Tuesday, January 12, 2016

favorite books of 2015.

my books-read-per-month output took a serious hit the first few months of the year because a human that had been growing inside of me had suddenly emerged in a painful but ultimately wonderful way, & one needs a few months to get one's bearings back after such an ordeal. but get my bearings back i did, & just in time, too, because this was a good year for books (although i should say that not every book on this list came out this year).

a little life, hanya yanagihara.

memorable, maddening characters; vivid, literally bloody detail; polarizing plots; emotional to the point of being traumatic; i loved it, i hated it, it's a book i'll never, ever forget. what can i even say? read reviews of a little life here & here.

fates & furies, lauren groff.

before reading a little life, which was, i think, the third-to-last book i read of 2015, fates & furies held the top spot for my favorite book of the year. it's interesting, though--i don't define "favorite" here as meaning i loved it. that is, a lot about it made me mad & there were some things i was the author had done differently. so, for me, i'll usually love a book for one of 3 reasons (& those reasons are all very different from each other) :
1. the plot, duh!
2. the gorgeous writing that makes me wish i could write such beautiful sentences myself
3. the fact that the book is slightly maddening & gives me a ton of things to think about and/or debate & discuss with friends
fates & furies had elements of all three of these reasons--as did a little life before it. f&f is this fascinating peek inside a marriage between an assured, dense husband & the quietly furious wife. the first half of the book is from the husband's point of view, where everything in his life & his marriage seems lucky & dreamy, & then the second half of the book shifts to the wife's shocking pov & you're like, "whoa." things were not as they seemed at all. the book had this weird sense of foreboding the entire time, & i couldn't put it down. read more about fates & furies here & here.

between the world and me, te-nahisi coates.

it's important, it's really important, it's thought-provoking, it'll force you to think about uncomfortable realities & privileges you take for granted, it's a quick read. you can't miss this one. read more about it here.

i don't know how i went 28 years without reading this book, but i finally did & i'm glad of it (sorry, i'm watching downton right now & it's peppering my language). i just liked it. it's a quiet, witty book, filled with spectacular commentary on unspectacular, normal situations. i found myself wanting to be as clever as jane, & i breathed a sigh of relief at the satisfying ending. while i do agree with the nyt's assertion that this collection of stories feels a little bit like an unfinished novel, i still think girls' guide is worth reading. here's another argument in favor of this book.

h is for hawk, helen macdonald.

oh my gosh, i lovvvvved h is for hawk. it was one of the first books i read after norah was born & i still find myself thinking about it. it's this fascinating, strange, kind of unsettling memoir in which the grieving author decides to train a goshawk, a notoriously hard-to-train bird (because obviously she happens to be an experienced falconer, as you would?! she's also a student, a scholar, a poet, the list goes on. she's as fascinating as the hawk) h is for hawk is so beautifully written i felt i could picture perfectly in my mind's eye the angry, hulking, almost jurassic bird & the author's epic battle to get it under control. some of my friends who read this book found it boring, but i thought it was awesome & so so beautiful. she also draws heavily on the falconry experiences recorded by t.h. white, which, sign me up. read reviews of it here & here.

a few other good ones i read this year (because i've been working on this post over the course of a few days & i'm getting sick of it ;) lolita & the handmaid's tale, both for the first time, a thousand mornings by mary oliver, who continues to be one of my favorite poets, & notorious rbg, because it was fun & actually really informative.

these next two aren't books, but "recovering my sea legs on the old ship zion" was a really, really important essay i read this year, & helped to crystallize & vocalize a lot of the tempestuous thoughts i have about my cherished, often maddening religion. this one also stuck with me a while.

on my reading list for 2016? i'm in the middle of my brilliant friend right now, & i think i'll probably read all the books in that series, i want to crack open the copy of hamilton my brother got ben for christmas, patti smith's m train (i loved just kids), joan didion's the white album, the collected poems of mark strand, the new york trilogy by paul auster, some james baldwin, & maybe, just maybe, this will be the year i read infinite jest? only time will tell.


  1. Great list. We MUST talk Ferrante!

  2. Can't wait to check out some of those books! I'm about 3/4 finished with the Alexander Hamilton biography. It is LONG, but so interesting. I have a totally different perspective on Thomas Jefferson and James Madison than I ever had before. I also loved the Sea Legs on the Old Ship Zion essay you linked to.



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