So let's just pretend, shall we? Let's pretend that the end of 2015 is nearly upon us, or maybe 2016 just arrived fewer than 48 hours ago. Your now dusty Christmas tree is still holding court in the living room, the tree skirt rumpled and askew. There are three Christmas cookies left, but they've gone stale and nobody wants them, and an arm wrestling bout is scheduled for later to decide the fate of the last of the Christmas ham. You're back to work, but you still have that holiday sleep schedule hangover. And if you hear one more Burl Ives Christmas carol, somebody is getting hurt. That, my friends, is when the Best Of lists should appear on blogs and vlogs and websites everywhere. NOT on January 12, 2016. But we've agreed to pretend that I'm on top of things, so let's all just enjoy this land of make believe and talk about my favorite reads of 2015.
First, it's confession time. I only read 55 books this year. (Books read from beginning to end, not counting any DNFs.) That's down from last year's number, and I'm slightly embarrassed. I'm the first to admit that I'm fiercely competitive and acquisitional (is that a word?) with my reading, and I would have preferred to top my previous number. But apparently, teaching and volunteering and chauffeuring took its toll, and I averaged just over a book a week. MUST do better in 2016.
Now, on to my favorites.
1Q84, Haruki Murakami
This wasn't my first Murakami, but I do believe it is my new favorite. I'm always a sucker for a giant, doorstop of a book, and this "little" tome delivered. Magical, dream-like, all the things we always say about Murakami, only there was just something else about this one that made it surpass The Wind-up Bird Chronicle as my favorite. I can't really put my finger on what it is. Maybe it was the badass lady assassin. Maybe it was the happy ending. Maybe the reason is as hard to pin down as one of Murakami's mysterious cats. Loved this book.
Find Me, Laura Van Den Berg
If you haven't figured this out already, I'm a sucker for dystopian/post-apocalyptic/speculative fiction. Margaret Atwood is my jam. I never miss an episode of The Walking Dead. This beautiful book scratches my disaster itch with a story of a young survivor of a plague that has wiped out much of the US. Van Den Berg is an amazing writer, and combining her skills with my favorite subject matter made for a book I couldn't stop reading (and recommending.)
Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury
I am so embarrassed to admit that I'd never read this book before this year. It was just one of those bizarre gaps in my reading that I was determined to remedy. This little book needs no explanation or blurbing. Loved it.
Saint Mazie, Jami Attenberg
I'm listing these books in the order I read them, not in the order in which I loved and adored them. Otherwise, this book would be near the top. Heard about this title on the All the Books podcast, and it just intrigued me. Reserved it at the library and proceeded to devour this story. My only regret is that I don't actually own a copy. If you love stories about the Depression, New York City, independent women, or immigrants, this based-on-a-true-story novel is for you. It reads as a collection of journal entries, news clippings, and interviews. It covers a lot of ground, but moves so quickly that you'll be in shock (and maybe in mourning) when it ends. I need to read this one again.
Music for Wartime, Rebecca Makkai
Not just my favorite short story collection of the year, this may be one of my favorite short story collections of all time. Another All the Books find, these stories are smart and beautiful and funny and sad in turn. I especially recommend this collection if you are a lover of classical and/or orchestral music. And if you need any more prompting to pick this one up, there's a story where a miniature Bach crawls out of a woman's piano and becomes her interim boyfriend. Yeah, that happened.
In the Country, Mia Alvar
I've read comparisons between Alvar and Jhumpa Lahiri, and they're not off the mark. This is a gorgeous short story collection about immigrants, outsiders, and the other. Loved it.
Fates and Furies, Lauren Groff
I'm always suspicious of hype, and this book came with plenty. Somehow, though, it managed to live up to the raves. Beautiful, sprawling book about a marriage. If you liked The Interestings (Meg Wolitzer), you'll like this book.
The Maddaddam Trilogy, Margaret Atwood
So, I cheated. This is actually three books, but I read the whole trilogy this year, and I couldn't just pick one of the books as a fave. Loved, loved, loved these books. Got to the end and wanted to immediately start over and read them all again. Nobody does speculative fiction like Atwood. Also, name drop...she tweeted me back!
HONORABLE MENTIONS - FICTION
The Fishermen, by Chigozie Obioma, was amazing and a must-read about Nigerian brothers living with a curse.
Tenth of December, by George Saunders, is another embarrassing gap in my reading. One of the ultimate short story collections. Took my breath away.
FAVORITE 2016 BOOK I'M STILL READING
This Angel on my Chest, by Leslie Pietrzyk - Do yourself a favor and read this book immediately.
Faith Unraveled, Rachel Held Evans
Searching for Sunday, Rachel Held Evans
Out of Sorts, Sarah Bessey
Between the World and Me, Ta-Nehisi Coates - Here's a link to my previous mentions of this amazing book.
Well, there you have it. My latest loves of the literary kind. I'd post about my TBR, but it's grown to an unmanageable size. Too much book shopping in Asheville over Christmas break! (No such thing.) So I'd better get back to my reading!