Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015 in Books: The List

Okay! Here is a list, in order by author, of the books I read in 2015. I agonized for MONTHS (no, really) about picking favorites or making a top ten list or something, so instead I am just going to bold the titles I particularly recommend.

FIRST, three 2015 books I was lucky enough to read early copies of in 2014; all are excellent: The Shadow Cabinet by Maureen Johnson, The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black, Tunnel Vision by Susan Adrian.

1. Alameda, Courtney: Shutter
2. Atkinson, Kate: A God in Ruins
3. Blume, Judy: In the Unlikely Event
4. Bray, Libba: Lair of Dreams

5. Brezenoff, Steve: Guy in Real Life
6. Cocks, Heather & Jessica Morgan: The Royal We
7. Cornwell, Bernard: The Last Kingdom
8. Danielewski, Mark Z.: Only Revolutions
9. Demetrios, Heather: I'll Meet You There
10. Dick, Philip K.: The Man in the High Castle
11. Duncan, Alexandra: Sound
12. Eliot, George: Silas Marner and Two Short Stories

13. Esther, Elizabeth: Girl at the End of the World
14. French, Tana: In the Woods
15. French, Tana: The Likeness
16. Gaskell, Elizabeth: North and South

17. Han, Jenny: To All the Boys I've Loved Before
18. Hawkins, Paula: The Girl on the Train
19. Hawkins, Rachel: Rebel Belle
20. Keplinger, Kody: The DUFF
21. Kondo, Marie: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up
22. LaCour, Nina: Everything Leads to You
23. Le Carre, John: The Looking Glass War
24. Levine, Gail Carson: Ella Enchanted
25. Martin, George R.R.: A Feast for Crows
26. Nelson, Jandy: I'll Give You the Sun
27. Nicolson, Adam: Why Homer Matters
28. Nordberg, Jenny: The Underground Girls of Kabul
29. Norton, Mary Beth: In the Devil's Snare
30. Perkins, Stephanie, ed.: My True Love Gave to Me
31. Plath, Sylvia: The Bell Jar
32. Quintero, Elizabeth: Gabi: A Girl in Pieces
33. Raybourn, Deanna: Dark Road to Darjeeling

34. Raybourn, Deanna: Midsummer Night
35. Rendell, Ruth: From Doon with Death
36. Ritter, William: Jackaby
37. Robb, J.D.: Interlude in Death
38. Roth, Veronica: Insurgent
39. Rowling, J.K.: The Casual Vacancy
40. Rutoski, Marie: The Winner's Curse
41. Saenz, Benjamin Alire: Aristotle & Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

42. Schiff, Stacy: The Witches: Salem, 1692
43. Silvera, Adam: More Happy Than Not
44. Sloan, Holly Goldberg: I'll Be There
45. Stein, Sarah & Lucy Talbot: The Bridesmaid's Manual
46. Stoker, Bram: Dracula
47. Thomas, Rob & Jennifer Graham: Mr. Kiss and Tell
48. Thoreau, Henry David: Walden and Civil Disobedience
49. Waters, Sarah: The Paying Guests
50. Weir, Andy: The Martian
51. Wilde, Oscar: The Picture of Dorian Gray

52. Wolitzer, Meg: Belzhar
53. Yglesias, Rafael: The Wisdom of Perversity

2015 in Books: The Statistics

Because I like playing with spreadsheets . . .

I finished reading 55 books in 2015; 53 were new to me and two were rereads. (I'm ignoring the rereads for the rest of this post, mostly because they're on a separate tab of my spreadsheet.)

The oldest was Thoreau's Walden, published in 1854. I read five books from the second half of the nineteenth century (Thoreau, Gaskell, Eliot, Wilde, Stoker) and four from 1962-65 that make an interesting cultural microcosm (in publication order: Dick's The Man in the High Castle, Plath's The Bell Jar, Rendell's From Doon with Death, Le Carre's The Looking Glass War). Then one from the 1990s and the rest from the 2000s, including 15 published in 2014 and twelve published in 2015. (There are also three books published in 2015 that I read in 2014, which keeps confusing my various lists.)

