In 2015 I read more books than I did in 2014, 2013 and 2012 combined. Unfortunately, that is more a statement of the sad state of my reading life during those three years, than anything remarkable about this year.
However, it means that, for the first time in a long time, I have read enough books to create a Top Ten List for the year. Here they are, ranked in order from “This is a good book” to “This is not a book. It is a thin sliver of my soul.”
10. Rogues edited by George R. R. Martin and Gardner R. Dozois
Out of the twenty-one stories in this collection, I disliked four, was indifferent to nine, liked six, and absolutely, over-the-moon, reread-them-five-times-in-a-row, proselytize-them-to-all-my-friends, adored two. And thus, it earns its way onto this list.
Read down the list of authors and it won’t surprise you which two I adored: Scott Lynch’s A Year and a Day in Old Theradane and Patrick Rothfuss’ The Lightning Tree. One of them made me laugh and wish for magical bars where I could get drinks layered in landscapes while I plot my elaborate heists. The other made me laugh and wish for faerie boys who could destroy us all, but, through boredom and a dash of goodwill, choose not to.
9. The Emperor’s Soul by Brandon Sanderson
This book wasn’t much longer than some of the stories in Rogues, and I read it in a single afternoon. What impressed me was how beautifully Sanderson built characters and described a magic system in such a small space. What has made the story stick with me, was the gentle discussion of identity, art, and value. And really, how do you forget the story of a girl who attempts a forgery of a human soul?
8. Scarlet by Marissa Meyer
I read all four books in The Lunar Chronicles this year, and loved the science fiction twist they put on classic fairy tales: Cinderella is a cyborg. Little Red Riding Hood has a hover car to help get her through the woods. Rapunzel is trapped in a satellite thousands of miles above the earth. Snow White’s glass coffin actually puts her into stasis. Each story held onto all the whimsy of the stories I was accustomed to, while sharpening and brightening every feature until it felt new.
Scarlet was my favorite, because of the pacing of the novel, because of capable and sharp Little Red Riding Hood, and… okay, maybe I had a little crush on the Big Bad Wolf.
7. Longbourn by Jo Baker
I was introduced to this novel as a retelling of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice from the servant’s perspective. After reading it, I would tell you it’s more of a companion novel.
It’s the story of the servants, with all their dreams and ambitions which, occasionally, bump into Lizzie and Darcy’s. All the Bennet sisters make appearances, but the book focuses more on the almost-sisterly relationship of the maids. Bingley and Wickham show up, but the manservants are more than capable heroes and bad-boys.
6. Lavinia by Ursula K. LeGuin
As a writer and the proud owner of a degree in Classics, this book is hard to ignore. Not only is it beautifully written and impeccably rooted in a time that is half history and half myth, but it is the only book I have ever read where the main character introduces herself by telling you that she knows she is fictional. LeGuin twists the ideas of prophecy and deity together with author and craft, creating a heroine who is aware of higher powers and things outside of her control, but still believes in the power of her own decisions.
It is a slow burn of a novel, and it’s brilliant.
5. The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black
As far as I’m concerned the only thing that needs to be said to sell this book is: vampires done right. The vampires here are deadly, dangerous, selfish, and magnetic. They are walking tragedies, and the only question is whether they’re self-contained, or whether they’re carrying your violent ending as well.
The only good vampire we meet? Well, maybe he’s not good. Maybe he’s just too crazy to succeed at destroying you at the moment. Either way, it would be nice if the insanity made him less appealing, but it doesn’t.
And maybe, just maybe, vampires are what they are, because humans are what they are. It’s hard to tell where the monstrosity began. Almost as hard as trying to trace all the sass back to the source.
4. The Slow Regard of Silent Things by Patrick Rothfuss
This is not a book for everyone. It’s a little weird. It plays with language. It plays with logic. It plays with getting a reader to understand and care about making sure the Perfect Blanket doesn’t ever touch the Perfect Floor. It’s about broken things, and not about the the search for the solution.
It is, for me, the search for permission. To be. To stay. To still help the world turn from time to time even as we’re not sure how to turn ourselves.
And I like to think that makes it a book for everyone. But, we are all broken in slightly different ways and maybe that’s not a search you have a desire to go on.
But I love it.
3. Red Seas Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch
This is the sequel to The Lies of Locke Lamora, which I read last year and fell in love with close to the end. There was a single jaw-drop moment for me, which turned an enjoyable book into my one of my favorites.
There was no singular moment in Red Seas, but since I was already eager to spend more time with the characters, the whole book was a ride I never wanted to get off. The writing was smoothly clever. The relationships from the first novel carried through. Lynch added pirates to the previous novel’s thieving escapades. I couldn’t ask for more.
2. The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater
We have reached the point on the list where I’m likely to start verbally flailing about in glee. Because this book was the sort that I either refused to put down, or I threw down because if I read another word I would explode.
This is the second book in The Raven Cycle, and it brought back all the wonderful things from the first book – snark, friendship, brothers who were not born brothers, old magic – and added a bundle of freshly brilliant things: brothers who were born brothers, new magic, fast cars, puzzle boxes, hit men, and shredded secrets.
I loved every page.
1. The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater
Man-eating horses that rise from the water. An island content to be strange and feral and relaxed in its old age. Horse riders who are only slightly less wild than the beasts they’re riding. A race with a prize too great to ignore and risks stacked far too high.
The sense of place in this book was brilliant. The dual perspective was one of the best I have ever read. The sense of magic was so subtle that I bought it before I realized that I had been sold anything. The pace both sprawled and raced in all the right places.
I loved – loved – this book.