It would probably be easier to decide on the worst reads, but here is my short list of those which stood out when I went through my year's list: there's a crime/thriller, a sci-fi, a fantasy, a non-fiction, and two 'other fiction'.
I have read no other books by this Irish writer (he's the author of The Boy in Striped Pyjamas), but I read a review of this which caught my interest. It is a brilliant telling of the time when some of the terrible facts about the priesthood in Ireland were becoming known. I found it unbearably sad and totally credible. The central character does not harm anyone, but he turns a blind eye to others who do. This quote from The Times Literary Supplement sums it up:
"A compelling study of an aging priest... an excoriating portrait of Irish Catholicism and its precipitous fall from grace."
I read quite a few fantasy books, but this one stood out in 2015. It is so different, so strange and interesting - the most original story I have read for a long time. The setting is London, a parallel, dystopian London. Memory, and writing, are forbidden, and people are rendered dependent and docile. They are controlled by an enormous musical instrument called the Carrillon, which produces a permanent kind of ringing in the ears which every evening wipes out the events of the day. Simon, the protagonist, may have inherited from his dead mother the ability to grasp tendrils of memory ...
The author is a published poet, and a trained violinist. This is her first novel.
A beautiful story. According to Wikipedia (spoilers!) Patchett was inspired by a Japanese embassy crisis in Lima, Peru, in 1996-7. The setting is at a vice-presidential birthday party in an unnamed South American country, where the guests and staff are taken hostage by a group of young terrorists. The resulting standoff drags on for several months,with the inevitable outcome. Meanwhile, realationships and friendships develop amongst the hostages and their captors, and the central action revolves around the star guest, an internationally renowned American soprano. I found this an interesting take on the reliable trope of taking a bunch of characters, isolating them somewhere, and watching what will happen - and I really enjoyed the book.
In July I visited Canterbury Cathedral, and stood at the very spot where
Thomas Becket was brutally murdered:
The book was on display in the Cathedral book shop, and I decided that I would find it and read it when I got back to this side of the world. I am very glad that I did - it was very readable, and always interesting. Definitely my top non-fiction book of the year.
The best thriller/crime novel I read this year was by an Australian author. Robotham sets most of his books in the UK, and is acknowledged as a master of the psychological thriller. In my opinion, he gets better with each book he writes. As well as the elements you would expect, he touches on family, mortality, relationships, grieving and human frailty. At times, the book was impossible to put down. Fantastic reading.
This list wasn't really in any particular order, but Hyperion was the best book I read in 2015. This sci-fi masterpiece was published in 1989, but I hadn't come across it before. My son gave it to me with the instruction that I had to read it, and I'm very glad he did. Complex, entertaining, absolutely brilliant - oh, to have an imagination like Simmons'!
If you're a sci-fi fan, you've probably read it already. If not, you should do so immediately. I am just about to start reading the sequel...