Thursday, December 31, 2015

End of Year Book Survey 2015

I'm celebrating the last day of 2015 by doing Jamie over at The Perpetual Page Turner's end of the year book survey for what I believe is the third year in a row. I really enjoy the way this survey forces me to stop and think about all of the books I read each year. It helps jog my memory about a lot of great books, and sometimes I feel shocked that some books were only read in January of this year because it feels like so much longer.

2015 Reading Stats
Number of books you read: 87 (Technically 86 as I write this, but I expect to finish a current read before midnight tonight.)
Number of Re-Reads: 8 (Just the Harry Potter series and Pride and Prejudice unless I've mistakenly forgotten one. I didn't actually finish the seventh before the end of the year, but I'm going to count it anyway.)
Genre you read the most from: Non-fiction seems to have at least tied with each genre of fiction this year. I'd estimate that it made up somewhere near a fourth of what I read, which is interesting to me. While the majority of those books were great, I really feel like I've been slacking on reading fiction lately, and I want to fix that in 2016. I think it happened because this past year has left me feeling kind of down when it comes to fiction. More of what I read felt disappointing compared to the norm.

Best in Books
1. Best book you read in 2015?
Fiction: The Shadow Cabinet by Maureen Johnson (the third book in the Shades of London Series)
Non-fiction (I admit that I was only able to narrow it down to six on my own, so beyond that, I choose the one with the highest collective rating. I wanted to list them all.): Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea by Barbara Demick

2. Book you were excited about and thought you were going to love more but didn't?
Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon. Okay. Here's the thing. When I requested this book for review, I hadn't heard any hype yet. Then I read the first rave review I saw for it a couple days before reading, and more and more seemed to pop up while I was reading. I've never in my life been a victim of something being hyped up too much. Hype just never seems to bother me when reading, but I think it finally did. I really, really enjoyed this book. It was an incredibly good book. It just didn't feel like it lived up to everything I was hearing about it, and it left it feeling somewhat inadequate as I read. I feel terrible for that though, and I wonder how things would be different if I hadn't heard all the things I did.

3. Most surprising (in a good way or bad way) book you read?
Unfair: The New Science of Criminal Injustice by Adam Benforado. So much of what I love about non-fiction is its ability to make you think. Fiction can have that quality too, but I love non-fiction books that accomplish it. I was lucky enough to read so many non-fiction books that made me think about things I hadn't before this year. I'm choosing this one because I think it has some really surprising information in it. This was one of those books where I knew the information on some level, but I'd never had it laid out for me like it was or had it all connected together in my head and thought about the implications.

4. Book you pushed the most people to read (and they did)?
I don't know about the "and they did" part. This definitely goes back to all of the amazing non-fiction books I've read this year because I want to make people read most of them. I want to talk about as wide a variety of books as I can in this post, so I'm going to pick one I haven't picked so far: Dear Leader: My Escape from North Korea by Jang Jin-sung is the story of one North Korean defector. Unlike Nothing to Envy (mentioned above), in which six defectors stories are told by an American journalist, this book is a defector writing his own story (although translated into English by Shirley Lee). It's a powerful story, and unique from Nothing to Envy in another way too. Nothing to Envy tells the stories of "normal" North Koreans, whereas Jang Jin-sung was a North Korean elite (who still faces personal threats from North Korea today). I think getting to read a first hand experience of how North Koreans are manipulated by their government and the terrible events that happen in the country is very important.

5. Best series you started in 2015? Best sequel of 2015? Best series ender of 2015?
Series I started: Lumiere by Jacqueline Garlick. I went crazy about this book back when I read it. I was hesitant to even read it because I was in the middle of too many series, but I'm glad I did. It was fantastic, which was something I really needed considering my relationship with fiction this year. It was such a fun mixture of fantasy and steampunk and romance.
Best sequel: The Madness Underneath by Maureen Johnson. I know I've already mentioned the third book in the series, but this is the second. I become more in love with this series with each book. I can't believe it took me so long to read the second two. (The first was featured in my 2014 end of year survey.) I'm waiting impatiently for the fourth book now.
Best series ender: Time for an admission: Roseblood by Lelia Eye is the only series ender that I read this year. I'm just having this realization now. That's terrible because I'm in the progress of reading far too many series. I need to make it finish significantly more of them in 2016. Plenty of them have already been released in their entirety.

