Will Grayson

Books I Read in 2015

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.

  1. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
  2. Live From New York, James Andrew Miller and Tom Shales
  3. Will Grayson, Will Grayson, John Green and David Levithan
  4. Looking for Alaska, John Green
  5. Sanctuary, William Faulkner
  6. It’s Only A Play, Terrence McNally
  7. Brother to Dragons, Robert Penn Warren
  8. On Chesil Beach, Ian McEwan
  9. Paddle Your Own Canoe, Nick Offerman
  10. The Dark at the Top of the Stairs, William Inge
  11. Come Back, Little Sheba, William Inge
  12. Bus Stop, William Inge
  13. The Basic Eight, Daniel Handler
  14. Tobacco Road, Erskine Caldwell
  15. My Ideal Bookshelf, Jane Mount and Thessaly la Force
  16. Fallen Too Far, Abbi Glines
  17. Wait for You, J. Lynn
  18. The Hound of the Baskervilles, Arthur Conan Doyle
  19. Dead as a Doornail, Charlaine Harris
  20. In Our Time, Ernest Hemingway
  21. Child of God, Cormac McCarthy
  22. The Year of Magical Thinking, Joan Didion
  23. Love, Rosie, Cecelia Ahern
  24. Airships, Barry Hannah
  25. Crimes of the Heart, Beth Henley
  26. The Woman Warrior, Maxine Hong Kingston
  27. A Confederacy of Dunces, John Kennedy Toole
  28. Joe, Larry Brown
  29. Wolf Whistle, Lewis Nordan
  30. Outlander, Diana Gabaldon
  31. Murder on the Orient Express, Agatha Christie
  32. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, Jesse Andrews
  33. In the Unlikely Event, Judy Blume
  34. Angels in America Part One: Millennium ApproachesTony Kushner
  35. Angels in America Part Two: Perestroika, Tony Kushner
  36. The Complete Stories, Flannery O’Connor
  37. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, J.K. Rowling
  38. Quidditch Through the Ages, J.K. Rowling
  39. The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck
  40. Paper Towns, John Green
  41. White Teeth, Zadie Smith
  42. Shame, Salman Rushdie
  43. Disgrace, J.M. Coetzee
  44. The Things They Carried, Tim O’Brien
  45. The Virgin Suicides, Jeffrey Eugenides
  46. Vita Nuova, Dante Alighieri
  47. Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad
  48. Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe
  49. Dragonfly in AmberDiana Gabaldon
  50. We Should All Be Feminists, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  51. Season of Migration to the North, Tayeb Salih
  52. Notebook of a Return to the Native Land, Aimé Césaire
  53. Divine Comedy Vol. I: Inferno, Dante Alighieri
  54. After the Fall, Arthur Miller
  55. Murder in Retrospect, Agatha Christie
  56. Divine Comedy Vol. II: Purgatorio, Dante Alighieri
  57. The Diary of a Teenage Girl, Phoebe Gloeckner
  58. Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence, Doris Pilkington
  59. Divine Comedy Vol. III: Paradiso, Dante Alighieri
  60. The Grownup, Gillian Flynn
  61. Me Before You, Jojo Moyes
  62. The Book of Mormon, Trey Parker and Matt Stone
  63. Harriet the Spy, Louise Fitzhugh
  64. Dracula, Bram Stoker
  65. Doctor Sleep, Stephen King
  66. The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, John Boyne
  67. This Side of Paradise, F. Scott Fitzgerald
  68. The Cripple of Inishmaan, Martin McDonagh

Life in 2015

In the gratuitous time of my winter break that feels approximately 8,000 weeks long, I’ve been fortunate to accomplish tons of reading and watching and sleeping and adventuring. My standard blog consists largely of reading updates, but I’ve also been doing other things as well (I’m so interesting!).

Unfortunately, the thing I’m probably doing most with my life these days is wallowing in self pity over the fact that I will not be attending the Sundance Film Festival this year. Exactly one year ago today was Opening Day of Sundance 2014, and it was the most glorious 10-day experience of my life. If you’ve encountered me in person or online since then, you’ve probably heard about it. Sorry about that.

Anyway, I know I’ll be reminiscing a lot in the days to come. One year ago today, for example, I saw my first celebrity of the festival, Joe Manganiellowhich immediately prompted my friend Lendee to burst into tears (our emotions were pretty crazy while we were there). We also saw Mark Ruffalo and Aaron Paul said “hello” to us. And that was just day one. If you’re interested, here are two posts I wrote last year about the Sundance experience. The first is an overview of what we did and the second is a list of miscellaneous rememberings two months after the fact.

Okay, now back to the present, where life isn’t nearly so exciting. So like the true TV-watching champion that I am, I’ve crossed six TV series off my list since finishing the semester in mid-December. To be fair, the longest of those shows (“Downton Abbey”) just meant finishing a few episodes and most of the other shows have been short, but still, I probably watch too much TV. Here are some quick reactions to what I’ve watched:

