November often finds me reviewing my “Things I Want to Do This Year” list to see what has been done and what hasn’t been done, what could still be accomplished and what needs to be moved to the “Next Year” list. This post is on the TIWtDTY list and today I’m going to get it crossed off the list!
In light of viewing my reading experiences as voyages though “seas that swell with waves of words and are bounded by paper”, I’ve decided to inaugurate the Annual Captain’s Honor Awards as a way to highlight my favorite voyages in a given year. By way of introduction, here are some explanations about these awards. First, I’m starting with my booklist from 2015 because there are books on that list I really want to write about but don’t have time analyze individually in a detailed way. Second, these are books that I read in 2015, not books that were published in 2015. Just to be clear, this means there may be classics competing with newer releases in some categories. It also means there may be some different categories in subsequent annual awards depending on what I read that year. Third, the Honors are awarded based entirely on my subjective experience with book. I’m not grading these books on some academic or literary rubric, so sometimes the Honor will go to a book that wasn’t as well written as it’s competitor simply because the former resonated with me more than the latter. So without further ado, I present
The Captain’s Honor Awards for 2015
Favorite Fiction Book
- Shane by Jack Schaefer
- Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
The Honor goes to Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel.
The winner for Favorite Fiction Book was a difficult choice because I rate both books at 5 out of 5 stars. Both books have a rich cast of characters and in depth themes that are ripe for discussion. Both books could be classified as genre fiction, yet appeal to readers outside of those genres. I appreciate that Emily St. John Mandel’s post-apocalyptic story showed how even after a cataclysmic event, life goes on and it’s not all horrible. I also loved the exploration of the theme “Survival is insufficient.” I believe that while art isn’t essential to survival per se, art is one of the things that makes the struggle to survive worth it. And when survival is a struggle, if you don’t have a reason to persevere, you ultimately won’t survive.
Favorite Non-Fiction Book
- Girl in the Dark by Anna Lyndsey
- Love Worth Giving by Max Lucado
- Start With Why by Simon Sinek
The Honor goes to Girl in the Dark by Anna Lyndsey.
While all of these books have merit, Girl in the Dark is the favorite by a mile. I listened to this memoir read by Hannah Curtis on Audible and promptly bought two copies on CD as gifts for friends. Anna Lyndsey’s story about living with extreme sensitivity to light is best experienced with your own eyes closed in my opinion, but whether you read or listen, I highly recommend this honest and inspiring journey of making a life within unexpected restrictions.
Favorite Young Adult Book
- On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness by Andrew Peterson
- The Wonderful Wizard of OZ by L. Frank Baum
The Honor goes to On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness by Andrew Peterson.
I had never read Baum’s original classic before and I must say that he did a masterful job; I can see why The Wonderful Wizard of OZ is so beloved and inspired numerous sequels, spin-offs, and re-imaginings. Andrew Peterson’s first YA novel is not so masterful, due in large part to his choice to use footnotes for humor (just because David Foster Wallace does something doesn’t mean everyone should do it). Yet, the beauty and poetry in some of Peterson’s scenes moved me so deeply that it made reading The Wonderful Wizard of OZ seem like nothing more than an example of literary craft in a college class. Thus, for all it’s flaws, On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness is my favorite of the two.
Recommended from the Rest
- After the Wall by Jana Hensel
- C Is for Corpse by Sue Grafton
The Honor goes to After the Wall by Jana Hensel.
These are books didn’t make it into the running for favorites, but were good reads nevertheless. Choosing between a memoir and a murder mystery is even less “apples to apples” than the Favorite Non-Fiction Book choices were, but thanks to my random reading tastes, that’s what it comes down to. I recommend After the Wall as a valuable perspective on the experience of growing up in a country that no longer exists (East Germany) and the challenge that presents in navigating identity as an adult.
Barnacles for 2015
There were a couple of books that I read in 2015 that were not favorites, nor would I recommend them. These are the Barnacles that I picked up in my literary voyages that year.
Worst Waste of Potential
The Barnacle goes to Storm Front by Jim Butcher
I thought the premise was brilliant and the world-building was fascinating. Unfortunately I found the main character to be annoying and unsympathetic (possibly even idiotic and pathetic, but that might be a bit too harsh). I tolerated his antics until his victory lap at the end of the book and decided to save myself the aggravation of having him as my guide for the next 15 books in the series. This was a big disappointment because I was totally hooked on the world. (I also recognize that I am in the minority in my experience of this book if the ratings on Amazon have any validity.)
Worst Waste of Time
The Barnacle goes to Separate Beds by LaVyrle Spencer.
If romance is your genre, I’d be happy to recommend several other titles, but don’t bother with this one. Just don’t. Life is too short for you read it or for me to write more about it.