6. Favorite new author you discovered in 2015?
I would like to list a lot of non-fiction authors here to be honest. However, I also don't typically like to declare someone a new favorite author until I've read more than one of their books. The only authors I seem to have read more than one book of in 2015 are J.K. Rowling and Jane Austen, both authors I had read previously. Despite that, I'm going to choose Kenji Yoshino, whose book Speak Now: Marriage Equality on Trial was a very powerful book to read.

7. Best book from a genre you don't typically read/was out of your comfort zone?
Grace's Guide: The Art of Pretending to Be a Grown-up by Grace Helbig almost feels like cheating since it's written by a Youtuber I watch frequently. Of course I would eventually read her book. However, I don't read a lot of humor, so I think it can count.

8. Most action-packed/thrilling/unputdownable book of the year?
There will probably start to be repeated answers from here on out. For this one, two different books come to mind, both of which I've already mentioned. I'm going to choose The Shadow Cabinet by Maureen Johnson.

9. Book you read in 2015 that you are most likely to re-read next year?
Like I said, I don't do re-reads often. I'm re-reading Harry Potter, but I highly doubt I'll re-read them again within the next year. Maybe though. I also want to re-read The Hunger Games trilogy after I re-read Harry Potter, but I didn't read those this year.

10. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2015?
In 2013, my choice was The Name of the Star, the first Shades of London book. I've talked many times (almost every time I bring them up) that I love the covers, even though they changed them after the first book. Both versions of the first book are gorgeous.

Since I chose that series before though, I'll choose Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon. It's pretty much exactly what I would describe my favorite book covers to be.

11. Most memorable character of 2015?
I have to go back to the Shades of London series. More specifically, I need to talk about Stephen. Because when I read the first book, I liked Stephen, but I pretty much just liked Stephen. He was a good character to have in the story and everything, but I didn't think much about the character when I thought of the book later on. Then I read the second and third book, and suddenly, he's one of my favorite characters in the series. Stephen becomes such a wonderful character in the later books I think. When both Rory and the readers get to know him evne more, he becomes very compelling. I think part of the reason he's so memorable to me is that development over multiple books.

12. Most beautifully written book read in 2015?
It's some of the non-fiction books that come to mind when I think about this. Quite a number of them were pretty powerful. I'm going to choose Speak Now: Marriage Equality on Trial by Kenji Yoshino because it's such a touching book and really got to me.

13. Most thought-provoking/life-changing book of 2015?
Arab and Jew: Wounded Spirits in a Promised Land by David K. Shipler. I talked about this in my wrap-up/TBR video that will be up in a couple days, and I'm sure I'll talk about it in my review. But The Palestine/Israeli conflict is one that I've known about for a long time and had a limited knowledge of, but it's always mystified me. I knew it was complicated, and I could never quite make sense of it. I don't think this book helped me make sense of it, but it did provide me with far more information than I've ever had about the conflict. It helped me think about it more deeply. It was a type of book that I very much wanted to read and now finally have.

14. Book you can't believe you waited until 2015 to finally read?
The second Shades of London book by Maureen Johnson. Why didn't I make it priority to read it sooner after I finished the first book? It made me fall so much more in love with the series (which I already enjoyed immensely).

15. Favorite passage/quote from a book you read in 2015?
I know there were a number of these, a portion of which I posted in other places online. I really need to collect my favorite quotes somehow because I never know what they all were come times like these. Here are a few I can come up with (all non-fiction because they've stuck with me the most):

"North Korean exiles are a living testament that there does exist a difference between freedom and tyranny. Their stories are not merely a vehicle to evoke pity. They cry for justice on behalf of all those who have died without a voice and who have been buried with the world as their dumb witness. Their insistent voices are the triumph of humanity, having survived a brutal struggle with a despot." - Dear Leader: My Escape from North Korea by Jang Jin-sung, translated by Shirley Lee

