Top Ten Books I Read in 2015

Broke and Bookish does a weekly top ten book list and I’ve decided to periodically join the hoards of fellow top tenners. This one is a couple weeks late, but I couldn’t bear the idea of making this list mid-December while I still had a few books on the go, including one that I knew belonged on the list.

Here are the top ten books I read in 2015, in no particular order (because, frankly, the last read is always my favourite until I read a new favourite):

1. How to Live on Other Planets: A Handbook for Aspiring Aliens

This was a great collection of stories and poems compiled by my friend Joanne Merriam and published by her indie publishing company, Upper Rubber Boots (URB). The focus is stories relating to immigration and how that can affect the immigrant, their families, future generations, and even their new community. The kicker, and maybe the thing that makes it extra interesting, is that it includes aliens, other planets, and even the distant future, so it’s not just about human experiences. You can read my review of this book.

2. Choose Wisely: 35 Women Up To No Good

This is another collection by URB, edited by Joanne Merriam and H.L. Nelson. This is my favourite URB publication, so far. The stories revolve around women’s lives, but again, it’s broad and includes some very interesting ideas. The first story was reminiscent of an old favourite, The Handmaid’s Tale. It was full of imagination and worth every penny I paid for it.

3. Etta and Otto and Russell and James: A Novel

I started this as part of my local library’s city-wide book club, One Book, One Edmonton and quickly fell in love, so I bought it and devoured the rest fairly quickly. It’s a really lovely story. It’s about love, friendship, war, and living. As an added bonus, it’s Canadian and full of lovely descriptions of Canadian landscape.

4. The Crow Road

This is the book I picked based on the first line, “It was the day my grandmother exploded.” Seriously! How could I turn away from a book with that first line. It was a good story, but I have to admit that it wasn’t until I finished it that I realized how much I loved the book.

5. The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry

Despite being quite annoyed with one of the characters in the middle of this book, I loved the story. It’s was quite lovely and sad. I listened to a version narrated by Jim Broadbent and his friendly, emotive voice added so much to the experience. I’m looking forward to listening to the follow-up book, The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy.

6. All the Bright Places

Bring out the hankies. This book was full of some many beautiful lines and lovely quotes from Virginia Woolf, but it was also incredibly sad. Some parts are incredibly gripping and intense. I don’t really know what else to say about it, except that I was surprised by how much I loved it.

7. Station Eleven

One of many books I picked up because of the intriguing cover, this is great mix of global tragedy, romance, drama, and thriller. There were some parts that were a bit hard to read because I was so anxious and scared for the characters, but it was worth it.

8. Fifteen Dogs

This book was fascinating. The author touched on so many interesting aspects of dog life, their reaction to their new intelligence, and human reactions. If nothing else, this was probably the most interesting book I read this year.

9. Floodgate Poetry Series Vol. 2: Three Chapbooks by Three Poets in a Single Volume

I thoroughly enjoyed this volume. All of the poets had great collections, but I was particularly in love with Judy Jordan’s work. I ended up buying a couple of her books because of how much I loved her poems.

10. Daydreams of Angels

I absolutely loved this book. Every chapter is a new story and each story is laced with imagination and filled with wonderful metaphors. I love the author’s writing style, so I’ll be looking for more of her books.


I also want to mention a few kids books. I have niblings who I send books to on occasion, so I get to read a lot of kids books. Sometimes I run into a book that also lands on my bookshelf, despite being a grown up. This year, I fell in love with:

1. The Princess and the Pony

Best princess story since The Paperbag Princess. The characters are are marvelous and story is a perfect mix of silly and empowering.

2. Sidewalk Flowers

There are no words in this book and it’s mostly black and white, but it’s still utterly delightful.

Read faster?

For most of my life, I worried about being a slow reader. As with so many other things, it seemed like being faster was the preferred option because it meant you could get more stuff read (whether it be text books or novels) and because our society just seems to prefer things to be fast, fast, fast!

A few weeks ago, I noticed a bunch of random things about reading faster pop-up in various corners of the internet. One of them specified that you needed to teach yourself to read without subvocalizing, which is the internal voice that sounds out the words as you read. I was surprised by this. I can’t imagine being able to recall anything on a page without hearing that voice (and, in fact, I have since read that reading without subvocalization can decrease comprehension). I also can’t imagine enjoying a book without subvocalization.

I remember a friend (maybe Joanne, the poet) once telling me that I wasn’t a slow reader, I just took my time with the words. I can’t remember her exact wording, but the implication was that I liked to savour what I was reading. I think that was the first time I started to think less about how I read compared to everyone else and more about how I read.

That voice in my head rolls the words around to find the right meaning (blue: the colour or the mood? light or dark? pure or more of a teal or indigo?) and finds the right imagery so that I can “see” what’s happening. The stories I enjoy the most are evocative enough for me to imagine what the author sees, feels and smells. Every book becomes a movie or a dream.

I like that I can see what I read. I like that I can imagine what’s not described by the author (the sea is rough, but what kind of rough and how dark were the clouds and how much did that bird not mentioned struggle in the wind?). I like that I can take all of that, roll it around in my head, imagine other paths the author might have taken or what bit players in the story might have done later, and meld all the ideas from all the books I’ve read together to find similarities, differences, or even other possibilities.

So, take your fast reading, if you like, but I’m going to stick with my slow and often distracted reading. Maybe I won’t get around to reading half the books I want to read, but the ones I do read will be appreciated and savoured with every inch of my being.