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.
Best 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
Should 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
Most 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
Grim 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
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.
My 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.