Sigh. I love pouring over the end of year book lists and seeing the full range of what’s out there for us to read and savour. Without further ado, here’s my humble offering of the year’s best reads:
Crooked Heart* by Lissa Evans
Best for fans of: Quirky characters, dark comedy, fiction set in WWII
What’s the appeal? Evans draws wonderfully full characters. I loved Noel and Vee and Mattie and didn’t want their story to end.
George by Alex Gino
Best for: Reading aloud with your middle-grader, exploring new viewpoints
What’s the appeal? George is a girl who was born a boy and is determined not to let her sex get in the way of her dream of playing the lead role in the class production of Charlotte’s Web.
Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee
Best for: Fans of To Kill a Mockingbird who can stand to have their ideas shattered
What’s the appeal? I found Watchman a very tough book to read because it forced me to question how I could ever have been utterly convinced that a young girl be a completely reliable narrator.
The Nest by Kenneth Oppel
Best for: Staying up all night reading, fans of Neil Gaiman’s Coraline
What’s the appeal? It’s rare to find a horror novel that’s suitable for children and adults, but Oppel strikes a fine balance, creating a fine-tuned sense of anxiety and absurdity.
Outline by Rachel Cusk
Best for: Fans of literary fiction, readers who appreciate when authors play with narrative form
What’s the appeal? The novel is told in ten conversations each of which help us sketch out the narrator’s story. If the concept doesn’t grab you, it’s worth reading for the writing alone.
Purity by Jonathan Franzen
Best for: Someone in the mood for a sprawling read, readers of Thomas Pynchon
What’s the appeal? The Sunday Morning Herald said it best, “Franzen’s greatest strength remains his old-fashioned dedication to the slow time of the artform: its patiently constructed psychology, its slow accrual of event and subsequent resonance.”
Red Notice by Bill Browder
Best for: Those who like to read about lone individuals taking on political corruption and conspiracy
What’s the appeal? I read this book because I didn’t know much about Sergei Magnitsky beyond the name. While Browder is difficult to relate to at first, how he has dealt with Magnitsky’s murder is exceptionally powerful. What a transformation to undergo.
Shadowshaper by Daniel Jose Older
Best for: Fans of YA urban fantasy
What’s the appeal? The blurb promised a cross between The Mortal Instruments and Caribbean folklore, and that’s pretty much exactly what Older delivers.
So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson
Best for: Someone looking for a quick, but informative read
What’s the appeal? Ronson frames our modern day obsession with public shaming via social media in terms of the history of public shaming. His writing is witty, yet not glib — Ronson fully admits his own complicity.
Symphony for the City of The Dead: Dmitry Shostakovich and the Siege of Leningrad by M. T. Anderson
Best for fans of: Narrative non-fiction, music history, Russian history
What’s the appeal? It’s a brilliantly told tale of the survival and triumph of artistry amid political turmoil
What was your favourite read of 2015? Sound off in the comments below.