It’s so close to the end of the year that I can smell the turkey cooking and the plum pudding steaming! So, it’s time for a bit of a wrap-up; the 10 best books of 2015, as judged by me! This might give you some ideas for your own Christmas lists, or for somebody else’s. (Note: these are book I read in 2015, not necessarily books that were released in 2015.) Here they are, in no particular order, because that would be way too hard.
1. A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson
I know I said these aren’t in order, but I think this was my favourite book of the year. It’s a companion novel to Life After Life, which I liked, but didn’t completely fall in love with. But A God in Ruins is a devious, twisting novel, playing with time with flair. It’s partly and compellingly set during the air raids into Germany during the second world war, and it also deals with the aftermath of war. The ending is devastating and I don’t think I’ve quite recovered from it! You can watch my Book Chat review here.
2. Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert
I love, love, loved this book. So many things that Liz said resonated with me as a writer, to the point that I had to write an entire blog post about the book, which you can read here. Suffice to say, I think it should be on every writer’s bookshelf.
3. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
This novel is all that is wonderful about historical fiction, weaving two stories together against a backdrop of war. One story follows a blind French girl fighting to survive and the other follows a German boy who finds himself on the wrong side of the war, simply due to the circumstances of his birth. Doerr is a beautiful writer, and he deserved the Pulitzer for this book. You can watch my Book Chat video here for more.
4. Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
This is one of the most delicious books I’ve read this year. It is wickedly funny, but there’s also a serious side thrown in to keep the whole thing grounded. It begins with a murder at a school quiz night, and tackles the politics of the schoolyard, raising kids, marriage and modern life. Highly recommended. You can see my full review here.
5. Still Writing by Dani Shapiro
This is the most divine meditation on writing, by a writer who has a stunning way with words. It’s not really a how-to, but it does help with the knottier aspects of writing, like self-doubt and how to begin. Definitely one to read if the mind-games of writing get on top of you and if you like a book about writing that’s also, in a way, a memoir. My Book Chat review is here.
6. The Natural Way of Things by Charlotte Wood
I finished this book a month ago and it’s taken me this long to articulate my feelings about it. It’s brilliant, and chilling. A group of girls find themselves imprisoned in a bush compound, with no idea why or how they’re there. It unravels that they all have a sex scandal in their past, and this book is about the way sex and power are treated in society. The most terrifying aspect of the book is that, although it’s a dystopian fiction, at no point did it ever not feel real. Absolutely compelling Australian fiction.
7. In the Quiet by Eliza Henry Jones
A really special debut Australian novel. The book is narrated by Cate, who has died, and somehow she’s able to linger in the shadows, watching her three children and husband deal with their grief and the difficulties of moving on. I adored the sibling relationships in this book, the awkward and difficult task they faced in navigating their teenage years without their mother. My full review can be found here.
8. Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald
What an eye-opening book! I didn’t know a lot about Zelda, besides the apocryphal stories of parties and wild drinking and doomed love, but this book fills in the gaps of her life in a plausible and engaging way. It’s a tragic love story, in which neither Zelda nor Scott come off well, and the most devastating thing about it is the waste; the waste of love and the waste of life. How brilliant they both could have been if they’d only gotten it together. Wonderful historical fiction. My Book Chat review is here.
9. Foreign Soil by Maxine Beneba Clarke
This isn’t a comfortable and relaxing read. It’s brutal and real and leaves you feeling utterly bereft. It’s a collection of short stories, all told in a completely different way to the other, and all with distinctive and well-realised voices. If only everyone would read one of the stories, The Stilt Fisherman of Kathaluwa, then I’m sure we wouldn’t still be imprisoning asylum seekers in detention centres. You can find my Book Chat review here.
10. Motherhood and Creativity: The Divided Heart by Rachel Power
This was a book that had me nodding in recognition throughout. It’s a series of interviews, conducted and compiled by Rachel Power, with creative women about their struggles to marry their children and their art. There were so many points of connection for me in this book, and I think it’s one that all women with artistic practices should read. My full review is here.
So that’s it! The 10 best books of 2015. What do you think? Which ones have you read and do you agree with me or not? What did I leave out?