Back in January we shared our 15 most anticipated books of 2015, and now it's already time to talk about the best and biggest books published so far this year. Based on the number of pageviews on BookPage.com, we present you with the top 10 books that have readers talking.
After you've looked through the list below, be sure to let us know what you think in the comments below. And then vote in our reader poll for your favorite book of 2015 (so far!).
#1: The Girl on the Train
By Paula Hawkins
British author Hawkins struck gold with this deliciously twisted thriller that became an instant bestseller. Told through three unreliable narrators—Rachel, the alcoholic voyeur; Megan, the other half of the "golden couple" Rachel watches from the train; and Anna, who lives down the street. When Megan goes missing and a media firestorm follows, Rachel feels compelled to get involved. Already optioned for film by DreamWorks, this edge-of-your-seat suspense is sure to continue its upward trajectory.
#2. A Spool of Blue Thread
By Anne Tyler
With 20 novels published during her 50-year writing career, Anne Tyler has cemented her reputation as one of our most consistent and talented American authors. Her newest family saga, A Spool of Blue Thread, focuses on the Whitshanks, led by Abby and Red, a long-married couple whose story of the day they fell in love has become legendary. But now their four children are wondering whether—and how—Abby and Red can continue to live alone in the Baltimore home that Red's father built as they enter their 80s.
#3. The Bookseller
By Cynthia Swanson
Debut novelist Swanson penned a surprise hit with her inventive portrayal of one woman's two distinct lives in The Bookseller. Exploring the "what if?" questions we all ask ourselves at a certain age, Swanson follows Kitty Miller along two life paths—as both an unmarried bookshop owner and as Katharyn, a suburban stay-at-home mother.
To an outsider, Grace Chapman has a perfect life: She’s a lifestyle maven with a best-selling author husband of 20 years, a beautiful daughter and an elegant home outside of New York City. But Green takes us underneath the veneer, and soon the cracks begin to show.
Larson is one of our most talented and exciting writers of narrative nonfiction today. In Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania, he tells the riveting, tragic story of the final voyage of the luxury British ship, which sailed from New York City on May 1, 1915 with 1,959 passengers, and was sunk by a German U-boat off Ireland's coast just six days later. Larson weaves in an astonishing amount of research into this event which is often cited as the reason America joined the fighting in World War I.
#6. Etta and Otto and Russell and James
By Emma Hooper
Emma Hooper’s captivating debut novel is inspired by a piece of her own family history. Shifting back and forth through a couple's history, Hooper tells the story of 83-year-old Etta as she leaves her husband Otto behind to walk more than 3,000 kilometers to see the ocean. This touching and creative novel explores the fuzzy boundaries of love, memory and time.
#7. He Wanted the Moon
By Mimi Baird and Eve Claxton
When author Mimi Baird was 6 years old, her father, prominent Boston dermatologist Perry Baird, did not come home. In the following 15 years between that fateful night and his death in 1959, Baird saw her father only once. When she discovers a cache of her father's letters and his unfinished manuscript in the '90s, Baird sets upon the task of bringing her father back to life.
#8. It Was Me All Along
By Andie Mitchell
Andie Mitchell chronicles her lifelong struggle with binge-eating in her strikingly honest memoir, It Was Me All Along. Tipping the scale at almost 300 pounds at the age of 20, a semester trip to Rome led Mitchell to confront her dependence on food to numb her emotional pain instead of nourishing her body.
#9. Born With Teeth
By Kate Mulgrew
You may recognize Mulgrew from her acting in television shows such as "Orange Is the New Black" and "Star Trek: Voyager," but she proves to be an equally skilled storyteller in her tellingly titled Born With Teeth. Yes, Mulgrew chronicles her 40-year career, but the boldly honest and heartbreaking stories concerning her Irish-Catholic family and deep friendships are the true focus of this well-crafted memoir.
McCreight’s follow up to her break-out debut, Reconstructing Amelia, is another suspenseful story about the ripple effect of tragedy. When the corpse of a baby is found in the woods of a picture-perfect New Jersey town, each resident suddenly becomes subject to scrutiny and suspicion. Reporter Molly Sanderson has just suffered a stillbirth, so this case feels personal, but she’s determined to solve the mystery. Using flashbacks and multiple narrators, McCreight keeps the tension tight all the way to the satisfying conclusion.
Chef Rick Bayless has won international acclaim for his lifelong devotion to Mexican cusine. He's back with a new cookbook, More Mexican Everyday, filled with, you guessed it, more fantastic Mexican recipes like this Grilled Salmon in Toasty Peanut Salsa.
