Top 14 books of 2015!

Time for my top books of 2015 post! I have written a post recapping the top books I read for the last two years. Here are my top books from 2013 and my top books from 2014. I always include the books I’ve given five stars to in the list. In 2015 I read 41 books (and I’m halfway through #42!) and gave 14 books five stars. Of those 41 books, 4 of them were listened to on audio. I have also added a *BR* beside the books below I likely wouldn’t have read if it hadn’t been for the Book Riot Podcasts which has opened me up to so many different books than I usually would read.

These books are in the order I read them not in the order of preference. Links on the images below go to Goodreads.

I am also doing something new this year where I’ve added a “READ THIS BOOK!” in front of my top 5. If you only pick 5 books off this list to read, I hope you pick those 5!

The Century Trilogy by Ken Follett 

Century Trilogy

In the Century Trilogy, five interrelated families – American, Russian, German, English and Welsh – battle through the most dramatic events of the 20th century in a story that will sprawl nearly 3,000 pages. The first book encompasses World War I, the Russian Revolution and the struggle for women’s suffrage. The second book takes on the rise of Nazi Germany, World War II, the dawn of the atomic age and the beginnings of the Cold War. The final book follows the social, political and economic turmoil of the 1960s through the 1980s from civil rights, Vietnam, the Berlin Wall, the Cuban Missile Crisis and rock and roll. 

While there are three books in this trilogy I’m lumping them all into one as I gave the first two books five stars and the third book four stars. Holy man you guys, I loved this trilogy. Yes 3,000 pages is daunting and it’s not for the faint of heart, but Ken Follett is an absolute master storyteller and I’ve discovered that I actually really love books where you can dive into them and really get to know the characters and story lines. I was sad at the end of each of these books.

Also, I learned SO MUCH from this trilogy. For the first time ever I truly grasped why WWI started, I learned about even more atrocities of WWII that I didn’t know had happened, I learned about the true significance of the Berlin Wall, which I’d never realized or understood before even though I visited it in 2008. These books opened my eyes to so many world events I knew nothing about. I thoroughly enjoyed reading all three of them and can’t recommend them enough, especially if you enjoy historical fiction.

An Untamed State by Roxane Gay
*BR* 

An untamed state

From Goodreads: Mireille Duval Jameson is living a fairy tale. The strong-willed youngest daughter of one of Haiti’s richest sons, she has an adoring husband, a precocious infant son, by all appearances a perfect life. The fairy tale ends one day when Mireille is kidnapped in broad daylight by a gang of heavily armed men, in front of her father’s Port au Prince estate. Held captive by a man who calls himself The Commander, Mireille waits for her father to pay her ransom. As it becomes clear her father intends to resist the kidnappers, Mireille must endure the torments of a man who resents everything she represents.

An Untamed State is a novel of privilege in the face of crushing poverty, and of the lawless anger that corrupt governments produce. It is the story of a willful woman attempting to find her way back to the person she once was, and of how redemption is found in the most unexpected of places. An Untamed State establishes Roxane Gay as a writer of prodigious, arresting talent.

This was such a good book and a page turner. I read this book in two days. It’s full of so many horrible and unspeakable things but the strength of the main character, Miri, is incredibly inspiring. This was the first thing I’ve ever read by Roxane Gay and it was amazing. I could literally feel the emotions through her words – I felt the main characters love for her husband, I felt the terror she felt when she was in captivity and I felt how broken she was. I highly recommend this book.

The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty 

The Husbands Secret

From Goodreads: Imagine that your husband wrote you a letter, to be opened after his death. Imagine, too, that the letter contains his deepest, darkest secret—something with the potential to destroy not just the life you built together, but the lives of others as well. Imagine, then, that you stumble across that letter while your husband is still very much alive. . . . Cecilia Fitzpatrick has achieved it all—she’s an incredibly successful businesswoman, a pillar of her small community, and a devoted wife and mother. Her life is as orderly and spotless as her home. But that letter is about to change everything, and not just for her: Rachel and Tess barely know Cecilia—or each other—but they too are about to feel the earth-shattering repercussions of her husband’s secret. Acclaimed author Liane Moriarty has written a gripping, thought-provoking novel about how well it is really possible to know our spouses—and, ultimately, ourselves.

