Every year I read a few books that will stay with me for a long time. If I’m lucky, as I was this year, I find a book or books that will be added to my list of “Favorite books of all time.” Here are the five books I read this year that I most enjoyed (regardless of when they were originally published).
- The Nightingale (2015) – I found myself constantly comparing this book to All the Light We Cannot See, another historical fiction that takes place during WWII. Because of how much I enjoyed that book, The Nightingale had a lot to measure up to. Whereas Dooer’s book immediately grabs you, it took me longer to become invested here. And whereas All The Light We Cannot See excels because of its beautiful prose, this book succeeds because of the emotionally wrought story being told. By the end, I was completely captivated by this and found myself thinking about it for days afterward.
- Cat’s Eye (1998) – Until this book, Surfacing was my favorite non-dystopian book by Margaret Atwood. Cat’s Eye now claims that spot. There were parts of this that were so honest and awkward in their depiction of children being cruel to each other that it was uncomfortable to read. Atwood does an amazing job of providing a main character who is not necessarily an unreliable narrator but who is definitely an unaware narrator. And yet the author finds ways to convey subtle ideas of just how unaware that narrator is without ruining the main character’s voice. A really wonderful book.
- All the Light We Cannot See (2014) – Everything about this book was excellent. It’s always a pleasant surprise when a book can live up to all the acclaim it has received and this is one of the few that does. The writing and story are both great, and Doerr does a remarkable job of keeping you engaged the entire time. The author also does a good job of making it easy to follow multiple story lines.
- War is a Racket (1935) – This falls under the category of “Must Read.” Butler’s argument is that the wealthy elite benefit financially from war while everyone else suffers, either through fighting in the wars or else from paying for the war that the rich get richer from. Part of what makes the book so powerful is Butler’s history: he fought in WWI and was the most decorated soldier of his lifetime when he wrote this. For me, that gives him credibility that can never be matched by a politician (who probably never fought in a war) going on TV and giving reasons for yet another conflict. Read this each time some person on the news states the case for another war and you’ll likely see how hollow their words are and how much weight Butler’s words carry.
- Between the World and Me (2015) – I had high expectations for Ta-Nehisi Coates’s letter to his son. After only a few pages I was blown away by how poetic the author is. Between the World and Me contains the best and most powerful writing I’ve read in a long time. By the time I was half the way through this, I was already thinking it was the best book I’ve read this year. By the time I finished the book I had to adjust my rating to consider it not just the best book of the year but one of my favorites of all time. It is impossible to read this and not feel incredibly saddened by the injustices all around us. My highest possible recommendation to everyone.