One thing on my (ridiculously long and unrealistic) list of New Year’s resolutions is to do a bit of blogging on the barren wasteland that is this website, so I thought I’d get started early with a round-up of some of my favourite books of 2015 and a wee bit about why I liked them so much.
One by Sarah Crossan
Written in free verse, this is the story of conjoined twins whose lives change when they attend school for the first time – not as easy topic, but one that’s handled honestly and sensitively without being patronising or pitying. The writing is gorgeous (though be warned, it is gut-wrenchingly sad).
Sophie Someone by Hayley Long
I bought this knowing nothing about it other than it had been getting great reviews and it was published by Hot Key (who have had a brilliant year) and it was a lovely surprise, so I’m not going to say much other than it was brilliant – innovative, charming and totally different from any other YA I’ve read.
Lorali by Laura Dockrill
Another total gem from Hot Key, about a 16-year-old boy who finds a mermaid princess washed up on the beach. I would have thought the topic of mermaids had been pretty much wrung dry, but this felt very original (the sea is one of the three narrators, which I loved) and was beautifully written. One of those books that makes you want to keep reading but simultaneously to put it down and get back to your own fictional worlds.
The Big Lie by Julie Mayhew
This is about a bisexual ice skating champion living in modern day, Nazi-occupied England – what more could you ask from a novel!? It’s brilliantly written, totally gripping and really convincing; I loved that it showed the Reich wrestling with the modern age, rather than being shut off from it completely. Being a language nerd, I also enjoyed all the German. Sehr gut.
The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness
This was probably my most eagerly-awaited YA of 2015 (I practically sprinted to Waterstones the day it came out) and while I didn’t love it quite as much as Ness’ More Than This or The Knife of Never Letting Go, it didn’t disappoint: really funny, touching and honest, with really well-rounded and realistic characters.
Also need to give a shout out to Asking For It by Louise O’Neill. I didn’t add it in my top 5 as I’m judging on how much I enjoyed them alone (and this book is the literary equivalent of a karate kick to the stomach) but it was definitely the most impactful and important YA I read this year and one of the best, too. Read it if you haven’t.
Favourite adult fiction
The Versions of Us by Laura Barnett
I’m a bit obsessed with the ways in which tiny decisions can send your life spiralling off into unexpected directions, so I was really intrigued by this premise: three stories of a young couple who meet at university, and how the steps they take change the paths of their lives. Brilliantly executed and très emosh.
The Fishermen by Chigozie Obioma
One of my reading resolutions for 2016 is to read more books by authors from countries other than the UK and US, and this book really confirmed for me how important that is. That said, the main appeal of this wasn’t the Nigerian setting (though I found the customs and languages really interesting) but the brilliant writing and the gripping story of four brothers cursed by a local madman.
The Gracekeepers by Kirsty Logan
The story of a floating circus in a flooded world, The Gracekeepers is one of those books that leaves you with an amazing clear sense of place, even months after you’ve finished it. Lovely lyrical writing, amazing worldbuilding and unforgettable characters – I think if you liked Lorali you’ll like this, and vice versa.
Tambe això passarà by Milena Busquets
This is a simple but beautifully rendered story of a woman who spends a summer week in the Catalan town of Cadaqués while dealing with her mother’s death. It’s short and quite straightforward, but very evocative and beautifully written – a huuuge success in Spain. It’ll be released in English next year (I think?) as This Too Shall Pass.
Slade House by David Mitchell
I’m such a David Mitchell fangirl that he could probably write a guide to chair weaving and I’d give it five stars. (Well, not quite true – I couldn’t even finish Jacob de Zoet. Soz.) Slade House doesn’t have the epic scope of some of his other novels, but it has the humour, imagination and unique weirdness that makes his writing so enjoyable.
Favourite books I read in 2015 that were not published in 2015
My Year of Meats by Ruth Ozeki
This has been on my to-read list since I read Ozeki’s A Tale For the Time Being, one of my favourite books, and I’m so glad I finally got around to it. It’s similar in that it uses two female narrators, one North American and one Japanese, and is just as compelling (SO interesting, too, though the meat facts are slightly terrifying).
How to Be Both by Ali Smith
I absolutely adored this, so much so that I don’t feel qualified even to write two sentences about this – it was just so amazing and different and great and I loved it so much! Ali Smith is the best thing to come out of Inverness since Harry Gow’s strawberry tarts.
Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel
I’ve heard a few people say that even though they hate post-apocalyptic literature, they loved Station Eleven. I love a good dystopia, personally, but it’s true that this is quite different – eerie, but not in a hackneyed way, and dark but not totally depressing.
Without You There is No Us by Suki Kim
One of the few non-fiction titles I read this year, and easily the best. This is the memoir of an American/South Korean woman teaching at an elite Christian university in Pyongyang – surprisingly, though, it’s one of the most heartbreaking books I’ve read on North Korea.
Burial Rites by Hannah Kent
I read this – a novel based on the true story of Agnes Magnúsdóttir, an Icelandic woman charged with murder in the early 19th century – while I was on holiday in Reykjavik, but I think even if I’d been sitting on my sofa in Edinburgh it would have left me with a remarkably clear picture of the setting. Brilliant, gripping, and so accomplished.
Seeing as you asked (no one has asked) a few other favourites from this year…
Favourite film: The Lobster
Favourite album: Pageant Material by Kacey Musgraves
Favourite TV show: Jane the Virgin & The Affair (both of which started in 2014, but whatev)
All in all a great year – all the best for 2016! ☺