We've already posted our staff picks for the best books of 2015. They're here, if you want to see them again. But what were the most popular books here in terms of sales? What did you, our esteemed customers, choose to take home in the past year? We've crunched the numbers, and here are the results:
Yes, we love all the books equally. But there are a few books we love just a little bit more. Here then, is Common Good Books' very subjective, very idiosyncratic list of our favorite books of 2015.
The narrator of Paul Kingsnorth's novel The Wake loses everything in the days following the Norman conquest of England. His home is burned, his farm his destroyed, and his family is killed. Retreating to the green woods, he quickly descends into a fever dream of revenge.
It takes a few moments to learn to parse the language of The Wake; it is written in a simplified version of Old English, after all. The effort is richly repaid, however, by an engrossing and immersive reading experience unlike any other historical novel. Kingsnorth's vividly imagined medieval tale is an ancient story that throbs with life.
"Nothing short of brilliant describes this companion to Life After Life. It is Atkinson at her very best. It's not a sequel, so go ahead--read and enjoy. Loved it!"
A young lady philosophy scholar literally wanders into the world of mixed martial arts fighting. This book kept leaving me dumbstruck. It's like an ice cube down the back.--Peter
"The story tugged me along relentlessly--complicated, life and death stuff, myriad varieties of women, those mistakes in remembering that are so dangerous, effects of the past on the present, wide range and serious depth of loving and being loved. It's a great read and it all stays with you."
"One of Minnesota's finest poets, and certainly its finest poetry translator, herein whittles a world's worth of poetry into one beautiful, fine point. The overarching theme of twofold consciousness is perfectly suited to Bly's voice, thought, and career. I recommend this to anyone who's ever liked anything."
"To crib Toni Morrison's blurb, Between the World and Me ought to be required reading. Ta-Nehisi Coates says he doesn't 'want to be anyone's expert,' but that isn't to say there aren't some crucial truths inside this book. Poetic and tragic and timely."--Sam
"Still the best account of Shackleton's famous adventure, complete with Frank Hurley's stunning photographs. My favorite book of all time."
"Patti Smith continues her successful sucession of books that includes the National Book award winning memoir Just Kids, as well as many earlier books, poetry publications and exhibition catalogs. I settled into M-train and felt like she had opened a door to her world, not the music world, but her everyday life--Patti's apartment, Patti in the cafe, Patti hanging on the stoop. On the cover image, she sits, and looks out the window watching the world go by. I imagine she is fabulously famous, and yet, can go quietly unrecognized in New York City and this gives her space in her cafe to muse, capture the muse and filter it back to the reader with all the ephemeral sweetness of the best truffle you have ever eaten. Forget the hard facade, this is pure butter, chocolate and bliss.Take it slowly and love every bite."
My favorite book of the year.
"Each story follows a stressed-out, often over-medicated adult as he or she fails, hilariously, to carry out an everyday plan: buy flowers for a spouse, go for a pleasant walk, relax at a party of peers. A great pick for fans of George Saunders, Jeffrey Eugenides, and Lorrie Moore. All nine stories appeared first in The New Yorker."
"Beautiful in every moment! This is the kind of book that reminds you why people and things are so enchanting. Easily the best book I have read this year."
An amazing new photobook from Soth. Wonderful pictures that capture the strange beauty of America. Beautifully designed. Destined to be a classic. Highly recommended! For fans of Frank, Evans, Adams, etc. . . . Published by the great MACK Books!
"Learning about the storied life of this nigh-mythic sex symbol of mustachioed manhood was possibly the most satisfying reading I've ever done,--let alone done this year. It was invigorating to track his movements through friends and colleagues, through cinema and television, like one would track a bounding stag through a forest primeval. If I had a billion thumbs, I would upturn them all. Burt, after all, remains king."
A live stream of the 2015 National Book Festival will be available, beginning Saturday, September 5.
Rinker Buck, a self-described “boozehound with a bad driving record,” had a scheme. He wanted to pilot a covered wagon down the length of the Oregon Trail--from Kansas to the Pacific coast. Enlisting his brother, a dog named Olive Oyl, and three stalwart mules, Buck sets out to “see America slowly.” Along the way he find quicksand and kindness, frustration and hospitality in equal measure.
