I’ve been reading a lot in 2015. I mean, a LOT. Not only did I spent significantly more time with my butt in a chair reading books, but I also picked up an Audible account. Listening to books allows me to cram more stories into my head and I love it.
This was partially for the sake of becoming a better writer. It’s hard to get good at writing without a whole lot of reading. What are other authors doing? What styles are effective, and which ones are popular? Is first person present tense really a thing?
The side effect of this is that I’ve read tons of great stuff over the course of the year. No, not all of it was great, but so much of it was that I have enough to put together some recommendations.
The Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson: Baru Cormorant is a brilliant girl from a tiny island that is being assimilated into an empire. This isn’t your typical war story, though. The empire has mastered the art of controlling new populations, crushing their culture, and keeping them oppressed. I read this right after reading Guns, Germs, and Steel, and there are some wonderful parallels. Cultures come together with some very significant differences, and it’s quite interesting to see how those cultures interact. Baru is clever and the intrigue in this book is top notch.
Uprooted by Naomi Novik: This is probably my favorite audiobook of the year, if not my favorite book. It’s a story of magic and power and doing the right thing even though it’s hard. The wood is twisted and malevolent, but its the interactions of people that make this book interesting. Everything I want to say about this book risks spoiling the experience. It’s a beautiful thing and it’s probably best if you just buy it and read it yourself. Or listen to it.
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel: This book is about art and music after the apocalypse. It’s a beautiful story, elegant in its telling. Don’t look too hard at the science fiction elements. That’s not what this book is for. This book is about people and how they relate to each other before, during, and after crisis. I also like to refer to it as a clever twist on the zombie apocalypse in which all of the zombies lie perfectly still forever.
The Martian by Andy Weir: Extreme botany pretty much sells me on a book no matter what. The Martian is intense, funny, and absolutely worth reading. It came out in 2014, but I read it this year so I’m totally putting it on this list. Just try and stop me. I have never laughed out loud while reading as much as I did for this book. I laughed so much, in fact, that my wife had to read the book. She loved it, too, and it’s one of those books that I might just buy a copy so that I can lend it to people.
City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett: There are a lot of great takes on magic and fantasy out there, but City of Stairs was one of my favorites. It deals with the miracles of dead gods and their effect on a world that is in an industrial era. There are some great characters in this book, but what stands out for me are a few jaw-dropping scenes. Nope, I’m not going to tell you what they are. You’ll probably know what I’m talking about when you read it. The sequel comes out soon, so now is probably a good time to pick this up and read it. It’s another one that worked well on audiobook.