Our Favorite Pre-2015 Books We Read this Year

Yesterday we shared our favorite books published in 2015, but we didn’t just read new books last year. We read a lot of titles from years and even decades past, and today we’re sharing our favorites from among those pre-2015 books. Enjoy, and feel free to tell us in the comments or on social media your favorite books you read in 2015!


David Nilsen, editor and critic

AbsolutionThe Absolution of Roberto Acestes Laing by Nicholas Rombes (Two Dollar Radio, 2014) – This cinematic novel is the first fiction from Rombes, an English professor who has written nonfiction about film and music in the past. This fever dream of cinephilic obsession is Lynchian in its tone and execution.

Gender Failure by Rae Spoon and Ivan E. Coyote (Arsenal Pulp Press, 2014) – Genderqueer musicians Spoon and Coyote deliver an honest, informative, and humorous treatise on the impossible demands of the gender binary and their retirements from it in this timely and important book.

The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri (Alfred A. Knopf, 2013) – Lahiri is one of our greatest living fiction authors, and her latest (well, in her latest in English) is heartbreaking, beautiful, and full of the deep pathos we’ve come to expect from her explorations of family and immigrant identity.

We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson (Viking, 1965) – I was only fifty years too late to the party on this one, but I’m glad I finally showed up. Jackson’s book is a poisoned delight of paranoia, dread, and loyalty.

From the Dust Returned by Ray Bradbury (William Morrow, 2001) – Though it was started in the prime of his career, this one was one of his last to be completed and published. The book is a love letter to the world’s outcasts, freaks, loners, and sewn-together families.

The Do-It-Yourself Guide to Fighting the Big Motherfuckin’ Sad by Adam Gnade (Pioneers Press, 2013) – Goodness, Adam Gnade gets it. I can think of no Motherlandhigher praise for this one than to say it helped me feel more known, less alone.

Motherland Fatherland Homelandsexuals by Patricia Lockwood (Penguin Books, 2014) – Lockwood’s second collection is mischievous but don’t dare mistake it for silly; Homelandsexuals is wryly insightful and at points sharply poignant, as with the well-circulated poem Rape Joke. If I could talk over whiskeys with one author I read this year, it would probably be Lockwood.


Melinda Guerra, contributing critic

Forcing the Spring: Inside the Fight for Marriage Equality by Jo Becker (Penguin Press, 2014) — America finally legalized gay marriage in 2015, a much-celebrated event after decades of struggling for LGBTQ+ acceptance and equality. Forcing the Spring chronicles one case (California’s “Prop 8”) as it makes its way to the Supreme Court and ultimately lays the groundwork for what we got to celebrate last summer.  

AmandaThe Art of Asking: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Help by Amanda Palmer (Grand Central Publishing, 2014)  — Amanda Palmer is incredibly gifted creatively – a songwriter/singer/musician, renowned TED speaker, public performance artist, and author, her first book is a call to be true to ourselves: to recognize the vulnerability and sacrifice inherent not only in giving, but also in letting others help us. Her work reminds us that if we choose to trust, sometimes humanity will surprise us brilliantly.


Katy Goodwin-Bates, contributing critic

sunYA – I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson (Dial Books, 2014) – I remain obsessed with this book about twins Jude and Noah. Nelson’s two narrative strands, set three years apart and coming from the perspective of each of the twins, makes you care so much about the characters that it is quite hard to remember that they are not actually real people.

Adult – A Perfectly Good Family by Lionel Shriver (Harper Perennial, 2007) – I have a particular love of Shriver and her snarky, ice-cold protagonists, and this belongs firmly in the category of Great Lionel Shriver novels, along with We Need to Talk About Kevin. Dysfunctional families are one of my favourite literary tropes and Shriver is brilliant at creating and deconstructing them.


diaryChristine Stoddard, poetry and art contributor

Diary: A Novel by Chuck Palahniuk (Anchor, 2004) – As an artist and an art-lover, I relished reading Diary: A Novel by Chuck Palahniuk this year. This dark story is fantastical, yet meticulously researched. If you want a weird tale about a failed romance that’s also packed with art history factoids and painting jargon, read this book.

Eloisa Peréz-Lozano, poetry contributor

 brownBrown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson (Nancy Paulsen Books, 2014) – I’d have to say my favorite book from this year would have to be “Brown Girl Dreaming” by Jacqueline Woodson. She touches on complex themes like race, family, and identity in a way that’s deep and meaningful yet completely accessible to the reader. As a poet myself, the caliber and excellence of her work definitely inspires me to keep telling my own stories in a similar poetic approach and gives me something to work towards.

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