2015 hasn’t been a great year for my personal life, but one thing that HAS been stellar is my reading. I’ve had my share of busts and slumps, but for the most part, I’ve read some really wonderful books. Here are my top ten favorites.
1. Hall of Small Mammals by Thomas Pierce. Southern Gothic with a hint of magical realism, this short story collection is delightfully weird and deeply meaningful.
2. A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara. This novel about abuse and loyalty is the definition of gut-wrenching. Six months after reading Yanagihara’s sophomore novel, I still can’t stop thinking about it.
3. The Sasquatch Hunter’s Almanac by Sharma Shields. Seeing his mother walk off into the woods with a gigantic, hairy hominid sparks a life-long obsession in a nine-year-old boy. This fun, surreal read explores deep themes of family and the demons we all face.
4. My Sunshine Away by M.O. Walsh. The assault of a teenage girl rocks her idyllic neighborhood in suburban Baton Rouge. Decades later, her neighbor looks back on that summer, contemplating the mystery of who did it, growing up and the loss of innocence, and the weight of guilt. Stunning and nostalgic.
5. The Unraveling of Mercy Louis by Keija Parssinen. A shocking discovery in a Texas oil refinery town shakes up the community and casts suspicion upon the teenage girls. Among them are golden girl Mercy Loius and the lonely wallflower who is fascinated by her. The Unraveling of Mercy Louis is both a wonderful coming-of-age story and a cutting criticism of the patriarchy.
6. Our Endless Numbered Days by Claire Fuller. An eight-year-old girl’s survivalist father takes her from her London home to a dilapidated cabin in the woods and tells her the rest of the world is destroyed. For the next nine years, they eke out a living from the land, until she makes a discovery that leads her home. An intricate puzzle, this book pulled me in, refused to let me go, and smashed me on the rocks.
7. Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Following two young Nigerian expats who are separated by immigration difficulties, Americanah is at once a tender love story, a glimpse into the immigrant experience, a fascinating tale of two countries, and a thought-provoking contemplation of race and identity.
8. Spinster: Making a Life of One’s Own by Kate Bolick. Part memoir about Bolick’s choice to remain single, part literary biography about the rebellious women who inspired her, and part cultural history of spinsterhood, Spinster is a thought-provoking exploration of marriage and singledom. This book gave me a lot to think about as I consider what shape I want my own life to take.
9. Citizen: American Lyric by Claudia Rankine. This collection of prose and poetry catalogues the microaggressions and blatant racism black Americans face on a daily basis. Books like this are always important, but Citizen feels especially relevant in light of the recent violence in Charleston and Baltimore. I want to force everyone I know to read this book and reflect on their own actions and attitudes.
10. Dietland by Sarai Walker. Although it make look like fluffy commercial fiction on the outside, Dietland subverts the status quo with a feminist guerilla group and a bold, daring take on conventional beauty standards and self-acceptance. Reading like a feminist Fight Club, it is equal parts fun and thought-provoking.
What are your favorite books so far this year?