I didn’t get to read as much as I would have liked this year (but then, I often feel as though I never get to read as much as I would ever like…), but the books I did read were all enjoyable. The only one that I just couldn’t get into (and stopped reading altogether) was The Bostonians by Henry James. I wanted to like the book, it had been on my to-read list for a long time, but I had a hard time getting into the story and connecting with the characters – they all seemed wooden and uninteresting. I try to make a point of finishing every book I’ve started, but I gave myself special permission to not finish this one as life is too short (and my reading list too long )to be stuck in a book I’m not enjoying.
Without further ado, here are my favorite reads of 2015:
A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway
“If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.”
I had been wanting to read this book for awhile, but had a hard time finding a copy that I could afford. Thankfully, I found one while traveling and picked up this nice edition on a sale table at Book People in Austin. Hemingway’s memoir of his early years as a writer in Paris wasn’t disappointing, even proving to be as riveting as his fictional works.
High Rising by Angela Thirkell
“At this moment the headmaster found Master Wesendonck’s tall pile of books slipping from his grasp. He juggled frantically with them for a moment and then, to the infinite joy of the boarders and day boys, they crashed to the ground in all directions. A bevy of form masters rushed forward to the rescue. Master Wesendonck, realising with immense presence of mind that his natural enemies were for once in their proper place, grovelling on the floor, stood still and did nothing.”
This book was a fun, delightful read. The tale revolves around an author living in a small country village, and is infused with humor and fun. The only complaint I had was the poor editing job from the publishers of my edition – I longed to mark up my book to correct the mistakes, and even contemplated emailing the publishers with my edits. (Yes, I’m a bit of a grammatical nerd. Not enough to love English grammar, though. I really can’t stand diagramming sentences. But I also can’t stand poor punctuation and spelling errors, either…) Don’t let a bad editing job turn you away from this book, however – it’s still worth reading, even if the misplaced punctuation mark might drive one a bit crazy. I have linked to a newer version, which hopefully has been updated and corrected for a smoother reading experience.
Green Dolphin Street by Elizabeth Goudge
“Someone once said to me,said Marguerite, that our home, our special country, is where we find liberation. I suppose she meant that it is where our souls find it easiest to escape from self, and it seem to me that it is that way with us when what is about us echoes the best that we are.”
This was my first Elizabeth Goudge but won’t be my last. In fact, I’m currently reading The City of Bells, but it hasn’t drawn me in quite yet in the way that Green Dolphin Street did. (I think I just need to spend a little more time in the book, as many people count it their favorite Goudge.)
The story of GDS was captivating, if fantastical to the point of disbelief at times. I can see why Ms. Goudge has a faithful following, for her sentences often turn into prose and before you even realize it, she has expertly woven deep messages into a seemingly simple story.
This book is no longer in print, however it seems to be the easiest Goudge book to acquire. Amazon has quite a few copies, but you can also check local used bookstores.
The Circular Staircase by Mary Roberts Rinehart
“People that trust themselves a dozen miles from the city, in strange houses, with servants they don’t know, needn’t be surprised if they wake up some morning and find their throats cut.”
I had never heard of Mary Roberts Rinehart before, but when my local Barnes and Noble was closing, this book was in a clearance bin and caught my eye, perhaps because I had once seen a movie by the same title, but this story is completely unrelated. It is a comedic mystery (is that a genre?) that kept me spellbound for much of the book. I don’t often read a mystery that enthralls and chills me all at once, but Ms. Rinehart’s story did just that. I finished it in record time (even though I was spending most of my time studying and writing papers) mainly because I just couldn’t stop reading it.
Bonus: I discovered a new obscure female author, which is always a delight!
The Wright Brothers by David McCullough
“When you see one of these graceful crafts sailing over your head, and possibly over your home, as I expect you will in the near future, see if you don’t agree with me that the flying machine is one of God’s most gracious and precious gifts.”
I didn’t expect to find a biography gripping, but this one was. Mr. McCullough has a writing style that is simple yet engrossing, and the lives of the Wright Brothers, which I knew very little about, was far more interesting than I had ever thought.
I was able to see Mr. McCullough speak on his book, “The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris”at the Amon Carter Museum in Fort Worth, and if the book is as captivating as his lecture was, that will be a true reading treat.
Note: if you ever have the opportunity to hear Mr. McCullough in person, do not pass it up.
Lady Rose and Mrs. Memmary by Ruby Ferguson
Of course a Persephone must be included in any book list, and this lovely story (almost an ode to Scotland) was a breezy, delightful read of an era that saw grandeur shift in an unimaginably short time, leaving old aristocratic families reeling with the suddenness of societal change. A tale of love and wealth, poverty and brokenness in the halls of aristocrats and amid the rolling hills of Scotland.
Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
“The moon looks wonderful in this warm evening light, just as a candle flame looks beautiful in the light of morning. Light within light…It seems to me to be a metaphor for the human soul, the singular light within that great general light of existence.”
This book was pure joy to read, if only because Marilynne Robinson is so incredibly profound. Her writing style is beautiful in its simplicity, infused with a prosaic elegance that makes you want to highlight every paragraph. The story is easy (a minister at the end of his life reflects upon his years), but there are themes to be plumbed and questions that the author invites us to answer along the way. Ms.Robinson doesn’t let the reader simply be an observer, we are asked to step in and consider the complexities – and beauties – of life.
Love Style Life by Garance Dore
“I hope it will last forever, but maybe it will be just a few days, and it will be great either way. Because you never stop learning about love. Love is joy, pain, surrender, laughter, pleasure. Love is chemistry. Love is one of life’s greatest adventures. And with love, we’re kids forever, stumbling and learning as life unfolds. And this is why, whatever happens, we must keep our hearts open.”
French style: we obsess over it and wish we had that “je ne sais quois” that comes so easily (so we think) to French women. What Garance Dore explains to us in her book is that it’s really a culture in which women are raised, a way of doing and seeing things that composes their seemingly elusive perfection and desirability.
Ms. Dore gives handy tips for things such as what types of clothing/accessories are worth splurging on, classic shapes that never go out of style, and even a chapter on how to shop at Zara! However, what I most appreciate about this book is that while Ms.Dore is giving us an education in dressing French-style, she also allows her readers the freedom to have physical imperfections and flaws.
What were your favorite reads of 2015? Please share in the comments!
Until Next Time,
All photos are my own. Please don’t use them without asking for permission first. Thank you!