I don’t think you realize how I excited I am every year to talk about my favorite books. It showcases the best of the best and it only comes around once a year.
Before I begin, I just wanted to put in a few disclaimers. First of all, rating is not necessarily the determining factor. I have a lot of books that got higher ratings than my favorite books but that does not mean they’ll be in my favorites. Second of all, I know it says top books but I had to include 4 short stories because they were that good. I’m gong to include them all in one category though and it will only take up one number. And lastly, a favorite book to me has to 1) leave a lasting impression on me 2) has to have a rereadability factor 3) has to surprise and challenge me (I read a lot of books; the books that surprise me are special).
I also wanted to list some honorable mentions. Not quite a favorite but pretty damn close.
- Firefight by Brandon Sanderson
- Cleopatra in Space by Mike Haidack
- Everyday Sexism by Laura Bates
- The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh
- An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir
- Monster Vol. 1 by Naoki Urasawa
- Alex and Ada Vol. 1 by Jonathan Luna
- Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
- North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell
I’m going in reverse order so you’ll see #5-1 tomorrow.
So grab a snack and let me introduce you to my top books of 2015. All synopses came from Goodreads.
Coming in at number 9 is..
9. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead. She may leave the home of the Commander and his wife once a day to walk to food markets whose signs are now pictures instead of words because women are no longer allowed to read. She must lie on her back once a month and pray that the Commander makes her pregnant, because in an age of declining births, Offred and the other Handmaids are valued only if their ovaries are viable. Offred can remember the years before, when she lived and made love with her husband, Luke; when she played with and protected her daughter; when she had a job, money of her own, and access to knowledge. But all of that is gone now…
I’ve only read 3 of Margaret Atwood’s books this year including this one but this is my favorite by leagues. Atwood’s prose is so detailed and refreshing to read. This dystopia that Atwood has created still stands the test of time and to me, the best dystopias are the ones that feel so unrealistic so that we think it’ll never happen but at the same time reflect the greatest injustices and flaws of our present society in subtle but effective ways. I think Atwood does an amazing job at satirizing society’s view of women as reproductive vessels but also providing a main character (Offred) that feels very raw and real.
The number 8 spot goes to:
The Child Thief by Brom
Peter is quick, daring, and full of mischief—and like all boys, he loves to play, though his games often end in blood. His eyes are sparkling gold, and when he graces you with his smile you are his friend for life, but his promised land is not Neverland.
Fourteen-year-old Nick would have been murdered by the drug dealers preying on his family had Peter not saved him. Now the irresistibly charismatic wild boy wants Nick to follow him to a secret place of great adventure, where magic is alive and you never grow old. Even though he is wary of Peter’s crazy talk of faeries and monsters, Nick agrees. After all, New York City is no longer safe for him, and what more could he possibly lose?
There is always more to lose.
Accompanying Peter to a gray and ravished island that was once a lush, enchanted paradise, Nick finds himself unwittingly recruited for a war that has raged for centuries—one where he must learn to fight or die among the “Devils,” Peter’s savage tribe of lost and stolen children.
There, Peter’s dark past is revealed: left to wolves as an infant, despised and hunted, Peter moves restlessly between the worlds of faerie and man. The Child Thief is a leader of bloodthirsty children, a brave friend, and a creature driven to do whatever he must to stop the “Flesh-eaters” and save the last, wild magic in this dying land.
It’s very easy for Peter Pan retellings to become cliched. It’s also very easy to remember the Disney version as canon. But The Child Thief subverts all that we know about Peter Pan and presents it in a whole new light. Albeit a very dark and twisted light. (There’s no such thing as a twisted light is there…what are words..). I loved the effortless fusion of old Scottish folklore. I also really like the exploration of Pan’s character as a not-so-heroic character. And the prose provides such an eerie but mystical atmosphere.
7. March Vol. 1 by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell
Congressman John Lewis (GA-5) is an American icon, one of the key figures of the civil rights movement. His commitment to justice and nonviolence has taken him from an Alabama sharecropper’s farm to the halls of Congress, from a segregated schoolroom to the 1963 March on Washington, and from receiving beatings from state troopers to receiving the Medal of Freedom from the first African-American president.