"Someday in our future it may be possible for women everywhere not to be restricted to those roles society deems natural, God-given, or appropriately feminine. A woman will not need to be disguised as a man to go outside, to climb a tree, or to make money. She will not need to make an effort to resemble a man, or to think like one. Instead, she can speak a language that men will want to understand. She will be free to wear a suit or a skirt or something entirely different. She will not count as three-quarters  of a man, and her testimony will not be worth half of a man's. She will be recognized as someone's sister, mother, and daughter. And maybe, someday, her identity will not be confined to how she relates to a brother, a son, or a father. Instead, she will be recognized as an individual, whose life holds value only in itself." - The Underground Girls of Kabul: In Search of a Hidden Resistance in Afghanistan by Jenny Nordberg

I'll force myself to stop there even though there a quite a few others I want to add...

16. Shortest and longest book you read in 2015?
Shortest: A Student's Guide to Liberal Learning by James V. Schall. This thing is just long enough to be considered an actual book instead of a pamphlet. It's also a textbook for one of the classes you have to take your first semester at my school.
Longest: The Broadview Anthology of British Literature: Concise Volume B edited by Joseph Laurence Black

17. Book that shocked you the most.

Without You, There is No Us: My Time with the Sons of North Korea's Elite by Suki Kim, which is about a Korean American who ends up teaching English to college-aged boys in North Korea's capital Pyongyang. This was the first book on North Korea that I read, and as it obvious from the amount of books on it that I read afterwards, it really stuck with me. Somehow, even though you know to expect the worst of North Korea, North Korea still manages to be shocking.

18. OTP of the year (you will go down with this ship).
Rory and Stephen. Rory and Stephen. Rory and Stephen. After reading the first Shades of London book, I didn't ship them. I still don't know if I missed massive signs or what while reading it, but wow, by the end of the second book I desperately needed them together. That's part of the reason why I need the fourth book so badly. I need them to sort their feelings out as quickly as possible.

19. Favorite non-romantic relationship of 2015.
I'm really upset about how much I'm struggling with this. The fact that I read more non-fiction than fiction and the fact that most of the fiction I read focused on romance, I'm having trouble pulling out other relationships to choose. I don't want to go with Shades of London again... I'm gonna go ahead and cheat. I'm choosing Harry, Ron, and Hermione (as a trio, I'm going to say Ron and Hermione's romance doesn't count) since I'm re-reading the series.

I talk about how much I love good friendships in fiction, and typically, I would rather read about a great friendship than a romance. Here's hoping I manage to find more amazing friendships next year than I did in 2015.

20. Favorite book you read in 2015 from an author you've read previously?
Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen. It was one of my favorites of her books and the last one I needed to read.

21. Best book you read in 2015 that you read based solely on a recommendation from somebody else/peer pressure?
This Star Won't Go Out by Esther Earl was a big book in the Nerdfighter community that I had to read it, and I'm very glad that I did.

22. Newest fictional crush from a book you read in 2015.
I probably talked about this last year at least, but I don't really get crushes on book characters that often. I tend to get too caught up in shipping them with each other, and this year is no different.

23. Best 2015 debut you read this year?
I haven't talked about The Amber Project by J.N. Chaney, which was a great apocalyptic/dystopian book that I read this year.

24. Best worldbuilding/most vivid setting you read this year?

The world of Pria from The Perfect Outcast by Melissa Ott Hansen since I read it back in January. The world was so vivid and created such a strong impression on me that I was shocked to see that it had been nearly a year since I read it. The society in that book was fantastic as far as dystopian societies go.

25. Book that put a smile on your face/was the most FUN to read?
The Shadowhunter's Codex by Cassandra Clare and Joshua Lewis is a companion book to the Mortal Instruments series. It is meant to be the Codex that shadowhunters use within the series, specifically Clary's copy. Clary has taken notes and drawn throughout it, and Jace and Simon have both taken it to write notes in it as well (which often involve them insulting each other). Plus, there's a bit that Magnus is supposed to have written about why people become shadowhunters. To be honest, it wasn't as fun as it could have been. A lot of the notes didn't feel genuine. You're left wondering why they wrote so much down when they could have just talked to each other. I would have appreciated the notes being more believable as notes. Still, I love the Mortal Instruments and the characters (which did make the notes fun as well), so I enjoyed the book and actually getting to look at the Codex. 

