Looking Back On 2015

Am I allowed to have 36 books on my end-of-year list? Because that’s how many I had at first, while trying to write a post like last year’s (highlighting my favourite books by the month). So, I decided to simplify.

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Here’s my pared down list (it only took me about 10 years to come up with it in the end) as well as a few other ‘favourites’ lists just for fun.

Top 9 Best New Fiction of 2015:

  1. Do You Think This Is Strange? by Aaron Cully Drake – I can’t tell you how much I loved this book. Freddy is my ‘character of the year’.
  2. Fifteen Dogs by Andre Alexis – Most original. Winner of the 2015 Scotiabank Giller Prize.
  3. When the Saints by Sarah Mian – A funny and warm debut. (Atlantic Canadian.)
  4. Our Endless Numbered Days by Claire Fuller – A page-turner about survival, both physical and psychological.
  5. Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegh – Morbid and painful, but surprisingly fun to read.
  6. All True Not A Lie In It – Alix Hawley  – I couldn’t leave out this historical fiction novel about Daniel Boone. Who knew his life would be so captivating?
  7. Miss Emily by Nuala O’Connor  – The perfect book to have on vacation with me.
  8. Captive by Claudine Dumont  – A creepy page-turner.
  9. Martin John by Anakana Schofield – Strange and disturbing, but so well done.

Top 10 Best Backlist Reads of 2015:

  1. The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert – Why did it take me so long to get to this book? It has reminded me of my love for biology and the history of science.
  2. And the Birds Rained Down by Jocelyne Saucier – Balm for the soul.
  3. Every Blade of Grass by Thomas Wharton – A beautiful epistolary novel about friendship, love, and the meaning of life.
  4. Rilla of Ingleside by L.M. Montgomery – Even better than I remembered. A classic about living on the homefront during WWI. (Atlantic Canadian)
  5. The People in the Trees by Hanya Yanagihara – Through scientific and anthropological discoveries, this book explores some big moral questions. Fascinatingly disturbing.
  6. The Voyage of the Narwhal by Andrea Barrett – More history and science with some Arctic exploration thrown in.
  7. The Stone Angel by Margaret Laurence – A Canadian classic. It’s hard to beat Hagar Shipley.
  8. Every Little Thing by Chad Pelley – I was surprised by how much I liked this book. My literary crush of the year.
  9. Us Conductors by Sean Michaels – A good book for just about anyone.
  10. Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy – A good reminder to read more Hardy.

If I had to pick one of these books to give to everyone for Christmas this year, it would be Do You Think This Is Strange?. I think it has wide appeal, I don’t think it has gotten nearly the love it deserves, and I really, really loved it.

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Top 5 Nonfiction:

  1. In the Heart of the Sea by Nathaniel Philbrick – Satisfied my fascination with sea adventures.
  2. Dead Wake by Erik Larson – More sea, with some WWI thrown in.
  3. The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert – Satisfied my interest in biology, evolution, and the state of our planet.
  4. The Inconvenient Indian by Thomas King – A fast and furious look at the history of indigenous people in North America, how new-comers to the continent have treated them and categorized them over the years, and why it needs to change.
  5. Drunk Mom by Jowita Bydlowska – Best memoir. Raw, honest, and kind of alarming.

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Top 5 New-To-Me Authors:

  1. Jocelyne Saucier (And the Birds Rained Down and Twenty-One Cardinals)
  2. Thomas Wharton (Every Blade of Grass and Icefields)
  3. Chad Pelley (Away From Everywhere and Every Little Thing) (Atlantic Canadian)
  4. Stephanie Domet (Fallsy Downsies) (Atlantic Canadian)
  5. Andrea Barrett (The Voyage of the Narwhal)

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Top 7 Debut Novels:

  1. Do You Think This Is Strange? by Aaron Cully Drake
  2. When the Saints by Sarah Mian
  3. Our Endless Numbered Days by Claire Fuller
  4. All True Not A Lie In It by Alix Hawley
  5. The People in the Trees by Hanya Yanagihara
  6. This Godforsaken Place by Cinda Gault
  7. The Capacity For Infinite Happiness by Alexis von Konigslow

