Top reads of 2015: my year in books

Some of you may remember, at the beginning of 2015, I talked a little about a challenge that I was doing—to read 365 books in 365 days. As of today, I have read 372 books, and, being the generally opinionated person that I am, of course I have favorites.

Disclaimer: These books are not all of my favorites from 2015. In fact, some of them probably don’t make my top 20 of 2015 list. This post is mostly here so that you all can see some of what I’ve been reading, and maybe pick up one or two of these books in the near future. I also tried to vary the genres, so there’s something for everyone here.

  1. Traveling
    Honestly, whenever I was traveling somewhere, I did more writing than reading. But as it happens, some books are simply made for reading while on the move.-Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour, by Morgan Matson. It’s a book about a road trip! It’s perfect for reading while in the car, preferably while going somewhere fairly far away.
    – Two Years, Eight Months, and Twenty-Eight Nights, by Salman Rushdie. This adaptation of the Tales of a Thousand and One Nights feels kind of like Salman Rushdie read Neil Gaiman’s American Gods and decided that the jinni had sort of gotten short shrifted, so he wrote this.
  1. INSPIRATION
    these were the books that made me want to pick up and do something, or at the very least, gave me new role models.- Alexander Hamilton, by Ron Chernow. Anyone who has known me for more than 5 seconds is fully aware of my all-consuming Hamilton obsession. But also the book is great.
    – Notorious RBG, by Irin Carmon and Shana Knizhnik – if Ruth Bader Ginsburg had not already been my idol, this book would have convinced me. If I do a quarter in my lifetime of what she accomplished in hers, then I will consider my life a good one. 
    – Between the World and Me, 
    by Ta-Nehisi Coates —Coates not only points out what the issues are, but frames them with gorgeous prose, in the form of a letter to his son. It is rare that a book leaves me completely speechless, but somehow this one did exactly that.

    (Side note: all three of these are about real people, who solved/solve problems using words and writing and communication, rather than through violence. In my opinion, everyone should read these three books)

  2. New Favorite Authors
    these are authors whose work I had not read before 2015, but now I’ve read the majority of their stuff if not all of it, and I’m pretty sure I’d pick up anything they wrote. The four most prominent:- Paolo Bacigalupi—This guy writes really dark fiction, that is in a lot of ways the sci-fi take on John McPhee (mentioned later in this list). The idea being: When humans wage war on nature, nature always wins. My favorite of his is The Windup Girl, although The Water Knife is what initially drew me to his work.
    -Victoria Schwab—also known as VE Schwab when it comes to her books intended for an older audience. If you’re looking for wacko fantasy adventures with a definite twist, her stuff is for you. I think my two favorites are Vicious and A Darker Shade of Magic. 
    – Jonathan Safran Foer—I had heard this guy’s name quite a bit before I ever picked up one of his books. I adored Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (and yes, I liked Everything is Illuminated quite a lot, too). Also, he’s married to Nicole Krauss. If you’ve read any of her stuff, then you’ll understand why I find it important to note that.
    – Julia Alvarez— I picked up In the Time of the Butterflies hoping for some insight into the history of censorship and constantly shifting governments which led to the repression of literary movements in the Dominican Republic. I ended up falling in love with the story, and the people, and when I finished In the Name of Salomé, I realized that I will read anything this woman writes.
  1. Recommended to me
    All of these were recommended to me I am not going to say much about any of these, because any explanation would give away spoilers, but if you have found any of your literary tastes aligning with mine, please, please, please pick up one of these books.– The Bone People, by Keri Hulme
    – A Fine Balance, by Rohinton Mistry
    – Nimona, by Noelle Stevenson
  1. No one’s heard of
    These are the books whose titles, when I try to name drop, result in questioning looks of bafflement.
    – The Gracekeepers, by Kirsty Logan. The Night Circus– meets- Station Eleven in a lot of ways, mixed with an unearthly kind of beauty and sadness that I can’t quite describe. 
    – The Girl With All the Gifts, 
    by M.R. Carey. It’s a painful reminder of the limits of human nature. Also Joss Whedon blurbed it.
    – All God’s Dangers: the Life of Nate Shaw,
     by Ned Cobb and Theodore Rosengarten.  Nonfiction, written down as the man told it. Reading it feels like having a conversation.
  2. Chosen because author
    These are what I call my “auto-read authors.” I liked them before this challenge, I read more of their work during it, and I certainly plan to continue reading their work after.
    Neil Gaiman: Sandman: Overture (if you think I’m cheating by naming a comic, then fine I also read Trigger Warning and that’s up there in my favorite-short-story-collections list). I waited years for this book, and now that I’ve read it, of course it ended up on this list.
    Brandon Sanderson: Mistborn: the Well of Ascension, and also warped, twisty fantasy with odd twists and turns and loveable characters… what’s not to like?
    Barbara Kingsolver: I’ve read a lot of Kingsolver’s work, and while nothing has topped The Poisonwood Bible, my favorite of hers that I read this year was Flight Behavior. 
  3. Chosen because cover
    You know how you’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover? Yeah, well, I kind of did exactly that here.
    – Uprooted, by Naomi Novik. I went in knowing absolutely nothing about this book other than “highly regarded,” and “dragon.” Dragon was a little misleading, but it totally deserves the “highly regarded.”
    – I’ll Give You the Sun, by Jandy Nelson (Y’all. This book. I CANNOT SPEAK ENOUGH ABOUT HOW MUCH I LOVE THIS BOOK.)
    – Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, by Susanna Clarke. If you like fantasy and Charles Dickens, or Thomas Hardy, meet the marriage of the three.
  4. My biggest ship
    Yeah, I can’t always restrain the inner fangirl. Warning: Possible spoilers may be present here.
    – Celaena/Sam, from the Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas
    – Lila/Tarver, from These Broken Stars, by Amie Kaufman and Meghan Spooner
    – Cecil/Carlos, from Welcome to Night Vale, by Jeffrey Cranor and Joseph Fink. Yes, it’s a podcast. Yep, also a book. Cecil and Carlos are perfection.
    – CHAZ/RAFFY, from On the Jellicoe Road. Or possibly Jude/Narnie. Honestly, any of the relationships. Anything to do with this book.
  5. Despite the reputation
    despite the high-minded literacy of many of my reading choices, I’m afraid I’m also a hormonal teenage girl. So, yes, there are pieces of sappy YA fluffiness on this list, and I do really enjoy them, they’re not guilty pleasure books, okay please don’t judge me. I’m not going to show covers because, well, you’d judge me far too much.- The Ruby Circle (Bloodlines), by Richelle Mead. Ignore the stupid covers and the word “vampire” in any summary. Vampire Academy was good, despite the covers and the remarkably off-putting title, and Richelle Mead is some kind of storytelling sorceress.
    – Rebel Belle/actually pretty much anything by Rachel Hawkins… if you’re looking for some light reading, full of quippy lines and the occasional oddball randomness, Rachel Hawkins is my go-to.
    – the Lux series by Jennifer L. Armentrout. Once again, ignore the covers, pretend it doesn’t say “alien.” It’s actually good, I swear.
    – Anna and the French Kiss, by Stephanie Perkins. I don’t care how fluffy and unrealistic everything about this book happens to be, it gave me the warm fuzzies, and continues to do so every time I reread it. Therefore, I shall keep rereading it.
  6. Made me cry
    My mother can attest to the fact that at least two of these left me sobbing at 2am, because I stayed up late to finish reading, and then I turned back to the beginning and started reading them all over again. Because of the risk of spoilers, I can’t tell you why I love them so much. Just read them, please.- On the Jellicoe Road, by Melina Marchetta (again)
    – I’ll Give You the Sun, by Jandy Nelson (again)
    – Winger and Stand-Off, by Andrew Smith
    – The Museum of Extraordinary Things, by Alice Hoffman
  7. Left me delighted
    When I was reading these books, I kept ending up with this dumb little smile that wouldn’t go away. With the exception of one, I won’t say why, because if you read them, you deserve to figure out all of the little “Easter eggs” by yourself.- Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline
    – Welcome to Night Vale, 
    by Jeffrey Cranor and Joseph Fink (again)
    – Carry On, 
    by Rainbow Rowell

