My Ten Best Reads of 2015

Every year I make a goal on Goodreads to read one hundred books. My book selection process is pretty loose—a lot of serendipity is involved. I tend to read books that fall into my lap or that I can get for free at the library, although this year I was actively trying to read more non-fiction.

Here are a few stats from my reading year:

I read 110 books that I reported on Goodreads: 79 were fiction, 3 were volumes of poetry, and 28 were non-fiction. I guess it is hard to change a reader’s stripes. Even so, 28 non-fiction books was an increase from the year before.

I tend to favor books by women, although I don’t actively seek out books by author gender. I read 59 books by women, 42 by men, and 9 that were anthologies or co-written with both genders represented.

After reviewing my stats I decided that next year my main goal will still be to read more non-fiction. I also want to whittle away on my Goodreads “to-read” list, so I’ll actively seek out books from that.

Here’s a link to my 2015 reading challenge.

Here is my list of my ten best reads of 2015 in no particular order. They weren’t necessarily published in 2015, I just happened to find and read them this year.

1) Wild Seed, by Octavia Butler

This was my first Octavia Butler book but it won’t be my last. I loved the vast scope of the historical story and the abstract mythos of masculinity and femininity that was carefully woven through the plot and characters. A work of an intelligent and broad imagination.

2) All The Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr

Any best books list of 2014 was probably topped by this book; I was just a bit late to the party to read it. Carefully crafted and well-edited, this story was spare and perfect; reading doesn’t get much better than this. I especially enjoyed the empathetic writing and the historical scope of the novel.

3) Code Name Verity, by Elizabeth Wein

Another historical novel for my list—I fear I am biased towards historical fiction. This book took an underexplored topic—female pilots and spies in WWII—and blasted it open with a rip-roaring plot and layered characters I couldn’t help but love.

4) Dust and Light, by Carol Berg

If only I could write such perfect, packed sentences as Carol Berg. She takes fantasy writing to new levels of intricacy and craft. I love the slow build of her plots, the deep development of her characters, and the final, perfect weaving of all her disparate story threads into satisfying conclusions. More people should read and know her work.

5) The Underground Girls of Kabul, by Jenny Nordberg

This non-fiction book explored the fascinating topic of young girls born into families without sons in Afghanistan. Apparently sons are so prized there that it is considered a great shame to have only daughters, so much so that families are willing to disguise one of their daughters as a boy until she reaches puberty, to gain the status and privilege that having a son bestows. This was a well-written and sensitive exploration of the lives of these girls, showing the conflict between an old misogyny and an emerging possibility of equality.

6) A Path Appears, by Nichloas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn

This inspiring read followed up Kristof and WuDunn’s book, Half the Sky, in which the situation of women and girls the world over was put beneath a magnifying glass. A Path Appears is a hopeful book, a book that looks towards the future with a big social conscience. Its goal is to get more people involved in philanthropy by presenting case studies of the results and positive rewards of charitable giving. For a layperson utterly uninvolved in the world of non-profits and charity, it was interesting and eye-opening, and I think this book represents an important first step towards creating a better world.

7) The Bronze Horseman, by Paullina Simons

This historical novel was pure reading pleasure—an addictive story that I could not put down. Romantic and epic, it tells the story of a love affair between Tatiana and Alexander, denizens of Leningrad during the siege of 1941-1944.

8) Ash and Silver, by Carol Berg

Carol Berg was the only author to double-dip in my list—and it’s because she is that good. The two books on the list are a duet covering one story that details the life of Lucien de Remini, a thwarted sorcerer who is wanted by his government for crimes he did not commit. What I love so much about Carol Berg is that she’ll take on a big, psychological theme, in this case, identity and memory, and weave it into an amazing, action-packed plot that perfectly expresses her theme. Highly recommended for fans of character-driven fantasy that defies formulas.

9) Redeployment, by Phil Klay

These short stories were tight, impactful, and of the moment. I particularly liked that they gave a soldier’s eye view of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, complete with all the complexities and dangers they face. Told in spare, controlled writing that left an impression long after reading.

10) Middle Passage, by Charles Johnson

This is probably the strangest book on my list—I’m not sure I’ve ever read a book quite like it. One part historical novel, one part allegory, one part satire, one part spec fiction—this is the work of a complicated imagination chewing on difficult questions. It’s not a read for people who cling to convention in their fiction, but if you like novels of ideas that force you ponder big issues via subtle story telling, this might a read for you. Complicated and engaging on many levels at once, this small book left a large thought-crater in my mind.

I’m looking forward to more reading in 2016. What books are you planning to read?

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