my favorite books of 2015

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2015 was a decent year for reading. According to my GoodReads I read 62 books, which is down 10 books from last year. I mostly blame this on a big drop in summer reading thanks to working Institute. I felt like it was easier to pick favorites this year–last year a lot of books were in the middle for me, this year most books were wonderful or just not my favorite. My list is based on what I read in the calendar year, not what was published. This is what I loved in 2015:

Big Little Lies – Liane Moriarty | Liane Moriarty sucks me in every time. Her writing is sharp, funny, sarcastic. Big Little Lies had more of a “message” than any other book I’ve read of hers, but it was nonetheless engrossing.
Brown Girl Dreaming – Jacqueline Woodson | Amazon calls this a “novel, told in verse” and that’s a great description. Woodson’s depiction of life as a brown girl in the 60s and 70s (in both South Carolina & New York) is challenging and beautiful.
Scary Close – Donald Miller | David and I listened to this one on audio last winter and listening to it together made for fantastic conversation. Great book about relationships and vulnerability–I’d love to reread a paper copy.
Bomb – Steve Sheinkin | I haven’t been this engrossed in a historical book since Killing Kennedy last year–and this was better written in my opinion. It’s technically written for middle/high school, but absolutely fascinating and I learned so much about the arms race. I added several more of Sheinkin’s books to my TBR list.
Made to Stick – Chip & Dan Heath | I referenced this book in conversation more than anything else I read this year… “the curse of knowledge” is probably a phrase I’ll use forever now. Must read for anyone who has a message to communicate, whether you’re a teacher, a salesman, a pastor, or you just want people to remember what you said.
Everything I Never Told You – Celeste Ng | A haunting look into a family–this one was well written and compelling. I’m looking forward to reading more from Ng.
Better Than Before – Gretchen Rubin | Fascinating book about habits and motivation. I think my big takeaway was that a lot of successful habit forming has to do with simply knowing yourself and not pretending to be motivated by things you aren’t actually motivated by.
The Truth about the Harry Quebert Affair – Joel Dicker | This definitely wins an award for Book I Was Most Glued to This Year. I read all 500ish pages in a weekend, including long reading spurts in parking lots because I wanted to find out what happened so bad. To me it was a great example of a suspenseful book that had so many different levels of twists, not just a big one at the end. Mature themes.
This Is Your Life, Harriet Chance! – Jonathan Evision| I love stories told through atypical means (different narrators, correspondence, non linear timeline). This one nailed the non linear timeline thing–I loved getting to peek inside Harriet’s head at so many different points in her life.
Kitchens of the Great Midwest – J. Ryan Stradal | If I had to pick a favorite novel, it would be this one. It was all about food and love, so of course I was all in. It’s kind of like a collection of short stories with a common thread and it pulls together so beautifully at the end.
Blackout – Sarah Hepola | This book (about the author’s life before, during, and after alcoholism) was sad & good & really hopeful in a way I didn’t see coming.
El Deafo – Cece Bell | A kids graphic novel is not my usual reading material, but this one was so great that I both started and finished it in a Barnes & Noble and promptly purchased it for my class. The main character is girl who’s deaf and the book focuses on her elementary school experience. It’s funny and even silly in spots, but still teaches good lessons on friendship and differences.
The Thing About Jellyfish – Ali Benjamin | This was a dark horse– I picked it out of my bag on a whim while we drove back to Birmingham after Christmas… and finished it a few hours later. It was everything that makes a great young adult book. I loved the main character and, as always, I’m a sucker for any book where a teacher comes through for a child.

Honorable mentions: For the Love (listened to this on audio, Jen Hatmaker’s sassy Texas voice made it way better) and Auggie & Me (the companion to Wonder, one of my favorite middle grade books of all time).

On my nightstand right now: Fates & Furies, We Are Called to Rise, Uprooted, Ghettoland, and Rising Strong.

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