Editors’ Best Books of 2015 — Jennifer’s Picks

With 2015 winding down, the RT editors thought December would be a good time to reflect on what each of us read this year and which books stuck with us long after we finished them. All month long, the editors will be sharing our personal favorites reads of the year, in no particular order. Today RT Editor Jennifer Peters lists her top reads of the year: 

Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson — This was the best book I read all year — or maybe ever. I’m not exaggerating. This book is incredible, amazing, wonderful, etc. Lawson tackles the topic of mental illness and depression with such aplomb, and I laughed out loud so many times reading about her adventures in being “furiously happy” despite her issues. My face hurt from smiling and laughing so much while reading Lawson’s story, yet as soon as I finished the book, I immediately flipped back to the beginning to read all my favorite parts over again.

Between You Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen by Mary Norris — Okay, I admit it: I’m a total grammar geek. I frequently fall in love with people because they can correctly use a semi-colon or know the difference between a hyphen, an em dash and an en dash. So New Yorker copy chief Norris’ memoir/grammar guide was a must-read for me. And it was perfection. Norris has a zippy, witty voice that is at once PhD-level brilliant and still totally relatable. Her life is fascinating, and her grammar lessons even more so. I plan to reread this one until my copy falls apart.

In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware — The unreliable narrator has been a big hit ever since Gone Girl, and it’s been thrilling to see other authors’ takes on that style. By far the best I’ve come across, though, is Ware’s debut. She pulls you deep into the mystery right from the first line, and she doesn’t let up until the very end. There were so many horrifyingly delightful twists and turns, yet it felt entirely plausible, too. My copy of this book has been circulating amongst my friends since I finished it, and at this point, I doubt I’ll ever get it back, because everyone who reads it wants at least 10 more friends to read it, too — and they all love it.

Signal to Noise by Silvia Moreno-Garcia — This book came highly recommended by RT’s reviews coordinator, Regina Small, and when she raves about a book, I know it’s going to be a good one. And she was spot-on with this one. The story is so completely unique and original in a way that I’d never expected, and while it was difficult to love the characters, I found myself rooting for them nonetheless. This one took me by surprise in so many ways, and I never really knew what was going to happen next, but once I started reading, I couldn’t put it down.

Normal by Graeme Cameron — I should preface this by saying I hate horror stories. I can’t handle being kept up all night, and I scare very, very easily. (Friends, this is not an invitation to try to give me a heart attack, got it? Good!) Yet the past two years, a “horror” story has made it onto my best-of list. And Cameron’s, while less horrific, is incredibly thought-provoking. You’ll feel sympathy for the devilish anti-hero, and delineating between right and wrong will seem impossible, and you’ll love every page of it. This book kept me up all night, but only partially from fear; mostly, I just wanted to know how it would end — while at the same time not wanting it to end at all.

Blue Stars, Emily Gray TedroweBlue Stars by Emily Gray Tedrowe — I cried a lot reading this book. So much. The amount of research into the veterans healthcare system and conditions at Walter Reed Army Medical Center that the author did was impressive, but more impressive was her ability to craft relatable three-dimensional characters who so believably lived their stories. I especially related to Ellen, whose not-quite son joins the Marines and later gets wounded; her inability to understand her own feelings and to allow herself to even have feelings about his enlistment and then injury was fascinating and familiar. This was definitely another “I wish I could make everyone read this” title for me.

Learning to Die in the Anthropocene by Roy Scranton— While by day I’m an editor at RT, by night, I’m a writer and editor focused on war and the military. And it’s in that other life that I first encountered Scranton, when he co-edited a collection of short stories about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He’s incredibly brilliant and funny, and has quite a way with words, so I’d been looking forward to his debut book for quite some time, and it did not disappoint. Anthropocene is about how climate change impacts us all, and what we have to do to move forward as the world slowly ends around us. He doesn’t present any new evidence or wild ideas, but what he does is make something that seems so impossible to penetrate — the scientific and philosophical debate around climate change — feel relatable and understandable. I’ve now forced this title on numerous friends, all of whom are now eagerly awaiting Scranton’s next book.

The Knife by Ross Ritchell — I maybe read too many books about war, but Ritchell’s tale of a Special Forces unit was one of the most compelling I came across this year. A veteran himself, Ritchell pens a compelling tale of the men who will do anything necessary to complete a mission and the toll that work takes on them and their relationships in and out of the unit. This dark, fast-paced story won’t be for everyone, but I’d consider it essential reading for anyone living in a world that is constantly at war — which is everyone.

It’s What I Do: A Photographer’s Life of Love and War by Lynsey Addario — Are you seeing a trend here now? Okay, so picking a memoir by a photojournalist who is known for her coverage of war and conflict is probably expected, but Addario’s book was definitely unexpected. There was something fascinating about her personal story, though I can’t quite put my finger on why it stayed with me all this time. It was really no different from any other journalist’s memoir, and yet, it stands out. Part of the appeal, I’m certain, is the inclusion of her stunning and at times heartbreaking photography. Anyone as obsessed with the news and how it’s covered as I am will want to read this one.

For a peek at all our editors’ picks, go here!

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