Monday, January 4, 2016

My Favorite Books of 2015 (a.k.a. The Year I Finally Hit My 50 Book Goal!)

I wanted to link up the day this bonus edition of Show Us Your Books! with Steph and Jana went live, but, as some of you know by now, getting stuck in Chicago for two days derailed any plans I had for writing blog posts (or doing anything productive, really).

When it comes to reading, 2015 was a huge year for me. I'd been saying I would read 50 books in a year for at least 10 years, but I never managed to hit my goal. But last year? 59 books! I still can't believe I not only met my goal, but exceeded it. (It even inspired me to set my goal a little higher this year at 60 books!)

Because I read so much last year, I came across my share of amazing books (and a few duds). It took some time for me to narrow down my favorites, and I put a lot of thought into it.

The books I chose for this list aren't necessarily the books I rated 5 stars on Goodreads. While several of these would definitely fall under that category, I tried to pick books I'd recommend to others with little to no hesitation. (I say little hesitation because, let's face it, I read some pretty fucked up books sometimes, and I realize that some things just aren't for everyone).

I also tried to pick the books that stuck with me long after I turned the last page, whether it was because they made me see things in a new way, brought a lot of emotions to the surface, or were just that good.

These books are listed in the order in which they were read. If you click the link in the title, you'll be taken to my original review.

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1. The End of Everything by Megan Abbott

This was the first book I read in 2015, and, after feeling stuck in a reading rut for several years, I credit The End of Everything for reigniting my passion for reading. This is one of those "not for everyone" books: a 13-year-old girl is abducted by a much older man, and her best friend is left to try to piece together exactly what happened and why. But, while it could be disturbing at times, it was a beautifully written story.

2. The Contortionist's Handbook by Craig Clevenger

I occasionally reread books I really enjoyed, but I'm often disappointed the second time around. It says a lot, then, that I loved The Contortionist's Handbook just as much last year as I did when I read it about 8 years prior. The main character is a master of forgery who constantly needs to reinvent himself in order to escape mental institutions and legal authorities, and the story completely sucks you in from page one.

3. The Enchanted by Rene Denfeld

If you're looking for a lighthearted, feel good kind of book, The Enchanted is not it. This book was heartbreaking and beautiful and tragic and horrifying. Set in a prison (more specifically, death row), the story is told from the point of view of a nameless, mute death row inmate who seems to see and know everything that goes on within the walls of the prison. I've never read anything quite like it.

4. Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

When I dread going into work because I don't want to put a book down for 8 hours, I'm clearly really into it. It definitely lived up to the hype for me, and I loved that I wasn't able to completely figure everything out before it was revealed. (I love when an author can surprise me with his/her plot twists!) I think most people have probably read this book already, but if you haven't, you should.

5. White is for Witching by Helen Oyeyemi

This book had been on my "To Read" list for years, and I'm so glad I finally took the time to read it. The unconventional writing style may not be for everyone, but I thought it was almost poetic. Haunting, heartbreaking, and, at times, unsettling, White is for Witching tackles themes of family relationships, fear, alienation, and race (among others). It's not an "easy" read, but it's fantastic.

6. The Sea of Tranquility by Katja Millay

I haven't gotten around to reading everyone else's "Best Of" lists for 2015 yet, but I'm about 99.99% sure this book has popped up on a ton of them. It's just such a great story about first love and second chances featuring damaged yet realistic characters that you really fall in love with. I didn't expect to be hit so hard emotionally with this book, but I was a sobbing mess by the time I reached the end. I've been recommending this book to tons of people in real life, and, if you haven't read it already, I'd recommend it to you as well.

7. Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

This powerful, beautifully written story of a family living in small town Ohio in the 1970s was yet another book that reduced me to tears. The characters were all dealing with some major issues, but it never felt over-the-top. Instead, Everything I Never Told You felt very real ... And it was brilliant. I loved everything about this book.

I tried to be very selective with my choices, so I left off quite a few books that I really enjoyed but wouldn't necessarily list as my absolute favorites of the year. I decided to make a quick list of the books I thought were really awesome, but not quite good enough to make the final cut.

Again, these are listed in the order in which I read them, and the link in the title will take you to my original review.

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1. Don't Breathe a Word by Jennifer McMahon

2. The Poison Tree by Erin Kelly

3. The Girl With All the Gifts by M.R. Carey

4. A Pleasure and a Calling by Phil Hogan

5. Summer House With Swimming Pool by Herman Koch

6. You by Caroline Kepnes

7. The Kingdom of Childhood by Rebecca Coleman

8. Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes

9. Girl Defective by Simmone Howell

10. The Man From Primrose Lane by James Renner

11. We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver (review coming soon)


  1. i just finished the girl with all the gifts over the weekend. i did enjoy it! also, you know i loved the sea of tranquility! the enchanted sounds interesting, i'll save it for when i'm in the mood for something like that. added the end of everything to my list as well!
    59 books!!! congrats! go you. you will totally get 60 this year!

  2. I had to add your first one and The Enchanted to my list.

    I liked The Contortionist's Handbook a lot.