2015 Books of the Year

2015: The Year in Books (And a Few Numbers)


2015 was not one of the more distinguished years of my reading life, so it seems rather fitting that it’s the year I stepped away from assigning ratings to the books I wrote about. Partly because of that, and partly because the books that stood out and stuck with me did so for random reasons, I’m taking a different approach to my year-end book roundup. And since I wasn’t entirely sure I would do a year-end roundup at all, clearly a different approach was warranted. (Yes, I know we’re 10 days past year-end at this point, but I’m still reading people’s year-end posts, so I don’t think it’s too late to write one, and I hope you agree!)

All book titles listed in this post are linked to my reviews.

I read and reviewed 46 books in 2015.

I started reading at least 50, though. My first reading goal of 2016 is to go back to several books that I set aside during the latter part of last year because I wasn’t going to make review deadlines–now I want to make time to finish them, just for myself.

Create free infographics with Venngage

Books I picked for Shelf Awareness’ roundup of reviewers’ “Great Reads of 2015”


The Turner House by Angela Flournoy (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, April 2015)
Angela Flournoy’s debut novel could have been a sprawling multi-generational saga or a reflection on urban decay, but it’s wisely structured on a more intimate scale, centering on the members of the Turner family and the pull of their old home in a declining Detroit neighborhood.


What Stands in a Storm: Three Days in the Worst Superstorm to Hit the South’s Tornado Alley by Kim Cross (Atria Books, March 2015)

Weather events have a natural dramatic arc that, when associated with people and places, leads to compelling narrative. In What Stands in a Storm, Kim Cross chronicles the impact of some of the 62 tornadoes that struck Alabama and Mississippi on April 27, 2011, a day of nearly 300 outbreaks.

Born with Teeth: A Memoir by Kate Mulgrew (Little, Brown and Company, April 2015)

After seeing young Kate Mulgrew recite poetry in a school program, her mother suggested that she choose whether she wanted to be “a mediocre poet or a great actress.” Mulgrew’s engaging memoir, Born With Teeth, highlights her acting career and offers a fine introduction to the writer she might have been instead


Books I read in audio, and then bought to keep on my shelves

Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End, by Atul Gawande (Metropolitan Books, 2014)

Being Mortal  explores various ways in which modern, developed societies deal with their aging populations. The combined effects of two significant shifts—from extended families living close together to smaller, more geographically-dispersed households, and the simple fact of longer lifespans—have created difficulties we’re struggling to address.

Station Eleven: A Novel, by Emily St. John Mandel (Vintage, 2015)

The major plot points are what lands Station Eleven in the science-fiction section, sub-category “post-apocalypse,” but science fiction has a long tradition of affording a framework for exploring larger themes of culture, morality, and the ultimate meaning of human life. Mandel’s novel stands firmly within that tradition.

Neverwhere: The Author’s Preferred Text, by Neil Gaiman (William Morrow, 2015 reprint)

This is a story to be experienced. Neverwhere is dark and light, terrifying and endearing, smart and silly. It blends the modern and the medieval into something timeless.


Other books that made an impression

The Emperor of All Maladies:  A Biography of Cancer, by Siddhartha Mukherjee

One Thing Stolen, by Beth Kephart

Good Mourning: A Memoir, by Elizabeth Meyer

It’s What I Do: A Photographer’s Life of Love and War, by Lynsey Addario

Charmed Particles: A Novel, by Chrissy Kolaya

Go Set a Watchman, by Harper Lee (I didn’t say it had to be a good impression, did I?)


I’ll wrap this with one more bookish thing that made a very good impression: my first book blurb, for one of my 2014 Books of the Year, was included in its June 2015 paperback edition.

blurb paperback brutal youth breznican

Here’s to good reading in 2016!

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  1. There it is again! Being Mortal…alright, already I’m going to read it!!! 😉 But really, thanks for confirming that I really, really, really, really do need to read it. And I see you went with a different infographic theme – very impressive! As for the content, nice split between fiction and nonfiction. I’m working on my nonfiction numbers this year.

    1. I’m not willing to spend money on infographics, but I thought I’d try a new free source this year. I think I like it!

      The proportions between fiction and nonfiction weren’t predetermined, and I was kind of surprised that the fiction numbers were that high–I find I’m more actively interested in nonfiction these days.

      1. Lots of good free sources out there from what I’ve seen. Now I’ll have to try this one next year. 😉 Or maybe the one that Chrisbookarama used. So many possibilities.

  2. 2015 wasn’t my best year in books either. I love everyone’s charts and need to try my hand at them sometime. I plan to pick up Being Mortal next – let’s hope I don’t get sidetracked.

    1. Good to know its time has come! I bought the audiobook so technically it’s been a “keeper” all the way along, but somehow I have to see the books on my shelves for them to really count :-).

  3. A resounding YES to Being Mortal. An important book for all of us, but especially those who are caregivers.

  4. As always, I’m in awe of your persistence. I think about doing a roundup of books I’ve read, but never get past the point where I realize that I can’t really remember any of the titles.

  5. I loved Being Mortal. I gave the audiobook to my parents and asked them to pass it on to my siblings once they were done with it. Happy New Year.

  6. I always love to see everyone’s stats — and you have pretty charts too! Cool on getting the blurb!

    1. I could have included some more stats–mostly author demographics, since I actually tried to pay attention to them in 2015–but I wasn’t really feeling it. Better luck next (this) year!

      I found out about the blurb a couple of months before it came out, and was SO excited to find it at a bookstore :-D.

  7. I only read 43 books in 2015, and reviewed far fewer. I blame that on the fact that I had a print subscription to the New Yorker. But it’s not a competition, is it? I am grateful for your posts because so far everything that I have read that you have written about has been a good one.

    1. Oh, good–glad to know that! (Also, good to know we may have pretty similar reading tastes :-D).

      No, it’s not a competition, and by general standards, reading more than 40 books in a year is pretty impressive! (Less impressive among book-blogger types, though–perceptions get skewed by the company we keep.)