As of writing this, I read 80 books in 2015. I am SO pleased with this goal, as my original one was 25, which I upped to 50, then 75. Seeing as I barely managed to get to 25 books in the last… four? years, that’s pretty awesome! My library card deserves all the credit for me upping my reading ante successfully this year. I’m still kicking myself for not getting one months, or even years, earlier.
Below are 15 of the best books I read this past year. The top five are, well, my top five in alphabetical order. The rest are also listed in alphabetical order, and are still ones I’d definitely recommend. It’s just that my top five were the BEST of what I read this year, you know?
“All the Light We Cannot See” by Anthony Doerr
All the Light We Cannot See is a magically written book about the story of Marie-Laure, a blind Parisian girl, and how she and her father flee to Saint-Malo when the Nazis occupy Paris. Concurrently, the novel also tells the story of Werner, an orphan in Germany who gets placed in a brutal academy for Hitler Youth, training to track the resistance. It’s no wonder this book won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction.
“Code Name Verity” by Elizabeth Wein
Code Name Verity is the story of a sensational team. I’m always afraid of saying more than that when recommending this book, because I went into it totally blind and unaware of anything other than that statement and I really think that’s the best way to enjoy — and love — the hell out of this book.
“Everything I Never Told You” by Celeste Ng
In Everything I Never Told You, Lydia is the oldest daughter of the mixed race Lee family living in 1970s Ohio. Her death upends the delicate balancing act that’s been keeping the family together, and it will either be the family’s salvation or undoing. A hauntingly beautiful book that took my breath away with each wonderfully written passage.
“Tiny Beautiful Things” by Cheryl Strayed
The beloved “Dear Sugar” letters are compiled in Tiny Beautiful Things, an amazing tome of advice for all the things that life throws our way. This book is equal parts uplifting, humorous, heartbreaking, and thought provoking. I firmly believe that this is a book everyone should read once a year — I personally have been circling back to one of the passages repeatedly in the last few weeks.
“To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee
At its core, To Kill a Mockingbird is a love story. It’s set in the early 1930s and told through the eyes of young Scout, who’s about 10 years old. Her father, Atticus Finch, defends a black man accused of raping a white woman in a sleepy Southern town. It’s a case that rocks the town to the core and causes a crisis of conscience.
“Americanah” by Chimimanda Ngozi Adichie
Americanah is a story about race and love. Ifemelu and Obinze meet as schoolchildren in their native Nigeria and fall in love. But when Nigeria falls under a military dictatorship, each find different ways out of the country: Ifemelu to college in the United States, and Obinze to the undocumented life in London. When they both eventually make their way back to life in Nigeria, they face the hardest and most impossible choices in life and in love.
“Big Little Lies” by Liane Moriarty
Big Little Lies is about the lies we tell ourselves, and each other, to get by. As Madeline, Jane, and Celeste navigate the world of family dynamics and schoolyard scandals, they learn that big or small, important or trivial, these lies are the ones that add up — and they most definitely do in this novel.
“The Cellist of Sarajevo” by Steven Galloway
In The Cellist of Sarajevo, a cellist decides to play for 22 days at the site where 22 of his friends and neighbors were killed in a mortar attack while waiting in a breadline. During these 22 days, a young man contemplates the value of generosity against survivalism, an old man reflects on the city he thought he had lost, and a young woman holds the fate of the cellist in her hands. A wise and beautiful novel about the effects of war on society, humanity, and ourselves.
“A Fine Balance” by Rohinton Mistry
Set during the 1975 State of Emergency in India, A Fine Balance tells the story of a resourceful widow, a privileged student, and two enterprising tailors. Thrust together in a time of sweeping political change, they move from distrust to friendship to love, and create an enduring story about the human spirit.
“Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns)” by Mindy Kaling
Mindy shares all kinds of stories from her life in Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? She talks about friendship, romance, Hollywood, and everything in between. Reading this is like reading a book from your best friend! Mindy is a sharp, insightful, and witty woman, and her memoir stands out above the rest for those reasons.
“Island of a Thousand Mirrors” by Nayomi Munaweera
Island of a Thousand Mirrors follows two families, one Tamil, one Sinhala, that are on opposite sides of the drawn out and brutal Sri Lankan civil war. It explores how families (women in particular) negotiate history, rivalries, heartbreak, exile, and the longing of belonging. Above all, it explores survival, and the harsh demands it places on those who seek to achieve it in the most dire of circumstances. (Full review.)
“The Latehomecomer: A Hmong Family Memoir” by Kao Kalia Yang
The Hmong people have been searching for a place to call home for hundreds of years. Centuries ago, they fled China for Laos, and in recent decades they’ve fled the war-torn jungles of Laos for the refugee camps in Thailand and onward to the countries that will allow them to resettle permanently. The Latehomecomer tells the story of Yang’s family, particularly her grandmother, a remarkable woman whose resilient spirit held the family together no matter what circumstances they faced. It’s a written firsthand account of a Hmong family by a Hmong person, which is remarkable because the Hmong have traditionally lacked a written language so their story has typically been recorded by others.
“The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” by Marie Kondo
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up is a step-by-step guide for how to simplify, organize, and store all of your belongings to have a neat and tidy home. Kondo outlines various practices, tips, and techniques, most of which center on KonMari, the name she’s given to her personalized approach to tidying up. (Full review.)
“A Man Called Ove” by Fredrik Backman
A feel good story about the angry old man next door, A Man Called Ove is about the impact just one life can have on countless others. When a young couple and their children move into the house across the street, Ove’s solitary life is turned upside down — whether he likes it or not.
“Snow Flower and the Secret Fan” by Lisa See
In 19th century China, women in the remote Hunan province developed nu shu, a unique language designed to allow them to communicate in secret, without the influence of men. In Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, Lily and Snow Flower are matched to be laotong, or “old same,” an emotional bond to last a lifetime. They communicate using nu shu on fans they send to each other in secret, and share the experiences of foot-binding, marriage, loneliness, and motherhood. But as their lives diverge, their friendship may not survive a deep misunderstanding.
What are some of the best books you read this year?