Jana Says

Living life from cover to cover

Show Us Your Books, Best of 2015 edition

Happy week after Christmas! I hope you guys enjoyed yourselves and for those of you who celebrate, I hope you got everything you wanted (if you want, share with me your best gift in the comments. Mine was a signed copy of Summerlong. But more about that particular author and book in a bit). And now that Christmas is over and we’re all wearing our fat pants, what better time to sit around and discuss books? Specifically, our favorite books of 2015 (I’m not going to wax poetic about the end of this year because honestly, 2015 can go fuck itself and I wish it good riddance). Which is why Steph and I are thrilled to bring you this special bonus edition of Show Us Your Books, Best of 2015 edition!

For this post, I focused only on books I read from July-December since I did a mid-year recap (read that here) and I didn’t want to repeat myself. Also, in making my picks, I didn’t necessarily pick all books I rated 5 stars on Goodreads but books that moved me, made me think, and stood out for me for being amazing in their own ways. They were not books that were published this year but books I read this year.

Not on the list? Fates and Furies. I honestly thought it was meh (but my full review on that will be next month for our regularly scheduled Show Us Your Books). But here are the books I did pick:

year end

Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy Why you should read it: Willowdean is the kind of body positive role model people need even if she is a little bitchy and it’s a kickass, well written story. The author reminds me a little bit of Rainbow Rowell in her ability to write realistic characters and storylines and this was probably my favorite YA book I read this year. I loved reading a story about an overweight girl who’s not an outcast or awkward and has healthy self-esteem and boys liking her for her rather than as a joke and is able to stand up for and take care of herself. You know, a REAL person. Not a caricature.

Summerlong and Please Don’t Come Back from the Moon by Dean Bakopoulos. Why you should read them: I don’t know how to properly articulate what it is about his books that just strike me but you know when you read a book and you think “OMG, this book! It just gets me” and “I could be living this” and “I want to climb inside this story and never come out”? That’s how it was for me with these two. The last time I felt as strongly about a book was about 5 or 6 years ago when I read The Art of Racing in the Rain. And you didn’t think a best of list from me was NOT going to include his books, did you (one absence–My American Unhappiness. I liked it. Did not love it. Mostly because the main character was an insufferable asshole and I hated him and it made the story hard to read at times)? Oh! Moon was just made into a movie thanks to James Franco. A movie version of one of my all-time favorite books made by someone who was in one of my all-time favorite TV shows? My brain can’t take it.

Shotgun Lovesongs and Beneath the Bonfire by Nickolas Butler. Why you should read them: Butler has a command and a way of telling stories that is beautiful and heartbreaking and fascinating and you don’t want to put them down. I cannot comprehend why more people aren’t reading his books and talking about them. I don’t know why his books aren’t on more best of lists. I don’t know why he’s not on social media so I can stalk (follow. I mean follow. Because actual staking is a crime and you should not do that) like I do the aforementioned Dean Bakopoulos (sorry, Dean’s wife). But he’s on a short list of authors I will talk about all the time and whose books I will read and anxiously await. 

Did You Ever Have a Family by Bill Clegg Why you should read it: Although slow at times, it’s creatively told in an unconventional way from the perspective of typically supporting characters. At its core, this a book about how people handle loss differently and that there’s not one wrong or right way to process grief and that when a tragic event happens, it affects more people than you would think. We all own a piece of that horrific event. It’s how we handle it that both separates and connects us.

Girl Waits with Gun by Amy Stewart Why you should read it: Constance Kopp is one of the most badass women who actually existed and the book is about her and her sisters, who are also badass in their own way. I love that Amy Stewart wrote this hybrid fictional/non-fiction (is there a literary term for docudrama? If there is, I’d like to know it) because Constance’s story is one that should be told as she’s one of the first female deputy sheriffs in the US. THE WHOLE UNITED STATES. That’s kickass and inspirational, considering she did it in a time when women definitely did not engage in those types of activities. If you read Frog Music by Emma Donoghue and enjoyed it (I did not), this is exponentially better than that, even if the premise is sort of the same. 

Honorable mention because this post is getting too long and I’m not done yet: Some Girls Are (not an easy read but an incredible one. This book will hurt you), Ready Player One (a science fiction/mystery/crime-ish book featuring Rush and filled with 80s nostalgia? Yes, please), Galveston (gritty, bloody, dark with all the feels), Modern Romance (well researched, hilarious, insightful and my sociology nerd heart glowed with every page), and Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town (just freaking read it).

Overall, it’s been a great reading year. I’ve read a substantial amount of wonderful books, a few clunkers, and a fair amount of books that were simply pleasant. I far surpassed my Goodreads goal, didn’t quite get around to a bunch of books I’d planned, but read some that I didn’t. I discovered some new authors, read some old favorites, and went outside my typical niches. I learned a ton about publishing, missed both bookish conferences I wanted to attend but I know that they exist now and will do my damnedest to get to them next year. And finally, thanks to all of you guys who read and comment and share and join us every month, I found a community of book nerds just like me. I love y’all so much.

So, with that said, now it’s your turn. What are some of your favorites from 2015 that I should add to my 2016 TBR? 

