Tuesday, January 26, 2016


I'm running way behind. This post was intended to be about my favorite reads from 2015, but being that it's almost February, that seems a little . . . late. But since there's no bad time to talk about good fiction, I'm doing it anyway. So there.

Every year I find books worth talking about. But 2015 was a bit of an outlier in that I read a lot of really, really, really good books. Books, some might say, worth reading twice. For me, wanting to read something more than once is a rarity and is pretty much the best compliment I can offer. 

Quot Libros, Quam Breve Tempus. So many books, so little time.

There are tons of good books to be read. More are coming out all the time. I'm eventually going to slink off of this mortal coil without having read most of them. It's sad, I know. Go ahead and cry some tears for me. . .

This is precisely why I want to celebrate those few that are worth reading again. Eventually, I will decide to pass up reading something new - something that may very well be just as good or better - for one of these tried-and-true gems.

Notice: Not all of these were published in 2015, that's just when I happened to pick them up. Also, there is no ranking to the order here. All were excellent.

A HEAD FULL OF GHOSTS is a horror lover's dream. Er . . . nightmare. Whatever. It was amazing. It tackles a bevy of horror tropes, weaving them through a compelling story full of quirky, yet real, characters. One thing that I enjoyed was the littering of horror- and weird-fiction themed easter eggs that reference everyone from Bloch to Danielewski to Laird Barron. But if you're not a horror fan, don't let that turn you off. On the surface this is a clever story about family and living in a modern "connected" world. I fully expect this one to win a writing award or two.

EVERYTHING I NEVER TOLD YOU is an emotionally grounded thriller that shows how people being ripped apart by the death of a family member cope, or don't cope, and how we sometimes don't know someone as well as we thought. This book has two exceptional qualities that will stick with me. 1) The core of this story is very emotional and connected with me in a way that most books never even approach. 2) The taboo of head-hopping is pulled off with such mastery that I forgot it was something writers are supposed to avoid.

One word comes to mind when I think of THE THREE-BODY PROBLEM: Epic. The themes, the scope of the story, the places it has and will take me as I read the rest of the series - all of epic proportions. It's a science fiction story that isn't bogged down in science. It's a mystery that isn't predictable. And it's a piece of literary fiction that isn't pretentious or slow. As far as I can tell, Ken Liu did an excellent job with the translation. I expect the sequels to be on my list for 2016.

All hail the storytelling prowess of Joe Hill! NOS4A2 was so vivid, so complete, so believable that when I finished reading it, I felt I had left a duplicate of myself in the world of Hill's Christmasland. Somewhere riding around with that supernatural serial killer, Charlie Manx, is a copy of me. And he's a little bit frightened. In many ways, Joe reminds me a lot of his dad, only more to the point and little more theme heavy. As far as pure storytelling goes, Joe Hill is the new metric.

THE BURIED GIANT is a masterpiece of voice and authorial control. Ishiguro takes us through a strange fantasy land that sometimes feels like a fairy tale, sometimes like a real place in England's history. The world has forgotten how to remember, and as Ishiguro explores in this book, that may actually be a good thing. This is the kind of work that gives you the feeling that every written word has dual meaning. Something greater is being said with every page. It makes you think, and ponder, and reflect, and contemplate, and a bunch of other words that mean the same thing. I didn't know what the title was about until the very end and then it clicked and I was like, "Ahhhh, yes, I see what you did there." I love it when books do that.

Holy world building, Batman! READY PLAYER ONE is described as "the grownups Harry Potter" (um, don't they know that tons of adults read Potter?). It transports you to a near-future where an 80's themed video game dominates the world. People live inside this thing, like an internet you can physically step into. Cline makes it such a textured world that you feel a part of it. I'd be shocked if this wasn't made into a movie. Fans of Orson Scott Card or J.K. Rowling should enjoy this adventurous book.

I read nine or ten books on neuroscience during 2015 and THE BRAIN THAT CHANGES ITSELF was probably the best written. It mingles engaging anecdotes with the emerging treatments and technologies of neuroscience. Which, if I'm being honest, are some of the closest things to manmade miracles that I've ever seen. And his follow up, THE BRAINS WAY OF HEALING, was just as good. Doidge pulled off an interesting and informative read that launched my obsession with this topic. For a more speculative non-fiction about where this science and technology will go in the future, I suggest Michio Kaku's THE FUTURE OF THE MIND.

I won't say much about Thomas Tryon's THE OTHER because it's a book that needs to be discovered. Genuinely scary and unpredictable, this is a must read for horror fans. As far as I'm concerned, it's one of the best. I recently saw GOODNIGHT MOMMY and thought it was similar, but not as well done.