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broodings from the burrow

June 29, 2016

top ten tuesday: best books of 2015
posted by soe 4:26 am

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic from The Broke and the Bookish was DIY, so I thought I’d use this opportunity to finally jot down the top ten books I read in 2015.

I read 68 books last year. Seven of those were audiobooks (listened to via Overdrive) and of the seven, four were re-reads. I re-read only one book in print.

Fiction: 57
Non-fiction: 9 (5 memoirs (2 of which were graphic in format), 1 picture book biography, 2 sports’ish books, 1 history)
Poetry: 2

Here are the best of the bunch:

  1. Uprooted by Naomi Novik: In this retelling of a Polish fairy tale, Agnieszka and the other girls in her village have been brought up knowing one of them will be taken by their local wizard, the Dragon, to live with him for ten years when they became a teenager. And everyone knows that he will choose Kasia, Agnieszka’s best friend. But then he chooses Agnieszka instead, and neither girl’s life is ever the same. Great girl power themes and celebration of female friendship. Published as adult fantasy (and probably a decent example of the new adult sub-genre of fantasy), it’s fair game for mature teens.
  2. Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer by Kelly Link: A middle-grade novel that explores what happens when 12-year-old Sophie and her parents move from their Los Angeles home to her great-uncle’s rural farm after he dies. Sophie’s dad is unemployed, leaving Sophie’s freelancer mom to write enough articles to pay the bills. Written as a series of letters to her beloved abuela, who also recently died, and, later, to her great-uncle and a local farm, Sophie shares her loneliness, her frustration with the changes in her life, and, eventually, her surprise at some rather unusual livestock she finds on the farm.
  3. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr: A dual tale about two children, one a blind French girl, the other an orphaned German boy, living through World War II. Marie-Laure escapes Paris with her father, who works at the Museum of Natural History and who’s been charged with carrying a replica of one of the artifacts to safety. Werner, who is an expert at fixing radios, is sent away from his mining community to an officer training school and ultimately the French town where Marie-Laure now lives. Short, alternating chapters speed you through the narrative, but also ramp up the stress level, because, let’s face it, no one ever wrote a happy story about World War II where everyone survives. Harrowing, but excellent and well-deserving of its Pulitzer Prize.
  4. The Book Scavenger by Jennifer Chambliss Bertman: Emily’s parents have a blog challenge of living in all 50 states. Emily’s a little tired of it, to be honest, but she’s happy to find herself in San Francisco, home to her hero, Garrison Griswold, the inventor of the Book Scavenger website/game. Just as they’re arriving in town, and hours short of a large planned announcement, though, he’s attacked and left in a coma. Emily, with the help of her new friend James, try to figure out what the game he was going to announce would have been, as well as who would have wanted to harm him. If you liked the Mr. Lemoncello series, The Westing Game, Roald Dahl, Greenglass House, or literary games, I recommend you pick this middle-grade contemporary up.
  5. Dietland by Sarai Walker: Plum is an overweight and friendless ghost writer answering teens’ letters to the most popular fashion magazine in America. She’s nearly reached her goal of putting away enough money for weight-loss surgery (at which point she plans to start living her life) when she notices a strange woman observing her. Concurrent to her unraveling why she’s being observed, a guerrilla group known as Jennifer is attacking powerful misogynists. Could her boss be next? Feminist revenge fantasy meets Cat Grant meets social commentary. Destined to be read in women’s studies classes and feminist book clubs everywhere for decades to come.
  6. The Eye of Zoltar by Jasper Fforde: In the penultimate book of his middle-grade quartet about Jennifer Strange, the indentured orphan manager of Kazam, a house of wizards available to hire for magical jobs, and the long-awaited last dragonslayer. In this book, Jen must travel to the neighboring Cambrian Empire to find a rare jewel and pay the ransom for one of their wizards. She’s accompanied in her task by the wizard she likes, the princess of the realm (enchanted by her mother into the body of a maidservant as a life lesson), and a 10-year-old guide. If you like Fforde’s other series (and who doesn’t) and have a young person not quite old enough for them, this charming and humorous fantasy series may be their speed.
  7. The Thing about Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin: A heartbreaking middle-grade story about Suzy, whose best friend recently drowned. Seeking to prove that her friend was attacked by a particularly rare and debilitating species of jellyfish in an effort to make sense of the event, Suzy stops talking, but starts planning how to make her case, starting with a rogue trip to the world’s leading expert on the species and looking back on her final months with her friend.
  8. The Crossover by Kwame Alexander: A hip hop verse novel focusing on basketball phenom Josh and his equally talented twin Jordan, growing up and apart, their father’s health, and more, all told with the cadence of playing ball. A verse novel for those who don’t like verse novels, a sports book for those who don’t like sports books, and a well-crafted example of how stories are universal.
  9. Ms. Marvel: Vol. 1: No Normal by G. Willow Wilson: A Muslim Pakistani-American fangirl growing up in Jersey City sneaks out to a party one night only to experience a weird mist that leaves her able to shape shift. Kamala Khan has become a superhero straight out of her favorite comics, but, with the exception of her best guy pal, no one knows she’s no longer just the slightly rebellious high school student she’d always been, but now someone who’s got to balance homework, curfews, religious education with fighting criminals, including one threatening the teens of her community. With a film version planned for later this decade, if you like The Avengers movies, Supergirl, or Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and haven’t already read this, pick up this graphic novel/comic collection now!
  10. Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead: Bridge and her two best friends, Tabitha and Emily, are navigating seventh grade and all the changes it brings. Their stories, as filtered through Bridge, who’s not quite ready to grow up yet and abandon her cat-ear headband, is interspersed with those of a high school girl, skipping school and feeling desperate on Valentine’s Day. As the stories approach each other in time, we’ll find out how they connect — and how they all navigate the trials of friendship.
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