2015 Top 10 List
MY TOP 10 PICKS OF 2015
BOOKS PUBLISHED IN 2015
Better Than Before, by Gretchen Rubin
This book made me think about habits in a new way. Rubin sets out a framework for understanding how we handle expectations and, in turn, form and change habits. Her framework consists of Four Tendencies: Upholders, Questioners, Obligers, and Rebels. I appear to be equal parts Upholder, Obliger, and Questioner and zero parts Rebel. I found it to be very helpful in considering how to best structure new habits to ensure that they actually become habits.
First Frost, by Sarah Addison Allen
This book quite simply made me happy. It’s a sequel to a book I haven’t read (Garden Spells), but I loved it all the same. Allen has a lovely way with words and characters and settings and a confident hand with the magical realism. I will definitely be rereading this lovely story about the Waverlys, probably come the first frost of 2016.
Carry On, by Rainbow Rowell
This book did old things in a new way. Fangirl, another book by Rowell, featured bits of fan fiction the main character Cathy wrote. Carry On, is a full book of the fan fiction Cathy wrote. It’s so meta and so very fun. Set at a magical boarding school, there are definite echoes of Harry Potter, but a magic system and characters all its own. Also, the main characters, two guys, fall in love. I loved it. I will read anything Rowell writes. Anything.
Fates & Furies, by Lauren Groff
This book both challenged and entertained me. It is the story of a marriage. The first half, the “fates” part, is the story of Lancelot or “Lotto,” a golden boy whom the fates seem to favor. The second half, the “furies” part, is the story of Mathilde, a dark girl whom the furies seem to have marked. Each half tells the story of the marriage with strikingly different perspectives on the same events – two halves of the whole. Though their styles are completely different, I feel very similarly about Rowell and Groff. I will continue to read anything Groff writes.
Goodbye Strangers, by Rebecca Stead
This book. I (almost) don’t have words for it. Bridge has reached the seventh grade and everything (everything) is changing. Bodies are changing, relationships with boys are changing, and the use of technology is changing. Stead can write middle grade fiction. I felt entwined with these characters. I loved how the various story lines came together. And I loved that through hard things, friends and families worked through it together.
BOOKS PUBLISHED BEFORE 2015
Wild, by Cheryl Strayed
This book struck me as true. I have never hiked the Pacific Crest Trail, but I identified with every step Strayed took. I am a Cheryl Strayed fangirl. Though I purchased the book early on, I ended up seeing the movie version of Wild before I got to the book. In an unusual turn of circumstances, I saw the movie and came home and immediately read the book. I enjoyed both immensely. I found the writing to be nuanced and oh so honest. It’s my favorite kind of memoir.
Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel
This book made me grateful for life as I know it. A super flu hits and wipes out most of the earth’s population. The book follows several individuals as they deal with the new reality afterwards. I have adopted this book’s mantra as one of my own: “Survival is not sufficient.” I loved all of it so much that this is the book I recommended most this year.
All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr
A critical darling, Tournament of Books finalist, and winner of this year’s Pulitzer Prize, All the Light We Cannot See was perhaps the book of the year, despite its 2014 publication date. I quite enjoyed it. The small chapters and alternating view points make this a quick read, if not an easy one. For the most part, the book follows two young people: Marie-Laure, who is a blind girl living in France with her father, and Werner, an orphaned boy living in Germany. These two characters reach maturity right in the middle of World War II. I liked the writing, first and foremost, and then I liked how the story ended up coming together.
Blackout, by Mira Grant
This book completed its trilogy in the best way. Blackout is the third book in the Newsflesh trilogy. It continues the story of Shaun & Georgia Mason, but I can’t really say much more without spoiling major trilogy plot points. Suffice it to say that this entire trilogy was amazing. It takes place in a post-zombie apocalypse United States. The zombies still roam, but some areas have been secured and life is tenuously moving forward. The writing, the plot, the characters are all amazing. I love it. I highly recommend it.
Eating Animals, by Jonathan Safran Foer
This book helped me decide to become a vegetarian. I purchased this book years ago, but never cracked it open because I was afraid of what I would read and what the result would be. But then, in late September, I listened to part of an NPR story reporting about the treatment of animals at a local pig farm. I came home and opened up this book and read it in a weekend. It is very well done and simply and convincingly lays out the facts about how we treat animals before we eat them.
It was a good reading year. Interestingly, only two of these authors (Mandel and Doerr) are new to me this year. And several, Rowell, Groff, Stead, Strayed, Grant, and Foer, have made my top ten lists before.
What books impacted you this year?