 Loading InLinkz ...

resized signature 2

37 Comments

  1. TexErin

    My dad & stepmom plus my brother & SIL were superstars and got me Amazon.com vouchers, so Dean’s books will be on their way to Australia soon!
    TexErin recently posted…Best Read Books 2015My Profile

    Reply
    1. Jana (Post author)

      Please make sure you share it on all the social media (you know, since we chatted with him about it earlier this year). I am so, so excited for you to read his books!!!

      Reply
  2. carrie

    i read shotgun love songs earlier this year and just finished beneath the bonfire. I have to agree with everything you said. he has a magical way with words. I can’t wait for more of his work.
    carrie recently posted…Best Books of 2015My Profile

    Reply
    1. Jana (Post author)

      He’s such a phenomenal writer. I feel the same way-I can’t wait for more!

      Reply
  3. Kelli

    I ended up ordering Shotgun Lovesongs off of half.com, I’m eagerly awaiting it’s arrival!
    Kelli recently posted…Struggling With GratitudeMy Profile

    Reply
    1. Jana (Post author)

      I hope you love it!

      Reply
  4. Kristin

    Sadly I’ve read none of these books. Dumplin in on my list though!

    It’s interesting that you stick to the same authors once you love one of their books…I do that too.

    Reply
    1. Jana (Post author)

      I definitely do that. If I like a book by an author, I’ll read their entire catalog (that I can get my hands on). I did it with Jojo Moyes and Liane Moriarty and Taylor Jenkins Reid and Caroline Kepnes this year, too πŸ™‚ John Sandford and Julie Murphy and a couple of others are on my list for next year.

      Reply
  5. Ashley @ The Wandering Weekenders

    After I read your review of Dumplin’ I immediately added it to my TBR list. It sounds like a fantastic read for me during 2016! Girl Waits With Gun also sounds like a great read, and there’s nothing better than a kick ass lead female character!
    Ashley @ The Wandering Weekenders recently posted…Show Us Your Books- Best of 2015!My Profile

    Reply
    1. Jana (Post author)

      Willowdean and Constance are two very different yet very kickass female characters (even if Constance is a real person she’s kind of character-y in the book). I hope you love both of the books as much as I did!

      Reply
  6. Linda sheridan

    Thanks for the reviews!
    Love, Steph’s Momma

    Reply
  7. Beth @ Being Beth

    I have so many books to read for 2016, I’m downright giddy! Summerlong isn’t one of the books in my possession but I definitely want to read it.
    Beth @ Being Beth recently posted…Best Of Books 2015My Profile

    Reply
    1. Jana (Post author)

      I feel the same way! I have a huge TBR and I’m trying to decide which ones to request from the library first!

      Reply
  8. SMD @ Life According to Steph

    WHY DOESN’T EVERYONE WANT TO STALK BUTLER? Never mind, more for us.

    I’m definitely reading more Dean B books in 2016, I already know that. So freaking amazed at the awesome gift you got with the inscription! And I need to tackle Missoula.

    Felt meh about Fates & Furies too, which annoyed me since another Groff book is on my best of list for the year.
    SMD @ Life According to Steph recently posted…Show Us Your Books: Best of 2015 EditionMy Profile

    Reply
    1. Jana (Post author)

      I can’t wait to record our podcast episode about Fates and Furies. We’ll probably get hate mail.

      I do kind of like that more people aren’t obsessed with Butler because he’s like this hidden gem we get to keep all to ourselves.

      Reply
  9. Nancy @ NY Foodie Family

    I really liked Dumplin’ as well as Some Girls Are and Ready Player One. I am currently reading Fates and Furies and it’s sooo slow for me. Sadly, as you know, I didn’t like Please Don’t Come Back from the Moon as much as you did.
    Nancy @ NY Foodie Family recently posted…Best Books of 2015My Profile

    Reply
    1. Jana (Post author)

      I finished Fates and Furies last week and I just don’t get what all the fuss is about. I found it to be very meh. The second half is way better, though, so don’t give up on it yet!

      Reply
  10. Amanda Brooks

    Girl Waits with Gun is on my reading list πŸ™‚ Love all of your great recommendations! I have added a few new ones to my must-read list!

    Amanda
    http://anchoredtosunshine.com

    Reply
    1. Jana (Post author)

      I got an ARC from NetGalley earlier this year and I’m so glad it’s available to everyone now. It’s a great story!

      Reply
  11. Heather @ I do what I want.

    I just LOVE this linkup that y’all do and hope it continues in 2016. Shotgun Lovesongs will be my first book of 2016…really looking forward to it!
    Heather @ I do what I want. recently posted…2015 ReadsMy Profile

    Reply
    1. Jana (Post author)

      The linkup isn’t going anywhere. We promise!

      Shotgun Lovesongs is a great choice to kick off 2016!

      Reply
  12. Rebecca Jo

    I’ve picked up Dumplin’ so many times & put it back – I may get that for a New Year treat to myself πŸ™‚
    Rebecca Jo recently posted…Show us your books: 2015 EditionMy Profile

    Reply
    1. Jana (Post author)

      Definitely read it! Such a wonderful book.