The longest was George R.R. Martin's A Feast for Crows at 1060 pages; the shortest was Deanna Raybourn's Midsummer Night at 56 pages. The books add up to a total of 19263 pages, or an average of 363 pages each.

(According to what I could find from author bios) I read 37 books by American authors, ten by British, three by Irish, and one each by Scottish, Swedish, and Japanese authors.

As far as I could determine: 36 by authors identifying as female, 15 by male, one by a male/female writing pair, and one anthology including authors of more than one gender.

I didn't record how many authors of color I read, but I'll try to be more aware of that next year.

33 books published/marketed to an adult audience, 19 young adult, one juvenile.

45 fiction and 8 nonfiction. (I'm being generous to Thoreau there.) The fiction numbers include ten mystery, six fantasy, five science fiction, three historical fiction, three romance, and two horror.

20 of the books were part of series. Nine were first in the series, six were second, three were fourth, one was 3.5, and one was 12.5. (The fractions are interstitial novellas. I don't make the rules.)

The only authors by whom I read more than one book this calendar year were Tana French and Deanna Raybourn. (Both highly recommended, obviously.)

36 authors were new to me (plus maybe a few more in a short story anthology; I don't have that list in front of me).

33 of the books were from the library, nine I bought specifically to read right away(ish), seven I already had unread on my shelves, three were gifts, one I borrowed from a friend, and one was a review copy from the publisher.

31 hardcover, 15 trade paperback, three ebook, two mass market paperback. One paper ARC (advance reading copy) and one electronic ARC.

Next up: A list of what all these books actually were, if you want?

Morning Coffee (12/31/15)

Happy New Year's Eve!

The NY Daily News has kind of been the best this year. Here's their Cosby editorial and amazing cover.

A Comprehensive List of All the Women Who've Gotten Rich Accusing Celebrities Like Bill Cosby of Rape

New Hampshire! A Female Lawmaker Defends Public Breastfeeding. Her Male Colleague Threatens To Grab Nipples.

Can Trump’s Clinton-Sex-Scandal Revival Hurt Hillary?

Star Trek stamps!!!

In other Star Trek news, I am SO HAPPY that these people are getting sued.

This is GREAT: "I searched my feelings, I knew it to be true: I was part of the fucking problem, and I needed to read some fucking romance."

Forget ‘Auld Lang Syne’: A Brief, Depressing Tour of New Year’s Literature

2016 Conversation Guide

25 Books We Can't Wait to Read in 2016

Monday, December 21, 2015

Morning Coffee (12/21/15)

I finally saw Star Wars yesterday. I enjoyed it. This has been your Star Wars update.

Me elsewhere: TV news!

Schools in my city are closed today because of a threat of violence.

The new Harry Potter play has cast a black actress as Hermione and now we get to see who the racists in that fandom are!

This clarified some things: An Explanation of What Bernie Sanders Staffers Actually Did and Why It Matters

This was probably the only way Miss Universe was going to make headlines at this point.

Important: Don't ruin your holiday card with a misplaced apostrophe

Did you know that Esquire a. has a TV network and b. is making a Beowulf show?

Aw, poor runaway reindeer.

Fascinating: What academic research caught the public imagination in 2015?

Here's another great interview with the Fug Girls about The Royal We.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Morning Coffee (12/19/15)

Today I'm having the most December-in-New-Hampshire day ever: Selling Christmas trees for charity this morning, going to see a presidential candidate this afternoon, watching the debate and decorating Christmas cookies this evening.

Whoa: Rumor has it the Beatles' catalog will be available to stream soon, possibly on Christmas Eve.

