As the year comes to a blustering end I’ve been presented with a million and one “Your top ____ of 2015!” Music listened to, photos taken, musings writing, books read.
That last one is a biggie for me. If you include trade paperbacks I have read 46 books this year, topping over 17,000 pages. Take those out, and it’s admittedly less (35 books, around 14,000 pages I’d gander?) but still not a bad haul. And yes, I am including TPBs, because Saga and Fables are pretty great.
About half of those books were read on a Kindle, and included odd highlights here and there. I don’t often highlight in my books, so it’s not consistent, and such markings don’t appear in every title read. I figured it might be interesting to see what I did consider to be highlight-worthy. What was I thinking at the time?
And so, here are presented with limited comment, everything that I highlighted on my Kindle in 2015.
[I’m going to possible-spoiler alert this?]
From The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
- The absurd does not liberate; it binds. —ALBERT CAMUS
- I lost sight of any landmark that might have led me someplace happier, to some more populated or congenial life.
- Some of the neglected bedchambers and roped-off drawing rooms in the depths of European Decorating felt bound-up in deep enchantment, as if no one had set foot in them for hundreds of years.
- But sometimes, unexpectedly, grief pounded over me in waves that left me gasping; and when the waves washed back, I found myself looking out over a brackish wreck which was illumined in a light so lucid, so heartsick and empty, that I could hardly remember that the world had ever been anything but dead.
- To understand the world at all, sometimes you could only focus on a tiny bit of it, look very hard at what was close to hand and make it stand in for the whole;
- You see one painting, I see another, the art book puts it at another remove still, the lady buying the greeting card at the museum gift shop sees something else entire, and that’s not even to mention the people separated from us by time—four hundred years before us, four hundred years after we’re gone—it’ll never strike anybody the same way and the great majority of people it’ll never strike in any deep way at all but—a really great painting is fluid enough to work its way into the mind and heart through all kinds of different angles, in ways that are unique and very particular. Yours, yours. I was painted for you.
- That maybe even if we’re not always so glad to be here, it’s our task to immerse ourselves anyway: wade straight through it, right through the cesspool, while keeping eyes and hearts open.
What does all of this mean? Existential crisis apparently. These and the Dune highlights below seem to signify that I was apparently in a mood to think about profound meaning of life questions. The fact that I went to town on a Camus quote before the book even begins is telling enough.
From Dune by Frank Herbert
- “I remember salt smoke from a beach fire And shadows under the pines— Solid, clean…fixed— Seagulls perched at the tip of land, White upon green… And a wind comes through the pines To sway the shadows; The seagulls spread their wings, Lift And fill the sky with screeches. And I hear the wind Blowing across our beach, And the surf, And I see that our fire Has scorched the seaweed.”
- They shall come all for violence: their faces shall sup up as the east wind, and they shall gather the captivity of the sand.
- you who know what we suffer here, do not forget us in your prayers.
- Old Father Eternity,” he said. “They say: ‘Be prepared to appreciate what you meet.’”
- “Paradise on my right, Hell on my left, and the Angel of Death behind.”
- God created Arrakis to train the faithful.
- The concept of progress acts as a protective mechanism to shield us from the terrors of the future.
- Deep in the human unconscious is a pervasive need for a logical universe that makes sense. But the real universe is always one step beyond logic.
I didn’t even highlight some of the most obvious things. Though I swear I did… Maybe my Kindle highlights are broken. I think the exclusion of “Fear is the mind-killer” is probably some sort of sci-fi sacrilege.
From The Postmortal by Drew Magary
Nothing. Which is seconding my initial thought that my highlights got messed up, since I read this for bookclub.
From Rooms by Lauren Oliver
Also nothing. Something fishy is happening here. Did I sleep-delete things?
From Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
- “Made for TV. Released in 1985,” I recited. Star Wars trivia was one of my specialties. “Total garbage. A real low point in the history of the Wars.”
- Middle Earth. Vulcan. Pern. Arrakis. Magrathea. Discworld, Mid-World, Riverworld, Ringworld. Worlds upon worlds.
- I burned through the entire They Might Be Giants discography in under two weeks.