26. Book that made you cry or nearly cry in 2015?
Dear Leader: My Escape from North Korea by Jang Jin-sung, and I don't think I have to explain why.

27. Hidden gem of the year.
The majority of what I read were lesser known books, including several self published books. I'm going to go back to The Amber Project by J.N. Chaney.

28. Book that crushed your soul?
I don't know about crushing my soul per se, but I'm going to go with The Underground Girls of Kabul by Jenny Nordberg. Most of the books I read were inspiring as much as they were sad. This one was definitely that as well. It was sad to read about what so many women and girls have gone through. At the same time, there was this hope that things will get better, but you're left wondering just how long that is going to take.

29. Most unique book you read in 2015?
I'll go back to Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon. I had never read a book where the main character wasn't allowed to leave her house for health reasons. In addition to that, the super short chapters gave the book a different feel too.

30. Book that made you the most mad (doesn't necessarily mean you didn't like it)?
Arabs and Jews by David K. Shipler. This book deals heavily with prejudices and the terrible results of those prejudices. I think it's impossible to read this book without feeling anger.

Your Blogging/Bookish Life
1. New favorite book blog you discovered in 2015?
I'm having so many realizations while writing this post. Guys, I don't know if I began following any book blogs in 2015 unless it was early in the year. I think I've been reading the same ones I have in the past. There might be a reason I didn't notice this though. I got quite into reading travel blogs over the summer, so I became more focused with following new travel blogs instead of book blogs. I need to change that in 2016. I know there are amazing book blogs out there that I haven't found yet.

2. Favorite review that you wrote in 2015?
This is always so difficult for me. I struggle to decide what I think the "best" is of things I wrote myself. I'll choose Lights Out by Ted Koppel.

3. Best discussion/non-review post you had on your blog?
I feel like I really slacked on the blog this year, which makes this difficult. I look back at the beginning of the year, and I'm amazed at how much better I was doing then. Later in the year, I hardly have anything of note. I'm going to choose my reaction to the first Shadowhunters TV show footage we got.

4. Best event you participated in (author signings, festivals, virtual events, memes, etc.)?
I met Sarah Dessen this year at a signing. That has to go down as the best. It was great.

5. Best moment of bookish/blogging life in 2015?
Meeting Sarah Dessen can win this too, right?

6. Most challenging thing about blogging or your reading life this year?
I think school was the biggest reason I feel like my blogging wasn't as great this year, particularly in the final months of the year. Then there's also the slump I feel like I've been in fiction wise.

7. Most popular post this year on your blog?
My most popular post is a surprising one for me. It's one of my life posts, and those are never popular. But I wrote about getting cavities and setting up a writing blog, and that managed to get hits. I guess a lot of people Google information on cavities?

8. Post you wished got a little more love?
I'm actually going to go with that Shadowhunters post again because I'm still really excited about the show airing, and it's always great to fangirl over that some more.

9. Best bookish discovery?
Another thing I need to work on in 2016.

10. Did you complete any reading challenges or goals?
I completed my Goodreads reading challenge to read 70 books before the end of the year.

Looking Ahead
1. One book you didn't get to in 2015 but will be your number one priority in 2016?
Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen. I got it when I met her back in May, but I haven't even read it yet. So many people have said that it's her best yet, so I'm incredibly excited about it.

2. Book you are most anticipating for 2016 (non-debut)?
Lady Midnight by Cassandra Clare. This will be the first book in the Dark Artifices series that takes place after the Mortal Instruments.

3. 2016 debut you are most anticipating?
I'm going to be honest. I haven't been able to keep up with what books are coming out next year, and I don't know of any yet.

4. Series ending/sequel you are most anticipating in 2016?
I know of a next book that I wish was coming out in 2016, but we have to wait longer... In fact, it seems that for all of the series I'm reading, the books are either already out (but I haven't gotten them yet) or the sequels don't have confirmed release dates for 2016. I guess I'll wait and see what happens with those.

5. One thing you hope to accomplish or do in your blogging/reading life in 2016?
Get back into writing posts that aren't life posts or just reviews.

6. A 2016 release that you've already read and recommend to everyone else?
I don't have one.