Shoot. Forgot to compile my list in January. Let’s see how much I remember about my favorite reads of 2015:
“Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe” by Benjamin Alire Sáenz This is a gorgeous gorgeous book. The economy of phrasing makes it all the more impressive how profound and big these ideas are, presented in such heart-aching simplicity. It’s truly great. It’s perfect. The language is so gorgeous and precise and sparing and the perfect words are chosen. Your heart will ache. Your mind will be engaged. It’s just lovely. I read it twice in one month (it’s a quick read). And I’ve just learned Lin-Manuel Miranda (of Hamilton fame) narrates the audio book, so I’m considering giving that a listen.
“Lafayette in These Somewhat United States” by Sarah Vowell Vowell’s books are always entertaining and informative. The timing of this one with the Hamilton musical phenomenon is probably a huge blessing for her sales. It’s a great look back at this influential french revolutionary, during the American Revolution, and his triumphant trip to the US 30 years after the revolution, representing one of the only things our country could agree upon.
“Kindred” by Octavia Butler Oof. This is a very good and sometimes challenging novel (not challenging to read, but in the ideas presented). A pal recommended it, and somehow I got the wrong impression (I knew time travel of a modern black woman back in history, so I knew things would be tough) but hadn’t known Dana was powerless over her time traveling in these situations. The relationships (especially between her and Rufus) are fascinating and fully realized. It’s a page-turner and really really good. Also, how had I never read any Octavia Butler before now?!? Glad that was rectified.
“The Thief” by Megan Whalen Turner This series is great. Narrative voice is clear and intriguing and the writing style is slightly different and captivating. Unexpected turns, very economical writing voice. Well done. Fully-fleshed, interesting, unique characters. Later in the series you get into some lovely complex political intrigues and wars and treaties and strategy.
“The Rook” by Daniel O’Malley Great fun. Action with fantasy elements. Modern britain. Our protagonist has amnesia and is finding notes she left herself. Also, surprise, she works in a secret part of the British government that deals with supernatural creatures. And there’s danger and spies and someone is out to get her.
“Dandelion Wine” by Ray Bradberry This was gorgeous and just about perfect. Lovely little vignettes. Powerful images. Truly capturing the zeitgeist of this 12 year old boy’s summer in 1928. Definitely has a poet’s soul. Found myself underlining on almost every page. Beautiful.
“Bitch Planet” by Kelly Sue DeConnick & Valentine De Landro This graphic novel series is EVERYTHING! It’s powerful and clever and rings so true. While normally I prefer to read graphic novels once they’re collected in the larger volumes, for this one it’s best to read them individually. Each issue includes a wonderful essay at the end as well as some wonderful letters. And that material has been left out of the collected volume due to publishing costs. Which is a shame and really diminishes the power of this world building, by removing the essays that directly discuss the parallels between this world and our real world right now, today. If I were a person who got tattoos, I’d 100% have a “Non Compliant” tattoo already. Keep up the great and important work, ladies!!
“Fan Girl” by Rainbow Rowell This was perfect. Funny, engaging, great characterization and clever descriptions. Good world building. Felt very real. And halfway through it made me cry so hard i gave myself a headache. But it was so so great. It’s just life and relationships and your passions and going to college and family problems, and it was beautiful and captivating and felt so true. My heart was very invested.
“Them: Adventures with Extremists” by Jon Ronston An entertaining, sometimes upsetting, sometimes informative collection of interviews and experiences had by British humorist John Ronston, conspiracy theories, the KKK, Ruby Ridge survivors, Jihad training camps, and Bohemian Grove. Ronston feels fair in his reporting, showing humanity and presenting events for the reader.
“The Name of the Star” by Maureen Johnson Really good. I’ve always loved Maureen Johnson as a person on social media and videos, but most of her books have never struck a great chord with me. My junior high aged niece loves them but I always thought most of them were just fine. (Although “Thirteen Little Blue Envelopes” is the perfect YA)
But this, this I quite liked. There was the perfect amount of spooky menace combined with some charming anecdotes. Good story. Interesting concept. American transfer student in modern London. Jack the Ripper style murders are happening. Is Jack’s ghost back? There’s a series of 3, and they’re all good, but I found this first book to be the strongest. And this one can be “stand alone.” The second book ends on a cliff hanger.
“Thirty-Three Teeth” by Colin Cotterill Fun and unique, following 72 yr old doctor in Laos, forced into being the National Coroner by Communist Party leaders in the late 1970’s. Investigating series of strange deaths and animal attacks. Quirky and fresh, with some great humor, too.
“Saga” by Fiona Staples & Brian K. Vaughan This graphic novel series is gorgeous drawings and a great story. Very imaginative, with Vaughan’s characteristic smart writing.
“Man’s Search for Meaning” by Victor Frankl It was good to revisit this book after first reading it in high school. Still very affecting and important, and Frankl’s often dispassionate narrative style is more powerful than an emotion-choked retelling would be. Big ideas. True horrors of the holocaust. And powerful important discussions about meaning-making as a human when there can be this much suffering around us.
“Dust” by Hugh Howey Satisfying conclusion to the “Wool” trilogy. I love Howey’s world building and character development.