There’s a guy named Steve whose blog I look forward to checking out at the end of every year, when he posts a marathon series of top-10 lists. Not content just to list his top 10 favorite novels and nonfiction, he does separate lists for categories like biography, romance (!), mysteries, science fiction, and debut novels, as well as a couple of 10 worst lists. “A young BookTube friend cheers: ‘I read 85 books this year! Which is a TON!’ I applauded, of course, but I was thinking: that was my March,” Steve Tweeted recently. Meanwhile, I suspect that in the time it took me to read all of Steve’s lists, he probably would have finished up a weighty history of the Punic Wars.
Which is to say that it is not particularly impressive to note that I read 55 books in 2015. That’s probably a long weekend’s worth of reading for Steve. Oh well—28% of Americans read zero books last year, according to Pew Research. I’m guessing 55 puts me in the upper reaches of prolific readers. Plus, unlike Steve, I read zero books by presidential candidates or YouTube/Vine “celebrities.”
(Note: these books were not necessarily published in 2015; that’s just when I happened to read them.)
1. All The Light We Cannot See, Anthony Doerr: What more is there to say—not only did this book win the Pulitzer Prize, it’s been on top of the San Francisco Chronicle best-seller list for weeks on end. It fully deserves all of that acclaim and popularity.
2. An Officer and a Spy, Robert Harris: Historical fiction is not my favorite genre, so it’s pretty surprising that my two favorite books of the year were both historicals. This is a fictionalized version of France’s infamous “Dreyfus Affair,” and it made me care passionately about events that took place over a century ago.
3. Little Black Lies, Sharon Bolton: A sinister tale set in a fascinating, remote locale (the Falkland Islands), Bolton tells the story from the point of view of three very different, deeply damaged narrators. I hesitated to recommend this book to my book group because it deals with dead and murdered children, usually a deal-breaker, but it wound up getting very high marks from everyone; the violence in this mystery is never gratuitous, and Bolton shows great compassion toward her characters.
4. Career of Evil, Robert Galbraith: I was never a Harry Potter superfan so I came to this series (written under a pseudonym by J.K. Rowling) with low expectations, but now I’m as eager for the next installment as a kid at the height of Pottermania. The way Rowling upends expectations and genre clichés in Career of Evil shows her to be a master; just when I was positive she was going to zig, she zagged. Mysteries seldom keep me on my toes the way this one did.
5. Dietland, Sarai Walker: To those who doubt that a feminist manifesto/polemic can also make for one hell of an entertaining book, check out Dietland. This is the kind of novel that I can see changing the lives of young women who read it, but women of every age will identify with its revenge-fantasy narrative (many of the examples of male bad behavior have a “ripped from today’s headlines” freshness to them). And men should read it to find out why so many women are pissed off.
And as a bonus:
6. Movie Star by Lizzie Pepper, Hilary Liftin: The guiltiest of pleasures, this roman à clef about the Tom Cruise/Katie Holmes marriage was so juicy that I binge-read it in a single evening.