My Best Books of 2015

20156It’s that time of year again where I think about what books I’ve read during the past twelve months. I’ve read a lot of books this year, most of them arranged around my research into commercial crime, but some just for fun. Some of them merged into each other as a surface read, but a few stood out and dug deep, becoming instantly memorable. As usual, the books that were a little different really caught my attention.

So these are my favourite books of 2015:

All My Puny Sorrows – Miriam Townes
I loved this book. From start to finished it drew me into the world of these sisters. The imagery is so sharp that I remember it six months later. Not the happiest of stories, but certainly the least putdownable novel of 2015 for me.

H is for Hawk – Helen MacDonald
I wasn’t going to read H is for Hawk as the blurb put me off. In the end I listened to it on Audible and it mesmerised my summer walks to work. I just didn’t want it to end. There’s something visceral about this book that resonated with me on a deep level.

Station Eleven – Emily St John Mandel
Speculative fiction at its best, and a cracking premise. The characterisation is brilliant and the quest narrative well drown and complex enough to keep me thinking. This novel has depth and breadth. I was so pleased to see its success disproving the literary snobs who turn their noses up at speculative fiction as somehow ‘second best’.

You – Caroline Kepnes
A brilliant crime novel from the perspective of the perpetrator and written in second person. From the first page I was hooked by the first in a long line of unlikable but gripping characters. This book really pushed the boundaries of what I expected, with a very different perspective on the mind of a psychopath.

Sadly I couldn’t pick ten books this year. Many of the books I read had a samey feel to them, I expect that it was a trend running through the year that focused on domestic stories. Knowing that there is approximately twelve months lead time from acceptance to publication for a novel, staggered over a year, I can only guess that this was no coincidence, rather and intentional push in the market. Successful though it was in commercial terms, from a readers point of view it became tedious and I found myself skipping titles that suggested domestic situations with either crime, mystery or secrets. It will be interesting to see what next year’s trend is.

What I’m hoping for next year
I appreciate a good story, but this year there seemed to be too many variations on the ‘relationship crime’ plots. Each book with this kind of plot has its own merits to some degree, but eventually I went looking for something different, something more ‘real’.

The common theme running through my favourite books is that I found it easy to suspend my disbelief. For me, this is a sign that the book is written because the author has something to say, rather than to a formula. That’s what I will be looking out for in 2016.

If you have any recommendations along these lines, not just from 2015, I’d love to hear about them.

Here’s to lots of interesting, engaging reads for 2016, which I feel sure will be a better year for books.