My Books of the Year 2015

In no particular order, here are some of my favourite books from those I’ve read in 2015:

Favourite fiction published in 2015

I loved Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith which is the third book in the Cormoran Strike series and I was lucky enough to attend a special launch event in October in which my team came first in a live escape game. Winning a signed copy was a particular highlight.

The relaunch of the Sunday Times / PFD Young Writer of the Year Award introduced me to some fantastic new authors including The Year of the Runaways by Sunjeev Sahota which is my personal favourite from a very strong shortlist.

Career of Evil goody bagThe Year Of The Runaways Sunjeev SahotaA Little Life Hanya Yanagihara

I really enjoyed seeing Hanya Yanagihara talk about her second novel A Little Life at Foyles last summer. Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, it’s been one of the most talked-about and controversial books of the year and, in my view, one of the most astonishingly original.

Favourite debut novel published in 2015

Things We Have in Common Tasha KavanaghI absolutely loved the character of Yasmin in Things We Have in Common by Tasha Kavanagh which is my favourite debut published this year. I think it would be a really interesting novel to discuss in a book group as Yasmin is a brilliantly ambiguous character and I imagine readers would react to her in very different ways. I probably wouldn’t have come across ‘Things We Have in Common’ if it hadn’t been for the Not the Booker prize on the Guardian Books website so I will definitely be keeping a closer eye on future shortlists.

Favourite non-fiction published in 2015
So You've Been Publicly Shamed Jon RonsonI read So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson shortly after seeing him speak at the Hay Festival in May. It is simultaneously highly entertaining but also deeply terrifying and anyone who uses social media should read this book. Special mentions must also go to Skyfaring: A Journey with a Pilot by Mark Vanhoenacker and Dead Babies and Seaside Towns by Alice Jolly.

 
Favourite translated fiction published in 2015

The Great Swindle Pierre LemaitreOne of the most enjoyable works of translated fiction I’ve come across this year is The Great Swindle by Pierre Lemaitre translated from the French by Frank Wynne. Set in France in the aftermath of the First World War, it tells the story of two veterans who embark on an elaborate money-making scheme. I’m hoping this will be recognised by the revamped Man Booker International Prize when the longlist is announced in March 2016. I also enjoyed The Man in a Hurry by Paul Morand although sadly it won’t be eligible as the author and translator both need to be alive at the time of publication in order to be considered.

Favourite series

My Brilliant Friend Elena FerranteThis year I devoured the Neapolitan novels by Elena Ferrante translated from the Italian by Ann Goldstein including My Brilliant Friend, The Story of a New Name and Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay. The fourth and final volume of the series, The Story of the Lost Child, was published earlier this year (review coming soon). The series follows the lives of childhood friends and rivals Elena and Lila and all of the books are destined to become classics.

Favourite books published before 2015

Stoner John WilliamsI made a slow but steady amount of progress this year in terms of tackling my TBR list including some books which had been on there for a few years such as The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey. I particularly enjoyed Stoner by John Williams, a quietly brilliant novel which has been rediscovered in the last few years some five decades after it was first published.

Rubbernecker Belinda BauerI read Rubbernecker by Belinda Bauer way back in January but it remains one of the most enjoyable and original thrillers I’ve read this year with a very memorable main character in the form of medical student Patrick Fort and a cleverly constructed plot. I’m glad I have discovered Sarah Moss who is an underrated writer and deserves more recognition for her second novel Night Waking and her entertaining and insightful account of living in Iceland for a year Names for the Sea.

A Dark-Adapted Eye Barbara VineI also read two psychological thrillers by Barbara Vine, a pseudonym for Ruth Rendell who passed away earlier this year, and I really enjoyed both A Dark-Adapted Eye and King Solomon’s Carpet. They are both excellent if you are looking for something more modern than Agatha Christie but very different from the type of crime fiction with the word “Girl” in the title. I was also pleased to see The End of Days by Jenny Erpenbeck win this year’s (and last) Independent Foreign Fiction Prize.

This Boy In terms of non-fiction, I enjoyed This Boy by Alan Johnson which was a very moving portrait of the former Labour minister’s mother and sister and his childhood growing up in poverty in West London in the 1950s and 1960s. I still haven’t read his second memoir ‘Please Mister Postman’ about his early career before he moved into politics but I hope to read it at some point soon. I also loved Forensics: The Anatomy of Crime by Val McDermid which is a fascinating book about historical and modern techniques in forensic science.

Other Highlights

Found on pinterest.com via Tumblr: Creative Writers, Writers Stuff, Snoopy Writing, Brown Snoopy And Gang, Writers Life, Peanut Snoopy, Charli Brown Snoopy And, Peanut Gang, Books ReviewI really enjoyed the discussion inspired by my blog post about one-star book reviews and hatchet jobs on book blogs which was one of my favourite posts this year. Thank you to everyone who left their comments which were both amusing and thought-provoking. It’s certainly made me think about what constitutes fair and constructive criticism when writing my own reviews as well as reading those written by other bloggers and journalists.

Hay Festival 2015I went to the Hay Festival for the first time in May and saw Laszlo Krasznahorkai and Jo Caulfield, Jessie Burton and Jon Ronson, Alexander McCall Smith and Jenny Erpenbeck, and Helen Macdonald and Tracey Thorn. It will come as no surprise that I spent a lot of time browsing several bookshops in Hay-on-Wye and I hope to visit again in the future.

I also really enjoyed being part of the shadow panel of the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize between March and May this year and I’m looking forward to discovering more translated fiction when the Man Booker International Prize is revealed in March 2016.

