Sunday, 27 December 2015

2015: A Year In Books

I found my books round-up so easy to write last year: I'd read some inspirational feminist non-fiction and lots of great literary fiction. 

This year, I found it much harder to think of anything but genre fiction - crime, thrillers, YA novels - which I think says a lot about my energy levels in 2015. I really haven't had the time or the inclination to read much that is intellectually challenging. Which is not to say that I think genre fiction is somehow lesser than literary fiction, but I personally prefer a more balanced book diet than I was able to consume this year.

Anyway, on with the books! (All links take you to the original post in which I reviewed said book.)

Best Book You Read In 2015 (broken down by genre if necessary)

I always need to break this down because choosing just one book is impossible.
YA fiction
2015 was a year of great YA novels: I thoroughly enjoyed To All The Boys I Loved Before, Vivian Versus The Apocalypse, The Rest Of Us Just Live Here and plenty more. But easily the best was Simon Versus The Homo Sapiens Agenda, which is just a perfect example of YA writing at its best.
Crime fiction
So Much Pretty has haunted me since I read it in January. As I said in my review at the time, this novel is unique in terms of thrillers. Whereas most books of the genre use society's endemic violence against women for entertainment, So Much Pretty seeks to interrogate and criticise it. Not an easy read in many ways (its narrative structure is challenging, for one thing) but an important one.
I read a shamefully small amount of non-fiction this year, but Stitched Up is nevertheless well deserving of its title. An anti-capitalist critique of the fashion industry, it was unexpectedly enjoyable and easy to read, and extremely thought-provoking.
Literary fiction
Bodies Of Light by Sarah Moss, without a doubt. It's a haunting and at times disturbing novel which touches on so many contemporary issues - the role of women, feminism, mental health, poverty and inequality - through the story of a Victorian girl growing up in Manchester with her artist father and activist mother.
Dystopian fiction
In 2015 I read a surprising amount of fiction that could be loosely termed sci-fi/fantasy (not my usual genre at all), almost all of it dystopian/post-apocalyptic. I especially loved Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel, but I think The Girl With All The Gifts just edges it for me, especially the astonishing closing scenes.

Most Surprising (In A Good Way) Book of 2015

I don't read a lot of what might be termed popular fiction: it's always either genre stuff or literary fiction. But when I was part of the Curtis Brown Book Group, I was sent Letters To The Lost, a sort of romantic/ historic (WW2) saga novel: the kind of thing I'd turn my nose up at if I came across it in a bookstore. And it was lovely! Which goes to show you really shouldn't judge a book by its cover & blurb.

Book You Read In 2015 That You Recommended Most To Others

I enjoyed Simon Versus The Homo Sapiens Agenda so much that I bought a couple of copies to send to friends: luckily they loved it too.

Best Series You Discovered In 2015

I was going to say Tana French's Dublin Murder Squad series, but have just realised I read the first one in 2014. So... I actually have no idea! I loved the first Enchantment Emporium book by Tanya Huff, but the follow-ups weren't as great. If two books can be called a series, then Jenny Han's To All The Boys I Loved Before and P.S. I Still Love You.

Favourite New Author You Discovered in 2015

Sad to say, but apart from Becky Albertelli, who wrote Simon Versus... there's no-one else I've read for the first time this year who I'd definitely seek out more by.

Book You Were Excited About & Thought You Were Going To Love But Didn't

I love everything Sarah Moss has written, non-fiction and fiction alike, and adored Bodies Of Light but the sequel - Signs For Lost Childrenjust didn't engage me like I thought it would.

Best Book That Was Out Of Your Comfort Zone Or Was A New Genre To You

Considering I don't tend to enjoy sci-fi/fantasy books, don't really know anything about computer gaming, and barely remember the 80s, Ready Player One was a tough sell. But I thought it was fantastic; exciting and with tons of fun retro references.

Book You Read In 2015 That You're Most Likely To Read Again In 2016

Despite hating the Simon Snow sections of Fangirl, I downloaded Carry On - Rainbow Rowell's novel which returns to the Harry Potter-esque character of Simon - and loved it. I'm certain I'll reread it next year.

Favourite Book You Read in 2015 From An Author You've Read Previously
I liked David Nicholls' One Day (devastating ending aside) but wasn't expecting to love his new novel, Us, quite as much as I did.

Best Book You Read In 2015 That You Read Based SOLELY On A Recommendation From Somebody Else
I'm not sure if this counts as a recommendation, but I read Alex by Pierre Lemaitre because we have a lot of copies in stock at work and, when a damaged copy turned up, my boss said I could take it. It's bleak as fuck but an excellent crime thriller, so I'm glad I did.


Favourite Cover Of A Book In 2015
Not just the cover but the whole design - from dust jacket to page edges to chapter headings - of The Rest Of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness was just stunning. And the book was utterly incredible too, pulling off the delicate trick of being light-hearted and funny (the subtle digs at the Twilight franchise and at Sarah Palin are a particular joy) while also sympathetically addressing serious issues, particularly around mental health.

Book That Had The Greatest Impact On You In 2015

I still dwell on the fates of the characters from So Much Pretty almost a year after reading.

Book You Can't BELIEVE You Waited Until 2015 To Read

I don't understand how someone as in thrall to books as I had made it to the age of 37 without reading 84 Charing Cross Road. And it was amazing: funny and sweet and heart-warming.

Book That Had A Scene In It That Had You Reeling And Dying To Talk To Somebody About It? (a WTF moment, an epic revelation, a steamy kiss, etc.) Be careful of spoilers!
There's a key scene about mid-way through Apple Tree Yard that I found extremely difficult to read, and which completely changed the direction of the plot. It's something I've wanted to discuss ever since but it's such a massive spoiler that I can't mention it to anyone who hasn't read it.

Favourite Relationship From A Book You Read In 2015 (be it romantic, friendship, etc)
I'm a sucker for teenage boys in love, so probably Simon and Baz's love story in Carry On or another Simon and Blue's relationship in Simon Versus...

Most Memorable Character In A Book You Read In 2015
Melanie from The Girl With All The Gifts.

Genre You Read The Most From in 2015
I read 42 crime/thriller books in 2015, the most of any genre, but this was closely followed by YA fiction, with 40 books.

Best 2015 Debut
Simon Versus The Homo Sapiens Agenda again! What can I say? I really loved it.

Book That Was The Most Fun To Read in 2015
I loved Enchanted August, which is an uncomplicated yet very witty, well written romp and the perfect holiday read.

Book That Made You Cry Or Nearly Cry in 2015
I tear up at the drop of a hat, so there's probably loads, but Matt Haig's clever and sentimental A Boy Called Christmas got me teary eyed most recently.
Book You Read in 2015 That You Think Got Overlooked This Year Or When It Came Out
I really enjoyed Scarlett Thomas's 2015 release, The Seed Collectors, but haven't seen much of it in the press or in the blogosphere, which I think is a shame.

Total number of books read in 2015
At the time of writing (December 27th) I've read 151 books this year, an increase by 34 on 2014. My goal for 2016 is to have more variety in my reading - less crime and more non-fiction, particularly.