At the start of every year it seems like there are a few books I always look forward to reading — a new biography of someone I admire, the latest great work of fiction by one of my most-beloved novelists, or that title by a debut writer that I just know everyone is going to be talking about for weeks. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, the end of the year draws near and suddenly I realize that I’ve read not just a few, but about 200 books that I’ve absolutely loved. And I’m going to have to move again because they’ve started taking over the apartment… again. But let’s be honest: a year of endlessly great books is exactly the kind of problem I love to have.
If you’re looking for things to be thankful for this Thanksgiving (I know, sometimes we’re crabby, and it’s hard), maybe you need look no further than your very own bookshelves. Here are 15 books released in 2015 that I’m thankful for having read this year, just in time for Thanksgiving.
1. Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert
Because who isn’t totally ready to start "living a life that is driven more strongly by curiosity than by fear." Filled with inspiring anecdotes, and motivating real-world advice, and even a little bit of humor, Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic will light a big fire under your butt to do something great with your creative, daring self. Go to it.
2. Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Written as an intimate letter to his son about the harsh realities of racial violence that still exist in the United States, Between the World and Me takes readers of all backgrounds into a conversation they might not otherwise be privy to, making the political personal and demonstrating how America’s violent history is a legacy we haven’t moved all that far away from yet, while still offering hope for the future.
3. One Thousand Wells by Jena Lee Nardella
The subtitle says it all: “how an audacious goal taught me to love the world instead of save it.” One Thousand Wells should officially be required reading for all world-changing millennials, college graduates, and volunteer corps prospectives — because making a difference is great, but sometimes all you really need is love.
4. The Art of Memoir by Mary Karr
As honest, irreverent, unflinching, and mesmerizing as her writing always is, the master of memoir Mary Karr has written the ultimate guide to a great literary memoir — and she isn’t afraid to tell you that you might just not be ready to write one yourself. The Art of Memoir is such a necessary read for all aspiring writers.
5. God Help the Child by Toni Morrison
For anyone (aka: everyone) who has been waiting for Toni Morrison to write another novel since you finished reading everything else she’s ever written 15 times already, God Help the Child is for you. The main character, Bride, is the kind of strong, devastating, angry, resilient woman Morrison has been made famous by writing, and you’ll adore her as you’ve done Sethe, Pecola, and all the rest.
6. Humans of New York: Stories by Brandon Stanton
Because you always wanted to know more Humans of New York: Stories presents the longer stories behind the photographs.
7. Voices in the Ocean by Susan Casey
Like you needed more proof that the dolphin is your spirit animal. Susan Casey’s Voices in the Ocean presents and in-depth exploration of human’s relationship with dolphins — from ancient history to the present day, and offers endless evidence as to why dolphins are literally the greatest creatures on earth, much smarter than people, and should be protected forever.
8. The Mushroom at the End of the World by Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing
From the oddest of starting points — that of the matsutake mushroom, reported to be the first living thing to have grown from the land of Hiroshima after the atomic bombing — Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing’s The Mushroom at the End of the World evolves into a well-researched and thought-provoking meditation on capitalism, resilience, and survival.
9. The Arab of the Future by Riad Sattouf
In this timely, graphic memoir, cartoonist Riad Sattouf tells the story of his childhood spent in France, Libya, and Syria, and what it means to have grown up in violent countries ruled by dictators. Depicting political and religious fervor, cultural absurdities, and one family’s hope for the future of their Arab children, The Arab of the Future is a must-read.
10. A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson
Encompassing almost a century in the lives of one family, Kate Atkinson’s A God in Ruins is so spectacularly ambitious a novel that it makes me want to write better and quit writing altogether at the same time, for fear I’ll never measure up. At the center resides Teddy Todd, a former R.A.F. pilot and journalist who is so richly constructed you’ll be certain you know him in real life by the time you’re done reading.
11. The Last Love Song by Tracy Daugherty
Because seriously, there can never be enough Joan Didion on my shelves. The Last Love Song is the first biography printed about Didion’s life, and if you’re a die-hard lover of Didion like I am, it is everything you want it to be and more.
12. It's What I Do: A Photographer's Life of Love and War by Lynsey Addario
From Afghanistan to Libya, Darfur to Iraq, to the Congo and Somalia, photojournalist Lynsey Addario has never been unwilling to get “too close” to her subjects and their lives. Documenting her time spent capturing unforgettable images in some of the world’s most desperate conflict zones, It’s What I Do is ultimately a memoir of hope and humanity.
13. Farewell Kabul: From Afghanistan to a More Dangerous World by Christina Lamb
Making sense of everything you might not understand — but need to in today’s global climate — Farewell Kabul untangles the horrible, messy complications of the war in the Middle East and the spread of terrorism, while attaching a human face to every headline.
14. Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff
Novelist Lauren Groff has taken one of the oldest plots in the history of fiction — marriage, romance — and written it with not just one, but two fresh and interesting perspectives. A story told twice, from each member of the domestic partnership’s POV Fates and Furies is a novel about much more than marriage. Plus Lauren Groff’s prose style is something to be envied.
15. The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson
In a nutshell, you’ll love The Argonauts for turning the idea of traditional marriage and motherhood roles completely upside-down and inside out, via the voice of a woman writer who portrays the two as expansive and empowering, rather than detractive and suffocating. Maggie Nelson rocks.
Image: Natasia Causse/flickr