Best Short Story Collection: Eating Habits of the Chronically Lonesome by Megan Gail Coles

Best Classic: Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy

Top 9 Book Covers:

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Top 5 Non-Review Posts (from my blog):

  1. Reading The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen To My Son
  2. A Visit To Lunenburg, Nova Scotia
  3. Endless Shores, Endless Books
  4. Literary Love: In Honour of Valentine’s Day #2
  5. Year 2 of Reading CanLit

Top 5 Posts With the Most Traffic Overall: 

  1. Hopeful Reading List for 2015
  2. And the Birds Rained Down by Jocelyne Saucier, translated by Rhonda Mullins
  3. Fifteen Dogs by Andre Alexis
  4. Sweetland by Michael Crummey
  5. Our Endless Numbered Days by Claire Fuller

I have to take a look at that Hopeful Reading List of 2015 soon and see how I did!

What are your favourite books/covers/posts of the year? What is the one book you read this year that you would give as a gift to everyone on your list?

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59 thoughts on “Looking Back On 2015

  1. Valorie Grace Hallinan says:

    Naomi this list is totally tantalizing to me. I’m kind of bummed I’m not familiar with your fiction list because I want to rush out and get all of them. Maybe because many might be Canadian? Which I don’t read enough of. I will have to restrain myself and use the library. I have saved your post for closer perusal later there is so much good stuff here to learn about. I will probably comment again after I’ve had time to look closer. Can’t remember if you say in your bio where you live in NS but I often think of it fondly, many years ago my husband and I had our honeymoon on Cape Breton Island.

    • Naomi says:

      Yes, Valorie, a lot of these are Canadian. I was going to mark them as Canadian, but I already felt like my post was all marked up with other comments and asides. But, just so you know: Canadian fiction #2,3,4,5,6,8,11, Canadian nonfiction #4,5, Canadian new-to-me authors #1-4, Canadian debuts #1,2,4,6,7, and the short story collection is Canadian. I hope that helps!
      I’m from mainland Nova Scotia, but have been to Cape Breton many times and think it would be a beautiful place for a honeymoon. 🙂

  2. Carole Besharah says:

    What a great list! I am gradually posting my favorite books of 2015 by category. Little by little. Because procrastination. 😉

    Dying to read Our Endless Numbered Days. Thanks for the reminder. On Beauty did not make your best fiction list… was it disappointing? That one’s been on my list too.

    I noticed that Far From the Madding Crowd was your favorite classic read. Cool! I had fun reading that one along with you and writing a review one the same day. We should do that again in 2016. Perhaps Santa will bring us the same novels?
    Thanks for sharing. Joyeuses fëtes!!!

    • Naomi says:

      I am quickly running out of time around here, so I wanted to get my end-of-year all wrapped up at once. Anything else I’m able to post between now and January will just be icing on the cake. I like little-by-little, too, though – it gives me a chance to soak it all up. All three Decembers on my blog have been different structures, so I obviously don’t have a favourite way of doing things yet.
      I liked A Beauty quite a lot, actually (I think I gave it 4 stars on Goodreads), but I read so many good ones this year that it just didn’t make the list. That’s the problem with ‘the list’.
      It was fun reading Far From the Madding Crowd together! We’ll have to find out if we have any overlapping interests again this year. You can email me sometime if you want to figure it out!
      Looking forward to more of your favourite books!

      • Carole Besharah says:

        For sure! We could also connect on Goodreads too. My user name there is: Carole Besharah 🙂

        P.S. I hope I get around to posting all my best of lists. The may just get lighter on the text side, heavier on the graphic/photo side. Cheers!

  3. Sarah's Book Shelves says:

    Love all your different lists! Our Endless Numbered Days made my Best Debuts List and I need to get to The People in the Trees. AND – now you’ve got me curious about Drunk Mom – I feel like that would appeal to me – haha! Have a great holiday!

