This year, audiobooks saved my (book) life. Making up more than half the titles I’ve consumed these past months, the allure and convenience of on-the-go “reading” was too difficult to resist, especially when books feel like such heavy investments of time and mental energy that I usually end up devoting my sedentary breaks to calligraphy, games, shows/Youtube (and, ironically, Booktube), Pocket articles and other forms of less cerebrally-taxing general merriment.
Despite that, I still did not reach my target of 55 books this year, barely even scraping the halfway mark. This small number, of course, makes choosing the standouts this year a bit of a contradictory mess. On one hand, there aren’t that many choices to rack my brain on. On the other, that also means the quality pool is smaller, especially when my year has been dominated by middling autobiographies all quite similar to each other.
Still, there were a few outstanding titles and so, without further ado, here are The Great Gabsby’s Award Winners of 2015!
(…actually, I need to add in some further ado here just to clarify that these aren’t books that were necessarily released, just read by me, in 2015.)
Best book to listen to: The True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex
In a year where I spent more time listening to books than actually reading them, this one was by far the best aural experience. Like I mentioned in my review, the story itself is nothing particularly exciting but the voicework is nothing short of riveting.
Best Introduction to Irish Mythology 101 substitute: Hounded by Kevin Hearne
I was a mythology nut growing up but always stuck to more traditional, Greco-Roman fare so this made for an interesting premise based purely on its origins. I love this book’s blending of existing mythology and original elements and the result made for an exciting, if light-hearted, romp in the park. The voicework is pretty good here, too. I can’t wait to start on the next entry in the series.
Best introduction to simple-but-good fantasy: Wild Magic by Tamora Pierce
One of the last books I completed this year, this was a good simple read. It’s not particularly deep, the characters are all a bit too nice and perfect, and the deus ex machinating is a bit too much at times, but Pierce writes so elegantly (some might say…piercingly) that it doesn’t matter. The book will fly past sooner than you can figure out how to pronounce “Tamora”.
Best conclusion to a sci-fi series (that I’ve read): Strike by D. J. MacHale
I have to draw your attention to the little bracket in the award since, well, this is the only sci-fi series I’ve completed. Still, genre aside, I’d still push this title to anyone. MacHale’s Pendragon series was one of my childhood favourites and it’s a testament of how good he is that he can combine two genres I don’t normally go for and get me so excited for each sequel. This was a fitting and, well, explosive end to the series and I can only hope he churns out more like it.
Best middle child entry: Firefight by Brandon Sanderson
Middle entries in trilogies usually aren’t that great, laden down with the task of having to progress the plot while still holding out on enough for the exciting finale. This one was fantastic, though. It had a self-contained story while still moving the trilogy’s one along at a brisk clip. The twist at the end wasn’t as good as his usual ones but it’s nonetheless a good enough read that I’m now hankering for the final entry.
Best This Is Not What I Expected?! surprise: One More Thing by B. J. Novak
The book that made me realise I really have to read book blurbs before starting on them, this title was interesting in that, in a year where I chowed down on mediocre author-narrated tomes (the two most disappointing ones being the sophomore efforts from Jenny Lawson and Mindy Kaling), this broke the mould by a) not being a memoir and b) being surprisingly well-written. I did not expect a collection of short fictional works and had spent the first few wondering why his life (as I had assumed this to be a memoir) was so dramatic. While I did read another “Heh?!”-inducing, celebrity-read book this year (Aziz Ansari’s Modern Romance), this one was the more interesting one.