Best Books of 2015

It’s still early December, but I’m fairly certain I’ve rounded out my reading of 2015 titles. Everything I have set aside for the rest of the year (and I do mean set aside, since books are being shoved into moving boxes) is either pre or post-2015, so it seems safe to list my favorite fiction. Just like last year, my reviews are already glowing, so I’m sharing some favorite quotes.

I knew last December, when I lost four days to A Little Life, that I found my favorite book of 2015. And I had. But I didn’t expect Sara Taylor’s novel in stories to come charging in halfway through the year and completely blow me away. I don’t usually rank my best books of the year, but I feel like I have to give an extra nod to The Shore. I’m sure you’ll see dozens (hundreds?) of lists with Hanya Yanagihara’s incredibly deserving novel near the top—The Shore sits right beside it on mine.

 


Infinite Home by Kathleen Alcott

“In the first months without him, Edith had marveled at how many different types of quiet there could be. What had been so different about the levels of noise with him sitting in the chair, reading for hours in his drugstore glasses? Why did every shower, now, feel like such an exercise in fallacy, preparation for an event never coming, though this had always been a lone ritual?”

 

Fifteen Dogs by Andre Alexis

“And yet, a divide existed between them, one that the god could not breach, despite his power, knowledge and subtlety: death. On one side, the immortals. On the other, these beings. He could no more understand what it was to live with death than they could what it was to exist without it. It was this difference that fascinated him and kept him coming back to earth.”


In the Country by Mia Alvar

“But for one brief moment, in the rain and mud, I saw a world where everyone was struggling in the body he or she’d been given. That world and struggle seemed bearable to me, and even beautiful.”

 

Sweetland by Michael Crummey

“Clara laid a hand across her eyes and there was her mother, Sweetland thought. Clara had almost nothing else of Ruth in her, but that subtle gesture of exhaustion or anxiety or annoyance was Sweetland’s sister to a T. He took the meat across the kitchen to the freezer, to put a little more space between himself and that eerie transformation.”

 

Hausfrau by Jill Alexander Essbaum

“‘Is there a difference between shame and guilt?’ Anna asked. ‘Shame is psychic extortion,’ Doktor Messerli answered. ‘Shame lies. Shame a woman and she will believe she is fundamentally wrong, organically delinquent. The only confidence she will have will be in her failures. You will never convince her otherwise.'”

 

Welcome to Braggsville by T. Geronimo Johnson

“Maybe she felt caught between two worlds, too. Maybe she knew how often she was denied direct experience because she looked like someone who had to be protected.”

 

Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff

“They handed over spider plants in terra-cotta, six-packs, books, bottles of wine. Yuppies in embryo, miming their parents’ manners.”

 

The Beautiful Bureaucrat by Helen Phillips

“On the wall above the children, there was a poster:

BE SURE TO EAT THREE HOURS

BEFORE DONATING BLOOD

What’s it like to eat three hours? She was feeling impish. How do they taste? Like cotton candy or grass or concrete?”


The Shore by Sara Taylor

“Maybe one day you’ll learn to read his moods better, learn to sense when he’s running out of patience, learn to stop pushing him until the storm comes. There will be bruises, on your arms and other not so visible places, in the morning, and neither Stella nor Ellie nor any of the people you see throughout the day will say a word about them, the way you never say a word when Ellie’s skin blooms purple-green. Even so, you know they’ll see and wonder what you said, what you did, and how you failed to keep it together this time.”

 

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

“And although he hadn’t fretted over whether his life was worthwhile, he had always wondered why he, why so many others, went on living at all; it had been difficult to convince himself at times, and yet so many people, so many millions, billions of people, lived in misery he couldn’t fathom, with deprivations and illnesses that were obscene in their extremity. And yet on and on and on they went. So was the determination to keep living not a choice at all, but an evolutionary implementation? Was there something in the mind itself, a constellation of neurons as toughened and scarred as tendon, that prevented humans from doing what logic so often argued they should? And yet that instinct wasn’t infallible—he had overcome it once. But what had happened to it after? Had it weakened, or become more resilient? Was his life even his to choose to live any longer?”