The feud between Bernie Sanders and the DNC, explained

Presidential Candidates Attack America With Pointless, Contrived Star Wars Tweets

This could be interesting: Showtime Greenlights 2016 Presidential Race Documentary Series ‘The Circus’

Oh for God's sake: Arabic calligraphy assignment forces closure of schools in Virginia county

Well. Poll: 30 Percent of GOP Primary Voters, 19 Percent of Dems Want to Bomb the City From Aladdin

Huh: Saab Is Apparently Not Dead (Again)

The Disturbing Story Of Widespread Sexual Assault Allegations At A Major Progressive PR Firm


I am the kind of mistrustful person who can't help wondering if Elena Ferrante's whole schtick is a publicity stunt, but if so it's a clever one and I admire her for it.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Morning Coffee (12/18/15)

Happy Friday! Happy Star Wars day! (I'm seeing it Sunday.)

Awww, new family portrait of Will and Kate and the kids for the holidays!

I've never actually fallen asleep watching Netflix, but I love that they have these instructions for socks with motion-sensors to pause your show and their instructions include KNITTING THE SOCKS. And they have SOCK PATTERNS RELATED TO A WHOLE BUNCH OF THEIR SHOWS. Why don't all networks do this???

I had never seen James Corden's Carpool Karaoke segment before but this one with One Direction is utterly charming, and they should probably just let James join the band.

Muppets and crumpets! MUPPETS AND CRUMPETS.

The BBC's list of the 100 greatest British novels is an interesting take because they polled critics OUTSIDE the U.K. (I think I've read 17 of them.)

The unconventional reign of Sweden’s queer Queen Christina

I tend to like serious, often depressing movies, and yet I love Hallmark Christmas movies. Here's a good essay on them and their popularity.

Fascinating: Unearthing the World of Jesus (I know Reza Aslan is busy producing TV shows and stuff but I really wish he'd write a million more books like Zealot because I LOVED that.)

15 Hot Cocktails for Cold Winter Nights

Heee: Great House Therapy: Maria and Georg’s Anti-Fascist, Music-Filled Salzburg Lake House

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Morning Coffee (12/15/15)

Aaaah, the first Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them trailer is out! It doesn't reveal much, of course, but I love the look and tone of it so far.

We also have the first trailer for Star Trek Beyond, and people on Twitter were freaking out (I know, I know) for various reasons but I think it looks mostly fine so far? (One of the specific concerns I saw was that no women spoke in the trailer, and while I'd love these movies to have more/better female roles, I just don't think that's . . . true? That alien woman spoke a few times, right?)

And related to that other big movie thing everyone's talking about: Lawyers Weigh in on Han v Greedo, Because That’s Where We’re at as a Society

Okay. On to more serious matters. (Sorry!) GOP leaders hate Ted Cruz, but he may be their last best hope

New Yorker profiles are basically my favorite thing; here's David Remnick on John Kerry.

This New York Times profile of Justin Trudeau is also a great read.

Related: He did Justin Trudeau in 60 Seconds for Macleans and it's DELIGHTFUL.

Sad news: Lillian Vernon has died. Her story is QUITE SOMETHING and I loved that catalog as a kid.

Marlon James is writing an "African Game of Thrones." Seriously, click on that and read his quotes about why he's doing this. I love him.

Hee: The Best Books You Didn't Read in 2015

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Morning Coffee (12/9/15)

This JUST happened - I saw it on Twitter while writing this post and the first time I went to Time's site the article wasn't even up, so I haven't had time to read it - but Angela Merkel is Time's person of the year!

Telling the Truth About ISIS and Raqqa

Exciting news from Orkney! Shifting sand dunes reveal large Bronze Age settlement

The Onion, technically, but not a word of it is untrue: ‘This Will Be The End Of Trump’s Campaign,’ Says Increasingly Nervous Man For Seventh Time This Year

I think this is really important, on Jessica Jones's Kilgrave and fandom: "It’s not that individual women and young girls are 'problematic' or 'fucked up' because they want to believe in these 'reformed abuser' narratives – it’s that these narratives are everywhere, so how can we possibly blame anyone for believing in them?"

Interesting: "What if 'womanwomanwoman' were the English word for rape, defilement, adultery?"

