Books of the Year 2015

These are not necessarily books published in 2015, but the books I’ve read and enjoyed this year, which is why I’ve held off with this post till long after all the ‘best of’ lists have appeared. I’ve read 170 books this year, so you can imagine that whittling it all down to just 10 favourites is an impossible task. So instead, here are the books that spoke to me most at various points throughout the year.

DSCN6654Best Winter Chill

Not necessarily books set in winter, but which bring a ‘frisson’ or shudder to your soul.

Emmanuel Carrère: L’Adversaire

Gohril Gabrielsen: The Looking Glass Sisters

Leaves You Breathless

Perfect for a holiday escapade, a long flight or train journey, to keep you turning pages until late into the night.

Virginie Despente: Apocalypse Bébé

Jean-Patrick Manchette: Fatale

Tom Rob Smith: Child 44

Best for Cheering Up

Because we all need a little satire and humour in our lives.

Shirley Hazzard: People in Glass Houses

Fouad Laroui: L’étrange affaire du pantalon de Dassoukine

MontmartreStreetShould Be Dark But Are Really Inspirational

From darkness a light shall spring – and hope.

Sherman Alexie: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

Vincent Van Gogh: Letters

Best Criminal Intent

I’m cheating a little bit in this category, as I already have a list of Top Five Crime Reads on the Crime Fiction Lover website, so these are just a few additional books I really wanted to include but did not have place for:

Jakob Arjouni: Ein Mann, ein Mord

Jari Jarvela: The Girl and the Bomb – will review it in January

P1000921Most Beautiful Style

Prose that sings, to read again and again.

Michelle Bailat-Jones: Fog Island Mountains

Tove Jansson: The True Deceiver

Most Interesting Concept

Experimental, unreliable, not sure what is going on but expanding me as a reader in all directions.

Valeria Luiselli: Faces in the Crowd

Laura Kasischke: Mind of Winter

When I Grow Up, I Want to Be…

Not to copy their style, but to capture something of their fearlessness.

Elena Ferrante: The Days of Abandonment – I probably will have to read more of her at some point, although I’ve resisted the Neapolitan tetralogy so far (because of the hype)

Eva Dolan – I’ve loved all three of her books to date and admire her productivity

P1020030Grim Yet Powerful

Because I’m still naturally drawn to dark themes and underdogs.

Julia Franck: West

Richard Yates: Disturbing the Peace

Max Blecher: Scarred Hearts

Leave Me Unsettled and Thoughtful

Unsure what to think about these – but they certainly will stay with me for quite some time.

Hanya Yanagihara: A Little Life

Heather O’Neill: Lullabies for Little Criminals

Challenges Completed:

With creaking bones and feverish mind, I just about completed some challenges – or rather, I did better in terms of reading than reviewing. The Global Reading Challenge saw me hopping across 7 continents (2 options for each one). I failed the TBR Double Dare for the first three months of 2015, but caught up later with a #TBR20 to whittle down my endless To Be Read lists. In January I only read one book for January in Japan – Kanae Minato’s sinister ‘Confessions’. In March I read two books for Stu’s Eastern European challenge, one set in Moldova, the other in Georgia. I took part in a Tale of Genji readalong (my longest book of the year by quite a margin) in April/May/June. I participated in Women in Translation month in August, German Literature Month in November and #DiverseDecember (which speaks for itself). I even managed to reread some old favourites: Tender Is the Night, Muriel Spark, Jean Rhys and Tillie Olsen. But the hardest challenge was the Netgalley Reduction one: I managed to read about 9 from my Netgalley shelves between October and December, but promptly replaced them with other books. So I still lag behind at only 61% review rate.

heartsowhiteMy book of the year? So hard to select one, especially one I haven’t reviewed yet.  Books fit in with moods and seasons, with personal experiences and the order you read them in. However, bless the book which got me out of a reading slump – and a new author to discover and devour! Javier Marias’ A Heart So White (translated by Margaret Jull Costa). I will write a full review in the new year, but this book is one to savour in small portions at a time (and not when you have a bad migraine). Just allow yourself to be carried away by his apparently rambling but ultimately very moving, incantatory style.

