I did not read nearly enough books to have a top 10 list like last year. But I feel very strongly about all the books on this year’s top 5 list. The books are listed in order, with #1 being my favorite book of 2015. So here it is:
1) Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift
This may have been my 4th or 5th time reading this book, but it still remains my third favorite book of all time (after Le Petit Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry and Moby-Dick by Herman Melville). I was first introduced to this book by my 8th grade English teacher. He mentioned the book in passing, and since I’ve always loved travel stories I checked it out from the library. Over the years as I have matured intellectually I have gained a greater appreciation of the book. But it was only this past year that I felt like I truly understood the overall message of Gulliver’s Travels. If you are interested and have already read the book, I wrote a spoiler-y reflection on Gulliver’s adventures in Houhnhnm Land where I talked about what I felt was the overall message of the book.
2) Murder in the Cathedral by T.S. Eliot
This play reminded me so much of Saint Joan by George Bernard Shaw. Thomas Becket and the four tempters are such memorable characters, and I loved that the play was written in verse. It was epic in the truest sense of the word. Thomas Becket represents way more than a martyr. In only 88 pages of verse, Eliot accomplishes the impressive feat of describing the history of the conflict between Church and State in England through the life of one archbishop.
3) My Antonia by Willa Cather
Can Willa Cather write a bad book? Death Comes for the Archbishop was my 3rd favorite book in 2014. My Antonia was just as incredible. The story is quiet but packs a real punch. It is the coming-of-age story of Antonia Shimerda and her friend Jim Burden (the narrator). The lifelike characters and the lyrical narrative combine to produce what I believe is one of the greatest works of American fiction.
4) Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
I don’t often read books that have come out in the past few years. Gilead won the Pulitzer in 2005, but I have only heard about it in the past year. Robinson’s writing reminds me so much of Cather’s. There is no real plot, but I found so many memorable passages in this book. In 2016, I plan on reading her book of essays The Death of Adam and the companion to Gilead, Lila.
5) Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
As Dickens’ penultimate work, Great Expectations lacks many of the weaknesses commonly found in his earlier works. The characters are well-developed and there are no meaningless plot points. Hard Times is still my favorite book by Dickens but Great Expectations is a close second.