Friday 5 on Wednesday: Adding my "Best of" to the pile

*Note: Instead of posting my "Friday 5" on Friday, I’m posting it today, the day before Christmas Eve. Chances are I’d forget to post it tomorrow or Friday, so today it is.** Apparently this is the time of year that anyone with a blog and/or half an interest in reading posts their “best of” lists of books from 2015. And apparently, I’m no different. Over the last few months, several Goodreads friends got their “goal met” badges, having read all fifty-two books they pledged to read in 2015. I didn’t post a goal for the same reason I don’t make New Years’ resolutions—why put that much pressure on yourself?! Instead, I just read as much as I could, which is pretty much what I do all the time. And if I do say so myself, I read some awesome books. It’s hard to whittle them down to the five best, but in the spirit of my Friday 5, here are five books I really, really enjoyed this year. I highly recommend them. (And because I’m not a trend-of-the-moment kind of girl, not all of these were published in 2015.)

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  1. Gilead, by Marilynne Robinson. Yes, this is a relative oldie. But oh, is it a good one. I put it off, mainly because I thought it was the book Robinson wrote about the death of her husband, a subject I wasn’t eager to read about. When the book club I participate in when I’m not in the middle of another book I don’t want to stop reading (seriously, I’m a bad book club member) chose this book, I decided to give it a go. It sucked me in at the beginning and held me tight until the end. I was so engrossed in John Ames meandering thoughts and discussions, covering everything from a father’s love and devotion to deep spiritual conversations and holy humor. When I finished, I had at least twenty pages dog-eared where I’d found quotes I didn’t want to lose. Like this one: (he’s writing this to his young son)

“I can tell you this, that if I’d married some rosy dame and she had given me ten children and they had each given me ten grandchildren, I’d leave them all, on Christmas Eve, on the coldest night of the world, and walk a thousand miles just for the sight of your face, your mother’s face. And if I never found you, my comfort would be in that hope, my lonely and singular hope which could not exist in the whole of Creation except in my heart and in the heart of the Lord. This is just a way of saying I could never thank God sufficiently for the splendor He has hidden from the world—your mother excepted, of course—and revealed to me in your sweetly ordinary face.”

Break my heart a thousand times.

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2. My Sunshine Away, M.O. Walsh. I found out about this author and book on Twitter. He’s a Southern author (Baton Rouge) and many people who *know* Southern books had recommended this one. I took it with me when my husband ran a three-day trail race in Tennessee. I had three chunks of time, each a few hours long, where I could read, nap, write, swing in a hammock. The hammock and napping didn’t happen because I was too busy keeping watch for strange bugs—things like four-inch-long walking sticks, bright red fire ants, and other creepy crawly things that came out in hordes when the runners left and everything got quiet. I didn’t write either—I got sucked into this book instead. It is dark and gritty and funny and raw and I devoured it. The ending was heartbreakingly sweet and emotional and I didn’t see it coming. Check this guy out. I’ll be looking for his next book.

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3. Rainbow Rowell. I know, this is an author, not a book. I read two of her books this year—Fangirl and Eleanor & Park—and there’s no way I can choose between them. I’m in love with her YA characters. I haven’t read one of her adult books (that sounds so dirty) yet, but I probably will. She has cornered the market as far as I’m concerned on creating youngish characters who are achingly real and flawed and earnest and hopeful and delicious.

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4. Lost Lake, Sarah Addison Allen. SAA writes magical realism—a genre I knew nothing about before reading her Garden Spells—based in luscious Southern settings. I loved Lost Lake because it had characters I wanted to root for, a lovely cast of old/elderly characters which I love if the author gets them right, a sweet romance, an enchanted setting of lakeside cottages, and just the right touch of magic. I’d love to see this one on the big screen.

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5. All the Light We Cannot See, Anthony Doerr. I almost hesitate to add this one because—duh. Most everyone has read it and everyone knows it’s good. But it’s not just good. It’s spectacular. I was so engrossed in the story and the various settings—the apartment in Paris, the home in Saint Malo, the school in Germany, the sound of the bombs and gunshots, the fear, Marie-Laure’s fingers on the braille, the snails in the shallow water, her great-uncle’s voice transmitted over the crackly radio—I had to reorient myself to my living room, or my bedroom, or wherever I was when I shut the book. I was completely transported.

I still don’t plan to set a reading goal on Goodreads, because—pressure. But I will continue to read as much as I can, as widely as I can. When I find myself hiding in the kitchen under the guise of unloading the dishwasher or working really hard on dinner but I’m really crouched on the floor so I can finish one more chapter—I know I’ve found a good one.