Top 15 Books of 2015!

515p3OrN1KL__SY344_BO1,204,203,200_This year was harder than the others. There was a LOT of great literature out last year (already, I have to get used to saying last). It was very hard to pare it down to 15 books! I’m sure there’s an honorable mention post out there in the next few days, if I’m productive enough and stay sitting upright. Anyway, without further ado, here are my top 15 books of 2015.

1. The Nightingale- Kristin Hannah. This book I read back in February! And I said then to everyone I worked with, as well as everyone I hand sold it to, that it was going to be hard to knock it off the top of my list. And there were others that came close, but this one, well, nothing knocked it off the top of my list. A compelling story of two sisters on opposite sides of WWII- one in the country with her small family and housing a SS officer against her will; the other a firecracker working for the Resistance in getting soldiers out of Paris and to safety. Sisters that are as different as night and day. The sensible, cool headed vs the rebellious and impulsive. The story never gets old, the relationship between the sisters never quits being believable, and Hannah captures two very different sides of WWII on different fronts. If you haven’t read it yet, DO IT. And having the Kleenex handy. I didn’t, and I needed a box by the end. But…so worth it.

2. Girl On The Train- Paula Hawkins- One hell of a train ride! I had hoped for a great psychological read since I read A.S.A. Harrison’s A SILENT WIFE years back. I’ve read tons in the interim, and they all sucked. THIS was my favorite in years. If Hawkins continues writing like this, she’s going to give Gillian Flynn a run for her money! Rachel is an alcoholic who rides the same train route every morning. She becomes fixated on a couple, so much that she gives them names. One day she sees something shocking happen and the next day they’ve gone. Then she reads that the girl is missing and the husband is presumed guilty. Rachel comes forth with what she saw and her suspicions- and NOTHING is the same after that. It takes you on one hell of a ride, friends. Pick it up, you won’t be sorry!

3. Thank You, Goodnight- Andy Abramovitz- This one I found through Wendy, my guardian book queen, over at Simon & Schuster. It was in one of her newsletters. I don’t think the blurb on the book called out that it was similar to “High Fidelity” but that’s the vibe I got from it immediately. Nick Hornby’s magnum opus came out many years ago, and there haven’t been many books since that even held a candle to that, until this. I hope Abramovitz writes more books like this. I laughed my ass off and loved all of the characters. Teddy Tremble is close to that dreaded 40 club and has a comfortable, albeit boring routine life. He yearns for the days when he was lead singer of one-hit wonder 90’s band, Tremble. He gets a strange phone call, jets off to see an art exhibit overseas in which he is featured in an unflattering portrait, and that jump starts his desire to get the band back together- to prove he can, to prove they can, to prove something- to himself. The road is long, curved, littered with Klondike wrappers, and hilarious. The book is a laugh every other page, yet you’re cheering for this guy the whole book. Heartwarming, hilarious, and my favorite book by a debut author this year.

4. Luke Skywalker Can’t Read- Ryan Britt- It took years and many books of essays to be able to say someone finally comes close to Chuck Klosterman! This guy is Klosterman for nerds. And nerds need a voice in the essay/anthologies field! From essays about why nearly everyone in the Star Wars universe is illiterate to Dracula and Sherlock being hipsters to why monster flicks are really rom-coms, it’s fascinating and hilarious at times as well. I can’t say enough about this except to say that I hope he’s got another book coming out soon. I flew through it like I used to with Klosterman’s works, and I haven’t been excited about Klosterman in a long, long time (sadly). Go out and get it for the nerd in your life, even if that nerd is YOU!

5. Pretty Girls- Karen Slaughter- I’ve read her earlier books, but this one- holy crap! Nothing like her other books. That’s why it’s fantastic. This is a hard sell for anyone who can’t handle gratuitous sex, the dungeon, or graphic violence. There’s a lot of all in this book. If you have a strong stomach and can take it, well, you’re needing to read it. But not before bed. Take my word on that! The book begins with Clare and her husband being robbed in an alley while they are having an illicit tryst. Her husband is killed, and upon burying him, all sorts of stuff starts to come out about Paul. Throw in her estranged sister, missing girls over a number of years, corrupt policeman and private detectives, and you have one hell of a twisted story. But I guarantee you won’t set it down and when you get to the end, well, holy crap. What a book!

