Most importantly - merry Christmas to all! I hope it's been a wonderful holiday for you. And that you got all the Star Wars merchandise your heart desires. ;)
Last year I made a post about all the books I read in 2014 with short reviews that may have been read by nary a soul. But nonetheless, I'm continuing the act and starting a tradition by sharing all the books I read in 2015. It was a wonderful year of reading. I finally jumped on the Harry Potter bandwagon and am now a proud Hufflepuff. I read a few classics that I've always wanted to read. One of my book selections led me and my husband to Oklahoma City to serve Joe's Addiction through painting. You just never know where a book will take you.
One correction before I begin; in the type piece above, Paper Towns is listed and that is a mistake. I finished Paper Towns last year but wasn't certain if I included it in the blog post. A quick check would have solved that but such a simple solution slipped my mind and instead it is in this year's typography. Pffft. Oh well.
1. When You Are Engulfed In Flames, by David Sedaris. ★★★
I remember clutching my sides laughing while I read Me Talk Pretty One Day and so I had high expectations for another set of comedic memoirs and was quite disappointed. A couple anecdotes were chuckle-worthy and the rest were unremarkable.
2. Yes Please, by Amy Poehler. ★★★★
I really enjoy watching Amy act & her cackle brings great joy to my heart. Her wife Tina Fey wrote one of the funniest books I had ever read and I was pleased to find the other half of this golden duo had as well. Amy is blunt and crude and silly. I really enjoyed reading her thoughts and I loved how one anecdote flowed into the next and all of them were nice to read. She ended up revealing herself to be a person I did not expect she was. I imagine that is the case with most people whose work I admire.
A side note: Yes Please is the HEAVIEST medium-length book. I am not talking about content. I am talking LITERALLY. That was some 100lb matte paper bound between two cinder blocks. Trying to read with one hand turned my tremor into an all-out hand jive.
3. As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride, by Cary Elwes. ★★★★
I have never encountered a human being that is averse to The Princess Bride. It's just a really good movie. Quotable, lovable, clever and memorable; getting an inside perspective into the making of the movie was really a treat and Cary relays his memoirs warmly and clearly, almost like it was yesterday. The stories about Andre the Giant were particularly amusing.
4. Simple Obsession, by Jamie West Zumwalt. ★★★★
A manual for renewing your love for and pursuing God. It's a simple obsession that will wreck your life and reward you. The Zumwalt family has demonstrated their commitment to this simple obsession through their dedication, compassion and love for their community. We saw this clearly when we visited Beautiful Feet Ministries in Oklahoma City this past May. Please read more about Joe's Addiction in my blog post from May.
5. Lydia Cassatt Reading The Morning Paper, by Harriett Scott Chessman. ★★★★
I am all for pieces of fiction inspired by paintings. It was similar to Girl With A Pearl Earring, This book was a captivating look into the private life of Lydia Cassatt, the sister of artist Mary Cassatt and subject of several of her portraits. Lydia is suffering from a terminal illness and the short amount of time she has left colors the interactions and importance of the people around her. As morbid as that sounds, I thought it was a sweet, delicate set of vignettes highlighting some beautiful works of art.
6. The Hound of the Baskervilles, by Arthur Conan Doyle. ★★★★★
This was my first taste of the Sherlock Holmes series and I think it was an excellent place to start. I really enjoy the Sherlock mini-series from BBC and it was on my mind to read the original stories to appreciate the modernized versions more. Doyle's writing style and story structure were dynamic. It was thrilling and mysterious and exciting to see the mysteries solved. I will definitely be reading more Doyle as I find his tales at thrift stores (the source of most of my book collection.)
7-13. Harry Potter, by J.K. Rowling. ★★★★★
What I'm about to write is nothing new. My only regret is not reading them sooner. How fun it would have been to attend midnight premieres of the movies and hungrily buy up the latest book from Borders (travel back in time with me to the mid-2000s.) The only comfort of finishing one book was the reassurance that there was another one to move on to. Aside from Goblet of Fire, they continued to get better and better as I went on, so the oncoming dread of the final page grew more and more heavy. If you think you're too cool for Harry Potter, you're probably too LAME, buddy. Because adding Harry Potter to my life was nothing but rewarding. My name is Jillian Schoettle, I'm a Hufflepuff, and hopelessly devoted to this book series.
14. The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck. ★★
I've mentioned before that there is a mental list of books from literature classes in high school that haunts me. Titles that I could have chosen but opted to read others, they beckon to me to be read. This book beckoned and I happily obliged. The only satisfaction I got from this book was simply having read it, the accomplishment of that. It was a well-told story. But it moved slowly and was fairly dull. Some books you grin and bear, this being one. Followed closely by...
