This was a good year for me, I ended up reading several books I really loved so it was hard to come up with a “short list” that summarizes the books that have really stayed with me. These books were not necessarily published in 2015, but that’s when I read them. There is a mixture of science fiction/fantasy, non-fiction, and comedy, which are the three things I read the most.
A Darker Shade of Magic (A Darker Shade of Magic #1) by V.E. Schwab
This is a world where magic exists in varied degrees in alternate versions of London. Our main character is one of the few left that can move between these different realities, which he has associated with colors based on the level of magic that exists in the world. His London is red London and the most powerful, White London has some magic, but has been corrupted, but is trapped between Red and the now dead and sealed off Black London. Grey London is ours where some remember magic but it mainly exists as legend. The world building is great, as is the explanation of the rules of magic, and is one of those books that you finish at 2AM because it’s such an easy read, and the world sucks you in.
Ancillary Justice (Imperial Radch #1) by Ann Leckie
This is the first book in a three book series (so far), and is one of my all-time favorite books. I can’t say much about the story without giving away a large portion of the book, but it’s based on an empire that annexes and absorbs worlds and the AIs they’ve built to help them do so. Because our main character is an AI, she doesn’t distinguish between the differences in gender of humans, which lead me to reread sections when certain characters did something I deemed outside of a gender role I had set for them. Absolutely great series about military strategy, revenge, and what makes us human.
The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury
This was a surprise favorite for me. It’s written by an icon in science fiction, so the writing being amazing wasn’t the surprise as much as the completely new (to me) view of what it would be like to travel to the stars, only to realize you aren’t welcome there. The book is broken down in short, loosely related stories that add to the over all feel of the book.
This was one of the few non-fiction books that made my list this year. It’s a well researched look at what it was like to be a solider in three of the major battles in US history. I have a fascination with military history/tactics and this book provided a lot of information related to the strategies used, but also a really personal view of the individuals who actually fight. To reference a phrase I heard a lot growing up, the “boots on the ground.” One of my favorite passages included the differences in how physicians handled battle wounds depending on if they were a “city” or “country” doctor due to the livelihood of the majority of the people they tend. This does have a lot of medical history as well, so if you are squeamish about the consequences of war, I’d pass. Though this book cites/quotes a lot of primary sources, and has a rather straight forward historical topic, the author does a very good job contrasting the different wars and the human element. It reads more like a novel, which shows the author’s skill in pulling a story together from historical facts.
Furiously Happy: A funny book about horrible things by Jenny Lawson
Jenny Lawson is amazing! This is her second book, and my favorite of the two. She talks about her history with depression and mental illness and how she decided one day that she was going to be furiously happy despite these things. She talks about how her friends and family helped her achieve this and how the decision to be furiously happy helped her do things she otherwise would have been too scared to do and say “yes” more often. She also touches on how “normal” is completely overrated, which as a science nerd, I totally relate to. She is hilarious and her writing style is somewhat stream of consciousness with random asides to her editor. The title really sums up this book, it’s a “funny book about horrible things.”
The Martian by Andy Weir
This book received mixed reviews, and was quite possibly one of the most popular books of the year, because of the release of the movie staring Matt Damon. I really enjoy dry, sarcastic humor and this book majorly delivered. As a scientist, I also really loved the “I’m the best botanist on this planet!” and “I’m about to science the shit out of this” kind of mentality. It’s a very quick read, and because our main character is stranded alone on Mars, there isn’t a lot of dialogue for the first half of the book. Despite this, I loved this book. Some complain about the level of technical jargon, but I thought this was very minimal and the characters were so vivid it didn’t detract from the book.
I noticed I have six books… kind of a random number of favorites, but these are the books that really made an impact and I don’t feel like “padding” the list with others I liked but either didn’t continue the series later on, or I had forgotten I had read (but rated highly right after reading). So you get six books.