Now, to share his remarkable story with new generations, Lewis presents March, a graphic novel trilogy, in collaboration with co-writer Andrew Aydin and New York Times best-selling artist Nate Powell (winner of the Eisner Award and LA Times Book Prize finalist for Swallow Me Whole).
March is a vivid first-hand account of John Lewis’ lifelong struggle for civil and human rights, meditating in the modern age on the distance traveled since the days of Jim Crow and segregation. Rooted in Lewis’ personal story, it also reflects on the highs and lows of the broader civil rights movement.
Book One spans John Lewis’ youth in rural Alabama, his life-changing meeting with Martin Luther King, Jr., the birth of the Nashville Student Movement, and their battle to tear down segregation through nonviolent lunch counter sit-ins, building to a stunning climax on the steps of City Hall.
We all know of the 1960’s civil rights movement but I think what makes this graphic memoir stand out is that it adds such an intimate perspective from a person that has personally witnessed this so closely for himself. It surprised me how well the author was able to create the feeling of unrest and frustration that was present during this time. I usually don’t even like black and white graphic novels but I think this one was exceptional and even more powerful with the black and white color scheme.
Here is where I cheat a little by including 4 short stories into the number 6 spot. The first one is 86 pages. The rest are short stories, less than 20 pages. I had to include these because they were just that good.
6.The Death of Ivan Ilych by Leo Tolstoy
Hailed as one of the world’s supreme masterpieces on the subject of death and dying, The Death of Ivan Ilyich is the story of a worldly careerist, a high court judge who has never given the inevitability of his dying so much as a passing thought. But one day, death announces itself to him, and to his shocked surprise, he is brought face to face with his own mortality.
How, Tolstoy asks, does an unreflective man confront his one and only moment of truth?
This short novel was an artistic culmination of a profound spiritual crisis in Tolstoy’s life, a nine-year period following the publication of Anna Karenina during which he wrote not a word of fiction.
A thoroughly absorbing and, at times, terrifying glimpse into the abyss of death, it is also a strong testament to the possibility of finding spiritual salvation.
It’s funny how Tolstoy can so vividly describe a man’s thoughts when he is almost dying when Tolstoy himself wasn’t dying (or maybe he was). I felt like I was dying which says something about his writing. Very depressing but so, so good.
The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Gilman
A woman’s harrowing descent into madness.
Like Tolstoy, Gilman knows how to weave inner dialogue to present a sense of unease and desperation, of being trapped in your own paranoia, in your own mental prison. A haunting story that’s not very long but still has had such a lasting impact on me.
The Fisher Queen by Alyssa Wong
MY MOTHER WAS A FISH. That’s why I can swim so well, according to my father, who is a plain fisherman with a fisherman’s plain logic, but uncanny flair for the dramatic. And while it’s true that I can cut through the water like a minnow, or a hand dipped over the edge of a speedboat, I personally think it’s because no one can grow up along the Mekong without learning two things: how to swim, and how to avoid the mermaids.
2014 Nebula Awards nominee for Best Short Story.
I still can’t quite wrap my mind around how weird this story is. But the prose is gorgeous and the story was definitely not what I expected.
Bridge of Snow (The Winner’s Trilogy #0.5) by Marie Rutkoski
Ignore the stirrings of war. Let the carriage to a royal ball wait. There is a story to be told: of a starless night, a mother and her sick son, and a mortal who falls in love with the snow god, and will do anything to have her…
Mrs. Rutkoski, you get to join the ranks of Mr. Sanderson and Mr. Lynch with the honor of having your name on my favorites list twice. In the time it took me to read this short story (around 20 minutes), I smiled, laughed and I almost wanted to cry. It reminded me of old stories told by the fireplace, of magic and lyrical prose. But it ALSO tied in the things I knew about Arin and his future self and made me love him even more and I thought that wasn’t possible but I was oh so wrong.
Well that’s it for now! Stay tuned tomorrow for numbers 1-5 on my best books of 2015.