Like most avid readers, I never quite feel like I have enough time to read, which makes it all the more special when I come across a book I really enjoy. In 2015, I had four notable reads, books that really stayed with me after the last page was read, books that I mentioned to friends in casual conversation. For what it’s worth, here they are:
- “Point of Direction”, Rachel Weaver – This is the only book of fiction that made my list this year. About 60% of what I read is fiction, but there’s so much good nonfiction around that I find that percentage declining over time. “Point of Direction” was not to be missed though. This is Rachel Weaver’s debut novel, and if it’s indicative of what’s to come, I can’t wait to see what’s next. Billed as a psychological thriller, the story follows the lives of a young couple, Anna and Kyle, both of whom carry old secrets in to their fledgling relationship. Set in the Alaskan landscape, the couple signs a nine-month lease to be live-in caretakers for a lighthouse on Hibler Rock, miles off the Alaskan coastline. The previous caretaker disappeared two decades ago under mysterious circumstances, and while this mystery helps drive some of the action, the real story is, of course, the relationship between Anna and Kyle and how they each grow and change as individuals. The language in this novel is simply beautiful without being too aware of itself. The descriptions of the remote landscape are evocative and support the plot in every way necessary. If you appreciate round characters and tight plots delivered in sophisticated, well-crafted language, this book should be on your list.
- “13 Hours”, Mitchell Zuckoff – The first book I read by Zuckoff was “Lost in Shangri-La”, a nonfiction account of a US military plane downed in New Guinea during the WWII. I loved that book, so felt I was in good hands with his most recent offering. If I had any trepidation about “13 Hours”, it was that there hadn’t been much time between the events and the telling of the events. With nonfiction, I think there’s something to be said for time, although perhaps it can work equally against the story as it does for it. Zuckoff makes it clear early that the purpose of the book isn’t to discuss, debate, or otherwise engage in the political questions surrounding what happened, but rather to detail the events from the perspective of the six American security operators who fought to protect not only their own lives, but the lives of the other Americans stationed in Benghazi. It is absolutely riveting. More than riveting though, it is educational. It really painted the picture of what day-to-day conditions are like in areas that, if it hadn’t been for the terrible raid, we wouldn’t acknowledge are an integral part of our global efforts. “13 Hours” was recently released as a movie too. There’s no doubt I’ll see it, but do yourself a favor and read the book first. As with most adaptations, there’s just so much more that can be conveyed in hundreds of written pages that won’t make it to the screen.
- “500 Days: Secrets and Lies in the Terror Wars”, Kurt Eichenwald – I’ve been a big fan of Kurt Eichenwald since I devoured his book about the Enron debacle, “Conspiracy of Fools: A True Story”. His latest offering, “500 Days” chronicles the eighteen months following 9/11, and attempts to show how decisions and policies established during the early days helped pave the way for all that came after. Eichenwald seems to have a point of view in this book, something that didn’t seem so evident in his other books; however, his research is second to none. Whether you agree or not with what he says, you have to acknowledge he’s done his homework and then some. “500 Days” is over 600 pages, but don’t let the length of it dissuade you. Much of what comes at the end is reference information in support of claims, conversations, or events detailed in the narrative. It such a compelling page turner, that I was only aware of the length in the moments before turning the first page.
- “Yes Please”, Amy Poehler – Who doesn’t love a good funny lady? More specifically, who doesn’t love Amy Poehler? I loved her before reading her book, but found new aspects of her personality that made me love her even more by the time I finished. The thing is, Amy Poehler isn’t just funny. What comes through quite clearly in the book is that Amy Poehler is smart. I was prepared to read a memoir that was quite predictable in its trajectory from childhood to college to struggling artist to breakout moment. Sure, some of that is there, but much of that seems to be a bit of a sidebar as Poehler entertains us with vignettes or essays that have a decidedly more insightful bent while also informing the reader about her past. She’s careful to skirt the details of her relationship with ex-husband Will Arnett, and fair enough. Truth be told, I’m a bit fatigued with overshares of celebrities’ personal lives.
That’s the scoop from 2015. I’m only just starting my reading in 2016, but fingers crossed it yields some gems like these!