Drum rolls! Orchestra! Rockets! Explosions! Fireworks!
Presenting: Nikki’s favorite 2015 books. Books read, not books published. Though in an unprecented turn of events it happens that half of these books were published in 2015.
Publishing this list with 16 days left in 2015 feels heretical. I will read at least five more books this month, and what if one of them sweeps me off my feet? No book left behind! But The Broke and the Bookish Top Ten Tuesday list challenge is best books of 2015 today, and I am home sick. This list has been burning a hole in my pocket anyway, might as well fan the flames among friends. If another book slips onto the list before 2016, you’ll hear me shouting on twitter.
List criteria: I read the book for the first time this year. (Including re-reads leads to too much repetition.) I have religious feelings about the book in question. Anything less than obsession doesn’t make the cut. Shit, I read a lot of really good books this year, the bar had to be high. This year I built the bar out of sticky, obsessive, manic enthusiasm.
The Best Books of 2015, According to Nikki and Her Reading List
City of Saints and Madmen by Jeff VanderMeer
Ambergris has grown out of the shadow of M. John Harrison like a sentient fungus. It is a strange and magical city originally populated by sentient, fungal creatures called Grey Caps and since colonized by humans. The history of the city and its natives and its colonization is rich, interesting, and makes the entire world all the more real. Artists languish in cafes (you’ll recognize that sentence from my review of In Viriconium, of which this is strongly reminiscent) and turmoil brews in the city as the Festival of the Fresh Water Squid approaches and two warring factions battle for territory. Jeff VanderMeer is one of the most exciting authors working today. Not only is this one of the best books I read this year (though it was published in 2001), it is one of the best books I have read, ever.
Keywords: Sentient fungal technology, and people; artists sitting around in cafes; strange local religious customs; a dwarf tattooed with a moving map; twists; turns; death; magic; beauty; love; life.
The Fictional Man by Al Ewing
A science fiction book that checks every “Nikki is going to love this” box. It’s meta, it’s funny, it’s perfect…no I can’t describe this better here than I already did in my review. Published in 2013 by Solaris.
Keywords: metafiction; identity construction; cloning; commentary on what it means to be human; writers writing; writers not writing; characters come to life.
The Book of Phoenix by Nnedi Okorafor
Keywords: powerful, badass black female superhero; top-secret experiments; moral ambiguity; epic battles; human phoenix; FUCKING PERFECT. I should stop saying that because “perfect” was part of the bar for this list.
Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
This book blew me, and most of the science fiction I have read in the last five years, right the fuck out of the water. Initially it didn’t appeal to me: the blurb is all cheeky pop romance teen blah. Though the physical copy apparently has some really cool visual elements, I listened to Illuminae and was riveted. Even though it is really fucking sad and harrowing, and I can barely handle sad and/or harrowing books. Only problem is, it does something near the end that really pissed me off, and kept it from being 100% perfect.
Keywords: wonky AI; brave, computer genius female lead; romance (it is heavy on this aspect but then…I can’t tell you, but holy shit); space battles; and a very BSG vibe. Watch for Erika and I’s joint review the first week in January!
Nimona by Noelle Stevenson
Erika and I loved this graphic novel equally, though only she ended up reviewing it. The story, the art, and the characters made me so happy, I read it twice in one month, and I have started buying it for everyone I know.
Keywords: badass aspiring villain female lead; shapeshifter; deconstruction of the good guy vs bad guy dichotomy; dragons; magic; science; sharks; lasers; friendship; pizza.
Rat Queens by Kurtis J. Wiebe and Roc Upchurch
Everyone you have heard squeeing on this is right. Four supernatural women kick the shit out of supernatural asshats causing their town problems, drink a lot, and have and talk about sex a lot. It is funny and ridiculous and everything I ever could have wanted in a comic.
Keywords: Squid cult, cute lesbian make outs, actually a whole lot of varying make outs, sword play, magic, captivating back stories, monsters, conspiracies.
Honorable Mention Goes to…
Two books fall just short of my all-out obsession bar for this list, but deserve a loud mention as runners-up.
The Girl in the Road by Monica Byrne
We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler
Runners Runners up
Every month I choose three favorites books from the month’s reading. Once I publish my year’s reading list (coming January 1), you’ll be able to scroll through their cover photos to see a fuck ton more amazing titles.
What were your favorites this year? Have you read and loved any of the books on my list?