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James R. Gapinski’s favorite books of 2015

To wrap-up the year, our managing editor, James R. Gapinski, chimes in with his top five books of 2015. A few days ago, Melissa Reddish also shared her list.

Binary Star, by Sarah Gerard

If you want predictable syntax crammed into neat boxes, look elsewhere. Binary Star takes risks. Come for the inventive structure, stay for the characters who seem to be in a constant state or implosion and/or explosion.

Scrapper, by Matt Bell

Scrapper tells a riveting story set in a near-future version of Detroit, ravaged by climate change. Its unassuming blue collar protagonist has waaaaaaay more shit going on than first meets the eye. This book is its own masterclass in character development.

The Seven Good Years, by Etgar Keret (Translated by Sondra Silverston, Miriam Shlesinger, Jessica Cohen, and Anthony Berris)

Etgar Keret’s memoir explores the seven years between the birth of his son and the death of his father. Yes, the book builds toward a death, but it’s more about celebrating life. And it’s filled with the sense wonder and whimsy that have become a staple of Keret’s work.

Gutshot, by Amelia Gray

The stories in Gutshot have a visceral intensity to them. They rip open your perceptions of what a story is and can be. They scream at you and dare you to flinch. Yeah, you might bleed out by the end, but you’ll feel alive the whole goddamn time.

 Citizen, by Claudia Rankine

I’m not surprised that Citizen is also on Melissa’s top-five list as Book I Would Slip into Everyone’s Bag When They Weren’t Looking. I gave this book to my partner over the holidays—then she received a second copy from her sister. When you read this book, you want to share it. And you want to share it quickly. These pages have urgency. You’ll finish it in one sitting, and if you’re not already a proponent of #BlackLivesMatter, you will be. Read it. Now.

Melissa Reddish’s favorite books of 2015

Melissa Reddish, author of My Father is an Angry Storm Cloud and the forthcoming Conium Press title, Girl & Flame, shares her top five books of the year.

Hybrid nonfiction:  Tender Points by Amy Berkowitz

Exploring her fibromyalgia while weaving together a portrait of trauma, invisible illnesses, gendered medicine and misogyny, and other ephemera, Berkowitz creates a fluidly fragmented, beautiful, haunting, and lyrical portrait.

Short Story Collection:  Valparaiso Round the Horn by Madeline ffitch

It was difficult to choose a single story collection, as this is my go-to genre, but this collection climbed steadily to the top with its off-kilter worldview and old-school adventurer vibe.  Each story is a little weird gem that is artfully crafted and sticks with you.

Poetry:  [insert] boy by Danez Smith

Okay, so this was technically published in Dec. 2014, but it is so good, I just had to include it.  When I first read “Dinosaurs in the Hood” through a friend’s Facebook post, I sat back and said, ‘whoa.’  The collection as a whole does not disappoint.

Graphic:  Rat Queens by Kurtis J. Wiebe and Tess Fowler

Part D&D love letter, part drunken bar fight, this comic is fun and funny and bawdy and constantly entertaining.

Book I Would Slip into Everyone’s Bag When They Weren’t Looking:  Citizen by Claudia Rankine

By far my favorite moment of protest in the bombastic insanity that is the 2015 election cycle (aka watching the slithering underbelly of hatred and bigotry reveal itself), was the woman who quietly read Citizen during a Trump rally.  Lots of whoa moments in this book as well.