Sunday, December 27, 2015

My Personal Favorite Reads in 2015

Since everyone seems to be making lists of their favorite books for 2015 I thought I'd list mine. According to Goodreads, I read 42 books in 2015 although there were some that I did not list on Goodreads. Granted, most of these were not written or published in 2015, it's just that that is when I got around to reading them. Neither does it include books that I read as research for my own books. Also, because I spent much of the summer reading books from the Read-the-World Challenge (which I hope to get back to soon) the range of books is more diverse than is my usual. So, in no particular order, here is my list:

  1. The Story Sisters by Alice Hoffman – I love Alice Hoffman's writing and this story was no exception. Hoffman often writes about sisters and, because I have four sisters, I usually always relate to her books. This captured the sisterly I-love-you-so-much-I-could-knock-your-block-off feeling that sisters know so well.
  2. The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George – lovely writing and a charming concept. There were a few times, while reading it, I thought the author went in a direction I would not have taken but the imagery lingered in my head long after the story was done and, for me, that makes a good book.
  3. The Drop by Dennis Lehane – to be honest, I've never read a Dennis Lehane book I didn't love but this one stayed with me for a long time. The characters are so tightly constructed and the setting, Boston, so familiar that I felt as though I left my chair and was right there in the mean streets.
  4. Epitaph by Mary Doria Russell – Like Alice Hoffman and Dennis Lehane, Mary Doria Russell is a writer that never disappoints. This sequel to he novel Doc is even more exciting and the Earp brothers seem bigger than the pages that contain them. Good fun and plenty of action.
  5. The Wink of the Mona Lisa and Other Stories from the Gulf by Mohammed al Murr - I found this to be an extremely charming collection of stories. Some were sad (a man on a long flight to Dubai strikes up a conversation with the matron sitting next to him and returns from the restroom to find she has died), some are very funny (a man takes his little girl to the circus and is unprepared for the deluge of questions she asks), and some reflect the trials and tribulations of modern life (a professional young woman in Dubai wants her lover to marry her but keeps forgetting to tell him that.) The title story is hilarious.
  6. The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Moshin Hamid - I did not know what to expect when I began this book but it grabbed my attention from the first page and didn't let up until the last--and what a last page it was. I can honestly say, NOTHING was what I expected.
  7. The Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant – What can I say about this? I never thought I'd read the 800+ pages and yet they seemed to fly by. Grant writes with extraordinary clarity, precision, and no small amount of humor. If it were up to me this would be required reading in all high schools.
  8. The Greenhouse by Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir - One of the most beautiful and enthralling books I have read in a very long time. Growing up in Iceland, Lobbi lived with his parents and his handicapped twin brother and worked in his mother's greenhouse. Lobbi, unhappy and desolate, takes a job at a monastery in a remote mountain village that was once famous for its gardens which have now fallen into disrepair. The writing is lovely, the people are touching, and the descriptions of this mysterious land are positively enchanting.
  9. Lovers at the Chameleon Club, Paris 1932 by Francine Prose – All I can say is this is my kind of book. Told from multiple perspectives it tells the story of several people but most notable a cross-dressing lesbian race car driver who becomes a Nazi sympathizer. It started out with the feel of my favorite book, A Moveable Feast, and ended up reminding me of the movie Casablanca-LOVED it.
  10. Bone Gap by Laura Ruby – this is a bit of a surprising selection to me because half way through the book, I almost gave up. But when the big reveal came and we found out why Finn O'Sullivan couldn't be more helpful describing the kidnapper of his brother's beloved it was so damn clever it haunted me for weeks—and led me to revisit books by Oliver Sacks. Laura Ruby gets high marks for coming up with a very unique plot twist.

I also want to mention two fabulous cookbooks that I loved. Both are by New England writers, both are packed with recipes I'd love to try some day, and both are just plain interesting to read. In Cod We Trust: From Sea to Shore, the Celebrated Cuisine of Coastal Massachusetts by Heather Atwood is a celebration of all things we love here in New England. Baking with Less Sugar: Recipes for Desserts Using Natural Sweeteners and Little-to-No White Sugar by Joanne Chang is packed with things I want to make. I love reading cookbooks but these are two stand-outs.

Thanks for reading and keep reading!!!
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