I know 2015 is soooo two days ago, but like Uncle Rico, I dwell in the past. Allow me one last foray into the year that was as I present my “Top 10 Books of 2015” list, with the caveat that only a few of these books were published in 2015; they’re simply my favorite books I read during 2015. Just like the 2015 Texas Longhorns football team, my list is unranked.
Undermajordomo Minor by Patrick deWitt – I really liked deWitt’s previous book, The Sisters Brothers, and so was stoked for this one. It delivers another Wes Anderson-y tale with quirky misadventures and odd, charming characters whose banter is never short of witty. The story about an unremarkable, unappreciated man who leaves home to work in a castle for a mysterious Baron, is entertaining, but the bulk of my enjoyment came from the playful, skillful writing.
The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins – Maybe I’m biased because of the book’s flattering portrayal of librarians as ancient-power-possessing superstuds who deal in gods and the fate of the universe, but I think The Library at Mount Char is a fine piece of fantasy that lovers of the genre, as well as fans of horror, dark humor, and yes, librarians, will eat up.
The Jungle by Upton Sinclair – I was somehow never assigned to read this book in high school, as seemingly everyone else was, so earlier this year, I felt compelled to read it in the name of being a responsible book guy. Sadly, the plight of immigrants/the “little guy” in general and the crookedness of the powerful depicted in the book are still problems today, but reading it is a worthwhile, intellectually and emotionally stimulating experience.
Batman: Death of the Family by Scott Snyder – While not a huge comic/graphic novel reader, I’m always on the lookout for a good Batman story, particularly Joker-centric ones. Death of the Family, with its ultra-creepy, face-stapled-on Joker putting the entire Bat family in serious jeopardy, does not disappoint. In fact, I think I like it better than The Killing Joke, which is widely regarded as the quintessential Joker story.
Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger – The Catcher in the Rye has long been one of my favorite books, and I finally decided I needed more Salinger in my life. Franny and Zooey gives us lots of Caulfieldian dialogue, and in heaping doses; this book is light on plot and heavy on characters trading speeches. That, however, is just fine by me, as all that talk is filled with thought-provoking material on happiness, grief, God, and the general struggles that come with being a human.
A Dance With Dragons by George R.R. Martin – While I eagerly devoured the fifth dictionary-thick installment of the Song of Ice and Fire series and mostly enjoyed it, I spent the entire reading in fear of my favorite character being killed off and callously cast upon the series’ already mountainous corpse heap. Ultimately, an important character is killed off, which I don’t think is really a spoiler, since there are arguably 12-18 important characters in the books’ increasingly sprawling universe. Now fully caught up, I’m just another chump waiting for Martin to fiiiiiiiiinally release the next installment.
The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin – If you’re a book lover/nerd/snob and in need of some upliftment, read this novel and thank me later.
The Shotgun Arcana by R.S. Belcher – I’m not much of a Western fan, but when you throw in magic, mythology, angels, and demons and ratchet up the darkness, my interest gets mighty piqued. Read The Six-Gun Tarot (the first entry in the series), then read this book and revel in its weird Wild West world.
Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande – My lone non-fiction selection for the list, Being Mortal explores end-of-life issues, but it’s a recommended read for anyone, as its messages about the need to reassess what we want medicine to do for us and our priorities as we age are universally applicable.
The Girl in the Spider’s Web by David Lagercrantz – Lisbeth Salander is back, and I’m glad to report she’s in good hands in David Lagercrantz’s first novel taking over for the late Stieg Larsson. We don’t get quite as much of our plucky heroine as I would have liked, and the character development is underwhelming compared to the previous books, but it’s good to see Blomkvist and Salander at it again, and we’re treated to a highly readable thriller.