In 2015 I read a total of 211 books. 204 of these books were fiction, and a mere 7 were non-fiction. A whopping 117 books were graphic novels. All in all, 127 of the books were written by men and only 85 were written by women. I’m surprised at how many graphic novels I read, but not at all surprised that I read more books by men than women. Which is not to say that I’m not disappointed, but graphic novels in particular are still dominated by male creators.
Favourite Book of 2015
This is a frustrating read because the current political system in the UK does not work, and it’s upsetting to see that spelled out so clearly by someone trying to do their best for the constituents. It’s brilliant though, offering a really good overview of how the houses of parliament actually work, and highlighting those who are attempting to make a difference.
My Real Children was just wonderful. I was underwhelmed by Walton’s Among Others which had received rave reviews – I liked it, I just didn’t love it. So although I thought I’d enjoy My Real Children, I never thought it would end up being one of my favourite books of the year. I’m a sucker for Sliding Doors-type narratives, and this one is perfect. The two lives that Patricia leads are beautiful and heart-breaking and real, but that’s just it – are either of them actually real at all?
The Language of Dying won me over with its cover. I had seen it for several months in my local library before I finally caved and picked it up. I wasn’t sure what to expect but I was blown away. This little novel covers life, death and the wonder of the world in prose that grips you and doesn’t let go.
Fiction (Translated): The Dirty Dust – Máirtín Ó Cadhain.
I’ll acknowledge right off the bat that this book, and the style in which it’s written, will not be for everyone, but I really enjoyed it. It’s dark but it’s funny, and it’s so, so Irish. I requested that my local library buy this in and I’m so glad that they did. I just hope that some other readers pick it up now that it’s available (according to their online catalogue, it’s on loan at the moment – yay!).
Graphic Novel (Fiction): The Wicked + The Divine, Volume 1: The Faust Act – Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie / Bitch Planet, Volume 1: Extraordinary Machine – Kelly Sue DeConnick and Valentine De Landro.
I can’t remember what drew my attention to The Wicked + The Divine. Every few months I do a catalogue search for graphic novels that have been added to the library catalogue (this whole post is basically a love letter to public libraries), and I think I might have ordered it just because it popped up there. Since I’ve read it, I’ve seen lots of positive reviews for it and they are all right. The story is awesome, the characters are awesome, the artwork is awesome and when it finished, I wanted the next volume immediately.
Bitch Planet, on the other hand, was on my radar before the first issue was even published. I don’t have a regular comic pull list anymore (though I’ve been thinking about setting one up again), so I waited not very patiently until the trade paperback was released and then requested that my library system buy it in. Luckily they did, and I absolutely loved every second of it. Bitch Planet is actually set in a terrifying future where women can be incarcerated at the drop of the hat. Women who don’t fit into the stereotype that men have established for them are labelled non-compliant, and, frankly, we could all stand to be a little more non-compliant.
Graphic Novel (Non-Fiction): Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? – Roz Chast.
Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? was in a ‘Best of 2014’ display at my local library. It’s an unflinching account of the deterioration of Roz Chast’s parents in their old age. It’s funny and sad and thought-provoking, and deserved to win every single literary prize it was nominated for.
I think I had heard rumblings about Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda before I picked it up, but it was the LGBT element that attracted me. From the looks of it, I knew I’d enjoy it, but I wasn’t expecting to absolutely love it. First of all, it’s really fucking funny, like proper, proper funny. The characters are all wonderful and you really can’t help but root for them all, and the romance is lovely but it’s also believable (which can be a bit rare in YA fiction!).
I picked up Magonia totally blind, being attracted to both the cover and the blurb. It’s also the second book on this list that has a recommendation from Neil Gaiman on its cover (the other being The Language of Dying by Sarah Pinborough) and I have to say he’s only ever let me down once (with Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill). The early chapters of this focus on Aza, whose illness is killing her, and those chapters are so well done. Terminal illness is a difficult subject but Magonia never crosses the line into mawkishness, Aza herself is too determined and too cool for that. When the fantasy twist comes, even though you know it’s coming, it’s brilliant. The new world Aza finds herself in is completely the same but completely different, and I found it enthralling. Can’t wait for the sequel.
The Nowhere Emporium has a surprisingly high amount of negative reviews on Goodreads, but I really, really enjoyed it. Yes, the concept isn’t the most original in the world, but it becomes original through the characters and the writing. I always enjoy finding good new books by Scottish authors, and this one definitely ticked that box.
I had absolutely no idea that The Hundred and One Dalmatians would be such a charming read. It’s ridiculous how cute it is, especially the version I read which was illustrated by Alex T. Smith. I like the Disney version, but the original book is so much better.
Least Favourite Book of 2015
I really struggled to finish this one, finding it an incredibly dry read. Add to that the fact that I didn’t really enjoy the characters and no, I don’t think this is the original and better version of The Time Traveler’s Wife.
Most Disappointing Book of 2015
Before picking this up, I’d heard amazing things about it, but it just didn’t live up to expectations for me. I liked the setting, I liked the characters, I even, despite Roc Upchurch being a total scumbag, liked the art, but I just didn’t feel it, if you know what I mean. The total experience was a bit of a meh, which was disappointing.
