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Tuesday, November 17, 2015

The LRG list of Best Books of 2015

I know that it's not even Thanksgiving yet but with the National Book Awards ceremony coming up this week, this feels like a good enough time to announce my picks for Best Books of the year.

2015 has been a hectic year,especially on a personal front due to family illness, yet one thing that has kept me steady over both the good, the bad and the what the hell?, has been reading. Books offer so much solace in troubled times that they should be officially considered as a national resource, in my opinion.

If you've read any of these books(one at least I do believe has been widely read by many this summer), then you know just how great it was to turn these pages and if you haven't, I hope that this list encourages you to give one or two a chance in the coming new year:


When word came forth that a new Harper Lee novel was set to be published this summer, cries of joy could be heard throughout the land. Some of those cries did turn into laments as Go Set a Watchman turned out to be a rough draft of what Ms. Lee originally intended to have as her first book but instead became the wellspring from which her classic To Kill a Mockingbird was born.

Seeing the original version of Scout and her father(who was not the heroic figure that most fans took him for) as well as what might have made for a true sequel was fascinating reading and whether you loved or hated it, there's no denying that GSaWM was truly one of the most thought provoking books of the year:


 Carrie Snyder's Girl Runner not only offers you a look at what it was like for the first female runners that participated in the 1928 Olympics, the story of Aganetha Smart also showcases a long life that sees more than it's fair share of sorrow yet finds a bit of unexpected joy towards the end.

The novel is mostly told in flashbacks, as Aganetha is taken from the nursing home where she resides alone by a young couple making a movie who have a certain personal goal in mind. Like the heroine herself, Girl Runner keeps a strong and steady pace that allows you to fully explore the inner landscape of her memory and makes those last strides over the finish line feel well earned indeed.

Author Amy Stewart is best known for her nonfiction but Girl Waits With Gun clearly demonstrates that she has a fine knack for novel writing. Set in the early 1900s, this based on a true story of how the Kopp sisters, mainly straight to the point Constance, dealt with the threat of local rich boy thug Henry Kaufman is a stylish smart read that flows as smoothly as gin into a cocktail glass.

While Constance Kopp is far from a social butterfly, her determination to protect her family, along with discover the truth behind another of her adversary's crimes, does put me in mind of a certain Miss Fisher, whose lively wit and whimsical detective ways would match up with Constance's own methods quite nicely:


The subtitle of Molly Wizenberg's memoir Delancey is "A Man, A Woman,A Restaurant, A Marriage" and that is exactly what this book is about in a nutshell.  She tells the story of how her husband Brandon first set about creating his Seattle pizza restaurant(named for a favorite section of New York) and the small victories and major setbacks that came with it.

 To her credit, Molly does not shy away from her own struggles with the situation, something that she first thought would be a casual project but soon enough turned into a serious business that did strained the couple's personal relationship.

However, there is also a strong shared love of food that helped to heal many a breech and the mutual affection that both Molly and Brandon have for each other made this labor of love a heartwarming journey worth taking:


While there are always a huge number of new hardcovers to check out during the year, some of the best literary discoveries are made for a reader via paperback and there is a pair of historical fiction titles that truly made my reading year complete.

The first was Sue Monk Kidd's The Invention of Wings, which was an Oprah 2.0 Book Club selection, that had it's two leading ladies deal with the racial and social policies of their day both together and apart.

While Hetty, called "Handful", struggled to find more than one kind of freedom from slavery, her childhood companion Sarah Grimke fought to be more than just another obedient daughter to made ready for the bonds of marriage that would tie her spirit down for good. Both stories are sad ones yet each their shared determination to create a better world is and was sincerely inspiring to experience.

The other was Cinnamon and Gunpowder by Eli Brown, which had a mix of foodie lore and pirate adventure. Chef Owen Wedgewood winds up being the captive personal chef of pirate queen Mad Hannah Mabbot, who insists on having a specially prepared Sunday supper or he will truly walk the plank.

As Owen does his best to make a weekly dinner that will allow him more time to live(and perhaps be rescued), his set in stone notions about the world are steadily being chipped away, to the point where he decides to make his own choices about not only his fate but that of his newly made friends, as much as he can in the moment.

I have to thank vlogger Rincey of Rincey Reads(she also does video features for Book Riot) for her delightful review of this book that made me go and look for it in the first place. Taking a chance on the unknown is always easier when a good recommendation is at hand:

No doubt that there are a few more great books coming out before New Year's Eve(I happen to be reading two of which at the moment, City on Fire and A Brief History of Seven Killings) but I feel that this lineup is a good one to sum up my reading of 2015 on.

Hopefully next year, we will have even more wonderful books to enjoy and maybe a better sense of peace and harmony, particularly in Paris where I and so many others send our sympathies and good thoughts out to(along with other countries who have seen their unfair share of similar sorrow).

We do have some great things to look forward to in 2016, such as the film version of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, which expands upon the Harry Potter universe with the approval and aid of J.K. Rowling. It would be nice if all we had to worry about next year was dealing with the Dark Lord Funk coming to Hogwarts and who knows, we might!:

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