Best Reads of 2015

books, reading

5-star books of 2015 (photo: Vicki Weisfeld)

The books in my “best of” list are not necessarily published in 2015, just read last year. Of the 71 print and audio books reviewed here in 2015, I gave five stars to 10.

What are the criteria for awarding stars? In general, because I try to avoid books likely to be poor, most receive three or more. In my “system,” a three-star book is a good book, a four-star book is an excellent book, and those that earn that last star have something special in terms of language or character or can’t-put-it-downness.

  • City of Thieves – by David Benioff – During the siege of Leningrad, two young men are on a quest to find a dozen eggs (and save their lives). Full of adventure and humor.
  • The International: A Novel of Belfast – by Glenn Patterson – Set just before the start of the Troubles, the patrons and doings in this hotel bar reveal what Northern Ireland was then and lost forever.
  • Grand River and Joy – by Susan Messer – In the months before the 1967 Detroit riots, a Jewish shopowner must decide whether to stay in the city or flee to the suburbs like so many friends and family already have. A Michigan native, I know many places mentioned.
  • The Orphan Master’s Son – by Adam Johnson – Set in North Korea and filled with both pain and wry humor, this Pulitzer-winner shows how people must accommodate under a regime of total oppression. I didn’t expect to like it and did!
  • Against a Darkening Sky – by Lauren B. Davis – I was thrilled to see her bring 7th century England alive, when the advent of Christianity was rooting out the old polytheistic ways and being a traditional healer became dangerous.
  • Elsewhere – by Richard Russo – Not a particular fan of memoir, I found this first-person exploration of a son’s relationship with his feckless mother as absorbing as any novel.
  • Seveneves – by Neal Stephenson – What if the moon blew up? Would humans survive? Written with the author’s usual engaging characters, nail-biting situations, and deep humor. He understands people as well as science (860 pages).
  • Ghost Fleet – by P.W. Singer & August Cole – This near-future thriller shows how dependence on wireless communications networks, GPS, and other technologies make the U.S. military vulnerable. Such an important book and a good read!
  • The Children Act – by Ian McEwan – Moral dilemmas when law and religion collide in disputes over children’s fate. First-rate writing.
  • Clockers – by Richard Price – set in the fictional New Jersey town of Dempsey, the seesawing interactions of police and street drug dealers in this 1992 novel were one inspiration for The Wire.

Happy Reading!