What was the best book you read in 2015?

Simple. The only rules are: you can only choose one, and you must have read it in 2015 (doesn’t matter when it was published).

You can also include the reasons why you thought it was the best.

Just Mercy

This is a civil rights lawyer’s memoir, focusing mostly on his time in Alabama working on racial justice issues (set mostly in the 1980s-2000s). I rarely find nonfiction to be a page-turner. But Bryan Stevenson is a gifted storyteller on top of being a first class lawyer and all-around remarkable human being. The book isn’t preachy at all, and you needn’t share his political convictions to enjoy it.

The Martian.

Titus Groan, by Mervyn Peake. No question. Beautifully written and tremendously entertaining. I’d recommend it to anyone.

This is my runner-up choice. Really fun book.

I’m going to choose The Sports Gene by David Epstein. My reason is because it really delves into physical differences between races, cultures, and gender at a time when cultural sensitivity has made it hard to publicize such information. It was both informative and fascinating.

Sapiens: http://www.amazon.com/Sapiens-A-Brief-History-Humankind/dp/0062316095

Deep Down Dark, about the rescue of the 33 Chilean miners. As compelling as The Martian, but a true story.

I’m leaning toward The Watchmaker of Filigree Street, a bit of speculative fiction set in late nineteenth century London. This is a super-common setting lately for fantasy, and the “watchmaker” in the title made me worry I was in for more boilerplate steampunk–but instead it’s a beautifully-written, fairly quiet story about three sympathetic characters and their inevitable conflicts.

“33 Men”, which came out shortly after the rescue, is IMHO much better.

The best book I read this year? Probably “To Kill A Mockingbird”; it had been many years since I read it the first time, and wanted to read it prior to reading “Go Set A Watchman”.

Here’s mine. Fear by Gabriel Chevallier.


Written in 1930 by a highly decorated WWI veteran, this novel feels really modern and subversive. It was suppressed in France when WWII broke out because the book is about how brutal and senseless war is. If you ever wanted to know what it felt like going over the top of a trench into no-man’s-land or how constant artillery fire will eventually destroy you mentally and psychologically, this book is absolutely visceral. You feel like you are at the front with the narrator. This is an amazing book; I can’t believe it wasn’t translated into English for 50 years or so.

Funny Girl by Nick Hornby

I’ve started keeping a list of books I’ve read. This year I finally got around to reading Blood Meridian*or the Evening Redness in the West *by Cormac McCarthy. Of the 22 novels I read this year, I think it was my favorite. Favorite is a bit of an odd word as I didn’t really care for any of the characters nor did I approve of anything they did. But I couldn’t put it down.

Hmm. It might be a tie between Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives by David Eagleman and The Flamethrowers by Rachel Kushner.

Sum is a collection of short stories (written by a neuroscientist by day) that are funny, sad, thought-provoking and everything in between.

The Flamethrowers is just beautifully written, and sometimes you have to just stop and marvel at a particularly evocative line, but it’s not plot-driven. If you dig post-modernism and letting works of fiction just wash over you, this is for you.

The Witches: Salem, 1692 by Stacy Schiff.


I just started a thread about it, but no contest Moby Dick. I still don’t know if I liked it but it was definitely the best.

Runners up, maybe The Martian and Carry On.

I didn’t read nearly as much this year as I have in past year (damn those seductive games on my iPhone and iPad), but the best this year was pretty darn good - Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. A rare post-apocalyptic novel that has good characters as well as a great story; focusing a lot on what the culture of a world that has lost almost all of its population after a superflu strikes would be like. It was published last year but I read it while on vacation this summer.

If I finish My Brilliant Friend before the end of the night (unlikely) it might pass Station Eleven for the best. About halfway through and it’s living up to the hype.

I loved Station Eleven.

I couldn’t make it fourty pages in the Ferrante. But everyone loves it!

Another vote for The Martian.

Runner Up: Castle Hangnail.

Date Night On Union Station by E. M. Foner … and the other seven books in the series. I would never have expected to like this book, because despite the sexy-ish cover, it’s actually an absolutely hilarious, warm-hearted story about a young woman who is the Junior Ambassador on a distant space station of tremendous size run by advance AIs, who has to juggle interstellar relations with alien species and Earth with getting by on what appears to be a galactic minimum-wage salary and with dating, as everyone is nagging her to find a husband, including her mother who keeps making expensive interstellar collect phone calls to nag her about it.

Really fun, lighthearted and yet adult science fiction is a rare thing, and that’s what this is.