  • “Black Mirror” is pretty freaking depressing, but not necessarily in a bad way. For six episodes (on Netflix), it’s manageable, but I’m not sure I could handle much more. It’s an episodic show about the evils of technology in a modern/futuristic society. Upside: lots of good British actors who are always fun to watch.
  • “Broadchurch” is really good and disturbing. If you watched “Top of the Lake” and enjoyed it, give this a go (but the tone is definitely lighter on “Broadchurch”). The show is about the death of an 11-year-old boy in a small English seaside town and the ensuing murder investigation. Also, I watched an episode of the American version, “Gracepoint,” and don’t really see it’s purpose. If you’ve got Netflix access, go with the original.
  • “Olive Kitteridge” is a wonderful little miniseries that I really enjoyed. First of all, Frances McDormand is wonderful in the titular role, but basically all of the acting performances are great. The story is very character-driven, chronicling the lives of Olive and her husband over twenty-five years in a small town in Maine. There are some pretty great poop jokes in the third episode to watch for.
  • “Luther” IS GREAT. I think the world realizes already that Idris Elba is super hot, a fact confirmed from watching this show. However, I had no idea of my love for Ruth Wilson until watching her fantastic performance as Alice Morgan. Elba plays John Luther, a very talented London detective, and Wilson plays a criminal he tracks in the first episode, though their relationships develops a lot from this point. In three short seasons, the show develops lots of great ensemble cast members and features a few surprising character deaths. If you’re a fan of “Sherlock,” you’ll love “Luther.” If you aren’t a fan of “Sherlock,” you obviously haven’t watched the show and I do not wish to speak to you until you have, so get to work.
  • Finally, I finished “Inside Amy Schumer” yesterday. Meh. As my mom and roommate know, I struggled with this one. I marathoned the first season in one day and felt very unsure whether I wanted to continue. It’s so short! my brain said, followed by, But I also kind of hate it! After my internal battle, I decided to continue, but broke up the episodes more than I did with season 1. Season 2 is undoubtedly better, but the show still isn’t one I care much about. It’s a sketch comedy, so some sketches are good and some aren’t. I never found myself laughing aloud. It’s fine, but I doubt I’ll continue on that journey.
  • Now to my current TV projects: yesterday I started my long-anticipated rewatch of “Lost” which I haven’t watched since the show ended in 2010. Since it’s a longer project, I might also slide some shorter things in occasionally to break it up. My mom and I also started “The Affair” last night. I watched the pilot episode in September and wasn’t crazy about it, but after our newfound love of Ruth Wilson (not to mention the fact that she and the show won Golden Globes on Sunday), we’ve decided to give it a shot. After two episodes, I’m at least intrigued and want to keep watching.

Now we turn to movies. I’m currently ten movies deep into 2015, 10% of the way to my goal of seeing 100 new (to me) films this year. I’m doing my best to balance between award-nominated movies, clearing out my Netflix list, and catching up on missed movies at Redbox. You can see the full list on my 2015 Movie List page, but here are my biggest reactions:

  • Foxcatcher is a great, slow-burning movie with fantastic performances. I’m so happy Steve Carell made the cut for his first Oscar nomination.
  • Selma is beautiful and heartbreaking. It’s a real disappointment that David Oyelowo was overlooked for a Best Actor Oscar nomination, but in a year with lots of great performances, it’s an unfortunate truth.
  • I rented Calvary from Redbox because it was one I’d missed at Sundance last year, and I’m now happy I didn’t waste my time on it then. It’s a movie that lacks any certain tone and suffers from poor direction. It’s a pity to see a great cast in a clunker.
  • Pride, on the other hand, is a lovely little indie that’s full of joy. It tells the true story of an LGBT group in London who worked to raise money for a community of Welsh miners who were on strike under Margaret Thatcher’s government. I was pretty much in love with every guy in the movie, despite their being gay. Such is life, I suppose.
  • My last Redbox rental was The Maze Runner. I read the book series over the summer but didn’t see the movie, and I’d say waiting on the DVD release was just fine for me. I think it was a fine adaptation, but I don’t feel the need to rush to the theater for the next one.

To know what I’ve been reading, you can consult my recent blog posts, but my quick recommendations are as follows: Will Grayson, Will Grayson and Looking for Alaska by John Green, Sanctuary by William Faulkner, and On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan. 

It’s not been the most eventful winter break (at least since my return from New York), but it has provided me with plenty of time to do what I do best. I plan to make the most of this time before my unfortunate return to the real world next week.

Book #3: Will Grayson, Will Grayson, by John Green and David Levithan

You may have noticed that I went from book #1 to book #3 on my review posts, and that’s because I did squeeze another reading project in that I didn’t write about: Love From New York by James Andrew Miller and Tom Shales. I read an earlier edition of this book in 2013 and was given an updated edition recently, so I only read the updated information, which pertains to the 2008-2014 years at “Saturday Night Live.” The fact that I’m most familiar with these years made it very fun to read, but since I reviewed this book before, I didn’t write a post for it this time.

Anyway, as of this morning, I’ve finished my third book of 2015, Will Grayson, Will Grayson. This was the only John Green publication I hadn’t yet read, so I was happy to complete my reading cycle. Though this wasn’t my favorite book ever, Green’s sections of the book (if you’re familiar with his writing, it’s very easy to distinguish his chapters, since he cowrote this novel with David Levithan, another popular YA writer) still carry his characteristic witticism and voice that makes his books so entertaining.

A general plot synopsis: there are two characters named Will Grayson (as the title suggests), but they don’t know each other until a while into the book. Like many YA books, it centers around high school relationships, both romantic and platonic. One thing I commend Green and Levithan for (and this is something Levithan has done in other books of his) is their inclusion of gay characters in very prominent roles. There’s really no drama about the fact that some characters are gay, it’s just part of their characters, and that’s something I really enjoyed.

Now I plan to reread John Green’s Looking for Alaska quickly before returning to some of my required reading for the semester. If only winter break could last all year, I could actually read everything I want with no time constraints…