Here we are, another six months down, another six months of discovering new books. As always, I’ll be splitting this into two parts: my favorites from January – June, then in December I’ll select my favorites from the second half of the year. If you’re curious about my top reads from previous years, you can head over here: 2014 pt. 1, 2014 pt. 2, 2013 pt. 1, 2013 pt. 2.
Lost & Found by Brooke Davis
Brooke’s beautiful, bittersweet novel was actually written for her PhD on grief after receiving news that her mother unexpectedly passed away while Brooke was backpacking overseas. A little girl abandoned by her mother, a man escaped from a nursing home, a widowed woman who lives by her routine. While Lost & Found broke my heart, it’s also a novel bursting with quirky characters and a charming joy that I couldn’t help but fall in love with. This is a quiet novel, far quieter than several others on this list, but it’s one that struck me the hardest.
In Some Other World, Maybe by Shari Goldhagen
Three teens from different corners of the country have all ended up at their respective theater to see the same movie. Over the next few decades, the book follows these characters as they grow, fall in love, fall out of love, and find out who they really are. I was completely on board throughout the whole novel, but there’s one particular scene that made me open my eyes and see just how much thought Shari put into these characters and the tiniest of details.
Shadow Scale (Seraphina #2) by Rachel Hartman
I had wanted to include Seraphina as well since I loved that one so much I read these back-to-back (something I NEVER do) but in the end I chose the sequel. This isn’t just a dragon book. There’s an incredibly intricate world that Hartman built, full of philosophy, religion, music, folklore. There’s politics and war, a gorgeous (and terrifying) dream world, and some of the best characters I’ve come across. Even if you’re not necessarily a dragon fan, I still urge you to read this one – there’s SO much to discover in these books and I’ve pushed this series on multiple friends (and even complete strangers) only to receive amazing feedback!
Dead Wake by Erik Larson
This is one I didn’t review, but it’s one that hit me the hardest and a candidate for favorite book of the year! Erik Larson is a master at what he does, so easily weaving together plots and threads that you would have never imagined would be connected. He’s a genius and I will never tire of singing his praises. Dead Wake is about the sinking of the Lusitania but it’s also about Woodrow Wilson’s second chance at love, a German fleet of u-boats, a British intelligence agency, one of the first female architects, an antiquarian bookseller…I could honestly go on and on. I have sung this book’s praises to numerous people and will continue to do so. I listened to this on audio (Scott Brick makes me heart skip a beat ♥) and purposefully paused during the final fifteen minutes because I wasn’t ready to finish just yet. When I did I couldn’t stop thinking about this incredible story and these fantastic people and THAT is the mark of an excellent writer.
The Mapmaker’s Children by Sarah McCoy
If you know me you know Civil War-era fiction is my jam and The Mapmaker’s Children hit all the right buttons. Dividing its pages between the present day and the 1860s, the story focuses on John Brown’s family and a modern-day woman who discovers an old (and, okay, slightly creepy) doll’s head in her house. From there the story weaves together beautifully and I’m surprised I haven’t come across more novels dealing with the Underground Railroad. There’s also a recipe included for organic dog treats which I think is such a fun bonus.
Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll
The thriller to read this summer! In an attempt to rid herself of her past, Ani has all but taken on a new identity, happily living her glamorous life with a great job and fabulous fiance…until the day her past finally catches up to her. There were multiple twists I wasn’t expecting and, be warned, Knoll isn’t afraid to get down and dirty with these characters.
Let Me Die in His Footsteps by Lori Roy
Historical Southern fiction, need I say more? Seriously, though, Let Me Die is a haunting tale of a long-running feud between two families. Spanning from the 1930s to the 1950s, this story is slow to give up its secrets – it makes you work for them – but when you finally learn what’s happening, my oh my. Characters I initially loved I grew to hate, and characters I couldn’t stand completely redeemed themselves. I haven’t seen much buzz for this book, but it’s one of the best I’ve read this year.
The Devil You Know by Trish Doller
Oh Trish. Oh my word, TRISH. You know I’m not huge on YA, so I was taking a big gamble when grabbing this one and boy did it pay off. I ended up with such a huge book hangover after finishing that I’ve started seeking out other YA novels! WHAT IS HAPPENING TO ME. I’m not sure, but I’m enjoying it! Don’t be surprised if you see me wax poetic about her backlist soon!
Revival by Stephen King
If you want to know why King is still topping the charts all these decades later, look no further than Revival. It’s a monster of a book and I completely tore through it, devouring it at a breakneck pace. While I didn’t lose any sleep over this one, I came to realize that King is so much more than a Horror novelist. There’s a wealth of drama here, sci-fi elements, religion even! Revival‘s roots run deep and the more you read, the further you’re sucked in. I highly, HIGHLY recommend this one as a starting point for newcomers to King’s work.
The Tiger by John Vaillant
This one came to me by way of a VERY happy accident and I couldn’t be more thrilled. Months later I’m still thinking about it and recommending it any chance I get. What first seems to be a tale about a hunt for a killer tiger turns out to be an incredibly researched, expertly written history of the land and people of the region. There are anthropological studies, thriller elements, a mystery worthy of a true crime novel (where the tiger is the villain!) and psychology to boot. I learned far more than I had thought I would and it’s The Tiger that really set the tone for much of my reading this year. Before I was even finished reading John Vaillant was added to my auto-buy list.
Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
My very first Moriarty! I’m already a big fan of her sister’s work, but it wasn’t until a few months ago that I (finally) discovered Liane. I couldn’t tell you how many friends and coworkers have recommended her books and now I see why. To say Big Little Lies is a novel about a group of Australian moms couldn’t be more off the mark. There’s a mystery at its core – a murder, and a wealth of character development and exploration. (also, the audio is absolutely fantastic!)
Sabriel (Abhorsen #1) by Garth Nix
I’m shocked it’s taken me so long to read this classic. It came out when I was the perfect age for it, but somehow became lost in the mix. Determined to make up for it, I grabbed the audiobook only to discover TIM CURRY was the narrator. That alone bumped Sabriel up a few stars, but really, the world and storytelling were excellent even without Tim doing the narration. I was completely enchanted with this world, the magic system, and the characters (particularly Mogget) and am itching to jump back into this series!
Destiny of the Republic by Candice Millard
Yet another I never ‘officially’ reviewed, but one of the best I’ve read this year and I purposefully held off on posting this list until I was finished with this book just so I could add it. Like Larson, Millard weaves together an entire ensemble of characters and stories and she does so flawlessly. The assassination of President Garfield, Alexander Graham Bell, the medical community and thought in the 1800s, Charles J. Guiteau. It all came together effortlessly and I fell so hard for this book that I started making excuses to read it (these excuses amounted to more exercise and household chores, so I guess it was a win-win..) The true testament to an author’s skill – in regards to non-fic – is when you already know the outcome (in this case the fact that Garfield eventually dies from his wound and the subsequent infections/botched surgeries) but you’re so caught up in the story that you’re holding out hope that history will have changed. I was devastated when certain events finally happened and shocked that I was so effected! Bravo, Ms. Millard. Destiny of the Republic is, hands down, a favorite book of the year and I’m looking forward to her other work.