The Top Twelve List of the Best Fiction I’ve Read in 2015

 

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Another banner year for reading fiction comes to an end, and here again is my list of the best fiction I have read in the past twelve months.  Of course my list is subjective to the extreme, but that is half the fun of these lists anyway.

Click on the picture or title and author to see my original review.

 

1. ‘Fates and Furies’ by Lauren Groff Fates(2015) – Here is a writer who can comfortably put Greek myth and Shakespeare into a modern marriage story. There is a manic energy and an inventiveness here that puts this novel above the rest.

 

 

 

 

2. 42780977 ‘Honeydew’ by Edith Pearlman (2015) – Finally a collection of  stories that is at least as good as the quotes on the back cover.  Each story is dense, warm, and poignant. A quirky weirdness permeates most of these stories, all for the better.

 

 

 

 

 

3. ‘T9780812996722_p0_v1_s118x184hirteen Ways of Looking’ by Colum McCann (2015) – The title novella here is the finest fiction I’ve read this year. The prose is lyrical and hypnotic.

 

 

 

 

 

14005824. ‘The Story of the Lost Child’ by Elena Ferrante (2015) – The final novel about Lenu and Lila, the two girls from a Naples neighborhood now grown up. Now that it is over, will I face Ferrante-withdrawal?

 

 

 

 

23269047._UY200_5. ‘When the Doves Disappeared’ by Sofi Oksanen (2012) – A novel about Estonia from the German occupation in World War II through the Soviet occupation which lasted 44 years after the war. The doves disappeared, because the occupying Germans liked to eat doves.

 

 

 

 

coverimg6. ‘How to be Both’ by Ali Smith (2014) – A playful novel of two parts. One part follows the Italian Renaissance painter Francesco del Cossa. The other part is about a 16 year old girl living in modern England named George who hates the song ‘Georgy Girl’ for which she was named.

 

 

 

7A wild Swan-web. ‘A Wild Swan’ by Michael Cunningham (2015) – Some of the oldest fairy tales including ‘Beauty and the Beast’, ‘Rumpelstiltskin’, and ‘Snow White’ are re-told from a wicked grown-up perspective.

 

 

 

 

sellout8. ‘The Sellout’ by Paul Beatty (2015) – This is the comic account of the town of Dickens, a rural suburb stuck in the middle of Los Angeles. The sentences in ‘The Sellout’ take so many twists and turns you wind up in a different place than when you started them.

 

 

 


70296689. Purge’ by Sofi Oksanen
(2010) – A second entry for Sofi Oksanen who is my discovery of the year after Groff. It is the story of Zara, a young woman taken up by two violent Russian male pimps, and Aliide Truu, an old woman living in the Estonian countryside. This novel confronts deeper truths of good and evil than other novels do.

 

 

 

 

cv_americanlover10. ‘The American Lover’ by Rose Tremain (2015) – A varied group of convincing stories by one of the world’s better novelists. This collection will do until Rose Tremain writes another novel.

 

 

 

 

 

9780316231244_p0_v2_s118x18411. ‘There Must be Some Mistake’ by Frederick Barthelme (2014) – A humorous novel about modern junk culture where everyone under thirty looks like a gas station attendant even though there are no gas station attendants anymore. A guy who shows up in cowboy regalia is ‘cowboyed up’. Our food arrives thick, gloppy, greasy, misshapen, lukewarm, and inedible.’

 

 

 

978037417853612. ‘The Dog’ by Jack Livings (2015) – Perhaps the best description of China’s current government is “socialism with Chinese characteristics”.  General Motors now sells more cars in China than in the United States. These stories give us the lively inside story about what’s going on in China today.

 

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18 responses to this post.

  1. It’s good to see the Ali Smith on your list. I found Francescho’s voice particularly captivating.

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    • Hi JacquiWine,
      Yes, ‘How to Be Both’ was the first of the books on this list that I read last year. I expect it may have placed higher if I had read it later in the year.

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  2. I’ve hardly read any new books this year but, clearly, I’m missing out.

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    • HI Caroline,
      Over the years, I’ve read most of the classics which I want to read, so lately I’ve been reading mostly new books. I leave out my read-classics (any fiction over ten years old) from my list, because I don’t think its fair for new novels to have to compete with ‘War and Peace’ or ‘Middlemarch. This year I did classics like ‘Portrait of a Lady’ by Henry James, ‘The Perfect Stranger’ by Pat Kavanagh, and ‘Lines of Life’ by Francois Mauriac.

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      • I appreciate that you concentrate on new books because those are the ones I’m not sure about. I’ve not read as many in the past months because I’m so often disappointed. I’m sure for every good one, you’ve read at least one or two weak ones.

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  3. A great list!

    A week ago I compiled a list of the books that appeared most often on the media’s Best of 2015 lists. And I reckon you’ve managed to read the cream of the crop. Fates & Furies next on my reading list.

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  4. Posted by kaggsysbookishramblings on December 13, 2015 at 1:34 PM

    I didn’t read many new books this year, but Honeydew was one I did, and I agree it was a great collection.

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    • Hi kaggsy,
      I put Edith Pearlman in that rarefied territory of short story writers up there with Alice Munro. Their stories have little in common except that they are always captivating. I’ve read both of Pearlman’s collections.

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  5. Posted by Mij Woodward on December 14, 2015 at 9:13 PM

    Appreciate this list! You talked me into adding Colum McCann’s Thirteen Ways of Looking to my “to read” list. Which I why I visit your site here every week. Lookin’ for that next good book.

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  6. Some great books for me to check out here – I’ve read none of your choices. Particularly interested in the Frederick Barthelme.

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  7. I’ve never read any Ali Smith, but this one really does tempt. I’d have to get it in hardcopy I think without looking, so as to get the random order effect properly (on Kindle you get to choose the order, which seems somehow wrong).

    Great cover on the Barthelme, which I admit isn’t the most sophisticated of comments…

    Do you plan to read When the Great World Spins?

    Am I right in recalling that though you loved City of Bohane (which didn’t in the end make my end of year list, though I considered it) and Dark Lies the Island you didn’t take to Beatlebone, or am I getting mixed up?

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    • Hi Max,
      I had forgotten about that changing the order ploy for ‘How to be Both’. Actually I thought it was quite lame as the writer should be able to figure out the right order for the story to be told. However the novel itself is far from lame.

      I probably will read ‘Let the Great World Spin’ as Colum McCann is one of my best discoveries of 2015.

      I did love Kevin Barry’s two previous works, but ‘Beatlebone’ did not work for me. What I like about Kevin Barry is his dark mysterious view of things, and perhaps John Lennon was just too familiar a character. Just listening to ‘Come Together’ I can recognize Lennon’s genius, but his personality was quite earthbound. Not that Paul McCartney is any better. Kevin Barry himself seems to have only a middling attitude toward John Lennon, and that shows in the writing.

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