I’ve been a bit all over the place with my reading the last two years. In 2013, I set a goal of reading 40 books and beat it, and in 2014, I seriously surpassed my goal of reading 52 books by reading 91 (my numbers have been greatly bolstered by reading plays, in case you were wondering).
Since I’m in an English Literature graduate program, I obviously do plenty of reading, but I think I went back to my goal of 50 books in 2015. Though this number might be a bit low based on 2014’s results, I stay plenty busy with my school reading and don’t always have lots of time for recreational reading. I ended up exceeding that goal by reading 69 books in 2015, an achievement I’m pretty proud of. Here’s my full list of reading from 2015–for reference, the titles listed in bold are those I particularly enjoyed.
To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
Live From New York, James Andrew Miller and Tom Shales
Will Grayson, Will Grayson, John Green and David Levithan
Looking for Alaska, John Green
Sanctuary, William Faulkner
It’s Only A Play, Terrence McNally
Brother to Dragons, Robert Penn Warren
On Chesil Beach, Ian McEwan
Paddle Your Own Canoe, Nick Offerman
The Dark at the Top of the Stairs, William Inge
Come Back, Little Sheba, William Inge
Bus Stop, William Inge
The Basic Eight, Daniel Handler
Tobacco Road, Erskine Caldwell
My Ideal Bookshelf, Jane Mount and Thessaly la Force
Fallen Too Far, Abbi Glines
Wait for You, J. Lynn
The Hound of the Baskervilles, Arthur Conan Doyle
Dead as a Doornail, Charlaine Harris
In Our Time, Ernest Hemingway
Child of God, Cormac McCarthy
The Year of Magical Thinking, Joan Didion
Love, Rosie, Cecelia Ahern
Airships, Barry Hannah
Crimes of the Heart, Beth Henley
The Woman Warrior, Maxine Hong Kingston
A Confederacy of Dunces, John Kennedy Toole
Joe, Larry Brown
Wolf Whistle, Lewis Nordan
Outlander, Diana Gabaldon
Murder on the Orient Express, Agatha Christie
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, Jesse Andrews
In the Unlikely Event, Judy Blume
Angels in America Part One: Millennium Approaches, Tony Kushner
Angels in America Part Two: Perestroika, Tony Kushner
The Complete Stories, Flannery O’Connor
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, J.K. Rowling
Quidditch Through the Ages, J.K. Rowling
The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck
Paper Towns, John Green
White Teeth, Zadie Smith
Shame, Salman Rushdie
Disgrace, J.M. Coetzee
The Things They Carried, Tim O’Brien
The Virgin Suicides, Jeffrey Eugenides
Vita Nuova, Dante Alighieri
Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad
Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe
Dragonfly in Amber, Diana Gabaldon
We Should All Be Feminists, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Season of Migration to the North, Tayeb Salih
Notebook of a Return to the Native Land, Aimé Césaire
Nine books in a month seems like a pretty good accomplishment to me.
I started reading Paddle Your Own Canoe at the same time as Robert Penn Warren’s Brother to Dragons because Warren’s book wasn’t one that was easy to stop and start, so I didn’t really expect to finish it so quickly. Then I went on to read On Chesil Beach as well, so Offerman’s book was spending some time unopened.
Unfortunately, this was partially on purpose. I had a hard time enjoying reading Paddle Your Own Canoe for very long periods of time; I often felt bored or a bit annoyed by the book and had to move on.
By the end of the book, I think I generally enjoyed it more than I didn’t, but here’s a quick breakdown of what I think worked and where I felt the book fell short.
Offerman is a good writer and clearly an informed reader. I appreciated his discussion of theatre history and writers because it helped me realize that he’s a very intellectual person.
He clearly loves his wife. It takes a long time to get to any real chapters about Megan Mullally, but Offerman is obviously in awe of her, and it’s very sweet.
His growing up is quite interesting, and I appreciate that Offerman still has a lot of the sentiment of a farm boy from Illinois.
There were several mentions of Kentucky, so that made me feel special.
He loves Friday Night Lights! But really, who wouldn’t?
Of course, I loved all mention of anything Parks and Rec-related. I wish there had been more of it.
I felt like Offerman hit a lot of the same notes over and over again, but I kind of think this is more his editor’s fault than his own. When the same anecdotes and language is used repetitively, someone should fix it.
On that same note, there was a LOT of time in the first half of the book devoted to Offerman’s denunciation of religion. I’m not very easily offended, but I felt like the repeated annoyances with religion were unnecessary (and again, this could have been handled better with a more scrutinizing editor). Offerman’s continuous preaching that religious people are too closed-minded and ignorant sounded a bit hypocritical, if you ask me. Thankfully, he backed off this topic later in the book.
Generally, though he is a good writer, some of his language felt superfluous to me. He’s got a great vocabulary, but I’d much rather read a straight-forward, simple sentence than one that is bogged down with elevated language. It just felt like overkill sometimes.
So overall, a fairly enjoyable experience, but not exactly the experience I was expecting. I’m now down to my final days of freedom before school recommences, so I’m doing my best to enjoy these last moments of guilt-free entertainment while I can.