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The Best Books of 2015

Bestof2015

I hope everyone’s 2015 ended with some great reading, family, friends, and fantastic food.

Of those I read in the year 2015 — those published in 2015 and before — these are the best in these categories:

Best Series:

Maggie Stiefvater’s Raven Cycle (The Raven Boys, The Dream Thieves, Blue Lily, Lily Blue)

Best Children’s Book: (TIE)

Best Memoir:

Displacement by Lucy Knisley

Best Nonfiction:

LOVE: A Philadelphia Affair by Beth Kephart

Best Short Story Collection:

The Great War: Stories Inspired by Items from the First World War 

Best Young Adult Fiction:

Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson

Best Reference:

How to Entertain, Distract, and Unplug Your Kids by Matthew Jervis

Best Women’s Fiction:

French Coast by Anita Hughes

Best Historical Fiction: (TIE)

Best Fiction:

Best Poetry: (TIE)

Here is the list of BEST BOOKS PUBLISHED in 2015:


  1. Wet Silence by Sweta Vikram
  2. The Race for Paris by Meg Waite Clayton
  3. Vessel by Parneshia Jones
  4. LOVE: A Philadelphia Affair by Beth Kephart
  5. The House of Hawthorne by Erika Robuck
  6. The Mapmaker’s Children by Sarah McCoy
  7. Miss Emily by Nuala O’Connor
  8. One Thing Stolen by Beth Kephart
  9. The Secret of Magic by Deborah Johnson
  10. The Sound of Glass by Karen White
  11. Mistaking Her Character by Maria Grace
  12. Earth Joy Writing by Cassie Premo Steele, PhD


What were your favorites in 2015?

Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine

Source: Purchased
Paperback, 169 pgs
I am an Amazon Affiliate

The power of Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine makes me wonder what the winner of the National Book Award could have written to outshine Rankine’s words in 2014.  In her collection of essays, poems, and vignettes, Rankine points: “‘The purpose of art,’ James Baldwin wrote, ‘is to lay bare the questions hidden by the answers.'” (page 115)  She took this to heart when writing this collection because she raises up those questions about race in America and brandishes them like a flag.  That is not to say that racism is something that is wholly owned by just white people or white police, but that it is perpetuated by the actions, behaviors, and assumptions both races make about one another.  What does it mean to be American? Does it mean as citizens we brush aside these issues and move forward? Does it mean that we must embrace all of this darkness into ourselves and find solutions that may not work for everyone? Or does it mean that we must take a more internal approach and remedy that which we do to perpetuate those wrongs around us?

from page 135:

because white men can’t
police their imagination
black men are dying

What is engaging about Rankine’s work is that she blurs the lines between the you, the I, the she, the he, to make it less clear cut who is being discriminated against and who is suffering. In this way she takes the time to juxtapose the traditional black victim of white racism formula with a less black-and-white distinction, and it’s done with purpose.

“In any case, it is difficult not to think that if Serena lost context by abandoning all rules of civility, it could be because her body, trapped in a racial imaginary, trapped in disbelief — code for being black in America — is being governed not by the tennis match she is participating in but by a collapsed relationship that had promised to play by the rules.  Perhaps this is how racism feels no matter the context–” (page 30)

Lest you think this book is about racism only through the lens of the victim, it is not.  There a great deal to discuss about racism, its roots, its ignorance, and its pervasiveness in American society.  While many, if not all, the references are contemporary, they could have been pulled from many times throughout history.  Book clubs could discuss this collection of essays and poems for hours.  I cannot explain to you how deeply affected by the book I have been.  I will likely read and re-read this book many times.  I may even put it forth to my book club as a suggestion.

Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine is essential reading for every American — young or old, black or white, Hispanic or Asian; it is the beginning of a dialogue that is desperately needed in this country where the presumption of ignorance or incivility is based upon a skin color rather than an individual’s actions and behaviors.  While discrimination against “other” continues, it is not merely one-sided, and until we are able to break down those walls to the truth of our humanity, discrimination and racism will always exist.

***Best of 2015 — not a contender, firmly on the list***

About the Author:

Claudia Rankine was born in Jamaica in 1963. She earned her B.A. in English from Williams College and her M.F.A. in poetry from Columbia University. She is the author of four collections of poetry, including Don’t Let Me Be Lonely (Graywolf, 2004); PLOT (2001); The End of the Alphabet (1998); and Nothing in Nature is Private (1995), which received the Cleveland State Poetry Prize.

