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My 2015 Yearly Word and How it Made Me Stronger

2015: all the books I read

Last year I put together a list of all the books I read, and it has been a source I've used many times. So I think I will do this every year! I got much closer to my goal of writing about every book I read. (Maybe 2016 is the year I manage it!) Short notes about the ones I didn't previously write a book note for. Arranged alphabetically!

2015 books I read

After the End and Before the Beginning by Amy Plum. Part of the draw to this duology is its setting—all over the American west, with a stop in the SLC downtown library.

The All-Girl Filling Station's Last Reunion by Fannie Flagg. I haven't read one of Fannie Flagg's novels since Friend Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe in about...1993. I liked this one almost as well! It tells two overlapping stories, that of Sookie Poole, a woman living in Alabama who discovers her mother kept a secret from her, and a family of sisters during WWII who join the WASPs (Women's Airforce Service Program). The stories come together in the end. I loved the historical story and the outcome of the Alabama story, too. I read this during our southern Utah trip.

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. What else can I say about this that hasn't already been said? I loved this book!

All the Rage by Courtney Summers. This YA novel was on quite a few best-of-2015 lists. I think it is because of the topic—date rape and how hard it is to speak out about it. I started thinking it couldn't be better than Speak, and I was right. It left me kind of conflicted, because obviously it is a topic we need to talk about. But the writing style was so...jumbled, I guess. I am totally OK with experimental structures or unusual approaches, but they have to work successfully. In this book, I finished it and I still am not 100% certain what happened to the main character. I even re-read the ending just to make sure.

All the Truth that's In Me by Julie Berry. Great book. Horrible cover, like Jessica-McClintock-meets-horror-story.

American Gods by Neil Gaiman. I read this on my trip to Disneyland in February. I know…how can I love Neil Gaiman but not have read American Gods? Not sure. While I really enjoyed it—it hit plenty of my favorite-reader buttons, including the springing-up of mythological beings in a contemporary setting, long-lost fathers being found, and a character who suffers exquisitely (I will have the image of Shadow hanging on the world tree in my library of literary images forever)—what I felt the most after finishing it was how written it felt. It reads like the first novel of a talented writer who’s still figuring out how to make a novel come together (exactly so), which for me isn’t a complaint. It makes it feel more like a thing my writerly self can learn from than my readerly self can totally get lost in.

Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer. Slightly disappointing book I'll nevertheless add to my "books set in boarding schools" list.

Bitter Greeens by Kate Forsythe. A blend of fairy tales and history, which should be perfect for me, but alas, another disappointment. Fairy tales I can go along with. The passionate and pleasant deflowering of a girl who's never even heard of the concept of sex? Not so much. (I actually loved this until the last fifty pages. Then I had to fight to keep myself from throwing it against a wall.)

Blackbird Fly by Erin Entrada Kelly. Cute and sweet, but I'm not really sure who the audience is. Except for Beatles fans. Young Beatles fans will love this.

The Blondes by Emily Schultz. I totally read this because of the blurb by Margaret Atwood on the cover. I wanted it to be more than it was, but I did enjoy it even though it could've been much better. Maybe in Margaret Atwood's hands...

Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Steifvater. The first e-book I managed to actually finish! (I also read the first five Harry Potter novels on my phone this year.)

The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro. Maybe this is my favorite book of 2015. I loved it so much. It was gentle and moving and also entertaining. Love, memory, time, history, choices, family, how everything slips through your fingers no matter how hard you try to keep it. 

Can't We Talk about Something More Pleasant? by Roz Chast. I finally finished an entire graphic novel. Only achievable because this isn't a typical graphic novel. More a cartoon-strip novel. I still loved it. Is it wrong to find humor in the travails of dying old people? (I'd like to think that when I am a dying old person, I will hopefully A—be easier to deal with and B—be able to laugh at my own travails. Because if you don't laugh...)

Circus Shoes by Noel Streatfeild. Another re-read from my childhood. I needed some good comfort reading when my mom was having her surgery, and this was it. I'm always a little afraid to re-read childhood favorites—what if they disappoint me now?—but shouldn't have worried. This was still so good.

The Cold, Cold Ground by Adrian McKinty. I read this for our genre exploration project at work. Our goal is to step outside our comfort zones by reading books outside of our favorite genres. I made it a goal to try to still find books that appealed to me. This was the book I read in the Detective genre, which is honestly one of my least-favorites. As I read it I kept a running list of what I don’t like, but namely it comes down to how it seems the genre has a check list out there somewhere, and each detective needs to check off at least four or five requirements per book. (This one crossed off having a troubled past that influences his choices, trying to keep the past secret, sleeping with someone inappropriate, and being bothered by the FBI—or in the case, the British equivalent—taking over his case.) I still liked it, though, because of its setting—Dublin at the height of the Troubles—and the main character.

