My Top Books of 2015

Happy Christmas!

I leave it as long as possible each year, in case I read something truly wonderful in the final days of December, but this is the final post I’ll write in 2016 as I’m off to Taunton for new year out of the reaches of the internet. I always love compiling my favourite books (very much ordered by how much I liked them than by any objective assessment), and putting them in strict order, because I enjoy lists so much.

As usual, I have a couple of rules: no re-reads, and an author can only appear once. As isn’t unusual, my top ten expanded to a top twelve; it’s been a good year for reading. Without further ado…

Top books 2015

12. The Making Of (2013) by Brecht Evens
I wouldn’t say that I have completely come around to graphic books, but I have read a few now – another one was on my longlist – and I loved Brecht Evens’ beautiful watercolours and quirky tale-telling.

11. Alfred and Guinevere (1958) by James Schuyler
An NYRB gem which portrays children’s conversation astonishingly well. An author I’m keen to try again in 2016.

10. Cluny Brown (1944) by Margery Sharp
More than a decade passed between reading my first and second Sharp novels: this witty tale of a maid who gets above her station was a delight. Thanks Jane at Beyond Eden Rock for running a Margery Sharp week!

9. Anne of Green Gables (1908) by L.M. Montgomery
I finally read OVW’s favourite children’s book, and we can now be proper kindred spirits. Matthew for best father figure ever? Yup.

8. Barchester Towers (1857) by Anthony Trollope
I didn’t get around to writing about this properly, but the linked post mentions it. Am I an anomaly to finding this one (though wonderful) inferior to The Warden?

7. On the Move (2015) by Oliver Sacks
This year the world lost a great and (more importantly) kind man, but it was a privilege and pleasure to read his autobiography before he died.

6. Virginia Woolf’s Garden (2013) by Caroline Zoob
The beautiful photography in this book is probably what sells it the most – it’s breathtaking – but Zoob’s descriptions of Leonard and Virginia Woolf are also wonderful. Thanks Colin for this present last Christmas!

5. Quick Curtain (1934) by Alan Melville
Easily my favourite of the joyous British Library Crime Classics that have delighted so any of us this year – Melville’s plotting may not be Christie level, but his writing is very funny, and his quick-witted characters exchange quips brilliantly.

4. A Curious Friendship (2015) by Anna Thomasson
I can’t quite believe anybody wrote a book about Edith Olivier: Anna’s biography of Olivier’s friendship with Rex Whistler is perfectly researched, wisely told, and – above all – an immersively engaging read.

3. My Family and Other Animals (1954) by Gerald Durrell
A riotously funny memoir of life with an eccentric family on Corfu. I wasn’t enamoured by the sections of wildlife, but they are easily outweighed by the hilarious familial exchanges.

2. Nuts in May (1942) by Cornelia Otis Skinner
What a wonderful discovery! Cornelia Otis Skinner is the American E.M. Delafield in many ways – a self-deprecating wife and mother who writes hilariously about the ridiculous moments of everyday life.

1. The Shelf (2014) by Phyllis Rose
And, in at number one – this wonderful book about a reading challenge! Rose chooses to read all the books on a (more or less) random shelf from a New York library, and the various ventures it leads her on. A joy for any bibliophile.

35 thoughts on “My Top Books of 2015

  • December 25, 2015 at 11:49 pm
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    I love My Family and the other two books in the Corfu trilogy. I also love the rest of your list. I would like to read Britannia Mews in January for Sharp week.

    • January 2, 2016 at 8:52 pm
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      I really must read the others in the Corfu trilogy this year – I keep hoping to stumble across them in charity shops, but maybe I shouldn’t await coincidence, and just buy them.

  • December 26, 2015 at 12:25 am
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    Well that looks like a marvellous list. Several there I don’t know. My family and other animals is pure joy – I’ve read and loved it twice. Nuts in May I have tbr (thanks to your enthusiastic posts) and I’m really looking forward to it. I have just been gifted another Margery Sharp book called Britannia Mews which I shall read for Margery Sharp day.

    • January 2, 2016 at 8:53 pm
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      I shall certainly be joining in with Margery Sharp again – I have four or five waiting for me, and wish I hadn’t left it so long between 1 and 2. She does seem like the next name to be republished…

  • December 26, 2015 at 2:31 am
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    I grew up reading Anne of Green Gables and all the sequels. It will always hold a special place in my heart. I just ordered a Margery Sharp book, Britannia Mews. It should be showing up in my mailbox sometime next week. I will probably be reading that in January too.

    • January 2, 2016 at 9:01 pm
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      I wish I’d read it earlier, but it definitely still holds up to a first-time read as an adult. And I do hope you enjoy Margery Sharp! I have Britannia Mews somewhere myself.

  • December 26, 2015 at 3:48 am
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    I love your list. You are the most interesting reader. It is such a joy to not see any titles I have read on a zillion magazine/bookstore/radio, etc. lists. There is such a world of reading out there that so many people never hear about, or maybe even care about. So, I thank you so much. I’m wild about the Anne books, and can still remember the look of the library copy when I was a girl. I’m really interested in The Curious Friendship, VW’s Garden, and Quick Curtain.

