Saturday, January 9, 2016

My Top Reads from 2015

I apologize for my lengthy absence - the end of the year is always rough in academia. Between the holidays, the end of the semester, and a five-day conference, November and December were a little crazy. However, now that the craziness is more manageable, I wanted to write a post on my favorite reads from last year. I had a great reading year in 2015 (I read over 80 books). This was aided by a Scribd subscription for part of the year (I used it in the summer, but I didn't feel like I could justify having it once school started back) and a seven-day cruise where I had very limited internet access.

Besides the number of books I read, what is even more exciting to me is that most of them were quite enjoyable. Below are my favorite books that I read during the past year. While most of them were published before 2015, the ones that I included in this list were new to me (I'm an avid re-reader, but I'm not going to list them since I've likely written about them on my blog before :).

The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America - This book was on my "To be read" list for a long time.I finally picked it up last year, and my only regret is waiting so long to read it. In it, Erik Larson provides a gripping account of the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago. Through alternating chapters, he tells about the fair's construction and the serial killer who took advantage of the fair to murder a number of people in horrific ways. My one piece of advice when reading this book is not to read it late at night. Reading about a murder house is disconcerting at any time, but it is especially troubling at 1:00 am.

Fun Home - Allison Bechdel was our keynote speaker at NCTE this year, and when I had the opportunity to buy some of her books for her to autograph, I jumped at the chance. While I liked Are You My Mother?: A Comic Drama, I loved Fun Home, which is examines her relationship with her father and which was the basis for the musical that won the 2015 Tony for Best New Musical.

Drama - I really like Raina Telgemeier's work and was excited to read her graphic novel about middle school students putting on a musical. The story focuses on a female tech person, which made it especially enjoyable for me (in high school and college, I spent a lot of time working backstage on various plays). It touches upon friendship, crushes, and LGTBQ issues without getting too heavy. Overall, it is a lovely, humorous read.

The Secret History of Wonder Woman - Jill Lepore's look at Wonder Woman's origin is critically acclaimed for a reason. The main focus is on William Moulton Marston, Wonder Woman's creator, and Lepore does an excellent job taking Marston, who could easily seem like an unsavory and over-the-top individual, and making him multifaceted and nuanced.

Hope Against Hope: Three Schools, One City, and the Struggle to Educate America's Children - Since I feel inundated with information on education at work, I often bypass reading about it in my spare time. However, I picked this book up at a library book sale, and once I started reading it, I couldn't put it down. Besides providing a thoughtful look at the state of education in post-Katrina New Orleans, a city that has had many issues with their public education system, the author does a great job presenting all sides to controversial topics like Teach for America and charter schools.