My Favorite Reads from 2015

Okay, it's a bit late this year, but better late than never!  I've been reading a lot more nonfiction as well, so I'm doing two lists this year:  my top 3 nonfiction, and my top 5 fiction. These aren't necessarily books that were published in 2015.  I just happened to read them in 2015. They are in no particular order except for my favorites from each category.


Girls Like Us: Fighting for a World Where Girls are Not for Sale, an Activist Finds Her Calling and Heals Herself
by Rachel Lloyd

This was a hard read, but a really important one for understanding the underage sexual exploitation of American girls. Rachel Lloyd does a good job of explaining the psychological factors and methods behind why a teenage girl would enter “the life” in the first place, why she’d stay on the streets despite abusive pimps and violent johns, even return to the streets after getting out. Lloyd also explores the stigma against “teen prostitutes" that makes them easy targets for abuse. A lot of the psychology extends to abusive relationships in general, and Lloyd offers many insights there. A must read for any responsible citizen without thorough knowledge of sex trafficking or domestic violence.

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption
by Laura Hillenbrand

An incredibly inspiring read.  Laura Hillenbrand is a truly gifted storyteller, and I loved how she wove together Zamperini's life story with the bigger picture backdrop of the war, choosing just the right details to bring the story and characters to life (I might have to go back and analyze her use of detail for use in my own writing). And what a story, from his mischief filled younger days, to the Olympics, to the darker days of the war, and then the unimaginable darkness of the POW camps and abuses there. There were many sections that were hard to read, but the story is ultimately one of resilience, grace, and hope.

And my favorite non-fiction I read this year was...

Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea
by Barbara Demick

I've been reading some great narrative nonfiction lately: Unbroken from earlier this year, and now Nothing to Envy. In both books, I love how the author weaves personal narratives with background information about the historical and social context. Nothing to Envy was a fascinating and heartbreaking journey into a totalitarian state. Demick tells the story of several North Korean defectors: a doctor, a housewife, a young school teacher, an elite college student. We follow their journeys when things go from bad to worse as the economy collapses, and see the different factors that made them decide to take the risk and leave, as well as the social and psychological challenges they faced as they tried to integrate into South Korea. Highly recommended.


To Say Nothing of the Dog (Oxford Time Travel #2)
by Connie Willis

The term genre bender was invented for this book. Loved this one so much. It's part time travel sic fi, part comedy of errors, part victorian novel, part treatise on philosophy of history, part mystery novel, and so much fun. Probably the cleverest piece of fiction I've read since HPMor (even though they are completely different ). You can tell that Connie Willis loves history, and she managed to pack all kinds of interesting tidbits into a hilariously silly story. Definitely checking out her other stuff.

Marcelo in the Real World
by Francisco X. Stork

It's been a long time since I've finished a book and sat there in the dazed realization that I've read something amazing. This is an ambitious and beautiful book, weaving together tough subjects in an honest, heartwarming story.

I fell in love very quickly with the main character Marcelo. I can't speak to how accurate a representation of an autistic person he is, but as his own character, he was very well drawn. He has a hard time with social interaction and the cultural norms of the "real world," and I loved how seeing things through his eyes made *me* see the world in a wholly different way.

I was also incredibly impressed by the issues Stork tackles in his book -- religion, good and evil, professional ethics, suffering... There's no black or white here, and the depth and sophistication with which Stork addresses these questions was commendable.

The Winner's Curse (The Winner's Trilogy #1)

Compulsively readable and romantic YA fantasy. I finished this book in a little less than 24 hours, which is rare for me these days, sneaking in chapters between various other obligations. The story is deliciously tense, as Rutkoski draws out the slow burn forbidden romance -- the daughter of a general in an imperialistic empire, and a slave committed to winning back independence for his homeland. Fans of Daughter of Smoke and Bone and The Lunar Chronicles should pick this up.


An Ember in the Ashes (An Ember in the Ashes #1)
by Sabaa Tahir

This reads less like a debut novel and more like a masterclass in storytelling. I was blown away by the tension from the very first scene, the web of opposing agendas, loyalties, and conflicts between the characters, the rich worldbuilding and weaving of myth and history throughout, and the overarching theme of triumph over inner darkness. The writing is beautiful as well, reminiscent of Megan Whalen Turner, and had me running to my goodreads account to write down my favorite turns of phrase.

I was trying to think of comparative titles for this, and even though it's a different subgenre, The Hunger Games comes closest to mind. The books share the same high stakes tension and sadistic totalitarian world. The book also reminded me of Legend by Marie Lu and The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski because of its dual perpective male/female narrators from opposing factions. Definitely check it out if you're fans of any of these books.

And my favorite fiction book of 2015...

The Scorpio Races
by Maggie Stiefvater

The bloodthirsty sea horses of The Scorpio Races have magic that seeps through the skin of the riders if they come into contact, and I think that's an apt description for the book as well. There's magic in these pages-- from the vivid descriptions of horse racing, to Thisby's sea air and the delicious tension between Puck and Sean. Stiefvater's prose is beautiful and vivid, and everything is so amazingly real. The book is slower paced than a lot of YA fantasy reads, but I still found myself sucked into the story. And the romance...Oh, I love my slow burn romances. This one was almost nonexistent for the first half, but oh does it ever pay off.
adults as well as teens.

So readers, have you read these books?  What were your favorites this year?

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  1. Thanks for the recommendations, Livie, really approeciated!
    My rec is Anne Leckie, the Ancillary trilogy: Ancillary Justice, Mercy, Sword.
    A great central character Breq - I can't say more, spoilers. The main culture doesn't have words for gender, so everyone is 'she'. It's not a polemic, making gender points: for me I forgot pretty quickly that I didn't know whether certain characters were male/female. But it makes a subtle point.
    Really great story and characters though, you just so want to know how they turn out. FAB.

    1. I already have Ancillary Justice on my shelf! Haven't read it yet :-)

  2. So glad to hear you loved SCORPIO RACES!. It's probably my favorite YA novel! I've read it at least three times, starting with the arc. Had to buy the hardcover because it was soooo good.

    I also enjoyed UNBROKEN. That was, in fact, my favorite nonfiction read of 2015. My favorite fiction read was without a doubt ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE. So gorgeous.

    1. I've added ALL TEH LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE to my list :-)

  3. Yay for having read such awesome books last year :D The Scorpio Races is my all time favorite book. <3 I have read it seven times. Sigh. SO GOOD :D I'm thrilled you loved it too. YAY :D Also love The Winner's Curse. <3 Hope you will read lots of awesome books this year too Livia :)

    1. Yes, I ran across your seventh reading review for Scorpio when I was writing this blog post, Carina. So awesome to see you enjoy that book so much.