New year, new challenge

What books did you read last year? Were they fiction or nonfiction? Did you read any poetry collections or perhaps a memoir? Do you have a new favorite author? 

Most of the books I chose to read in 2015 were from the Homer Public Library’s 15 in ’15 list compiled by the library staff at the beginning of the year. 

The idea behind the 15 in ’15 Reading Challenge was to give people an incentive to read more and read differently. I can say without a doubt that it worked for me. It was also a lot of fun.

In 2015, I read outside of my comfort zone. Normally I steer clear of fantasy, but I read “The Name of the Wind” by Patrick Rothfuss, and enjoyed it more than I expected. I read the young adult book “Winger” by Andrew Smith, which is about a14-year-old rugby player. I didn’t know what was in store when I picked it up, but it turns out I was delighted to spend a little time inside the mind of this goofy, sincere and conflicted character. I read a couple of poetry collections and a couple of graphic novels as well. 

I was a bit intimidated by the length of the Pulitzer Prize-winning book “The Goldfinch” by Donna Tartt.  Had the book not been on the list I would likely have passed it over for something shorter. But I was determined to reach my goal of 15 books, so I checked out the audio book and listened to it on my commute to and from town each day for a few weeks. While driving East End Road I was taken away to New York City and the seedy suburbs of Las Vegas with a couple of very memorable characters.

“Americanah” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie gave me the opportunity to consider what life in the United States might be like for Nigerian immigrants. After reading the concise and illustrated book “The War Within These Walls” by Aline Sax, I was inspired to read more about the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.

When stories of mass shootings and ISIS were beginning to overwhelm me, I sought out something light from the list. “An Irish Country Doctor” by Patrick Taylor transported me to the Northern Ireland village of Ballybucklebo where the problems seemed relatively simple compared to what I was hearing on the news. The protagonists were imperfect, yet sincere. It’s just what I needed at the time.

I was proud to reach my goal of reading 15 books from the list, but something even better happened when I got myself back into the habit of reading. The more I read, the more I wanted to read, and as the year passed I often found myself reaching for a book rather than the remote. 

And it was fun knowing that lots of other people in the community were reading the same titles. It made for engaging conversations about characters, plotlines and writing styles. Even the books I didn’t find particularly appealing made for good discussions.

When the Homer Public Library started the 15 in ’15 reading challenge, it was an experiment. We’d never tried anything quite like it. But the participation and enthusiasm were encouraging. More than 100 people submitted the books they read online to enter the prize drawings. Many simply read from the list or chose books from the 15 in ’15 display at the library. 

By the end of the year it was clear to us that we needed to start compiling a list for 2016. 

Now the 2016 list is complete and available at the library and online. Like last year’s list, it has 150 carefully selected books in 10 different categories. It isn’t a list of “books you ought to read” but rather “books we think you might enjoy.” The list is made up of fiction, nonfiction, memoir, young adult books, graphic novels and poetry. It includes romance, science fiction, westerns, humor, Alaskana, literary fiction and even a few classics. We think there is something for every mature reader. And of course, everything on the list is available for checkout at the Homer Public Library. 

If you’d like to make reading a part of your year, I invite you to stop by the library to pick up a list, get a library card if you don’t already have one, and check out a book or two to get started. 

The Friends of the Library will be hosting a fireside kickoff event on Thursday, Jan. 21 at 6 p.m., and throughout the year we’ll have 15 in ’16 get-togethers. Like last year, everyone who reads books from the list can record their books on the Homer Public Library website to be entered into monthly drawings, and those who enter 15 or more books will be entered into a grand prize drawing at the end of the year.

I hope you’ll consider joining this fun community of readers. If you do, I’m certain that next year at this time you’ll have visited new places and been introduced to some great characters.  And if anyone should ask you what you’ve been reading, you’ll have plenty to talk about. 

For more information about our 15 in ’16 reading challenge you can call the library at 235-3180, or visit our website at and look for our Read 15 in ’16 icon. 