- Three hidden keys open three secret gates Wherein the errant will be tested for worthy traits And those with the skill to survive these straits Will reach The End where the prize awaits
- The Copper Key awaits explorers In a tomb filled with horrors But you have much to learn If you hope to earn A place among the high scorers
- The chamber filled with the sound of a full orchestra. Triumphant horns were quickly joined by a stirring string section. I recognized the music. It was the last track from John Williams’s original Star Wars score, used in the scene where Princess Leia gives Luke and Han their medals (and Chewbacca, as you may recall, gets the shaft).
- Dagorath was a word in Sindarin, the Elvish language J. R. R. Tolkien had created for The Lord of the Rings.
- “Chaotic Neutral, sugar.”
- The captain conceals the Jade Key in a dwelling long neglected But you can only blow the whistle once the trophies are all collected
- “No one in the world ever gets what they want and that is beautiful.”
- Aladdin’s Castle
- Continue your quest by taking the test Continue your quest by taking the test Continue your quest by taking the test
- The first was ringed in red metal The second, in green stone The third is clearest crystal and cannot be unlocked alone
- Crom, strong in his mountain.
My highlights hath returned! Half nostalgia, half highlighting the different clues so I could come back to them faster. No real existential mood happening here, I just liked the references to the terrible Ewok movie and Crom.
From Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
- They live out their lives under flickering lights, aware at all times of the fathoms of ocean above them, resentful of Dr. Eleven and his colleagues who keep Station Eleven moving forever through deep space. (Pablo texts her: ??did u get my email???) They are always waiting, the people of the Undersea. They spend all their lives waiting for their lives to begin.
- these thoughts broke apart in his head and were replaced by strange fragments: This is my soul and the world unwinding, this is my heart in the still winter air. Finally whispering the same two words over and over: “Keep walking. Keep walking. Keep walking.”
I’m not sure why I went with these two out of everything else in that great book. More existential musing probably- I’m lousy with that.
From The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
From The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss
Crickets intensify. Somehow I didn’t highlight a single line between 1600 pages of book?
From Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling
- “Will you please inform zis ’Agrid zat ze ’orses drink only single-malt whiskey?”
- “This is a Hungarian Horntail,” said Charlie. “There’s a Common Welsh Green over there, the smaller one — a Swedish Short-Snout, that blue-gray — and a Chinese Fireball, that’s the red.”
I was doing a re-read to study for a Harry Potter Bar Trivia night, which explains all the spells and lists and the Madame Maxime quote? We got 2nd place by the way. Only missed one question, for one point, about the Oscars that the movies won. Which is NONE by the way. I know that now. Never forget.
From Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling
- St. Brutus’s Secure Center for Incurably Criminal Boys.
- “REMEMBER MY LAST, PETUNIA.
- doxies bite and their teeth are poisonous.
- Gubraithian fire.
- “Andrew Kirke,” said Alicia without enthusiasm, “and Jack Sloper.
- “Well, Flitwick’s got rid of Fred and George’s swamp,” said Ginny. “He did it in about three seconds. But he left a tiny patch under the window and he’s roped it off —” “Why?” said Hermione, looking startled. “Oh, he just says it was a really good bit of magic,” said Ginny, shrugging.
- Indeed, Professor McGonagall sank back into her chair at the staff table after a few feeble remonstrances and was clearly heard to express a regret that she could not run cheering after Umbridge herself, because Peeves had borrowed her walking stick.
More studying for the most part. Also, I forgot how great Ginny is in the books. Girl’s got a mountain of sass.
From Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling
- Hermione snogged Viktor Krum, it’s only you who acts like it’s something disgusting, Ron, and that’s because you’ve got about as much experience as a twelve-year-old!”
- Arnold the Pygmy Puff
- Wilkie Twycross and I shall be your Ministry Apparition instructor
- “I told her it’s a Hungarian Horntail,” said Ginny, turning a page of the newspaper idly. “Much more macho.”
- More Ginny dropping the snark. High five my lady-bro.
From Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by J.K. Rowling
- a “being” was “any creature that has sufficient intelligence to understand the laws of the magical community and to bear part of the responsibility in shaping those laws.
