Yes, it’s the exciting (and slightly daunting) time in which I compile a countdown of my favourite reads from 2015. Considering I have read 125 books in total between January and December, choosing a top 10 has not been easy – there’s been a lot of chopping and changing, and I’m sure if you ask me again tomorrow, some of my answers will have changed, but as it stands the following are my favourite reads.
For those who like rules, it’s books I read for the first time this year that are eligible, not just those that were published in 2015, and multiple books in one series can be allocated to a single slot if I read them all this year. But with that disclaimer out the way, let’s get started.
- Alice and the Fly – James Rice
Taking on mental illness in a realistic yet sensitive way, Alice and the Fly follows Greg, a troubled young man, and explores the idea of acceptance, both within ourselves and of others, as well as the divides within society and the fact that hardships can befall us no matter our background. Dark, unsettling and yet beautiful, Greg’s story is an important one.
- The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry – Rachel Joyce
This bittersweet and charming book follows an elderly man named Harold who, upon receiving a letter from an old friend who is now on her deathbed, sets out to post a reply but decides to just keep walking instead, gripped by the belief that as long as his friend is awaiting his arrival, she has a reason to keep living. Upon his travels, he meets many people who, inspired by his cause, open up to him about their troubles, causing him to reflect on his own life. It’s poignant, moving and beautifully written.
- The Sleeper and the Spindle – Neil Gaiman
Gaiman nails the idea of a fairy tale retelling with the perfect balance between familiar and original content, with a portrayal of Sleeping Beauty and Snow White as you’ve never seen them before. There’s a strong feminist stance (these Princesses don’t need any Princes to save them) and a subtle yet well-handled LGBT undertone, whilst the gorgeous illustrations courtesy of Chris Riddell and the short, snapshot like feel of the world keep the whimsical, classic fairy tale feel intact.
- Saga, Volumes 1-4 – Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples
If you’re a graphic novel fan, you’ve probably heard of this series. It’s action-packed, funny, heart-felt and just a total blast to read, not to mention that it features some of the best artwork around thanks to Staples. Taking place within a multi-world fantasy setting, the story follows a couple from warring factions who against all the odds have a child together, leading to a bounty being placed on their heads, and so begins a bonkers chase across the universe full of brilliant, eclectic characters and plenty of twists and turns. I love it so much I’ve deliberately put off reading volume 5 because I hate the idea of being caught up and having to wait for the next release.
- A Monster Calls – Patrick Ness
Considering that this was the very first book I read in 2015 and yet it still lingers in my mind all these months later, it had to be in my list of favourites. We follow a young boy who is visited at night by a dark and alluring monster as he deals with the increasingly serious illness of his mother. As Ness himself has said, if you’re going to read this book, please try and get the edition with Jim Kay’s stunning artwork if you can; it adds a whole other layer of beauty, atmosphere and immersion that really enhanced the experience.
- Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden
Few books have made me feel as immersed in a specific time and place as this one did. The narrative voice was captivating, and though perhaps slower in pace than the kind of book that usually grips me, something about this wonderful, fascinating story just swept me up and carried me away.
- All the Light We Cannot See – Anthony Doerr
Part coming of age story, part wartime epic, All the Light We Cannot See follows the dual perspectives of a blind French girl forced to flee her home with her father, and a German boy pushed into Nazi service. The imagery is vivid and the prose haunting in this subtle, harrowing tale about the human spirit and its willingness to do good, even in the face of true adversity.
- The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender – Leslye Walton
Strange and beautiful indeed, this book is a family saga plagued by pain and loss yet tinged with just the right amount of hope. Ava Lavender is an otherwise normal girl who is both blessed and cursed to be born with wings. Her story is weaved together with those of the previous two generations of her family by Walton’s lyrical prose.
- The Gracekeepers – Kirsty Logan
Fantastic characters, a highly original setting, beautiful writing and a whimsically melancholic story, The Gracekeepers stole a piece of my heart. We follow North, a girl living aboard a circus ship in a flooded world who performs with her beloved bear but is hiding a dangerous secret, as well as Callanish, an eponymous Gracekeeper whose job is to bury the dead at sea. It’s part fantasy, part fairy tale, and wholly enchanting.
- The Chaos Walking trilogy – Patrick Ness
I couldn’t possibly single out one of this trio, and so all three proudly take the top spot in my favourite reads of 2015. Throughout the entire series, the pacing is ferocious, the action breathless, the story heart-wrenching, and the underlying message always important. In the first book, The Knife of Never Letting Go, we are introduced to a world in which everyone can hear everyone else’s thoughts in a constant, chaotic mass known as Noise, until one day our protagonist stumbles upon an area of complete silence, triggering events that lead him to realise why much of what he thought he knew is a lie, setting off an epic adventure.
At its heart, it’s about the ugliness of war, how quickly the line between good and evil blurs in times of conflict, and how difficult it is to hold onto your sense of self when faced with impossible decisions.
Our male and female protagonists, Todd and Viola, are equally strong and captivating in their own ways, which I found so refreshing. I also loved that some themes and ideas were tackled boldly, like the danger of power and greed, whilst others are addressed in such an understated, intelligent way – like how Todd has been raised by two men and not once does he or anyone else refer to his family dynamic as being in any way different or less valid than anyone else’s. It’s small details like this in which Ness makes wonderful commentary on our own world and shows the power of the unsaid, alongside the daring.
My heart just feels all warm and fuzzy whenever I think of this series. I adore it, and that’s why it’s my number one read of 2015.
What were your favourite reads this year?