Happy New Year everyone!
2015 was a great year for so many reasons. I officially started in the Stonecoast MFA program through the University of Southern Maine; my first published story “The Screw-Up” was included in the fabulous Twice Upon A Time anthology; and I read A LOT of books.
According to “A.J.’s Year in Books” provided through Goodreads, I read a total of 79 new novels/short stories in 2015. Of these, the largest was Game of Thrones at 835 pages and the shortest was “A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings” at 16 pages. I don’t make a point of keeping track of books that I’ve re-read, so this list is only comprised of the new stories I checked out in the last year. But what were my favorites, you ask? Well, keep reading good citizen, and you’ll find out.
#10 – S. by J.J. Abrams and Doug Dorst
There were parts of this book I loved and there were parts of this book I found okay. But the most exciting thing about this was it’s ergodic structure. It had pieces of folded paper inside the pages, puzzles to work out in the footnotes, handwritten dialogue in the margins, and three different narratives. My absolute favorite part were the notes in the margins exchanged between Eric and Jen, as that added a big character element to the book. This novel gave me a lot of inspiration as this is the kind of structure I would love to create and publish one day.
#9 – Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
I know, I know, I only JUST read Wuthering Heights for the first time in 2015? Where have I been, hiding under a rock? Anyway, insults aside, this book has to got to be the ultimate case-study in creating a dark hero. Normally, I really like bad-boy characters and will forgive them for pretty much anything as long as they’ve got some charming “it” quality (it’s my weakness, what can I say?) But for Heathcliff, I slid up and down the polar extreme rating scale from love to hate–sometimes, within only a few pages of separation. I admire that complexity.
#8 – Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz
This is my token fluffy favorite of 2015. This coming-of-age book took me one sitting to read through. While I really enjoyed Saenz’s free-concious styled narrative, what I loved were the relationships with the friends and parents and eventual romantic interest. So. Darn. Cute.
#7 – Elantris by Brandon Sanderson
Brandon Sanderson is probably doomed to make my top ten favorite list every year (what a burden, I know). This is the author’s debut, standalone novel (although he has written a novella companion story and is planning to make a sequel). As you can expect from Sanderson, the world building and magic system are excellent. Princess Sarene also makes my list for best female lead characters in a fantasy novel (which also includes Vin from Mistborn and Karigan G’ladheon from Green Rider).
#6 – The Scar by China Mieville
This is my first book I’ve read by China Mieville. If I were judging this list on narrative style alone, this would be number one. Normally, I’m a “clear glass” reader; I don’t want to be distracted by extraneous detail. Just get me to the good stuff. But this book is very much a “stained glass window;” it’s filled with awesome detail that makes me stop and appreciate the depth of setting this author has masterfully woven. In a more general sense, this book was a very entertaining read about a dystopian world that mixes elements of Steampunk and Fantasy.
#5 – Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick
One of my top favorite books of all time is The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. So when I write this book reminded me of my beloved favorite, I don’t state it lightly. This is coming-of-age novel gets into the mindset of a mentally sick young man who has been traumatized. The narrative is in the first person and is very emotionally wrought, which is paired with sarcastic, distant dialogue. It’s a book I need to own someday, and I’m a bit sad that’s not on my bookshelf yet.
#4 – Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson
This was a book that probably got ranked as high as it did on my list given the relatable prose and the excellent acting in the audio narration (done by Jenny Lawson). This book is a memoir about a high-anxiety woman who deals with life in a very humorous way, even when life is horrible and sad. I laughed. I cried. I checked out her second memoir called Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things. Cheers to repeating my hysterical tears.
#3 – River of Gods by Ian McDonald
This book was recommended to me by one of the teacher’s at the Stonecoast MFA program as a way to introduce me to the current science fiction in today’s market. This book taught me so much, especially in relation to approaching artificial intelligence, overpopulation, and gender in a futuristic mind set. But while I loved the details, I flipped the pages like mad for the characters.
#2 – House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski
This is another ergodic formatted book, similar to S. But where S. focuses on three, consistent structured narratives, this book lacks a consistency. It starts off normally, but then the words on the page go upside down. Later, the text is so thick you can barely see what’s the relevant prose and what’s the extraneous detailed footnote. Then, all the words erase on the page save for a single word in the middle. It’s different and exciting, and the unbalanced nature matches perfectly with the horror genre it’s in. I loved it for the story and the inspiration it gave me.
And finally, the moment you’ve all been waiting for…
#1 – Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
This book got my number one slot as it is the only book I read twice in 2015. It’s entertaining as hell and it totally appeals to the gamer nerd aspect of my personality. There really is no deeper reason why I like this book or any parts that really educated my “writer” self, but I just really, really, enjoyed it, okay?
So, anybody love/hate the books on my list? And what were your top favorites of 2015? Let me know in the comments below!