Year End Book Report: The Best Books I Read in 2015
And here we are again, my year end wrap up articles.
Queue Kool and the Gang’s “Celebration”.
I say it every year, how did we get here already? The year just flies by. Anyway, the particulars: If you’ve read this year end round up before, you know I keep my book logs online in a Google Spreadsheet. I’ve been doing it since around 2009. Only “new to me” reads in 2015 are eligible, no re-reads.
This past year was an interesting year for my book/comics list. I really had an off year for books. It was really hard to get a good list of 5 books that I really enjoyed. This year as I combed through my list of books I realized I had been in a slump of “didn’t like” and “meh” books that I just didn’t feel comfortable forcing into this year’s “best” list.
Conversely, this was a phenomenal year for comics. I had SO MANY comics I read that I just LOVED that it became very hard for me to pare it down to only five. So, I think this year I’m going to cut the book list to maybe three and increase the comic list to 8. This would be a better representation of the good stuff I’ve read this year.
Looking at the log I see I read around 106 books and comics over the course of the year. That total includes books/comics I’ve read for the first time as well as any re-reads I did this year which I’ll do from time to time. Also, I see, after two years of reading 4 books released in the current year, I uptick to 5 books I read this year that were current releases. Wow. And none of them are going to make this list. One of them almost did, but, in the end, I decided no.
Here’s the list!
Memoirs of an Invisible Man (1987) by H. F. Saint – I read and reviewed this book for AWESOME-tober-fest this year. See my full review there. But this hands down makes my best of year list and looking at my book log, it’s probably the best book I read all year.
Troll Mountain (2014) by Matthew Reilly – Matthew Reilly is no stranger to my “best of” books list. His Scarecrow and James West Jr novels have both made it on here. I read this fantasy novel back in February for the second installment of High Fantasy Month. It was a serial novel in three parts, each part about 55 pages long. And it’s junior fantasy, aimed at a younger audience. But like I said in my review, I really enjoyed it. The story reminded me of L Frank Baum. Lots of fun and adventure, full of hope, believing in yourself and believing that good will triumph over evil. Definitely worth a read.
Mistborn: The Final Empire (Book 1) (2006) – Brandon Sanderson – I really had trouble picking this final spot. A few things could’ve gone here. Rick Riordan’s tenth Percy Jackson book, The Force Awakens novelization, Stephen King’s Needful Things or Brad Meltzer’s The Inner Circle. And I liked all of these choices but I didn’t love them. So, I flipped a coin and the first book in Sanderson’s fantasy series gets the nod. It’s a great piece of fantasy world building with a cleverly different system of magic. Like Troll Mountain, I reviewed it for the second High Fantasy Month back in February. I just felt that this book runs a little long. But I liked it and I plan on reading the second book, even if I’m hearing that the second book is even longer. And unnecessarily so.
Now, let’s move on to the comics I read this year that I LOVED. And there are lots of them.
Comic Books/Graphic Novels
Aquaman (The New 52) by Geoff Johns and Jeff Parker – I’m including all six of the currently released collections of this title. This first entry was probably the most relevatory comic I read all year. I’ve never been an Aquaman fan, even with the Peter David series and the hook hand/long hair iterations. I just didn’t like the character. However, I heard such good things about this take on Aquaman that I decided to read the first trade. The next thing I know, I’ve read all six of the trade paperback collections encompassing the first 40 issues or so plus annuals. Geoff Johns writes the first four collections and Jeff Parker takes over for the next two. And they are AWESOME. All of a sudden, I’m an Aquaman fan. I even dove into and read the entire side series, Aquaman and the Others, which is not as good, but still enjoyable to read. I can’t recommend this title enough. I think Cullen Bunn has taken over the writing from Jeff Parker as of issue 40 or so. I look forward to more adventures with the King of Atlantis.
