Top 10 Books in 2015

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This is my audition for Buzzfeed. Not really, I’m simply writing what people love to read. I’m pandering to the masses. I’m desperate for you, my reader, to love me. So I got my readers a list. Readers love lists.

These are the ten best books I reviewed in 2015, starting with number ten.

#10 Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut

Vonnegut

This was my first experience with Kurt Vonnegut and I really dug it. He found a way to make fatalism humorous, which isn’t easy (trust me, I read philosophy). Slaughterhouse-Five is primarily an anti-war book that tells the story of the bombing of Dresden in WWII. Vonnegut shows himself as immensely talented and meticulous, unique in style, and yet compulsively readable. It will make you laugh, but it will also make you sad at times.

The Final Verdict: Required reading for all human beings.

Read the full review here.

#9 The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon

Pynchon

This is peak-paranoia for Pynchon’s writings. It’s the one that everybody says you should start with if you’re going to make the biggest mistake of your life and read Thomas Pynchon (For first time readers, I’m kidding. I’ve read Pynchon more than any other author). Not only is The Crying of Lot 49 the easiest of Pynchon’s novels to read, it could legitimately be argued that it is his best. He is focused throughout it, yet it maintains the zaniness Pynchon is known for. It has a fantastically interesting plot, and is generally just a great book.

The Final Verdict: So you’re interested in Postmodern Literature? This is where you start.

Read the full review here.

#8 The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky

karamazov

This is Christian Existentialist writing near its best (It’s not Kierkegaard, though). The Brothers Karamazov is perhaps most famous for its scene in which Ivan tells Alyosha of “The Grand Inquisitor” and that is for good reason, as it is easily the best scene in the book. However, the novel is terrific, getting at a part of human nature that is only found in masterpieces. Dostoevsky is supremely in touch with what it means to be human in this book, and I have only fondness for it.

The Final Verdict: It’s a tome, but worth the effort it takes. If you enjoy the feeling of satisfaction you get after mentally pushing yourself through dense text, you are doing yourself a disservice by skipping this. Also, it is a book that all Christians who take their faith extremely seriously should read.

Read the full review here.

#7 A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce

Joyce

This is the first book on the list that just got to my very core. Not to sound too much like a teenager who reads Jane Austen for the first time, but this book just gets me. It’s the story of Stephen Daedalus and his growing up in Ireland. It is a stream of consciousness that makes its reader follow both the loss of faith that Daedalus must deal with and the absence of identity he has to cope with afterward, as well as other things a young man goes through in his life (Finding real friends, losing his virginity, making intellectual stands, etc.). This book is one of my favorites of all-time. I’m gushing just revisiting it in my head.

The Final Verdict: I’m not one to force people to read modernism, but damn is this book good. I also connect with it on a very emotional level, though.

Read the full review here.

#6 Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

Things Fall Apart1

I read this because I remember not giving it a fair shot in high school. I am still furious with my high school self because Things Fall Apart is terrific in every way. What I love the most about it is its commentary on the nature of fear in a person and what fear can do to a human being. This is not fear of the dark, or fear of tigers sneaking into your room at night and eating you, it is just fear of the Other. Fear of what is unknown. Fear of what will change you. This book is so complex, though; because so many parties in the book are just clearly in the wrong.

The Final Verdict: This is a must read. Especially in our world of 24 Hour News fear mongering.

Read the full review here.

#5 Silence by Shusaku Endo

silence

Yet another one of those, “If you’re a Christian then you should be reading this” books. It is the story that examines the nature of faith, what faith is, what it means to lose your faith, and whether or not all people can even have faith. Silence is powerful, but readable. I could easily see some people finding it slow-going, but just keep going through it, as it is completely worth it. I demanded that two of my friends read it immediately the moment I was done with it. Both did. Both loved it.

The Final Verdict: If you care about religion (You do) then this book just begs to be read. You’ll end up asking much more about religion and what it means to believe anything once you have finished it.

