Thursday, January 28, 2016

Top Ten (Or So): Books Read in 2015

I'm going to call 2015 "The Year of the Slightly Disappointing Sequels". Oblivion, Stone in the SkyWinter, A World Without Princes and The Last Ever After... Most of them weren't bad--in fact, some, like Winter, were quite enjoyable and I read them at a break-neck pace. But all of them lessened my excitement of the series to a certain extent, changing it from one I'd want to run out and recommend to everyone to one I still liked, but that was tinged with a slight "meh" feeling.
Amazing fanart by shiftingpath of one of my new favourite books

And yet, it was a pretty good year all together. I found a couple new books to add to my all-time favourites (see illustration to right). I found a new author--Brandon Sanderson!!--and I want to devour every single thing he wrote. I spent many hours on blogs and Goodreads, finding new reading avenues to explore based off my favourites from this year (lots of adult speculative fiction and religious non-fiction coming up next year, I think*). Any disappointment comes not from it being a bad reading year, but just not being the best year ever!!, which at one point during the year, I thought it might be.

Anyway, partly because of this, I only have six real favourites. Which isn't enough for a top ten list, so I added the best of the runner ups. They were still great, great books, sometimes more enjoyable for me in some ways than the ones I actually chose as favourites. Plus, my opinions are so fluid and difficult to pin down that by the time I write next year's top ten list, my favourites could all have moved around. (In fact, I'm already starting to think of some changes already... but it's too late now! I have to stick with something eventually.)

So without further ado, in sort-of approximate order from least to most favourite, are some of the best books I read in 2015:

Section Three--the "probably should have been in the runner up section, except I needed more main entries" section:

--The Castle Behind Thorns by Merrie Haskell. A beautiful children's book that made me want to take up blacksmithing. It's about mending things: physically, mentally, emotionally... Although a little slow at first, once I got into it, it was just lovely.

--Tin Star by Cecil Castellucci. Super fun YA scifi. Really liked the heroine, Thula, and her survival among the many alien cultures of the space station was gripping. Plus, there was a somewhat surprising romance that I actually liked!

--Arriving at Amen by Leah Libresco. The only reason why this isn't in Section One or Two is because I've heard many of the ideas she writes about here on her blog as well. So my enjoyment of it was not quite as high. They are splendid ideas, though, so well suited to me in particular, and to any pretty geeky Catholic who is trying to become more awesome. Plus it has an amazing cover.

--Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson. The twists are great, from the central conceit (all superheros are evil) to all the (spoilery) twists on tropes that happen throughout the book. Sanderson gets at the reasons behind things and either explains or subverts them in a way I haven't quite seen before in this kind of book. Plus it's just written in a really entertaining style. (Artwork to the left from squeegood on DeviantArt.)

--Opening to God: A Guide to Prayer by Thomas H. Green, S.J. Practical but deep, a book that made a distinct and positive difference to my life. Fr. Green was a spiritual director for a long time, and it shows. I would recommend this to any practising Catholic looking to really start their spiritual life.

Section Two--the section with my actual favourites of the year:

--The Pirates! In an Adventure With the Romantics by Gideon Defoe. Soooo funny. Seriously, this is one of the funniest series I've read. Plus you get all those awesome Romantics as characters (Lord Byron!).

--Gay and Catholic by Eve Tushnet. Friendship has always been something I've loved to read about, and this is not so much about homosexuality (although it is a lot about that too) as it is about community and friendship. An important book, I think! No matter what their relationship status, humans need community, and modern times isn't very good at providing it.

The amazing Lunar Chronicle characters, from lostie815 on DeviantArt

--Cress by Marissa Meyer. The Lunar Chronicles series was such immense amounts of fun, and I think this was my favourite. Cinder and Scarlet and Winter were great, but Cress had the hilarious faux-captain Thorne, unlike Cinder, and the adorable hacker Cress, unlike Scarlet, and the not quite as overwhelmingly large a cast of main characters as Winter.

--The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson. The lack of hand-waving when it comes to the magic system is so refreshing. He actually tries to make it make sense! And not boring! At the same time! There is a love of knowledge at the heart of this book and of many of the characters that I adore. Plus the writing is very gripping and entertaining. I can't wait to read everything else Sanderson has written.

Just one of many cool and informative illustrations found in The Rithmatist

Section One--the new additions to my all-time favourites:

--This Is How You Die ed. by Ryan North. Also including The Machine of Death, because they're basically two volumes of the same book. TIHYD is the one officially listed, though, because I found it more inventive and twisty than the first. But both are fabulous. These are short stories of my favourite sort, playing off a single idea in as many different ways as possible. What with To Be or Not to Be's co-win last year, Ryan North is obviously now someone I have to read as much as possible.

The Dinosaur Comic by Ryan North that started it all

--The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison. This book is so good. So, so, so good. I can't even... The main character and his growth, the secondary characters and their relationships, the language, the politics, just everything. This easily became one of my favourite all-time books, and will gladly recommend it to almost anyone.

Runners Up (In No Order Whatsoever and Possibly Missing Some Good Ones Because I'm Really, Really Bad at Making Up My Mind)
--Fluent in 3 Months. Helpful, easy to read, inspiring; about the fascinating thing that is language.
--The Case of the Missing Moonstone. Young Ada Lovelace! Young Mary Shelley! Adventures!
--The Uninvited Guests. Weirdly appealing. Also just weird in general.
--The School for Good and Evil. Female friendship and backwards fairytales.
--Homeland. Dark but interesting world and some surprisingly complex characters.
--The Forever War. A gritty and realistic look at the horrors of interstellar war.
--Making Habits, Breaking Habits. So much useful information.

P.S. See also the Top Ten (Or So) lists from previous years: 2012, 2013, 2014.

* In fact, weirdly enough, I'd thought I'd read so much adult speculative fiction this year as well. Till I looked at the list of books and realized how many children's and YA scifi/fantasy there were. I think the fact that I'd done so much Goodreads research mixed up my brain somehow.

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