I’ve heard a few people compare Liane Moriarty’s work to chick lit but I don’t think it is chick lit-y at all. I really enjoy her writing and her style and I actually think some of the issues she tackles in her novels is pretty intense and realistic. This book in particular really made me think about life, relationships, mistakes and forgiving those who have wronged us. My favourite quote from this book was “Falling in love was easy. Anyone could fall. It was holding on that was tricky.” This book was a page turner and I really enjoyed it!

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins 

The girl on the train

From Goodreads: A debut psychological thriller that will forever change the way you look at other people’s lives. Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning. Every day she rattles down the track, flashes past a stretch of cozy suburban homes, and stops at the signal that allows her to daily watch the same couple breakfasting on their deck. She’s even started to feel like she knows them. “Jess and Jason,” she calls them. Their life—as she sees it—is perfect. Not unlike the life she recently lost.

And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. Now everything’s changed. Unable to keep it to herself, Rachel offers what she knows to the police, and becomes inextricably entwined in what happens next, as well as in the lives of everyone involved. Has she done more harm than good?

Compulsively readable, The Girl on the Train is an emotionally immersive, Hitchcockian thriller and an electrifying debut.

Probably the most buzzed about book in 2015! I’m sure everyone and their dog has heard of this book. For me, Girl on the Train lived up to the buzz and i stayed up until midnight finishing this book. It is full of twists and turns right up until the very end and is a very well written book that you won’t want to put down.

READ THIS BOOK: Station Eleven by Emily St. Mandel
*BR*

Station eleven

An audacious, darkly glittering novel set in the eerie days of civilization’s collapse, Station Eleven tells the spellbinding story of a Hollywood star, his would-be savior, and a nomadic group of actors roaming the scattered outposts of the Great Lakes region, risking everything for art and humanity.

One snowy night Arthur Leander, a famous actor, has a heart attack onstage during a production of King Lear. Jeevan Chaudhary, a paparazzo-turned-EMT, is in the audience and leaps to his aid. A child actress named Kirsten Raymonde watches in horror as Jeevan performs CPR, pumping Arthur’s chest as the curtain drops, but Arthur is dead. That same night, as Jeevan walks home from the theater, a terrible flu begins to spread. Hospitals are flooded and Jeevan and his brother barricade themselves inside an apartment, watching out the window as cars clog the highways, gunshots ring out, and life disintegrates around them.

Fifteen years later, Kirsten is an actress with the Traveling Symphony. Together, this small troupe moves between the settlements of an altered world, performing Shakespeare and music for scattered communities of survivors. Written on their caravan, and tattooed on Kirsten’s arm is a line from Star Trek: “Because survival is insufficient.” But when they arrive in St. Deborah by the Water, they encounter a violent prophet who digs graves for anyone who dares to leave.

Spanning decades, moving back and forth in time, and vividly depicting life before and after the pandemic, this suspenseful, elegiac novel is rife with beauty. As Arthur falls in and out of love, as Jeevan watches the newscasters say their final good-byes, and as Kirsten finds herself caught in the crosshairs of the prophet, we see the strange twists of fate that connect them all. A novel of art, memory, and ambition, Station Eleven tells a story about the relationships that sustain us, the ephemeral nature of fame, and the beauty of the world as we know it.

This book was amazing! Definitely in the top five of books I’ve read this year. You literally feel like you have escaped to a completely different world when you are reading this book. Emily St. John Mandel is an incredible writer and her characters come alive off the pages. This book is like nothing I’ve read in a long time and I would highly recommend it. It was one of those books where I missed the characters once it was over.

READ THIS BOOK: Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand 

Unbroken

From Goodreads: On a May afternoon in 1943, an Army Air Forces bomber crashed into the Pacific Ocean and disappeared, leaving only a spray of debris and a slick of oil, gasoline, and blood. Then, on the ocean surface, a face appeared. It was that of a young lieutenant, the plane’s bombardier, who was struggling to a life raft and pulling himself aboard. So began one of the most extraordinary odysseys of the Second World War.

