The Best Books I Read in 2015

Here’s my annual round-up of the 12 best books I read over the past year, one for every month. They are presented here alphabetically by title, with my favorite of all of them, which I saw on virtually no other list, saved until last. Happy reading!

after birth        ball

After Birth, by Elisa Albert (2015)


Ball: Stories, by Tara Ison (2015)



cult of the presidencycartel


                             The Cartel, by Don Winslow (2015)


The Cult of the Presidency, by Gene Healy (2008)



first bad mani am pilgrim


The First Bad Man, by Miranda July (2015)


I Am Pilgrim, by Terry Hayes (2014)



mr_bridge_connelllittle life

               A Little Life, by Hanya Yanagihara (2015)


                      Mr. Bridge, by Evan S. Connell (1969)




purity macfarquhar-strangers_drowning-201x300

Purity, by Jonathan Franzen (2015)


Strangers Drowning, by Larissa McFarquhar (2015)



terms of service


                                                          Terms of Service, by Jacob Silverman (2015)





And my selection for Favorite Book of the Year is…

against the country

I wrote at some length about this book soon after its publication in February. In my comments, I observed that it was the “first great read” of 2015, “unlike any other book we likely to encounter this year.”

Nearly eleven months and 70 books later, I can think of no other book that demanded more of me and whose voice held me as captive as Ben Metcalf’s unnamed narrator, and so it gets my nod for favorite book of the year, edging out A Little Life and After Birth. There’s not much more I can add here that I didn’t include in that initial review, so I’ll offer up two excerpted reviews (not that there are many to find, alas) that sum up perfectly how I feel about this deranged, intoxicating, and somehow still beautiful book.

I fully believe that, as did Ulysses, its forebear in grand prolixity and simultaneous destabilization and codification of national identity, Against the Country will become first a bible for a devout cadre of obsessives, leading to later justified canonical enshrinement. It’s that good, that important.
Kent Wascom, on The Book Musings

Beyond what I hope those passages make clear, full, as they are, with sentences of extraordinary interest and beauty, originality and art, drama and delight, I will say the following. I should confirm, personally, that at least one human reader has read the novel twice and found in it only pleasure, pleasure that was, absolutely, a unique experience of pain. Not the pains suggested by the novel’s blockhead reviewers—“effort” the word they keep naming to indict; “exhaustion” the condition they call in sick with: Metcalf has made them struggle so!—but the pain of a human child’s growing up.
Wyatt Mason, “The Metcalfiad,” from Oxford American

On to 2016!

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