Craft · KN Reads

KN Reads: Best Books of 2015

Last year I did a challenge on Goodreads to read 52 books: one a week for the entire year. I ended up reading 61. The thought of having a timeline to read a book made me hurry on and sparked the biggest year of binge-reading I’ve had since university.

I read some great books and some truly terrible ones, but here’s my list of the best books I read in 2015. These are in no particular order since I couldn’t do a countdown – I love them all for very different reasons.

Let’s Pretend This Never Happened

by Jenny Lawson

People have been telling me to read The Bloggess’s books for a long time so I popped one on my Amazon wishlist and out it came on Christmas eve. I read it within a couple of days, laughing out loud every few pages. Jenny Lawson is funny and clever, unique in the way she writes and illuminates the various bizarre moments in her life.

Even better, she portrays her struggle with mental illness in a way I haven’t seen before: compassionate and understanding, yet still starkly funny. Having a mental illness isn’t fun but there are moments that, with the right retelling, can be amusing. Jenny Lawson does this without mocking anything for a moment.

Moloka’i

by Alan Brennert

The tale of a young girl sent to what was then known as a leper colony in Hawai’i, Moloka’i is a quiet sort of epic. It follows the girl through her lonely childhood and her strange, confusing teenage years. It takes us right up to her old age, all the while introducing a cast of sparkling characters whose tales are just as important.

See my full review here.

Welcome to Night Vale

by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor

If you haven’t listened to the Welcome to Night Vale podcast, well, you’re missing out. I don’t know how many more times I can say it. WTNV is smart, funny, and completely surreal. My favourite!

The book is different to the podcast; it doesn’t follow Cecil’s life or the town’s bizarre circumstances. Instead it follows two other characters through a small but touching tale that unfolds into some excellent backstory for the podcast. It’s dark and weird.

See my full review here.

Station Eleven

by Emily St. John Mandel

Oh, this book. How to find the words for something written so beautifully you can forget you’re following the apocalypse? Station Eleven is on a whole range of best-of lists this year and so it should be. The only problem is explaining what the story is about without misrepresenting it.

When I’ve mentioned it to others they’ve said “oh, that’s the book about the travelling musicians after the apocalypse, isn’t it?” which, yes, it is. Sort of. It’s also about the virus that wipes out humanity and how people survived it (or didn’t). It’s about how so many lives can tangle in the most unusual ways until they converge around an unlikely thing: a spoiler, but it’s related to the title of the book. It’s full of beauty and quiet horror, and I’m already tempted to re-read it just from writing this.

See my full review here.

Paladin

by Sally Slater

One of the earlier books I read this year, but it still sticks in my mind. Paladin follows Sam of Haywood who dresses up in masculine clothing to achieve her ambitions of becoming a Paladin. Not a new plot, no, but it is executed in a fun and touching way.

Though it’s not the deepest read you’ll find on this list, it definitely earned its place on the top ten books last year. I can’t wait for the sequel.

See my full review here.

Dead Wake

by Erik Larson

I’ve recommended this book to everyone who stands still long enough. The only non-fiction on this list, it’s about the Lusitania, a ship that was sunk by German submarines during the First World War. Sounds boring? You’d be surprised. Dead Wake takes an old tragedy and turns it into an excellent snapshot of the world of the time, while still keeping it personal as you see the lives of those involved.

Unsurprisingly this book has been popping up on best-of lists all over the place. It’s sharp and fascinating, and not nearly as dry as many books focusing on the Great War. You don’t need to care about military history to read this book: all you need is compassion for those involved.

The Book of Speculation

by Erika Swyler

Simon Watson, a librarion, finds a fascinating old book documenting the life and times of a circus troop. As his life begins to unravel he finds a link to his past between the books and hunts it down to save the life of his sister: he believes a curse will cause her to drown on her next birthday, as many generations of women in his family have done before.

A complicated, beautiful story, The Book of Speculation is especially apt for someone (like me) who grew up with the sea spray battering their windows. The touch of magic just makes it even better.

