These books are in the order I read them, not necessarily in the order of their wonderfulness or anything like that. I liked them all for different reasons, and though I’d recommend all of them, not all of them will make it to my mental “all time favorites” list.
- The Night Circus, by Erin Morganstern My book club chose this one. I hadn’t heard of it before they picked it, but it sounded interesting. I have to say that the book jacket description didn’t do it justice, because it’s so many different things. It’s a fantasy novel, an adventure novel, and a romance. It’s about relationships and the real meaning of family. It’s about the power of love. I do love books set against interesting backgrounds, and this one, with its circus setting, is described so vividly that I had no trouble picturing it, even though I’m not really a visual thinker. The book is not told sequentially, however, and I read it on my Kindle, which actually did take away from the book somewhat. I’d recommend reading a paper book to better keep track of the timeline. It always helps me to be able to flip backward and forward. I bought the paper novel, and it’s on my re-read list. I look forward to getting out my highlighter.
- Me Before You, by Jojo Moyes (also the sequel, After You) This was another book chosen by my book club and I loved it so much that I read it twice back to back. I seriously thought about reading it a third time. It’s hard to explain why I liked this book without giving away spoilers, so forgive me if I’m vague. I found this book thought provoking, entertaining, sad, and beautiful. The main character, Louisa, is who she is. She doesn’t give much thought to her life. She’s vibrant and likes to dress in weird clothing. She doesn’t really fit into her small town, but never gives it much thought. It’s just how life is for her. When she’s hired to help care for Will, a man who became quadriplegic in an accident, she starts to think more critically about her life and ask questions about what she really wants. It deals with an issue I’m very interested in philosophically, and I believe deals with all sides of the issue, and does so sensitively.
- A Prayer for Owen Meany, by John Irving A friend of mine recommended this novel, saying that John Irving is one of her favorite authors. I was intrigued by the premise of the novel, and the way it started off drew me right in. The book follows the narrator and Owen Meany. It meanders, feeling like a path through the woods. Sometimes I could almost glimpse my destination, and other times, I had no idea where I was going. The book didn’t exactly get boring, but there were times where I wanted to ask “are we there yet?” I read a little, put it down, read a little more, put it back down. Once I got to the last 100 pages though, I threatened to murder my husband if he talked to me. The meandering journey became a frenetic race through those proverbial woods, crashing into branches and getting scratched by thorns. It was well-worth the trip. I will probably re-read this one at some point, but I’m not sure when. It’s a very long book (over 600 pages), but worth it.
- There Will Be Lies, Nick Lake I found this book on the rack at the library, and picked it up based on the title. When I read the back, I was intrigued enough to give it a try. This is one of those books that I’m jealous that I didn’t think of first (I don’t aspire to write something like Owen Meany). This book is like a modern fairy tale. Shelby is hit by a car, and after that, goes on a journey with her mother, fleeing things that Shelby doesn’t understand. She goes back and forth between the real world and a dream world, where Coyote tells her that she must complete tasks to prevent the world from ending. It’s a book full of surprises and twists, but they felt natural, not like the author was saying, “Haha, fooled you!” It was easy to read, perfect for a weekend or vacation.
- Traveling to Infinity: My Life With Stephen, Jane Hawking I’m not usually one for memoirs, but Stephen Hawking is a genuinely interesting guy. I like smart people with a sense of humor, and he’s always seemed like someone who doesn’t take himself too seriously. When I heard about this book, I realized that I’d never given much thought to his wife, and I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one. Jane Hawking tells her story, and it’s done with humor and love, but doesn’t pull any punches on how difficult things were for her, living with someone both brilliant and disabled. It was a wonderful memoir, and made me want to read more about both of them, and their lives together and separate. It also reaffirmed my belief that anything is possible, as he’s 73, and doctors predicted that he wouldn’t live past 30. He communicates by way of a device controlled by a cheek muscle, and has made huge contributions to science. What excuses can I possibly make for anything?
- The Silver Linings Playbook, Matthew Quick I saw the movie first, and I don’t remember what drew me to the movie, but I really enjoyed it. I love stories with flawed main characters, and Tiffany and Pat, with their mental health issues, were flawed and brave. The book is significantly different than the movie. The characters are the same, but some of the events have been changed, and the supporting characters are different. I liked both and recommend both.
- Station Eleven, Emily St. John Mandel This was another book club choice. It started off right before a flu wiped out most of the world’s population, with unconnected people who made a brief connection before the end of the world. The book follows Kirsten and the group of entertainers she travels with. There’s also a comic book Kirsten considers her most prized possession that has a bigger meaning in the context of the story. Very interesting and original, a different perspective on post-apocalyptic stories.
- Americanah, Chimamanda Negozi Adichie This is the fourth book club pick on the list. Considering that I only read seven books recommended by my club, I’d say they do a pretty good job with the books they pick. This is why I just go with the flow. In any case, I got completely sucked into this book from the start. It’s about Ifemelu, a young African woman who moves to the US and becomes a blogger about race. The book talks about racism without being about race. It’s about people, and how those people fit in to the world around them. I liked Ifemelu, and enjoyed walking with her for a little while, through the pages of this book. She’d be the type of friend who would help me grow: honest, blunt, uncompromising. She’d make me uncomfortable, but I’d never be bored.
- Ready, Player One, Ernest Cline On the surface, this book is a fantasy novel about a competition to find Easter Eggs in a huge online video game world. It can be read that way, and it would probably still be a pretty good book if you did. Under the surface though, it’s about friendship, growth, and figuring out what’s really important. Wade is a young man who doesn’t fit in anywhere, not in real life, or in the virtual one. He ends up taking on a major corporation that’s part of the race to find the Easter Eggs, and learns how strong he can be, and how much he’s willing to risk for what’s really important to him.
- Same Kind of Different as Me, Ron Hall & Denver Moore I found this on the discount rack at Half Price Books. It was sitting there, marked $2, and the title was interesting enough to catch my eye. I’ve found that books on that rack aren’t always the bad ones. Often times, someone just bought too many of them, and they need to get rid of some stock. So I read the back, and it sounded interesting, and then I read the first page, and it sounded even more interesting. Even then, it might have sat on my shelf for a long time, unread, except that some friends and I started a game. We have to read a book we already own and pass it around, then talk about it. It’s a different twist on a book club. I didn’t realize this was a memoir until after I started reading it. It’s about a poor black man from the South who ends up homeless, a rich white couple, and how their lives intersect and ultimately become intertwined. It’s very much a story of faith and gratitude, though it avoids being preachy. I felt uplifted and moved after reading this book. Many books inspire emotional reactions, but this one made me feel connected with powers greater than myself.
So that’s it, the best books I read in 2015. If you’ve read any of these, I’d love to know what you thought of them (even if you hated them). I’m eager to find out what wonderful books I get to read in the coming year.