Top 10 Fiction books of 2015

As another year has passed (and what a year it has been!), bibliophiles all over the world start reflecting on the releases of this year, and coming up with top lists of their own. It is by no doubt an unenviable job – who are we to judge masterpieces by literary virtuosos across genres? Romance, thriller, mystery, Sci-fi, horror, magical realism, short fiction, very (very) long novels…these genre-bending masterpieces have taken us on a constant adventure through ever-changing literary scenery.In this list I wrote about the Top 10 Fiction books of 2015.

Every reader and critic has their own favourites, and here are mine:

Top 10 Fiction books of 2015:

10. Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee

The follow-up to the literary epic to the Pulitzer prize winning To Kill a Mockingbird, which was released over 40 years ago, this book was initially promoted as a sequel, but ended up being widely accepted as an early draft of TKAM.

The book was actually written before TKAM, and sees Scout returning to visit Maycomb from New York. It touches the same themes as TKAM, monumental changes in the American society, civil rights tensions and an end to segregation.

According to the publisher, Go Set a Watchman, “…tackles the racial tensions brewing in the South in the 1950s and delves into the complex relationship between father and daughter.”

Lovers of TKAM have got a rare opportunity to revisit their favourite characters, and fall in love with the book all over again.

9. The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

Along the lines of the immensely popular psychological thriller Gone Girl, comes a debut offering by Paula Hawkins that will break all records.

True to the title, it starts off with the first person narration of Rachel, a 30-something alcoholic. It’s her favourite hobby to glance at the people around her or out of the window, back and forth on her way from office. She gives those strangers names, makes up stories about them, and thinks up imaginary intricate details of their lives.

Specifically the lives of “Jess and Jason”, who live at the house outside her train window when the train stops at the same red signal every morning. They seem like any other couple in love, until she sees something one person, that completely shatters the “Jess and Jason” image which exists in her head.

Now she is pulled into their lives. Unsure exactly of what she knows, and taking up any excuse to avoid her own life, she vows to follow the truth.

8. GREY: Fifty Shades of Grey as Told by Christian by EL James –

From the back cover…

See the world of Fifty Shades of Grey anew through the eyes of Christian Grey.

In Christian’s own words, and through his thoughts, reflections, and dreams, E L James offers a fresh perspective on the love story that has enthralled millions of readers around the world.

Love it or hate it, there’s no denying that “Grey,” released worldwide Thursday, is a completist’s dream. It retells the story of “Fifty Shades of Grey” and the earliest section of “Fifty Shades Darker” from Christian’s perspective, the male protagonist. At 557 pages, it a tomb dedicated to Ana and Christian’s love story, fraught with intrigue and…let’s not step around it…sex. Fans of the genre, and the series, would love it, and even those who don’t mind stories being retold from different perspectives.

7. The Sellout by Paul Beatty

Beatty’s African American protagonist – whose first name is never revealed, and whose last name is Me – is at the supreme court. Born in the “agrarian ghetto” of Dickens—on the southern outskirts of Los Angeles—the narrator resigns himself to the fate of lower-middle-class Californians: “I’d die in the same bedroom I’d grown up in, looking up at the cracks in the stucco ceiling that’ve been there since ’68 quake.”

This is some seriously biting satire. And outrageously hilarious. Such taboo topics depicted so beautifully…this is going to make you burst into laugh-out-loud laughter in public places.

6. Imperium: A Fiction of the South Seas by Christian Kracht, translated by Daniel Bowles

Imperium is a work of brilliant imagination and penetrating insights, spun stylishly into a rambunctious South Seas yarn.  It is a book of ideas and their consequences. It uses the outlandish details of its protagonist Engelhardt’s life to craft a fable about the allure of extremism and its fundamental foolishness. Engelhardt is at once a pitiable, misunderstood outsider and a rigid ideologue, and his misguided notions of purity and his spiral into madness presage the horrors of the mid-twentieth century.

In other words, fine literature and a great read, to boot. Originally a Swiss novelist, Christian Kracht’s previous novels include Faserland, 1979, and I Will Be Here in Sunshine and in Shadow. Imperium was the recipient of the 2012 Wilhelm Raabe literature prize.

Readers across the world give thanks that Christian Kracht’s work has been brought to the English language via this superb translation.

5. Humans of New York: Stories by Brandon Stanton

Brandon Stanton needs no introduction. A simple Facebook that started with a few pictures and a couple of hundred fans now has a following of 12 million, and has inspired adaptations in different cities and countries all over the world.

In this beautiful, poignant collection, Brandon Stanton hits all the right spots. It’s funny and tugs at your heartstrings; it’s grounded but also inspirational and thought-provoking; it’s melancholic and nostalgic yet also hopeful. How a couple of lines have the power to stop you in your tracks and keep you staring blankly for hours afterwards, as you reflect on those powerful words again and again. The anecdotes are so real, engaging, and human. One cannot help but wonder: what about myself do I have to say if I were to be stopped by Brandon Stanton, and, what would I ask a random stranger if I were him?

Perfect book for anyone.

4. A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

When four graduates from a small Massachusetts college move to New York to make their way, they’re broke, adrift, and buoyed only by their friendship and ambition.

Over the decades, their relationships deepen and darken, tinged by addiction, success, and pride. It’s a brutally, painfully honest book, and at times dark and disturbing. The novel is definitely one of the most emotionally exhausting books you’d come across, but it is its inherent beauty that makes this an unforgettable memory.

Warning: A Little Life deals with some of the most difficult sides of humanity. Yanagihara confronts every type of abuse in this novel: psychological, physical, sexual, drug-related and self-inflicted. It is an extremely difficult read.

3. X (A Kinsey Millhone Novel) by Sue Grafton

Sue Grafton has over the years created in Kinsey Milhone one of the greatest fictional detectives of all time. Grafton is a writer who gets better and more nuanced with each offering, from alphabets A to X.

The latest is perhaps her darkest and most chilling novel, it features a remorseless serial killer who leaves no trace of his crimes. Once again breaking the rules and establishing new paths, Grafton wastes little time identifying this sociopath. The test is whether Kinsey can prove her case against him before she becomes his next victim.

2. My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry by Fredrik Backman (Goodreads Author), Henning Koch (Goodreads Author)(Translator)

At the heart of the story is a seven year old girl without friends, an outsider in her school who is loved deeply by her cantankerous, seventy-seven year old grandmother. Elsa’s parents are divorced, and she’s having a tough time of it in school – she is constantly bullied. Moreover, her mother and new partner are expecting a baby soon.

And then her grandmother dies. She is devastated, until an adventure begins. Elsa is left with a series of letters from her granny that form a treasure hunt. Through the use of fairy tales, “My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry” slowly reveals the true identities of the people involved in her grandmother’s life. It has a beautiful moral: people are so much more than what they appear to be.

1. Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances by Neil Gaiman

Trigger Warning explores the masks we all wear and the people we are beneath them to reveal our vulnerabilities and our truest selves. Here is a rich cornucopia of horror and ghosts stories, science fiction and fairy tales, fabulism and poetry that explore the realm of experience and emotion.

Neil Gaiman is probably one of the best twist-writers at work today. This vivid and readable collection is full of them. Honestly, I’d read a grocery list by that guy. This one’s a beautiful anthology not to be missed by his fans!

 

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