Avengers vs. X-Men (2012) – This is the 12 issue maxi-series Marvel event from 2012. It launched the Marvel NOW! line of comics. It’s written by a murder’s row of my favorite comic writers; Matt Fraction, Brian Michael Bendis, Johnathan Hickman, Ed Brubaker and Jason Aaron with lots of awesome art by John Romita Jr and Adam Kubert. The story is epic, it’s awesome, it’s everything you want in an Avengers vs X-men title. I loved it. And the conclusion of this entry leads directly into…
Uncanny X-Men Volume 1: Revolution (Marvel Now – 2013) – Like I said, AvX leads directly into the Marvel Now! re-brand as well as this very title. Marvel Now! was a re-brand for several Marvel titles as well as the launch of several other new titles. The stories were a little more serious and “dark and gritty”. And I hate to say that because the 90s really ruined the phrase “dark and gritty”. Anyway, Uncanny X-Men cast Cyclops as the “villain” due to events that happened in AvX and he now leads a splinter radical group of mutants in much the same way Magneto did in the 80s. I really liked what Marvel was going for in this (as well as All-New X-Men which I read last year) so I also read Uncanny X-Men Volume 2: Broken also by Brian Michael Bendis as well as Rick Remender’s Uncanny Avengers Volume 1 and Volume 2 and Gerry Duggan’s new Deadpool title. Marvel Now! has just a really good set of titles that I’m still reading through and discovering.
Deadpool: Dracula’s Gauntlet – Speaking of Gerry Duggan’s Deadpool…I never really read Deadpool before. I was aware of him and his schtick, but I never really jumped on board. This was a mini-series featuring Deadpool taking a job from Dracula to deliver a very important package, but the package is opened en route and Deadpool finds himself in more trouble than he can handle. Lots of fun humor, lots of guest stars, lots of quips. I loved every second of this 7 issue series. This is what got me to start reading the aforementioned Gerry Duggan and Brian Posehn’s Marvel Now! Deadpool. Which is also awesome.
Star Wars: Lando – Okay, if I’m being honest, Star Wars comics and I don’t have a good history. I’ve never really liked them. I’ve tried, but I just can’t get into them. So when Disney bought Lucasfilm and the Star Wars comics license jumped back to Marvel, I honestly was a little intrigued. Especially because they assigned some nice talent to do some of the work. My inclination was to jump into Mark Waid’s Princess Leia mini-series first, but I actually wound up reading this Lando mini-series by Charles Soule first even though I’d never read any of Soule’s stuff before. And I was rewarded. This title is awesome. Lando is awesome and I have a new favorite comic writer. Right after this I jumped into Soule’s first Superman/Wonder Woman collection which is also excellent. Check this Lando series out, it takes place between A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back and sends Lando and Lobot towards their appearance in the latter movie.. It’s really good and everything I wanted in a Lando comic.
Star Wars Vol. 1: Skywalker Strikes – Written by the great Jason Aaron. I’m going to include Kieron Gillen’s Darth Vader Volume 1 along with this as well. While I think Aaron’s flagship book is better overall, Gillen’s Darth Vader is not only really good on its own, it also ties in so closely with Aaron’s book that you would see the same events in both comics but one from the heroes’ point of view and the other from Vader’s point of view. Makes for a fun reading experience. This collection takes place just after A New Hope and deals with the heroes in the aftermath of the first Death Star explosion. I also devoured Aaron’s Star Wars Volume 2 which is just as good. I’m loving the direction Star Wars comics are going now that Marvel is in charge.
Ghosted Volume 1: Haunted Heist – Written by Joshua Williamson. I picked this up due to the super high concept synopsis: A master thief is hired by a rich benefactor to steal a ghost from a haunted house. It’s Ocean’s 11 meets Ghostbusters. I didn’t know how the actual comic could live up to that synopsis, but I read it anyway and am happy to say, it does. It’s pretty bad ass and awesome. I have since read the rest of the series which finished up at around issue #20 (there are 4 collections of the series). Each story arch ups the ante and gets more bonkers and dark until the unbelievable ending. High, high recommend on this.
Nailbiter Volume 1: There Will Be Blood – I loved Ghosted so much I decided to try another Joshua Williamson title. And this one is even darker but it’s such a good story. Buckaroo, Oregon is the birthplace to sixteen of America’s worst serial killers throughout history. An FBI agent must figure out the mystery behind Buckaroo’s bloody past in order to save an old friend of his and he must team up with the town’s most famous serial killer, Edward “Nailbiter” Warren, to do it. Very dark, very twisty, but SO good. I’ve read the first three collections of this title which covers nearly the first twenty issues. Williamson also wrote a comic called Birthright that is pretty great as well and a RoboCop ongoing title that is a direct sequel to the original 1987 movie. And it’s also dark…and awesome. Williamson has a very dark sensibility about his writing. He was just hired to write a new Disney Haunted Mansion comic that I can’t wait to see what he’s going to do with.
Those are the best things I read this year. As you can see, a great year for comics. It’s a little lopsided, I really wish I would’ve had better novels to read. Maybe in 2016, it’ll be the year of the novel. We’ll have to see.