Teresa Sundmark works at the Homer Public Library.  If you have questions about the 15 in ’16 reading program, she can be reached at


All Over the Map

  1. Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates    NF
  2. Blood, Bones and Butter by Gabrielle Hamilton   NF
  3. Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese    F
  4. Deep Down Dark: The untold story of 33 men buried in a Chilean mine by Hector Tobar   NF
  5. Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight by Alexander Fuller   NF
  6. Euphoria by Lily King    F
  7. The Fishermen by Chigozie Obioma    F
  8. Leaving Mother Lake: A Girlhood at the Edge of the World by Yang Erche Namu    NF
  9. Maphead by Ken Jennings    NF
  10. The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan    F
  11. Purge by Sofi Oksanen     F
  12. Running the Rift by Naomi Benaron    F
  13. TransAtlantic by Colum McCann    F
  14. Travels with Charley by John Steinbeck    NF
  15. Visit Sunny Chernobyl by Andrew Blackwell    NF


Animal Nature

  1. The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein     F
  2. Beyond the Bear by Dan Bigley     NF, AKA
  3. Dog On It by Spencer Quinn    F
  4. Into Great Silence by Eva Saulitis     NF, AKA
  5. H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald     NF
  6. The Last Unicorn: A Search for one of the Earth’s Rarest Creatures  by William deBuys     NF
  7. The Man Who Swam With Beavers by Nancy Lord     F, AKA
  8. Ordinary Wolves by Seth Kantner      F, AKA
  9. Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari     NF
  10. The Sasquatch Hunter’s Almanac by Sharma Shields    F
  11. Seraphina by Rachel Hartman     F, YA
  12. The Soul of an Octopus by Sy Montgomery     NF
  13. The Tiger by John Vaillant     NF
  14. Voices in the Ocean by Susan Casey     NF
  15. Watership Down by Richard Adams     F

Creative Types

  1. Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff     F
  2. Five Flavors of Dumb by Antony John    F, YA
  3. Heat by Bill Buford    NF
  4. Here by Richard McGuire     GN
  5. Hold Still: A Memoir with Photographs by Sally Mann     NF
  6. Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl by Carrie Brownstein     NF
  7. I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson     F, YA
  8. Operation Mincemeat by Ben Macintyre     NF
  9. Out on the Wire by Jessica Abel     NF
  10. The Painter by Peter Heller     F
  11. Shakespeare Saved my Life by Laura Bates     NF
  12. Still Life by Louise Penny     F
  13. Symphony for the City of the Dead by M.T. Anderson     NF, YA
  14. The Telling Room by Michael Paterniti     NF
  15. Things the Grandchildren Should Know by Mark Oliver Everett      NF


Election Year

  1. All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren     F
  2. Almost President by Scott Farris   NF
  3. The Best Laid Plans by Terry Fallis   F
  4. 4.     Boomsday by Christopher Buckley   F
  5. Fifty Miles from Tomorrow by William Hensley    NF, AKA
  6. 6.     Give Us the Ballot by Ari Berman   NF
  7. 7.     Good Poems for Hard Times selected by Garrison Keillor   Poetry
  8. The Handmaids’s Tale by Margaret Atwood   F
  9. Jack 1939 by Francine Matthews    F
  10. Little Brother by Cory Doctorow    F, YA
  11. 11.  Most Dangerous by Steve Sheinkin   NF, YA
  12. No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the U.S. Surveillance State by Glenn Greenwald  NF
  13. Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Goodwin   NF
  14. V for Vendetta by Alan Moore    GN
  15. Zahra’s Paradise by Amir and Khalil   GN



Isn’t it Romantic?

  1. Agnes and the Hitman by Jennifer Crusie    F
  2. Bonk by Mary Roach   NF
  3. Bronze Horseman by Paulina Simons    F
  4. Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell   F
  5. Harriet Wolf’s Seventh Book of Wonders by Julianna Baggot   F
  6. The Light of the World by Elizabeth Alexander   NF
  7. Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez    F
  8. Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari     NF
  9. My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick   F, YA
  10. One Hundred Names for Love by Diane Ackerman   NF
  11. Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf    F
  12. Outlaw Marriages: The Hidden History of Fifteen Extraordinary Same-Sex Couples by Roger Streitmatter    NF
  13. Sea Swept by Nora Roberts   F
  14. Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda   F, YA
  15. When Love Comes by J.H.Croix   F, AKA

