2015 was an incredible year for new releases. Some of the best books were published in 2015. I read so many outstanding ones that I couldn’t even narrow my list down to 10. I have books in all categories: fiction, nonfiction, thriller, historical fiction, even ones for your kids. So here are the top 12 books (in no particular order) I loved this year.
I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes: If you’ve ever seen an episode of 24, you’ll know what I mean when I say “edge of your seat.” This debut was like an episode of 24 … on speed. It is a roller coaster ride that spans decades and continents. The author is a screenwriter, and they’re talking movie, so make sure you read this ahead of time. It’s long but I guarantee you won’t notice as you’re flipping pages at a breakneck speed.
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel: Ever deserving of its multiple awards, this post-apocalyptic story is more about the characters than the setting. This book jumps back and forth in time as it introduces a Hollywood actor and a band of traveling actors, some of who we meet prior to the flu apocalypse that wipes out civilization and some who we meet after. Its originality and writing is like nothing I’ve ever read.
What She Left Behind by Ellen Marie Wiseman: If you’re a fan of Orphan Train, then make sure to add this one to your list. It’s similar in structure but with a historical story I found hard to put down. Our main character, Clara, is institutionalized in the 1920s because her society parents disapprove of her new love. As she’s fighting to prove her sanity and escape, we learn there’s more to the mystery. You’ll be racing to find out what happens as you’re left hanging after so many chapters.
Beneath the Surface: Killer Whales, SeaWorld, and the Truth Behind Blackfish by John Hargrove: Once I saw the documentary Blackfish, I knew I had to read this first-hand account by one of the trainers featured. John spends time discussing his life as a trainer and what the whales are subject to. I appreciated that this “whistleblower” story doesn’t spend all its time knocking down SeaWorld, but rather presents the information in a way that reads like fiction. This is both a fascinating and devastating read that explores the true behavior and history of orcas.
A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler: Please go into this novel knowing that it isn’t plot heavy. Instead, it is a beautiful portrayal of family dynamics told through multiple generations and viewpoints. The way it was set up reminded me a lot of one of my favorite southern authors, Pat Conroy. I hear this might be Tyler’s last book, which saddens me, but I know if it is she went out with a bang.
The Kind Worth Killing by Peter Swanson: I can’t believe that this book was not an instant bestseller. It has so many tricks up its sleeves that it’s perfect for anyone who likes a good psychological thriller. You’ll go through all the emotions (shock, anger, surprise) as you are constantly teased about who is playing who in this cat-and-mouse read. I look forward to many more by this author.
The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate: If you’re an adult, you can easily read this book in a few hours. A beautiful middle grade book told from the perspective of Ivan, a gorilla, that performs in a mall with a few other animals. I appreciated all his insight on human behaviors and laughed out loud several times. The Newberry Medal award winner will leave you with complete faith in humanity.
Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness by Susannah Cahalan: This book is a completely fascinating (and very freaky) account of a young journalist experiencing seizures, psychosis, and madness when she had been completely healthy days before. It took weeks in the hospital to determine the cause and she became the 217th known case of her disease. The book is written so well that it has you turning the pages. If you have any interest in science, medicine, or psychology, you will be absorbed in this memoir. And movie fans — they just cast Chloe Grace Moretz for the film!
Come Away with Me by Karma Brown: I’m still thinking about this novel, even months after finishing it. If you liked Eat, Pray, Love, think of this as a fictionalized version. After a terrible accident, Tegan is overcome with grief and doesn’t know how to get back to feeling like herself. When her husband suggests a worldwide adventure, she learns how to forgive. This debut will have you feeling all the emotions, and I shed many tears.
The Admissions by Meg Mitchell Moore: While I don’t have any children old enough to be applying to college, I can definitely relate to the “keeping up with the Joneses” mentality, especially coming from a real estate background. I loved how the viewpoints kept changing throughout but still managed to propel the story forward. It was hard to stop reading about this family as bit by bit they started unraveling at the seams. Author Elin Hilderbrand even offered a money-back guarantee on its merits.
The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin: This is a truly poignant middle grade novel about a young girl dealing with the grief of losing her best friend. I love how the science was sprinkled throughout but was never technical. Definitely worthy of its National Book Award nomination and a must read for ages 10-adult.
The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah: It’s no wonder Kristin Hannah is an instant bestseller. Just when I thought she had it all wrapped up in women’s fiction, she surprised me with this historical fiction novel of WWII told through the viewpoints of two sisters. The amount of 5 star reviews on this heartbreaking and profound novel is just incredible. With scenes hard to read at times, I wouldn’t want her to erase any word. This book will resonate with me for a long time.
I can’t wait to hear your reviews of any of these books and what your favorites were this year. Hope you had a wonderful holiday season!