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Our Favorite Books of 2015 (many lists within one list)
- •Nan S.1) A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara 2) Aquarium by David Vann 3) The Casualties by Nick Holdstock 4) Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf 5) The Dark Forest by Cixin Liu
- •Britt A.1) The Seven Good Years by Etgar Keret 2) How to Be Both by Ali Smith 3) Killing and Dying by Adrian Tomine 4) I Was a Child by Bruce Eric Kaplan 5) The Story of the Lost Child by Elena Ferrante
- •Carrie L.1) The Shepherd's Crown by Terry Pratchett 2) Welcome to Night Vale by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor 3) March, Book Two by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell 4) The Fifth Season by N. K. Jemisin 5) Beneath the Surface by John Hargrove
There were so many wonderful books in 2015 that my nightstand teetered under the weight of all that excellence. What follows are some of the highlights of my reading year in science fiction and fantasy. - Mary Jo S.
- •Empire Ascendant (Worldbreaker Saga #2) by Kameron Hurley http://powells.us/1Yzip24The Worldbreaker Saga is a complex fantasy with intriguing characters and a well-built plot. From blood magic and carnivorous plants to parallel universes and an intriguing magical system, there's a lot of juicy stuff here! Mirror Empire, the first book in the series, introduced the characters and the world. In Empire Ascendant, everything explodes and things go badly wrong for many of the characters, to the point where I really wonder how the third book will resolve things.
- •The Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson http://powells.us/1QJbT9TThis is a first novel with phenomenal writing, tons of political intrigue, and an elegance and melancholy that remind me of earlier Le Guin. Baru is captivating. Her mission is to destroy the empire that devastated the world she grew up in, but her methodology is fascinating. She sacrifices a great deal to achieve her goals, which makes her both admirable and more than a bit scary.
- •Binti by Nnedi Okorafor http://powells.us/1QJbSCCBinti by Nnedi Okorafor This year, Tor began releasing a series of very interesting novellas, including this one. I loved the story and definitely wanted to learn more about Binti. She's the first of her people to attend university, and since they tend not to travel, their ways seem strange to outsiders. There's a lot of good reflection here on otherness, and how that informs the choices one makes.
- •Beauty Is a Wound by Eka Kurniawan http://powells.us/1QGaW1ZA beautiful, stirring, and powerful epic of Indonesian politics and family, Eka Kurniawan's Beauty Is a Wound is a vibrant tapestry of village life, colonial rule, political independence, and generational drama. Sweeping across decades, Kurniawan's violent, enchanted saga compels on account of its impressive breadth, storytelling verve, and traces of magical realism. - Jeremy G.
- •The Book of Speculation by Erika Swyler http://powells.us/1QGaXTGI was charmed by the Watson family, peopled by an unemployed librarian and a tarot-card-reading circus mermaid. Simon Watson has lost a lot in his young life — his parents, his job, and soon his house will fall over the cliff it is perched atop and land in the sound below. Even with all that, what Simon is racing against is losing his sister, Enola. - April C.
- •The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro http://powells.us/1QGaYadThe story entails the journeys of an aging couple, two warriors, and Sir Gawain, the chivalrous knight from Arthurian legends. Their fates all meet as they make their way across Britain, at a time when ogres and other mythical creatures were said to still walk among us. We come to learn that what they think they are seeking is not quite what is drawing them, as in most lore, and that memories are really just our own personal mythologies. - Aubrey W.
For this year's "best" list, I'm sharing the gems that may not be riding the New York Times' bestseller list, but which I read and loved this year and can't stop thinking about. — Rhianna W.
- •All the Things We Never Knew by Sheila Hamilton http://powells.us/1YohtgZAll the Things We Never Knew is Hamilton's memoir of her first husband David's struggle with bipolar disorder and subsequent suicide. Both a gripping, cathartic portrait of loss and a well-reported exposé of our mental health care system, All the Things serves as an empathetic guidepost for families and individuals dealing with mental illness. All the Things We Never Knew is a brave attempt to start a public conversation about issues that most of us have only dealt with, achingly, in private.
- •Underground in Berlin by Marie Jalowicz Simon http://powells.us/1YohqSlAs a young woman, Ms. Simon broke with her family, which was determined to stay with the Jewish community during deportation, and disappeared into wartime Berlin. Underground in Berlin provides a fascinating portrait of Berlin as a liberal city generally disinterested in Nazi ideology but still willing to give up its Jews, and of a cunning young woman determined to live through the war.
- •The Edge of the World: A Cultural History of the North Sea and the Transformation of Europe by Michael Pye http://powells.us/1QvUCRfThe Edge of the World is a dense and delightful exploration of the trading cultures that flourished in the marshy borderlands of the North Sea during the Middle Ages. If that sentence bored you, let me try again: Vikings! Money! Power! Vikings! The Edge of the World shines a light on fascinating peoples I had never heard of, like the Frisians and Jutes. Pye also does an excellent job of conjuring the physical environment of the North Sea through time.
