By July 3rd of this year I had read so many good books that I wrote about the best of those in this blog post. (See the original post for details of these titles.)
As with the first half of the year, the following books are listed in the order I read them and, with one exception (that I have marked), I rate them all at 4 out of 5 stars … because, you know, you have to have written a VERY good book, or be Richard Ford, to receive all 5 stars from me. I am a discerning reader.
So here’s my list of Best Books Read for the second half of the year … I’ve linked to their promotions all Authors who have been featured on Reading Recommendations.
Killer City by Seumas Gallacher – I read this new novel in advance of publication and thought it a fine addition to Gallacher’s Jack Calder series.
The Gift: Awakening by J.P. McLean – I have a complete set of JP’s books in The Gift Legacy series and began at the beginning. An excellent premise to this series and very well-written!
Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf – 5-star – Sadly, Kent Haruf passed away in 2014 shortly after completing the proofs of this book. I’ve been a fan of his writing for many years and have read everything he has published. This book was a high note in a stellar writing career, as far as I’m concerned. A bitter-sweet story, it’s simply told but nonetheless powerful, about love and growing old. Others to whom I’ve recommended this book have come back to tell me how much they enjoyed it. If you love great writing, and you have a heart, this will make you weep to read for its sheer beauty – in the storyline, in the characters, in the way Haruf tells us about this episode in lives of plain people, lives that are so utterly full of grace.
Villa America by Liza Klaussmann – I received an ARC of this novel about the Hemingways and Fitzgeralds and their set of friends vacationing at a real-life house in France during the 1920s and I enjoyed reading it very much. Great descriptions of the times, the place and the people.
The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald – I read the ARC of this novel about a Swedish reader who travels to the US to visit the woman who has been recommending, by letters, books to read. A delightful read that anyone who enjoys reading books will also love!
The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd – This is a book that had been sitting on my shelf for a number of years. I finally picked it up and was pleasantly surprised at how well-told it is, this story of South Carolinian women.
Full Circle by Tim Baker – Tim Baker has been promoted on my blog, Reading Recommendations, since the beginning – and for good reason! I’ve read everything Tim has written, and now read his manuscripts before they are published, as was the case with this latest novel. Interestingly, this was the first novel Tim wrote a couple of decades ago, but it didn’t see the light of day until just recently. What can I say? Tim sure knows how to write! I own copies of all Tim’s print books, I have the T-shirts, and I’m a big promoter of all his work. Read this book!
Parts Unknown and Town Father by Kevin Brennan – Kevin Brennan’s writing has impressed me since he first promoted Yesterday Road on Reading Recommendations. I have read everything he has written and own all the print copies available, except this most recent title – a problem I will rectify when I return to Canada in the spring. Kevin is an intelligent writer, well-steeped in literature and history, and he’s not afraid to experiment with genre and style. I liken him to a cross between two of my favourite authors, Ivan Doig and Kent Haruf (see above), with a sprinkling of Margaret Atwood’s exploration of craft and genre. Town Father, his most recent novel, is a foray into historical fiction and I say Kevin has done a brilliant job of presenting a story that’s new and fresh, considering it’s set in the 1880s US Sierra Nevadas. If you’re looking for versatility in a writer, look no further! Kevin is your guy!
The Road to Atlantis by Leo Brent Robillard – I was approached by the publisher of this book to promote it on my blog and was sent a PDF of the book to read in advance. I had never heard of this Canadian author previously and was very taken by the quality of his writing and the story he tells. I am also happy to see that, since I promoted Robilliard in Sept. 2015, this book has now also been released in eBook format, so it’s available for the entire world to read.
That Old Ace in the Hole by Annie Proulx – I discovered a hardcover edition of this book in the campground library and decided to read it, because I had enjoyed Proulx’s Shipping News when it was first published. I enjoyed this novel just as much. Great writing!
The Zig Zag Girl by Elly Griffiths – I won an ARC of this book in a Goodreads Giveaway. I had never heard of the author or the book previously and so was pleasantly surprised when it turned out to be a very good read.
My Temporary Life by Martin Crosbie – Martin Crosbie promoted a how-to book on my blog, but he also writes great fiction, like this novel I read and enjoyed. And it’s the first in a series, too, so more great books to come!
The Back of the Turtle by Thomas King – I was a sales rep for one of Thomas King’s earlier books and had the great pleasure of meeting the man for lunch when he was in Calgary. He is one of the most interesting, intelligent, funny and genuine “gentleman” I’ve ever met. And I don’t use the term gentleman lightly here. He is a Gentle Man in all respects. This latest novel (I had an ARC) was published last year and won the GG Award for Best English-Language Fiction. Very well done!
The Piano Teacher by Eugene Stickland – I know Eugene from my days in Calgary, so when he announced a new book’s release I asked him to promote it on Reading Recommendations. Then when I went back to Calgary for a visit this autumn I bought a copy of the book from the man himself in his natural habitat, Cafe Beano, over a couple of cups of coffee. Eugene is well-known as a playwright and this was his first foray into novel-writing. A terrific job, I thought! And the good news is … he’s writing a second novel!
Better Than Perfect by Tricia Drammeh – Tricia has long been an internet pal and fellow blogger/promoter who I turn to regularly for help, advice, and just general comradery. I’ve read several of her novels so far and enjoyed all of them, but Better than Perfect was exactly as the title says, I thought. True life and genuine characters brought perfectly to the page (or screen, in my case) by a very accomplished author.
Sweetland by Michael Crummey – I had the pleasure of attending an event held in London, ON, this autumn at which Crummey read from his new novel. A well-told story of a little known (outside of the province) episode in Newfoundland’s history. Funny in places, but sad throughout. Definitely worth reading, especially if you’re open to learning a new dialect and turns of phrase. (I’m fortunate in knowing a native Newfoundlander so a lot of the speech in this novel was very familiar to me.)
The Quiet American by Graham Greene – I’m not sure I actually read this novel previously, although Greene is a favourite author, but I did see the film starring Michael Caine. I have to say, they did a fine job of casting Caine for the part of Fowler. The novel is an excellent introduction to the French occupation of Vietnam during the years leading up to US involvement in the region.
Sundown, Yellow Moon and Orchard by Larry Watson – I’m catching up on the books by this favourite US author that I missed reading at the time they were released.
What about you? Was there one outstanding book you read in 2015? Or have you posted to your blog a similar list as I have here? Please leave your comments below and tell us what you enjoyed reading. And leave a link to your Best Books post.
Thanks for reading!
I should mention that I tried reading some of the many books that were long-listed, short-listed, and won prizes in the various big book awards that were handed out this year, but in a number of cases I just could not read the books at all and was disappointed in their having been selected. I’m still waiting for holds to come in at the library for a number of other prize-winners I anticipate reading and enjoying in the near future. But I must say that, overall, I was generally disappointed in most of the titles that made those prize lists. I don’t believe it has as much to do with my changing taste in reading as I grow older (and become a more experienced reader all the time) as it does with the judges’ different taste from mine in choosing the lists and winners. That’s a topic for a whole different blog post, however.