Tuesday, January 5, 2016

2015 in review: 10 best books I read in 2015

In 2014 I read 105 books. I didn't repeat this feat in 2015, but I still read a fair amount. I took more time to chew through some books I'd wanted to read for a long time, but I didn't get any further in The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, which I've started reading when I was still living in the Netherlands.

I didn't read much at the beginning of the year. My Kindle broke down at the very end of 2014, and Amazon refused replacing my device, even though the issue with the screen freezing is a known problem. I waited until my birthday in August to get a new reader, the Kobo Aura, and upon getting this device I started reading more again,

You can see all the books I read in 2015 here, in my Goodreads profile.

10. Born Survivors - Wendy Holden



The story of three women who were carried off to the concentration camps while pregnant, and gave birth to "miracle babies" - who are still alive today. Holden shows us all the horror of the war without any sugar coating. Deeply unsettling.

9. The Miniaturist - Jessie Burton



Set in 17th-century Amsterdam, this book tells the story of a house crumbling down under the weights of its secrets, and a miniaturist who is capturing this all without knowing them.

8. A scholar's guide to getting published in English - Mary Jane Curry



A must-read for non-native English speaking scholars. You can find my full review here.


7. The Cellist of Sarajevo - Steven Galloway




Set during the Yugoslavia war, this book gives us a glimpse of how the war shattered people's lives, but not their human spirit. Heart-breaking.

6. A tree grows in Brooklyn - Bettie Smith



A classic for all the right reasons. It's a classic coming-of-age story of a poor young girl, with a keen sense for observation.

5. The Opposite of Loneliness - Marina Keegan



I've read a fair share of fiction and non-fiction / memoirs by young American women this year, but virtually all of them seemed to talk about experiences I simply could not relate to. Marina Keegan's writing instead is something that transcends countries and times. There's a lot to improve about her writing, and I'm convinced she would have gone on to become a great writer, if she hadn't passed away.

4. All the light we cannot see - Jonathan Doerr



What the war did to the dreamers... Another deeply moving novel about a blind girl in Francec during the war and a German orphan who wanted to become a scientist but instead had to join the army.

3. Belgie: een geschiedenis zonder land - Rolf Falter



Not translated (yet?) to English, but this book gives an overview of the Belgian history since Julius Caesar first mentioned the Belgians. It's a history of, mostly, 2000 years of war and helps to place some of the current tendencies in perspective.

2. Louis Paul Boon - De Kapellekensbaan



I read this in Dutch, and it took me more than half a year to chew through it. The language is difficult to read in the Dutch version, since he writes in merely dialect. The constant changing of topics takes a while before it all comes back. And then, the deep misery of poor Flanders in the 19th century is hard to swallow. But the book itself is a masterpiece, and I'm glad to find that it has an English translation.

1. Fates and Furies - Lauren Groff




Lauren Groff is one of my favorite contemporary writers. While the main theme of her books seems to be disillusion and dreams being halted, her language is her main quality: deeply poetic and very rich.

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