Friday, April 1, 2016

The Best Books I Read in 2015

The Best Books I Read in 2015

OK, I know I am super late with this post.  I read 78 books last year and want to share with you my absolute favorites.  The saying says, "Better late than never" so I'm using that in my defense.
I read some really awesome books last year and many of them have passed under the radar and need some book love and attention.  I have 13 books to highlight and five were written by Minnesota authors.  The list contains five books of fiction, three non-fiction, three young adult and two kick-ass graphic novels.


The Rebellion of Miss Lucy Ann Lobdell by William Klaber

Klaber has written an amazing book of historical fiction.  The characters, based on REAL people, are vibrant and leap off the page. Lucy chooses to live her life as a man named Joseph in the mid 1800's. There is a fiery passion in Lucy to live an authentic life in a man's world and Klaber portrays her struggles and the worlds reaction to Lucy with precision and respect. Quite simply, Klaber has written a page turner.  This novel is truly unforgettable.  There is also a Minnesota connection as Joseph lived in Minnesota territory.  Love this book.

Miss Hazel and the Rosa Parks League by Jonathan O'Dell

Another great work of historical fiction that takes place in Mississippi before the Civil Rights Movement.  This is the story of two women, one who is white and wealthy, the other one, black and poor.  This book has been compared to The Help (which I have not read).  I have to say that this book will teach you a lot about the Civil Rights Movement and the roles and involvement of the amazing women who propelled this movement forward.  This book is definitely amazing and it is a five star read.  The author was raised in Mississippi and this book is about his experience growing up and ultimately about his mother.  O'dell currently lives in Minnesota.

The Dead Lands by Ben Percy

I have fallen in love with a new author and his name is Benjamin Percy.  He has written this awesome book about the Lewis and Clark expedition that has been re-imagined, 150 years into the future in a post-apocalyptic America. The Dead Lands is a history teacher's dream, an odyssey of history and culture of a new America.  I kept comparing what happened in the 1800's to the futuristic America portrayed in the pages of The Dead Lands.  And it works.  The journey of Lewis and Clark is a quest of epic proportions that will keep you turning the pages late into the night. I love, love, love, The Dead Lands.  I was riveted to the page and enjoyed the fantastical elements as well as the historical ones.

Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradahl

Eva Thorvald is such an interesting character. You get to figure out the puzzle of Eva's life.  Each chapter is a snapshot into who Eva is and how she became this amazing chef who hosts the most creative and interesting dinners in the world and people are on the waiting list for years. Kitchens of the Great Midwest is a delicious book full of wonderful food and recipes and dinner parties.  The food is Midwestern favorites, State Fair bake-offs and your mouth is going to water. Stradal's book is a well written novel about midwestern characters that grab your heart or make you want to punch them in the face.  Welcome to Minnesota nice (which really means passive-aggressive). I seriously want to go to one of Eva's dinner parties.  I wish she was real.  Maybe I will start my own cooking club.

The Tusk That Did the Damage by Tania James

The Tusk That Did the Damage takes place in India and is told from three different perspectives.  The elephant, the poacher and the filmmaker. The Tusk That Did the Damage is a page-turning, can't wait to find out what happens next, sort of book.  It is devastatingly beautiful and tragic and brilliant.  I have fallen in love with Gravedigger and the poacher and the filmmaker.  My heart aches for each of them and I wish the story didn't have to end. Unfortunately every story must come to an end and so this is my recommendation;  Read this book slowly and tell everyone you know to read it.


Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life From Dear Sugar by Cheryl Strayed

I currently have a girl crush on Cheryl Strayed.  I read her book, Wild, became Facebook friends with her and I currently listen to her podcast, Dear Sugar.  Tiny Beautiful Things is a compilation of her best advice columns when she wrote her Dear Sugar column for the The Rumpus.  It is full of life lessons, humor, honesty and compassion.  Cheryl inspires me to live a better life and to trust my intuition.  Officially addicted to Dear Sugar.

In The Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex by Nathaniel Philbrick

Listened to the audio book version of this National Book Award Winner. This is quality non-fiction and great storytelling all wrapped up in a story of the deep sea. The Whaleship Essex was stove by a Sperm Whale and sunk. Interesting tidbit: Herman Melville wrote his famous tale of Moby Dick and based it on this incident of the sinking of the Essex and the ships crew's survival at sea. An excellent book that is worth your time. And now there is a movie. Yay!

Girl in the Woods. A Memoir by Aspen Matis

Aspen survived a rape in her freshman college year and many trials and tribulations on her 2,650 mile hike across the United States. She traversed extreme temperatures, snakes, deadly thirst and hunger, a vicious rumor, romance and so much more. The Pacific Crest Trail led Aspen to believe in herself and she came to trust and love herself. Girls in the Woods is a book about self-discovery and awakenings and it is awesome. I loved it.

Young Adult

How It Went Down by Kekla Magoon

How it Went Down is a book that all teens need to read. A black teen in a hoodie is shot and killed by a white man who takes justice into his own hands. Told from 18 perspectives, this story chronicles the tragedy facing many neighborhoods, schools and families when teens, especially young black teenage males, are shot and killed at an alarming rate.

I have lost several male students to gang violence. One of the boys was an only child. I still think of his mother. I also had my 8th grade boyfriend accidentally shot and killed by his friend back in 1980. I am no stranger to the horror of teens dying.

Wow, just wow. This should be taught in schools and read at home by parents and teens. This is an important timely book.

A Creature of Moonlight by Rebecca Hahn

This book is magical and I was drawn in my the magic of the woods and its creatures.  Marni, the main character is half dragon, half human but doesn't know it yet.  There is excellent layering of the story, beautiful imagery, and a strong, powerful female character.  I love kick-ass, amazing, smart characters.  This book needs some book love.  So get a copy and read it with your teens.  It is hug worthy and your dreams will be infused with magic if you put in under your pillow.

Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson

Wintergirls transports you into the mind of an anorexic teenager. It is frightening and amazing. This book will have you mesmerized.  You will not be able to walk away and you will probably never forget this story.  Wow.  Just Wow.

Graphic Novels

Ms. Marvel. Vol. 1. No Normal

Even though the world has us on superhero overload, this book blew me away.  It breaks the mold. Love this "shape-changing, mask wearing, sixteen-year-old Super "Moozlim" from Jersey City". A great new modern day, super cool, Superhero. I love Kamala Khan.


At Miss Qiunzilla Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet's camp for hard-core lady-types, a group of quirky girls try to earn merit badges and do their best to have a fun summer.   Here are some of their merit badges; The Naval Gauging Badge awarded for proficiency in canoeing, and of course, for successfully navigating monster-infested waters.  The Pungeon Master Badge awarded for being exceptionally pun-ny.  The Up All Night Badge awarded for staying awake all night and up out of your bed after lights out.

This graphic novel is just plain fun to read and super creative. As a mother of a Boy Scout and a Girl Scout, it is fun to read about a group of girls who encounter fantastical creatures in the woods while out earning merit badges. Loved the quirkiness, love the characters. Definitely want this comic to be made into a movie.

There you have it.  My top reads of 2015.  Thirteen awesome books.  You need to go read one of them right now.

Sending you book love.