Last January I gave a list of books I had read in 2014 along with little reviews of them, I have decided to make this an annual thing. However, in 2015 I read a lot less books. In 2014 I read 57; in 2015 I read 34. Maybe not a bad number but actually not excellent for someone who spends a lot of time with her nose stuck between pages.
I do have something bordering to an excuse – 2015 was insane for me. There have been a lot of personally large events this year that have gotten in the way of my usual scrambling to squeeze as much lit as possible into my brain.
…my 9 month internship…my literature review…moving house (again)…graduating from college as a fully fledged nurse…it’s been a fairly full year!
Anyhoo, on to the important things; the books! My modest number of 34 was still enjoyable. And I am beyond determined to hit 50 books in 2016!
The * are for my favourite & particularly recommended books.
- Inferno by Dan Brown
So I bent to the peer pressure of reading a Dan Brown book; I am ashamed ha. Actually it was free on some website & I decided to get it. It was, as all of his books are, an enjoyable read in terms of being able to get through it easily. There are the usual shocks & twists that come with his volumes, & is enjoyable in that sense. If you are a fan of books such as this, you will like it. Personally, I really enjoyed the descriptions of the galleries & churches in the European cities it’s set in.
2. The Fault In Our Stars by John Green*
I like John Green; his books are usually full of emotion that spills over the page to catch right in your throat. This is no exception, & a tear jerker to boot. I have not seen the movie (& rather have no intention to), but this was an utterly enjoyable insight to the relationships that the terminally ill will form & need. There is a need I think, in humans, to share sufferings, to share emotions with others. This goes through the anger & loss I’m sure most cancer sufferers go through at some level. There is also a mildly fantastical element to the storyline, but it just adds to the magic. Keep the tissues to hand for the ending.
3. Us by David Nicholls
I enjoyed this, I’ve read a few of David Nicholls’ books & I find them very entertaining. This follows a father having a bit of a mid-life crisis, & attempting to grasp some control of his life with his wife & son, who are not exactly pleased with him. He undertakes a trip around Europe which turns into a journey of self-discovery of sorts; while reminiscing about times past. I liked this insight into some complex relationships while injecting some humour into the story.
4. Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
This book was given to me by my uncle, who’s recommendations are usually ones that I try to take to heart. This was a beautiful novel. It follows the writings of an elderly pastor in the States reflecting on his life, how he has interacted with people, & how it has influenced him at the end of his days. It is a beautifully constructed piece of writing. I would imagine it is not the type of book that is for everyone, it is quite slow paced as the pastor reflects on details, on feelings; but I found it fascinating, powerful, & quite impossible to put down until I reached the back cover, closed it, & sighed contentedly.
5. Rendezvous with Rama by Arthur C. Clarke*
From an extremely sweet novel to pure sci-fi now – this just shows how broad my reading habits can be! I love sci-fi, as you would know if you have followed my Books of 2014 post. Arthur C. Clarke is a sci-fi master that I had often come across but never actually read, although as you will see, I read the series of these in quick succession. It is very space-y sci-fi & I loved it. It is set in the future, & documents a first contact of mankind with an alien spacecraft that mysteriously appears. Sending a team of astronauts to inspect it, Earth waits with bated breath to see what wonders are inside. This is a fantastic series, the descriptions are fantastic, you can see, smell & feel the inside of this odd spaceship & the chain of events that lead from the rendezvous with it. Any lover of sci-fi should read it.
6. Rama II by Arthur C. Clarke & Gentry Lee*
The sequel to the sci-fi amazingness that is Rendezvous with Rama. I will admit that I had an apprehension about this due to the fact that it is a collaboration. I will admit that I had an odd view of collaborative works before I read this, & since then my opinion of them has changed. There is a difference that I will acknowledge, you can definitely hear the change in voice from Arthur C. Clarke alone, but it is still a great read. This sequel deals with the appearance of a second alien ship in our solar system, seemingly identical to the last, & mankind are eager to communicate with it once more. As thrilling as the first, with different main characters.
7. The Garden of Rama by Arthur C. Clarke & Gentry Lee*
8. The Garden of Rama by ARthur C. Clarke & Gentry Lee*
I have put these two together because they are running along in the series & I don’t want to put spoilers in for anyone who wants to read them (if in fact anyone reads this post & takes on any of my advice haha). The short (mostly) spoiler free version is that Rama is returning to where it originated with a human colony aboard; both books follow it’s journey & explores an interesting aspect of the dynamics that arise in human societies. Enough said, if you like sci-fi universes, definitely read this.
