Favorite Books of 2015

Back in 2008, I posited forming “Eric’s Book of the Every-So-Often Club” to provide my stamp of approval for worthy books that might be of interest to readers who follow me online. I suspected then (and still do now) that my Club membership might be small, since my reading habits tend to be restricted to an odd set of favorite categories, as follows:

10% Fiction: Usually I will read new books by the the dozen or so authors I know I already really like. Breaking in new authors is so risky and hard. Why bother, neh?

40% Natural History: Ideally books about bugs, trilobites, fish, or birds, or parasites that live(d) on bugs, trilobites, fish and birds, or things that eat/ate bugs, trilobites, fish or birds, or interesting theories about the ways that bugs, trilobites, fish and birds interact with or influence people. I’m a bugs, trilobites, fish and birds kinda guy, y’know?

40% Music Biography: I have read at least half a dozen full-length books about Genesis, to cite but one example of my vast contemporary rock biography collection. And if someone comes out with a credible new book about Genesis next year, I will read that one too. Because someone has to, right? And it might as well be me.

10% Tales of Human Suffering: People falling off of Mount Everest, going insane in the Arctic because of the toxins in their tinned food, or trying to walk across the Sahara Desert alone will always be welcome in my book collection.

 

Having eschewed the Club approach as a result of my arcane tastes, I have instead (every so often) posted lists of my favorite recent reads. With 2015 winding to a close, and given the ease with which such lists can be pulled from my Kindle, I thought it might be time to share my favorite new books of the past twelve months or so. Most of the titles cited below were published in 2015, though a few were late 2014 arrivals, and I didn’t get around to reading them until this year. I also read or re-read several older books not featured here; you can find out more about the cream of that crop in my Five by Five Books series.

I’ve blocked my favorite 2015 reads into the categories noted above. It was a light year for natural science, though all of the other categories were reasonably well represented. (And, yes, I did read another book about Genesis this year). I’ve particularly enjoyed having train time to read every day as part of my commute.  It’s a more comfortable and thoughtful environment than standing on the elliptical at the gym, where I used to do most of my reading in prior years. Links are provided if you’d like to tackle any these tomes yourself. I enjoyed them all, and think you might, too!

FICTION:

The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber (late 2014 issue)

The Vorrh by Brian Catling (first U.S. release)

You Too Can Have A Body Like Mine by Alexandra Kleeman

Get In Trouble: Stories by Kelly Link

NATURAL HISTORY:

Smarts: The Boundary-Busting Story of Intelligence by Elaine Dewar

MUSIC BIOGRAPHY:

The Living Years: The First Genesis Memoir by Mike Rutherford

Sound Man: A Life Recording Hits . . . by Glyn Johns (late 2014 issue)

Brothas Be, Yo Like George, Ain’t That Funkin’ Kinda Hard On You? by George Clinton (late 2014 issue)

Black Sabbath: Symptom of the Universe by Mick Wall

Snakes! Guillotines! Electric Chairs!: My Adventures in The Alice Cooper Group by Dennis Dunaway

Van Halen Rising by Greg Renoff

Ringo: With A Little Help by Michael Seth Starr

Shining Star: Braving the Elements of Earth, Wind & Fire by Philip Bailey

Hunger Makes Me A Modern Girl: A Memoir by Carrie Brownstein

Anger Is An Energy: My Life Uncensored by John Lydon

TALES OF HUMAN SUFFERING:

Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson

Heirs to Forgotten Kingdoms: Journeys Into the Disappearing Religions of the Middle East  by Gerard Russell (late 2014 issue)

The President Is a Sick Man: Wherein the Supposedly Virtuous Grover Cleveland Survives a Secret Surgery at Sea and Vilifies the Courageous Newspaperman Who Dared Expose the Truth by Matthew Algeo

 

 

2 thoughts on “Favorite Books of 2015

  1. Hiya! (Wasn’t sure if I had a WP account. Evidently I do.)
    I finished Brownstein’s book a month ago. Liked it, of course. For decades, I’d heard the name Sleater Kinney mentioned as a band to be respected, but I hadn’t heard any of their stuff until this year. It was my favorite loud music discovery! Like Siouxsie, minus a bit of goth and adding a bit of spontaneity. Also the first memoir I’ve read by somebody younger than me.

    The other loud sound I started listening to for the first time was Joy Division. Perfect for living at a VA hospital. Anyway, I mention them because I also read _Unknown Pleasures: Inside Joy Division_ by their bassist, Peter Hook. Now, this was hilarious, because the presentation of the book was SOOO catering to the goth readership, what with black-edged pages and a black cover that made one fear it would leave stains like a lump of coal. But then the subject matter is all about a rowdy late-punk band playing rude pranks and partying and …

    (You probably already read it and posted about it years ago. Other music books I read this year that you probably did long ago included Byrne’s _How Music Works_, that Eno one with “DIstant Shore” in its title, _Shakey_ about the hard-to-believe-he-still-lives Neil Young (a long favorite of mine), _X-Ray_ by one Kink brother and _KInk_ by the other (which interrupts its discourse about who he had sex with and where (usually in the geographic sense) to give a three page seminar on music licensing), _Shell Shocked_ by Howard Kaylan, that recent Brian Jones bio, the John Cale one whose presentation makes me think of it as _The Whole John Cale Catalog_ …)

    From the cross-breeding of the above titles, I find I want to read bios of Jack Nitzche and Nils Lofgrin.

    • I read Hooky’s book too . . . great fun. I hope he does a sequel about the New Order years . . . the Barney baiting and bashing should really be epic in that!! Also read Howard Kaylan’s book and loved that too. Marcia and I saw Flo and Eddie the past two summers at the Iowa State Fair on the “Together Again” nostalgia tours . . . great fun!! I don’t know the Cale one . . . have to look that up, it sounds right up my alley. In re Sleater-Kinney, I had their first couple of albums and then lost interest in them, but I got their reunion album last year and loved it a lot, so will probably go back and fill in the gaps to see what else in there I might like.

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