Confession time: I started but didn’t finish a lot of books this year, maybe more than I have in any other year. I have no qualms about ditching a book if I’m just not finding it engaging, but I try to give it at least 100 pages before I call it quits. Well, that happened a lot this year, and I think it may be because a few of the books I did finish were especially stellar, so many others paled in comparison. These are the books I read this year that I just couldn’t put down.
- The Girl on the Train (Paula Hawkins)
So, apparently everyone in the world read The Girl on the Train this year, but I didn’t know that when I found it while browsing the book section at Target last spring. I hadn’t even heard of it before, but I thought it sounded good. A psychological thriller/murder mystery with an unreliable narrator, that also happens to take place in England–what’s not to like? I read the whole book in two or three sittings over a couple of days and absolutely loved it. I figured out the solution to the mystery about ten pages before the protagonist did, which I think is the perfect spot. When I finished I went on Amazon to see what other readers had thought of it, and that’s when, seeing the thousands of reviews it has, I found out that it was the blockbuster novel of the summer. Looking back now, I’m glad I hadn’t heard of it before I read it, because I went into it with virtually no expectations, and in the process found one of my new favorite books.
- Wide Sargasso Sea (Jean Rhys)
This book was part of my self-assigned summer reading challenge and turned out to be my favorite of those five books. Rhys’s 1966 novel is a companion to Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre and tells the story of a character we only see briefly in the source material: the first Mrs. Rochester. Antoinette Cosway lives an idyllic, though by no means charmed, life in the early 19th Century West Indies before she is married off to the young Edward Rochester, a man she barely knows, and removed from her home to the cold and harshness of England. What I loved about this book were the spare and beautiful descriptions of the Caribbean islands and its compassionate portrayal of a woman who kind of got a raw deal in Jane Eyre. I was so engrossed in Wide Sargasso Sea that, finding myself with a spare hour in downtown Tacoma one day, and not having the book with me (shocking, I know!), I went to the Tacoma Public Library, found a copy in the stacks, and sat down and read from the place I had left off previously, finishing the book.
- Landline (Rainbow Rowell)
Rowell is best known for her YA fiction books, Eleanor & Park and Fangirl, which have come to me highly recommended but I have yet to read. But if this novel for adults is any indication, I’ll love those as well. The landline of the title is a telephone that can make calls into the past. A successful 30-something TV writer whose marriage is on the rocks uses the magical phone to talk to her husband’s college-aged self in the past in an attempt to save her marriage in the present. While I was reading Landline, I kept trying to make comparisons to other books or movies, but it’s really a completely original premise. What it reminded me of most in the end, purely for thematic reasons, was It’s A Wonderful Life; it happens at Christmas time, and it’s the story of one person who, with help from a mystical or supernatural element, is trying to rediscover their purpose and make things right with the people they love most in the world.
- The Selection Series (Kiera Cass)
You didn’t think I’d create a list with no YA sci-fi/romance on it, did you? I’m almost positive the original pitch for the first book in this series, The Selection, must have described it as “The Bachelor meets The Hunger Games.” (And honestly, is The Bachelor really all that different from the televised spectacle of The Hunger Games? The recent Lifetime channel series UnREAL seems to suggest it’s not. But I’m getting off topic.) The Selection shows a softer side of a dystopian future, one in which young women compete on national television for the chance to marry the prince (because the US has somehow become a monarchy called Panem–I mean, Illéa), and wear lots of beautiful dresses and eat lots of delicious food in the process. Of course, by the third book in the series (there’s a trilogy and a sequel trilogy that’s one book in right now), the story has become about so much more than the Selection. This is kind of silly, but one of my favorite things about the first trilogy is that the main protagonist is a redhead. Represent!
- Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day (Winifred Watson)
I’m actually still reading this book (I’m about halfway through), and may or may not finish it before 2015 ends, but I wanted to include it here because it’s already one of my new favorites. I loved the 2008 movie starring Amy Adams and Frances McDormand, but surprisingly had never read the 1938 novel until now. It had been on my radar for awhile, but it wasn’t until a recent trip to Powell’s in Portland that I picked up a copy. Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day has the lightheartedness and wit of a 1930s Katherine Hepburn/Cary Grant comedy film and the precise timing of 24. I don’t think I want to say too much else about it until I finish it, which I think I’ll go do right now!
2015 was a great reading year for me, so what about you? What were your favorite books you read this year?
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