See my full review here.

Americanah

by Chimimanda Ngozi Adichie

Whenever I try to explain what I love about Adichie’s writing I never know where to start. She creates fully-realised, three-dimensional characters who walk through the world as clear as you or I, then forces you to watch as they struggle to find their sense of self in a mixed up world. Alongside her tendency for cutting lines that stick with you for a long time, Adichie is a talented storyteller.

Americanah is a long book, and it is dense. It took me a long time to read it. Yet at no point did I want to stop, even as I read other books between chapters to lighten the load. Following Ifemelu as she struggles to fit in both in her native Nigeria and her adopted homeland of America, you never want her story to end, even when the harsh light shone on race relations make you flinch.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

Not much happens in this book. At least, no grand disasters hit, no end-of-the-world, no meteorites or magic. Yet the scope of this coming of age tale is enormous. Ari and Dante meet at a pool as teenage boys, both uncertain and growing too fast. They become best friends and share the strange adolescent time together, trying to find their places in the world.

Soon it becomes clear that their place is together, but that’s not an easy realisation for any couple, let alone two young men. The way their lives combine is touching and sometimes sad, and I’ve already re-read parts of this book for the beauty of the prose.

The Mirror Empire/Empire Ascendant

by Kameron Hurley

Okay, okay, I cheated! This is two books. Yet they share a spot on the list because I read them both this year and they’re the same series so it totally counts. Plus they are amazing, important books and I get a little twist of excitement every time I think of them.

Kameron Hurley crafts a world where the powerful magic is dependent on which star sits in the sky. When things begin to go wrong, people begin talking of the most dangerous star, Oma, which hasn’t been seen for thousands of years. As it rises it draws the worlds too close together and people begin to pass between them, bringing war and chaos in their wake.

Trying to narrow down why these books are so impressive is difficult, but the way Hurley dismantles and rebuilds our understanding of gender and sexuality so effortlessly is a big part of it. Instead of sticking to our narrow social perception of gender she creates a world with endless and sometimes uncomfortable variety, and at no point is that the focus of the plot. There’s something special about that.

See my full review of Empire Ascendant here.

*

There! Ten (okay, eleven) books that meant a lot to me this year. I’m not including any re-reads, otherwise there would be at least five Harry Potter books on the list (and at least one Discworld).

Have you read any of the books on the list? What’s the best book you’ve read this year? Seriously, tell me. I’m trying to read 75 books in 2016 so I’m going to need the inspiration.

Advertisements

7 thoughts on “KN Reads: Best Books of 2015

  1. I’m so glad you read Let’s Pretend!!!!! Jenny’s sequel is much more geared towards her dealing with mental illness but it is still a great and funny read. I’ll loan it to you.
    I quite liked Station Eleven. The author truly made sci-fi very very real.
    Looking forward to reading Moloka’i this year.
    Just finished Patrick Ness’s The Rest of Us Just Live here. I love this guy, in the last year I’ve read 4 of his books plus this one. All YA. A Monster Calls has been made into a movie, the trailer is avaliable for viewing, not that I know how to include a link. I adored this book. I was seriously ugly crying. If my reccomendation isn’t enough, Patrick is the writer for the new Doctor Who spin-off, Class.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, I really want to read her sequel. 😀 Yeah, Station Eleven was a stunner. Such an amazing book. I’ve never read Patrick Ness but you’ve mentioned him before and I really need to get around to doing so, especially when I’m in need of an ugly-cry (and who isn’t once in a while?). Thanks Kelly! 😀

      Like

  2. You might like Cloud Atlas if you haven’t read it. Kind of gave me the feeling of Station Eleven. We see to have read some of the same books. I’m going for 60 this year as I beat my 30 of last year with 55. Happy reading and knitting. I wonder do knitting books count on the challenge?

    Like

    1. I’ve actually been meaning to read Cloud Atlas – maybe this will be the year I get to it. Thank you. I think knitting books count if you read them cover to cover, why not?

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s