23 books from 2015 you absolutely must read

2015 was the year everyone wondered why songs that weren’t “Hotline Bling” existed. It was also the year gay marriage was legalized in the US, and Emmy host Andy Samberg gave out his HBO Now password to like five billion humans. Most importantly (or at least, very high up there), 2015 was the year of Very Good Books. Like, especially very good books. I felt like I was never not completely absorbed in a novel.

These books comforted me when I felt shaky about my day, made me laugh even though news headlines have been particularly harrowing, and captivated me when nothing else was captivating. Check out some of these incredible reads, add them to your digital and IRL shopping cart, and start 2016 the right way by diving into some rad lit.

You Too Can Have a Body Like Mine by Alexandra Kleeman

Surreal, weirdly funny, and disturbingly beautiful, You Can Have a Body Like Mine is about American consumption, commodity fetishism at its most awful, and what exactly is expected of the modern woman. Kleeman’s debut is scary good, and smart as hell.

 Everybody Rise by Stephanie Clifford

A modern-day House of Mirth, Stephanie Clifford captures the glitzy world of Manhattan’s elite and the interloper who wishes to belong in it —no matter the cost. Protagonist Evelyn Beegan’s journey from first to last page will make you cringe, as she maxes out all of her credit cards, uses sex as strategy, and loses herself completely.

Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff

In Fates and Furies, you meet Lotto, an aspiring actor who calls his mother “Muvva,” and can recite an entire Shakespeare play by heart. And you also meet Mathilde, his cunning wife with an elusive past that shockingly unfolds as soon as you finish Part 1. Groff’s way of illustrating a story about an idyllic marriage is to tell it from two very different perspectives, making Fates and Furies not only smart, but endlessly surprising.

Brave Enough by Cheryl Strayed 

Cheryl Strayed, author of Wild and Torch, and the brains behind The Rumpus column “Dear Sugar,” always has some advice for her beloved readers. And just when you thought you were out of Cheryl Strayed wisdom, Brave Enough comes along, making us feel less alone and endlessly comforted by its collection of best quotes as simple as “Keep walking,” to “Be brave enough to break your own heart.”

Among the Ten Thousand Things by Julia Pierpont

Among the Ten Thousand Things is a heartbreaker. In a good way. Pierpont, whose writing can be vouched for by Jonathan Safran Foer and Jonathan Franzen, delivers a story about betrayal, cheating, relationships, and loss in a way that is extremely human. Do we leave the people we love, even if they hurt us time and time again? How do we gather the strength to do so? Pierpont investigates what our exact breaking point is.

The First Collection of Criticism by a Living Female Rock Critic by Jessica Hopper

Jessica Hopper’s book of essays focuses on not just music, but how we listen to music as a way of making everything make sense. How women in the music industry are treated. How very perplexing Lady Gaga is. For anyone who follows and loves and embraces music as a way of life needs this book in their life.

The Folded Clock: A Diary by Heidi Julavits

If you were to randomly ask a person if you could read their diary, they wouldn’t hesitate to say no. Our thoughts are messy. They’re honest in ways that are painful to us. They’re deeply personal. Heidi Julavits’ diary, The Folded Clock, is all of these things, but she magically pulls it off —probably because Julavits is magical. Reflecting on everything from relationships to her past self, The Folded Clock is mesmerizing.

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

A Little Life is a story about four college friends who struggle to make it New York. But A Little Life is also much more than that. Hanya Yanagihara’s gigantic 700-plus page novel examines abuse and personal growth in a very raw, devastating way. It’s a difficult book to get through, because just when you think Yanagihara’s characters have suffered enough, she shoves them into another insurmountable situation. While near impossible to condense, A Little Life is a must-read for everyone.

After Birth by Elisa Albert

Elisa Albert’s book, After Birth, is very easy to fall in love with. Because it’s not just about motherhood, and birth, and family. It’s also about friendship and jealousy and feeling like you’re not sure whether you belong somewhere. A feeling almost all of us have felt at some point or another.

A Tale of Two Besties by Sophia Rossi

HG’s CEO and co-founder, Sophia Rivka Rossi, is an expert on besties, and this is proven in her first novel A Tale of Two Besties. The novel follows Harper and Lily, BFFs who are separated when they end up going to two different high schools. A story about fitting in, friendship, and finding your place, A Tale of Two Besties is an adorkable, wonderful read.