The lieutenant’s name was Louis Zamperini. In boyhood, he’d been a cunning and incorrigible delinquent, breaking into houses, brawling, and fleeing his home to ride the rails. As a teenager, he had channeled his defiance into running, discovering a prodigious talent that had carried him to the Berlin Olympics and within sight of the four-minute mile. But when war had come, the athlete had become an airman, embarking on a journey that led to his doomed flight, a tiny raft, and a drift into the unknown.

Ahead of Zamperini lay thousands of miles of open ocean, leaping sharks, a foundering raft, thirst and starvation, enemy aircraft, and, beyond, a trial even greater. Driven to the limits of endurance, Zamperini would answer desperation with ingenuity; suffering with hope, resolve, and humor; brutality with rebellion. His fate, whether triumph or tragedy, would be suspended on the fraying wire of his will.

In her long-awaited new book, Laura Hillenbrand writes with the same rich and vivid narrative voice she displayed in Seabiscuit. Telling an unforgettable story of a man’s journey into extremity, Unbroken is a testament to the resilience of the human mind, body, and spirit.

Wow wow wow! Probably my second favourite book that I read this year. This book is so unbelievable and I think everyone should read it. It took me about 75 pages to get into this book and then I couldn’t put it down and towards the end I forced myself to stop reading a few times because I was not ready for it to be over.

This book is HARD to read as it tells the true story of the unimaginably brutal treatment Pacific POW’s went through during WWII. But at the same time it is a beautiful story about the strength and resilience of the human soul. The compassion Louis shows for the guards who imprisoned him and beat him warms my heart and made me believe in humanity all over again. This book tells a story about a side of WWII I’d never heard of before and knew nothing about. I’m in awe of Hillenbrands way with words and how she can weave non-fiction facts into such a gripping narrative.

If you enjoy historical fiction, read this book! It reads like a fiction book even though it is non-fiction. Oh and the book is much, much, much better than the movie. Obviously.

READ THIS BOOK: Wonder by R.J. Palacio

Wonder

From Goodreads: August Pullman wants to be an ordinary ten-year-old. He does ordinary things. He eats ice cream. He plays on his Xbox. He feels ordinary – inside.

But Auggie is far from ordinary. Ordinary kids don’t make other ordinary kids run away screaming in playgrounds. Ordinary kids don’t get stared at wherever they go.

Born with a terrible facial abnormality, Auggie has been home-schooled by his parents his whole life, in an attempt to protect him from the cruelty of the outside world. Now, for the first time, he’s being sent to a real school – and he’s dreading it. All he wants is to be accepted – but can he convince his new classmates that he’s just like them, underneath it all?

Narrated by Auggie and the people around him whose lives he touches forever, Wonder is a funny, frank, astonishingly moving debut to read in one sitting, pass on to others, and remember long after the final page.

One of the reviews on the back of this book say it best; This really is a remarkable book. That perfectly describes how I felt about Wonder. It made me laugh and it made me cry. It was a true delight to read this book and it had so many important life lessons embedded in the story. Everyone should read this book and parents should read this book with their kids! I couldn’t put it down and fell completely in love with the characters and definitely learned a thing or two from a 10-year-old boy.

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah 

The nightingale

From Goodreads: In the quiet village of Carriveau, Vianne Mauriac says goodbye to her husband, Antoine, as he heads for the Front. She doesn’t believe that the Nazis will invade France…but invade they do, in droves of marching soldiers, in caravans of trucks and tanks, in planes that fill the skies and drop bombs upon the innocent. When France is overrun, Vianne is forced to take an enemy into her house, and suddenly her every move is watched; her life and her child’s life is at constant risk. Without food or money or hope, as danger escalates around her, she must make one terrible choice after another.

Vianne’s sister, Isabelle, is a rebellious eighteen-year-old girl, searching for purpose with all the reckless passion of youth. While thousands of Parisians march into the unknown terrors of war, she meets the compelling and mysterious Gäetan, a partisan who believes the French can fight the Nazis from within France, and she falls in love as only the young can…completely. When he betrays her, Isabelle races headlong into danger and joins the Resistance, never looking back or giving a thought to the real–and deadly–consequences.

