Lakenheath Old Boys

We are all former students at Lakenheath High School and other public schools in East Anglia. We were in school in the 70s and 80s and drank deeply from the well of British culture of those decades - the pints, the telly, and of course the footie!

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Books of 2015

In years past, I had the chance to read upwards of fifty books a year; these days it’s half of that. So, I’ve had to be more selective in my reading habits, cherishing a book over the course of a month at times and passing over books that casually interest but don’t quite captivate me. I’ve also taken to putting books aside when they don’t rope me in within the first 150 pages or so. But here are the ones that made me the happiest this year: 
 
1. Jon RonsonSo You’ve Been Publicly Shamed: British journalist Jon Ronson’s new book tackles one of our most pressing issues for us as a society: how to engage in civil discourse in an age of lightening quick social media.   
 
2. Jonathan Franzen - Purity: Franzen has over the course of his last three “big books” become one of the most important and celebrated novelists of our time. His latest charts the course of a rudderless young woman who joins a Wikileaks-style organization. 
 
3. Ta-Nehisi Coates - Between the World and Me: An elegant treatise on the state of race relations in an age of Ferguson and Baltimore and the Black Lives Matter movement. A book that one would hope that every policy maker read this year.
 
4. Andrew Hartman – The Struggle for the Soul of America: Hartman, a historian at Illinois State, outlines the major fault-lines between the Left and Right in the United States today, many of them motivated by cultural values. An important book for understanding the upcoming election.
 
5. Nick Hornby - Funny Girl: My favorite novelist casts a nostalgic eye back over the heyday of British television comedy with a loving look at Britain’s answer to Lucille Ball. A must read for those of us who grew up watching the likes of “Fawlty Towers” and “Dad’s Army.”
 
6. Patton Oswalt – Silver Screen Fiend: Alternative comedian Patton Oswalt’s funny rumination on his love affair with movies, art cinemas and film-going in Los Angeles. I spent a lot of time in 2015 writing about movies and their impact on viewers; this gave me some important insights.
 
7. Paula Hawkins – Girl on the Train: British writer Paula Hawkins’ debut novel was a whip-smart thriller, with multiple narratives, about a random incident witnessed by a depressed, alcoholic woman on a train into London one morning. You won’t be able to predict the twists and turns.
 
8. Michael Berube and Jennifer Ruth - The Humanities, Higher Education, Academic Freedom: Berube and Ruth, both veterans of shared governance negotiations on their campuses, recount the negative trends in higher education with regard to tenure, contingent faculty and de-professionalization. It’s a sobering read but vital nonetheless. This one made for an interest book discussion at Fredonia this semester.
 
9. Anne Tyler - A Spool of Blue Thread: Anne Tyler’s latest novel was a sprawling domestic drama about the Whitshanks, an old money New England family with lots of dysfunction and quirkiness. A new Tyler book is always a reason to celebrate.
 
10. Roddy Doyle - Two Pints/ Two More Pints: Roddy’s two slight books that detail the profane conversations about footie, politics and celebrity deaths between two Irish pub denizens were the perfect beach books for me this past summer. 
 
Notable Others
* Bill Bryson - One Summer: America 1927
* Renee Knight - Disclaimer
* Elizabeth Warren - A Fighting Chance
 
Disappointments
* Robert Christgau – A Kid in the City: Having grown up reading Village Voice senior music critic Christgau’s work, I looked forward to reading about the seminal records that made him want to write about music, the live gigs that he witnessed in 60s and 70s NYC (CBGBs - hello?) and the ins and outs of editing the yearly Pazz and Jop polls. Instead, we get ruminations on Dostoevsky and unflattering details of his love life. What were you thinking, Bob? 

I'd love to hear about what you've enjoyed reading this year.

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