The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black. Wanted to love this fairies-in-our-midst YA novel. Only sort of did. I didn't hate it, but I wasn't passionate about it like I was for her last book, The Coldest Girl in Coldtown.

Etta and Otto and Russell and James by Emma Hooper. Maybe this was my favorite book. The end ripped my heart out.

Find Me by Lauren van den Berg. Furthers my theory that the post-plague novel is the next new hot genre.

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins. My sister-in-law loaned me her copy of this. I actually read it because somewhere I read that it was like Gone Girl, except better. After reading it, I’m not sure the comparison holds true—unreliable narrator, I suppose—but I did like it much, much more than Gone Girl.

The Girl with all the Gifts by M. R. Carey. This is the last book I finished in 2015. It is a zombie novel with an entirely new premise: for some reason, a handful of the zombies achieve a sort of sentience. A scientists discovers this and is able to put together a sort of training facility to see if they can learn. The main character, Melanie, is the smartest zombie and develops an intense affection for one of her teachers. From the start this felt free of the usual zombie-novel tropes and I immediately added it to my best-zombie-novels-ever list. (Which is growing. Which is odd for someone who doesn’t really like zombies.) What struck me is how any sort of post-apocalyptic novel, zombies or no, is really about how humans try to survive, how we become nomadic in our relentless search for some safe place. Plus, the thing that caused the infection totally creeped me out. My second-favorite YA novel (although: it’s really for older teens).

The Golden Name Day by Jenny Lindquist. A revisiting of a book I loved as a child. I can't figure out why it is out of print!

The House at Riverton by Kate Morton. I really like Kate Morton’s books. I’ve had this one forever—it’s been sitting on the floor under my scrapbook table, underneath my two thesauruses, since 2010. I finally read it when the book I wanted to have with me for Kendell’s surgery (The Inheritance Trilogy) wasn’t delivered before his surgery. (Round #1 out of 4 of Amazon Prime failing me this year.) I gobbled it up in two days; it was a good world to be immersed in while at the hospital. It is about a girl, Grace Bradley, who goes to work for the Hartford family in the 1920s. Partly it is about secrets; partly it is about that way of life—big British houses full of servants—that vanished when WWII started. I like the format: flashbacks between Grace now, as an old woman, and her experiences as a young woman. I like feeling like I am in history, too, and Morton does this well. Plus, this was an SDBBE book of Becky's, so it was like having all of my reading friends right there in the hospital with me.

The Inheritance Trilogy by  N. K. Jemison. I bought the omnibus edition, with all three books: The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, The Broken Kingdoms, and The Kingdom of Gods. It is a huge book! This is a fantasy set in a world where the Gods, who used to roam the world mingling with people, have all been overpowered by the god Itempas. His brother, Nahadoth, and a few other siblings are enslaved by the ruling family, the Arameri; the goddess Enefa was killed in the battle that imprisoned the other gods. I am so picky about my fantasy lately, but this was so good. Non-Tolkein-derivative, but unique in its world building, and full of powerful female characters. I loved it!

Kissing in America by Margo Rabb. My favorite YA book this year. One of my favorite YA books ever! For the story, mostly, but also because of how the characters interacted, and for the poems, and for the ideas. Definitely NOT for the cover, which I hate.

Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaria. An interesting concept: A girl whose sister recently died begins writing letters to dead famous people to try to figure stuff out.

Lexicon by Max Berry. This is another book I read for the genre exploration, this time adventure novels. The overriding concept of this novel is that words can be used to control people. Once we understand the complex brain reactions that occur when w​e hear a word (or a series of them), we can use words and phrases to control people's actions. A mysterious boarding school, somewhere outside of Washington, DC, finds students who might possess the skills to understanding and using language in this way; they are gathered from all social levels in America so they can be trained and developed. The best of these become Poets, people who work for a nefarious and nebulous company with unknown motivations. It was a fast and stunning ride, and I loved it.

The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins. My favorite book this year. The part with the lions is another new addition to my remember-this-image-forever literary library. The book forms a nice gods-in-the-world trilogy with The Inheritance Trilogy and American Gods, though each is different. 

The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy by Joyce. The companion novel to The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Frye. You'd have to read it but once you do you'll know why I loved it so much. It broke my heart, but in a good way.

The Mermaid's Child by Jo Baker. Most disappointing book this year.

My Real Children by Jo Walton. Because I am endlessly fascinated by how the choices we make (large and small) influence our lives, this is one of my favorite books this year. Plus: Florence.

None of the Above by I. W. Gregario. Kristin Lattimer is the girl everyone loves: homecoming queen, champion hurdler with a scholarship, and the girlfriend of a star basketball player to boot. Until her first sexual encounter goes horribly wrong and she ends up at the doctor—where she discovers she is intersex. (In her case, outwardly female but with male chromosomes.) She wants to keep this a secret, of course, but (of course) it is leaked to her entire school. Ever since I read Middlesex this has been a fascinating subject for me, and in that sense I loved this book. It made the actual facts approachable and understandable. I just didn’t love it because I am growing so tired of YA novels with unhealthy female friendships. I know it happens, but it sometimes feels like the only way tension and drama are created, and I want something different.

