2015 books round-up

bookcovers2015

Time for my annual round-up of the books I’ve read in the past year (see entries for 2013 and 2014). As usual, I’ve listed them by category – fiction, non-fiction, theology and other – and have singled out two favourites for each category. Books I’ve read before are marked with an asterisk. For extra nerdery, the underlying data is here.

Fiction

The big difference between 2015 and 2016 is the number of novels I’ve read. Last year I only read ten works of fiction; this year, fiction is the biggest category, with 32 books. This is related to the fact I made much better use of the library than in previous years: thirty of the books I read this year were library books, most of them fiction (or graphic novels).

It’s hard to single out favourites from this list. Moby Dick is an astonishing book; Andrew O’Hagan’s Be Near Me is a moving account of a gay priest caught up in the consequences of his behaviour; it was a delight to rediscover P.G. Wodehouse. This was also the year I got back into science fiction, with books by J.G. Ballard, Ursula Le Guin, Philip K. Dick and Kim Stanley Robinson, among others.

In the end, though, I’m picking out The Dispossessed, by Ursula Le Guin, for its superbly realised vision of an anarchist society, and Ali Smith’s “exciting and moving and clever and sexy” How to be Both (one of several books this year recommended to me by my wife).

Non-fiction 

The usual mishmash of different topics among these 24 books. Anarchism was something of a theme this year, with several books on this topic (in addition to Ursula Le Guin’s The Dispossessed) as I explored my “anarcho-curiosity”. I loved Tom Holland’s account of the Julio-Claudian emperors, Dynasty and Helen Macdonald’s beautifully written H is for Hawk. But I’ve selected as my favourites John Grindrod’s celebration of postwar architecture, Concretopia, and Norman Davies’ vast, flawed but transformational Europe: A History (though I reserve the right to regret this choice once I’ve read Tony Judt’s hatchet-job review of it…).

Theology / Spirituality 

Not a vintage year for theology-related books, I have to admit. Something I hope to address in 2016. I loved the two Rowan Williams books, and have another of his queued up to read this year. It was interesting to read up a little on the Quakers, and even more so to explore Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s life and theology in Sabine Dramm’s Introduction to his thought. My favourites for the year, though, are Heiko A. Oberman’s theological biography of Martin Luther, Luther: Man Between God and the Devil, and Eugene F. Rogers’ Sexuality and the Christian Body – in particular for his discussions of what it means for us to be Gentiles grafted into the people of God “against nature”, and of marriage as an “ascetic vocation” and as a reflection both of the triune nature of God and of justification by faith.

Other 

Mostly graphic novels and comic books, though also including Tim Dowling’s funny and perceptive account of modern marriage, How to be a Husband (another recommendation from my wife), which is one of my favourites for the year along with Robert Crumb’s extraordinary rendering of The Book of Genesis Illustrated. An honourable mention for Nicola Streeton’s heartbreaking story of bereavement and recovery, Billy, Me & You.

Looking ahead

I’m not going to make any rash predictions or grandiose programmatic statements of intent about my reading for 2016. My shelves (sic) of unread books are full of enticing prospects, but I dare say I’ll get distracted by other things, as usual. I’m currently in the early stages of Paul Kingsnorth’s novel The Wake, which is looking very promising.

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5 thoughts on “2015 books round-up”

  1. So many books read! My compliments. I don’t do annual book lists on my blog because I’m too embarrassed to publicly admit how few books I read each year. 🙂

  2. I’m glad you liked Moby-Dick. It is my second favorite book of all time! I need to read something by Rowan Williams in 2016 (his book on Augustine is coming out this year). Many blessings for the New Year.

      1. It’s big, but you don’t have to read it in a month or even a summer. You can’t forget the plot because it’s so simple. And honestly, the book isn’t really about the plot. Ishmael basically takes the reader by the hand and introduces her to different aspects of the whaling industry. You could probably read the chapters out of order and be OK.

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