This is wild: I’m sorry, Taylor Swift: My one tweet set off a worldwide search for a “missing” pop star from Los Angeles to New Zealand

Diane Rehm is retiring!

Yes yes yes: How Elmo Ruined Sesame Street

Paintings Of Saul And David That Could Easily Be Mistaken For Angsty Romance Novel Covers

Monday, December 7, 2015

7 Questions About That NH Waterpark Story

Did you read about that New Hampshire waterpark that was sold to another waterpark after/even though the owner chained himself to a waterslide to . . . prevent this somehow? If you don't live here, you probably didn't, so here, go read, I'll wait. This story has some more background and includes the great line "The chain is 12 feet long and came from his garage. A friend delivered it shortly after the metaphor died." It also includes a COMPLETELY ERRONEOUS Dickens reference. The Ghost of Christmas Present did not have chains. He was the happy one. COME ON.

Anyway. I have some questions.

1. How do you sell something "over the objections" of . . . yourself, basically? (The second article I linked does explain this a bit; I think what they mean is that the guy's choices were to pay his creditors or have the park put up for auction, which . . . is a little different. It wasn't RANDOMLY SEIZED. He didn't pay.)

2. Does he realize that chaining yourself to things is supposed to be in support of some sort of social justice point? I don't really think "I don't have money to pay my bills but want to keep my business anyway just because" counts.

3. Why did he think this would be a good strategy to attract investors? It got some attention, sure, but was any of the attention the kind that would make any sane person think "I want to go into business with this man"? Maybe his time would have been better spent writing a business plan or something?

4. And if it WAS just for attention, why didn't he at least have a decent social media strategy? COME ON.

5. I know we're supposed to feel bad for him because he's losing his home as well as his business, and I do, but why was his house included in the auction anyway? Was he living in the waterpark??

6. Given the whole "live free or die" thing, New Hampshire business owners are weirdly into this idea that the community should support their failing businesses just because they're . . . nice or something. (In this case by "support" I don't mean "patronize" - I am definitely in favor of patronizing local businesses - but rather "donate money expecting no goods or services in return.") Friends once booked a local venue for their wedding and then, a few months before the wedding, got an email saying "We need all our customers to donate money so we can stay open." WHAT? (Don't worry. They found a new venue.)

7. How are there so many waterparks in New Hampshire that I've NEVER HEARD OF BEFORE? Maybe they would do better if they were in a state where it was warm for more than two months a year.

Morning Coffee (12/7/15)

Me elsewhere: The week's TV news.

It looks like that story I linked about police in Dothan, AL planting drugs on black male suspects may not be as solid as I'd assumed. (For the record, I trusted and linked to it because a journalist I trust tweeted it. Not blaming him - everyone makes mistakes! - just letting you know the provenance. Anyway, Slate and the Washington Post have taken a harder look.

The Saudi Arabia problem: why a country at war with jihadists also fuels them

Related-ish: Germany Rebukes Its Own Intelligence Agency for Criticizing Saudi Policy

ISIS Promise of Statehood Falling Far Short, Ex-Residents Say

An interesting take: The real reason the media is rising up against Donald Trump

The Southern Baptist Convention rejected violence against abortion providers 20 years ago. Here's why.

This sounds like the worst office ever. I would be SO MAD if an office were full of dogs and no one mentioned that until after I'd accepted a job.

Binge-Watching Television Got Me Through the Hardest Summer of My Life

These people are so fascinating and infuriating: Dissecting the Dream of the 1890s: My Skype Date With Those Curious Neo-Victorians

Oh, Alex Pettyfer. Just stop digging. (Wait, you can refuse to pay rent because "What is money when life is so much more?" Why didn't anyone TELL me?)

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Morning Coffee (12/6/15)

Fascinating: ISIS Women and Enforcers in Syria Recount Collaboration, Anguish and Escape

Marco Rubio’s operation is relying on unprecedented dark money spending

Burkina Faso has elected its first new leader in A VERY LONG TIME.

