Top Books of 2015

By Wednesday, December 30, 2015 ,

Picking favorites can be a struggle, especially when it comes to books! But since there’s a limit here – the books I read in 2015 – the task is more bearable. Even so, keeping it down to these six titles was still hard. I was fortunate to be able to read more books this year than I have in a calendar year in a long time – a total of 25, including audiobooks. It’s hardly worthy of comparison to friends of mine who read 50 a year or bloggers who read 100 or more a year, but it’s a great personal milestone, and I definitely hope to ramp up my game come January! I started planning my reading late this year, but I already have a big jump on 2016, so I hope to be more up to par with fellow bookish bloggers and friends in the coming year :) For now, here are my top titles from 2015! And when I say that, I just mean that I read them in 2015, though many of them have been out for a while already. And they’re in no particular order… picking them was hard enough; ranking might be impossible! 

Fierce Convictions: The Extraordinary Life of Hannah More – Poet, Reformer, Abolitionist by Karen Swallow Prior 
Hannah More is a hidden, unsung hero from numerous social and political reformations of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Few have heard of her, but this book is a much-needed remedy to that problem. Hannah More was an accomplished writer, abolitionist, philanthropist, educator, and much more. She rubbed shoulders with William Wilberforce and some of the most celebrated artistic elites of the era, among them Samuel Johnson, Joshua Reynolds, and David Garrick. Her work for the abolitionist cause and for educating the poor and women were revolutionary at the time, but had exponential effects that we continue to see today. I knew little of Hannah More before picking up this book, but she’s now one of my heroes. (Read more) 

The Help by Kathryn Stockett
Jackson, Mississippi. 1962. Few were brave enough to speak against the racial divides that plagued the south. But in this story, we meet Skeeter Phelan, a young college graduate who sees the African American maids of her Jackson community just as she does her white colleagues. It’s unconventional enough that she treats them with the same respect she does anyone else, but her dreams of a writing career soon collide with her curiosity about the lives of these maids, making her interest potentially dangerous. She decides she wants to write a book about the maids around her to show other people their lives and perspectives. But Skeeter is unprepared for the massive risk of such a project, not to mention for how her life will change when she hears the hearts of Abilene and Minny, the two maids who agree to share their stories for the book. This story is a work of art that handles a difficult subject masterfully. It’s emotional, funny, heartwarming, and home to a cast of characters that will challenge and encourage you. (Read more)

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand
Many of us may think we know a little about hardship or adversity, but this is a book that shows just how little we really know in this comfortable modern era. Inspirational and moving beyond description, Unbroken tells the true story of Louis Zamperini, a gifted Olympic athlete and then bomber pilot in WWII. During the war, his plane crashed in the Pacific, and he and two other survivors then floated on a crude raft for over a month. They trapped rainwater, fought off sharks, and caught fish and birds to survive. One of the men died on the raft, and later, the land that finally came into view was hostile Japan, where Louis and his friend were then held as prisoners of war for two years. Laura Hillenbrand’s thorough research is unmatched, but she also writes in gripping tones and cinematic descriptions. I was glued to this book and read every word, including the lengthy author’s note in the back, and cried like a baby at the end. Read this one! It’s deeply moving and a story our entitled generation needs to consider. (Read more) 

Ross Poldark by Winston Graham 
It feels wrong to separate this book from Demelza, the second book in this Poldark series, because both are incredible and flow together beautifully, but if I had to favor one, it’d probably be this one by an ever so slight margin. Source material for a stunning new television series, Winston Graham’s story of Ross Poldark and his family and friends begins with this intriguing first volume. After fighting in the American Revolution, Ross returns to his beautiful hometown of Cornwall, England in 1783 to discover his father deceased, his inheritance and land in ruin, the economy on its knees, and his beloved Elizabeth engaged to his cousin. His struggle to start anew and to establish justice for the marginalized working class is thoughtful, poignant, humorous, and much more. Among the friends and allies Ross gathers are Zacky Martin and Jim Carter, stout-hearted copper mine workers, and Demelza Carne, a feisty street urchin who becomes kitchen maid in his house. (Read more) 