Overall, 2015 has been a brilliant year for books. As always, there are many books – new and old – that I had planned to read and haven’t got round to yet and I expect 2016 will be no different.

What are your favourite books of 2015?

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38 Comments

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38 responses to “My Books of the Year 2015

  1. wow, good to see mention of Lemaitre. I read it in French a few years ago, fantastic!
    I also read Stoner this year, finally, and found it good, but so depressing!
    That Forensics book is on my TBR.
    My own wrap up will start tomorrow – 3 parts

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  2. I’ve noticed Things We Have in Common popping up quite a lot recently. Time to add it to my list, I think. Absolutely loved Stoner – ‘quietly brilliant’ nails it, I’d say!

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  3. Ohhh, I am bookmarking this post when I need some new books to read. I am interested in a lot of these! Seems you read many great books this year. Happy to see A Little Life on your list 🙂 Things We have in Common seems intriguing. And the neopolitan series…. I’ve seen that onr around a lot. Thanks so much for sharing your fave books of the year ❤

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  4. That’s a nice approach to reviewing the year, Claire. Like you, I loved Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels – they are so rich and rewarding, and the portrayal of the atmosphere in the neighbourhood is very vivid.

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  5. What a lovely varied selection and a great approach to reviewing the books of the year (although what if you read a great one between now and the end of tomorrow???). Happy reading for 2016!

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  6. Loved reading your top tips from the year that’s almost been, and still remember reading about your time at the Hay Festival ‘hot off the press’… Am up to the last 200 pages of A Little Life right now and finding it unputdownable but very very harrowing… Happy New Reading and look forward to reading your posts!

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  7. A Little Life made my best of 2015 list as well. But like you, it’s not a book that I’ve been pressing on others.
    I’m looking forward to the Ferrante series next year.

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  8. I’m so glad The Year of Runaways was a favorite of yours. I got it for Christmas and I’m saving it for when I need a really great read. Next week maybe?

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  9. I just got Stoner for Christmas. Looking forward to reading it.

    My favorites reads from 2015:

    FICTION
    Cannery Row by John Steinbeck
    Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

    NONFICTION
    Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
    Chasing the Scream by Johann Hari

    I enjoyed following your blog this year!

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  10. First let me say how much I have enjoyed this blog this year (as ever). Apart from several books already mentioned here, I would add John Donoghue’s strange novel about the Holocaust but as a story of reconciliation rather than a grim re-telling; The Morville Hours by Katherine Swift about the recreation of a garden; Landmarks by Robert MacFarlane plus many other titles by the same author; the discovery of the romances by William Nicholson and last but not least Fathomless Riches by The Revd Richard Coles which I was given and hugely enjoyed. Another good year of great books both fiction and non fiction, and just before the year ends The House by the Lake by Thomas Hardy. Another book which I will not have finished before 2016 starts are the miraculous, rivetting and extraordinary dairies of Ivan Maisky – can hardly wait…

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  11. Stoner is still on my TBR as well! My parents have a copy of it, and everytime I browse through their bookcase when I’m there I get reminded that I still have to read it.
    Career of Evil is number 1 on my list for 2016! Can’t wait to read it (once I’ve finished my current read).
    Happy 2016!

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  12. Great list.
    My favourite read for 2015 is Going to Meet the Man by James Baldwin. A must read.
    Happy 2016!

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  13. Fab yearly review. I have you to thank for discovering Barbara Vine 🙂 I also adored Stoner, which I thought was, for all its subtlety, a very powerful book. These Neopolitan novels are also going to have to go on the TBR after all the rave reviews!

    My favourite book of 2015 is technically a cheat as I’ve not actually finished yet – Gone with the Wind – which I’m just devouring (700 pages in) and adoring far more than expected.

    Happy 2016!

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  14. Stoner was a surprise hit for me in 2014. I shall try and get to the Sahota this year.

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  15. Stoner was my happy surprise this year. I did not expect to like it as much as I did. Thanks for your list; you’ve given me some books to look for.

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  16. A great and varied list! Many of mine were not newly published books, as you know Tracy Farr’s The Life and Loves of Lena Gaunt made my Top 5 Fiction Reads, my outstanding read was Jamaica Kincaid’s The Autobiography of My Mother, a truly exceptional voice, quite different to her other short works. I read and loved quite a bit of island fiction from around Caribbean, Maryse Condé who is from Guadeloupe and writes in French was a fabulous find, I read three of her books and loved them all, Cristina Garcia’s Dreaming in Cuba was excellent and I’ve read a couple now by Edwidge Danticat, which were great too.

    I plan to try and read a bit more non-fiction this year and keep on reading across different cultures and countries.

    Happy Reading!

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    • Thanks, yours is a very eclectic list – I love how so many book bloggers have such a variety of favourite books from 2015. It’s great that it’s not just the big names which keep cropping up in all the end of year lists.

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      • I think that’s one of the greatest things about blogging, how it evolves our reading and strengthens our knowledge of the kinds of books we are attracted to or curious by, especially when we read such a wide variety of reviews, rather than, in the past when we had fewer sources. The lists this years have been fabulous and enriching, just the thing to start the year out.

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  17. Has to be Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels. Glad you’ve found them as well!

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  18. Have not long finished The Year of the Runaways and thought it an immensely thought provoking and capturing read. A Little Life was one of the best, but heartbreaking, books I’ve ever read. So glad to find this list; it’s given me loads more to add to my tbr pile!

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