The Times has a pretty thorough profile of Planned Parenthood shooter Robert Dear.

"She can write like a man, they said, by which they meant, She can write."

'Smile!' How a villain's phrase in 'Jessica Jones' exposes modern-day sexism

This look at what the Sony hack was like for employees is interesting even if you don't particularly care about Sony or hacking issues.

Meet the little-known religious group that turned Kim Davis into a right-wing superstar

Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen is my favorite food blogger, and this interview is worth a read. "I should probably have more confidence, but I don’t, and I don’t believe confidence is all that it’s cracked up to be. Maybe being a little bit worried about how you’re doing actually makes you work harder." Yes yes yes.

With Shipwreck Treasure Easier to Reach, a Duel Is On

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Morning Coffee (12/5/15)

I love Chris Murphy. (But seriously, does anyone genuinely think anyone was saying people shouldn't pray? The message was clearly that prayers WITHOUT OTHER ACTION aren't enough, and I have to think anyone saying otherwise is either idiotic or determined to be a victim and take attention away from the real victims. Or both! Could be both!)

The ugly Islamophobia in the media coverage of the San Bernardino shooting

On Trump: "Even Slobodan Milosevic knew better than to talk like that in public." And that was BEFORE he made an anti-Semitic speech to a group of Republican Jews.

I love when Slate gets snarky: New Bust in Capitol Building Honors Dick Cheney for Ending Terrorism

As he explains IN the piece, it's really not important at all that China's RMB is becoming a global reserve currency, but Matt Yglesias's explanation of the whole thing is interesting and also REALLY FUNNY.

I FINALLY had time to read Maureen Dowd's piece on women in Hollywood and you have probably already read it but I am linking in case you hadn't gotten to it either! (And now I want someone to write the fanfic in which Dowd asks her buddy Sorkin for comment and he says whatever terribly Sorkiny thing he'd no doubt say.)

Inside the surreal world of the Islamic State’s propaganda machine

This is quite a good explanation of both the evolution of Bernie Sanders and his appeal.

What Would the Father of American Football Make of the Modern Game? (I will admit that I am way more into the history of sports than I am into... actual sports themselves; this reminds me that I had meant to read that book on Teddy Roosevelt and football.)

Heh: The Cool Way to Brew Good Coffee (I had pourover once, while traveling - we are not super into Good Coffee here in the wilds of New Hampshire - and I must admit I was underwhelmed. I think it was on the same trip that a barista made one of those pretty designs on the top of my latte and I was DELIGHTED AND ASTONISHED because I didn't know that happened in real life. New Hampshire: We Finally Have Starbucks But Let's Not Get Ahead Of Ourselves Here.)

Friday, December 4, 2015

Morning Coffee (12/4/15)

Happy Friday!

Prince Harry went to a charity surfing event and shook hands with a dog named Jasper. I am not making any of that up.

Connecticut man drives seven hours to Ottawa to see one very large cheese (It's a great headline but also a very sweet story.)

Random, Helpful Brit Drives Public Enemy To Show In His Ford Focus

The Times's 10 Best Books of 2015 are out. I want to read all of them! (My top 10 is currently a top 12, so maybe that's what you'll get? I don't know.)

Someone please get their pet this Astronaut-Inspired Backpack for Christmas.

Speaking of, I love gift guides, and the annual Fug Girls Gift Guide is my FAVORITE.

Here's the Jane and Michael Stern profile you've been wanting for years! (Or I have, anyway.)


This piece on the history of weather in literature is fascinating, and the ten best weather events in fiction made me want to read/reread all those books.


Thursday, December 3, 2015

Recommendation: Trader Joe's Wintry Blend Coffee

I don't usually even LIKE flavored coffee,* but I bought Trader Joe's Wintry Blend recently, I don't even know why,** and IT IS DELICIOUS.

