As I’ve said before, I’m usually much more concerned with reading books that appeal to me no matter when they were written than trying to keep up with the newest releases. I tend to wait until books are out in paperback, or I borrow them from the library, neither of which lend themselves to very timely reading (though I will say that my library does a pretty great job, and they have a lot of new releases in their collections).
So here are ten books that I’d like to read, in no particular order. Recommendations are taken from NPR’s wonderful interactive list of books published in 2015. There are actually a ton of great books that were published in 2015 that I can’t wait to read, but this is a selection of books I don’t think I’ve mentioned yet.
Orhan Pamuk’s A Stranger in My Mind
Nobel Prize-winning author Orhan Pamuk chronicles the life of his hometown, Istanbul, through the eyes of a street peddler named Mevlut. He’s one of millions who migrated from the countryside beginning in the 1950s. As Mevlut wanders the hidden corners of Istanbul selling boza, a traditional Turkish drink, readers get a glimpse of the religious, economic and political forces swirling through the rapidly changing city. Meanwhile, on the home front, Mevlut’s elopement with a woman he never meant to marry turns into an enduring love. Pamuk’s fondness for both his character and his city shines through on every page. (Lynn Neary)
Amy Stewart’s Girl Waits With Gun
Amy Stewart resurrects a very real heroine from history: In 1914 New Jersey, Constance Kopp dared to pursue justice for herself and her sisters after their horse buggy was hit by a car. The adventures that follow set Constance on a path to becoming one of the first female deputy sheriffs in the U.S. And how I smiled when I found out this is the first of a trilogy! (Shannon Rhoades)
Anne Tyler’s A Spool of Blue Thread
To me, reading an Anne Tyler book is like hanging out with an old friend: You open the book to the first page and emerge three hours later surprised that so much time has gone by. A Spool of Blue Thread fits perfectly into that mold. Abby and Red Whitshank are getting old and their four children are eager to help them stay in the beloved family home. Sibling rivalries flare up; family secrets are spilled; and the Whitshanks emerge bruised but a little wiser at the end of it all. Pull up a comfortable chair and enjoy yourself. (Lynn Neary)
Maggie Nelson’s The Argonauts
In Maggie Nelson’s short memoir, nearly everything is flexible. Genres, ideas and bodies all bend, re-form and take on new meanings. Through 143 pages, she tells overlapping stories centered on her romance with the gender-fluid artist Harry Dodge and her own pregnancy. She writes in a long, unbroken sequence of short paragraphs into which she weaves quotes and theories by philosophers, child psychologists, artists, critics and loved ones. The Argonauts is Nelson’s running log of joy and fear in a time of transition — the never-ending voyage of making a family without a map. (Jacob Ganz)
Chinelo Okparanta’s Under the Udala Trees
Ijeoma is a young girl growing up in the difficult years following Nigeria’s 1967 Biafran War. But coming of age in a war-torn country isn’t her only challenge: She’s also struggling to balance her taboo same-sex relationship with her mother’s (and her society’s) expectations. Chinelo Okparanta’s writing is so immersive that even readers who have nothing in common with Ijeoma will feel like they’ve lived her experience. I couldn’t put the book down and even pulled an all-nighter to finish it (then was a zombie at work the next day). Plan your schedule around this binge read! (Elizabeth Baker)
Nick Hornby’s Funny Girl
No, this isn’t Nick Hornby’s take on the classic Barbra Streisand musical, but rather the story of a different funny girl. Sophie Straw is a Lucille Ball devotee and small-town beauty queen who moves to London and lands the lead role in a BBC sitcom. But this isn’t just Sophie’s story; Hornby lovingly creates an ensemble of writers, producers and actors trying to make light entertainment during the turbulent 1960s. Funny Girl explores the roles of highbrow and lowbrow entertainment, and what it means when art imitates life. The result is a charming, sweet book that’s not at all as fluffy as the sitcom at its center. (Jessica Reedy)
Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life
At nearly 800 pages, A Little Life feels like it’s telling the story of four New York friends in real time — over takeout, at parties, during dinners that end in arguments. It’s most moving when author Hanya Yanagihara lets us live long stretches with the character Jude, a survivor of child abuse. The book doesn’t shy away from those horrors or the physical and emotional pain endured to overcome them. And Yanagihara is not afraid to show how his friends love him, care for him and sometimes let him down. (Audie Cornish)
Jennifer Niven’s All the Bright Places
Finch and Violet didn’t mean to stop each other from jumping off the roof of the school’s bell tower, but once they do, they find themselves inescapably drawn together. They embark on a series of adventures, chronicling the natural wonders of their native Indiana. As Violet begins to overcome the family tragedy that led her onto the ledge in the first place, Finch struggles to control his depression and truly commit to living his life. The heartbreak of this story is made real through the charming first-person narration. It’s hard to avoid hoping for a happy ending. (Caitlyn Paxson)
Rainbow Rowell’s Carry On
Simon Snow is the most powerful wizard in the world, but despite being a senior at the Watford School of Magicks, he has no idea how to control his power and be a proper Chosen One. To make matters worse, his roommate and archnemesis, Baz, is missing, and Simon can’t stop thinking about him. This book began its life as a Harry Potter stand-in featured in Rainbow Rowell’s previous book, Fangirl. It is charmingly cheeky, and so deeply fond of the material that it’s impossible not to get caught up in this new world of wizardry. (Caitlyn Paxson)
Noelle Stevenson’s Nimona
Nimona, the shape-shifting title character of this graphic novel, has a penchant for mischief, mayhem and turning into a shark. She enlists herself as sidekick to the villainous Lord Ballister Blackheart, and pursued by Blackheart’s nemesis, Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin, the two set out to destroy “the Institution.” Noelle Stevenson’s charming art blends a medieval setting with futuristic technology, and her writing both delights and takes the book to surprising emotional depths. (Mallory Yu)
Were there any 2015 releases that you didn’t get to? Put a book you’re excited to read that was published last year (or that you’ve just recently discovered) in the comments!