The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown 
Extraordinary, epic, spellbinding… I could go on! Don’t be put off by the rowing theme if you aren’t familiar with it. I knew nothing about competitive rowing before reading The Boys in the Boat, but it’s presented in fascinating, story-like narration. What’s more, the book absolutely commands respect for this sport that’s almost other-worldly in its physical demands. Rowing technique, boat design, and racing strategy are all described in detail, but never tediously. I found myself interested in what made a quality boat, gripped with suspense as Brown described the races, and maybe most of all, deeply touched by the camaraderie and trust between the boys that was a vital component of their success. Yes, this book is about an Olympic rowing team, but at its heart, this book is about a group of ragtag, working-class boys who leaned on each other through incredible obstacles to achieve a goal that would lift America’s downtrodden spirits after the Great Depression. At the center of this account is Joe Rantz, a driven young man who was abandoned as a child and had to make his own way in the world from a tender age. His heart for rowing came from desire to prove himself, but along the way, he had to learn to trust his crewmates. 

The Painter’s Daughter by Julie Klassen 
True to form, Julie Klassen draws another aesthetic and historical feast in this new gem. It’s 1815 in stunning Devonshire, England, and Sophie Dupont, daughter of a commissioned painter, finds herself in a dire predicament when handsome Wesley Overtree leaves her pregnant and alone. Accustomed to covering for his older brother’s laziness, Captain Stephen Overtree deduces the situation and offers Sophie a solution – a marriage of convenience to him that would protect her and her child from scandal and poverty. Frightened Sophie sees no other option, so she accepts his proposal, praying she won’t regret it. Tensions rise when she meets the aristocratic Overtree family and when Stephen’s military responsibilities intensify, making his future more uncertain. Apprehension abounds, secrets come to light, and notes of redemption sing beautifully as this story progresses. A sure must-read for any current Klassen fan or anyone who loves England or historical fiction! This book made me cry so many times, laugh heartily, and sigh in contentment at the end. (Read more)

There are my tip-top picks for the year, and now here are a few honorable mentions. Again, favorites are a struggle for me. 

Seven Women: And the Secret of their Greatness by Eric Metaxas (Read more)
A Praying Life by Paul Miller
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (Read more)

The only one not pictured is The Boys in the Boat; I'm working on buying it ASAP! In the meantime, here are the rest in all their bookish beauty. Hit me up if you read any of them and want to chat! I could talk about any of them all day.
What were your favorite books you read in 2015? Have you read any of the above? What did you think? What are you planning to read in 2016? I'd love to hear!

You Might Also Like


  1. Unbroken is one of the best books I've ever read. Such an incredible story and man!

    1. Agreed, Jamie!! An absolutely inspiring and humbling story! So glad I picked that one up this year!

  2. I can't wait to get my hands on the Poldark series after reading your posts! I started watching the series but got too busy to finish. Definitely adding both to my list for 2016!

    1. Oh, Sarah, you'll LOVE them! The books and the show are completely worth the time. I finished the show first since I was really enjoying it and then knew I wanted to read the books. Both are absolutely fabulous! Such an awesome story and amazing characters! I highly recommend both!

  3. I really enjoyed "Fierce Convictions" too! I've read about William Wilberforce but hadn't heard about Hannah More. (But now that I think about it - she might have a cameo in the movie "Amazing Grace"?) Anyway, I'm planning on reading some of her books now.
    I'd love to read "The Help" as I greatly enjoyed the movie. I forgot about that one when I was making my to-read list this year. I'd also love to read "Unbroken" and "The Book Thief". I might need to add them to my list this year! I've never heard of the "Poldark" books - they sound fascinating!

    1. Thanks for commenting, Emily!! Good eye about the Amazing Grace movie too! Yes, Hannah More is briefly featured in it, but not for long. I didn't realize what a huge role she had in the abolitionist movement until I'd read Fierce Convictions. She was truly an amazing woman!
      The Help and Unbroken are two new favorites of mine for sure! I really enjoyed the movie of The Help as well; that's a very good book-to-movie translation, I think. And Poldark is AMAZING. So glad the TV series introduced me to the stories and I'm such a huge fan of the books now too. The author is such an incredible storyteller and the characters are so relatable. I highly recommend the books and the show! :)