My Year in Reading: Fifteen Favorites

I read a lot and 2015 was no exception. I read almost exclusive on a device these days, most often through the Kindle app on my ipad mini. As a retrospective, I went through my Amazon account and made a list of my favorite books I read this year.

Note, these are not all new books published this year. Nor are they my favorite books of all time or the books I would most recommend. They are simply books I read this year that I really enjoyed.

Fiction:

10. Summer Confessions

Summer Confessions shows how broad my reading interest are. I read a lot of sci-fi and fantasy, but I love a good lesbian romance once in awhile. Summer Confessions is that, but more.

Growing up in a small conservative town, Macy Diaz doesn’t intend to come out of the closet until she leaves for college. But when she falls for Rachel, all bets are off. Their budding relationship is threatened by Rachel’s sister, who has a jealous crush on Macy.

9. Ancillary Justice

By Anne Leckie, who was one of our guests of honor at ICON this year, Ancillary Justice has won a ton of awards including a hugo.

Ancillary Justice is a classic sci-fi tale set in a distant world where the Radchai systematically invade and “civilized” new worlds. Told from the point of a sentient AI, the book twists and turns itself from plot twist to plot twist.

8. Widdershins

Who can resist a gay paranormal romance with a steampunk feel? Not me, that’s for sure. Widdershins is the first novel in a series set in the town of that name. Bookish young man meets dashing private detective and save the world from destruction by things from beyond. Good stuff. Good stuff.

7. Deadland Rising

Rachel Aukes finished her Deadland trilogy this year and it was a good strong finish. The zombie apocalypse has decimated mankind, but the few survivors struggle to hold on to humanity, especially after the discover a plot to sacrifice most of humanity in an effort to wipe out the remaining horde. It’s a great saga all around.

6. The Handmaid’s Tale

I love the Handmaid’s Tale. It’s so tight, so crisp in it’s reading. It sucks you into the world of the narrator. The dystopian world of the Handmaid’s Tale is so frighteningly believable, you could almost feel like we are living out the prequel to that story today.

The Handmaid’s Tale would probably be higher on this list, but this isn’t the first time I’ve read it, so I decided to push it down a bit. It’s still one of my all time favorites and it does hold up well for rereading.

5. Lucifer’s Hammer

I picked this up early in the year, as an antidote to one too many YA dystopians. Lucifer’s Hammer, a classic and far more adult dystopia did not disappoint in the slightest. When a comet strikes the earth, everyone’s life is upended. Told through multiple points of view, Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle tell a riveting tale of survival against the odds.

4. No Haven Beckons.

I picked up volume one We Feared to Fly on bargain sale this year. I’ve now read book two and plan to pick up the rest of the series, once I get my tbr pile under some sort of control. The series retells the tale of the Musketeers. It’s familiar, in parts, but the author adds wonderful layers of grittiness and historical realism to a fun, intriguing tale. The black death, which ravage France during that time period grounds the reader in why the political intrigue is going on and what motivates many of the characters. D’Artagnan is a flagellant, and his self abuse, it’s psychological and religious reasons are all explained remarkably well.

3. There is No Lovely End

I met Patty Templeton and picked up her novel There is No Lovely End at ICON this year. It’s an incredible read, a fast paced novel set in the eighteen hundreds and retelling the story of Sarah Winchester.

Hester Garlan, psychic medium and all around scoundrel and her illegitimate and quickly abandoned son, Nathan Garlan have become a couple of my favorite characters ever. A dark super natural tale, There is No Lovely End is fast paced and fun to read.

2. Game of Thrones

I am grouping the entire series together because I read them all back to back and frankly, I can’t remember which book was which. It’s a long engrossing tale worthy of the time it takes to plow through. Great world building, lots of intrigue and plot twists, all the things that fantasy readers demand in a good series.

1. The Parable of the Sower

I’ve read and loved a number of Octavia Butler books over the years. I am not sure how I missed the Parable of the Sower before now, but it’s my favorite so far. Like the Handmaid’s Tale, its a dark dystopian world, but one that seems frighteningly possible. The economy and the environment are both in a free fall. Those with jobs and money live behind walls in armored communities. Street people fight and die for survival every day. And endless stream of refugees are on the road, looking for anywhere that’s better than here. Here is California.

Despite it’s darkness, the Parable of the Sower is about hope. God is change, or so Lauren Olamina decides. Resisting change is pointless. Instead we must be willing to let it change us, transform us into what we need to become to survive. When her enclave is over ran, Lauren must take the survivors, and her new ideas on religion, on the road.

Octavia Butler is one of those writers I wish more people knew about. And this is one of her best works by far.

Non-fiction

I didn’t read nearly as much nonfiction this year, so I will list only the top five. Most of them pertain to my passion, writing.

5. Your first 1,000 copies.

Is an indispensable guide to being an indie author. I recommend it highly.

4. Love Plots

Gave me the courage to try writing a romance novel. It’s still in beta stages, but I think I might have a new genre to write.

3. Think like a Publisher

When it comes to writing Dean Wesley Smith has cred oozing out everywhere. He was a successful traditionally published author for years, ran a small publishing house, returned to writing and recently made the transition to indie. He’s seen it all and he’s happy to dish what he knows.

2. For Love or Money

Susan Kaye Quinn teaches how to balance writing for the love of it, and writing for money in a seamless sort of way. She shares her insights in this book. Projects written for the love of it, and those written for money need to be approached differently. There is no judgement in this book either, you can do either or both. There is no shame in writing in a popular genre to earn a living, or in writing something you love that you know will never lead to financial success. The trick is to make peace with whichever path you choose.

1. Sacred Herbal and Healing Beers

I re-read this book as research for a nonfiction book I am working on. It’s one of my favorite books of all time. It’s about brewing, but its written in such a marvelous way that it’s about a hundred other things, too. Stephen Buhner knows his stuff. He’s studied brewing in traditional cultures around the world, herbal medicine and science. He blends it all together in amazing ways. Each chapter covers an herb used in brewing, telling the story of its history and use, but also folklore surrounding it, modern medical discoveries and much more. I don’t think I’ve ever found myself so entertained by what, in the hand of other writers, should be a dry topic.

A huge honorable mention goes out to the Des Moines Writers Workshop. I’ve been working with this critique group for more than three years now. It’s been an amazing experience. My one big complaint is this, there are so many great stories that should be on this list, and will be, once they get published.

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