9. The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton
This was recommended by a friend of mine who said she sat & read it over 16 hours. If that’s not an endorsement then I don’t know what is. This book was not what I expected, by any means. I was a bit apprehensive, my friends & my taste in literature being rather different. This, however, was most interesting. In 1686, young girl is married off to a man she barely knows, & thrown into a city life from the countryside that she is accustomed to. Moving in to an unfamiliar place, & trying to cope with her new & frighteningly sullen sister-in-law, our main character becomes obsessed with the miniature house that her husband gifted to her for their wedding. Things take a twist for the surreal when the miniaturist that she orders dolls from manages to predict events in her life through the miniatures sent to her. An extremely interesting book, with a mildly predictable twist along the way, which makes it no less thrilling by the way. Very enjoyable.
10. Reasons To Stay Alive by Matt Haig*
This book. This is fantastic, a life-changing & affirming book, & one that I think I will read again & again when I am down. This is non-fiction, not usually my bag, but I am a massive fan of Matt Haig & had this book on pre-order from amazon. It documents Haig’s struggle with anxiety & depression, & reaches out to anyone who has felt that the world is not quite manageable. It is fantastic, & should be on every bookshelf in every home. There are so many pages that I have bookmarked to return to when I need a pick-me-up, an “I can do this” for a particularly difficult day. It is self-help in the best possible way, & gives the writer’s tips on how to navigate life’s ups & downs. My absolute book of the year.
11. Sand by Hugh Howey
I like Howey’s style; his Wool Series was an absolute favourite of mine in 2014. Sand is no less amazing. It is a post-apocalyptic novel, depicting man’s struggle against the build-up of sand that has taken over most of the land. Several people scavenge a living from diving down to the remnants of the city skyscrapers hundreds of feet below the sandy surface. In a literary world overrun with post-apocalyptic books, this one stands out with it’s ingenuity.
12. The Maze Runner by James Dashner
Without seeing the movie, I decided to read this. Everyone knows the storyline, I’m sure, but it follows a teenage boy who wakes up in a lift that brings him to an odd colony of boys in a survival situation. Surrounded on all sides by an unsolvable maze, the boys are forced to cooperate to survive. The main character, Thomas, becomes integral to their escape from the dreaded maze, & along with the arrival of a girl in their midst, this company of teens must try to escape horrors hidden in the maze. This was not spectacular for me, but also very readable. I also read the sequels, which I will get to soon.
13. American Gods by Neil Gaiman*
Wow. This was my first Gaiman read, & will not be my last. He is the fantasy writer I’ve been missing from my life, & I can see why his lot has been compared to the immortal Terry Pratchett. This was fantastic. It was fantasy in a modern world I loved it. A convict is released from jail in the US & his world is completely changed by meeting one stranger who seems to know all about him. He is thrown into a world of the gods that pepper America, & gets right in the middle of their games. That’s all I’ll say apart from I was glued to this.
14. The Scorch Trials by James Dashner
15. The Kill Order by James Dashner
So curiosity got the better of me with this series, & the cliffhanger at the end of the first book drew me in. I will admit, this was not what I thought it was going to be. By the time I got to the end of this part of the series, I could have packed it in, but I was determined to get to the end. I will admit, this was not entirely my bag, but I know that it would appeal to a lot of YA readers, & readers of YA. It’s an odd series that becomes a post-apocalyptic puzzle. Enjoyable.
16. The City by Dean Koonst
I really liked this. It was my first Koonst book, recommended again by my literary-minded uncle. It sucked me in from the start, & I was hooked. I have read some online reviews of this that are less than flattering, saying that it was hard to get into. Personally, I was interested from very soon into the book & having never read any of Koonst’s stuff before, I was pleasantly drawn in to his world. This tells the tale of a young boy & his dramatic early life. His estranged father, his odd dalliance with Miss Pearl who claims to be the personification of the city itself, & the little relationships that he forms in the building he lives in with his mother. Throw in some sinister characters & some detective work & I think this book had a lot going for it. I acknowledge the reviews from people that have been Koonst fans for a long time, who seemed to not enjoy it. As an amateur with his work though, I liked it.
17. The Ghost by Arnold Bennett
This ghost story novel is from 1907, a lovely chiller set around a beautiful young opera singer & the man who is infatuated with her. Not exactly a spine-tingler in terms of today’s horror novels but an interesting insight into early 20th century ghouls. A slow burner but an easy transition from start to finish, with a strange but satisfying ending. No real jumps or suspense, but that’s just my opinion.
18. 12 Years A Slave by Soloman Northup
I will admit that I haven’t seen the movie, & having read the book, I’m not sure I would be able to emotionally handle it. A fantastically descriptive view of slavery in the USA. Soloman is kidnapped & sold into bondage, always with the determination to escape at his earliest opportunity, which does not safely present itself for a very long time. This is excellently written, heartbreaking & an extremely good read. I found myself in tears at several intervals, having once or twice to pause & take a breath before dealing with the next line. I would wholly recommend this. As an Irish woman who knows only what Hollywood has told her about slavery in the US, I found it to be a devastating eye-opener.