29 thoughts on “Books of the Year 2015”

  1. Fascinating books! I’ve been thinking about my reading, and I couldn’t pick a single best of, so well done!

    1. Hard to reduce to just one top read, especially when you enjoy different styles and genres, but I am grateful to Marias for rescuing me from that reading slump I was experiencing.

  2. What a great reading year! The Hazzard made it on to my tbr list, as did the Bailat-Jones although I may have to work hard to find a copy of that. Worth the effort, I’m sure.

    1. Hush, let’s whisper! Tell you what: if you promise to be a very good girl for Santa, I might be able to send you a signed copy. Not in time for Christmas but in the New Year…

  3. What a terrific list, Marina Sofia! And I have to say I really like the categories you’ve chosen – a lot. One of the many things I like about your reading is its breadth. Lots here for me to mull over as I think about the upcoming year and the reading I’d like to do…

    1. Thank you, Margot. I was trying not to be too repetitive about books I have mentioned in other contexts, so may have missed a few good ones out. So hard to choose…

  4. So many new books on here for me to discover. Part of me wishes it weren’t so, but the other part of me can’t wait to check them all out! A couple of them I have on my shelves, so that’s a good start. And The Days of Abandonment is coming by request from the library. I have also been holding off on the Neapolitan series, but the temptation is getting stronger by the day…
    Thanks for such a great list!

    1. I’ve been holding off on the Neapolitan series (I even turned down the publisher who offered me an ARC – because I thought it sounded too much like a family saga, which I don’t like much – more fool me!), but I will get there in the end.

  5. I read the Despentes on your recommendation ….and really enjoyed it too…so thank you. I love Javier Marias and A Heart So White is my very favourite of all the ones I’ve read …..a profound and moving book !

    Happy reading in 2016 !

    1. Oh, good, pleased you enjoyed the Despentes – her books can be uneven, but this onee was enjoyable (and quite serious, between the lines). So I started with the best of Marias? Hope to read more, nevertheless. You have a good year as well!

  6. What a wonderful year of reading you’ve had! I’m thrilled to see A Heart So White as a highlight, it’s my fave of the three Marias novels I’ve read so far. Looking forward to reading your review in due course.

    It’s great to see Faces in the Crowd and Fatale on your list, too. Loved both of those. I have Julia Franck’s West in my TBR, so it could be a good one for next year’s German Lit Month. Great choices, Marina.

    1. So glad I followed your (and other’s) recommendations about Luiselli and Marias – certainly want to read more of them. Sometimes it just takes me longer to get there…

  7. I have to save this list, a lot of writers there that I don’t even know. I thought I read a lot, but 170 books – I don’t think I’ve managed that this year. So little time…*Sigh*

    1. Two words to explain so much reading: ‘displacement activity’. I can focus on reading when I have just a few minutes to spare, but not so much on the writing.

  8. I have tried to enjoy Marias but somehow I just can’t get to grips with him. Maybe I should try again next year. However, I have discovered Shirley Hazzard this year and the book you mention is one I still have to read so that is definitely going onto the New Year list.

    1. I started reading him when I had a migraine and just couldn’t cope with those endless sentences at first. However, once my headache had gone and a few pages further in, I started enjoying it.

  9. Really intrigued by Scarred Hearts now that I have read Adventures in Immediate Irreality. Unfortunately I do not even see it listed anywhere. I wonder if a re-release will be considered.

    I like the eclectic quality of your list, that’s the beauty of following blogs – we all tend to be idiosyncratic. And Heart So White – it has been a few years since I read it, but it is wonderful indeed.

    1. Thank you for your kind comments – and there I was, berating myself for reading too many of the latest releases (for reviewing purposes) and therefore being too much like everyone else! If only I’d known about your interest in Scarred Hearts – I could have sent it to you in the post, as I didn’t want to keep it (I want to find it in the original and reread it). I donated it to an international organisation’s library instead…

  10. Ooh I love best-of lists though they are fatal to my TBR. I actually own a copy of A Heart So White, though, so maybe I’ll finally get around to reading that. As you know, I am also a big fan of Eva Dolan and I’m in the middle of the first Elena Ferrante, My Brilliant Friend, and enjoying it very much indeed.

  11. Great broad list, and I will check out your crime fic picks as well. I wasn’t in the right mood for Ferrante or Marias this year when I sampled them, but I’m very interested in the Luiselli. Happy reading!

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