Four Favorite Books in 2015
One disadvantage of reading through lists like Pulitzer and Man Booker winners is that I rarely read newly published books. But 2015 was an exception. Now that we’re one week into 2016, here’s a look back at a few favorites.
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
The 2015 Pulitzer winner, this book deserved the prize. Doerr is a master of writing with nouns and verbs. Every sentence in the book is active. I finished it feeling as if I’d lived through the War, walked the Saint Malo ramparts and survived a German training camp. The characters are endearing and complicated. I flew through the book and when it was over I had a major book hangover.
Euphoria by Lily King
I had never heard of the Kirkus Prize until I saw this beautiful book on display at Curious Iguana with the prize’s seal on its cover. Apparently I’ve missed out – this Kirkus winner was phenomenal. It was also devestating. In fact, it was the book that finally got me over that aforementioned book hangover. Set in New Guinea in the 1930s, it’s the story of three anthropologists living and studying native peoples and culture. It was a joy to read.
City on Fire by Garth Risk Hallberg
The advanced reader copy of this behemoth had a review on the jacket that called it “an ocean of a book” and, well, that hooked me. Yes, it’s 900 pages. But, I like big books. It was a super ambitious novel (especially being Hallberg’s first!) but he pulls it off. It’s seedy, gritty and full of characters that you hate to love / love to hate. Some say it’s too long, but I never felt like it dragged. In fact I would have kept on reading if he had went on a few hundred more pages.
The Incarnations by Susan Barker
Whereas Hallberg takes 900+ pages to go over a few months of action, Barker is able to squeeze in 1,000 years of Chinese history in fewer than 400 pages. It’s quite the achievement. The premise is that the main character, Driver Wang, is a reincarnate. He is unaware of this, so someone is sharing stories of his previous incarnations via anonymous letters. It’s brutal, intense, graphic and another fast-moving page turner.
In the summer I saw the M+ Sigg collection at the Whitworth in Manchester, which claims to be one of the finest collections of Chinese art. Four decades of art from the 1970s to today, I walked away with a rich understanding of Modern China. Reading The Incarnations, which is partially set in modern Beijing, brought that experience back to me.
What were the best books you read in 2015?