Grilled Salmon in Toasty Peanut Salsa
Salmón a la Parilla con Salsa de Cacahuate Tostado
When the wild salmon start showing up in the late spring, this is the dish I dream of making. It’s simplicity come to life in the best possible way, one that focuses on the stunning flavor and buttery texture of the salmon, the smoky and elemental draw of the grill and the perfect, rich gilding from a spoonful of red chile–peanut deliciousness.
*If you don’t have guajillo chiles, you can substitute New Mexicos or 2 anchos
On one side of a large (10-inch) dry skillet, roast the garlic over medium heat, turning regularly, until soft and blackened in spots, 10 to 15 minutes. On the other side, toast the guajillo chiles. Use a metal spatula to press the chile pieces flat against the hot surface of the pan. When they release their aroma and change color slightly (maybe even give off a faint wisp of smoke), about 10 seconds, flip them over and press down again to toast the other side. Scoop into a bowl and cover with ¾ cup very hot tap water to rehydrate, 10 to 15 minutes.
Cool the garlic until handleable, peel it and place it in a blender, along with the
guajillo chiles (including their soaking liquid), the chipotles and the peanuts. Blend until nearly smooth, then scrape into a small bowl. Stir in a little more water if necessary to give the salsa an easily spoonable consistency. Taste and season with salt,
usually about ½ teaspoon.
Heat a gas grill to medium-high or light a charcoal fire and let the coals burn until covered with white ash and very hot. Smear the salmon fillets and green onions (or ramps) with a little oil and sprinkle with salt. On the coolest part of your grill (usually toward an edge), grill the onions (or ramps), turning regularly, doing your best to keep the green parts farthest from the heat, until soft, about 15 minutes. Lay the salmon fillets on the hottest part of the grill, placing what had been their skin side down. When the grill grate has deeply seared marks into the salmon and the salmon has begun to release itself from the grate, about 3 minutes, depending on the heat of your fire, flip the fillets and cook to your desired degree of doneness, usually a couple of minutes
longer for 1-inch-thick fillets to reach medium. Transfer to warm dinner plates.
Chop the green onions (or ramps) into small pieces. Spoon some salsa over each fillet, sprinkle with chopped onion (or ramps) and serve right away.
Copyright © 2015 by Rick Bayless. Excerped from More Mexican Everyday by Rick Bayless published by Norton. Read our review of this book.
Sydney Padua's impeccably researched, yet playfully imagined graphic biography is a treat for history buffs and graphic novel lovers alike. The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage brings us into the heart of London's intellectual society in 1842. There, Ada Lovelace—young mathematician and the daughter of famed poet Lord Byron—meets Charles Babbage at a party. Here is where historical accuracy takes a backseat, and Padua presents a rip-roaring adventure story in which the pair build the famed Difference Engine, known as the world's first computer, and take the Victorian era by storm. With fantastically detailed art, footnotes and diagrams of Babbage's steam-powered computer, this is a whimsical graphic account like no other.
What are you reading today?
Temperatures are rising and summer peaches will be here soon! This light Italian dessert from Nonna's House has the perfect ratio of very little work with immense flavor payoff—now that's a recipe I can get behind!
Stuffed Baked Peaches (pesche al forno ripiene): During peach season, the height of summer, this dessert is light and refreshing. Be sure to look for balsamic glaze, which is different from balsamic vinegar, in the supermarket.
Position the rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 375°F.
Arrange the peaches cut side up on a large rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle evenly with the brown sugar. Bake until tender but not soft, and the sugar has melted and is bubbling, about 25 minutes. Transfer the baking sheet to a wire rack and let cool to room temperature, about 1 hour.
Place the mascarpone and confectioners’ sugar in a food processor fitted with the chopping blade. Process until smooth. Scrape the mixture into a medium bowl and stir in the almonds.
Fill the centers of the peaches evenly with the mascarpone mixture, about 2 tablespoons per peach. Refrigerate for 1 hour. Drizzle each peach with 1 teaspoon balsamic glaze to serve.
Looking for a new snack with a bit of a spicy kick? This recipe from Virgin Territory: Exploring the World of Olive Oil for Muhammara, a Middle Eastern staple, is sure to appeal to fans of hummus.
A sumptuous spread from that region of the Middle East where the finest culinary traditions of Lebanon, Turkey and Syria all blend together with a little Armenian influence as well. The best chile pepper to use in this muhammara (moo-HAMMa-rah) is coarsely ground or crushed dried Aleppo pepper, although other kinds of Turkish and Syrian chile peppers are good too. They are all available from World Spice Merchants in Seattle (www.worldspice.com) or from Kalustyan’s in Manhattan (www.kalustyans.com).