6. Narcissist You Know- Joseph Burgo- Joseph Burgo has been a practicing psychotherapist for over 30 years. He knows his stuff. I read about this in one of Wendy’s newsletters and asked her to send me a copy. I was hooked- and horrified! He has all of the narcissists broken down into categories- and I have a list of people who strongly resemble each subcategory. By the way, Nicole, give me my fucking book back so I can re-read it. I have about 40 new people to categorize. Most of them are ding-dongs pretending to be single while married, among other unpleasant surprises since I first read the book. Anyway, definitely one of my favorite self-help books this year. You have got to read this. It helps you identify the types and Burgo gives great tips on how to cope with these super-breeds of narcissists.

7. Unfaithful Music and Disappearing Ink- Elvis Costello- I love Elvis Costello. I’m a huge fan. I didn’t know what to expect from this book, but I certainly didn’t expect it to be my favorite music memoir of the year. It is effortless to read and to immediately connect with the singer. This reminded me a lot of the Bob Dylan memoir in that it was so seamless from one chapter to the next. He goes back and forth a bit, but once you get used to that, well, it’s a fantastic read. For any fan and anyone who isn’t, give it a shot. A great read.

8. Modern Romance- Aziz Ansari- I fancy myself a little in love with Aziz Ansari. Not only from Parks and Rec, but now from the new Netflix show Master of None. If you haven’t checked out either, FOR SHAME. Do so. Anyway, when I heard about this book, I had to read it. Little did I know that at the time it was going to wake me up to some harsh realities. 2015 brought a lot of things to my plate, including a flirtation with a personality whose odd behaviors on the social media platforms echoed some of the things that Aziz spoke about in the book. I was up until 3am reading this-and at the end of reading it, I realized this little flirtation was never going to be more than that, because this person’s behaviors clearly marked him as TAKEN. I never got confirmation, but I’m not a dumbass, and after reading this and testing some theories that Aziz put forth, my suspicions were confirmed. So- thanks, Aziz, you probably saved me more heartache. This book is not only funny, but put forward to the reader with years of genuine research. I hope it saves other naïve romantics from the playas out there.

9. Willful Machines- Tim Floreen- Not many YA books made my list this year. I read a ton of them, but a ton of them were just too similar either to an adult title I read, or just didn’t cut the mustard. THIS, happily, made my list. Could I sell it in my little hamlet? Nope, the yups weren’t digging it, sadly. In the future, scientists create an artificial human and name her Charlotte. Charlotte, as one could kind of predict, goes haywire, breaks open her chains of communication and sends them through the interwebs, and terror strikes many. The President’s secretly gay son has no worries until things start going kooky at his school, and he quickly realizes that Charlotte has her eyes on him as her next target. Can he save himself and the world? I liked the mix of fantasy, sci-fi, plus some romance and an idealistic young man trying to find himself while saving others.

10. Beginner’s Guide To Paradise- Alex Sheshunoff- Alex has a good career, a great girlfriend, nice digs, etc. The only problem is that he’s bored out of his gourd. He quits his little internet startup, breaks the girl’s heart, sublets his digs, and heads for a remote South Pacific island to relax and learn to live life. This begins a series of madcap adventures that can only be described as hilarious and yet life-affirming. In amidst his adventures, Alex learns to appreciate things he really didn’t before, he learns all sorts of things from people in walks of life no one in America would even travel across, and he meets someone who may or may not be his soulmate. This is wickedly funny but with a lot of heart. I love armchair travel books, and this one was one of the funniest I’ve read in years.

11. But Enough About Me- Burt Reynolds- Burt Reynolds, the actor? Who else, you fool! Burt wrote his NYT bestselling autobiography in 1994. 20 years after, he brings us this entertaining and at times, brutally honest, look at people who have shaped his life in some way, shape, or form. From his complicated father to his college football cronies, to the cast of Deliverance to the Smokey & The Bandit days, he hits them all. Burt makes no apologies for his crappy behavior, and he also doesn’t let those deserving of a kick in the ass, off without a stern warning. I had a lot of fun reading this book, and you will too!