15. The Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger. ★★
Whatever expectations I had for this book (it's a classic, people love it, they wear shirts with the book jacket art on it, it's sold a bazillion copies), they were slowly pummeled by the never-ceasing whining of the main character. We get it. You're better than everyone. At one point I thought, Oh! Maybe he dies. Maybe I should have some compassion for this character. No worries there. Grin and bear it.
16. The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini. ★★★★
A very eye-opening, heart-wrenching, haunting and beautiful coming-of-age story that depicts the toll guilt can take on your heart & soul and the freedom that forgiveness brings. I'm looking forward to reading A Thousand Splendid Suns by the same author in the coming year.
17. Stories I Only Tell My Friends, by Rob Lowe. ★★★
I ventured into the world of audiobooks this year when I accepted a temp position in late October that required me to type and file and organize (my favorite things.) Thankfully, listening to music and books was totally acceptable while I worked and because of this temp job, I got to accomplish a lot more reading than usual. I attempted to listen to Mere Christianity and while I enjoyed the content immensely, the person reading it was a joke. He lisped every time he said Christianity. No other words with an 's.' Just Christianity. It's a word often used in that book. I couldn't withstand it. So I moved on to Lowe's autobiography.
I really enjoyed the stories about his childhood and he has great insight and well-written memories of growing up in different households with broken families. My interest and impression waned about halfway through the book when his career began to lift off and I'm not absolutely certain why. It isn't that his choices and activities in his career turned me off to his life story but it was the manner in which it was told. Between funny & interesting anecdotes and encounters with celebrities of all sorts, the heart of his story began to bottom out. It wrapped up nicely as he wrote in the same voice he delivered initially in his book. Overall, I liked learning about his life.
18. Earth (The Book): A Visitor's Guide to the Human Race, by Jon Stewart. ★★★★
Super silly, incredibly sarcastic and a pleasant book to listen to while you type. The cast of The Daily Show (RIP) reads the book. It made the day pass by quickly and I about wet my pants when John Oliver read the part about holy texts. I don't think I would have enjoyed it as much had I not listened to the audiobook.
19. Life Of Pi, by Yann Martel. ★★★
One of the most disturbing books I have ever read. The ending made me nauseous; which I truly wasn't expecting. I am bewildered by this book. Wonderfully written, very slow at first, a fanciful story line that I can scarcely believe but very well could have happened. The book is disjointed and strange. I won't read it again but I doubt I will ever forget it.
20. Atlas Shrugged, by Ayn Rand. ★★★★★
I can completely understand why people hate this book but I happened to love it. So much so, I was able to look past some of the stupidest parts of the book (ei. the radio broadcast by John) and still give it five stars. I also listened to Atlas Shrugged read by Edward Herrmann, the man who played Richard Gilmore in Gilmore Girls. He is a wonderful audiobook reader. Just the sound of his voice was comforting from the get-go and he read it so well. The book was filled with tension and is a commentary on government control and "equal treatment." Like I said, I understand if you hate it. But I thought it was brilliant.
21. Alexander Hamilton, by Ron Chernow. [rating pending]
I am currently in the middle of an enormous biography about the life of Alexander Hamilton. If you know me even in the slightest, you know a part of my heart is dedicated to Lin-Manuel Miranda ever since I listened to In The Heights in 2009. By the kindness of a friend, I got to see it at the Fabulous Fox when it came to St. Louis that same year. The musical ignited something in me and I was determined to memorize all the rapid-fire lines in the song. Miranda's newest musical, Hamilton, is a masterpiece. I am very close to having memorized all of it. And by the kindness of my husband, friends, and in-laws, they sent me to NYC a couple weeks ago to see it on Broadway (I will blog about that experience soon!) That was a dream come true and I'm still reveling in the memory of it. My husband put my airline ticket and show ticket inside Ron Chernow's book in mid-November. This book is... very long. But because of the musical, I am very interested in how America was formed, especially through the viewpoint of Alexander Hamilton. It's a fascinating tale, how a country was created through rebellion, secret deals, incredible coincidences and how our financial system was literally authored by one man. One man with incredible work ethic, zeal, ambition, and character faults. I was indifferent about the founding fathers two months ago and at this moment I am wearing a shirt with all their names on it (also including Aaron Burr, but only on the t-shirt. As far as I can tell, he had little effect on the formation of this country but was mostly a paranoid, ambitious and less-effective version of Hamilton.) So it goes.