Thursday, December 17, 2015

My Favorite Reads of 2015

It's been a great year of reading, with old favorites and some new-to-me writers making the list. Ludmila Ulitskaya is virtually guaranteed a place on any of my best lists, and the big deal for me this year was the end of Amitav Ghosh's Ibis Trilogy with the magnificent Flood of Fire. But I fit in a lot of books in 2015 and there might even be time for one or two more before the end.

But for now in no particular order, here are my favorite reads of the year.
    Flood of Fire, by Amitav Ghosh. I'll admit parts of this chunkster were a slog, but overall it was a fantastic end to a fantastic series, the capstone to a significant literary achievement. The Ibis Trilogy, of which this is the final volume, is incredible, immersive historical fiction and a must-read for literary readers. Start with Sea of Poppies and finish here. Ghosh tells the story of the First Opium War and the founding of the modern world via the opium trade through the adventures of a large and varied cast of characters. Read it, get lost in it, love it. (2015)

    The Big Green Tent, by Ludmila Ulitskaya. Ulitskaya's latest is also immersive historical fiction, written in the style of interlocked short stories, about a group of friends whose lives she charts through 20th century Russia. So much to enjoy here. She's a top-shelf writer whom more people should be reading. (2015)

    How the Dead Dream, by Lydia Millet. Millet is like Margaret Atwood before she went all science-fictiony- solid, insightful and beautifully-crafted stories about people and the way they interact with the world, especially the natural world. This book is the first in a series and tells the story of an entrepreneur turned environmentalist, his family and his attempts to find connection and meaning. She's just great, that Lydia Millet. (2009)

    A Pigeon and a Boy, by Meir Shalev. Shalev has written a truly beautiful and moving story set in the
    present and past of Israel, about lovers and families and the search for meaning. Its use of animals as a metaphor for connection has something in common with Millet's work. Anyway I loved this book, which survived five years of weeding and a move to stay in my TBR pile long enough for me to finally get to it. You should too. (2009)

    Alfa Romeo 1300 and Other Miracles, by Fabio Bartolomei. Just a good time, this silly book about a group of middle-aged losers who open a B&B in the Mafia-infested Italian countryside would make a hilarious arthouse movie. It's great for a mental getaway anytime. (2012)

    Elders, by Ryan McIlvain. Insightful and unexpected, I loved this novel about two Mormon missionaries trying to find themselves in the streets of Brazil. (2013)

    What Ends, by Andrew Ladd. Probably my hands-down favorite this year, this beautifully written and absorbing novel is perfect for literary readers who love character-driven novels. Ladd tells the story of a Scottish famly on a fictional Hebrides island and their diminishing way of life in luminous prose. It's the book I'd recommend most to other booksellers and writer friends. (2014)

    The House on Moon Lake, by Francesca Duranti. At first suspenseful and then just kind of weird, this is my off-beat pick of the year. A translator finds an unknown manuscript that becomes a runaway hit; what happens next would also make a great movie. (2000)

    The Conversations, by Cesar Aira. Unless you've read Aira before, you haven't read anything like

    him. This book documents a debate between two friends about a movie neither of them really paid attention to and it's hilarious. (2014)

    The German Mujahid, by Boualem Sansal. Probably the most emotionally challenging book I read this year, Sansal's book is required reading. Covering the Holocaust and Islamic fundamentalism and their impact on an Algerian-German-French family, it's unforgettable. (2009)

    Blood Drenched Beard, by Daniel Galera. A slow-moving suspenser from Brazil, this is a great book to read in wintertime when you need to feel warmer. A man searches for his lost grandfather amid a quietly hostile landscape and finds something and nothing at the same time. (2015)

    The Great Beanie Baby Bubble, by Zac Bissonnette. My one and only nonfiction pick, this is a great book about business, society and Beanie Babies of course. I loved its breezy style and the fascinating, sad and crazy story he tells.  (2015)


    Jeanne said...

    Now I will have to read The Big Green Tent, as my son, a Russian major, has been urging me to.

    bermudaonion said...

    Not only haven't I not ready any of those, I don't own any of them. My wish list is going to get huge before the year is out.

    rhonda said...

    So many to choose from The Conversations would be perfect this week,

    Anonymous said...

    Great list, with a couple of books that I haven't seen anywhere else.

    Marce said...

    My Book club would probably really enjoy A Pigeon and a Boy.

    (Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea said...

    I own the Europa ones that were favorites of yours so I should make sure I read them in 2016. Hope you enjoy your 2016 books as well.