For once, I agree with my fellow readers at Goodreads. Without a doubt, the best book I read in 2015 was Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman. It really resonated with me emotionally. I sat there and sobbed through the entirety of Chapter 8. It’s like I was Jean Louise, in those moments, drowning in a storm of grief and rage. I still get a little steamed when I think about it.
My other top 10 reads for the year are:
The Rosie Project and The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion – I loved these books. Don Tillman, professor of genetics, and all around brainiac finds social interaction and emotional situations difficult to say the least. But he has decided it’s time for him to find a wife. He chooses to go about this using logic. That is a list of criteria, some of which he’s willing to be slightly flexible about, but which don’t take into account the fact the woman may have her own set of criteria. Emotion fits nowhere in this search. That is until he meets Rosie. Then everything changes and he has to find ways to adapt. This is often both hilarious and painful to watch. Even after he wins Rosie, Don continues to struggle, especially when others are added to the equation.
Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf – Haruf’s final novel gives us a last, wonderful visit with our friends in Holt, Colorado. This one is about two older people, widowed, who come together in friendship in order to alleviate their loneliness. But this somewhat unorthodox friendship gradually grows into something more. However, others do not approve and try to tear them apart. Add in a neglected little boy and a dog and you have an emotionally wrenching read. Though I remember being not wholly satisfied with the ending.
The Truth According To Us by Annie Barrows – A thoroughly enjoyable second adult novel from the coauthor of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, The Truth According To Us takes us to a small town in West Virginia during the Great Depression where things are not what they seem. I couldn’t help but like and loathe the villain at the same time. The resolution of the conflict is rather obvious from early on, but the telling of it is vastly entertaining.
As Sweet as Honey by Indira Ganesan – This story is told by Meterling’s young niece, Mina, as Mina and her cousins, all children, try to puzzle out exactly what’s happening to their beloved aunt in the strange world of adults. An unusually tall South Asian woman, Meterling finds love long after she was considered to be “on the shelf” with a short, slightly rotund Englishman who promptly drops dead during their first dance. Amidst the scandal of a pregnancy and a courtship, Meterling tries to find her place within two very different societies.
My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry by Fredrik Backman – Elsa, a very intelligent almost-eight-year-old girl has been tasked with a difficult mission. In a series of letters, her beloved Grandmother, who has recently died of cancer, asks her to apologize on her behalf to a number of people. Grandma was, shall we say, unorthodox. Some would say crazy. My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry is a wonderfully sad, wonderfully hilarious read.
The Upstairs Wife: An Intimate History of Pakistan by Rafia Zakaria – This a story of separation. Of a marriage, and of a country. The Partition of India and Pakistan was a difficult, painful process that, in many ways, is ongoing. Then, when you add in the divorce between Pakistan and Bangladesh, it gets even more complicated. More messy. The joys and pains of these separations is mirrored in the marriage of Amina and Sohail. They don’t divorce, but he takes a second wife. Amina moves upstairs while the second wife takes the downstairs and Sohail splits his time between them in a weird kind of custody agreement with which no one is really happy or satisfied. The Upstairs Wife is a complex, emotional, story of a nation and a family.
Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights by Salman Rushdie – Based loosely on The Thousand and One Nights, Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights, is an epic ride from one of the masters of magical realism. With skill and imagination he tells us of the Strangenesses and the War of the Worlds which followed. How the Lightning Princess and the Grand Ifrits battled over the fate of our world while dead philosophers argued about faith and science, terrorism and logic in their graves. Dust arguing passionately with dust.
The Secret Chord by Geraldine Brooks – The story of David, shepherd, warrior, poet, and king as told by Pulitzer Prize winning author, Geraldine Brooks. And, I must say, she does it with style and skill. I wondered what happened next, even though I know very well what, according to the Bible, happened next. If that isn’t a sign of a good book, then I don’t know what is.
I’d say the award, if you can call it that, for worst book would have to go to J. R. Ward’s The Bourbon Kings. What does anyone see in that book? I can’t say I like anyone in that family or that I really care what happens to them next. I was also hugely disappointed in Jacquelyn Frank’s Nightwalker. It just kind of fell flat. The epic battle wasn’t all that epic and, as an ending to a series, or three, it was unsatisfying to say the least.
How about y’all. Read anything awesome in 2015? Or just plain horrible?