I always enjoy looking back over the past year of reading and seeing what stood out. I read 123 books in 2015, and contrary to my usual reading patterns, many of them were non-fiction. Memoirs seemed to make a particular impression on me this year, with many of my favorites falling into that category. Here are some of my favorites, by genre and in no particular order:
Life After Life and A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson: I finally got around to these, and Life After Life blew me away. I loved it so much I could have kept reading for another 500 pages. I loved A God in Ruins, too, but it wasn’t the magical experience for me that Life After Life had been.
Girl at War by Sara Nović: A powerful story of a young girl fighting for survival during the civil war in Yugoslavia.
Church of Marvels by Leslie Parry: A really fun piece of historical fiction set in turn of the century New York City, featuring sideshows, lost sisters, and asylums.
Dryland by Sarah Jaffe: A introspective, atmosphere coming-of-age story about a young woman on the swim team in early 90s Portland. A strange, quiet book that I found totally absorbing.
Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stadal: This one was a really fun read. A sprawling, funny look at family and food in Minnesota.
M Train by Patti Smith: A meandering, mesmerizing look at various places and people that have made an impact on Patti in her life. I never thought I would be so enthralled by a book that talked so much about drinking coffee and eating brown toast!
Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl by Carrie Brownstein: I was really impressed by this memoir by the Sleater-Kinney singer/guitarist. SK is one of my favorite bands of all time, and her book is an insightful look at finding community through music.
What Comes Next and How to Like It by Abigail Thomas: A beautifully written memoir about lifelong friendships and how they change later in life, among many other things. By the author of A Three Dog Life, which I also read and enjoyed this year.
Hammer Head: the Making of a Carpenter by Nina MacLaughlin: A memoir of a woman who quit her soul-sucking journalism job to become an apprentice carpenter. I have an enduring fantasy of doing something similar, so of course I was into this one!
How to Be a Heroine: or, What I’ve Learned from Reading Too Much by Samantha Ellis: I love “bibliomemoirs” and this one was so much fun that I even wrote about it for the local paper (http://www.news-gazette.com/arts-entertainment/local/2015-02-15/powerful-influences.html).
The Taste of Country Cooking by Edna Lewis: One of the few older books I read this year, this one came out in 1976. It is a classic of the Southern food revival movement, and it was fascinating. It has recipes but also stories of the author’s childhood growing up on a farm in the South. Just lovely.
Dogland: a Journey to the Heart of America’s Dog Problem by Jacki Skole: One of the best books I have read about the homeless pet problem in this country. Heartbreaking but not without hope and helpful suggestions for making a difference.
H is for Hawk by Helen MacDonald: Everyone has read about this one already, so suffice to say I loved it as much as everyone else.
Bad Kid: Growing Up Goth and Gay in Texas by David Crabb: A hilarious look at growing up as an outsider in the 80s and 90s. I could relate to so many of his musical loves, from the early George Michael years to the later Depeche Mode, Erasure, and Pet Shop Boys. I might be a gay 80s boy at heart.
Comics and Graphic Novels
Bitch Planet, Vol. 1: Extraordinary Machine by Kelly Sue DeConnick: I can’t wait to read more of this one!
Paper Girls #1 and #2 by Brian K. Vaughan: My sister got me the first issue for Christmas and now I am hooked.
Descender Vol. 1: Tin Stars by Jeff Lemire: This is the best sci-fi comic series I have read in awhile, I loved the art and the storytelling.
Lumberjanes, Vol. 1 and 2 by Noelle Stevenson: Geared toward a young crowd, but it is really fun and charming.
Saga, Vol. 5 by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples: This series continues to be totally entertaining.