Best Books of the Half-Year

Last year my friend Nina Badzin wrote about her favorite books at the year’s halfway point.  I liked the idea, blatantly copied her, and thought it was a good idea to do it again.  So, here are my favorite books so far for 2015.  If you have read any of them, or if you do, please do let me know what you think. And I’d love to hear what you’ve been reading and liking lately.

I haven’t read many novels that have hugely struck me so far this year, but two have, and I’m recommending them to anyone who will listen.

A Window Opens by Elisabeth Egan.  I adored this novel, which made me alternately nod in ferocious identification (refusal to cut off sandwich crusts?) and tear up with profound relatability.  I will be giving this novel to many women I know who will find the protagonist, and her middle place loves, losses, and thoughts deeply moving and familiar.  I was happy to review this book here.

The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan.  This book is laugh-out-loud entertaining and has a hopeful, emotional core that I found touching in unanticipated ways.  For anyone interested in the royal family or who already knows and loves the hilarious voices of Go Fug Yourself, this is a must-read.  The Royal We is my next Great New Books recommendation.

Most of what I’ve read that’s impressed me so far this year has been memoir.

Ongoingness: The End of a Diary by Sarah Manguso.  This spare, powerful book touches on many topics dear to my heart: time, memory, motherhood, loss.  I reviewed Manguso’s gorgeous book in more detail here, and I absolutely adored it.

The Folded Clock: A Diary by Heidi Julavits.  This book shares with Manguso a preoccupation with the ordinary moments of our lives and with how we record, collect, and remember them.  Julavits writes simultaneously about nothing and about everything, and in so doing reminds us that the meaning of human life exists in its most humdrum, mundane details.

H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald.  I’m not at all familiar with falconry, which lies at the heart of Macdonald’s book, but it is a testament to the extraordinary, shimmering beauty of her writing that I felt I could relate to much of the story.  The word I’ve read most often in reviews of this unusual, bonfire-bright book is feral, and it is perfect.  Macdonald uses her relationship with Mabel, her hawk, to walk the line between domestication and wildness, and in so doing illuminates the way humans need both to be rooted and to fly.

Hold Still: A Memoir with Photographs by Sally Mann.  Another book which muses on the topic of memory and how we capture the experiences, both mundane and magic, of our lives.  I loved it.  Sally Mann’s prose is easy to read and musical.  Hold Still is a love letter to her husband, her children, and to the gloriously beautiful landscape and complicated history of the south.  Mann’s story reminded me, somehow, of Faulkner, and brought to mind silvery green Spanish moss hanging in trees; the south is its own country.

The Light of the World by Elizabeth Alexander.  This memoir gave me goosebumps.  Elizabeth tells the story of her whirlwind romance with Ficre, an Eritrean chef and artist, and of the year that follows his sudden and tragic death.  I loved Elizabeth’s voice, which echoes like poetry (she is a poet and an academic).  Over and over again, I gasped as I read and underlined madly.  This is a quick read but one that stays with you long after you close the cover of the book.

Everything You Ever Wanted by Jillian Lauren.  Jillian’s account of trying to get pregnant and ultimately pursuing adoption, and the first few years with her son, made me both laugh and cry.  Her voice is familiar and friendly, and the story is powerful.  I loved this book (and Jillian and I share a birthday, a coincidence I love). 

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11 Comments

  1. Posted June 29, 2015 at 6:45 am | Permalink

    I didn’t expect to enjoy The Royal We, but like you, I found it hilarious. Definitely one of my favorites so far.

  2. Posted June 29, 2015 at 6:52 am | Permalink

    So glad you did this AND it reminded me to do it too. I will likely this week and link back here. 🙂

    For sure I have the same trend you do . . . more nonfiction than fiction!

  3. Posted June 29, 2015 at 9:08 am | Permalink

    A bunch of these are on my nightstand! PS. Did I tell you we are moving back to Scituate in August?? xoxo

  4. Susan Todd
    Posted June 29, 2015 at 10:12 am | Permalink

    My favorites thus far in 2015: The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah, What She Left Behind by Ellen Marie Wiseman, The Sea of Tranquility by Katja Millay, Searching for Sunday by Rachel Held Evans, and The Dead I Know by Scot Gardner.
    And eagerly awaiting the three I’ve pre-ordered ~ A Window Opens, Fishbowl, and Rising Strong.
    Kent Haruf’s Our Souls at Night is next up in the stack at my bedside.
    Thanks for sharing your list. Looking forward to seeing Nina Badzin’s half-year list again!

  5. Posted June 29, 2015 at 10:43 am | Permalink

    Thank you! I need some new books. I am struggling with Judy Blume’s latest but also adored The Lifht of the World. Currently I am reading the dark and a Sacred Night which I am loving. Thank you!

  6. Posted June 29, 2015 at 10:56 am | Permalink

    Thank you! I need some new books. I am struggling with Judy Blume’s latest but also adored The Light of the World. Currently I am reading the Dark and a Sacred Night which I am loving. Thank you! Heading to the library today.

  7. Posted June 29, 2015 at 11:11 am | Permalink

    Thanks, Lindsey. Like you, my fiction reading is sparse this year, but looking forward to checking out the recommendations you listed. Ongoingness is one of my favorites this year too. Glad to see it made your list as well.

  8. Posted June 29, 2015 at 5:35 pm | Permalink

    I have read more non fiction than fiction as well. Ongoingness is a favorite. Thank you for sharing.

  9. Posted June 30, 2015 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

    Looking forward to A Window Opens…I’ve read some ok fiction this year- my faves were “All The Light We Cannot See” – loved it (I know you did, too!) and “Emancipator’s Wife” about Mary Todd Lincoln. I’m on a historical ficton bent right now!

  10. Posted July 1, 2015 at 5:23 pm | Permalink

    I loved The Royal We too, as you know, and I’ve got a post of my own like this one coming up in a couple of days. I really loved Hammer Head by Nina MacLaughlin and Four Seasons in Rome by Anthony Doerr – both memoir.

  11. Posted July 11, 2015 at 8:43 am | Permalink

    You never disappoint–I came here searching for new reading and here’s a great list from me to you! Heading to the library tomorrow. xoxo

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