TBF’s Favorite Books of 2015 (and Gift Guide!)

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Seasons readings!

We asked our staff, board members, and friends to weigh in on the favorite books they read in 2015, and to share which books they’ll be giving as gifts this holiday season. Many of us struggled to narrow it down, but at long last, we settled on our one favorite read (or two, or three, or four). Without further ado, here are the TBF picks: 


Claire Burrows, TBF Operations Coordinator

I’ll weigh in with a couple graphic novels: 51naZRTVjWL._SX470_BO1,204,203,200_

Favorite book: Cancer Vixen, by Marisa Acocella Marchetto. Not only is this a poignant and funny memoir about breast cancer, love, and being a professional cartoonist, but it’s also très
Since you’ll want to step into Marisa’s uber-cool stilettos anyways, go ahead and pick up her new graphic novel, Ann Tenna.

Gift idea: Walled City Trilogy. Author Anne Opotowsky and illustrators Aya Morton (Book One: His Dream of the Skyland) and Angie Hoffmeister (Book Two: Nocturne) build a fascinating and magical world. These books weave a complex story, and these large graphic novels would make beautiful coffee table books.


Garland Frey-Gardner, Community Business Development Manager, Barnes & Noble Screen Shot 2015-12-07 at 4.49.23 PM

My favorite read of 2015 was a re-read, one of my all-time favorites: Flann O’Brien’s The Third Policeman. Exceedingly funny, darkly profound, and so very Irish, it’s a novel that never fails
to remind me that the world is a vast, mostly unknowable tangle of biology and mystery, that everything’s going to be okay even when it isn’t, and that some of us may be more bicycle than human.


Lois Kim, TBF Executive Director

My favorite book (with disclaimer that it is always hard to pick a favorite): Fates and Furies. Screen Shot 2015-12-07 at 4.45.58 PM
Also H is for Hawk and Between the World and Me.


For a holiday gift, I’ll give Margaret Atwood’s The Heart Goes Last. It’s a chilly read and not in an ‘it’s snowing-outside-in-socks-by-the-fire’ sense. The antithesis of a warm and fuzzy holiday read, it is great fun that will be enjoyed by the slightly subversive one in your family.


Alex Layman, TBF Logistics Coordinator

Favorite book read in 2015: Dusk and Other Stories, by James Salter. Screen Shot 2015-12-08 at 12.54.58 PM

With Salter’s passing in 2015, American Short Fiction posted an article with authors quoting their favorite Salter passages. Many of these came from his collection Dusk and Other Stories, and soon after I discovered why. This collection is strange and heartbreaking and awes at what Salter can accomplish with such seemingly sparse language. Some days I still find myself wondering, “How did he doe that?” I can think of no better compliment.

A book published in 2015 to recommend for a gift: What Comes Next and How to Like It, by Abigail Thomas. For those looking for a quick, wise read. Thomas is a gem, and she writes about life and death with a unique and charming forthrightness.


Kendall Miller, TBF Outreach Coordinator

Favorite book read this year:  Americana: Dispatches from the New Frontier by Hampton Sides. Screen Shot 2015-12-07 at 4.41.38 PM

This award-winning journalist puts together a collection of feature stories from his extensive  travels  and interviews throughout his career. You meet charming and bizarre characters from all over the country. Sides investigates the nooks and crannies of the American landscape from the aftermath of a murder in a small-town, to a Harley Davidson bike rally, to speaking tongues at a church in Memphis, to recounting the experiences of three 9/11 survivors. Sides’ stories illustrate images of America with beauty, hope, lies, tragedy, and triumph.  

Gift Recs:

For kids- Jennifer Ziegler’s Revenge of the Angels is perfect for the holiday season. Angels? These triplets are anything but angels! After trying out for the part of the Three Wise Men, the Screen Shot 2015-12-07 at 4.54.11 PMtriplets are Darby, Dawn, and Delaney Brewster are cast as angels in their upcoming Christmas pageant. (UGH!) Follow the triplets as they embark on a journey to restore their own holiday
spirit and to solve the case of their neighbor’s missing Santa statue! This book is great for ages 8-12 and your kiddo will have a great time reading all the hilarious situations this trio finds themselves in.

For the chef or foodie in your family, pick up a copy of Franklin Barbecue: A Meat-Smoking Manifesto by Aaron Franklin. Franklin teaches you to smoke like a pro and shares his James Beard Award-winning recipes!


Hanna Oswald, TBF Literary and Communications Coordinator

My favorites from this year: The Book of Aron, a story told from the perspective of a young Polish boy at the time of the Nazi invasion. It is completely shattering. I know that doesn’t exactly sound like a ringing endorsement, but I promise you, it shouldn’t be missed. Jim Screen Shot 2015-12-08 at 12.56.09 PMShepard is one of my favorites, and I still can’t believe we were lucky enough to have him at this year’s festival. Also wonderful is Paul Murray’s The Mark and the Void. It’s kind of messy and maybe goes on a little too long, but it is smart and so funny and made reading about international banking a true pleasure, shockingly enough.

For a gift, I’m giving my one-year-old niece Leo: A Ghost Story. She won’t be able to understand it, but she sure loves grabbing and turning pages, so it’ll probably be a hit. For the older crowd, I’ll give copies of Adrian Tomine’s Killing and Dying. Zadie Smith says Tomine has “more ideas in twenty panels than novelists have in a lifetime” – read just a few pages, and you’ll see what she means. It’s a masterpiece, and everybody needs it.


Amy Paddock, SVP, Hill+Knowlton Strategies

My favorite book this year (and it’s been a good year, so it’s tough to choose) was The Screen Shot 2015-12-08 at 12.54.24 PM
by Kristin Hannah. I really had no idea the extent to which the (non-Jewish) French suffered under the Nazis – from Paris to the more remote country villages. It was just heartbreaking but the courage and resiliency of these characters — especially the women – was so inspiring.

And for book gifts, I am giving family and friends Longue Vue House and Gardens: The Architecture, Interiors, and Gardens of New Orleans’ Most Celebrated Estate — because my mom wrote it!


Julie Wernersbach, BookPeople Marketing Director

Favorite book I read this year:

Don’t Suck, Don’t Die: Giving Up Vic Chesnutt by Kristin Hersh

This is an unforgettable story of love, friendship and music. Kristin Hersh, bestselling author of Screen Shot 2015-12-08 at 1.02.21 PMRat Girl and founder of the band Throwing Muses, writes love letter to musician and friend Vic Chesnutt, who passed away in 2009. I didn’t know a thing about Hersh or Chesnutt before reading this book, but I was immediately enthralled by the front row seat I had to their unique, complicated relationship. Don’t Suck, Don’t Die lives on my shelf alongside Patti Smith’s Just Kids, not only as a poignant story of two artists and friends, but as a unique, must-read piece of music history.

Book I’ll be giving this year:

Bats of the Republic by Zachary Thomas Dodson. Not only is this an original, engrossing story that leaps across time and is set right here in Texas, but the book itself is beautiful. Dodson is an artist. He drew every illustration in this book, including the title page and end papers. It’s just a phenomenal piece of art and writing. Everyone should own it.