Part travelogue, part family history, part national history, The Oregon Trail is a heartfelt ode to Middle America. Whether he’s writing about the joys of smalltown campgrounds or the agony of chasing runaway mules while wearing slippers, Buck is a clear-eyed and gregarious storyteller. The Oregon Trail is a journey into the beauty of the American heartland, past and present. Buckle up and enjoy the ride.
Michael Perry is a fantastic Wisconsin writer whose past work has included memoirs, essays, and a novel for young adults. His next book, The Jesus Cow (available May 19), is a scorchingly funny send up of a Midwestern small town. Here's a peek, in the author's inimitable voice.
Hear Garrison Keillor, Patricia Hampl, and all the winners of our third annual poetry contest, recorded in St Paul on April 19, 2015.
Thank you again to Cathy Wurzer and Wilder Caregiver Services for a wonderful discussion of the life of Bruce Kramer and the challenges and joys of being a caregiver.
Keep the conversation going by visiting Wilder's Caregiver's Resource Center for support and information.
Almost one thousand entries have been narrowed down to seven prize-winning poems.
Close to 1,000 poets submitted their work to Common Good Books, in St Paul, MN. Entries came from across the United States, with Minnesota making up the single largest bloc of poems. After reading them all, store owner Garrison Keillor, has chosen seven poems of particular merit. Congratulations to this year’s winners, and thank you to all who entered.
Lisa Kundrat of Minneapolis, MN, for "Dear You"
Ethna McKiernan of Minneapolis, MN for "Leaving"
Kari Castor of Arlington Heights, IL, for "Dear Roger”
Heidi Annexstad of Golden Valley, MN, for "Regarding Your Dishes"
Elizabeth Twiddy of Syracuse, NY, for "Dear Neighbor"
Cynthia Orange of St. Paul, MN, for "Red, Cabbage, Oldsmobile"
Sharon Dardis of St. Paul, MN, for "Dear Stan: You Know Horses"
If we had met ten years earlier, would we have had ten more years?
Or, meeting too soon, would we have rejected the alien and had no
time at all? You the responsible, hard-working corporate guy, me a
hippie vagabond, living in a trailer adjacent a rooster coop. For me to
wander into the corporation took a while. How lucky to find you in
that tiny window of time, grinding out PowerPoints and yearning
toward bumdom. Once I wandered in, we left together. Driving our
rented Camry through the West, driving that straight-line highway
toward Albuquerque, the land scrabbled with petrified trees and
ringed with a 360-degree rainbow. We stopped at a cave-like
restaurant in Taos for Thanksgiving fajitas, chili-pepper lights
dangling like calcite. Driving north through the pitch black, we knew
we were surrounded by beauty. Opening the window to breathe the
cold pine air of the forest we knew was there, but couldn’t see.
Gripping the dash, saying, “stop stop stop,” as a bull elk stepped into
the headlights. You slowed, we watched him saunter across. You
wanted a photo, but could only stare, heart pounding. Why do we
always have to know what we’re traveling through or toward and
when we’ll find it? What matters is we’re wandering together. As our
hearts slow enough to take a picture, he disappears into the black on
the other side.
I turned around tonight to say—
And then I missed you so hard
at that instant, the wry smile of you
absent, every atom of you flown,
not a particle hovering in the house.
I left too, young as you
craving wind-shifts of change,
hitching through Europe in the 70’s,
camping rough, picking grapes in France,
bleaching the stain off down in Spain,
five months of glory on the road.
Now the same winds have pushed you
to Mexico, a silver jet seam visible as stars
in the sky last night, that long curl
dissipating into cloud.
Remember how I knew you at five
in that Ninja costume?
I knew you skate-boarding
with an attitude at Brackett Park,
and sensed for certain when
you first fell in love. I knew you
as a heartbeat beneath my ribs
at nine months, almost born.
And know you now,
I think sometimes about
that night in college when I
sat on your lap in your room
and the way we tried to devour
each other when we
realized we were alone for a moment--
Aaron graduated and in
for me to join him,
our friends returned
to the living room--
the way your thick stubble
burned my cheek
the way I was terrified
to make this mistake
and also terrified
to not make it
the way I made you drive me
home and leant my
against the cool car window
the whole way about asking
you into my empty apartment
the way we carefully
avoided touching each other
for fear of striking a spark that might
set the whole fragile veneer ablaze
and I wonder sometimes if you
all these years later
ever think about that night
the way I do
Thanks to Judith Claire Mitchell, who stopped by to sign copies of her new novel A Reunion of Ghosts.