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Our books of 2015

Discover what the Virago team has loved reading this year, and the books we’ll be getting stuck into over the festive period.

the paying guests

Sarah Waters’s The Paying Guests was a great success when we published in hardback last year and has continued to be a bestseller in paperback this year. It is vintage Sarah Waters in its intrigue, extraordinarily drawn characters, and page-turning tension. A love story that’s also a crime story, it is one of my favourites of hers. You can get utterly lost in a Sarah Waters novel, and being transported by fiction is my idea of bliss.

This Christmas I am hoping someone will give me a rather wonderful sounding novel, The Door by Magda Szabo.

Lennie Goodings, Publisher.

Lila Marilynne Robinson

Lila returns to the fictional town where Marilynne Robinson set two of her previous titles: Gilead and Home. Robinson won the Pulitzer Prize and the Orange Prize (now Baileys) with the first two. Each novel features a different character from the same family, and opening up each one is like returning to familiar friends, family and to extraordinarily moving writing. Lila features the young, second wife of Reverend Ames. She is an outsider who marries an older man and settles into a new life with him. This book made me think, feel very emotional and reminded me just how wonderful it is to read a writer who is undeniably at the top of her game. 

This Christmas I’ll be reading The Loney by Andrew Michael Hurley (John Murray). Hurley is being compared to Daphne du Maurier; Stephen King calls The Loney ‘an amazing piece of fiction’, the Guardian calls it ‘a gothic masterpiece’, and the Sunday Times ‘an instant classic’. It was first published by a tiny press, picked up by a bigger one and now seems a unmissable slice of British horror – it’s one that I’ll curl up with indoors once the Christmas chatter dies down.

Ailah Ahmed, Commissioning Editor. 

The Temporary Bride cover

I loved The Temporary Bride by Jennifer Klinec.  It’s a truly gorgeous, touching and sensual story about throwing in the day job and moving continents simply for the love of good food (recipes and more at www.jenniferklinec.com) – and then discovering love in another guise.  Nothing about Jennifer’s experiences is easy, yet the reader is tugged gently by the hand as she narrates them with the quiet strength one would expect from a person who is as determined and sensitive as she.

Over the holidays, I am going to be devouring Girls on Fire by Robin Wasserman, which Little, Brown is publishing in May 2016.

Joanna Kramer, Managing Editor, Orbit Books.

Hunger makes me a modern girl cover

I was still singing the Spice Girls into my hairbrush during Sleater-Kinney’s riot grrrl heyday, but it’s testament to Carrie Brownstein’s writing talents that this is my Virago book of 2015. I was completely mesmerised by it – it moved me to tears, made me miss my train, made me consider my own life and all the bits that make it up in quite terrifying detail. On top of all this, somehow, it’s funny – often hilariously, smiling-inanely-on-the-tube funny. Miranda July called it ‘tremendous – staggering, actually’, and I can’t think of any better adjectives than those.

This Christmas I’ll be reading A Manual for Cleaning Women by Lucia Berlin.

Rachel Wilkie, Senior Marketing Executive. 

early one morning

I think I may have read Early One Morning two or three times this year – but each time I come to it I find something new and uplifting about the book. Virginia Bailys writing is so beautiful and poignant that her impressions of Italy linger long after you finish the last page – I can almost taste the wine and feel heartache imbued in its pages now. The novel’s inciting incident, a chance meeting on the streets of Rome during the Second World War, is a remarkable opening to a story which shows the shivers of that decisions through the generations and to the present day. Virginia deftly folds together these threads to make a glowing novel, one I know I’ll read again. And again.   

I’m really looking forward to reading a poetry collection called Furies: A Poetry Anthology for Women Warriors over Christmas, into 2016 and beyond. The poems seems incredibly well chosen from what I’ve read so far, so I’ve tucked the rest away for savouring and renewing my warrior-like feelings. All profits go to charities For Books Sake and Rape Crisis England & Wales as well.

Rhiannon Smith, Commissioning Editor

 

West With the Night 2015 cover

Having adored Circling the Sun by Paula McLain, I decided to read West with the Night by Beryl Markham. A truly astonishing memoir, this book reminded me just how brave, powerful and headstrong Beryl Markham was. Reading West with the Night is a complete joy and our Virago edition has a stunning and insightful introduction by Martha Gellhorn. I will be recommending this book to friends this Christmas. I can’t think of a better new year’s resolution than to be more like Beryl Markham in your day-to-day life.

Poppy Stimpson, Press Officer

Laughing all the way to the mosque

At the beginning of the year we published Zarqa Nawaz’s hilarious and irreverent memoir Laughing All the Way to the Mosque: The Misadventures of a Muslim Woman. As well as repeatedly making me hoot with laughter, I came away from Zarqa’s book feeling better informed about what it’s really like to be Muslim in Western society – from funeral rites to Rice Krispie squares. 

Having heard so many amazing things about Elena Ferrante, My Brilliant Friend is currently top of my holiday reading heap. And it wouldn’t be Christmas without re-reading something by Roald Dahl!

David Bamford, Assistant Editor.

Circling the Sun

I finally read Paula McLain’s Circling The Sun last month after hearing such brilliant things about it and was completely whisked away from rainy Britain to a vividly described Kenya. I fell in love with the landscape, but even more with Paula’s version of Beryl Markham – whose life was extraordinary. It’s definitely one to read this Christmas to take you away from the cold.

Another book that I’m planning to read is The Shore by Sara Taylor. It was shortlisted for The Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year award, so I was lucky enough to nab a copy when I went to the awards ceremony.

Grace Vincent, Press Officer

I Call Myself a Feminist

As soon as I heard Virago were publishing I Call Myself a Feminist, a collection of twenty-five essays by awesome women under thirty, I knew I had to get my hands on a copy, and it didn’t disappoint! Reading it was full of ‘Yes, THIS!’ moments, and I admit, I did cancel plans to go home and finish it. I’ve lost count of the number of people I’ve promised to lend it to. Perhaps I should just get them all a copy for Christmas.

This Christmas, I’m looking forward to getting stuck in to a book that’s been sitting on my shelf for months now, Marlon James’s A Brief History of Seven Killings. And because it’s Christmas I’ll probably read a classic- I’ve got my eye on this beautiful Virago Modern Classics edition of Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier.

Sam Book, Digital Marketing Manager

Stone Mattress

From an elderly fantasy writer who still hears the voice of her dead husband, to slain chickens, to freeze-dried grooms (literally); Atwood’s Stone Mattress deals dark humour alongside devastation throughout her nine wicked tales. Although these stories are imbued with Atwood’s trademark wit and verve, what impacted me most was the delicacy with which she handles such complex themes. The collection is framed with two tales about elderly women, each dealing with mental illness. These stories in particular are dark, funny, but above all, touching. For me, only Atwood can deploy equal amounts of light and dark while grappling with such a challenging subject matter. 

This Christmas I’ll be reading I Call Myself A Feminist: The View From Twenty-Five Women Under Thirty.

Justine Gold, Marketing Executive. 

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