    • January 2, 2016 at 9:03 pm
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      Thank you so much, Nan, that’s lovely of you! I do look at some lists and think “Are you only reading books published in 2015? How dull that must be for you!” – but most of the blogs I read have an excellent range. And of course I think those three books are wonderful, and I think you would especially like VW’s Garden.

  • December 26, 2015 at 4:01 am
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    As always, a very inspiring list! I’m so happy that you discovered and enjoyed Anne of Green Gables, one of my all-time favourites, this year. Have a wonderful new year and best wishes for a fabulous 2016.

    • January 2, 2016 at 9:05 pm
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      Thank you Claire – the same to you! x

  • December 26, 2015 at 8:29 am
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    A truly quirky list,w ith many new names (alas, alas, but also joy!) for me to explore. Have a lovely holiday and all the best for a really good New Year 2016!

    • January 2, 2016 at 9:05 pm
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      I do hope you enjoy hunting some of these down! A very happy new year to you :)

    • January 2, 2016 at 9:06 pm
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      Thanks Karen! x

  • December 26, 2015 at 9:24 am
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    Very interesting list! For me, my favourite Barchester is “Doctor Thorne” as Mary is such a great character.

    • January 2, 2016 at 9:07 pm
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      That’s the next one in the series, isn’t it? I must keep going with them. I love reading them, but still somehow have to feel something of an epiphany to start a Victorian novel.

  • December 26, 2015 at 9:46 am
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    What a great list Simon! So glad you read and loved Anne of Green Gables. I reread it this year also. I have a few of these in my TBR and planning on reading them in 2016: Cluny Brown, Barchester Towers, My Family and Other Animals and The Shelf. And I just ordered Alfred and Guinevere. 😀

    • January 2, 2016 at 9:08 pm
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      Oo, lovely Michelle – I do hope you like ALL of them in 2016! I am particularly hoping others will love The Shelf as much as I did.

  • December 26, 2015 at 1:33 pm
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    I hope you have had a peaceful and joyful Christmas, Simon. I am so pleased to see Cluny Brown on the list — one of my favourites.

    • January 2, 2016 at 9:09 pm
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      Such a fun book! I hope to have read at least a couple more Margery Sharp novels by the end of 2016.

  • December 26, 2015 at 4:40 pm
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    What a lovely list. I see just one book I’ve read, but several I have lined up, and of course I an delighted to see Margery Sharp.

    • January 2, 2016 at 9:09 pm
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      Thank you Jane – and for the nudge to read more Sharp!

  • December 26, 2015 at 9:39 pm
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    I love My Family and Other Animals and have read it a couple of times. You are right about The Warden being better than Barchester Towers.

    • January 2, 2016 at 9:11 pm
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      Glad that I’m not the only one who preferred The Warden – there seem to be a few of us!

  • December 27, 2015 at 12:38 am
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    The Barchester series is wonderful; you might like to read the Pallisers (or invest in the DVDs – absolutely fantastic viewing!) Happy New Year.

    • January 2, 2016 at 9:12 pm
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      Oh, I bought all the Pallisers books about… gosh… 12 years ago? So I should try to remember where I put them…

  • December 28, 2015 at 1:46 am
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    I bought a copy of The Shelf based on your recommendation…just have to get to it now!

    I agree, I love The Warden and prefer it over Barchester Towers. I can see why the second book is the favorite of many, but the image of Mr. Harding playing his imaginary violoncello…basically the other books suffer from a lack of Septimus Harding, I think.

    • January 2, 2016 at 9:14 pm
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      I do hope you enjoy The Shelf Ruthiella – though I am very familiar with the buying-when-recommended-but-not-managing-to-read phenomenon! And you are spot on with Septimus Harding. He is such a treasure that any book would suffer without as much of him as possible.

  • December 28, 2015 at 2:36 pm
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    I need to get “The Shelf” once I’ve wrestled the TBR into some kind of post-Christmas order. And “Anne of Green Gables” – hooray! I hope you don’t read anything TOO marvellous in these betweeny-days, though …

    • January 2, 2016 at 9:15 pm
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      Thankfully the amazing book I *did* end up reading wasn’t finished until today!

  • December 29, 2015 at 10:25 am
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    What a varied and interesting list, Simon. I’ve only read Sack’s autobiography, but found it totally fascinating. I really want to get my hands on Virginia Woolf’s Garden!
    I hope you had a great Christmas and have happy new year!

    • January 2, 2016 at 9:15 pm
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      Thanks Eric! Have a great 2016 :)

  • January 1, 2016 at 12:50 am
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    I also liked The Warden better than Barchester Towers, which dragged quite a bit for me.

    Welcome to AoGG–hope you read more in the series. They are magical :)

    I’ve been wanting to read something by Cornelia Otis Skinner for years, since I loved Our Hearts Were Young and Gay. Thanks for the recommendation.

    • January 2, 2016 at 9:16 pm
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      That was the first I read, but didn’t read another for ages – so glad I did! I can see she will be a source of joy to me for years to come.

  • January 4, 2016 at 5:52 pm
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    Barchester Towers almost made it onto my top ten this year, too! I’m not sure if I find it inferior to The Warden or not. I think it was less focused than The Warden, though. I love My Family and Other Animals and also Anne of Green Gables! Nice list!

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