Every month I chronicle those ordinary delights that give me comfort or offer a place of reflection or joy. Here are my everyday delights for December with a slight variation – I recount books I loved in 2015.
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr: Stunning in its lyricism and character development, I read Doerr’s words with an unprecedented enthusiasm. My reading taste generally gravitate toward nonfiction, but the pulse of these pages were too poignant to abandon. The philosophical underpinnings, the relationship between the daughter and father, the brimming of emotion and the stunning prose left me weeping at the end of this longer work.
Big Magic:Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert: I’ve had two opportunities to witness Gilbert’s charisma in person and she never disappoints. Her creative process inspires the writer who feels stuck or doesn’t think he or she is enough. One of my favorite quotes: ““Most of all, be ready. Keep your eyes open. Listen. Follow your curiosity. Ask questions. Sniff around. Remain open. Trust in the miraculous truth that new and marvelous ideas are looking for human collaborators every single day. Ideas of every kind are constantly galloping toward us, constantly passing through us, constantly trying to get our attention. Let them know you’re available.”
Ongoingness:The End of A Diary by Sarah Manguso: I read Ongoingness twice and I suspect I will revisit Manguso’s words again. Her musings on time, love, loss, memory are my personal obsessions and often times, I’d nod my head in agreement, highlighting passages with fervor. This passage, in particular, pushed me immediately into the present: “In a hundred and fifty years no one alive will ever have known me. Being forgotten like that, entering that great and ongoing blank, seems more like death than death.”
A Window Opens by Elisabeth Egan: The protagonist in Egan’s novel is squarely in midlife, balancing the needs of her own identity, as well as her role as wife, mother and woman extraordinaire. I laughed and cried with Alice as she attempted to find her footing. The central question that we all face raises its hand repeatedly, “Is it possible to find a balance between work, self and the roles of spouse, parent and caregiver?” I suspect that many who straddle this tightrope will find Egan’s debut novel comforting.
Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill: Offill’s novel is slim, but packed with themes of betrayal, forgiveness and the uncertainty of life. Her pacing works well with the premise of the story: a woman’s interpretation of her marriage. Offill relays the story in fragments which work effortlessly together in describing love, betrayal and possible reunion between wife and husband. This novel requires the reader to pay attention to the prose, as well as how details about characters are revealed in a nuanced, but smart way.
Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng: Part murder mystery and cultural examination, I loved the unfolding of how this Asian family navigated their daughter’s disappearance. As a reader we don’t have to guess whether, Lydia, the daughter, is alive or dead – Ng tells us in the opening page. The real surprise lies in which version of truth you want to believe, Lydia’s vision or her family’s perspective.
Brave Enough by Cheryl Strayed: I’ve always loved quotes, filling several journals with words I adore. Strayed compiles a 100 quotes in this green and gold small book based on her work in Wild and Tiny, Beautiful Things (in my top 10 books of all time). I love several of her quotes, but the one that resonates on a deep level is this: “Most things will be okay eventually, but not everything will be. Sometimes you’ll put up a good fight and lose. Sometimes you’ll hold on really hard and realize there is no choice but to let go. Acceptance is a small, quiet room.”
Tea Time for the Firefly by Shona Patel: This book is by a local author whom I’ve had the pleasure to meet. Patel’s story centers on relationships, culture, racism, war and the intersections of love, loss and tea. The depiction of the Assam tea plantations is so authentic, the reader is immersed in the senses and sounds of another world. This novel is ultimately a love story, but the historical perspective of the teatime plantations adds a dimension that makes the tale extraordinary.
The Small Backs of Children by Lidia Yuknavitch: Straddling several different narratives, this is a story that pushes the boundaries of conventional fiction. You will likely not forget the Eastern European orphan at the center of this tale. It is a novel that hurls the reader into discomfort, but also enchants us with its prose.
Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf: Haruf’s final work is more novella, than novel, but its depth is exacting and unforgettable. Follow the tale of Addie and Louis and the discovery of enchantment later in life, even after experiencing sorrow. This work in particular resonated because its characters focused on the epiphanies of everyday life. Isn’t that what it is all about?
What were your favorite reads of 2015? As a way to thank my generous readers, I will send one commenter two of these books as a token of my appreciation for supporting and reading my work. In the comment section, tell me your favorite book of 2015. The winner will be selected via a random draw on January 1.
Image: Light Reading by quattrostagioni via Flickr.