I wanted to make this an annual thing — a short list of some of the best books I read this year! Since there are a bajillion titles I love so so much, I gave myself a somewhat arbitrary set of rules to help me cut down the list:
- I only included books that I read during this calendar year, which I know is horribly unfair to the amazing stories I read as manuscripts or galleys long before they were published.
- The books also had to have been either published this year, or forthcoming early next year — again terribly unfair, as I adored several titles that were new to me but published years ago.
- I tried to put only one book per genre, but so many books blew me away this year I had to cheat a little. Ah well.
So here they are:
A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
This book. God, this book. “Sad” and “depressing” don’t come closing to describing it. “Harrowing” isn’t even accurate enough. This was like nothing I’ve ever encountered before. It didn’t feel like I was reading a book — I actually felt like I was living out the lives of these people. It was mind-blowing. It was disturbing. It was so, so beautifully and sharply written. Everyone should read this at some point.
All The Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders
This doesn’t actually come out until early 2016. But gah — so, so good. It was sharp and funny. It was poignant. It was the perfect bridge between science fiction and fantasy. I loved how it explored the dichotomy between science and nature/magic. I loved the characters; I loved the writing. I want to forget everything that happened so I can feel like I’m reading it for the first time all over again.
Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt
The first thing I did when I finished reading this was call my dad and tell him this should be required reading for all his students. He’s a professor who has dedicated so much of his life to teaching young people how to be teachers, and this is a book every educator absolutely has to read. Every student learns differently, and this book is an ode to that. It’s so very well done, and so important.
Rules For Stealing Stars by Corey Ann Haydu
I fell totally in love with this book. The grounded stuff felt so real — the relationships between the sisters, the bleakness in the household, the mother’s alcoholism making her absent and scary. And then it had just the perfect amount of magic to balance everything out with a touch of hope.
Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
Ahhhh! This book captured everything I loved as a teenager — it felt like it was written just for me. I would have been best friends with Simon. I have truly never loved a contemporary YA novel the way I love this book. The voice is absolutely perfect, and the characters are amazing. A must read for every human.
Two runners-up (this is what I meant about the cheating):
Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy
Reading this felt like wrapping myself up in my favorite fuzzy blanket. I love love loved the way this book addressed the topic of women’s bodies and self-image / self-esteem. The story is both fun and important — the best mix.
Written in the Stars by Aisha Saeed
This story was not at all what I expected — I’d forgotten the synopsis and was going in blind, which is my favorite way to enter a book. The realness and darkness of the story hit me hard. What’s most shocking is that forced marriages like the one depicted in this novel still happen today…something to keep in mind while reading.
Bone Gap by Laura Ruby
The writing in this is so gorgeous, and that was mostly what pulled me along for the first two thirds of the book…until I hit the last third where I had to race through and find out what happened and the story just blew. Me. Away. This book is so atmospheric and lovely and there’s a turn at the end that you really can’t guess. And I loved the way this bounced between realism and fantasy. This will for sure be a permanent favorite.
Magonia by Maria Dahvana Headley
This book was weird in the absolute best way. If you know me well, you know I trend towards strange stories that mix bizarre elements. Well, this is pretty damn strange. And awesome. And kick-ass. The writing is so precise and dreamy…just go read it already.
The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma
This is a magical realism ghost story, and it has the best kind of characters and the best kind of ending. As with any of her books, the prose is perfect and cutting. This is another one I’m dying to forget so that I can read it again with shivery anticipation.
The Wrath and the Dawn by Renée Ahdieh
This is such a fun, sexy, and badass take on Arabian Nights. Another one that is so sharply written (Have you noticed the pattern? Yup, I only love beautifully-written books.) and so wonderfully atmospheric. Shazi is pretty much the kind of girl I aspired to be as a teenager.
A TIE (!!!) between:
Walk On Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson
Okay this addition to my list is cheating a LOT because this book is also fantasy, but DAMN. Who would ever have thought of writing a fantasy trilogy set in gold rush America?? The atmosphere, the little details, the color and feel of that era. The characters. The voice. This read felt so real, and I am beyond impressed.
Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee
Westerns are really, really not my thing so it’s super surprising to me that I have TWO of these on my list this year. But goodness, this was so well-executed. I loved reading about a Chinese American girl in historical America, and felt that it so perfectly captured what it feels like to be Chinese American. A lot of the superstitions and ideas passed down from the girl’s family are the exact same superstitions and ideas my own mother has even today. This whole book was such a delight.
There it is. I am guaranteed to have forgotten some other amazing title I read this year and I’ll feel horribly guilty for it later, I’m sure…