The Best Books of 2015 (So Far)

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.

Best Books of 2015 (So Far)

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 ParssinenA 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?

Five Characters I’d Like to Check In With

Because sometimes you finish a book but you aren’t finished with the characters, here are five* characters I would like to check in with:

(Warning: Vague spoilers ahead.)Five Characters I'd Like to Check In With

1. Naoko from A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki. I loved getting to know Nao through her diary, and I really want to know what she did with her life after she finished writing it. What does her life look like when Ruth finds the diary on the beach?

2. Nick, Amy, and their kid from Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. I thought this book’s dark, twisty shocker of an ending was perfect — but I’m dying to know what growing up in the Dunn household will be like for Nick and Amy’s child. Let’s check back in 15 years.

3. Offred from The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. The ambiguous ending of this book is part of why I love it, but I still want to know what really happened to Offred!

4. Peggy Hillcoat from Our Endless Numbered Days by Claire Fuller. When the novel ends, Peggy has only recently returned home from her years in the wilderness, and she’s still pretty raw. She has a hard road ahead of her, and I’d like to see how she’s doing a few years down the line.

5. Ava Bigtree from Swamplandia! by Karen Russell. I could really have used the Socratic Salon when I read this book three years ago. So many feels! The ending tied things up nicely — at least for the moment — but I’d love to see how things work out for Ava in the long run.

*I know this was supposed to be Top Ten Tuesday, but I’m a rebel, so five it is!

What characters would you like to revisit?