Friday, January 1, 2016

The Best Fiction of 2015

It's New Year's Day a day that makes many of us think of champagne. It's the epitome of sophisticated imbibing unless we had too much of it on New Year's Eve.  We drink champagne to celebrate and commemorate happy events. My Dad took this photo near Reims in Normandy in the summer of 1944 shortly after D-Day. His caption notes that the bottle is Piper Heidsieck '37 and that they drank it "with every meal for two weeks straight. We carried one 2 1/2 ton truck loaded with the stuff." Sometimes what seems wonderful isn't that great depending on the circumstances. We make sense of those circumstances and the events of our lives by telling stories. My father had many stories about his time in the war and he "told" most of them through the pictures he took. We make sense of our world through stories which is one reason why we like to read fiction. 

The Best Fiction of 2015:
  • All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews
  • Circling the Sun by Paula McLain
  • Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff
  • The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
  • Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf
  • The Red Notebook by Antoine Laurain
  • Some Luck by Jane Smiley
  • A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler
  • The Water Museum by Luis Alberto Urrea
The Best Fiction I Read in 2015 That Was Published Previously:
  • Americanah byChimanada Ngozi Adichie 
  • Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill
  • Mary Coin by Marisa Silver
  • A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozecki
The Best Novel of 2015:

Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf (Read the complete review here.)

Our Souls at Night is a joy-filled, compact novel about love. Addie, a widow, visits Louis, a widower, and asks if he’d consider sleeping with her occasionally. She wants to talk, to fight the loneliness.  She isn’t asking for sex, just companionship against the darkness. Set in small-town Holt, Colorado, where Haruf’s other spare, eloquent novels, lived, Our Souls is a legacy that Haruf bequeaths on his readers. He wrote this last novel as he lay dying and it reflects the pureness of his life. Just read it. Gourmet/Grandma's Pot Roast/Soul Food, Book Club

The Best Canadian Novel of 2015 (published November 2014): 
All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews (Read the complete review here.) 

All My Puny Sorrows is a wise, ironic, unsettling, dark, original tale based on Toews’ family. Sisters Elf and Yoli grew up in a small Mennonite community in Manitoba. Now Elf is a world-renowned concert pianist and Yoli seems like a screw-up but it’s Elf who wants to kill herself and her latest attempt pulls their family apart. If you like literary novels with distinctive voice, read this. Gourmet/Sushi, Book Club

The Best Novel of 2015 Runner Up:
Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff

Lancelot (Lotto) Satterwhite, an aspiring actor, is the hero of the “Fates” half of the novel as is reflected in his nickname. When acting doesn’t work, he becomes a playwright and achieves fame and fortune. His wife, the enigmatic Mathilde, reveals herself in the “Furies” section as she copes with grief and plots malevolent revenge. The characters, the underlying connection to Greek mythology, and the words, oh, the magnificent words, of this novel show why it’s on every best-of-the-year list. You don't want to learn more about this great novel, you want to open it and let it reveal itself. Gourmet, Book Club

The Happiest Novel (and a romance too) of 2015:
The Red Notebook by Antoine Laurain  (Read the complete review here.) 
This is the light, intelligent romance we all want when we need a lift. Laure is mugged outside her Paris apartment. Laurant, a bookseller, finds her abandoned purse. It has no phone or ID – just a small red Moleskine notebook filled with handwritten thoughts. Laurent attempts to find the owner in this quintessential French tale that fans of The Elegance of the Hedgehog and the movie Amélie will adore. It’s elegant, charming, and I’m already casting the film in my mind. Dessert/Grandma's Pot Roast/Tapas, BC

The Best Novel of 2015 by an Author Who Always Delivers:
A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler (Read the complete review here.)
A Spool of Blue Thread is Anne Tyler at her best – subtly mirroring our lives. Some critics call it the best novel of the year and others find it predictable. I adored its depiction of the predictable rhythm of family life. The Dowager Queen of the ordinary offers a novel that helps us understand the people inhabiting our own worlds. The enchanting ending proves that you can go home again. Gourmet/Grandma's Pot Roast, Book Club

The Best Historical Fiction Novels of 2015 (See Pigeon Pie - The Best Historical Fiction of 2015)

Circling the Sun by Paula McLain and Runner-Ups: The Nightingale by Kristin HannahSome Luck by Jane Smiley and Mary Coin by Marisa Silver

The Best Short-Story Collection and one of the  Best Audio Books of 2015:
The Water Museum by Luis Alberto Urrea (Read the complete review here.)
The Water Museum made me laugh, cry, and ponder, Snippets from it keep invading my thoughts about immigration, assimilation, love, grief, and community. Urrea’s imagery, heart, and brilliant writing make this a must read. I read it and I listened to it. Try to listen to at least one of the stories as Urrea tells them in his whimsical, emotional, powerful voice. Earphone Award winner, Gourmet/Road Trip, Book Club

The Best Novel About the Immigrant Experience (Published in 2013):
Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Americanah spectacularly evokes the immigrant experience through the eyes of Ifemelu, a NAB or non-American Black, who blogs about race in the U.S. then returns to life in Nigeria. The novel is magnificent, offering numerous insights, yet it’s also pure story and a compelling page turner. This must read is as entertaining as it is informative. Gourmet/Super Nutrition, Book Club

The Most Imaginative Novel I Read in 2015 (Published in 2014):
Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill

Dept. of Speculation is inventive and clever: a new universe, a new way of exploring life in words. The wife and the husband share an over-the-top love and marriage until they don’t. So many random, seemingly unrelated speculations together form a cohesive, literary triumph.  You can read this in one two-hour setting but you’ll want to set it down, take a walk, ponder, then return to Offill’s intricate world of desire, fear, connection, disintegration, and life’s rhythmic pace. Wow! Gourmet/Tapas, Book Club

The Amazing Book that Made Me Think and Think and Think (Published in 2013):

A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki 

Ruth, a Japanese-American novelist, finds teenage Nao’s diary when it washes up near her British Columbia home. Alternating chapters delineate Ruth and Nao’s lives which feature time as a concept and being “other” as a connection. Nao’s grandmother, a Buddhist nun, offers life lessons and serenity. Readers looking for a challenge and those willing to read some tough bullying scenes will embrace the power of this masterpiece. Book clubs could talk for hours and not cover most of the questions this novel makes you ponder. G/S, BC

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