One for the Books

Jessi Cape's Top Reads of 2015

Circling the Sun tops a list of novels featuring uncommon women

One for the Books

This is dedicated to the one(s) I love ... but, due to time and space constraints, did not get to give a shout-out to in 2015.

Paula McLain's second work of historical fiction – her follow-up to The Paris Wife – is one of those rare finds that immediately begs to be re-read. The lovely language of Circling the Sun (Ballantine) unfurls the story of Beryl Markham, the first woman to fly solo, east to west, across the Atlantic and the first licensed female racehorse trainer in Kenya. Born in 1902 Britain, raised by her father in Kenya, she was also one-third of a fascinating love triangle with Denys Finch Hatton and Karen Blixen (who, under the pen name Isak Dinesen, wrote Out of Africa), and there the novel finds its page-turning, remarkable core. Women can be wildly successful and fall in love, remember?

Next up, Edwidge Danticat (Breath, Eyes, Memory; The Farming of Bones) published her third YA novel, Untwine (Scholastic), a poignant story of twin sisters separated by a tragic car accident. The surviving girl's journey through grief sticks in the mind's eye for quite some time.

Adrienne Celt's first novel, The Daughters (Liveright), is a haunting, musical tale that weaves four generations of women together in operatic beauty.

Sarai Walker's debut, Dietland (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), came highly and frequently recommended (Jennifer Weiner included), but for some strange reason hasn't yet shot through the stratosphere. Once Plum Kettle's story takes a foreshadowed turn, her lonely life as an overweight replier to fan mail at a girls' magazine becomes entwined with a gripping (read: totally bonkers!) story of revolution, one hell-bent on blowing the lid off beauty standards and gender inequality in a razor-sharp and unapologetically bold feminist battle cry.

Rounding out the list with a therapeutic savasana is Elephant in the Dark (Scholastic), a beautifully illustrated, kid-friendly retelling of Rumi's "The Three Blind Men and the Elephant" by Mina Javaherbin and artist Eugene Yelchin. Finding our truths and recognizing perspective are imperative for readers of all ages.

READ MORE
More Top 10s
Jay Trachtenberg's Top Reads of 2016
Top Books to Make Sense of a World Breaking Down
Three novels explore our planet in crisis in Israel, rust-belt Ukraine, and the Antarctic

Jay Trachtenberg, Dec. 30, 2016

Top 10 Movies of 2016
Top 10 Movies of 2016
The Chronicle film staff's overall winners of the year

Josh Kupecki, Dec. 30, 2016

More Fiction
Jessi Cape's Top Reads of 2016
Top Books to Inspire Hope Amidst Change
Memoirs of activism and tales of suspense helped ground this reader during a roller-coaster year

Jessi Cape, Dec. 30, 2016

Rosalind Faires' Top Reads of 2016
Top Books to Make You Cry on Your Lunch Break
These three novels drew a discreet tear or two with their beautiful, brave, and bittersweet humanity

Rosalind Faires, Dec. 30, 2016

More Arts Reviews
Trinity Street Players’ <i>Dani Girl</i>
Trinity Street Players’ Dani Girl
This musical may be about a child with cancer, but seeing it is a funny, moving, and healing experience

T. Lynn Mikeska, May 26, 2017

<i>Butcher Holler Here We Come</i>
Butcher Holler Here We Come
This stylized look at West Virginia miners trapped underground is more of a powerful sensory experience than a narrative drama

Elizabeth Cobbe, May 26, 2017

More by Jessi Cape
Austin Food + Wine Festival: Saturday Recap
Austin Food + Wine Festival: Saturday Recap
Tacos, toast, and Tyson (Cole)

May 1, 2017

Easy Ways to Save the Planet
Easy Ways to Save the Planet
How to take saving the Earth into your own hands

April 21, 2017

KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Top 10s, Fiction, Circling the Sun, Paula McLain, Untwined, Edwidge Danticat, The Daughters, Adrienne Celt, Dietland, Sarai Walker, Elephant in the Dark, Mina Javaherbin

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
AC Daily, Events and Promotions, Luvdoc Answers

Breaking news, recommended events, and more

Official Chronicle events, promotions, and giveaways

Updates for SXSW 2017

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)