- •All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven http://powells.us/1QsKFEjAll the Bright Places lives in a world of gray. Being mentally unwell — whether it's depression, bipolar disorder, or grief — is difficult for other people to really understand, and it's the difficulty Violet and Finch face each day. Love won't solve anything; it isn't that simple. But to have experienced it, at least, is nice. A fantastic new YA voice who doesn't make you feel something — you just do. – Jordan S.
- •Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon http://powells.us/1QsKEjwNicola Yoon's first novel is a young adult marvel that will give you endless butterflies. I found myself constantly blushing and saying, "Awwww," out loud because I was so overcome with the cuteness. Yoon captures perfectly what it is like to be in love and how far the heart will go to experience everything love has to offer. I cannot stop recommending this book to friends. – Lisa A.
- •Library of Souls by Ransom Riggs http://powells.us/1QQKCRFIn this thrilling conclusion to the Miss Peregrine trilogy, Ransom Riggs was able to match the high standards set by the two previous books in the series. We see Jacob complete a convincing transformation from outcast reject to self-effacing lionhearted hero. The use of repurposed, found photos adds an extra mysterious element for readers to enjoy and decipher. – Angelo R.
- •Mr. Postmouse's Rounds by Marianne Dubuc http://powells.us/1Qr8QTxMr. Postmouse's Rounds by Marianne Dubuc "Fans of Richard Scarry rejoice! This is such a sweet and engaging story with so many hidden details that you will be poring over Mr. Postmouse's Rounds for hours. Every time I read it, I can't help but giggle at the little characters and subtle references I missed the previous time around." – Brandon
- •Rutabaga the Adventure Chef, Book 1 by Eric Colossal http://powells.us/1Qr8UCT"In this fun graphic novel, a little boy travels the world with his companion, a cooking pot, creating real and imagined recipes. Rutabaga the Adventure Chef is an original read for both kids and adults." – Kim
- •Friends for Life by Andrew Norriss http://powells.us/1Qr8VGI"Friends for Life is a beautifully touching story of four friends: Francis, a boy who wants to be a fashion designer; Andi, a girl who is big and tough; Roland, who is huge; and Jessica, who is dead. Only this group can see Jessica, and they form a unique friendship that helps each to overcome and rise above their fears of being 'different.'"
Below are our favorite cookbooks of 2015. They're the cookbooks we give to friends and family as gifts, and they're the cookbooks we first turn to when taking a dish to a party. Our personal copies of these cookbooks fall open easily to the recipes we've made repeatedly, or the recipes might be readily found by the splatters on the page.
- •Home Baked by Yvette Van Boven http://powells.us/1Y97sUHI've been a fan of Yvette Van Boven for a long time now. As a food stylist, she has a wonderful sense of visual presentation with her books, and her recipes are approachable, easy, and big hits in our household! Each page is a visual treat with many handwritten recipes and charming drawings of ingredients, kitchen tools, and techniques, backgrounded by lovely watercolors, all done by Yvette herself. - Kim T.
- •The Broad Fork by Hugh Acheson http://powells.us/1Y97RGIInspired by farmers markets and CSA boxes, Acheson concentrates on recipes for the common and uncommon fruits and veggies likely to be landing in our kitchens this summer. Each item of produce is given a number of recipes, which is extra helpful as CSA boxes often come with an abundance of whatever is in season. - Tracey T.
- •Tacopedia: The Taco Encyclopedia by Deborah Holtz and Juan Carlos Mena http://powells.us/1QjAIJ5I would be remiss to let 2015 come to an end without highlighting Tacopedia on this blog. Tacopedia is unlike any cookbook I've ever seen. Authors Holtz and Mena gathered up any and every bit of knowledge about tacos: interviews with chefs and street cooks, infographics, cartoons, collages, photography, and the odd recipe here and there. - Tracey T.
- 1.Gold Fame Citrus by Claire Vaye Watkins http://powells.us/1QQF3TcWatkins received much attention (and several awards) for her debut story collection, Battleborn. Her first novel is just as dazzling. Set in a vividly rendered near-future West turned dry as bones, Gold Fame Citrus follows the journey of an ex-model, an ex-soldier, and a toddler they've rescued. This eerie, hypnotic tale of survival is a must-read from a rising talent. – Renee P.
- 2.The Peripheral by William Gibson http://powells.us/1S7l6puWilliam Gibson goes back to the future in The Peripheral, mixing and matching a near-future America with a further-future London. Through it all, Gibson makes his usual observations on class, technology, climate, and art. All this, and there's cosplay! – Doug C.
- 3.The Martian by Andy Weir http://powells.us/1QQFcGaAn absolutely riveting tale about an astronaut stranded on Mars and what he must do to survive. This is white-knuckle, nail-biting sci-fi adventure at its best. You will never look at a potato the same way after reading this. – Mary Jo