B’s Best Books of 2015

TOPBA New Year is coming and it's about that time that we take inventory of the year past.

My gift and my curse is I like to read everything. EVERRRRYYYTHING. So, when it comes to making lists like this, it’s hard.  Hard to narrow it down fiction or nonfiction. Hard to narrow it down to a specific genre. There were so many I read that were all over the place in terms of genre and then topic.  But though it was hard, these were some of my favorites.  Say goodbye to 2015’s written words (well for a little while) and welcome 2016 - great books are coming!

There is something for everyone here.  In no particular order, of course, because they’re all excellent.

1.            The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
               Fiction – Suspense, Psychological Thriller

Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning. Every day she passes the same  beautiful couple on her way when the train makes a stop. She watches. She observes.  Still reeling from losing everything important to her, she imagines their life to be  picture perfect. She even gives them nicknames, “Jess and Jason.” Then she sees something  shocking and everything changes. Rachel tells the police and becomes a major player in what happens next. This is a book with such Hitchcockian twists and turns you may get lost, but the read is definitely worth it.

2.            The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
               Fiction – Historical Drama

Set in France during World War II, two sisters who live in a small village find themselves at odds when they disagree about the imminent threat of Nazi occupation.  Vianne doesn’t believe the Nazis will invade. But they do and she is forced to take drastic, life-altering measures. Her sister Isabelle is young and rebellious and joins the Resistance after a betrayal. This is the story of two sisters separated by years, experiences and ideals. Each taking her own path in a German-occupied France. A beautiful novel about the challenges women face in a war-torn country, the enduring nature of the human spirit, and the bonds of family.

3.            All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
               Fiction –  Historical Drama

Set in WWII, a blind French girl and a German boy’s path collide in Nazi-occupied France as the war continues around them.  Marie-Laure, blind since the age of 6 now 12, flees with her father from Paris to Saint-Malo.  German orphan Werner grows up and becomes an expert at building and fixing radios which earns him a spot at the academy for Hitler youth and then he is sent on special assignment to track the resistance. This is where his and Marie-Laure’s story converge.    Astonishing imagery brings the story to life. A beautifully written masterpiece which makes you ask the question: how can youth stay true to its essence and people stay true to themselves when they are overwhelmed by the world around them?

4.            All the Bright Places by Jennifer Nevin
               Fiction – Young Adult, Romance

Theodore Finch is fascinated by death and he constantly thinks of ways to kill himself. Violet Markey, however, is the exact opposite. She lives for the future and anxiously waiting to leave the small Indiana town that holds nothing, but bad memories of her sister’s recent death. Put these two together and what do you have? An opposites attract story which is sharp and funny, but also gently explores young love and what it means to be truly changed by the people we meet.

5.            Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances by Neil Gaiman
               Fiction – Fantasy, Horror

A new anthology that lifts the veil of reality to uncover the shadowy, mysterious world that lies beneath it.  These are short fiction pieces that explore the true selves of people.  It’s a smorgasbord of horror, ghosts, science fiction and fairy tales.  The stories ranging from dealing with death and wondering the way people take their stories with them when they die to a mini- commentary on our times with the author’s own social media experience.  It is full of terror, scares, amazements and amusements. That means it’s the perfect book to read in the dark.

6.            Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling
               Nonfiction – Autobiography, Humor

An unlikely everywoman, in Why Not Me? Kaling shares her life with the reader and details her journey of finding happiness and excitement. You can relate to so many topics in this book. This ranges from falling in love at work to believing in yourself and your dreams even though no one in your workplace looks like you. A fun, funny and enlightening read.

7.            Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
               Nonfiction – Biography, American history, race relations

Presented as a letter to his teenage son, Coates book touches upon what it means to be a Black man in the current racial climate in the United States.  It also touches upon the legacy of American racism and how that has affected race relations today in the United States.  Coates wanted to emulate and pay homage to another great writer, James Baldwin, and with this he succeeded. It is a stunning piece of literary work that will be remembered for a long, long time.

8.            So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed? by Jon Ronson
               Nonfiction – News, Social Media

This is a book that is closely tied to today’s technology and attitudes. Public shaming used to be challenging as you could only reach a certain number of people at a time. But now not so much with social media. This book explores the re-emergence of public shaming as an Internet phenomenon.  Ronson traces the history of public shaming from the UK to the US. And in that tracing details what makes people want to make everyone’s shame (or better yet their punishment) into a public spectacle.

9.            Leaving Orbit: Notes from the Last Days of American Spaceflight
by Margaret Lazarus Dean
               Nonfiction – Historical, Aviation

About 29 years ago, if you asked a little boy what he wanted to be when he grew up, astronaut might be on the top of that list. Flash forward and things are different now. Dean takes us on a journey to Cape Canaveral for NASA’s last space shuttle launches.  She guides us as we speak to the pioneers of that time like Norman Mailer, Tom Wolfe, and Oriana Fallaci. Dean demonstrates and reminds us what American spaceflight has achieved while pondering the thought: What happens next?

10.          Daughters of the Samurai: A Journey from East to West and Back
by Janice P. Nimura
                Nonfiction – Historical, Cultural

This is a topic that is rarely, if ever, discussed. In 1871, five young girls are sent to the United Stated by the Japanese government. Their mission should they choose to accept it: learn Western “American” ways and return to Japan to help the next generations.  This story follows three of the young women as they navigate their way through an American landscape and then ten years later, return home to Japan. A land that is home, but is not. It is a moving tale of friendship, feminism, cultural, and political issues.

What are some of your favorite books from 2015? Please share! Follow me on Twitter @TheBookaholicBee or comments below are always appreciated!

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