Last year my friend Nina Badzin wrote about her favorite books at the year’s halfway point. I liked the idea, blatantly copied her, and thought it was a good idea to do it again. So, here are my favorite books so far for 2015. If you have read any of them, or if you do, please do let me know what you think. And I’d love to hear what you’ve been reading and liking lately.
I haven’t read many novels that have hugely struck me so far this year, but two have, and I’m recommending them to anyone who will listen.
A Window Opens by Elisabeth Egan. I adored this novel, which made me alternately nod in ferocious identification (refusal to cut off sandwich crusts?) and tear up with profound relatability. I will be giving this novel to many women I know who will find the protagonist, and her middle place loves, losses, and thoughts deeply moving and familiar. I was happy to review this book here.
The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan. This book is laugh-out-loud entertaining and has a hopeful, emotional core that I found touching in unanticipated ways. For anyone interested in the royal family or who already knows and loves the hilarious voices of Go Fug Yourself, this is a must-read. The Royal We is my next Great New Books recommendation.
Most of what I’ve read that’s impressed me so far this year has been memoir.
Ongoingness: The End of a Diary by Sarah Manguso. This spare, powerful book touches on many topics dear to my heart: time, memory, motherhood, loss. I reviewed Manguso’s gorgeous book in more detail here, and I absolutely adored it.
The Folded Clock: A Diary by Heidi Julavits. This book shares with Manguso a preoccupation with the ordinary moments of our lives and with how we record, collect, and remember them. Julavits writes simultaneously about nothing and about everything, and in so doing reminds us that the meaning of human life exists in its most humdrum, mundane details.
H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald. I’m not at all familiar with falconry, which lies at the heart of Macdonald’s book, but it is a testament to the extraordinary, shimmering beauty of her writing that I felt I could relate to much of the story. The word I’ve read most often in reviews of this unusual, bonfire-bright book is feral, and it is perfect. Macdonald uses her relationship with Mabel, her hawk, to walk the line between domestication and wildness, and in so doing illuminates the way humans need both to be rooted and to fly.
Hold Still: A Memoir with Photographs by Sally Mann. Another book which muses on the topic of memory and how we capture the experiences, both mundane and magic, of our lives. I loved it. Sally Mann’s prose is easy to read and musical. Hold Still is a love letter to her husband, her children, and to the gloriously beautiful landscape and complicated history of the south. Mann’s story reminded me, somehow, of Faulkner, and brought to mind silvery green Spanish moss hanging in trees; the south is its own country.
The Light of the World by Elizabeth Alexander. This memoir gave me goosebumps. Elizabeth tells the story of her whirlwind romance with Ficre, an Eritrean chef and artist, and of the year that follows his sudden and tragic death. I loved Elizabeth’s voice, which echoes like poetry (she is a poet and an academic). Over and over again, I gasped as I read and underlined madly. This is a quick read but one that stays with you long after you close the cover of the book.
Everything You Ever Wanted by Jillian Lauren. Jillian’s account of trying to get pregnant and ultimately pursuing adoption, and the first few years with her son, made me both laugh and cry. Her voice is familiar and friendly, and the story is powerful. I loved this book (and Jillian and I share a birthday, a coincidence I love).
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