12. Ember In The Ashes-Sabaa Tahir- Laia is a slave living with her parents under the rule of the Martian Empire. Her brother is arrested for treason, and Laia is desperate to save him, even those she knows what happens to those who are defiant against the Empire. She strikes a deal with soldiers to save her brother, and her end of the bargain involves spying on the Empire from within the ranks of the military school. There she meets Elias, who is the most unwilling of the soldiers to die for the cause he’s supposed to be enforcing. It quickly becomes apparent that their paths are crossing in the unlikeliest of ways- but how? This is a book that I was reading about on all of the YA book blogs I follow months before I think even Holly knew about it. I kept bugging her to get a copy or to let me read it. Then she read it. Both of us loved it. I cannot wait for the next one (yes, it’s a trilogy. Is there any other way in YA these days?)

13. Galactic Hot Dogs: Cosmoe’s Wiener Getaway- Max Brallier-I loved this “Year 8” title. I was even more happy that I had it up on the recommends when the author unexpectedly showed up at the store to sign the copies we had. We yak on Twitter on occasion. It was a super awesome May, let me tell you that. This came out on Cinco De Mayo. Instead of partying, I read this. And laughed my ass off instead! Cosmoe is a regular 13-year old until he’s suddenly knocked into space. He helps pilot “The Neon Wiener” which is like a galactic food truck, and their number one seller, “Cosmic Hot Dogs”. Trouble is around the corner when Princess Dagger, a loony half-evil princess, gets herself aboard the Neon Wiener and her crazy mom is suddenly gunning for the Wiener. Good, clean, and often odd fun, the young ones and the older ones alike will love this!

14. At The Edge of Empire (The Life and Death of Zebulon Finch #1)- Daniel Kraus- Holly got invited to a dinner for this book. She got me a copy. It’s 660ish pages, friends, so hopefully your young adult REALLY reads a lot or just likes a good, disturbing, darkly comic book. For that’s what you have here. Now, I have to say, Daniel Kraus is a super great fellow and this book, as you can tell from reading it, was a labor of love. This is not for the faint of heart. There are graphic scenes in here, and some violence, and some objectionable language. Zebulon is a 17-year old gangster on the streets of Chicago, who is gunned down. Seconds later, he’s brought back to life. His new “existence” is anyway from a circus sideshow to fighting in WWII, to the companion of a Hollywood starlet. He finds many lives that he never could have known, but does he ever find redemption for his past misdeeds? This book, as I said, is darkly comic with a hand of tragedy and it will break your heart in parts. Overall, brilliant. Absolutely brilliant.

15. Wherever There Is Light- Peter Golden- It seems like I’ve developed a penchant for finding these WWII era historical fiction books that encapsulate family dynamics among a war that destroyed countries and millions of lives. This would be the second one this year, after The Nightingale, except that this one takes place OVER 30 years, including the war. So a bit different, yet a bit the same. Julian, a German, heads to America in the 1920’s to make his way. He becomes a bootlegger and then a real estate mogul, and amasses quite a fortune. Then you have our female lead, Kendall, a free spirited African-American college girl who yearns to be a painter. She and Julian are introduced at a party, and the love affair between these radically different people begins. They go from Florida to the trials of Nuremberg to all corners of the war. Julian wants to marry and settle down and raise a family, while Kendall craves the footloose and fancy free lifestyle of a jet-setting photographer. Their life desires set them on different courses, their love and passion for the other never wanes. This book and their relationship, despite the challenges, are what most of us are looking for in a partner. And that’s the type of book we all need to read. It is simply put, a great and realistic story of a marriage of opposites and the struggle to overcome radical differences. You leave with a warm heart and a lot of hope.

Well, that’s my top 15 books. It was a hard pick of the litter, as I said. Coming up in the next few days: a guest post from Holly about children’s titles that rocked her world in 2015, and the books I’m looking forward to in 2016! I hope you enjoyed this list and I’d love to know yours!

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~ by generationgbooks on January 2, 2016.

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