Read the full review here.

#4 The Yiddish Policemen’s Union by Michael Chabon

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So begins the final four, each of which I believe to be in a league of its own. That this isn’t #1 is kind of amazing to me. The Yiddish Policemen’s Union is a detective story/alternate history that was one of the most intriguing reads that I have had in my life. Truly I cannot say anything about it without spoiling it because Chabon has done such a miraculous job with its creation. Each character is unique and alive, the story is top-notch, and the prose is beyond measure. Chabon is at the top of his game in this book. It is out-of-this-world good.

The Final Verdict: You have messed up if you don’t read this. It really doesn’t matter who you are. Even if you don’t want to read a book for more than just the story, you have to read this.

Read the full review here.

#3 White Noise by Don DeLillo

White Noise1

Don DeLillo has, next to Chabon, the most enjoyable prose I read consistently. It just pops off the page, somehow remaining “airy” no matter the subject matter he is dealing with. Yet, what makes him so good (and what makes him hilarious) is his writing of dialogue. White Noise is mainly dialogue, and I believe this is why it is interesting, funny, complex, but easy to read. It requires some attentiveness from its reader, but nowhere near the level of other “postmodern” masterpieces. It was easily one of my favorite books of the year, and is also easy to recommend to people, despite it being a book about death.

The Final Verdict: Go out and buy it. Steal it. I don’t care. Get it. You need it.

Read the full review here.

#2 Mason & Dixon by Thomas Pynchon

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I truly have no idea how someone could write this book and make it this good. It is the story of Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon and their measuring the official line between the north and south of the United States. It is written in 18th century dialect. On top of that, it is almost 800 pages. That spells disaster for any publisher to endorse, but Pynchon gets away with things like this. This book is beautiful in multiple ways. It is Pynchon’s best, one of the main reasons being that it lacks the usual Pynchon cynicism and anger. He hits only high notes in this novel and I can’t believe there exists a book that I think is better. It is that good.

The Final Verdict: You should think about getting it and at the very least slowly work through it. If you already read postmodern fiction then I don’t know what you’re waiting for. Get to it.

Read the full review here.

#1 Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace

Infinite Jest

There is really nothing quite like Infinite Jest. It is a distinctly American novel about the failure of America to deliver upon the American dream; and subsequently how we are depressed because of it, and how our addictions, both to entertainment and drugs, are the direct result of it. Honestly, this book just speaks to me on a level I didn’t think was possible. It seems to package all the things a mid-20s guy who doesn’t really know what he will do with his life, yet just sees time passing him by with nothing he can do to stop it. It is impossible to define with a single genre, though I put it within the New Sincerity Movement, just after Postmodernism. It barely fits on the bookshelf, but it was the best read of 2015 for me. And I read it twice.

The Final Verdict: This is my favorite book. I think anyone can read it and I mean that. It’s not actually that difficult, but you just need some patience with it. It will send you to the dictionary a few times, and it will frustrate you with sections that seem pointless and random, but above all else, it will just tell you the truth about how we feel sometimes as humans. You can read it if you make your mind up to get it done.

Read the full review here.

And that is 2015 for me.  There’s one more book coming next week, but it wasn’t quite good enough to make the list as anything other than an honorable mention, but here they are in no specific order:

Libra by Don DeLillo, Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon, House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski, The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid, and Stoner by John Williams.

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2 thoughts on “Top 10 Books in 2015

  1. If you liked Things Fall Apart I suggest you read Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad. In my AP class in high school we read Heart of Darkness first then Things Fall Apart. Chinua Achebe wrote it in response to Heart of Darkness pretty much. It made the book so much more interesting to me with that.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for the suggestion.

      I have actually read Heart of Darkness (no kidding) five times in my life. My undergraduate degree is in Philosophy and English Literature; and one of the books that was read in seemingly every class was Conrad’s Heart of Darkness.

      I appreciate your comment 🙂

      Like

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