    • Naomi says:

      I totally understand. It still hurts that I had to leave so many good books off my list. But, I keep reminding myself that they are still there on my blog – they’re not going anywhere. 🙂

      • buriedinprint says:

        Yes, exactly: you can hear them whimpering over in the wings. As much as I do refer back to my lists of favourites in later years, part of me really hates making the lists. In recent years, I’ve done very short versions of them, to try to make it less obvious, but it still feels the same in the end. *sighs*

      • Naomi says:

        Yes, that’s it exactly. I’m afraid that I will just look at my favourites lists and forget about the others. It just doesn’t seem right.

  4. Lory @ Emerald City Book Review says:

    So many books here I want to read, including Dead Wake, In the Heart of the Sea, and The Sixth Extinction. You’ve got me interested in rereading Rilla of Ingleside too. When I read it long, long ago the historical context completely passed me by.

    • Naomi says:

      Me too! That’s why my re-read of it was so much better than I remember. I kept thinking that anyone could read it and love it. You really don’t have to have read all the others that lead up to it to enjoy it.

  5. JacquiWine says:

    It’s always fun to see everyone’s choices on their end of year list. Of the books highlighted here, I’ve only read the Thomas Hardy (at that was many years ago). Eileen is the one that catches my eye, though – it’s good to hear that it stood out for you. 🙂

    • Naomi says:

      I also love seeing all the lists – there is so much more variety than the ones that come out in the papers and magazines. I also like that they include backlist books and not just books that came out in 2015.

  6. whatmeread says:

    I agree with you on the ones I’ve read, although that is not many, except for This Godforsaken Place, which I didn’t like as well as you did. The Signature of All Things was on my top ten list either last year or the year before. I enjoyed Dead Wake, although it hasn’t made it into my top ten (to be posted on my anniversary in January). I haven’t reviewed Sweetland yet, but I really liked it. And Far From the Madding Crowd is a Hardy novel I’ve meant to re-read all this year, ever since I went to see the new movie. I just haven’t done it yet. Your post reminds me that I meant to put And the Birds Rained Down on my to-read list and I think I forgot.

    • Naomi says:

      I’m glad to hear you really liked Sweetland!
      I don’t read a whole lot of nonfiction, so it was pretty easy to make a top 5 list for it. I still think I like Dead Wake more than The Devil In the White City. Is it the ocean, or the war, or both?
      I still haven’t seen Far From the Madding Crowd, but I’m hoping it will be the next movie I watch (now that the kids are staying up later, I find it hard to find time to watch movies that aren’t rated G or PG). 🙂

      • whatmeread says:

        I don’t know if you’re familiar with the Julie Christie version of the movie. In my opinion, it is still superior to the new one. But they were both good. One thing that bugged me was they had Bathsheba riding a horse astride with pants on at the beginning of the newer movie, something that would never happen in that time and place. I realize they were trying to demonstrate her independence, but I think they could have picked a way that was more historically acceptable.

      • whatmeread says:

        It’s a beautiful movie, but so is this one. For some reason, Wayne got really angry at Bathsheba when we watched this movie because he thought he was toying with the various men. I couldn’t tell if my own impressions were being influenced by my knowledge of the older movie and the book, but I didn’t feel that way. She DOES mischievously flirt with the farmer (I forgot his name), but I never felt like she was trifling with Gabriel, just that she fell in love with the wrong guy. I don’t know if Wayne ever saw the older movie, and if he would feel that way about that Bathsheba or if it was something about the way they did the more modern movie.

      • Naomi says:

        That is interesting that he felt that way and you didn’t. I sometimes wonder, if we’ve read the book, if it influences how we see the characters and might be different from someone who hasn’t read the book.

      • whatmeread says:

        I would like to get the older movie to see with him sometime, and see if he had the same reaction. In that movie she’s more flirtatious, I think, but also more clearly in love with her brutish husband later on.