Laugh Out Loud

  1. Accidental Saints by Nadia Bolz-Weber    NF
  2. Agent to the Stars by John Scalzi    F
  3. Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson     NF
  4. Dead Souls by Nikolai Gogol     F
  5. First Grave on the Right by Darynda Jones    F
  6. Girl Waits With Gun by Amy Stewart    F
  7. The Good Luck of Right Now by Matthew Quick    F
  8. Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh    GN
  9. Lafayette in the Somewhat United States by Sarah Vowell     NF
  10. The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid by Bill Bryson     NF
  11. Moose by Darin and Chad Carpenter    GN, AKA
  12. My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell    NF
  13. Skippy Dies by Paul Murray     F
  14. The Spellman Files by Lisa Lutz    F
  15. Winterdance by Gary Paulsen

North Country

  1. All my Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews     F
  2. Blonde Indian by Ernestine Hayes     NF, AKA
  3. Creatures at the Absolute Bottom of the Sea by Rosemary McGuire     F, AKA
  4. Drop City by TC Boyle     F
  5. Egg & Spoon by Gregory Maguire    F, YA
  6. Etta and Otto and Russel and James by Emma Hooper     F
  7. In the Kingdom of Ice by Hampton Sides    NF
  8. In Manchuria by Michael Meyer    NF
  9. Jimmy Bluefeather  by Kim Heacox    F, AKA
  10. Kids from Nowhere by George Guthridge     NF, AKA
  11. Mrs. Mike by Benedict Freedman & Nancy Freedman     F
  12. Reykjavik Nights by Arnaldur Indridason     F
  13. The Son by Jo Nesbo     F
  14. The Stars, the Snow, the Fire by John Haines    NF, AKA
  15. The Wind is Not a River by Brian Payton   F, AKA


Southern Flair

  1. Bastard Out of Carolina by Dorothy Allison     F
  2. Confederates in the Attic by Tony Horwitz    NF
  3. A Death in the Family by James Agee    F
  4. Deep South by Paul Theroux     NF
  5. The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers   F
  6. Mama Makes Up Her Mind by Bailey White     NF
  7. Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt    NF
  8. My Sunshine Away by M.O. Walsh    F
  9. The Optimist’s Daughter by Eudora Welty     F
  10. Serena by Ron Rash    F
  11. Strange as This Weather Has Been by Ann Pancake    F
  12. Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe    F
  13. Under Magnolia by Francis Mayes    NF
  14. Walking the Choctaw Road by Tim Tingle    NF, YA
  15. Winter’s Bone by Daniel Woodrell    F




Staff Picks

  1. After the Parade by Lori Ostlund    F
  2. Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman    NF, YA
  3. Cinder by Marissa Meyer    F, YA
  4. Counting Heads by David Marusek     F, AKA
  5. The Crossover by Kwame Alexander     F, YA
  6. The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin     F
  7. Find the Good by Heather Lende     NF, AKA  
  8. Just Breathe Normally by Peggy Shumaker     NF, AKA
  9. Maus I by Art Spiegelman    GN
  10. Pause, Traveler by Erin Hollowell    Poetry, AKA
  11. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain    NF
  12. So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson   NF
  13. The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen      F
  14. This One Summer by Jillian Tamaki and Mariko Tamaki    GN, YA
  15. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith    F


Wild West

  1. Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner     F
  2. Astoria: Astor and Jefferson’s Lost Pacific Empire  by Peter Stark     NF
  3. Barefoot Heart by Elva Trevino Hart    NF
  4. Empire of the Summer Moon by S.C. Gwynne     NF
  5. I Follow in the Dust She Raises by Linda Martin    Poetry, AKA
  6. Last Bus to Wisdom by Ivan Doig     F
  7. Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry     F
  8. The Meadow by James Galvin    F
  9. The Monkey Wrench Gang by Edward Abbey     F
  10. The Oregon Trail by Rinker Buck   NF
  11. The Perilous Journey of the Donner Party by Marian Calabro     NF, YA
  12. The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt     F
  13. Under the Banner of Heaven by John Krakauer     NF
  14. Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee    F, YA

The Water Museum by Luis Alberto Urrea    F