Sweet peppers are best when roasted over live fire—either a gas flame on your stovetop or charcoal embers in the fireplace or on the outside grill. Roast, turning frequently, until the skins are black and blistered. Failing gas or charcoal, you can also roast peppers under the oven broiler until they are collapsed and the skins are blistered—but they will not have the intense flavor of flame-roasted peppers. Whatever the method, put the roasted peppers in a paper bag and set aside for 15 to 20 minutes to steam in their own heat and soften. At that point, it’s easy to remove the blackened skin, using a paring knife to pull it away. Then cut the peppers open, draining any liquid into a small bowl. Discard the stems, seeds, and white inside membranes.
Roast the walnuts, the pine nuts and the bread crumbs in a 350°F oven for 10 to 15 minutes. The walnuts are ready when their thin skins start to flake off; the pine nuts and the bread crumbs are done when they are golden.
Toast cumin seeds in a small skillet on top of the stove, stirring and tossing until the fragrance starts to rise. Remove immediately and grind to a powder in a spice grinder, or pound in a mortar.
MAKES 2½ TO 3 CUPS
CHOP the peppers coarsely and transfer to a food processor. Process in pulses until you have a textured puree.
IN a mortar, pound the garlic cloves to a paste with the salt. Add the roasted walnuts and continue pounding, adding a tablespoon or two of the reserved pepper juices. Once the walnuts are quite pasty, pound in the bread crumbs. (If you don’t have enough pepper juice, use a tablespoon or two of lemon juice instead.) Transfer the ingredients in the mortar to the food processor and process very briefly, just enough to mix everything together.
WHY, you may ask, do I not just put everything into the food processor to start with? Muhammara is supposed to have a rather coarse texture from the walnuts and bread crumbs; in order to control that texture, I think it’s better to pound the walnuts, bread crumbs, and garlic in the mortar and mix them very quickly into the pepper puree.
SCRAPE the contents of the food processor into a bowl and stir in the chile pepper, pomegranate syrup, ground cumin and 4 to 5 tablespoons of the oil. Stir in 1 tablespoon lemon juice and taste. If necessary, adjust the seasoning with more salt, lemon juice, or pomegranate syrup.
WHEN you’re ready to serve, pile the muhammara in an attractive bowl and dribble the remaining olive oil over the top. Garnish with roasted pine nuts and serve with crostini (toasted bread crusts) or crackers or, to be most authentic, toasted triangles of Arab pita bread.
Note: Muhammara is also a beautiful relish to serve with any sort of roast or grilled lamb.
Excerpted from VIRGIN TERRITORY: EXPLORING THE WORLD OF OLIVE OIL © 2015 by Nancy Harmon Jenkins. Reproduced by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.
Big news on the poetry front! Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Mary Oliver will release a new collection of poems with Penguin Press on October 13 titled Felicity.
"If I have any secret stash of poems, anywhere, it might be about love," Oliver said in a 2013 interview with The Writer's Almanac, and what a telling statement that was! Although Oliver is well-known for her loving descriptions of the natural world in her previous collections (A Thousand Mornings, Dog Songs) Felicity will be Oliver's first collection of more traditional love and relationship poems.
What do you think, readers? Are you looking forward to this one?
RELATED CONTENT: Find out about more 2015 releases here.
Looking for a sweet treat to enjoy during these warm spring days? This adults-only recipe for Affogato with Biscotti from Twenty Dinners is perfect for your next outdoor gathering.
AFFOGATO WITH BISCOTTI
FOR THE ICE CREAM
Set up a double boiler by half-filling a large saucepan with water. Bring it to a simmer over medium heat. Place a medium metal bowl on top of the saucepan, but don’t let it touch the water. (You can pour out water until it fits.)
Add ¾ cup of the granulated sugar, wine, orange juice, egg yolks and vanilla-bean seeds to the bowl and whisk until the mixture is thick enough to hold figure eights. Take the bowl off the saucepan and continue whisking until the mixture cools.
In an electric mixer with the whisk attachment, whisk together the cream and powdered sugar just until soft peaks form. (Or do this by hand.) Remove the whipped cream to a large, clean bowl and carefully wash out and dry the mixer bowl.
In the electric mixer, whisk the egg whites until soft peaks form, then gently stir in the remaining ¾ cup granulated sugar. Don’t overmix or you’ll lose all the air from the egg whites.
Fold the cooked yolk mixture into the whipped cream, then gently fold that mixture into the egg whites.
Transfer the ice-cream base to containers and freeze overnight.