My guess is that either a) their "all natural spices!" thing is true and I like this because it tastes less fake than do most flavored coffees - honestly, they usually all taste the same to me - or b) I've just bought into that idea and my brain is TELLING me the flavor is better. Or c) Christmas magic. Dunno! (Or, actually, d), which just occurred to me as I sit here and sip - it's genuinely more spicy rather than having that cloying sweetness that flavored coffee often has.) Anyway, maybe give it a try, if you like this kind of thing and are willing to brave the lethal Trader Joe's parking lot in December/ever? (Actually, I discovered as I was looking for the product link that you can buy this from Amazon! It's much more expensive there than in the store, but did you know you could get Trader Joe's store brand products that way? I certainly did not, and I fear this is dangerous information.)

And a larger question: Are you as susceptible to Special Seasonal Foods as I am? Any good ones I should try?

* I also don't like green tea but adore Trader Joe's Candy Cane Green Tea, so maybe they have some kind of beverage magic?

** This is a lie. It was because of the packaging. Note to marketers: I'm easy. Slap a snowstorm and an old timey village on your label and I'll try almost anything.

(This was not sponsored or anything. Trader Joe's is not giving me free stuff. ALAS.)

Morning Coffee (12/3/15)

POLL: Do you want links on weekends, or at least the weekends I'm around/not traveling? I have SO MANY LINKS, you guys, and I try to only give ten a day because I think more is probably overwhelming, and I try to balance between important current events and just... interesting stuff, but then the current events go out of date, yadda yadda yadda.

These do not count in your ten, but: As soon as I finish writing this I'm going to go read the Guardian and Vox liveblogs on San Bernadino to catch up on any developments that occurred after I went to bed early to read George Eliot. (Note: I recommend that as a method of coping with... whatever.)

I read this first thing yesterday and thought it was going to be the (or at least a) big story of the day, and obviously because of the shootings in San Bernadino and Houston it wasn't, but it is still very important and deserves your attention: Leaked Documents Reveal Dothan Police Department Planted Drugs on Young Black Men For Years, District Attorney Doug Valeska Complicit

WHAT: "At a standing-room only town hall inside the firehouse in tiny Loudon, N.H., the crowd took the Pledge of Allegiance facing a poster of firefighters raising the American flag at the World Trade Center site on Sept. 11, 2001." Aside from... anything else... I object to pledging allegiance to THINGS THAT ARE NOT ACTUALLY THE FLAG.

I tend to cut Rahm Emanuel too much slack, basically just because I like Josh Lyman, but this scathing Rick Perlstein piece is just delightfully masterful writing.

Wondering what's going on with the dispute between Europe and Israel over product labels? Here you go.

"At a quick glance, it’s surprisingly difficult to tell whether that pleading missive is from the Democratic National Committee or someone who’s been repeatedly instructed to lose your number."

The Times's annual Notable Children's Books list is out too, and for a brief moment I thought I might have done better reading these than the adult list, but nope! I do know some of the authors, if that helps? (No. It makes it worse. Read your friends' books, Kate!)

Here Is How Your Hillary Smear Sausage Gets Made

Woodrow Wilson was extremely racist — even by the standards of his time

Important: The Misleading Video Interview With a Rapist at the Heart of the Campus Sexual Assault Freakout

One Korean county has started a very successful fertility drive to reverse the effects of the too-successful birth control drive.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Morning Coffee (12/2/15)

This is fascinating: A Dream of Secular Utopia in ISIS’ Backyard

Vox has a good explainer on what we know and don't know about the Planned Parenthood shooting, and why it matters.

You have perhaps already read Bill Simmons's interview with the President, but I had not, and it's very good.

"This Is What They Did for Fun": A Modern-Day Lynching

A Donald Trump nomination could split the GOP. Here's what that might look like.

The Times, among others, has dropped "Rodham" when referring to Hillary Clinton. Here's why.

Women, minorities, and the Manhattan Project

The Bleak Future of College Football

io9's True Crime section is doing an Advent calendar, of a sort, of the Bloodiest Christmas Massacres. Festive! Here's the first one.

Mallory Ortberg makes me want to watch The Tudors.