10 Favorite Books from 2015

2015 was a good year. Here are my favorite books from 2015 (books that I read in 2015, not necessarily books that were published in 2015).

  1. 2666, Roberto Bolaño
    • After working my way through the shorter works of the Bolaño oeuvre last year, I took on this behemoth (at approximately 900 pages, I don’t think “behemoth” is too much of an exaggeration) at the beginning of the year and loved it so much that I read it again.
  2. The Virgin Suicides, Jeffrey Eugenides
    • Not the easiest thing to read about, virgin suicides, but Eugenides writes with such effortlessness that you can’t help but become engrossed. Stylistically, the novel recalls William Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily.” 
  3.  Cosmos, Witold Gombrowicz
    • In this philosophical novel, two men find a hanged sparrow in a forest and descend into madness (or else they achieve a profound understanding of existence). Of course, it’s about so much more, and features one of the most mocking final lines I’ve read. Plus, it’s short, which makes it easy to read again.
  4.  Blindness, José Saramago
    • In this novel, an “epidemic of ‘white blindness’” descends on a city. Early victims of the blindness are confined to a deserted asylum. And then things get worse. Blindness is a depiction of human depravity too graphic for eyes, which is fitting.
  5. The Painted Bird, Jerzy Kosinski
    • Speaking of graphic depictions of human depravity, The Painted Bird is an unapologetic record of the horrors visited on a vagabond boy during the Holocaust. The veracity of the account is contested, but it’s nevertheless a shocking, beautifully written work. It’s like watching your first rated R movie. Read with caution. 
  6.  A Farewell to Arms, Ernest Hemingway
    • The first time I read A Farewell to Arms I hated it. When I read it for the second time this year, for a seminar on Hemingway, I loved it. I think that this fact attests to the skill of my professor. More than anything, I appreciated the quality of Hemingway’s prose more the second time around than I did the first. Boasting a well-plotted story and Hemingway’s penchant for scene, A Farewell to Arms takes on the quality of dreams and is as light.
  7. A Guide to Being Born, Ramona Ausubel
    • Actually a collection of short stories, A Guide to Being Born is unlike anything I’ve read. My favorite story, “Poppyseed,” is as touching as it is unhinging. (You can read it here.)
  8.  Snow, Orhan Pamuk
    • This novel was recommended to me by a professor of mine. The novel wrestles with the relationship between secularism and faith, and tries to deduce the place of God in the postmodern state. Excellently paced and complex with engaging characters.
  9. A Little Life, Hanya Yanagihara
    • This book should come with trigger warnings. Nevertheless, it’s been the most fulfilling reading experience I’ve had this year. This novel gutted me; it’s graphic, overwhelming, and subversive. And, inexplicably, it’s tender. Everything in this novel is irrational, yet potent. My favorite description of the book comes from the jacket: “An epic about love and friendship in the twenty first century that goes into some of the darkest places fiction has ever traveled and yet somehow improbably breaks through into the light” (italics mine).  
  10. Bluets, Maggie Nelson
    • Only a poet could write so compellingly about her love for the color blue.