My favorite books of 2015

We’re a quarter of the way into the new year, so it’s about par for the course to get my list of books read from the previous year up. Last year I didn’t read as much as I have lately. There’s one good reason for that, but it’s not the only one. Besides chewing off some long books, also abandoned more books last year. I think I am getting pickier.

Here’s a few books that stood out last year:

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Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption, Laura Hillenbrand

Louis Zamperini story is almost unbelievable. After his Olympic dreams are ruined by the onset of World War II, he became a bomber crewman in the Pacific theater. He survived ditching the Pacific, then 47 days adrift without food or water. Rescued by the Japanese, he then survived the rest of the war in burtal conditions in Japanese POW camps. The book continues after the war, revealing Zamperini’s struggle to come to terms with his experience.

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The Adjacent, Christopher Priest

This interwoven story of love and war across “adjacent” timelines reminds me of Cloud Atlas by a better writer. This is the only book that has ever gotten me to make a spreadsheet to better appreciate it.

The Adjacent brings in many of Christopher Priest’s interests including alternative history and magic as well as his Dream Archipelago setting, which I have not read. I enjoyed the book regardless, but it would probably be more rewarding if you’re familiar with his work (I had only read two of his books previously.)

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The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage: The (Mostly) True Story of the First Computer, Sydney Padua

Charles Babbage’s Analytical Engine is one of the great what-ifs of history, and Ada Lovelace is known as the “first computer programmer”. The reality is more complicated, and this wonderfully drawn graphic novel with loads of footnotes and selections from primary source documents lays out the evidence in a fun, entertaining way. You can get a taste of the book on the author’s website.

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Honorable mention: The Water Knife, Paolo Bacigalupi

Bacigalupi latest entry in the eco-dystopia genre feels brutally real as the states in the American Southwest squabble over the dwindling supply of the Colorado River and regular people are caught in the crossfire. I can’t wholeheartedly recommend it because I thought the violence was completely gratuitous. The best part about this book is it led me to read Cadillac Desert.

And here’s the complete list of books I read in 2015:

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: the Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, Marie Kondo

Ancillary Sword, Ann Leckie

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption, Laura Hillenbrand

A Place of Greater Safety, Hilary Mantel

The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers: Economic Change and Military Conflict from 1500 to 2000, Paul Kennedy

Our Man in Havanna, Graham Greene

Bringing Up Bébé: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting, Pamela Bruckerman

The Door Into Summer, Robert A. Heinlein

Corporate Confidential: 50 Secrets Your Company Doesn’t Want You to Know – And What to Do About Them, Cynthia Shapiro

Revolt in 2100, Robert A. Heinlein

The Reluctant Father, Phillip Toledano

The Right Stuff, Tom Wolfe

Season of the Witch: Enchantment, Terror, and Deliverance in the City of Love, David Talbot

Democracy and Populism: Fear and Hatred, John Lukacs

The Martian, Andy Weir

The Alliance: Managing Talent in the Networked Age, Reid Hoffman, Ben Casnocha, and Chris Yeh

The Adjacent, Christopher Priest

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, Sherman Alexie

The Water Knife, Paolo Bacigalupi

The Complete Persepolis, Marjane Strapi

Tuf Voyaging, George R. R. Martin

The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage: The (Mostly) True Story of the First Computer, Sydney Padua

Ancillary Mercy, Ann Leckie

The Song Machine: Inside the Hit Factory, John Seabrook

You can also check out lists from previous years: 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014.