(for my wife, a huge Paul Newman fan)
One of my jobs as a writer is to read. A lot. I’ve set a goal in the past few years of reading at least one book per week (audio books count) and I’ve succeeded. Yesterday I finished my 82nd book of 2015, according to my Goodreads page. I read 65 in 2014 and 57 in 2013. I’m not sure how many in 2012, but I’d say 40-50 since I can’t ever remember not having a book to read almost every day in most of my adult life. As a good Neo-Renaissance practitioner, reading is at the absolute top of my list of intellectual pursuits because it is so easy in our technology age to access the written word. The bonus to me is that reading is an activity which requires immense concentration and a long attention span, which helps counteract our modern-day distractions and short attention span practitioners.
I used to read a lot of non-fiction, but since becoming a serious writer, I’ve stuck more with my genre of mystery/thriller/suspense in the past several years. I still read some non-fiction–mostly about the craft of writing– and in 2014, I also read quite a number of short story compilations courtesy of Glimmer Train, Boulevard, and Crazy Horse.
I don’t gravitate toward new releases, bestsellers, and the like because I have my own agenda about reading. I read what tickles my fancy or fills a need or desire at that moment. For what it’s worth, I’ve decided to share my favorite book of the year as I have for the past three years. Here is my “favorite” book of 2015, along with my original Goodreads review. Note that I use the Goodreads rating system. 5 stars = It was amazing. 4 stars = Really liked it. 3 stars = Liked it. 2 stars = It was ok. 1 star = Did not like it. I don’t believe in giving rave reviews to friends or colleagues when they are not deserved, or to books that I truly enjoyed for one or more qualities, but found something seriously lacking in the execution. Most importantly, I give the highest rating to only those books which I really think are outstanding. More or less a bell curve because let’s face it folks, only a small handful of us are geniuses. The rest of us might be very good, brilliant at times, but not geniuses. I want to look back at my reading history when I’m on my death-bed and know that I recognized true greatness over my life and didn’t merely pay it lip service. So if you got five stars from me, you wowed me, for what that is worth.
Without further ado, my favorite book of 2015 was:
Gone, Baby, Gone (Kenzie & Gennaro #4)
Wow. Lehane is a true master of the modern noir-ish detective mystery. He can make you laugh, cry, roar with anger, ache with empathy, and truly fall in love with his beautifully flawed main characters. Gone, Baby, Gone takes you on an emotional roller coaster ride with Kenzie and Gennaro, never lets you think you’ve figured out what happened, and even when you do start to think you’ve solved the mystery, throws a curve ball at you from left field that you never see coming.
I can’t praise Lehane’s dialogue enough. He’s as good as Elmore Leonard. And for such a gritty setting and a depressing topic as big city crime and the lives of those who deal with it daily, he can write incredibly poetic scenes and descriptions.
I couldn’t put the book down and finished in three intense reading sessions. This is one of Lehane’s best.
2015 was my busiest reading year ever, so I’m compelled to list some Honorable Mentions. These are books I thought were excellent but didn’t quite move me as much as Gone Baby, Gone.
In no particular order, the Honorable Mentions are:
Bad Luck and Trouble (Jack Reacher #11)
Lee Child is a master storyteller and Jack Reacher is a singular character, unforgettable.