A writing group I belong to, Write on Mamas, is compiling a list our favorite books from 2015. I just sent in my list and realized the three titles I sent in all have something in common – they are all set in England.

I don’t believe I’m making a special effort to pick British books to read so I’m not sure how I managed to choose three books set in England as my favorites. I do love England and have visited twice so maybe I’m subconsciously gravitating to stories that are set there.

I read many other books this year that I also enjoyed and will include one additional favorite title in this listing. Interestingly it’s also set in England.

Hmmm, now that I think of it, another favorite book of 2015 was the memoir Do No Harm: Stories of Life, Death, and Brain Surgery by Henry Marsh. That book is also set in England.  And two other books I read this year (one I liked, the other not so much) were set in the UK – one in Scotland and the other in Australia, the U.S. and England. And I’m currently reading Winnie the Pooh. Okay, now that I write this it really does seem obvious that I have a British theme going on!

You can visit my Goodreads page to see what else I’ve read. I seldom write reviews of the books I read but I usually rate them on a 1 to 5 stars scale.

Four of Myrna’s Favorite Reads of 2015 – all set in England.
(listed in no particular order)

Little Bee by Chris Cleave
Little BeeMy daughter read this novel for her high school British Literature class. She loved it so I decided to read it, too. This is the only book I know of where the readers are asked to not give away any clues about the end of the novel. The story is about two women – a well-off British woman named Sarah and an orphaned young woman from Nigeria, Little Bee, who escaped to England but then found herself in an immigration detention center for two years. The story is told by both women and has a lot of flashback to an event where the women met. I started reading this book and was immediately taken in with the story. Batman is in the story, or at least a little boy who believes he’s Batman, and “the girls back home,” Little Bee’s family and friends from Nigeria, who serve as a Greek chorus. Little Bee is beautifully written and full of hope and tragedy. It’s a book I will never forget.
The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy: A Novel by Rachel Joyce
Queenie HennessyThis book is a prequel to one of my favorite books of 2014, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry. Even though the book is a great companion to Harold Fry and sheds light on a lot of what happens there, it can be read on its own without feeling lost. In this story, we spend time with Queenie who is bedridden in a hospice center because she’s dying of cancer. Queenie writes a letter to Harold to explain her side of the story, her background, her feelings for Harold and the secret she has kept for years. I was a little unsure about reading this book – reading a “love song” didn’t sound that interesting to me. Yet, this book’s ending left me in tears and absolutely stunned. It was well written and I want to read it again.
Rules for a Knight by Ethan Hawke
Rules for a KnightI discovered this book while I was working one afternoon at Content Bookstore in Northfield. The book is a small, hard bound book – one that I would be likely to pick up because it’s so lovely but didn’t at first because I noticed the book was written by the actor Ethan Hawke. To be honest, I didn’t really take it seriously at first when I saw it was written by a famous actor (Hmmm, I guess I have something to learn about judging books by the cover and/or author) but one of my co-workers said she’d heard Hawke is a good writer – and something drew me to the book (perhaps it’s because of the English connection again!)  and I decided to read it. I’m glad I did. Rules for a Knight is a wonderful little book. In the story, a knight is writing a letter to his children to pass down many life lessons. The lessons are not all that different from what you’d find in other self-help type books but are told in such a charming way that I didn’t end up feeling like someone was preaching to me or being all mystical with the information. My only criticism of the book is that there is an epic poem at the end of the book – it ties into the storyline – and it was just a bit too epic for me. It’s very long and, I will admit, I skimmed it more than I should have. I already have plans to give this book to someone as a graduation gift.
A Guinea Pig Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen, of course, and Alex Goodwin and Tess Gammell
Guinea Pig P&PA runaway favorite of mine for the year, this little gift-sized book is a delightful retelling of Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice with great photos of guinea pigs dressed up as the book’s characters. Imagine, if you will, Mr. Darcy in a top hat and tails. Or Elizabeth Bennet in a bonnet. The story is highly abridged but still manages to capture the essence of the classic story quite well. It’s all a bit silly but oh so wonderful at the same time.