If you’ve been following this irregular little blog along, you’ll recall that my 2015 focus was on short stories. And, mostly, I’ve stuck to them. Overall, I read 29 books in 2015. This is not a great record. I am, however, a slow reader as I need to reflect/journal along while reading. That said, I intend to do better in 2016 and will get into that shortly.
In an earlier post, I’d focused on my favorite 2015 short story reads related to India (and talked about why the short story form is so relevant/important — I intend to write more on this in 2016).
Here, I’ll focus on overall favorite 2015 reads. These are not newly-published works as I’m still making my way through my own bookshelves. Also, though I did read non-fiction and novels and poetry, I’m focusing on my favorite short story collections as that was my 2015 reading goal. Here’s my entire list of my 2015 reads.
1. Enormous Changes at the Last Minute: Stories by Grace Paley
Paley’s short stories are mostly New York based. This entire collection is so too. She has this amazing skill of packing an entire world into a single sentence. Her beginnings and endings are worth taking some time over because of the craft and life in them. There were a couple of stories in this collection that I struggled with thematically but the writing never fails to sing.
2. Tales From Firozsha Baag by Rohinton Mistry
I won’t repeat the gushing tribute to this collection that I wrote earlier. Suffice to say that Mistry is, by my reckoning, one of the best writers of Indian origin out there. He knows how to create a world that we want to inhabit, that we can learn from, and that we never want to leave. The most striking aspect of his writing is the attention to particular detail. The choices he makes regarding what to compress, what to expand on — these are worth paying attention to.
3. Gold Boy, Emerald Girl by Yiyun Li
Li has won awards for this collection. Her stories are well-told little studies in the art of living. And, though they are mostly set in China, they hold up an unflinching mirror to different lives and worlds everywhere. You know how, with some stories, they seem to live on long after you’ve read them? The characters continue to, well, talk in your head as you go about your everyday life? That’s what happened.
4. Selected Stories by Alice Munro
What can I say about the sublime Alice Munro that hasn’t already been said? She’s another writer who packs an entire world into a single sentence. And, all her female characters are so well-drawn and well-rounded that they, too, live on long after the page is done. Munros beginnings and endings are also a masterclass in writing. This is one collection I will return to every few years, I think.
5. Tenth of December: Stories by George Saunders
And, speaking of returning, Saunders’ stories evoke the same response. The tragic-comic style, the humanity, and the voices — all of these come together so beautifully that, when I was done, I just sat with the book in my lap for a while and thought: this is why books are as necessary as breathing or eating. They are nutrition for the soul. Saunders’ stories are that and entertainment and works of art — all together. And, oh, so much more that I am incapable of articulating.
With literary non-fiction, my favorite 2015 read was a book I re-read every few years, ‘A Writer’s Diary‘ by Virginia Woolf. It is filled with so many gems and it is always over too soon.
Coming up: 2016 Reading and Writing Resolutions.