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

The Girl on the Train is as addictive as it is entertaining —it’s one of those books you will sacrifice your much-needed eight hours of sleep just so that you can get to the end to find out who killed who and why.

The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson

The Argonauts sneaks into Maggie Nelson’s cunning brain and finds honest, thought-provoking thoughts on gender, sexuality, family, pregnancy, and love. Nelson, who has written heart-crushing poetry (Something Bright, Then Holes) and books of prose poems/personal essay (Bluets), never fails to tug at what is most vulnerable within us, forcing us to look at things in a way we never have before.

The Small Backs of Children by Lidia Yuknavitch

The Small Backs of Children starts with a photograph of a young, Eastern European girl. The photograph wins prizes, and captures the attention of the photographer’s best friend, who is desperate to find its subject. The book is a beautiful exploration of grief, tragedy, the depths of depression, and the stories we tell in order to survive. It proves that art can save us, and how important it is that we address violence both outside of us and within.

In the Country by Mia Alvar

A collection of stories, In the Country investigates what “home” really means. By prodding and pulling and pushing her characters to their own personal edge, Mia Alvar creates narratives about family, about marriage, and  about throttling ambition.

15. Hunger Makes the Modern Girl by Carrie Brownstein

You might know Carrie Brownstein from the show Portlandia. Or the guitarist/vocalist of the band Sleater-Kinney. Or as the quirky, funny girl who once married a couple at an LA reading. Well, she’s also the author of memoir Hunger Makes me a Modern Girl, a close examination of the music industry’s deeply rooted sexism —as well as a reflection of Brownstein’s own upbringing. Hunger Makes me a Modern Girl should be required reading for every human woman.

The First Bad Man by Miranda July

If you watched Me, You and Everyone We Know or No One Belongs Here More Than You, then you probably get Miranda July’s style. It’s weird. It’s quirky. It’s lovely. And so is The First Bad Man, which can be best described as bizarre and infinitely tender, a novel that pokes and prods at what makes us truly human.

Hausfrau by Jill Alexander Essbaum

Jill Alexander Essbaum’s hausfrau is a modern-day Anna Karenina. The novel’s protagonist, also named Anna, is a 30-something who lives in the suburbs of Switzerland. Like many women living comfortable, perfectly “fine” lives in fictional realms, she feels disconnected from everything and everyone. Anna tries to fix this by taking on German class, and having affairs —but this kind of self-destructive path has consequences (because of course).

Delicious Foods by James Hannaham

Delicious Foods centers on Darlene, a woman whose husband dies and leaves her with an eleven-year-old son. To deaden her grief, she starts taking drugs, and takes on a mysterious job —working on a farm run by a questionable company. All goes to hell, and Darlene’s son is left to pick up the pieces and find his mother.

South Toward Home by Margaret Eby

Our very own Features Editor, Margaret Eby, journeys into the heart of the South and Southern literature. Digging into the worlds and words of William Faulkner, Harper Lee, Truman Capote, Flannery O’Connor (and more), Eby is able to see how their environments affected their craft. This literary tour is educational, yes, but it’s also haunting and visceral — a must-read for any curious book lover.

Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling

Why Not Me? is Is Everyone Hanging out Without Me?’s grown-up self. In her new memoir, TV writer and actress and comedic genius Mindy Kaling talks working hard, balancing your life, and awkward dating as an adult. Why Not Me? proves (once again) that Mindy Kaling is perfect BFF material —the kind of best friend who is not afraid to tell us what’s what.

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Between the World and Me is the novel that everyone is talking about this year —for good reason. Ta-Nehisi Coates’ novel is about America, the relationship between a dad and his son, and social corruption. It’s a deep read that will make you think, and make you wonder, and make you ask for more.

Trans by Juliet Jacques

In this very important memoir, Juliet Jacques writes about her life in honest detail. Going through sex reassignment surgery, working and escaping a dead-end job, and pursuing a career in writing, Jacques doesn’t leave anything out.

The Life and Death of Sophie Stark by Anna North

Sophie Stark, a critically-acclaimed director and genius, has a mysterious past. In college, she uses her crush to make a raw, nebulous film. And in her young adult life, she steals her girlfriend’s story of abuse and husband’s experience with his dying mother to create more movies, each one gaining more and more traction. The Life and Death of Sophie Stark examines the nature of art, and if we, the artists, are allowed to use our lovers as a canvas.

(Images via Barnes & Noble)