With courage, grace and powerful insight, bestselling author Kristin Hannah takes her talented pen to the epic panorama of WWII and illuminates an intimate part of history seldom seen: the women’s war. The Nightingale tells the stories of two sisters, separated by years and experience, by ideals, passion and circumstance, each embarking on her own dangerous path toward survival, love, and freedom in German-occupied, war-torn France–a heartbreakingly beautiful novel that celebrates the resilience of the human spirit and the durability of women. It is a novel for everyone, a novel for a lifetime.

I stayed up late way too many nights in a row to finish this book. I am a Kristen Hannah fan in general (though I could not get through Winter Garden!) but Hannah takes her talents as a writer to an entirely new level in this book. I love WWII books because every time I read one I learn about a different piece of our history I had no idea about, this time it was about the role French women played in the war. This book was absolutely heartbreaking and devastating at parts. I couldn’t help but fall in love with the main characters and really felt their pain and sorrow when reading about the tragedies they faced. I highly recommend this book!

READ THIS BOOK: The House at the End of Hope Street by Menna van Praag

House at the end of hope street

From Goodreads: A magical debut about an enchanted house that offers refuge to women in their time of need.

Distraught that her academic career has stalled, Alba is walking through her hometown of Cambridge, England, when she finds herself in front of a house she’s never seen before, 11 Hope Street. A beautiful older woman named Peggy greets her and invites her to stay, on the house’s usual conditions: she has ninety-nine nights to turn her life around. With nothing left to lose, Alba takes a chance and moves in.

She soon discovers that this is no ordinary house. Past residents have included George Eliot and Beatrix Potter, who, after receiving the assistance they needed, hung around to help newcomers—literally, in talking portraits on the wall. As she escapes into this new world, Alba begins a journey that will heal her wounds—and maybe even save her life.

Filled with a colorful and unforgettable cast of literary figures, The House at the End of Hope Street is a charming, whimsical novel of hope and feminine wisdom that is sure to appeal to fans of Jasper Fforde and especially Sarah Addison Allen.

And just like that a book I randomly picked up off the sales shelf at Chapters because the cover was fun looking becomes my very favourite book I read in 2015! This book is seriously delightful. I found myself sitting and smiling as I was reading this book because it was so wonderful and well-written. This was another book where I had to force myself to slow down near the end because I wasn’t ready to let go of the characters and the story yet. It’s a nice quick read that will leave you smiling, feeling hopeful and wishing that you too could visit the House at the End of Hope Street!

The Dog Master: A Novel of the First Dog by W. Bruce Cameron 

The dog master

From Goodreads: Set against the most dramatic time in our species’ history, The Dog Master tells the story of one tribe’s struggle for survival and one extraordinary man’s bond with a wolf–a friendship that changed mankind forever.

Thirty thousand years ago, ice was storming the planet. Among the species forced out of the trees and onto the steppes by the advancing cold was modern man, who was both predator and prey. No stranger to the experiences that make us human–a mother’s love and a father’s betrayal, tribal war and increasing famine, political intrigue and forbidden love, joy and hope and devastating loss–our ancestors competed for scant resources in a brutal landscape.

Mankind stood on the cold brink of extinction…but they had a unique advantage over other species, a new technology–domesticated wolves. Only a set of extraordinary circumstances could have transformed one of these fierce creatures into a hunting companion, a bodyguard, a soldier, and a friend. The Dog Master by W. Bruce Cameron is an evocative glimpse of prehistory, an emotional coming-of-age saga, a thrilling tale of survival against all odds, and the exciting, imaginative story of the first dog.

My love for this book came out of left field and actually shocked me. At the beginning I was having trouble getting all the characters straight and thinking there was no way I would get through this 400 page story but by 100 pages in I couldn’t put the book down and stayed up until midnight a couple nights in a row finishing it.

If you love dogs and enjoy fast paced action packed books I would highly recommend checking this book out. It reminded me of one of my favourite books ever, the Clan of the Cave Bear!

READ THIS BOOK: The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd

The invention of wings

From Goodreads: Hetty “Handful” Grimke, an urban slave in early nineteenth century Charleston, yearns for life beyond the suffocating walls that enclose her within the wealthy Grimke household. The Grimke’s daughter, Sarah, has known from an early age she is meant to do something large in the world, but she is hemmed in by the limits imposed on women.

