Wednesday, December 30th, 2015
Who wants to read another year-end list? YOU DO, RIGHT? Of course you do. Without further ado, our staff’s favorite reads of 2015:
I read a lot of great books in 2015. One that surprised me–only because I had never heard of it, no one told me it would be good–was The Late Bourgeois World, by Nadine Gordimer. It is a novella, originally published in 1966, that tells the story of a young, white South African woman whose white ex-husband has killed himself after having failed and betrayed a black African nationalist group he passionately wanted to help. Gordimer writes gorgeous prose; her observation of the waves of feeling that run between lovers and between parents and children is exact; and the questions she raises about how the priveleged can best serve as allies to the oppressed remain vital.
I had two favorite books this year. Elena Ferrante’s The Story of a Lost Child was a book I had anticipated all year and it surprised me and didn’t disappoint. Knowing how to end a book and story is hard, how to end a beloved series must be even harder, and Ferrante succeeded on every level.
My second favorite book is Vasily Grossman’s Life and Fate, written in 1959 but not published until years later. It’s a long hard book (it is Russian after all) that takes place during World War Two, so it doesn’t end well for most of the characters. But I was looking to read a long hard Russian novel and Life and Fate fit the bill and then some.
Esmée de Heer
The Ghost Network by Catie Disabato: It was marketed as Fangirl for adults, but this book is so much more than that. It’s a pop culture extravaganza that will send you down a wikipedia rabbit hole.
A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab: This book has four London’s, scary magic, a cross dressing pirate and the most amazing coat you will ever read about. Part two is coming out in February and I can’t wait to read how the story goes on.
Crissy Van Meter
I got married in 2015 and spent most of the year rereading passages of my favorite books for my wedding ceremony. And I fell right back in love with Pablo Neruda, and ended up reading (nearly) his entire collection this year. Specifically I love his Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair, and gushed over “The Song of Despair.” And almost everything else!
Like just about everyone else this year, I loved Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff (what an intimate portrayal of a marriage! what movement!) and I obsessively devoured all four books of the Elena Ferrante Neapolitan series (much has been said about this being one of the most striking and dedicated portrayals of growing up female, and I join that chorus). But since so much has already been written about those books, I’ll take a moment to reflect on something that was published in 2014 but I just got around to reading this year: Nell Zink’s The Wallcreeper. It’s a book that holds you at a distance with its strangeness, in constant view of characters holding each other at a distance against a desperate (and, one gets the sense, irrepressible) pursuit of intimacy. I loved the way sex is portrayed as about as momentous as breathing; Tiffany and her husband seem to compete in their ridiculousness, and yet it never feels like Zink is inviting you to laugh at them. Plus, it was an unlikely sensation from a independent press!
Tuesday, December 1st, 2015
Esmée de Heer
Last thing I read that was so good, not only did it knock my socks off, it stole them forever: Catch 22 by Joseph Heller. The book is so funny until it hits you in the face with sadness and suffering.
Currently reading: Barbara the Slut and Other People by Lauren Holmes and Carry On by Rainbow Rowell.
Favorite food in the entire world: Pancakes for dinner. Nothing beats having breakfast foods at dinner.
If someone absolutely forced me to recite some poetry, I would recite: I couldn’t recite any poetry to save my life, but I did buy a great looking copy of Ariel by Sylvia Plath. I’ll make sure to memorize a line or two in the near future, just in case…
Last thing I read that was so good, not only did it knock my socks off, it stole them forever:
Elena Ferrante’s last Neapolitan novel The Story of the Lost Child lived up to every expectation I had for a finale while also surprising me and breaking my heart.
All this Ferrante fever has got me interested in the Italian woman novelist tradition, so I’ve picked up Grazia Deledda’s Reeds in the Wind.
Favorite food in the entire world: Pizza
If someone absolutely forced me to recite some poetry, I would recite: I don’t know much poetry by heart so I’d have to recite Fleetwood Mac’s “Sisters of the Moon.”
Last thing I read that was so good, not only did it knock my socks off, it stole them forever: Definitely has to be A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara; pretty sure Hanya has a huge collection of stolen socks — read it!
Currently reading: I’ve started three books recently (and I’m usually a book monogamist). Summer by Edith Wharton, Eros the Bittersweet by Anne Carson, and The Salt Ecstasies by James White.
Favorite food in the entire world: Hard question but I love seafood — oysters, salmon, mussels, all that briny stuff.
If someone absolutely forced me to recite some poetry, I would recite: Poor dead flower? when did you forget you were a flower? I used to be a huge Ginsberg fan, still sort of am sometimes.