Thursday, December 3, 2015

Best Books of 2015

It's that time of year again...this year's personal best list might be a little lop-sided with backlist, but I excluded anything I read for committee work.

Adult and Literary


Petropolis by Anya Ulinich

Some really robust writing that spans continents and eras as witness to the dissolution of the Soviet regime. Ulinich is a talented graphic novelist as well (Lena Finkle’s Magic Barrel).

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If you have older relatives, you can’t help but laugh. And cry. And laugh some more. Chast gets it right.

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The Little Friend by Donna Tartt

For some reason, I had an entirely wrong idea about what this novel was about. Tartt shows her Mississippi roots by depicting a wide range of far-from-stock Southern types in a show-stopper of a novel. I should have picked it up earlier.


Everybody Rise by Stephanie Clifford

It’s like The House of Mirth, but in the heady days of the oughts. Start up sensibilities, old money mores, and the corrupt Wall Street culture collide.

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This Dark Road to Mercy by Wiley Cash

It’s about baseball, the Home Run Derby of 1998 as backdrop for a former minor league standout trying to liberate his daughters from the foster care system after his ex-wife's overdose. I had been disappointed by Cash's ballyhooed debut, but I loved this one.


The Foolish Gentlewoman by Marjorie Sharp

Marjorie Sharp wrote The Rescuers, and some surprisingly deft mid-century fiction for grown-ups. This one opens with the titular heroine cowering in the bath while the bailiffs come to re-posses her furniture.

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Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont by Elizabeth Taylor

This pairs nicely with the Chast -- an elderly woman goes to live in a residential hotel filled with her contemporaries in decline. The loneliness resonates in Mrs. Palfrey's concoction of a loving grandson.



Glory glimpses a frightening future and rises to meet it in this exhilarating tour-de-force that manages to be about everything, but mostly about the way politicians can frame the most evil things as for the common good.


Dumplin' by Julie Murphy

It's not just about pageants, or fat girls. Willadean inspires every reader to find their place on stage.

Dazzling Debuts

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Only Ever Yours by Louise O’Neill

O'Neill's future is only a little more remote than Glory O'Brien's. Women have value only as refracted through men. I hope this is a feminist manifesto for the fourth wave.

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More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera

This was recommended, or I might not have picked it up, but I was thrilled I did. Silvera has a great ear for language and captures the cadences and communities of the Bronx rather perfectly in this twisty tale. Realistic fiction readers needn't be put off by the just-slightly-fantastical premise.

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Dangerous Girls by Abigail Haas

It's like Gossip Girl meets Amanda Knox. What really happened among the group of vacationing friends? Who was at the beach when? Frothy, but fun.


The Fever by Megan Abbott

Abbott is pitch-perfect in drawing a largely female cast in this novel where the seemingly inexplicable is rooted in garden-variety high school dynamics. Abbott is hugely underrated, probably because she writes about women.

ALA Finds


Girls Like Us by Gail Giles

Giles documents the unlikely friendship of two girls sent to live in a care-in-the-community set-up. This is a book which changes readers. Schneider Family Book Award, 2015.


Confessions by Kanae Minato

Your nipponophiles will love this peek into Japanese classrooms and culture as the mystery of the teacher's son's death is covered from so many angels. Alex title, 2015.


Quiet: the Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain

I didn't go see Cain when she was an auditorium speaker at ALA, but I sure heard about this book. When I finally got around to reading it, it made me feel SO MUCH BETTER. About everything. As only a great book can.

This year's list is a little estrogen-laden, but so was this year for me.