19. The Time Keeper by Mitch Albom
I found this quite a sad story. Dor invents time, & is therefore eternally punished for it. He is finally granted a reprieve if he can save two people – a suicidal teenager & a businessman who is determined to cheat death with cryogenic freezing. Dor pauses time & shows them both the meaning of time. This was an enjoyable novel but I have to say that it seems to chop between the characters a bit quickly, as if you are just connecting with one when it changes to another. All in all a very good book, I do like Mitch Albom. I found myself with a profound sense of sadness about the measurement of time at the end, & I am not quite sure if that was the intention!
20. The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux*
Being a fan of the opera, & having read this book before, I am somewhat biased about this. It is a classic for a reason, I do adore the story. I think it is one of the classics that everyone should read (or at least watch) once. I have always enjoyed the premise of this, & think it travels quite well into the modern era. Everyone knows the storyline; a young opera singer becomes bewitched by The Angel of Music, who turns out to be the dreaded Opera Ghost who’s twisted sense of being threatens the opera house in Paris. What I find particularly captivating about this, is that it was based on a true legend in the opera house. There is indeed an underground lake, & there are scant records of some odd deaths & superstitions about an “opera ghost”. Finally, there are reports of an oddly disfigured body found in the basement levels of the opera. Working from these, Leroux creates an beautiful & horrific tale of romance, tragedy, & the cruelty in the heart of humans. I love this.
21. The Book of Fathers by Miklós Vámos
This was a strange but interesting tale of a magical ability passed through the men of a certain lineage, passed along with a book detailing their talent. They are blessed (or cursed) with the gift of sight of future & past family members. There were good & bad parts to this, some very likeable characters & then a few that I found it hard to get through. It was interesting though, & despite once or twice putting it down for a few days, I kept coming back to it.
22. Painted Ladies by Siobhán Parkinson
An interesting late 1800’s – early 1900’s window into the life of artists in Europe. We begin with Marie, travelling to Paris to learn to paint& the story soon widens to include her circle of artistic friends. An enjoyable story, colourfully written, although the ending was mildly unsatisfying, ending quite abruptly without tying up a few loose ends.
23. The Canal Bridge by Tom Phelan
This book has less to do with the Easter Rising than the synopsis on the cover would have you believe. However, it is a good representation of young men in the first world war who were treated as cannon fodder. It follows Con & Mattias through WW1 while thinking about home; & the key figures in their small Irish village. They all tell their stories as they see life in a world that is cruel to them. This one stayed with me for a while, it was not a happy book & not a happy ending, but very well written & the descriptions are tangible.
24. Here They Come by Yannick Murphy
A recommendation by my uncle, probably not one I would have chosen for myself. It was intriguing but rather sinister at times. A nameless girl & her family try to find happiness in abject poverty, hunger & squalor. I will not give away any of the storyline, as it is rather bizarre at the same time as being gripping. This barely-teenaged girl lives with her mother, sisters & older brother in what seems to be horrifying poverty, while their father lives with a woman mostly referred to as “the slut”. A happy but sad tale, it proved to be gripping very early on.
25. The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
A terribly English book! & I mean “terribly” not in a derogatory way, but in the English fashion of using it to exaggerate something. It is most definitely an English, British book. While it examines the musings of a grand-house butler post WW2, it also highlights the manners & airs which staff in these houses adopted. It is a difficult book to get into; I will admit that the beginning was a bit of a struggle. But once you understand the overall Britishness of the writing, you begin to enjoy. It all at once includes outdated & outgrown ideas, the decline of the grand stately homes; the running of such houses, the notion of love in those times & how stoic staff were used to being amidst the general running of the houses. It makes me wonder whether these “gentlemen” employers or families realised that their staff were leading their own lives, or did they assume them insignificant, impersonal, invisible?
26. Colourless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami
If you are familiar with Murakami (& you should be!), you will be aware of his surrealist style of writing. I have to say that this is one of his less surreal books, but no less enjoyable all the same. It follows Tsukuru Tazaki after his four best friends cut him from their lives with no explanation. He comes to a realisation in his life when he finally asks why he was removed from the group. A thoroughly enjoyable Murakami, as always.