      Reply
  13. kristen

    i’ve only read dumplin but the rest are on my list! and a signed copy of summerlong, how exciting! my best gift, hmmm.. i got a stamp that i can stamp all my books with, it says ‘from the library of kristen etc’ i thought it was really nifty and i have stamped all my books already.
    kristen recently posted…The best (and worst) books of 2015My Profile

    Reply
    1. Jana (Post author)

      I love that gift and I want one for myself now!

      Reply
  14. lisacng @ expandng.com

    I have Summerlong borrowed from the library, finally!
    lisacng @ expandng.com recently posted…Holiday cards from Minted (giveaway closed)My Profile

    Reply
  15. Kimmi

    I have Dumplin on my To Read list! I loved the linkup this year and I read some really great books that I would never have thought to read if not for this linkup!
    Kimmi recently posted…Best Books of 2015My Profile

    Reply
  16. alyssa

    I started Fates and Furies on audiobook but I was less than a half hour in and decided I just couldn’t. I’m going to have to actually read it if I want to enjoy it at all. Looking forward to your review on it!

    Seriously cannot wait to read Summerlong; I’ve been saving it for Erin’s book challenge. My library doesn’t have it, so I might just buy it. From your raves, I don’t think that will be money poorly spent.

    ABSOLUTELY YES to Shotgun Lovesongs. If I were finished with Beneath the Bonfire I’d have it on my list too. Looking forward to reading the Clegg book also, as well as Some Girls Are and Missoula… but also slightly nervous about the latter two. Might have to sandwich them between some light and easy fare! Reading and immensely enjoying Modern Romance at this moment too. So awesome to have this network of readers to get recommendations fromβ€”it’s working out beautifully for all of us I think πŸ˜‰
    alyssa recently posted…What it’s Like to Be a Runner in WinterMy Profile

    Reply
  17. Amber

    I’ll add some of these to my list.

    I read a lot of books in 2015. Some that stand out are The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah, Come Away With Me by Karma Brown, and Before I Go by Colleen Oakley.
    Amber recently posted…Hey, It’s Okay Tuesday!My Profile

    Reply
  18. Carly

    I’ve loved having this linkup to look forward to– to share my own reads, but more so to find other book lovers / book recommendations. I am just starting Fates & Furies and don’t know too much about it, but have heard mixed reviews. I just added Please Don’t Come Back From the Moon to my list!
    Carly recently posted…CBH BEST OF (2015) BOOKSMy Profile

    Reply
  19. Ericka @ A Quiet Girl's Musings...

    Shotgun Lovesongs… I agree with you. I don’t understand why more folks aren’t talking about it and reading it. Great book! Also, after reading your little description of Ready Player One, for I am a HUGE 80s fan, I will add it to my TBR list.
    Ericka @ A Quiet Girl’s Musings… recently posted…Show Us Your Books – Best of 2015My Profile

    Reply
  20. Kristi @ Femme Frugality

    My goal for 2016 is to find the time to read some of the great-looking books you post reviews of. Thanks for a great year, and I look forward to the next!
    Kristi @ Femme Frugality recently posted…The Most Wonderful Time of the Year to Buy Wedding JewelryMy Profile

    Reply
  21. Rose @ Ramblin' Rose

    I love seeing all the great reviews for Dumplin’. I definitely want to read it. I have Shotgun Lovesongs coming in the mail. And Some Girls was on both you and Steph’s list so I’m intrigued.
    Rose @ Ramblin’ Rose recently posted…Top Books of 2015My Profile

    Reply
  22. Nadine

    I need to get on Shotgun Lovesongs and Dumplin! Happy New Year!

    Reply
  23. Kristen

    First, I think it’s awesome that you got that signed copy of Summerlong for Christmas! That’s such a wonderful, thoughtful gift!

    Many of these books are on my “To Read” list, and I know I’ll at least be getting to Did You Ever Have a Family pretty soon because it’s one of my picks for Erin’s book challenge. (I actually chose it because you both gave it such glowing reviews.)

    As for Christmas, the best part about it this year was getting to spend it with my family in my hometown for the first time since 2008. (The worst part was the awful time we had trying to come home. Haha.) My favorite gift was either a lovely hardcover edition of Madame Bovary (my mom bought it after reading my classic literature blog post!) or my new boots (also from my mom).
    Kristen recently posted…My Favorite Books of 2015 (a.k.a. The Year I Finally Hit My 50 Book Goal!)My Profile

    Reply
  24. Tanya @ A Mindful Migration

    Dumplin is definitely going on my list. It sounds great and right up my alley. I am intrigued by your great passion for Nickolas Butler as I am not familiar with his books, but I plan to check him out now. My reading list for 2016 keeps growing and I LOVE it!
    Tanya @ A Mindful Migration recently posted…Celebrating The New Year with a ColdMy Profile

    Reply
  25. Kerry

    DUmplin is on my TBR list and hoping I can get to it this year. Shotgun Lovesongs is one of my books for Erin’s book challenge so it is up soon!
    Kerry recently posted…Surprise I’m AliveMy Profile

    Reply

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge