2015 was a strange year of reading for me. I was constantly several books ahead of “schedule” according to Goodreads, in terms of reaching my goal. But at the end of the year everything sort of fizzled. I started books I didn’t finish (I wasted precious Christmas time reading on a specially purchased cozy Christmas book that turned out to be so annoying I couldn’t even get halfway through; I was very excited about Rainbow Rowell’s Carry On but just didn’t like it very much and slowly read it and finally just gave up), I had a few weeks in a reading funk, I wasn’t motivated to find something good, etc. Finally, at the end of the year I finished up with some great titles, but it wasn’t enough to allow me to reach my goal. I read 62 books (well, that’s how many I have in my 2015 category-it’s somehow a couple numbers off of the GR total and I can’t be bothered to find out why.) 62 books is still an average of more than 1 book a week, which is fine. I also read fewer YA books than usual this year. Although I’m behind on writing up my reviews, I did diligently log and rate every book I read on Goodreads this year, and thus was able to take a look on December 31 at all of them and come up with my top “10” list. (I thought I hadn’t read many great books, but it turns out I’d ready lots of terrific books-just all in the first 6 months of the year!) In this case 10 meant 16. I’ve since managed to whittle it down to 12. Without further ado, the best books I read in 2015 (in particular order):
- Ready Player One by Ernest Cline: This was a reread. I was in the midst of a slower book and decided to bring this along on our trip to Denver. I’d forgotten how captivating it was, how exciting, and what an interesting world Cline had created. I loved it and read it very quickly.
- The Doomsday Book by Connie Willis: It had been years since I’d first read this and the reread was even better. Absolutely incredible historical fiction, fraught with tension as the bubonic plague takes hold of a village.
- The Lake House by Kate Morton: As long as she keeps publishing, Morton’s books will keep ending up on my top 10 lists. I just love these fat engrossing stories, Cornwall setting, and unraveled secrets. I really enjoyed how this was told with alternating time points of view (as the incident happened and years later trying to figure it out), and how much of it was a mystery. Immensely satisfying.
- First Frost by Sarah Addison Allen: At this point I don’t remember too many details, but I do remember the warm feeling that this was kind of Sarah Addison Allen book I like. A happy revisit to her first book, magical and a good story.
- A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman: This book was terrific. How could there be humor in tragic loneliness? But, there was. Ove is cantankerous and rough, and also desperately sad. How a noisy family transforms him is a joy to read. Sadly, I was super excited to read his next book later on in the year and I just couldn’t get into it (though my mom assures me it was good.)
- China Rich Girlfriend by Kevin Kwan: How could this not be on my list? I enjoyed it just as much as Crazy Rich Asians. Even more money! More outrageous behavior! More high fashion! A completely over the top drama in an international setting.
- My Real Children by Jo Walton: This story was a kind that I really enjoy-two stories, each showing a woman’s life, but one is if she had made a certain decision at a crossroads in her life and the other shows the other outcome had she decided differently. What makes this story so special is how they two converge at the end of her life. Wonderfully constructed.
- A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler: Much like when I read First Frost earlier in the year and sighed happily that it felt like a return to Sarah Addison Allen’s earlier writing, I felt the same way about Anne Tyler when I read this. Stylistically right in line with that favorite of mine-Ladder of Years. A Baltimore family with all kinds of sort of unlikable people, but you do root for them. Definitely some sadness. This one was really interesting because of the format and chronology.
- The Third Wife by Lisa Jewell: Jewell continues to be a writer I can rely on to provide for stories that draw me in and tease out information slowly. Not a mystery, but always a puzzle. And like Kate Morton, or earlier Marian Keyes, or Liane Moriarty, an author who can have you convinced you know a character, only to reveal that you didn’t know the whole story about him or her. One of the things I like about that though, is that her characters aren’t bad people. They are just people and people have flaws and aren’t perfect and aren’t always able to accurately judge situations or other people. This book was especially thoughtful about consequences of divorce.
- Armada by Ernest Cline: Not a sequel to Ready Player One in any way, but definitely has a lot of the same elements that makes RPO so enjoyable-pop culture, video games, the 1980s, humor, and action. It felt like watching a movie, and while so many of the elements are nothing new (space battles!) the story felt fresh and fun.
- The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah: Some more gut-wrenching historical fiction. Add this to my list of WWII books that are weepy, but oh so good, and so important and heart breaking. As soon as you know, going in, that it’s about WWII and the French Resistance, you know there will be death and it will be sad. I thought this book was incredible (as did millions of others, it was a huge hit this year), even if at times I had to take a break from reading because it was difficult and intense.
- The Rocks by Peter Nichols: Another one of those books that’s not especially warm and you think so many of the characters (or their choices) are…not great and they are unlikable, but somehow overall the story is compelling. One of the things I especially liked about this was the way the story was told in reverse chronological. That setup alone created a mystery. The Mallorca setting was also exotic and fantastic (and reminded me of Ibiza-not now, but back in the Shell Seekers.)
The honorable mentions:
- Replay by Ken Grimwood: Guy stuck in a time loop so many times. And for such a long stretch of time. I really enjoyed seeing what he did each time and how time travel-y it was. I didn’t let it be on the top 10 fully because the writing style can’t hold a candle to Nichols, Tyler, Willis, etc.
- The Mermaid’s Sister by Carrie Ann Noble-the only YA title to make it here this year. I loved this romantic and magical tale. The other YA title I really liked this year was A Court of Thorns and Roses.
- Two Across by Jeff Barsch: Crossword puzzle creators in love (sort of.) Paul found the characters just too maddening, but I didn’t let that get in the way of my enjoyment of the crossword details. A weird story.
For 2016 I’ve set a goal of 70, which who knows if I’ll make, but since I love reading and always seem to find time for it, I’m not really interested in challenging myself to read a certain amount. Rather, I’d rather set a goal for myself of what kind of reading I’d like to do. Last year it was to revisit old favorites, which I did this year with one of my top 10 books. I’d like to continue that and this year revisit the Outlander series, as well as The Shell Seekers and Anne of Green Gables-both of which I received lovely new editions of for Christmas. I’d also like to do more reading this year from what I have. I have stacks of books around that I never get to and have stopped seeing. So, until I can read some of those books (Beautiful Ruins, I’m looking at you sitting on my bedside table for 2 years), I need to stop getting new, new, new stuff from the library. Those things can go on to the “to read” list and be gotten to later.
Wishing you a very happy new year, one filled with captivating and enchanting stories, plenty of comfy couches and chairs and nooks. Happy Reading!