On the Road to Find Out by Rachel Toor. A nice little book about a teenager who discovers running. Life-changing and awe-inspiring? Nah. Still good though!

The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen. This one is billed as Game of Thrones for YA. I guess because it has brothels and prostitutes. I actually really did like this one...a strong female character and nice world building. (That link has my notes from my LTUE presentation, about the other books I read so I could talk about them.)

The Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian. Considering the troubles the world has had this year, I think this is more relevant than ever. This is what happened to the Christians in Syria.

A Sense of the Infinite by Hilary Smith. A book that was ruined for me, personally, by the author's failed research at how gymnastics really works. Otherwise a good YA novel.

Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee. Adventures on the Oregon Trail! Romance and evading the law and family mysteries! I loved this book so much. 

Uprooted by Naomi Novik. My favorite fantasy this year. 

The Water Knife by Paolo Bacigalupi. His book Ship Breaker is one of my YA favorites. This one has a similar tone and motif—the world drastically changed by environmental collapse—but an entirely different premise. Here, drought has decimated the world, and the powerful (and wealthy) are those who control access to water. This is a different book than I usually am drawn to, with more violence and adventure and economic power plays than I typically enjoy. But it was one of those books I just couldn’t put down, even while I was wanting it to be different than it was. Less sharp, which would’ve ruined it anyway.

We are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler. The first book with simians I've ever read that didn't creep me out. In general, I don't like monkeys of any sort. I loved this book though, even though it is pretty strange.

We All Looked Up by Tommy Wallach. I wrote a long book note about this and then didn't ever post it! It tells a story about a time in the future about the weeks before the earth is going to be struck by an asteroid. I loved everything about this book, from the structure (four different voices, but each one works off the other) to the characters to the ending (which you won't love if you need everything tied up tidily) to the character's experiences. I love that its controlling idea is the karass, a group of people who "do God's will without ever discovering they are doing it" (according to Vonnegut). And how it explored the people we are behind the stereotypical masks we throw up to keep everyone out. But my favorite thing was this quote, which captured exactly how I felt as a teenager: "He thought he would choke to death on it, on the harsh truth he'd been trying to ignore his entire life: that no matter how bad he wanted it or how hard he tried to get it, he would never be worthy of anyone's love. But he didn't choke. And when he rose to his feet again, he felt newly baptized in bitterness—the religion of Bobo and Golden and everyone else who'd discovered that there was no point or meaning to anything anymore." It is good to find a past version of yourself in a book—and good to see how much you've changed.

Year of Mistaken Discoveries by Eileen Cook. I'd totally forgotten this book until I started putting this list together. Hmmmmm.

And that's it. Unless I forgot one! Putting this together makes me realize that I need to read more poetry this year. And essays. I have a plan for that. More details coming soon!

Was was your favorite book from last year? And did you put together a list? If so, link me up, I'd love see it!



I love lists like this (gives me fodder for the new year). My own lists (favorites and all) can be viewed at http://ofbooksandboys.blogspot.com/2016/01/best-reads-of-2015.html


Oh, sweet! One of things I want to do in 2016 is read 16 (or more) books so I will definitely refer back to this list!!


I love seeing favorite book lists! Every year I post a few of my favorites on Facebook. This is what I said this year:
Some of my favorite books from 2015:
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, Still Alice & Left Neglected both by Lisa Genova, The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah, The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivy, Ghost Boy by Martin Pistorius, Amazed by Grace by Sheri Dew, The Devil's Arithmetic by Jane Yolen, The Lake House by Kate Morton. For a few more thrills: Die Again and Playing with Fire both by Tess Gerritsen and The Fixer by Joseph Finder. Oh- can't forget The Stranger by Harlan Coben. I need to stop looking cause there were more good ones!

Amber Lea Easton

Great list! Aren't books awesome? Thanks for sharing.


What a great list! I am always looking for new, good books to read. Nice to get an objective review from a real person!


Wow, I admire people with a love for reading. My daughter is like that. She loves to read. I always have an excuse for why there isn't enough time. That is one thing I would like to do this year. Read more books. I have a running list. I guess I just need to pick one and make the time.

Feisty Harriet

Oooooh, where do you find essays!? I am fascinated by this idea!


Mary, Living a Sunshine Life

I absolutely love this list! I used to be a big reader, then life happened and I got away from it. This year I picked up a random book from the library, because honestly after 10 years I have no idea what my tastes are! I decided I was going to write a book review on my blog for every book I read in 2016, even if it's a popular book everyone loves, I want it to become a habit for me. Thanks for the inspiration and I'll have to check out some of these titles!

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