Best of 2015

Before we get too far into 2016, I’d like to post my best-of lists from last year. It was a year, once again, where I read a lot of great novels, but the books I thought about the most and remember the most fondly are nonfiction. I should, perhaps, take this as a sign to read more nonfiction in the future. But I wonder sometimes whether reading more nonfiction might make it less memorable. If I go on a memoir-reading binge, or personal-essay-reading binge, perhaps they will start to blur together as novels sometimes do. I don’t know. I think I’m mostly feeling dissatisfied these days with realistic fiction and need less of it in my reading diet. So bring on the experimental fiction and the unclassifiable nonfiction in 2016 (recommendations appreciated)!

Best fiction:

  • Elisa Albert, After Birth
  • Marlon James, A Brief History of Seven Killings
  • Fran Ross, Oreo
  • Paul Beatty, The Sellout
  • Valeria Luiselli, The Story of My Teeth
  • James Hanaham, Delicious Foods

Best nonfiction:

  • Maggie Nelson, The Argonauts
  • Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me
  • Elizabeth McCracken, An Exact Replica of a Figment of my Imagination: A Memoir (also wins for least-memorable title — I can’t keep it in my brain)
  • Heidi Julavits, The Folded Clock
  • Helen McDonald, H is for Hawk
  • Margo Jefferson, Negroland: A Memoir
  • Sarah Manguso, Ongoingness: The End of a Diary
  • Meghan Daum, The Unspeakable: And Other Subjects of Discussion
  • Alison Bechdel, Fun Home

Books that frustrated me the most:

  • Mary Karr, The Art of Memoir (Many people loved this but I thought it was sloppy)
  • Kate Bolick, Spinster: Making a Life of One’s Own (incoherent project, uninspiring writing)
  • Roxane Gay, Bad Feminist (I liked the ideas but couldn’t stand the writing. This may be my most unpopular opinion of the year, but so be it.)

Books that made my head spin after reading what felt like thousands of conflicting opinions about them (although I enjoyed the experience of reading them very much):

  • Hanya Yanigihara, A Little Life
  • Karl Ove Knausgaard, My Struggle, Book One

Here’s to great reads in 2016 for everyone!

10 Comments

Filed under Books

10 responses to “Best of 2015

  1. Some of these are on my TBR list – in particular The Folded Clock. I actually had that one out from the library at one point but had to return it unread. Hope you find some great experimental fiction and you’ll have to tell us about it. I tend not to go for that too much but maybe I’ll branch out more this year.

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  2. Ugh. Spinster. I started that and was pretty excited about it but ended up so frustrated I couldn’t finish. I agree that it was an incoherent project. The fact that most of her spinster role models got married is a pretty good sign of that. I know she was trying to reimagine what “spinster” means, but as an actual spinster who hasn’t dated in years and isn’t much bothered by it, I don’t appreciate redefining the word to mean getting married (or being in romantic relationships most of the time, as Bolick seemed to be). Rebecca Traister has a book coming out this year on the same topic that I’m hoping is better. I have an e-galley, so we’ll see. If it’s equally terrible, I’ll probably rant about them both together.

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    • I’m guessing the Traister will be better, based on essays/interviews/tweets of hers I’ve read or listened to. I hope so! Her book is on my radar as well, and I’m looking forward to it. Hopefully you can write something more like “why this one worked and this one didn’t” instead of a rant about both.

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  3. So many of your Best Of books are on my TBR! (I hope to get to some of them after my TBR Triple Dog Dare Reading Challenge!) Great lists.

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  4. We read an liked many of the same books this year! I am on a long wait list at the library for the Coates book so it might show up on my favorites list at the end of 2016. Happy New Year!

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  5. Arriving here a little late but I always find your lists helpful and interesting. I’m sure your little three year-old is a reader too. Enjoy! They grow up so fast. Have a great year, Rebecca!🙂

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