My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.
Robert Frost, “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening”
In North America, today is the winter solstice, which means it’s the shortest day of the year. Here in Chicago, that means we will have only 9 hours and 7 minutes of daylight today. I plan to take full advantage of the dark and dreary weather, spending the longest evening of the year curled up with a good book — The Mare, by Mary Gaitskill. I’m loving this book, and if I were making a list of my favorite books of 2015, it would be a contender.
Because I’ve talked about my favorite books so much already, I’m sharing some of my colleagues’ top picks. Collectively, our #1 choice was Christopher Scotton’s The Secret Wisdom of the Earth (Molly called it “my 2015 ‘Pulitzer'”), which is coming out in paperback on January 6.
Although several booksellers named five or six books as “favorites” — “I cannot possibly limit it further”, said one; “It’s funny how hard that question is to answer”, said another — I’m narrowing the list to one or two books each. I’ve included fiction, nonfiction, children’s and YA. Most of the books were published this year, but some are older books that we discovered in 2015.
Diane‘s top choice for adults is A Deadly Wandering: A Mystery, A Landmark Investigation, and the Astonishing Science of Attention in the Digital Age (Matt Richtel) –a book that I think everyone should read, along with Being Mortal (Atul Gawande). (For my review of A Deadly Wandering, click here.) For younger readers, Di’s favorite is The Thing About Jellyfish (Ali Benjamin), a National Book Award finalist.
Ann P. loves a backlist title, Everything Beautiful Began After — Simon van Booy’s first novel.
For Susan R., along with Laura B. (one of our Penguin Random House reps) the choice was easy: an award-winner that has appeared on many “best of 2015” lists —H is for Hawk, by Helen Macdonald. The New York Times called this memoir “breathtaking”.
Lisa’s pick is Our Souls at Night, Kent Haruf’s last novel, which is also a book club favorite.
Diana can’t decide between one of this year’s hottest books — Fates and Furies (Lauren Groff) — and a modern classic, Stoner (John Williams), originally published in 1965 and re-released several years ago. Stoner — which is not about a pot-smoker, but a farm boy turned English professor (William Stoner, Ph.D.) — is “the greatest American novel you’ve never heard of”, according to the New Yorker. It’s a superb book — don’t miss it!
Susan P.‘s bookselling heart was touched by A Window Opens, Elisabeth Egan’s wise and witty debut novel about a full-time mother and part-time editor who suddenly needs to find a “real” job — and lands at “Scroll”, a soul-sucking company that seems determined to put independent bookstores out of business. (For my review, click here.)
Kathy P.‘s #1 book of 2015 is The Buried Giant. Kazuo Ishiguro’s first novel in 10 years, set in England’s mythical past, is “a rumination on memory, love and war worthy of a place among the greats” (The Guardian).
Anne H. (our Macmillan rep) had a hard time deciding — she said, “This is such a hard question! It makes me think I need to start keeping a list of books I read.” She settled on Jenny Lawson’s irreverent memoir, Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things, and Paul Murray’s satirical novel, The Mark and the Void. (Can you tell Anne has a good sense of humor?)
Molly says Confessions of an Imaginary Friend: A Memoir by Jacques Papier (Michelle Cuevas) is the best middle grade book she’s read this year — “and maybe ever”. Clementine: The Life of Mrs. Winston Churchill is her nonfiction pick for the year.
Max loves Carrying Albert Home, the heartwarming, “semi-true” story of author Homer Hickam’s parents and their odyssey throughout the Southeast with their pet alligator. She was thrilled when Hickam stopped by Lake Forest Book Store to chat and sign books. (For my review, click here.)
Eleanor is a fan of The Red Notebook (Antoine Laurain), the charming, romantic and very French tale of a lost handbag — and a perfect gift book for anyone with a tender heart.
Cathy S. (our HarperCollins rep) sent me the longest list of anyone, mentioning that “I also realize that I’ve read a lot of ‘older’ books like Life after Life by Atkinson that I hadn’t had time to read before”. Cathy — who never steers me wrong — recommends The Wolf Border (Sarah Hall), and the fourth installment in Elena Ferrante”s Neapolitan series, The Story of the Lost Child. (Countless other readers I trust have recommended this series as well.)
Nancy is a fan of A Tale for the Time Being (Cynthia Ozecki), shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2013 and a terrific book club choice.
From across the lake at The Cottage Book Shop in Glen Arbor, Michigan, Sue sends two favorites: Days of Awe (Lauren Fox) and The Nightingale (Kristin Hannah), two books I enjoyed very much as well. The Nightingale is a real departure for Hannah, and although it’s not as literary as All the Light We Cannot See, it’s a good choice for readers looking for another absorbing story about Nazi-occupied France.
And my favorite? It’s impossible to choose one, but if I had to pick the most unforgettable books I read this year, I’d choose A Little Life (Hanya Yanigahara) and Station Eleven (Emily St. John Mandel). How about you?