It's the most wonderful time of the reading year, when the lists of favorite books appear. They remind me of authors I haven't met yet, and books that I want to read. I still have about 30 hours before the TBR Dare kicks in - so plenty of time to reserve or order a few more.
As always, I can't resist compiling my own list. In fact, I started it last week, and I've been mulling it over since then. Here are my favorite books of 2015, generally in the order in which I read them:
Live Alone and Like It, by Marjorie Hillis. Snappy and snarky, this "Classic Guide for the Single Woman" of 1936 is full of practical advice, some of it still applicable 79 years later. I also enjoyed her second book, Bubbly on Your Budget, from 1937.
The Nile, by Toby Wilkinson. I loved this mix of history, archaeology, and travelogue, as the author traced the Nile from its sources to the Delta.
Century of Struggle, by Eleanor Flexner. Another classic, this time a history of the women's rights movement in the United States, first published in 1959.
A Humble Enterprise, by Ada Cambridge. I collect stories set in tea shops, and this 1898 novel about a family struggling to support themselves after their father's tragic death is charming. Sadly, the recipe for the scones that draw the Melbourne crowds is not included.
There Was and There Was Not, by Meline Toumani. An exploration of the Armenian diaspora and the continuing influence of the early 20th-century genocide in Turkey. It is also an account of the time the author spent living in Turkey, to research the book. I learned so much about Armenia and Turkey and the genocide itself from this.
The Turning Season, by Sharon Shinn. I thought this story about shape-shifters was very clever and original (not that I've read that many stories about shifters). It is the third in a series, of which I enjoyed the first (The Shape of Desire) much more than the second (Still Life with Shape-Shifter).
Pioneer Girl, by Laura Ingalls Wilder (Pamela Hill, ed). I thought my copy of Wilder's autobiography was never going to arrive. It was absolutely worth the wait. I was reading parts of The Long Winter the other night (as I frequently do), and remembering how excited I was to see a picture of Mrs. Boast.
Mr. Scarborough's Family, by Anthony Trollope. This bicentennial year of Anthony Trollope's birth inspired Audrey's #6Barsets project, to read through the Barchester chronicles. I loved re-reading Doctor Thorne, The Small House at Allington, and The Last Chronicle of Barset. But it was this late novel that really stood out for me. It is a darker story, of a father with an inheritance, and two sons. There were two twists in that story that left me gaping, unable to believe what Mr. Scarborough (and his creator) had pulled off. I am currently 500 pages into the 800-page Orley Farm, and I think it will be on my "Best of 2016" list.
Girl in a Green Gown, by Carola Hicks. This book is a history of a painting, the Arnolfini Portrait by Jan van Eyck (one of my favorite painters). Carola Hicks explored different elements in the painting, while tracing not just its creation, but how it moved across Europe, to end in Britain's National Gallery.
The Real Charlotte, by E.O. Somerville and Martin Ross. I am slowly working my way through their collected works, and I can see why this 1894 novel is considered their masterpiece.
The Light of the World, by Elizabeth Alexander. A poetic and heart-breaking memoir about marriage and family, shaped by the sudden death of the author's husband.
The Children of Pride, Robert Manson Myers, ed. I became a little obsessed with this collection of letters from a Georgia family, written during the Civil War. First I read the abridged 671-page edition (covering 1861-1868). Then I tackled the original, which opened in 1854. I didn't read all of its 1440 pages, but I appreciated the earlier letters, with more information about the family. The abridgement has some very touching letters on the death of a young mother and her child, which oddly aren't included in the longer book - so yes, I am keeping both of them for now.
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, by N.K. Jemisin. This book, the first of an "inheritance trilogy," follows Yeine Darr, who has just been named an heiress to her grandfather's throne of the Hundred Thousand Kingdoms. But what that really means is that she is now fighting not just for the throne, but for her life, against the other two candidates, her cousins. N.K. Jemisin created a fascinating world, where the gods walk among their people - not always willingly. I need to look for more of her books.
The Deepening Stream, by Dorothy Canfield (Fisher). This author's books became another obsession this year. As much as I enjoyed Rough-Hewn and Her Son's Wife, this story of Matey Gilbert was my favorite.
Keeping Fires Night and Day, Mark J. Madigan, ed. A collection of Dorothy Canfield Fisher's letters. See obsession above. (Also one of the most meticulously-edited collections I have ever read, a delight to my archivist self.)
The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra, by Vaseem Khan. A twisty thriller set in Mumbai, starring a reluctantly-retired police inspector and a baby elephant, the "unexpected inheritance" of the title. I am looking forward to the second book in this new series.
All on Fire, by Henry Mayer. This massive biography of the pioneering editor and abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison launched my third obsession of the year. I've lined up some additional reading on the abolitionist movement, and on Garrison himself (including a biography written by his children).
I feel like I can't leave out Patricia Wentworth and Miss Silver, considering how many books of hers that I read this year. I thought Spotlight (AKA The Wicked Uncle) was great fun.
Looking over my reading journal, I read more books than usual this year, but I wrote about fewer. This was mainly due to internet issues and to illness at different times. I made a serious dent in my TBR stacks, though I didn't manage to get the number to 200 this month (it's currently at 232). My goal for 2016 is to get it to 100. (Realistically, the only way I think I can make that is to not buy books. And I don't actually think that's realistic.) My other goal for this year was to read more diverse authors, and I succeeded in that. I will keep that goal in 2016, aiming for at least 12 books (or 10%) by authors of color.
Happy New Year, a little early! Now I'm off to read some other people's lists, and add to mine. I hope 2016 brings us all even more great books. And a more peaceful world - as long as I'm hoping. And my replacement reading glasses - I am so tired of squinting.