My Best Reads of 2015

I never do as much reading on vacation as I intend. I look forward to vacation as a time when I can squeeze in extra reading, and more often than not, I read less than normal. Sitting by the pool seems like a good time to read—except that I have to keep my eyes on the kids. Relaxing on the lenai after lunch is a perfect time for reading—except that I have to take the kids for a bike ride.

All of this is to say that with just a couple of weeks left in the year, I’m not likely to get much more reading in. That means it is safe to post my best reads of 2015. As I mentioned in last year’s post, these are books that I read in 2015, but they were not necessarily published in 2015. They are all books I have read for the first time.

I have read 35 books so far this year. 14 of 35 were nonfiction. 13 books were re-reads of books I’d read before. Here, then, are my best reads of 2015:

5. This Old Man: All in Pieces by Roger Angell

What a delightful book. I always enjoy Angell’s baseball writing, but I also enjoyed his other writing. This collection was a grab bag of items written for the New Yorker and it was one of those reads that made me wish that I could be this kind of writer.

4. Where Nobody Knows Your Name: Life in the Minor Leagues of Baseball by John Feinstein

Where Nobody Knows Your Name follows several minor league baseball players, a manager or two, and an umpire as they make their way through the minor leagues, in hopes of making it to the Show. I enjoyed the picture of the unglamorous life of the typical minor league player, and the determination of each one of them to continue to try their best, even when the odds are against them.

3. The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism by Doris Kearns Goodwin

I read this book on the heels of completing Edmund Morris’s 3-volume biography of Theodore Roosevelt. Those books were a detailed look at Roosevelt’s brief, remarkable life. This book took a somewhat more modest approach, looking at the lives of Roosevelt and William Howard Taft, and their interactions with the “muckraking” journalists of McLure’s magazine, Ida Tarbell, Lincoln Steffens, Ray Stanard Baker, and others.

I found the parts on journalism the most remarkable parts of the book. The rise of McLure’s and the writers who worked for him was, for me, a window into the evolution of journalism in the United States that I’d never before been aware of. I found myself wanting to look for the investigative pieces that Tarbell and Steffens wrote, and read them myself. It seemed to me that this was one instance in which the label “the golden age” was not hyperbole.

Goodwin has a natural flow to her writing, and reading The Bully Pulpit made me want to read more of Goodwin. I think that, as much as anything, is a telling recommendation for any writer.

2. The Longest Road: Overland in Search of America, from Key West to the Arctic Ocean by Philip Caputo

In The Longest Road, Caputo writes of the trip he and his wife (and their dogs) took from the southern tip of Key West, Florida, to the shores of the Arctic Ocean in Alaska. It is a travelogue that rivals Blue Highways and makes me yearn to reproduce such a journey.

The Longest Road

1. The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

One of the things I’d always wondered about a character like Gandalf from Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings is how he became a great wizard/warrior. At some point, Gandalf had to be a child with no notion of magic sorcery. How did he go from that child to the great wizard he became? I always thought this would make for a fascinating story.

That is, perhaps, the best way to describe what The Name of the Wind is all about. Rather than Gandalf, the story is about a boy named Kvothe who, at the outset of the story, we know to be one of the great wizard/warriors of the age, a person of legend. Now, living as a humble innkeeper “Kote”, Kvothe tells his story to a Chronicler, and I finally get to see the evolution of a Gandalf-like wizard from boy to legend.

I managed to devour The Wise Man’s Fear as well, and since then, I have been eagerly awaiting Doors of Stone.