27. The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
This is quite a read at over seven hundred pages. It’s an interesting book though, there is throughout the story, an evolution of the main character. It begins with the explanation of a young boy’s loss of his mother & follows how it impacts his life. The story foes from heart-wrenchingly melancholy to out of control teenage insanity. The reader’s anxiety for the main character – Theo – rises as he hits a mental decline with the discovery of alcohol & narcotics. The older Theo gets & the more devastating his life choices become, the more invested the reader becomes in his future. Simultaneously, you develop a love-hate relationship with him; wanting him to turn to the positivity that tries to reach out to him & disliking the person he insists on becoming. By the last page though, I was at the edge of my seat willing him to make the right decisions for once. A great read, although mammoth, & a good recommendation for anyone who enjoys the long reads.
28. The Long Earth by Terry Pratchett & Stephen Baxter*
It is no secret that I am a huge Terry Pratchett fan, especially the Discworld series. As I have said before, I generally stay away from collaborative novels, thinking that each author loses their true voice in a shared work. How wrong I was; this work is fabulous. The imagination behind it is genius, & it opens a whole new fantasy level. It is set in a universe where there are multiple parallel Earths that can be stepped to by the majority of mankind, & the implications it has on humanity. I won’t spoil it, just read it. It’s a fantastic fantasy, & if you’re a TP fan, you will enjoy it immensely.
29. The Gospel of Loki by Joanne Harris
I love Joanne Harris & her beautifully descriptive writing style; so I was pleasantly surprised to see her release a book that appeared unlike her usual style. And “pleasantly” is an understatement. What a good book – it is basically, as promised, a book from the point of view of the notorious Trickster god, Loki. It is fun & easy to fly through as you really get caught up in the adventure. It loses none of Harris’ descriptive flow, I absolutely loved it. Anyone with an interest in the Norse gods & their legends, please read this; you will love it.
30. The Radleys by Matt Haig*
Again, I love Matt Haig’s books. His style of writing, his beautifully constructed books; & this delicious tale is no exception. “The Radleys” is fiction meets fantasy – in a very seemless way, that you can almost take for fact! The Radley family are marketed as a “normal” suburban family hiding a very abnormal secret – they are vampires, albeit abstaining ones. When their teenage kids discover this, hell breaks loose in suburbia. This is brilliant, more than worth the read. Get it immediately.
31. Anno Dracula by Kim Newman*
This has been on my “to read list” for a long time & I’m kicking myself that I didn’t read it sooner! It is glorious, absolute genius. It puts an entirely different spin on historical novels. Imagine a universe where Bram Stoker’s Dracula has an alternate ending & Dracula wins London; well this is it. There are some beautiful appearances by some well-known literary characters, & a fantastic cast of central characters. Fans of Dracula & vampire novels – you will love this. Not only is it exceptional writing, it covers the genres of horror and romance with an element of (surprisingly enjoyable) fan fiction. An alternate history of epic proportions.
32. The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro
A strange story, but interesting. Ishiguro writes in a very English tone which creates an almost fairy-tale world. It reads as a vintage legend. An old couple realise that life may not be all it seems & set out on a journey to find a son that they have clouded memories of. On this journey, they discover exactly why their memories are not so clear, & find some home truths that shake their small world. I will admit, I found this hard to get through at times, it would sometimes lose it’s flow & I would barrel through until I enjoyed it again. Almost puts me in mind of the vintage Grimm tales.
33. The Evil Seed by Joanne Harris
So you know I love Joanne Harris, especially her Vianne narratives, so to read her debut novel with a completely different tangent was a treat. This is not what I expected – & I didn’t mean to jump from one monster story to the next! – but I liked it. She writes horror very well & her deliciously descriptive way of writing really feeds the creepy element that runs through the novel.
34. A Slip of the Keyboard by Terry Pratchett
It seems fitting that I should end the year of his death reading one of his books. It seems odd, perhaps, to mourn a person I never met, never so much as saw in real life, let alone something as ridiculous as cry at their death. However, since I first stumbled across Sir Terry’s books at the age of fifteen (my first one was Small Gods), the man has set up a camp of fantasy in my brain, which was not devoid of fantasy & over-imagination in the first place! & I love him for it. His death had profound shock waves on the entire literary world, an earthquake of epic proportions. This book, comprised of his newspaper pieces, articles of his hats, his scorn for heavy laptop computers, his anger & championing for orang-utans, & his pioneering for the rights to a good death, on a person’s own terms & at their own time. One of the things I will have carved on the legacy of my own life will be the advice to all to read, as much as possible. & right below it, will say – read Terry Pratchett, to open your eyes.
So that’s my list of books read in 2015. Looking back, there have been a few that will remain with me for some time. I’m looking forward to the books of 2016, I have quite a few unread books clogging my shelves & I will have more time this year. The plan is to read as much as possible, as is my plan every year.
I hope this was somewhat informative to anyone looking for a few book recommendations. Happy reading :-)