Bookish is staffed by a group of active readers, and we love taking time at the end of each year to look back at the books that we’ve read and enjoyed. Here, we want to share with you our favorite reads of the year. This is a mix of titles old and new, some published this year and some published decades ago, but each book had a profound impact on its reader.
I have not been able to stop talking about this book. If I could, I’d make this mandatory reading for young women because Sarah Hepola so deftly explores the relationship between women struggling to find their place in the world and the comfort sought at the bottom of a bottle. Her story is relatable, and readers will at times recognize both themselves and their friends in Hepola’s tales of drunken escapades, Monday morning hangovers, and the frightening moments when she realizes she can’t remember the night before. It’s haunting, harrowing, and unforgettable. Read it.
Tana French is perhaps my favorite mystery writer of all time. The books in her Dublin Murder Squad series are less about finding the killer and more about constructing a psychological profile of the leading detective. I have loved every book in this series, and highly recommend them all, but The Likeness captivated me more than any other. French is at her best when exploring the dynamics between tight-knit friends, and this tale of an undercover agent infiltrating the friend group of a dead girl is unputdownable.
2015 was the year I discovered Sarah J. Maas. I picked up her new adult fantasy A Court of Thorns and Roses because I’m a sucker for a “Beauty and the Beast” retelling, and I’m so glad that I did. I’ve since devoured the entire Throne of Glass series, finding each book better than the last. Maas is an exceptionally talented writer with a gift for creating detailed fantasy worlds and realistic characters. I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing Maas twice (once for ACOTAR and once for TOG), and loved getting to talk to her more about both of her series.
This book blew me away, and I’m not sure I can do it justice with words here. Jenny Offill’s insights and observations about relationships are careful, quiet, and beautiful. You can probably read this in a single sitting, and will likely look up after a few hours have passed, and wonder where the time has gone. This book is completely enchanting.
I’m a total sucker for a good book about brains, and Henry Marsh’s memoir was an enlightening and entertaining read. Marsh does such a great job bringing readers into his own world, where the smallest errors in surgery can be completely devastating to a patient, and luck can make the difference between a full recovery and death. I’m not super eager to ever have my brain operated on now, but Marsh’s expertise and candor are a winning combination.
Anne Enright works miracles in The Green Road. Somehow she is able to conjure five fictional people—an Irish matriarch and four grown children—you’d swear exist in our world, right now. And so exceptional is her craft, they start feeling real within just a page or two. Add to that her ability to conjure uncannily vivid scenes set in places as disparate as Africa, New York City during the AIDS epidemic, and western Ireland, and you start suspecting wizardry. As if that wasn’t enough, this book, sentence for sentence, is the best-written novel I read in 2015.
Hayden Herrera’s Listening to Stone: The Life and Art of Isamu Noguchi can match Helen Macdonald’s H is for Hawk for portrait power and brilliance of subject, while delineating, with a flawless storytelling touch and crystalline prose, one of the great artistic life narratives of the twentieth century.
The buzz around this book began towards the end of 2014. Everyone was talking about it, and booksellers everywhere were requesting galleys. I was fortunate enough to get my hands on a copy. I was fascinated by the comparison to Gillian Flynn’s amazing thriller Gone Girl, and am excited to see it make the leap to the big screen.
This book has been under my skin since I finished it. The Garcia family uprooted their entire lives because of one event that has spanned decades and impacted generations. But, it turns out that what happens to you doesn’t matter as much as your perceptions and responses do. That’s the part that got under my skin, and now I lie awake at night wondering how much of my life is a result of my overreaction or misinterpretation of various events.