Wednesday, August 5, 2015

My Favorite Books of 2015 (So Far)

The best books stick—sure as spaghetti thrown at a wall or oatmeal to the ribs—and these past eight months have been filled with books which have attached themselves to me and show no signs of ever letting go.

I’ve made good headway on my five-year reading plan of “the Essentials;” and I’ve even snuck in a quartet of re-reads (To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, Welcome to Hard Times by E. L. Doctorow, Peace by Richard Bausch, and The Stand by Stephen King)—something I hardly ever do. In all that time, I managed to read a surprising number of books: 60 in 217 days. And I’m currently burrowed into another five (yes, I read with octopus hands). The majority of those 60 books were published before 2015, so the list of my favorite books published this year is relatively short.

You’ll see it’s heavily-peppered with war literature, partly due to my ongoing interest in literary fiction set in battle zones, but also because I’ve been asked to blurb some new releases (something I’m always happy to do). A few other 2015 titles which I hope to get to before the year is out: War of the Encyclopaedists by Gavin Kovite and Christopher Robinson, Green on Blue by Elliot Ackerman, and The Knife by Ross Ritchell.

I’ve winnowed the list of books I’ve enjoyed down to nine and they run the gamut from a Bigfoot hunter to a fictionalized F. Scott Fitzgerald. Will all of these titles end up on my year-end “best of” list?  Maybe, maybe not.  But they’re all strong contenders.

Looking ahead at 2015 titles near the top of my To-Be-Read list, I see some other good candidates: A Slant of Light by Jeffrey Lent, American Copper by Shann Ray, All This Life by Joshua Mohr, This Is Your Life, Harriet Chance! by Jonathan Evison, City on Fire by Garth Risk Hallberg, and Slade House by David Mitchell. Will all those novels survive the constant crush of the crowded TBR queue and actually be read before December 31? That remains to be seen, too. Fingers are crossed that my eyes don’t get crossed.

Without further ado, here are my favorites (so far) of 2015 in roughly the order in which I read them, along with sentences plucked from their pages....

The Sasquatch Hunter’s Almanac
by Sharma Shields

It was a dreary Wednesday in early October when Eli informed Gladys that he planned to give up his flourishing podiatry practice and pursue, full-time, the region’s elusive Sasquatch.

Station Zed: Poems
by Tom Sleigh

There was a Bay, there was a Pig, there was a Missile.

The Valley
by John Renehan

In the dream he climbed a narrow foot-trail alone in the sun, on a bare mountainside littered with metal corpses.

A God in Ruins
by Kate Atkinson

A handful of heartbeats. That was what life was. A heartbeat followed by a heartbeat. A breath followed by a breath. One moment followed by another moment and then there was a last moment.

I’d Walk with My Friends If I Could Find Them
by Jesse Goolsby

His war is his rifle in his hands, gunpowder in his nose, a girl in the road. How could he tell that story? Why would he want to?

Recipes for a Beautiful Life: A Memoir in Stories
by Rebecca Barry

Meanwhile last night I dreamt that I lived in a house that had been literally built on a lawn, meaning the floors were all green grass, and I was standing in the middle of my living room, looking around thinking, Great, now someone is going to have to mow these damn floors.

West of Sunset
by Stewart O’Nan

For three hours he wrote badly, rushing things, frustratingly aware of the ugly clock above the sink, sometimes stalking out to his car in a rage because he’d had to leave in the middle of a scene, and yet every morning he managed to produce a couple of pages. They might be rickety, but he had the eye and the patience of a professional used to fixing worse.

I’m going to cheat a little with these last two novels.  They’re both scheduled to be published in January 2016, but I was privileged to read early copies and so I’m including them since they’re so close to being 2015 releases. This will also serve as your official nudge to pre-order these puppies.

A Hard And Heavy Thing
by Matthew J. Hefti

There were no real stories and there were no real answers, so we made them all up.

The Longest Night
by Andria Williams

It was improper to be lonely; it was improper to be bored; it was improper, most of all, to be filled with anything like longing.


  1. A God in Ruins is a new favorite of mine. Finished it in just a few days, and loved every sentence. Still reeling from the ending.

  2. A God in Ruins is a new favorite of mine. Finished it in just a few days, and loved every sentence. Still reeling from the ending.

  3. A few of these look right up my street. I have been reading a lot of history of all kinds recently and discovered some real gems.
    I've become especially fascinated about various movements in the 1960's and found some excellent reads. Night People from Larry Dunlap was one that really stuck with me. I couldn't put it down.
    It's a brilliant memoir that details life on the road of a rock band that toured the Las Vegas and California scenes.
    The book really has a bit of everything and offers a fascinating insight to not only the rock band experiences but of the rapidly changing times of the 1960s. I would strongly recommend this book to anyone who loves the 60s music scene and those with a historical interest in the times. Absolutely top read.