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Lit Matters: 2015’s Feast of Books

by Tiffany Quay Tyson

Goodreads tells me I’ve read 32 books in 2015, but I don’t tell Goodreads everything. I resist any urge to closely catalog my reading habits in the same way I refuse to keep a food diary. Do I really need to be reminded that I ate a spoonful of Nutella before bedtime for a solid week last February? I do not. My philosophy with culinary and literary experiences is this: If it’s worth remembering, you’ll remember it. A great book sticks to your guts.

I read many good books over the past 10 months, but I’m still chewing on a few of them. These were the books that made me reexamine my own writing. These were the authors who forced me to reconsider my notions about storytelling. These were the gut-stickers.

  • PayingGuestsThe Paying Guests by Sarah Waters. A gift from a friend who always makes great recommendations, this was my first Waters novel. Set in 1920s London, it’s an old-fashioned page-turner. When I read a book like this, I’m struck by the power of simple storytelling. I don’t mean that the story itself is a simple one, but that Waters captures her readers with no experimental flourishes, no meta-narration, no self-referential literary winking. It is storytelling at its sprawling, maximalist best. It is a reminder that a great author needs no gimmicks.
  • Something Rich and Strange by Ron Rash. I am a sucker for the dismal and the bleak, and no one does rural desperation better than Rash. I’d read many, if not most, of these stories in other collections, but I never had the urge to skip one because it felt too familiar. Reading Rash’s short stories is like listening to a Steve Earle album on a hot day. You just want to keep playing your favorites over and over again, even though it makes you sad and you can’t stop sweating.
  • my-brilliant-friendElena Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels. This series of four books from the reclusive Italian author were the books I couldn’t put down or stop talking about. The aforementioned friend recommended them to me, and I, in turn, pressed them on my mother, on a Memphis radio show host, and on random strangers in bookstores from Colorado to Mississippi. Descriptions of these novels and the oh-so-rare interview with Ferrante (a nom de plume) might lead you to believe these are books written by a woman, about women, and for women. I suggest we make them required reading for men.

There are still two good months left for reading books this year, and if history is any indicator, December will be a particularly gluttonous time. Even so, I’m going to go ahead and declare 2015 an excellent year for stick-to-the-guts reading. I’m feeling very well nourished, but I always save room for dessert. Your recommendations are strongly welcomed. Pass the Nutella.

This post is part of our Lit Matters series, in which writers and readers express why supporting and elevating literary arts is meaningful to them. Lit Matters stories will be posted throughout the month of November, leading up to Colorado Gives Day. Mark your calendar for December 8 or schedule your gift now. Thank you!

Tiffany Quay Tyson is a novelist and longtime Lighthouser. She often leads workshops for the Lighthouse Young Writers Program. Three Rivers, her debut novel, was published in 2015 by Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Press. Learn more at


2 comments on “Lit Matters: 2015’s Feast of Books

  1. Jenny Itell
    November 1, 2015

    Tiffany, I love book recommendations from you! And ha–I like your required reading suggestion for the Ferrante books!

  2. Terry
    November 1, 2015

    Well, I must read some Ferrante; but at the moment I’m in the grips of CROSSCURRENTS.

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