Once frozen completely, it’s ready to serve. Simply put a scoop of ice cream in each bowl or dessert cup, add a generous pinch of pistachios and a biscotti, and top with freshly pulled espresso.
Reprinted from Twenty Dinners. Copyright © 2015 by Ithai Schori and Chris Taylor. Photographs copyright © 2015 by Nicole Franzen. Published by Clarkson Potter/Publishers, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC. Read our review of this book.
Our DIY project this month comes from our April Top Pick in Lifestyles—Brit Morin's Homemakers! If you're anything like me, you'll be pleasantly surprised to find that this project for custom-etched glassware is easily affordable and easily done.
I know what you’re thinking. Etching glassware sounds like it could result in someone losing an eye. But the truth is, etching is super simple, takes only a few minutes, and can yield totally chic and customizable results. It’s basically a way of frosting small-scale pieces of glass. For this project, I used contact paper to create custom designs or stencils. It’s much more durable than painter’s tape and allows for more creativity in terms of shapes and patterns. You can also use vinyl letters to etch labels into your jars and canisters for flour, sugar, rice and so on.
Glass Etching Cream
STEP 1: Cut your contact paper into small shapes to create a pattern. I went with our signature triangle pattern on a glass carafe.
STEP 2: Wash and dry your glass carafe or pitcher to start out with a clean surface. Peel off the backing of your contact paper and attach each piece to the glass. Be sure to press firmly so that you get a clean edge when you start etching.
STEP 3: Use a paintbrush to apply a heavy layer of etching cream all over your carafe. Dab it on evenly, but don’t brush too firmly, as that tends to thin out the cream. The thicker the layer of etching cream the better.
STEP 4: Let the etching cream sit for 30 minutes, then rinse it off with water. Be sure to clean your sink thoroughly after this rinse, as the etching cream is toxic.
STEP 5: Peel off your contact paper pattern and wipe with a damp towel or rag to remove any remaining traces of etching cream. Fill up with your favorite beverage and marvel at your handiwork.
I created a striped carafe, labeled a pitcher with the word PUNCH, and decorated a large Mason jar with the same triangle pattern. It’s a great way to turn a bunch of mismatched glassware into a custom collection.
Looking for an exciting, yet traditional recipe for your family's Easter feast this weekend? Try this savory Italian Easter bread, or la tagliata di Pasqua, from our April Top Pick in cookbooks, Nonna's House.
ADELINA ORAZZO (Italian Easter breads vary from region to region, town to town, and even family to family. Some are savory, like this one; others are sweet. On Easter morning, we serve this bread on a festive platter with slices of soppressata, ricotta salata, fennel, and hard-boiled eggs.
1. Whisk the milk, sugar, and yeast in a small bowl and set aside until foamy, about 5 minutes. Whisk in the butter, 2 eggs, and salt until uniform. Stir in the flour until a soft dough forms. Lightly dust a work surface with flour, turn the dough out onto it, and knead for 10 minutes, until smooth and elastic. Gather the dough into a ball.
2. Lightly butter a large bowl, set the dough in it, and turn over to coat in the butter. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and set aside in a warm, draft-free place until doubled in bulk, about 1½ hours.
3. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Flatten the dough; add the salumi, Pecorino Romano, and Grano Padano, and knead lightly until well incorporated. Divide the dough into two equal pieces; roll each piece into a 14-inch-long strand. Pinch these two strands together at one end, then twist them together six times lengthwise to make a single coiled strand. Form the strand into a circle and pinch the ends to seal.
4. Lightly butter a large rimmed baking sheet. Transfer the coiled ring to it. Press the hard-boiled eggs at three equidistant spots around the coil, using the natural indentations caused by the crossing of the strands.
There are few forces in this world like a true Southern grandmother. Nickole Brown has written a lyric biography of her own in her second collection, Fanny Says. Brown blends descriptions of the immensely wise, brazen and sailor-mouthed Fanny with ruminations on both the power of memory and the Kentucky culture that influenced them both. The editorial assistant for the late Hunter S. Thompson, the fabric of Brown's poems share threads of his deeply honest and personal reporting, but Fanny Says proves that she's a literary heavyweight in a class of her own.
Don’t carry a purse but a pocketbook, and underneath
don’t wear a bra and panties
but a push-up Frederick’s of Hollywood brassiere
and a pair of bloomers—nylon, always white, pulled up
as far as bloomers can possibly go.
For your shoes, two options: should you need to go shopping
or get your pressure checked, lace up a pair of white Keds.
Otherwise, it’s house shoes, dust-pink slippers
curled from the dryer into tiny, warm cups for your feet.
What are you reading this week?