One of my goals in 2015 (and every year) is to read more, and I definitely stepped it up. I love sharing the ones that I enjoyed (and couldn’t stop thinking about); here are my top 4 from 2015.
The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins: The “girl on the train” is Rachel, who commutes into London and back each day, rolling past the backyard of a happy-looking couple she names Jess and Jason. Then one day Rachel sees “Jess” kissing another man. The day after that, Jess goes missing.
This one has been a best seller for months but I’d heard a few negative reviews. I borrowed a copy and decided to give it a try. I was completely engrossed, which is interesting because I really didn’t like Rachel, who tells most of the story. (Actually, I don’t think that I really liked any of the characters.) I did figure out what happened pretty early on, but it was a quick read and I was satisfied with the ending.
The Interestings: A Novel by Meg Wolitzer: This knowing, generous and slyly sly new novel follows a group of teenagers who meet at a summer camp for artsy teens in 1974 and survive as friends through the competitions and realities of growing up.
I started this one back in 2014 but just couldn’t get into it. The first few chapters are about Jules, Ethan, Jonah, Ash, and Goodman — a group of friends from summer camp. (Ash and Goodman are sister and brother.) Again, I didn’t really like any of these characters and I’ve never been to summer camp, so it didn’t reel me in. I came back to it a few months ago, determined to not waste my $9.99. I’m glad that I did, because once you pass the summer camp days, you follow the group into their post-collegiate lives in NYC, which is much more fascinating. The characters and setting reminded me of one of my favorite books, The Marriage Plot. It’s one of those coming-of-age books with complicated friendships and relationships that sticks with you, even if it’s about annoying rich kids.
This is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper: Simultaneously hilarious and hopeful, This Is Where I Leave You is as much about a family’s reckoning as it is about one man’s attempt to get it together. The affectionate, warts-and-all portrayal of the Foxmans will have fans wishing for a sequel (and clamoring for all things Tropper).
I admit that I definitely pictured the actors who play the characters in the movie while reading this, but I think that made it more real for me. Imagining Tina Fey as Wendy, the sarcastic sister in a sad marriage, Jane Fonda as the sassy Jewish mother, and Jason Bateman as Judd, the lovable main character who just found out that his pregnant wife is having an affair, made it all more realistic and funny. (The only one I struggled with was the youngest brother, Phillip, who I kept picturing as Dax Shepard. He actually plays Wade, Judd’s boss and who his wife is cheating with.) Long review short, the Foxman siblings have to sit shiva after their father has passed and the novel is about dealing with family, returning to a hometown, and all of the hilarious and heartfelt craziness that goes with it.
Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell: Set over the course of one school year in 1986, this is the story of two star-crossed misfits—smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try. When Eleanor meets Park, you’ll remember your own first love—and just how hard it pulled you under.
I’m such a sucker for books like this. I love a good, witty, interesting love story and there’s nothing like remembering a first love. Eleanor has a sad life and is the outcast at school, but Park becomes her friend and eventually falls in love with her. Their first time holding hands, sneaking out to meet, etc. is all so well described by Rowell that you can remember when you were in that place, too. Since the book takes place in the 80s, there are also awesome throwbacks to mixed tapes. I have an issue with book endings — I’m often frustrated or annoyed with how the story wraps up — but this one ended just as I felt it should.
I’m always looking for great new reads! What are your favorites from this year?