On the first day of 2016, it’s clearly time to look back at my reading for the past year, with lots of cheers and just one or two jeers. My total count for the year was 194 books…if I had realized I was that close to 200 sooner, I might have tried to fit a few more in! I’ve been listening to more audiobooks, and also trying to watch less TV and read more–and apparently that’s working out. They weren’t all winners, but here are some of the best and worst of the year…
1) Best of…
I’ve been having fun splitting my “Best of” books for the past couple of years—it lets me highlight more of the excellent books I read during the past year. So here are a few of my best reads of the past year!
1A) Best Villain: Fairest by Marissa Meyer
Much as I hated waiting extra time for the final book in the Lunar Chronicles Quartet, I did very much enjoy this prequel novella from the point of view of the villain of the series, the horrible Queen Levana. Meyer did a wonderful job explaining how Levana became who she is…while not really making her any more sympathetic despite her hideous background. Meyer gives us much more insight into Levana and how she sees her actions, making her a far more complex character…but still definitely, incontrovertibly villainous.
1B) Best Romance(s): Winter by Marissa Meyer
Well-worth the wait, the final book (review forthcoming) in the Lunar Chronicles Quartet had not one, not two, not three, but four really lovely romances and delightful romantic couples. My favorite is probably still my favorite romantic couple of last year, Cress and Thorne, but there are wonderful moments with Wolf and Scarlet, and with Winter and Jacin. Cinder and Kai too, but they never quite did it for me as much. But still—a lovely bunch of romances, lots of balls in the air, and somehow satisfying for everyone involved.
1C) Best Hero(ine): Loose Changeling by A. G. Stewart
I have to love a heroine who is suddenly plunged into a world of magic and monsters and, while struggling to learn her new abilities, also manages to notice that dead hobgoblins are staining her carpet. Nicole is so real and so marvelously unlike most fantasy characters I’ve read.
1D) Best Series: Heroes of Olympus by Rick Riordan
I started this series early in the year and read the final book (review forthcoming!) in December. The continuing adventures of Percy Jackson and a variety of Greek and Roman demigods, it was exciting, funny and even explored some deeper themes too—often all at once. Slightly more mature than the Percy Jackson series (but still very safely YA), I preferred it to the original series for the more extensive character developments. And we got to be in Annabeth’s head. That’s a win.
1E) Best Nonfiction: The Year of Living Biblically by A. J. Jacobs and Daring Greatly by Brene Brown
I had a strangely good year in nonfiction when I have to give this one a tie. The Year of Living Biblically chronicles an agnostic Jew’s journey through a literal interpretation of the Bible and is astonishingly insightful, respectful and even meaningful in places. It would have won this category easily…until I read Daring Greatly, which had me highlighting extensively and then telling all my friends to read it too. All about vulnerability, why we need it and how we avoid it, it’s brilliant and probably has something of value for everyone. So probably this should go to Daring Greatly—but I really liked The Year of Living Biblically too.
2) Worst Book: Rejection Proof by Jia Jiang
I’ve read worst books in other years, and this one didn’t have the appalling writing of, say, Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians (good title, terrible book) or How I Stole Johnny Depp’s Alien Girlfriend (ditto), but this one still fell very, very far short of what it attempted to do—and didn’t appear to notice that fact either. So if this category is really “book that irritated me the most,” hands-down winner for the year.
3) Most Disappointing: Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee
Rejection Proof could have landed here too, but I’m going to give this one to Go Set a Watchman. I’ve never seen a book with higher expectations fall faster, and it’s honestly all rather sad. I had relatively modest hopes myself, but the book didn’t even meet those. In my own personal view of the world, just as there were only three (now four) Star Wars movies, Harper Lee only wrote one book.
4) Most Surprising (in a Good Way): The Help by Kathryn Stockett
I picked this audiobook up on an impulse because I had just read Go Set a Watchman and saw it at the library—and then it was wonderful. If I could think of the right category, I would have put it under “Best of” up there too. A wonderful story of women working together, finding their power and fighting injustice in their society.
5) Can’t Believe I Waited Until 2015 To Read It: Heroes of Olympus series by Rick Riordan
I don’t usually double-list books, but this one is too obvious a choice to ignore. I always vaguely meant to read this series when the first book came out. Five books later, I finally did!
6) Most Hilarious Read
To be perfectly honest, this is basically my Terry Pratchett category. I don’t even look for other books anymore, I just check to see what I read by Sir Terry this year. There were three (well, four, but Raising Steam just wasn’t very funny) and none were break-out new Discworld favorites—so we have a split between Moving Pictures and Unseen Academicals, while my final Pratchett read comes in for my next category…
7) Most Satisfying Read: The Shepherd’s Crown by Terry Pratchett
This is the final Discworld book (review, yes, forthcoming!), published posthumously, and I was somewhat nervous after the unfunny Raising Steam—which just made me so very, very sad. So it was immensely satisfying to read one last new Discworld book—and it was good. Not a new favorite, but a good, funny final adventure with Tiffany Aching and the Nac Mac Feegles and that makes me feel so much better about everything.
8) Surprisingly Great Reread: The True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex
I don’t usually put rereads on my “best of” post because it sort of feels like cheating–I already knew they were really good when I picked them up. But I did a lot of rereading this year and wanted to get that on the list somehow…so this is my “didn’t realize how good it was” category. I knew that Smekday was good–that’s why I reread it, and wanted to read the sequel, but this one jumped from “great book” to “new favorite” on a reread. Sadly, neither the sequel nor the movie adaptation, while both good in their ways, could equal the original. But that’s okay–because the original is excellent.
9) Most Looking Forward To in 2016: The Girl Who Raced Fairyland All the Way Home by Catherynne M. Valente
Like my most hilarious read belonging to Terry Pratchett, this category has pretty much belonged to Valente’s Fairyland series for several years. I don’t know what I’ll have to look forward to next year when this series is over! The fifth and final book will be out March 1st, and I already have it pre-ordered. I’ll have a post on my other anticipated reads of 2015 up soon.
And that’s the story for another year! What was your best read in 2015? Or do you have a book to fit any of the other categories? I’d love to hear about it!