by Chris Irvin
My favorite books of 2015
Bull Mountain by Brian Panowich: A southern family crime saga smartly packed into 300 pages. Possibly my book of the year, I love it not only for the story, but for its wonderful structure that creates a historical depth of a text twice its size.
The Cartel by Don Winslow: Speaking of epic…I don’t read many books longer than 350 pages anymore (too many books, not enough time) but I’d heard nothing but praise for Winslow’s The Power of the Dog. I read it and The Cartel back to back in June. Thrilling and utterly depressing books that surpass the hype.
At Night She Cries While He Rides His Stead by Ross Patterson: HILARIOUS. A western/romance mash up – “A romance novel for dudes” – that nails all of the tropes you love. If the back cover copy makes you chuckle, you NEED this book.
Pillow by Andrew Battershill: A punch drunk former boxer making his way through the world as poor muscle for a dysfunctional syndicate. At times bizarre, I was gripped by this wonderfully odd book and couldn’t put it down. Haven’t read anything else quite like it.
Sweet Nothing by Richard Lange: The owner of my local bookstore (Papercuts J.P.) recommended Lange’s latest collection to me. I read it and marched right back for the rest of his books, reading them over the following month. *This* is my kind of crime – and a big inspiration for my own writing.
Death Don’t Have No Mercy by William Boyle: Boyle’s debut novel, Gravesend, was a book that snuck up on me, quickly becoming a favorite. I think this collection is equally as good, if not better. Like Lange, Boyle’s ‘literary crime’ style grabs me in a way few writers do.
Koko the Mighty by Kieran Shea: Pure Sci-Fi Fun. Shea’s follow-up to Koko Takes a Holiday is a blast, and I love the world he creates. I’m not a big series reader, but I’m eagerly awaiting more of Koko’s adventures.
Gold Fame Citrus by Claire Vaye Watkins: Watkins’ debut novel (following her excellent collection, Battleborn) totally caught me off guard. I went in with little knowledge of the plot, which I think worked in my favor, so I’ll just say…if a literary near-future slightly-dystopian love story involving a cult-esque group sounds like your jam, you’ll love this.
Only the Strong by Jabari Asim: All of the books in this list have at least one thing in common – fantastic characters. And Asim’s characters – from Guts Tolliver, to Ananaias Goode, and Artinces Noel – are some of the best. Following up on A Taste of Honey (Asim’s wonderful novel-in-stories featuring the same Midwestern community in the 1960’s), Only the Strong takes these characters into the 1970’s after the death of Martin Luther King Jr.
A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay: I love the idea and concept of horror, but few contemporary-set books and movies (especially movies) click with me. AHFoG is a notable exception in a big way – it’s creepy as hell, with a brilliant structure and heart wrenching turns.
Paradise Sky by Joe R. Lansdale: The western adventures of Nat Love, aka Deadwood Dick. Lansdale’s The Thicket is one of my all-time favorite books, so I went into Paradise Sky with high expectations – and it meets them. A must-read for fans of westerns and adventurous tales.
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates: Hearbreaking, necessary read. You should know about this book.