Looking over the list of books I read this year, I see a lot of patterns in content. I read a lot of celebrity memoirs, kicking off the year with Tina Fey’s Bossypants, finally picking up Lean In, and finishing 2015 by reading Mindy Kaling’s books in pretty close succession. I read the latest books of old favorite writers and, as always, read a lot of World War II-centric novels. This year I also had an ultimate favorite book, so I’m actually curious to see what may end up on this list as I compile it!
Note: these books were not necessarily published in 2015; I read them for the first time this year.
1. Small Mercies, by Eddie Joyce
I picked this up not knowing what to expect and read the majority of it over a summer trip with my family. It is one of those stories that just wraps you up in a blanket of vividness, relatability, heartache, and all those warm fuzzy feelings that signify you finding a classic. Joyce’s debut novel introduces us to the Amendola family, Staten Island natives who lost the youngest of their three sons in the fall of the Twin Towers. The story shifts between past and present, exploring the minds of the parents, sons, and the third son’s widow as she starts dating again several years after 9/11. The book explains how location and hometown affect one’s personality and life choices, and Staten Island almost becomes another character unto itself. Maybe I related to this so much because I grew up on Long Island (there’s even a mention of Garden City in the first chapter!), but it is an absolutely gorgeous story and was resoundingly my favorite book of the year.
2. Us: A Novel, by David Nicholls
I’ve read Nicholls’ One Day and The Understudy, and neither impressed me very much. So with quite indifferent feelings towards his writing, I chose to read Us because the general plot sounded like my kind of story – a man tries to restore his marriage and find where he went wrong when, after almost thirty years together, his wife reveals she may want a divorce. The couple and their broody teenage son still embark on the great European tour they’ve planned, and the man hopes to fix his relationships with both family members while traveling. This is another story that goes back and forth in time, which is an element I love in books. When I finished it, it finally hit me that this was not necessarily a very happy story, but it strangely delighted me. The writing is beautiful and the characters are funny and lifelike. Because detailed stories from the narrator’s past are weaved into the present story, he never becomes the unlikable man he could easily morph into otherwise. The characteristics of the couple also reminded me a lot of the characters in About Time, one of my favorite films, so that was a bonus.
3. The Girl You Left Behind, by Jojo Moyes
I know everyone raved about Jojo Moyes’s Me Before You this year and that it’s supposed to be amazing and has been made into a film blah blah blah. But I wanted to start off small before going straight to her most popular book, and this historical / contemporary fiction book intrigued me. A French woman is left behind in her German-occupied village when her husband goes to fight in World War I. In the present day, a British woman mourns her husband’s death, but falls into a rights battle over a painting of the French woman that she has owned for several years. Both of these storylines are equally captivating, which is a great feat to pull off. This also convinced me to read more of Moyes’s work!
4. Come to the Edge, by Christina Haag
This is a memoir written by JFK Jr.’s longtime girlfriend, detailing their relationship and life in New York. I was skeptical going into this, because, from the outside, Haag comes across as a forgotten actress struggling to be relevant. But, as I read on, I found that she chooses to be sentimental rather than sordid, ultimately providing a very classy, respectful portrait of John. The two were old friends and then dated for quite awhile, so you don’t get the sense that she had a brief fling with him and now just wants a profit. I’ve read a lot of books about the Kennedys, so this new perspective was really enjoyable. Plus, Haag can actually write! Her prose is very beautiful and the book is also a love letter to New York City.
5. Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns), by Mindy Kaling
I read both of Mindy’s books this year, and I preferred her first one. Along with Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, Mindy Kaling is part of the comedienne trifecta that I find very inspirational. Through reading this book, I discovered that, out of the three women, I related most to her. She is unapologetically girly and embraces all of those guilty pleasure rom-coms for which the rest of us may try to avoid admitting love. Something about the way she describes her view of life just stood out to me.
Admittedly, these are the only books I will gladly single out as the year’s favorites. I don’t like tossing out labels that aren’t genuine, so I’m quite picky with calling something a “favorite”. These are the books that immediately came to mind when I wrote this, the ones that left a lasting impact, the stories that I poured over. Does that mean that I didn’t enjoy the other books I read this year? No, not at all. Any book that I finished this year was enjoyable in its own way, but some stories just shine more than others.
To see all of the books I read this year, check out my Shelfari page!