My year in fiction was at times more meh than I’d like to admit. I did read a lot of good books, but figuring out this list was a lot easier than it has been in years past. The first three titles on the list are my top three favorites, but honestly, A Bollywood Affair, The Martian, and Pride and Prejudice could just as easily have been in that third spot! Everything after the jump is in alphabetical order.
Sweetland by Michael Crummey (2015)
Sweetland is the clear standout this year. It’s the first book I read in 2015, and it’s one that I kept telling people about for a long time after. It’s about an old man on a remote island in Newfoundland who is set in his ways, the future be damned. It’s depressing as hell and to this day I still look at it on my shelf and want to die, but it wins 2015.
Cinder by Marissa Meyer (2012)
Cinder is a retelling of Cinderella that’s set in New Beijing after the fourth World War; Cinder is a teenage cyborg who doesn’t know a thing about her past. I saw the book in stores for years and kept meaning to read it but never did, and now I hate myself for depriving myself of the series for so long because it’s really good!
Night at the Fiestas: Stories by Kirsten Valdez Quade (2015)
This collection is Kirsten Valdez Quade’s literary debut, and it’s amazing. A lot of the stories are set in New Mexico and are infused with Catholic, Mexican-New Mexican culture. From my review: “[It’s] a lovely, haunting, sometimes violent book.” It’s one of those rare collections where all of the stories are strong.
Happy New Year! It’s my favorite day: the day I get to put my reading spreadsheet to use and post a nifty infographic.
I must say, 2015 was my best year ever. Sleater-Kinney reunited for the first time in almost a decade, so I went to Minneapolis on Valentine’s Day to see them on one of their tour stops (and almost froze to death). Over the summer I traveled by land through Central Asia, a journey that took me along the Silk Road from Beijing to Istanbul. I’m happy to report that I did not have two sprained ankles this year.
I saw Sleater-Kinney again in Austin, then in September, I traveled to Milwaukee to see Rufus Wainwright perform with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra. I fell madly in love with the city in the process. And I finally bought my Smart car, something that’s been a decade in the making; I’d been wanting one since before they were even available in the US.
Reading-wise, it was an okay year. I had several lulls because of travel and work. I also went through a few blah phases with my reading choices, but I’m happy to report that my nonfiction selections were pretty fantastic. And I finally read War and Peace, so there’s that.
I look forward to sharing my favorites in the coming days. But for now…it’s time to get my geek on:
Married off in a mass ceremony at the age of four, Mili Rathod has spent her life waiting for her husband’s return. The two haven’t seen each other since that day twenty years ago, and since then, Mili has lived with her grandmother in a rural Indian village, her future as a wife up in the air. It hasn’t been all bad, though. As a married woman, she’s been able to get away with a lot more than other young women her age; her grandmother even allowed her to attend school in the United States so that she would be a modern, educated wife upon her husband’s return.
Her husband Virat, however, has moved on. How could a marriage his grandfather arranged two decades ago — a marriage between two children, no less — even be legal? Besides, he’s now settled with a baby on the way. His brother, Samir, travels to Michigan to find Mili and get her to sign the papers to formally dissolve the marriage. He’s one of the hottest directors in Bollywood, and he’s used to getting his way. But when he finally encounters Mili, he can’t figure out if she’s extremely naive or an extremely calculating gold-digger who just wants his family’s land in India.
Today’s dating landscape is completely different from that of previous generations’. Heck, it’s even different from my high school years! We are now living in a time where there are more options than ever before. Our grandparents’ generation tended to marry people they grew up with; even in big cities, it wasn’t uncommon for people to marry people from their same neighborhood or apartment building. Previous generations tended to marry and start a family early in life. That was the status quo.
These days, the concept of settling down with one’s high school sweetheart sounds quaint and unlikely (although, for the record, I actually do have a few friends who have been married for a decade+ to the people they were with in high school). Thanks largely to technology, we are inundated with more options than ever before, and whether we’re looking for a one night stand or a long-term relationship, we now have countless resources at our fingertips to facilitate our search for The One. As a society, our values have also changed. A career outside the home was not a possibility for either of my grandmothers. My parents married at twenty-one while they were finishing college and began having children at twenty-four. When I was little, I thought I would wait until twenty-four to get married. (Why twenty-four? No idea.) Now I’m thirty-four, and the idea of getting married now, much less at twenty-four, just makes me go, “LOLOLOL. No.”
My relationship with poetry has always been tenuous at best. There are a few authors whose works I will read no questions asked. Sherman Alexie or Sandra Cisneros? I’ll read their poetry, and I’ll like it. David Rakoff’s novel in verse, Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die, Cherish, Perish., was another poetry-filled book I enjoyed. There are other books of poetry and several stand alone poems I’ve come across over the years that I’ve been very fond of, but I’ll be the first to admit that poetry isn’t something I actively seek out. Like, ever. I’m more of a prose girl.
So it’s probably a weird moment to mention that one of my best friends growing up was announced as McAllen, TX’s newest poet laureate (this is her latest book). And last month, she asked me to moderate a poetry panel at the McAllen Book Festival, which is how I was introduced to Amalia Ortiz, who breezed into the room wearing Star Wars leggings, a leather jacket, and a hairstyle that I wish I could pull off, but alas…I am not that cool. When the panel was over, I immediately went and bought a copy of Rant. Chant. Chisme.