 

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  • Eleanor Baggley

    I finished The Shore last night and I’m still reeling. I’m pleased to see it made your best of the year and it will definitely be on mine.

    • That’s exactly how I felt when I was done. And then I went back and read parts of it several times…such an incredible book.

  • Excellent list – and I remember highlighting some of the same quotes you shared (particularly that yuppies quote from F&F…that was fantastic)! We will have a few overlaps :) I’m reading my last 2015 book right now, but it’s a light read that probably won’t make my Best list. Then it’s backlist and 2016 from here on out. Handmaid’s Tale is first up on my backlist :)

  • I’m so happy to see two Canadian books on your list! Sweetland was my favourite from last year, and Fifteen Dogs will more than likely make my list this year. :)
    I’m so excited to have won The Shore in Naomi’s give-away at The Writes of Women – can’t wait to read it!

    • I definitely got a little Canadian bug this year and hope it will continue ;) Can’t wait for you to read The Shore!

  • Citizen Reader

    I had never heard of most of these, and a lot of them sound fascinating. Thanks so much for posting a list with some different titles on it!

    • Glad you found a few new titles! It can definitely feel like everything gets repeated this time of year (I feel like I’ve seen all of these once or twice now), so it’s refreshing to find something new.

  • Ti Reed

    A Little Life still sits heavy in my gut. Seriously!! I never recovered from that one.

  • I’m hoping to wrap up the year with Sweetland. (And I’m a few chapters into Landfalls, which you recommended in your Books You Might Have Missed post. I like it!)

  • Great list, natch. I have read some of these, and those I haven’t are high on my TBR because of your reviews. One of these days I’m going to get to them!

    • Maybe someday I’ll stop pestering you about The Shore ;)

      • Don’t ever. It’s SO close to the top. It’s even in one of the boxes I’m not letting the movers take. I hope to get my reading mojo back soon and dig into the good stuff.

  • Oooh, nice to see Fifteen Dogs listed here! I have the book sitting on my TBR shelf, having picked it up shortly after it won the Giller Prize this year. Looking forward to reading it! :)

  • Jennine G.

    Nice – a couple of these are on my list. Namely, Haufrau and Fates and Furies.

  • Amanda

    So many books I must read! Hausfrau was so gorgeous, I think it will likely be on my list as well. I just read that F&F quote this morning! Struck me at the time as well.

  • I’m embarrassed to say that I haven’t read any of these.

  • I haven’t listed my favorites of the year, yet because I can’t decide. lol You have several on here that I really loved, but I still have Infinite Home on my Kindle to read.

  • I haven’t even looked at my spreadsheet for 2015 to choose favorites, cause I’m in denial about how few books I know I’m going to be able to read before the year’s out. I want more books in my brain! Infinity more books in my brain, FIRST, and then subsequently I agree for the year to end. :p

  • Love this list! I”ve read 8 of these (missed Braggsville and Infinite Home) and will have 6 of these as my favorites as well. But I’m cheating and doing two lists-Fiction and Short Stories. After seeing some of the favorites lists coming in, I am starting to realize that my blogger friends are the lists I agree with most. Well done!!

  • Could’ve sworn I commented, but apparently not yet! LOVE your list, and I enjoyed several books on it. Of the ones I haven’t read, I think I’m most excited to pursue Fifteen Dogs and In the Country.

  • Heather

    I love your list – Fates and Furies are on my list too; I loved it so much. I remember reading your review of Fifteen Dogs earlier in the year and wanting to read it, so I’d like to get to that…one day, probably in the distant future.

  • Amy Sachs

    Your list has me so excited to catch up on all the books I somehow missed this year! I’ve only read Hausfrau, which is definitely on my Best Of list, too!

  • Nice that 2 Canadian authors made your list! I just put a review & thoughts of Sweetland on my site. I liked it quite a bit and want to read Crummey’s novel Galore sometime. Have you read it?

  • Carmen

    I have The Beautiful Bureaucrat on my wishlist; I’ve read great things about it. Would also love to read Fates and Furies.

  • ThomasHogglestock

    I didn’t do so well with new books this year, but the cover for Hausfrau makes me want to go out tonight and get a copy.

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