It’s time for me to list five books I loved in 2015. As always, I leave off the bestsellers—those ten titles you’ve read about ten times in the last ten weeks of top ten books lists. (After all, no one needs to hear anymore about Girl on the Train or Purity—though I thought they were brilliant!) I tried to keep it to works published in 2015, but made exceptions for The End of the Sherry and Good Sam as they were published within the last two years.
I am also, as always, not including on this list the books I edited in 2015, but I cannot help but mention some of the excellent books I help to bring to the world—like Fourteen: A Daughter's Memoir of Adventure, Sailing, and Survival, by Leslie Johansen Nack. I found Nack’s memoir an absolute pleasure to dive into, again and again. I am pleased that the book has garnered excellent reviews and that Leslie enjoyed the process of working with me—she actually wrote about the editing process here, in a short piece in Writer's Digest.
Another book I edited is Soil-Man by Oz Monroe. This book is much harder to describe than it is to recommend. When I was done with the final editing on the book, I told Oz, “Soil-Man is ready for the world, but is the world ready for it?” The dark fantasy is not for the faint of heart—or stomach—but, if you are not afraid to question your own faith, you’ll definitely enjoy this gritty, black-comic tale of an average man beset by avenging angels. The book is comes out in January, but it’s available now for pre-order.
Here’s my "top five" list, in no particular order:
1. A great choice to gift to others (you can get one, too!) is Embraceable: Empowering Facts and True Stories About Women’s Sexuality by August McLaughlin. There’s more than eighteen reasons to recommend it, one for each of the authors, including “Girl Boner” founder and radio host August McLaughlin herself. The pieces deal with body image, self-love, female empowerment, and sexuality in diverse and inclusive ways. You must know a young woman (of any age) who could benefit from reading this book.
2. Everyone who knows me knows I love visiting Mexico, and this year I went “south of the border” in a superior and eclectic new anthology Mexico: Sunlight & Shadows: Short Stories & Essays by Mexico Writers (the list is long and you’d probably recognize some of the names). There’s definitely something for everyone in this collection of short pieces, which include fiction and non-fiction, set in Mexican locations far and wide. (It’s available on Kindle for $2.99 right now.)
3. Good Sam by Dete Meserve, is a novel about our media culture and television reporting that avoids all the tired cliches while still fulfilling every expectation. And you don’t think the world is such a terrible place after reading this book —unlike the aftereffect of reading most novels that deal with crime and criminals—and those who hunt them down. And, the ebook is currently only 99 cents!
4. The Black Velvet Coat by Jill G. Hall is a debut novel that feels so assured you just fall right into the story. The author skillfully weaves together two women's lives: one, a young artist in contemporary times, the other, a young heiress in the 1960s. The book is not easy to define, as there are elements of mystery and suspense, but most importantly, The Black Velvet Coat is what literary fiction (and all fiction) should be, and often is not—entertaining.
5. Those lucky enough to be familiar with Bruce Berger’s writing (Almost an Island, The Telling Distance, There Was a River) won’t be surprised to hear that his memoir The End of the Sherry is a compelling, gorgeously written book. Those who believe they don’t like memoir should give this a try. The character of Berger’s twenty-something self—untethered to job or family, who finds himself in Franco’s Spain in the mid-sixties—felt as familiar as a long-lost friend. His down-to-earth story transported me, thrilled me, and made me laugh.
Now, get thee to a bookseller. Or a library. Or click the links to purchase the books on Amazon. Enjoy your end-of-the-year reading and the holidays...