I’ve read more than 200 (!) books this year, and it’s always a tough task to winnow down my favorites. But in the midst of the avalanche of year-end lists, I thought I’d share a handful. These are the gems that have sparkled most brightly in my reading year.
Not all these books were published in 2015 (though many of them were), but I read all of them (except Best Reread) for the first time this year.
Wisest Memoir: Hammer Head by Nina MacLaughlin. This lyrical, plainspoken memoir by a writer-turned-carpenter resonated deeply with me. I loved MacLaughlin’s descriptions of tools and construction materials (both as physical objects and as an extended metaphor for living), and her thoughtful account of building (and rebuilding) a worthwhile life.
Loveliest Novel on Life, Love and Aging: Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf. Two elderly people begin spending their nights together, just talking. In spare, melancholy, evocative prose, Haruf eloquently explores the terrain of this new relationship. A wise, bittersweet and beautiful book.
Best YA Novel about Love, Grief and Poetry: Kissing in America by Margo Rabb. A refreshing twist on the typical boy-meets-girl YA plotline. This is a book about all kinds of love: friendship, love altered by grief, and the tight, complex bond between mothers and daughters. Funny, poignant, a little messy and deeply honest – like the best love stories.
Favorite Reread: Emily of Deep Valley by Maud Hart Lovelace. Emily is wise and kind, and I love watching her muster her wits.
Most Fabulously Geeky Word-Nerd Memoir: Between You & Me by Mary Norris. Grammatical advice, stylistic quirks and entertaining stories from a long career at The New Yorker.
Most Charming Middle-Grade Novel: Absolutely Truly by Heather Vogel Frederick. Who can resist a literary mystery, a big quirky family and a bookstore dog named Miss Marple?
Catnip for Mystery Lovers: The Great Detective by Zach Dundas, a fantastic history of the Sherlock Holmes phenomenon. Also The Golden Age of Murder by Martin Edwards, an account of the Detection Club, which included such luminaries as Agatha Christie and Dorothy L. Sayers.
Favorite Bookish Podcasts: Books on the Nightstand and All the Books. I love hearing these literary, enthusiastic voices in my head each week. (To quote Liberty, who co-hosts All the Books, “It’s so good! It’s SO GOOD!”)
What were your favorite books of 2015?