Books of 2015
I like to read. This past year, I read more fiction than I normally do. Particularly fiction of the fantasy genre. And these were my favorite picks in all genres:
- The Poisonwood Bible, by Barbara Kingsolver. - I read two of Barbara Kingsolver's books in a row. Flight Behavior preceded this pick. As much as I enjoyed Flight Behavior, I had to include The Poisonwood Bible in my top picks. Kingsolver will probably go down as a favorite author in my life. Her descriptions are vivid, her characters are complex, her storylines are compelling, and her messages are relevant and poignant. The Poisonwood Bible is the type of classic writing that I would instruct others to read. If I were an English teacher, I would make my students read this novel. Some of them would hate me for it. I would accept that. It could make for interesting discussion on missionary life, the history of the Congolese, issues of race and religion, the extent of personal responsibility, and the role of government – American and otherwise. And certainly, The Poisonwood Bible, as a work of fiction, would only be a starting point to a complex discourse on a variety of issues and historical events. Anyway, you can read it and decide for yourself. The story is told from the point of view of a mother and her four daughters who are brought to the Congo by their evangelist husband and father, Nathan Price. Political and social unrest occurs, corresponding with the unprepared family's struggles with religion, race, and culture. There were times I was outraged, times where I laughed, and other times where I wept. Good job, Ms. Kingsolver!
- Honorable mentions for general fiction: The Red Tent, by Anita Diamant, and Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, by Lisa See.
- The Winner's Crime, by Marie Rutkoski – This is the sequel to The Winner's Curse, which I also loved. The third novel is due out in November of 2016, and this makes me want to weep. I can't wait to find out how the whole story ends!!! Kestrel is the daughter of a general in an empire. The empire enslaves the citizens of conquered countries. In the first book, Kestrel purchases Arin, a defiant man who promises not to make a very good slave. I don't want to divulge too much for this second book – EXCEPT THAT IT IS EVEN BETTER THAN THE FIRST BOOK. Of course there's a romance between Kestrel and Arin, but the world gets tossed upside down. Politics and relationships do not mix well, and I can't wait to see what Rutkoski has in store for her readers with the final book.
- An Ember in the Ashes, by Sabaa Tahir – This is the first installment to a trilogy, and I am hooked. The second book is out in August of 2016. I don't blame you if you hold off until summer to read this page-turner. Laia is a scholar turned slave. Elias is a student at the finest military academy, and is in line to potentially become the next emperor. The book's POV switches between these two as they undergo challenges – Laia's brother is arrested for treason, and she tries to rescue him with the help of a rebel faction. Elias is trying to leave the life his barbaric mother – the Commandant – and his Empire-worshiping grandfather are forcing him to lead. Of course, they cross paths, but, how will their lives intertwine in a way that determines the fate of the empire? Truly, a thoroughly enjoyable and absorbing read.
- The Invasion of the Tearling, by Erika Johansen. This follow-up to The Queen of the Tearling left me yearning for August 2016, when the final book comes out. I can't believe that I managed to read three separate trilogies this year that are yet unfinished. It's been painful, but the books are so excellent that it's difficult to complain! In The Invasion of the Tearling, protagonist Kelsea Glynn goes up against the dreaded Red Queen and her invading army. There's big magic afoot here: a dream-induced sort of time travel, enchanted jewels, and a sinister being bent on release. There are contemporary issues like rape, cutting, and theocratic intrigue and violence. None of this is romanticized – it's disturbing. Kelsea is a transformed character, and you have to wonder if she might fall further from the precipice that is the moral high ground meeting the moral grey area. I eagerly await the conclusion in the third installment!
- The Girl With All the Gifts, by M.R. Carey – This book has a great twist on a traditional monster trope. It's dystopian, it's creepy, and it takes you on a heart-pounding ride through a post-apocalyptic world where what it means to be human is changing.
- The Road, by Cormac MacCarthy
- Through the Woods, a graphic novel by Emily Carroll.
- Saga: Volume 5, by Brian K. Vaughan, illustrated by Fiona Staples – The epic tale continues! Storylines converge as the twists keep coming. This series is the story of star-crossed lovers from opposite warring factions. There are bounty hunters and alien civilizations and dragon-monsters with appetites. I've loved this whole series – the storylines are heartbreaking, funny, smart, crude, and violent. The illustrations are colorful and imaginative. This most recent volume isn't as good as the first four, in my opinion, but it does resolve the cliffhangers of volume 4, and I expect volume 6 will throw some more exciting curveballs our way.
- Bitch Planet, by Kelly Sue DeConnick, illustrated by Valentine De Landro
I did read some nonfiction books like cooking and gardening, and I also read poetry and memoirs. Nothing really grabbed me enough to recommend to others except for the following:
- Top-Bar Beekeeping: Organic Practices for Honeybee Health, by Les Crowder and Heather Harrell
- Street Vegan: Recipes and Dispatches from the Cinnamon Snail Food Truck, by Adam Sobel
That's it for the best of my book adventures in 2015! I am so thrilled for the books coming out this year, and books I have in a to-read pile by my bed and racked up on my kindle. Literacy is awesome.