Rankine has edited numerous anthologies including American Women Poets in the Twenty-First Century: Where Lyric Meets Language (Wesleyan, 2002) and American Poets in the Twenty-First Century: The New Poetics (2007). Her plays include Provenance of Beauty: A South Bronx Travelogue, commissioned by the Foundry Theatre and Existing Conditions, co-authored with Casey Llewellyn. She has also produced a number of videos in collaboration with John Lucas, including “Situation One.” A recipient of fellowships from the Academy of American Poetry, the National Endowments for the Arts, and the Lannan Foundation, she is currently the Henry G. Lee Professor of English at Pomona College.  (Photo credit: John Lucas)

 

 

 

 

Mailbox Monday #322

Mailbox Monday, created by Marcia at To Be Continued, formerly The Printed Page, has a permanent home at its own blog.

To check out what everyone has received over the last week, visit the blog and check out the links.  Leave yours too.

Also, each week, Leslie, Vicki, and I will share the Books that Caught Our Eye from everyone’s weekly links.

Here’s what I received:

1.  Making Your Mind Up by Jill Mansell, my Christmas present has finally arrived!

Lottie Carlyle isn’t looking for love when she meets her new boss, Tyler Klein. Living in a beautiful cottage with her two kids in a idyllic village in the heart of the Cotswolds, she’s happy enough with her lot. Tyler’s perfect for Lottie and she quickly falls for him, but her children do not approve.

2.  Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine, my second Christmas present has finally arrived!

Claudia Rankine’s bold new book recounts mounting racial aggressions in ongoing encounters in twenty-first-century daily life and in the media. Some of these encounters are slights, seeming slips of the tongue, and some are intentional offensives in the classroom, at the supermarket, at home, on the tennis court with Serena Williams and the soccer field with Zinedine Zidane, online, on TV—everywhere, all the time. The accumulative stresses come to bear on a person’s ability to speak, perform, and stay alive. Our addressability is tied to the state of our belonging, Rankine argues, as are our assumptions and expectations of citizenship. In essay, image, and poetry, Citizen is a powerful testament to the individual and collective effects of racism in our contemporary, often named “post-race” society.

3.  Earth Joy Writing by Cassie Premo Steele, Ph.D. from Ashland Creek Press for review.

Earth Joy Writing is a writer’s guide to reconnecting to the earth. In chapters divided by seasons and months of the year, this book will guide you through reflections, exercises, meditations, and journaling prompts—all designed to help you connect more deeply with yourself, others, and your natural surroundings.

Weaving together poetry, stories, and cultural wisdom, Earth Joy Writing invites us to consider our connection to the earth and offers hands-on exercises that will help us meaningfully reconnect with our creative selves and with the planet we all share.

“Earth Joy Writing is about finding joy when we align our creative practices with natural principles. It is about living in harmony with our deepest selves and the natural world. It is about committing to a mindfully creative life in collaboration with nature and, in the process, healing both ourselves and the earth.” — Cassie Premo Steele

4. The Unexpected Consequences of Love by Jill Mansell my final Christmas gift.

Sophie Wells is a successful photographer with a focus on putting the past firmly behind her. When Josh Strachan returns to the seaside town of Cornwall from the States to run his family’s hotel, he can’t understand why the fun, sexy girl has zero interest in letting him-or any man for that matter-into her life. He also can’t understand how he’s been duped into employing Sophie’s impulsive friend Tula, whose crush on him is decidedly unrequited. Both girls remain mum about the reasons behind Sophie’s indifference to love. But that doesn’t mean Josh is going to quit trying…

5.  River House by Sally Keith from Milkweed Editions.

These are poems of absence. Written in the wake of the loss of her mother, River House follows Sally Keith as she makes her way through the depths of grief, navigating a world newly transfigured. Incorporating her travels abroad, her experience studying the neutral mask technique developed by Jacques Lecoq, and her return to the river house she and her mother often visited, the poet assembles a guide to survival in the face of seemingly insurmountable pain. Even in the dark, Keith finds the ways we can be “filled with this unexpected feeling of living.”

What did you receive?