This year I read 78 books. You can see the full list on my Goodreads page. There’s a lot of good stuff in that list—poetry, nonfiction, young adult, middle grade, horror, modern, classic—it was a good year for my book-loving soul. But a few books stood out above the rest. They’ve stuck with me, lingering in my thoughts as I write, live, and read other books. I keep coming back to them again and again, and that’s how I know they’re special.
These are the 10 best books I read in 2015. Consider adding one of them to your reading list.
1. The Shining by Stephen King
I don’t know why it took me so long to read this classic of horror, but it was worth the wait. Stephen King’s ability to merge human horror with the otherworldly is inspiring. The Shining produces a creeping, clinging type of fear that makes you slunk down into the covers while reading and hangs around even after a good night’s sleep. I knew before I even finished it that it was going on my list of favorite books. If you don’t think you need to read the novel because you’ve seen the movie, you’re wrong. The book is very different, but it didn’t make me love the movie any less. They’re both masterpieces.
2. Greenglass House by Kate Milford
Greenglass House is also about being snowed in at a strange hotel in the middle of winter, but it’s nothing like The Shining. This middle grade novel about an boy named Milo and his family’s inn and a group of mysterious strangers captured my heart. To read my full, gushing review of it, click here.
3. Lockwood & Co. by Jonathan Stroud
Ok, I’m cheating here because I’m counting this whole series as one book. If I didn’t, I’d have to include all three books– The Screaming Staircase, The Whispering Skull, and The Hollow Boy— in this list. I’m picky about ghost stories. I want the ghosts in books to behave in a way that’s both spooky and believable, sometimes touching and sometimes funny. In my opinion, Jonathan Stroud nails it. The world he has created– a world in which ghosts have become much more prevalent than they used to be, a world in which the agencies hired to contain them are made up of children because adults aren’t ghost-sensitive enough to deal with them– is so detailed and so perfect. And the main characters are so entertaining that I could read a whole chapter just about them drinking tea and I’d still be happy. Hurry up with the fourth book, Jonathan! I’m ready.
4. Okay For Now by Gary D. Schmidt
I listened to this touching middle grade novel on audiobook and loved it so much I had to go out and buy the paperback. The way Schmidt weaves art and friendship and the horrors of the Vietnam War into this story about a boy and his struggling family during the 70’s is flawless. I recommend it for children and adults alike.
5. Gabi: A Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero
Best impulse buy ever! I bought this book at the Texas Book Festival this year and proceeded to almost fall off a curb a few minutes later due to reading while walking. Gabi: A Girl in Pieces is the story, in diary format, of a high school girl named Gabi Hernandez. Her best friend is pregnant, her other best friend is gay, her dad is a drug addict, and her mom is worried that Gabi is trying to “be white.” But all Gabi is really trying to do is survive high school and find herself, which she does partly through poetry. Despite having little in common with Gabi’s actual life, I felt instantly connected to her voice through her journal, which reminded me of my own. This is a great book for teenagers.
6. The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson
This is another audiobook I had to go out and buy. Seventeen-year-old Lennie Walker’s sister has just died unexpectedly. Lennie is grieving. But she’s also living and falling in love and making giant mistakes and trying to fix them. Intertwining music and poetry and deeply original characters, The Sky is Everywhere is a beautiful novel of loss and love.
7. Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson
This gut-wrenching story of a high school girl battling anorexia was more terrifying to me than many of the horror novels I read. Although Anderson reveals the ugly truths about eating disorders in this book, she also writes about Lia’s struggle in a poetic, almost magical way. This is an important novel, one that should be in every high school library.
8. Through the Woods by Emily Carroll
I don’t read many graphic novels, but I’m glad I picked up Through the Woods. This book of short, weird tales with intensely creepy illustrations was awesome. My favorite part was the last two pages. I don’t want to give anything away, but Carroll’s method of turning a beloved children’s classic into a nightmare is pure genius.
9. Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
Woodson’s memoir in verse deserves all the awards and accolades it has received. She brings her childhood to life in snapshots of poetry, painting a vivid picture of her family’s love and loyalty and her own struggles to fit into both the worlds she lived in– New York and South Carolina– during the Civil Rights movement. Beautiful and inspirational.
10. Night Film by Marisha Pessl
This was the first book I read in 2015, and a year later it’s still on my mind. The first few pages grabbed me like few books have, there were some truly haunting scenes in the middle, and the end was equally satisfying and mysterious. All in all a great book. Note: This is not one to listen to. There are images and diagrams and articles in the novel that need to be viewed. I also recommend downloading the app for added content when you finish.