I hate Quentin, the main character in this, with a passion that scares me. He’s such a dick. I love the world that this is set in, and the way magic works, and the idea of Brakebills, but I hate Quentin and the execution of Brakebills, so that made it all a bit tricky. Something else that annoyed me, which is not the book’s fault, is how many reviews of this start with ‘oh, I totally thought this was going to be a Harry Potter rip-off’. The idea of a school for people who can do magic is not unique to Harry Potter, people! Anyway, despite all of that I did pick up the sequel, and enjoyed it a lot more.
Most Surprising Book of 2015
Surprising because, from the cover and the blurb, it looked rubbish but it was actually really fun. Poor Todd. He’s the nicest kid in the world, but he’s so ugly that his own parents make him wear a paper bag over his head, and everyone hates him. An oddly appealing concept 😀
Surprising because the way that the music industry operates is mental, but the story of the people who leaked most of the music available online is even more mental. This is actually a really readable, enjoyable book, even if you do spend the whole thing thinking ‘what the fuck??’
Book You Recommend Most from 2015
I recommended, and continue to recommend, so many books that I read last year to so many people, for so many different reasons.
For a twist on a fairy tale: The Sleeper and the Spindle – Neil Gaiman & Chris Riddell.
For a twist on a vampire story: The Moth Diaries – Rachel Klein.
For a twist on a boarding school story: The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place – Julie Berry.
For a magical read by a Scottish author: The Nowhere Emporium – Ross MacKenzie.
For an excellent political read: Honourable Friends? Parliament and the Fight for Change – Caroline Lucas.
For an awesome graphic novel: The Wicked + The Divine, Volume 1: The Faust Act – Kieron Gillen & Jamie McKelvie.
For an original fantasy read: Magonia – Maria Dahvana Headley.
For a very darkly comedic read: The Dirty Dust – Máirtín Ó Cadhain.
For an uplifting YA read: Simon vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda – Becky Albertalli.
For a ‘fuck yeah, feminism!’ read: Bitch Planet, Volume 1: Extraordinary Machine – Kelly Sue DeConnick & Valentine De Landro.
Best Series I Discovered in 2015
No book series this year (although I did continue to read Ben Aaronovich’s Rivers of London series, Robin Stevens’ Murder Most Unladylike series, Jacqueline Harvey’s Alice-Miranda series, Holly Black’s Curse Workers series, Teri Terry’s Slated series, Maggie Stiefvater’s Wolves of Mercy Falls series, Pat Barker’s Life Class series, and Jennifer Lynn Barnes’ Raised By Wolves series), but I was introduced to some many brilliant comic book series in 2015 (and continued to read Jim McCann’s Mind the Gap, Scott Snyder’s American Vampire, John Layman’s Chew, Brian K. Vaughan’s Saga, and Greg Rucka’s Lazarus).
Favourite Author I Discovered in 2015
I would have to say Sarah Pinborough and Maria Dahvana Headley, both of whom create magical worlds, though in very different ways. I’ll definitely be picking up more books by them both.
Book I Was Most Looking Forward To in 2015
Happily, they were both excellent and worth waiting for.
Most Memorable Character From 2015
Patricia from My Real Children by Jo Walton, who made me want to be the best possible version of myself that I can be. Lucifer aka ‘Lucy’ from The Wicked + The Divine, Volume 1: The Faust Act by Kieron Gillen & Jamie McKelvie who made me want to enjoy myself and dress sharply. Kamala from Ms Marvel, Volume 1: No Normal by G. Willow Wilson & Adrian Alphona who made me want to be true to myself, no matter what obstacles are put in my way.
Book I Can’t Believe I Waited Until 2015 to Read
Why did no one tell me how good this was before now? To my shame, I’ve never read Dodie Smith, despite I Capture the Castle popping up in libraries, charity shops and bookshops all the time, mocking me.
Books I Didn’t Finish in 2015
The Luninaries – Eleanor Catton. When I went to Thailand in October, I thought this would be the perfect read for the long plane journey. Sadly, for me, the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry. I slogged my way through roughly half of it, not giving a shit about any of the characters or anything that was happening, before my aunt-in-law finally told me to just stop. I have weird guilt about not finishing a book, but I took her advice.
Walking the Dog – David Hughes. I just couldn’t get into this ‘landmark book in the field of graphic literature’. The memoir of a man in his 40s, it just didn’t appeal to me. I quite enjoyed the art style, but realised after about twenty pages that the story just wasn’t for me as I didn’t care about the narrator, and I didn’t care about his dog.
Books I’m Most Looking Forward to in 2016
Based solely on my 2015 reading list, I’m looking forward to quite a few titles.
The Hanging Tree – Ben Aaronovitch. The sixth entry in the Rivers of London series.
Chew, Volume 11: The Last Suppers – John Layman & Rob Guillory. The second last volume in the series, I think.
Jolly Foul Play – Robin Stevens. The fourth Murder Most Unladylike mystery.
Lazarus, Volume 4: Poison – Greg Rucka & Michael Lark. Not enough people are talking about this awesome sci-fi comic.
Aerie – Maria Dahvana Headley. The sequel to Magonia.
The Magicians Land – Lev Grossman. The Magician King was much better than The Magicians, so I’m hopeful for the last title in the trilogy.