weird right? What can I say, I love memoirs and also there aren't a ton of them on my library's overdrive account, so I end up reading (or listening to, as the case was here) whatever pops up and is available for checkout. This one was surprisingly delightful. Rhoda Jansen's husband leaves her for a man her met on gay.com and Rhoda goes home to her weird and delightful mennonite family. She then dates a man with a giant cross necklace made of nails (very 90s) and makes all sorts of delightful mennonite soups with her mother. I listened to the audiobook of this as I was running, and it was interesting enough to distract me from both my burning lungs and the fact that A and I were long-distance while she worked in New York, so that ought to be a pretty good endorsement. 

It's really perfect for a long drive or a long run, or a book to put on your nightstand and pick up when you need a laugh and to not feel too emotionally invested in one of the YA books I suggested above.

Favorite Quote: "In my opinion, sexiness comes down to three things: chemistry, sense of humor, and treatment of waitstaff at restaurants.” 

Get it here

 

Writing Down the Bones - Natalie Goldberg

Everyone has read this right? I was assigned this book in the first writing class I took in college and it is the one I return to over and over again whenever I need a good dose of inspiration. Goldberg making writing seem like the most important, most doable thing in the world, which it is, of course. Rereading this book makes me want to hole up in my room with my favorite pen and notebook and not come out until I've written that memoir I dream of writing someday. It makes me feel like all the life energy I expend on words is worth it. I always knew writing saved me, and this book affirms that. And it's not just for serious writers, I think any blogger would be remiss to ignore this one.

Favorite Quote: all of it, really, but especially: "We are important and our lives are important, magnificent really, and their details are worthy to be recorded. This is how writers must think, this is how we must sit down with pen in hand. We were here; we are human beings; this is how we lived. Let it be known, the earth passed before us. Our details are important."

Get it here.