    – Wintersmith, 
    by Terry Pratchett. (I should point out that Wintersmith is actually a re-read, because I did go back and read through all of the Discworld books when Sir Terry Pratchett died, without counting them as part of my 365 goal. Wintersmith is my favorite Discworld book, and while it did feel like reuniting with old friends, I also cried at least once)
  8. It grew on me
    I did not start out expecting to like any of these, but on finishing them, I realized that I… did. Evolution, I suppose.- Shadow & Bone kicks of the Grisha trilogy, by Leigh Bardugo. Book 1? Not so great. Book 3? Abso-flipping-lutely fantastic, and it led to Six of Crows, which actually might make my top 20 of 2015 list.
    – Shatter Me, by Tahereh Mafi. I hated pretty much everything about book 1, but for some reason I kept going… and I’m very glad I did, because book 3 might be one of the best conclusions to a YA trilogy I’ve read in a long time.
    – Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, by Benjamin Alire Sáenz. I didn’t like the first couple chapters of this book, but somehow I finished the book clutching it to my chest, thoroughly upset because the library wanted it back?
  9. Best transport to a Different Time/Place
    Reading is often all about the escapism.- Red Rising, by Pierce Brown (Space. A really, really scary version of space.)
    – Annals of the Former World, by John McPhee (the current state of the Earth)
    – The Cornerstone, by Zoë Oldenbourg. (13th century France)
    – Sandman: Overture, by Neil Gaiman (again). (Dreams. Stars. Upside down, twisty versions of reality)
  10. Best narration
    These books are all excellent, but I can say with zero reservations whatsoever that for ALL of them, the narration is a significant part of what made them fantastic in the first place. Unfortunately, if I tell you why, I risk spoiling a lot.

– Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn
– The Martian, by Andy Weir
– Egg and Spoon, by Gregory Maguire

  1. Best Endings
    These are the books whose endings felt resolved. Complete. Obviously, I can’t say much here because SPOILERS. But oh, the satisfaction. These were the books that I spent ages clutching desperately, wishing I didn’t have to let go, because it felt so perfect. Then I turned around and started reading the same story all over again, just so I didn’t have to leave.- Where Things Come Back, by John Corey Whaley
    – Winger 
    and Stand-Off, by Andrew Smith (again)
    – On the Jellicoe Road
    , by Melina Marchetta (again)

Happy new year, everyone!
(all image creds to Goodreads)

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