My Picks for the Best Books of 2015
It's hard to believe we're knocking on the door of another year. I would ask where the time went, except I already know---reading!
2015 had some of the best new releases I've ever seen come out of a single year. I read a number of new releases this year, but I also like to pepper my reading with a lot of backlist, so the following list are the best books I read in 2015---some new, some oldies but goodies.
In no particular order...
OMG, The Fair Fight. I don't think I've ever laughed so hard while reading a book in my life. The story is essentially Jane Austen meets Fight Club, which is already AWESOME, but when you add a lady boxer's fiery, raucous insults into the mix, it only gets better.
The narrative of Fates and Furies really hooked me. Sure, there are tons of books out there told from multiple perspectives, but they don't hold a candle to Groff. Fates and Furies is what all those other dual perspective books want to be when they grow up. The story is an intimate tale of a marriage---what is seen and what is kept secret---from the perspective of both partners. That description doesn't do it justice, but believe me, you'll be hooked from start to finish.
Did I mention this was President Obama's favorite book of the year? The man's got taste.
What would this list be without a feminist graphic novel? Bitch Planet is what you'd get if the social ideologies of the Victorian era were present in a time of hyper-advanced technology. It's a revelatory look at the way society imposes judgements on women and how MESSED UP that is. Peppered with social commentary and cutting satire, Bitch Planet is the story of a separate planet where women are sent for being "non-compliant," AKA too opinionated, too tough, too un-feminine, too fat, too dark-skinned, too loud, too smart, or too anything-that-threatens-men.
This book might be fiction, but the issues discussed and the social implications of those issues are 100% fact.
Okay, so I'm a little late to the game on this one since The Magicians came out in 2009. But, hey, better late than never, right? I've made it a goal to try out genres I haven't historically read, so this was the year of dipping my toes into sci-fi and fantasy. The Magicians is an urban fantasy about a boy who goes to wizardry college and discovers that the land of his favorite childhood novels is actually real. Now before you go thinking this is just like Harry Potter, it most certainly is not. Sure, they have magic in common and the protagonist is a dude, but the similarities end there. The Magicians is engrossing in its own right.
I'm already starting the second book in the trilogy AND planning to watch the new TV series based on the books that's airing in 2016! So if you're a "must read the book before watching the film" person, move this one up in your TBR.
To say that Between the World and Me is a life-altering book is an understatement. Real talk: There's a LOT white people don't understand about race. Rather than stew in ignorance or become frustrated by the un-Googlable because it's difficult to articulate, just read this book. Between the World and Me should be required reading for all of humanity. This book has the power to make you a better human, but only if you let it. It's one that you'll want to turn to again and again. I can't fully explain how revolutionary this book is, but seriously---take my word for it.
If you're apprehensive of books that get a lot of hype, don't let Eat Pray Love scare you off from Big Magic. They are completely different books and have little in common other than Elizabeth Gilbert's tell-it-like-it-is style. She writes in a way that you can't help but listen to because it sounds like your wise best friend who just wants you to be happy. Big Magic is all about the nature of creativity and how to have a healthy approach to creative work. If you've ever wondered if it's possible to be happy AND be a passionate artist, the answer is yes and Liz Gilbert will tell you how.
No joke, I've literally thought about this book from the day I started reading it to every day since I've finished it. No matter what gets your creative juices flowing, this is a must read for all creative types.
Another oldie but goodie. Swamplandia! is like an even darker and more twisted Alice in Wonderland set in the Everglades. It's one of those novels that when you read the last page, you know it'll never really leave you.
T.K. Thorne's novels defy genre. There's love and feminism, history and alternate history. Rather than trying to cram Angels at the Gate into a box, suffice it to say it's a damn good book. It's set in biblical times and is the untold story of Lot's wife. BUT---and it's a big "but"---you don't have to be religious at all to enjoy this book. The story may be set in biblical times, but it's not Christian fiction in the least. I'm not religious myself and I thoroughly enjoyed it. And I'm not just saying that because I have the fortune of calling T.K. a friend.
Hausfrau means "housewife" in German, but home ec ain't got nothing on this. Hausfrau chronicles the life of Anna, an American married to a Swiss husband, and the conspiratorial gymnastics Anna does to hide her multiple affairs from her spouse. A lot of novels give you peeks into the characters' private lives, but this entire novel is a microscope on a couple's relationship (and the other relationships resulting from the affairs). Tension is high, emotions run deep, and the whole novel is an emotional rollercoaster on a continuous feedback loop.
Nonfiction + short stories = essays. I love that essays in book form are having a moment because this collection of essays by Sloane Crosley had me laughing out loud, grinning at brilliant witticisms, and clamoring to find the story gems in my own life. I Was Told There'd Be Cake simultaneously manages to make you feel better about your own life while still making you wish you had a touch more craziness so you could have such epic material to write about. This oldie but goodie came out in 2008 and deserves a revival.
The internet at large has waxed poetic about All the Light We Cannot See since it was released last year, so I'd say it falls into the "self explanatory" category. I read it this past summer and I'm already planning a re-read---something I don't do often.