2015 was a good year for books. In this list of five best fiction and non-fiction novels I have left out some great works. This is, at best, a list of books I was eagerly looking forward to read or was impressed by after lucky encounters. Before I begin, I would like to mention Toni Morrison’s God Save the Child and Siddharth Mukherjee’s The Laws of Medicine. These are books I would have loved to include in the list but I write under space constraints. Also, it is best to tell you now that this article contains spoilers.
The Shepherd’s Crown by Terry Pratchett
Sir Terry died in March this year. The Shepherd’s Crown, his last book published posthumously in August 2015, brings the Discworld series to an end. Tiffany Aching, the main protagonist of the book is sixteen years old and after the death of her mentor, Granny Weatherwax, who leaves everything to her, she becomes an increasingly overworked witch taking care of too many things which obviously leaves gaps through which an old enemy resurfaces. I read the book with high expectations and though this is not Pratchett’s best work, it is certainly a satisfying end to the series.
Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee
Scout or Jean Louise Finch, the daughter of Atticus Finch, is the main protagonist of the novel which is written from her point of view. In the novel, Scout returns to the fictional town of Maycomb, Alabama, for her annual two-day visit. Her father, who remains a larger-than-life figure and the embodiment of all that is fair and just for Scout is revealed to be human after all. Like Scout, Atticus was a role model for me and to reconcile the figure of Atticus with human flaws was disconcerting. It was a lesson to read the novel and to challenge my own gods.
The Girl in the Spider’s Web by David Lagercrantz
Stieg Larsson’s Millenium Trilogy is firmly on top of my must-read list. The Girl in the Spider’s Web is the fourth novel of the same series but with a different author. The book revolves around the ghosts from Lisbeth Salander’s past and a new nemesis called The Spider Society, an elite group of Russian criminals. Mikael Blomkvist, the journalist, becomes interested in Frans Balder, a computer scientist who returns to Sweden from the Silicon Valley. Balder is under threat from The Spider Society because of his knowledge of a nexus between the NSA and the Russian criminals and with the help of Salander, Blomkvist is again able to restore the fortunes of his magazine and get to the bottom of the mystery.
A Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith
J.K. Rowling’s pseudonym has made quite a name for himself. This is the third Cormoran Strike novel after The Cuckoo’s Calling and The Silkworm. In this novel, Strike a private investigator, with the help of his talented secretary Robin Ellacott, confronts the demons of his own past. When his secretary is sent a woman’s severed leg in a parcel with a note containing the lyrics of a famous song by the Blue Oyester Cult — the lyrics which were also tattooed on Strike’s famous mother, Leda — the investigator is forced to recall three men from his past who had the capacity for such violence and a grudge against him.
Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard by Rick Riordan
Thank God for Rick Riordan. But for The Sword of Summer , the first book in the Gods of Asgard trilogy, we might have remained without another young adult series for some time — an entirely horrifying prospect. Here, Riordan introduces another pantheon, that of the Norse Gods. The titular character, Magnus Chase, is a demigod. He is the son of Frey, the Norse god of fertility et cetera and his mortal mother is murdered by unknown forces at the beginning of the book. Magnus himself dies after an encounter with a fire giant and is taken to Valhalla, the paradise for only the worthy Norse heroes, where he becomes a fugitive. With Riordan’s typical humour and lucid but complex plot, this book is an exciting read. I am already waiting for the next installment in October 2016.
A Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari
Dating in the digital age is an intimidating social ritual. We are the Internet generation which means that we can count on no help from our elders on how to navigate this problem. Here comes Ansari, who wrote this book because no one else had written a digital-age-dating-guide-for-dummies. The humour in this book does not disappoint and lives up to the funnyman image of the author himself. This is a thoroughly enjoyable book.
Madness in Civilization by Andrew Scull
How did ancient civilizations deal with madness? The Egyptians and the Greeks, did they know something we don’t. How does the tension between the reasonable and the mad resolve itself even today? Scull takes the view that we have much to learn from ancient civilizations, especially how they dealt with psychosis. It is a scholarly work, a little heavy reading but a very fruitful experience at the end.
Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson
This “funny book about horrible things” is a witty, hilarious and touching account of Lawson’s own life. Living with crippling depression and anxiety, Lawson manages to talk about the “crazy” in a way every reader can empathise. Already famous thanks to her widely read blog, her honesty is the most attractive quality in the narrative. This is a book about letting humour into our life as a protective vest against ourown brains when it declares “war on our very existence”.
The Light of the World by Elizabeth Alexander
I was drawn to this book after I read an excerpt in the 9 February issue of the New Yorker. Under the heading Lottery Tickets: Grieving for a Husband, Alexander wove a beautifully vulnerable narrative around the sudden loss of her husband, the artist Ficre Ghebreyesus. It is impossible to go through the book without feeling the grief of the author and being touched by it. Michelle Obama counts this book as her favourite 2015 read.
Missoula by Jon Krakauer
This is a book written at the right time in the right place. I am one of those people who get their news from the social media sites, which, a few months back were inundated by reports about the alarming rise of rapes within US campuses. Missoula, a college town in Montana, US, recorded 350 sexual assaults from 2008 to 2012. Krakauer analyses the cause for the alarming statistics and delves into why rape, especially acquaintance rape, is a crime like no other and why students are unwilling to report it. You will not forget this book in a hurry.