Kidd’s sweeping novel is set in motion on Sarah’s eleventh birthday, when she is given ownership of ten year old Handful, who is to be her handmaid. We follow their remarkable journeys over the next thirty five years, as both strive for a life of their own, dramatically shaping each other’s destinies and forming a complex relationship marked by guilt, defiance, estrangement and the uneasy ways of love.

As the stories build to a riveting climax, Handful will endure loss and sorrow, finding courage and a sense of self in the process. Sarah will experience crushed hopes, betrayal, unrequited love, and ostracism before leaving Charleston to find her place alongside her fearless younger sister, Angelina, as one of the early pioneers in the abolition and women’s rights movements.

Inspired by the historical figure of Sarah Grimke, Kidd goes beyond the record to flesh out the rich interior lives of all of her characters, both real and invented, including Handful’s cunning mother, Charlotte, who courts danger in her search for something better. This exquisitely written novel is a triumph of storytelling that looks with unswerving eyes at a devastating wound in American history, through women whose struggles for liberation, empowerment, and expression will leave no reader unmoved.

I really loved this book. It wasn’t an exceptionally fast read for me but it was such a good story and it really made me think. I was especially interested to read in the authors acknowledgements that one of the main characters, Sarah Grimke, is a real person.

These kinds of books are so so important to read because it reminds us of the history of our world and some of the truly terrible things human beings have done to other human beings. The quote that will stay with me from this book comes from the authors acknowledgements at the end when she quotes Professor Julius Lester:

“History is not just facts and events. History is also a pain in the heart and we repeat history until we are able to make another’s pain in the heart our own.”

The Incarnations by Susan Barker
*BR*

The incarnations

From Goodreads: Who are you? you must be wondering. I am your soulmate, your old friend, and I have come back to this city of sixteen million in search of you.

So begins the first letter that falls into Wang’s lap as he flips down the visor in his taxi. The letters that follow are filled with the stories of Wang’s previous lives—from escaping a marriage to a spirit bride, to being a slave on the run from Genghis Khan, to living as a fisherman during the Opium Wars, and being a teenager on the Red Guard during the cultural revolution—bound to his mysterious “soulmate,” spanning one thousand years of betrayal and intrigue.

As the letters continue to appear seemingly out of thin air, Wang becomes convinced that someone is watching him—someone who claims to have known him for over one thousand years. And with each letter, Wang feels the watcher growing closer and closer…

Seamlessly weaving Chinese folklore, history, and literary classics, The Incarnations is a taut and gripping novel that sheds light on the cyclical nature of history as it hints that the past is never truly settled.

This was a really good book. It was very well-written and descriptive and the way the author flowed so seamlessly through many different time periods and story lines was incredibly impressive. I knew the general premise of this book after hearing about it on the Book Riot Podcast but could never have imagined how descriptive and imaginative the stories would be.

I would warn readers that there are some pretty gruesome torture and murder scenes described in this book so it’s not for the faint of heart when it comes to that kind of thing. Susan Barker is an incredible writer though and it’s an engaging and compelling book that I highly recommend.

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
*BR*

Ready player one

From Goodreads: In the year 2044, reality is an ugly place. The only time teenage Wade Watts really feels alive is when he’s jacked into the virtual utopia known as the OASIS. Wade’s devoted his life to studying the puzzles hidden within this world’s digital confines, puzzles that are based on their creator’s obsession with the pop culture of decades past and that promise massive power and fortune to whoever can unlock them. When Wade stumbles upon the first clue, he finds himself beset by players willing to kill to take this ultimate prize. The race is on, and if Wade’s going to survive, he’ll have to win—and confront the real world he’s always been so desperate to escape.

This book was so good! Even though I don’t consider myself an 80’s trivia geek or a video game person I still loved every minute of the fast paced action in Ready Player One. The first person narrative includes hundreds of pop culture references to video games, movies and more but it’s also easy to follow, relatable and highly entertaining. I especially enjoyed some of the ways Cline touched on race and gender roles in this book. I abandoned all responsibilities and read for two straight hours to finish this book the other day. If you enjoyed The Martian I think you would enjoy this book as well!