  7. The Paperback Princess says:

    Such a great list! You’re so good at making me want to read more CanLit. I LOVE that Twenty-One Cardinals cover. So gorgeous. And those Tundra Anne books were delicious. Rilla really is so good – it was better this time I read it even though I’m sure I cried way more. You had a great reading year! I haven’t even started thinking about my year end list. Lists? I’m hoping to get a few more posts up before Christmas but we’re leaving town hopefully tomorrow so that’s looking less and less likely. I hope you and your family have a Merry Christmas Naomi!

    • Naomi says:

      Thanks, Eva!
      I loved all the Tundra Anne books, so I just put up the first one (but really it’s representing them all).
      Crying more means you love it more, isn’t that right?
      Happy Holidays to you and yours! 🙂

  8. BookerTalk says:

    Out of all of these the only one I have is People of the Trees which I happened to buy before all the fuss about her latest but haven’t yet read. sounds like many of the others would be good choices too

  9. Heather says:

    So many great books on here AND I HAVE READ NONE OF THEM. But, many of them have been added to me TBR throughout the year, so at least I’m trying. I especially love your non-fiction list and I’d definitely like to read ‘In The Heart of the Sea’ and ‘Dead Wake’ (which I know we’ve discussed before).

  10. ebookclassics says:

    When you put them all together, all of the book covers are gorgeous. We loved a few of the same books this year and I have you to thank for leading me to This Godforsaken Place. One of my faves this year!

    • Naomi says:

      And you led me to Miss Emily, which I loved (even though it wasn’t on the final list, I really wanted it to be there!). I guess I can’t complain about the fact that I read so many good books. 🙂
      Don’t all those covers just look so beautiful?

  11. Cecilia says:

    So many books to look up! I love reading year-end lists. I’m curious about The People in the Trees – I have A Little Life, which I’ll likely end up reading first.
    Have a great holiday!

    • Naomi says:

      I also love the year-end book lists. And, it’s not just seeing everyone’s favourite books that I love, I also love comparing them. I find it so interesting to see which books people gravitate toward.
      I’ll be interested in hearing what you think of A Little Life. I haven’t decided yet if I’m going to read that one. Maybe you will be the one to convince me!
      I always love to ‘see you around’. Have a wonderful holiday, Cecilia! 🙂

      • Cecilia says:

        I read several powerful reviews before I worked up the nerve to buy that 700+ page book! Sadly, I think I already know what happens, thanks to someone on goodreads or amazon who didn’t hide the spoiler 😦 I’m hoping I read incorrectly…yes, I will definitely let you know what I think of it!
        Happy holidays to you too, Naomi! It’s always a treat for me to take a break and visit your blog. I’m hoping to be more consistent next year and also to start writing again 🙂

  12. Bellezza says:

    Now I’m mad I can’t find my copy of Heart at Sea! These lists always make me regret when I’ve sorted my shelves, something I should never do. 😉 Loved reading your recommendations.

  13. Lynn @ Smoke & Mirrors says:

    Great list, Naomi! I’ve not yet decided whether I’ll do something similar. I have so little time to devote to my blog that making lists takes time away from the book reviews I really want to compose and post! Decisions, decisions! Having followed your blog for some time now, I am familiar with most all of these titles/authors, but some were still new to me! Good job!! In revisiting your hopes for 2015 list, it seems you may well still have some unread…I hope so, ’cause that makes me feel just a bit better!

    • Naomi says:

      I’m pretty sure I do still have some unread books. I still haven’t gone back to look. I purposely haven’t re-visited that list since making it just to see how close I would come to sticking with it (or how far off track I would be).
      Time is a big issue, isn’t it? I do love making the lists, but right now I’m pretty behind with the reviews, and they are ones I want to write about because I loved them. Oh well, I will catch up eventually. 🙂

  14. Care says:

    How are we not friends on goodreads?! Anyway, I loved Signature of All Things – just thinking of it makes me smile. and YAY so much YAY for Far From the Madding Crowd. Otherwise, the books you have here are almost all unfamiliar. Which is why I need to connect with you on gr so I can keep building that daunting tbr.

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