- Let us now turn to the one question that witches and wizards ask more than any other when the conversation turns to Magizoology: Why don’t Muggles notice these creatures?
- Each wizarding governing body will be responsible for the concealment, care, and control of all magical beasts, beings, and spirits dwelling within its territory’s borders. Should any such creature cause harm to, or draw the notice of, the Muggle community, that nation’s wizarding governing body will be subject to discipline by the International Confederation of Wizards.
- Meanwhile the world’s largest kelpie continues to evade capture in Loch Ness and appears to have developed a positive thirst for publicity.
- Convinced by the spotless and empty bed that such a creature had indeed killed Janus, his wife and children entered a period of strict mourning, which was rudely interrupted when Janus was discovered living five miles away with the landlady of the Green Dragon.
Oh yes, I read all of these smaller books too in preparation for trivia. I really enjoy trivia.
From The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J.K. Rowling
- and the only surviving woodcut shows that he had an exceptionally luxuriant beard.
- “Their hearts must be husks,” he sneered inwardly as he observed the antics of the young parents around him, “shriveled by the demands of these mewling offspring!”
I enjoyed the verbiage most thoroughly.
From Quidditch Through the Ages by J.K. Rowling
- The final between Transylvania and Flanders has gone down in history as the most violent of all time and many of the fouls then recorded had never been seen before – for instance, the transfiguration of a Chaser into a polecat, the attempted decapitation of a Keeper with a broadsword, and the release, from under the robes of the Transylvanian Captain, of a hundred blood-sucking vampire bats.
Dropping some fantastic fake history facts with this one. The more you know.
From Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling
- Luna had decorated her bedroom ceiling with five beautifully painted faces: Harry, Ron, Hermione, Ginny, and Neville. They were not moving as the portraits at Hogwarts moved, but there was a certain magic about them all the same: Harry thought they breathed. What appeared to be fine golden chains wove around the pictures, linking them together, but after examining them for a minute or so, Harry realized that the chains were actually one word, repeated a thousand times in golden ink: friends . . . friends . . . friends . .
- The house-elves of Hogwarts swarmed into the entrance hall, screaming and waving carving knives and cleavers, and at their head, the locket of Regulus Black bouncing on his chest, was Kreacher, his bullfrog’s voice audible even above this din: “Fight! Fight! Fight for my Master,
Quote one is just… weirdly heartbreaking. Oh Luna. The second is why Kreacher is probably my favorite tertiary character. What a grumpy old dumpbag.
From Uprooted by Naomi Novik
- “If you don’t want a man dead, don’t bludgeon him over the head repeatedly,”
Sage advice right there.
From Neuromancer by William Gibson
- The bartender’s smile widened. His ugliness was the stuff of legend. In an age of affordable beauty, there was something heraldic about his lack of it.
- He’d expected to die, then, but they only smiled. Of course he was welcome, they told him, welcome to the money. And he was going to need it. Because—still smiling—they were going to make sure he never worked again.
Such an odd book, misleadingly dense despite so few pages. I’m glad I read it though; it is literally genre-defining. It also spiraled me into a cyber-punk short story phase that lasted about three weeks.
From The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
- Nolite te bastardes carborundorum.
This probably didn’t need a highlight, as it’s a recurring motto in the book.
From Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer
- That I proposed to climb to the cruising altitude of an Airbus 300 jetliner struck me, at that moment, as preposterous, or worse.
While there are many things I want to do in life- summiting Everest is not on that list. It’s not even written down on anything that could be construed as paper. It’s a big, giant “nope.”
From The Revenant by Michael Punke
- Without understanding fully the significance of his decisions, William H. Ashley had invented the system that would define the era.
- Pig smelled so bad it confused people.
- Glass’s rifle was the one extravagance of his life, and when he rubbed grease into the spring mechanism of the hair trigger, he did so with the tender affection that other men might reserve for a wife or child.
My final highlights of the year, unless I finish my current books. This was a weird book, I’m still not sure how I feel about it.
Well this was a weird project. If you’ve read all the way this far, congratulations. You might have a better understanding of wizarding spells!