***

Honourable Mention (not quite five stars for me but almost, more like 4.5 stars. Links go to my reviews on goodreads): Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff | The Reason You Walk by Wab Kinew | The Engagements by Courtney Sullivan | Stone Mattress by Margaret Atwood | Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng.

Now please make my to-read list even longer and tell what was THE BEST book you read in 2015? 

11 Responses

  1. Andrea says:

    Great list!
    My favs of my year: The Illegal by Lawrence Hill, Running Like a Girl
    by Alexandra Heminsley, An Untamed State by Roxane Gay (I think I read this from your goodreads review), The Martian by Andy Weir , The Royal We by Heather Cocks, The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer, A Touch of Stardust by Kate Alcott

  2. Travel Spot says:

    You have a lot of great books on this list! I actually haven’t read about half of them, so I have added them to my Goodreads queue! This year I read a lot but not many of them REALLY wowed me. However, on my top list are: The Nightingale, Still Alice, A Long Walk to Water, All the Light We Cannot See (I think you didn’t enjoy that one as much?), 11/22/63, Code Name Verity, This is The Story of a Happy Marriage…. I had a lot of 4 starred books that I did not put on my Best of List!!

  3. I have read most of the books on this list and some of them made my best of list this year as well! It’s so hard to pick a favorite book but if I had to I think I’d say “The Book of Unknown Americans.” I just loved it so much and it was a sweet/impactful read for me. I just checked and I only gave 7 books 5 stars this year, and one of them (The Kind Worth Killing) didn’t make my best of list which is weird… whoops.

  4. Becky says:

    Great list! I have jotted down a couple that interest me, especially Incarnation. I admit the only one I read from this list was Girl On the Train which was probably my favourite read over the past year. I really enjoyed The Rosie Effect as well. Those are the only two that stand out for me

  5. Holly says:

    The only book on your list that I’ve read is “The Husband’s Secret” – I’ll have to check out some of the others! I love the Kristin Hannah books I’ve read but there’s always such a long wait for them at the library! My favourite books that I read this year were “Simply Tuesday” (Emily P. Freeman), “Out of Sorts” (Sarah Bessey), “Allegiance” (Timothy Zahn), “Women Are Scary” (Melanie Dale), and “Lizzy and Jane” “(Katherine Reay). My top two would be “Allegiance” and “Lizzy and Jane”!

  6. Stephany says:

    The only books on your list that I’ve read are The Husband’s Secret and The Girl on the Train!

    My favorite novel this year was The Martian, mostly because it left me in a book hangover fog for a month after I finished it! Close behind that book was Pointe, In the Blood, and Everything I Never Told You.

  7. Some I enjoyed that were not on your list from this year.. The Long and Faraway Gone, Lavina, Dollbaby, Lucia, Lucia, Newport, and Carrying Albert Home.

  8. Kelly says:

    I love, love, love these end of year book posts! Also, you just motivated me to buy the kindle version of House at the end of hope street. They don’t have it at my library and I’ve wanted to read it so I’ll just stop being cheap, ha ha.

  9. Mariana Coelho says:

    Great list! I have read The Husband’s Secret, The Girl On The Train, Station Eleven and Wonder this year and I loved all of them. I also read Ready Player One last year and it was one of my favourites! I had some of the others on my to-read list and I’ve added a few new ones… thanks!
    I’m a huge fan of Book Riot! My TBR pile keeps on growing thanks to them!
    Some other 2015 favourite reads for me were: The Martian (Andy Weir), The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August (Claire North), Forgive Me Leonard Peacock (Matthew Quick), More Than This (Patrick Ness), Big Little Lies (Liane Moriarty) and You’re Never Weird On The Internet (Felicia Day).

  10. Bronwyn says:

    I’ve just started the century trilogy and so far really enjoy the first book! I can’t say I read anything that really stood out for me this year… too much going on to really pay attention to the books I was reading.

  11. Laura says:

    You always have the BEST book recommendations – thank you! I wrote about my favorite books of 2015 here: http://www.50by25.com/2015/12/my-top-20-books-of-2015.html

Leave a Reply