My favorite fiction of 2015

My favorite fiction of 2015

I love and hate best-of-the-year lists. Love because I can’t resist reading them; hate because I abhor picking a favorite anything.

Please know that though I’m calling these my favorites, I’m holding them loosely. These are the best novels I read in 2015, no matter their publication date, and if this list is anything like those from previous years, I probably forgot at least one title I completely and utterly adored.

Series: Best novels of 2015
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

Author:
I’ve heard my mom gush about this book for pretty much my whole life, and finally read it in January for the "a book your mom loves" category in the Reading Challenge. Of course, my only regret was that I’d waited so long: I loved this story from page one's metaphor of the unlikely tree in Brooklyn. No description I ever heard before made me want to read it, so I'll spare you the plot synopsis. I'll just say: read it. Wistful, haunting, satisfying. (I listened to the audio version, which—barring some infrequent random jazz music—was quite good.) More info →
A God in Ruins

A God in Ruins

Author:
In her last novel Life After Life, Ursula Todd lived many versions of her life. This companion shows much of the same story from her brother Teddy’s point of view. It lacks the showiness of its predecessor, yet the structure remains strong, and subtly inventive. While Ursula’s life (lives?) centered on the blitz, Teddy’s one life (albeit with a twist) centers on Britain’s strategic bombing campaign against Germany. As a Halifax pilot, Teddy’s life expectancy was brutally short: the statistics were overwhelmingly against his survival. When the war ends, he has a hard time coming to terms with the future he’s been given, and suffers mightily from survivor’s guilt. This is an awfully good book, nimbly spanning generations, and marvelously told. More info →
Lila

Lila

I love Marilynne Robinson's writing, though I have to be in the mood for it: she writes lyrical, beautifully constructed prose. In her latest novel, Robinson brings her reader back to Iowa, where we revisit characters we've met in Gilead and Home. (Or not—the books don't have to be read in order.) On its surface, this is a quiet novel about quiet people, but Robinson is adept at probing what's really going on beneath the surface. A gorgeous novel. More info →
The Brothers K

The Brothers K

This one spent years on my TBR list, because so many friends with great taste called it THE best book they ever read. I'm so glad I finally read it, although it did take me nearly two months to get through. (It IS 645 pages long, but it wanders a bit.) I don't remember what my expectations were about this book, but whatever they were, they were wrong. Duncan combines the Vietnam War, bush league baseball, Seventh Day Adventism, and family ties into an incredible, heart-wrenching story. The book is truly remarkable for the times when it reveals the deep joy present in a family's lowest moments. Due to some tough themes and a ton of language, this isn't for the faint of heart. More info →
The Lake House

The Lake House

Author:
I have been impatiently waiting for Kate Morton's next novel for years and this one didn't disappoint: I think it's her best yet. In 1933, a young child disappeared without a trace. In 2003, a disgraced young detective stumbles upon the cold case and soon discovers its ties to one of England's oldest and most celebrated mystery writer (think Agatha Christie). I absolutely loved reading a mystery novel about a mystery novelist: the references to the fictional author's writing process and working life were delightfully meta and utterly fascinating. More info →
Americanah

Americanah

This is Nigerian novelist Adichie’s third novel, but the first I've read. The story centers around a smart, strong-willed Nigerian woman named Ifemelu. After university, she travels to America for postgraduate work, where she endures several years of near-destitution, and a horrific event that upends her world. She finds her way, winning a fellowship at Princeton, and gaining acclaim for her blog, called “Raceteenth or Various Observations About American Blacks (Those Formerly Known as Negroes) by a Non-American Black." A highlight: Adichie seamlessly weaves blog posts—about race, national identity, class, poverty, and hair—into the narrative. The novel grapples with difficult issues without becoming overwrought. I would not have read this based on the flap copy, but I was hooked from page one. Haunting, moving, incredibly well done. Terrific on audio. More info →
Middlemarch

Middlemarch

Author:
For years I've been calling myself a lover of British literature, and yet I'd never read Middlemarch. (I say I love long books, but at 904 pages it was more than a little intimidating.) This year I remedied that unfortunate situation. Eliot’s hefty masterpiece combines her “study of provincial life” with a close look at several young couples who fall (or think they fall) in love. Who will find lasting happiness, and who won’t, and why? By focusing on the narrow disappointments and particular joys of this small community, Eliot cuts to the heart of human nature. A novel about love, happiness, and second chances. More info →
A Trick of the Light (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache Mysteries, No. 7)

A Trick of the Light (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache Mysteries, No. 7)

Author:
This year I inhaled all 11 books in Louise Penny's Inspector Gamache series. I thoroughly enjoyed the series as a whole, but this seventh installment was my favorite individual title. (The books don't have to be read in order, but I recommend it.) Inspector Gamache returns to Three Pines to solve a murder that's intimately tied to the world of fine art. The story is built around the concept of chiaroscuro—the contrast between dark and light that's significant in some artists' works, and in all our natures. I couldn't put this down. More info →
Ready Player One

Ready Player One

Author:
I had to be talked into reading this one, because this book wasn't exactly calling my name. I couldn't care less about video games or John Hughes movies, but this exceptional book hooked me from page one. It’s 2044 and the world is in shambles, so who can blame Wade Watts if he’d rather live in a virtual reality than the real one? Like many of his peers, Wade spends his waking hours by himself, logged into a virtual reality game, racing through a computerized scavenger hunt in which his success depends on his knowledge of obscure ‘80s pop culture references. Dystopian novels abound, but they’re not usually this fun. (I loved the audio version narrated by Wil Wheaton.) More info →

Runners-up: The Wife, the Maid, and the Mistress, These Is My Words, Fates and FuriesThe Knockoff.

P.S. My favorite books of 2014, and 2013, and 2012.

2015 was a great year for novels. Here are some of my favorite fiction books of 2015.

 

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87 comments

  1. Eileen Lis says:

    I’m so excited to have found this link through a good friend of mine!
    And, you have two authors that I’ve read everything they’ve written. Kate Morton and Louise Penny.
    Thanks for sharing your favorite books.

  2. Marina says:

    I love that A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is first on your list. I read this book for the first time this year too. My Mom passed away in 2011 and it was her copy. <3

  3. Jocelyn says:

    So is there going to be a Reading Challenge for 2016? I totally flunked out on the 2015 challenge but I am eager to try again. ^_^

  4. Susan says:

    The only one I’d read was Trick of the Light…I, too, inhaled this series when I discovered it this year. Lots of late nights, house was a mess, kids slightly unkempt because I wanted to finish this series! The only one I have left now is the newest one. I was near 149th on the hold list at the library. I’m always somewhat hesitant to read the last of a series because I don’t want it to end. I can’t wait to try some of the others you’ve mentioned. Thank you!!

  5. Emily Rice says:

    I’ve heard people rave about Ready Player One on booktube but I have yet to read it. I, too, was thinking I wouldn’t like it just because it’s not something I’d normally pick up. I think it’s time to see what all the hype is about!

  6. Nicki says:

    I’ve been wanting to read The Brothers K for a decade, but I’m sensitive to content (not so much to language). You say it “isn’t for the faint of heart”. Think I should give it a try or pass?

    • Anne says:

      Of course it depends on what kind of content you’re sensitive to, but there’s a good chance the answer is “pass.” The Vietnam War (and the atrocities therein) drives the plot, and there’s a major thread of sexual abuse running through the book.

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