The Best Things I Read this Year

December 29th, 2015Posted by Nancy

Hawk   Which is not precisely the same as the best books of 2015.  These are the books I read in 2015 that moved me to talk about them, recommend them, think about them, or buy my own copy.

H is for Hawk

by Helen MacDonald

I love good nature writing because the best of it is always about something more than that – and I’m a sucker for a good descriptive passage.  Helen MacDonald is mourning the sudden death of her father and seizes on the ambitious project of training a goshawk as a way through her debilitating grief.  In consulting the literature on this process, she revisits a book from her childhood, The Goshawk, by T.H. White.  It’s not a perfect book but her descriptions of the goshawk are astonishing: “She is a conjuring trick. A reptile. A fallen angel. A griffon from the pages of an illuminated bestiary. Something bright and distant, like gold falling through water.” This is probably the best book I read all year.


Parable    Kindred/Parable of the Sower/Parable of the Talents

    by Octavia Butler

During the whole kerfuffle about the Hugos and “the year of not reading straight white males”, I went hunting for lists to expand my own reading. I rarely read straight white males but my reading is generally dominated by white women, so this seemed an opportunity to go looking for new books.  I’d read a number of Octavia Butler’s novels twenty years ago but not these.  All brilliant and thought-provoking, especially the “Parable” books, whose depiction of environmental and economic collapse in California is scarily timely.



signal    Signal to Noise

     By Silvia Moreno-Garcia


Magic and music in Mexico City over two decades.  I’m at the age where I remember mixtapes and the eighties and the intense bond of outsider friends, clinging to their music and differences to keep themselves sane.  Highly recommended.



MollyFalling From Horses

by Molly Gloss

The Dazzle of Day is one of the most interesting books I’ve ever read about space exploration.  I kept finding this book at the library and dismissing it, but finally I borrowed it.  It’s about Hollywood in the 1930s, stunt riders, horses, the hardscrabble farming life in rural Oregon and artists finding their way.  It was much richer and more fascinating that I’d expected.



Experimental Film    Experimental Film

    by Gemma Files

Full disclosure: I’ve known Gemma for years and we’re both part of the Bellefire writing group.  While the aforementioned it true, it’s also true that I’ve admired Gemma’s dark imagination and razor-edged prose for years.  I read various parts of this book when it was in progress and knew it was going to be good.  And it is.  Lois Cairns, a 40ish film critic facing failure and a challenging home life, discovers the eerie traces of a film made by a previously unknown female filmmaker in the early 20th century, but her pursuit of the truth about Mrs. Whitcomb will jeopardize everything she values.  The folk tale at the heart of the mystery is one of the creepiest things I’ve read in years.



katrina   Katrina: After the Flood

   by Gary Rivlin

This is a fascinating and infuriating picture of the flood and the challenges, failures, grassroots successes and political chicanery that came afterwards.



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2 responses

  • 1 Robin Berthelet · Jan 2, 2016 at 7:35 pm

    Nancy, I was so thrilled to hear a review of Cold Hillside on CBC Radio Canada today, The Next Chapter with Shelagh Rogers. Your previous books enthralled me and I rushed to Kobo to see if the new book (plus digital copies of the first three) were available. Joyous news, all books are now safely ensconced in my more mobile library. This is more of a gush message than a comment on your Best Things column, but I’m so happy to see a new book from you

  • 2 Nancy · Jan 3, 2016 at 1:31 pm

    Thanks so much for the kind words. I hope you enjoy Cold Hillside and revisiting the original books. All the best to you in 2016!

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