I read some amazing books this year so this was not an easy list to make. After much deliberation, I finally whittled the list down to ten spectacular reads. There’s a bit of everything, science fiction, literary fiction, YA, and one that defies easy categorization. But they were all gripping, thought-provoking, and kept me up well into the night, reading page after page.
Not all of the books were new releases this year, some are decades old! But they were all new to me. I loved them, and I think you might, too.
In no particular order, my ten favorite books of 2015…
This book is one that defies easy categorization. It is part thriller, part science fiction, and part multicultural vision of a complex global future. The author describes it as a “twenty-first-century myth, starring a queer woman as the hero of the human race…” I call it a sci-fi fever dream of hypnotic proportions, a story that slithers and roils like the trans-oceanic road of the title. This book will get under your skin and Byrne is a game-changing author to watch.
Aurora is a darkly intimate exploration of the hardship of space travel. It is worth reading just for the intricate rendering of a generation starship and the science and politics that goes into maintaining it, but Robinson, of course, delves far deeper than that. He writes beautifully about the maddening stubborness of space, the damaging effects of entropy, and the true meaning of consciousness. When I finished Aurora, I was left with a desperate appreciation of our planet and how much we take for granted.
This book is pure, flat out fun. There isn’t much characterization or depth of meaning to speak of, and the writing is nothing spectacular, but the story itself is such sheer page-turning, adrenaline-pumping excitement that it doesn’t even matter. Stranded on Mars, Astronaut Mark Watney faces new dangers every day as he fights to survive, and maybe even get home. Grounded in expertly conveyed science, this book actually made me fascinated to read about water filtration systems and engineering conundrums. As hard as that makes it to believe this, I promise you will not be able to put this book down.
The New York Journal of Books called Fangirl a “deliciously warm-hearted nerd power ballad, destined for greatness.” I wholeheartedly agree. Rowell captures the swirl of her character’s emotions with exquisite precision, managing to distill the essence of freshman year, social anxiety, introversion, and the saving grace of friendship, family, and fandom. By the end of the book the characters felt like good friends and I never wanted to say goodbye.
This was hands down my favorite science fiction novel of the year. It’s got everything I love – apocalypse, life in space, a masterful combination of meaning + characters + hard science + edge of your seat suspense. As this review says: “This science-fueled saga spans millennia, but make no mistake: The heart of this story is its all-too-human heroes and how their choices, good and ill, forge the future of our species.” It blends the giant, breathtaking scope of the potential extinction of the human race with the immediate, heartbreaking intimacy of expertly realized characters. It is flawlessly executed and gripping on every level. Science fiction at its absolute best.
Those of you who have read this book understand why it is so hard for me to write a review. Set in a small college, this book deals with a group of Classics students and their intriguing professor and the dark events that unfold over the course of the school year. It deals with themes of beauty, morality, human nature, and truth. And it is so gorgeously powerful that anything I say can never do it justice. I’ll just say this: I wanted to eat the words off the page they were so beautifully crafted. And the characters were so vibrantly real that I literally dreamt about them. This is a masterpiece and author Donna Tartt is a Pulitzer prize winner for a reason.
This YA book set in World War II will have you on the edge of your seat till the very end. The narrative twists and turns and doubles back, weaving a story of intrigue and power that will leave you breathless.The characters are young female aviators and intelligence officers, doing things that women actually did during the war in the service of their countries. A gripping portrayal of friendship, bravery, and the harrowing trials of a gruesome war, Codename Verity is unforgettable.
‘How to Build a Girl’ is a whip smart and blisteringly funny coming of age story that is drenched with sex, drugs, and rock & roll. The synopsis on Moran’s website says it best: “Imagine The Bell Jar written by Rizzo from Grease, with a soundtrack by My Bloody Valentine and Happy Mondays.” Raunchy, sensitive, and poignant, with characters that leap off the page with aching authenticity, this book is gritty perfection.
Oh, Ray Bradbury, you truly are the greatest writer in the world. I could hardly read a page of this luminous book without swooning over the writing, which is soaring and humble, profound and gentle, all things at once, but most of all, gasp-inducingly beautiful. I feel like I lived the summer of 1928 in Green Town and I miss it every single day. Dandelion Wine isn’t just one of my favorite books of the year, it is one of my favorite books of all time. It is a luscious, captivating meditation on the passage of time, the joy and pain of childhood, and the magic in the everyday.
Science fiction at its spookiest! As Hugh Howey said, “If Stephen Hawking and Stephen King wrote a novel together, you’d get The Flicker Men.” This book uses physics to scare you silly and explore questions with the most profoundly haunting implications. Kosmatka wrestles deftly with concepts of free will, fate, theology, and the search for truth, ultimately creating a book that is just as thought provoking as it is thrilling.