Our Favorite Reads of 2015

Our Favorite Reads 2015And a sneak peek into 2016!

My favorite posts to work on every year are the Top 5s of ABC staff and customers.  This year I’ve decided to make 2 massive posts (1 for staff + 1 for customers), so all the favorites are as packed together as possible and you can properly binge on all those titles you suddenly NEED TO READ!  (Or is that just me?)

This year I asked not just for everyone’s 5 favorite reads of 2015, but also the 1 thing they’re looking forward to reading in 2016.  I hope you enjoy everyone’s answers.  Happy reading!

Since I work in a bookstore you’ll find the Top 5s organized alphabetically by my colleagues’ first names.  Naturally.  Also, links to ebooks are provided whenever possible, in parentheses behind the title.

Edited to add:  YOUR Favorite Reads of 2015 are online now, too.  Click here to view them.

Barry – Daniele – Deborah – Ester – Iris – JeroenW – Jesse – Jilles – Jitse – Jouke – Karin – Klaartje – Lília – Lynn – Maarten – Martijn – Nyjolene – Pleun – Renate – Simone – Sophie – Tiemen – Tom

Gift Ideas Barry 2015Barry

  1. The Road to Little Dribbling – Bill Bryson (ebook)
  2. Barbarian Days – William Finnegan (ebook)
  3. Deep South – Louis Theroux (ebook)
  4. Thrown Under the Omnibus – P. J. O’Rourke (ebook)
  5. The Almost Nearly Perfect People – Michael Booth (ebook)
  6. Welcome to Paradise, Now Go To Hell – Chas Smith (ebook)

The Road to Little Dribbling - Bill BrysonBarbarian Days - William FinneganDeep South - Paul TherouxThrown Under the Omnibus - P. J. O'RourkeThe Almost Nearly Perfect People - Michael BoothWelcome to Paradise, Now Go to Hell! - Chas Smith

Daniele

The Last Kingdom – Bernard Cornwell (ebook)
If you like historical novels and stories about Vikings, you have to read this book! Set in 9th century England, The Last Kingdom is the story of Uthred, son of a Northumbrian Earl, who at the age of eight is taken prisoner by the Danes and subsequently raised by them. This is also the story of the Danes’ conquest of the English kingdoms. King Alfred of Wessex is England’s last hope to defeat the Vikings. And his and Uthred’s fates are bound together.

In the Footsteps of Alexander the Great – Michael Wood (ebook)
Alexander the Great’s 22000-mile expedition from Greece to India was a key moment in human history. Centuries later, historian Michael Wood followed in Alexander’s footsteps, traveling through 17 countries. In his book, he brilliantly intertwines the account of his journey with an accurate historical analysis of the conqueror’s expedition.

The Pleasures of the Dammed – Charles Bukowski (ebook)
An utterly brilliant collection of Bukowski’s poems. Dark, funny, angry, cynical. Some poems are funny and anecdotal, some are bitter reflections on life and humanity. What I like about Bukowski is his honesty and his style. His poems are written in a prose-like style which distinguishes them from traditional poetry and makes them accessible to everyone.

Nocturnes – Kazuo Ishiguro (ebook)
Five short stories by Kazuo Ishiguro, my favorite British author. I read it on a night flight from Italy to the Netherlands, which turned out to be the best situation for reading this book. Firstly, because all five stories happen at night. Secondly, because these stories are so compelling that I had finished them before the flight was over. The big leitmotif is music. Other themes are love, relationships and the passing of time.

Pearl Jam and Eddie Vedder: None Too Fragile – Martin Clarke
I am a huge Pearl Jam fan, so I really enjoyed this book, which is full of interesting facts about the band, from its formation to the present. I recommend this book to everyone who is into grunge and rock and roll. If you’re not a Pearl Jam fan, this book will make you want to listen to their music. In this biography of the band, Martin Clarke describes the Seattle grunge scene, the band’s rise to international success and the key role played by its charismatic front man, Eddie Vedder.

The Last Kingdom - Bernard CornwellIn the Footsteps of Alexander the Great - Michael WoodThe Pleasures of the Damned - Charles BukowskiNocturnes - Kazuo IshiguroPearl Jam and Eddie Vedder: None Too Fragile - Martin Clarke

Deborah

  1. The Rest of Us Just Live Here – Patrick Ness (ebook)
  2. One – Sarah Crossan (ebook)
  3. I Am Princess X – Cherie Priest
  4. Made You Up – Francesca Zappia (ebook)
  5. I’ll Give You the Sun – Jandy Nelson (ebook)

Looking forward to in 2016:  I am looking forward to reading Pax by Sara Pennypacker. First of all, that cover! It is stunning! But I am sure that the story will be just as good. Reading the small summary gave me goosebumps. Can’t wait to get it in my hands and start reading it.

The Rest of Us Just Live Here - Patrick Ness (US edition)One - Sarah CrossanI Am Princess X - Cherie PriestMade You Up - Francesca ZappiaI'll Give You The Sun - Jandy Nelson + Pax - Sara Pennypacker

Gift Ideas from Ester 2015Ester

The Manor House Mystery series – Julie Hyzy (starts with Grace Under Pressure)
I already knew Hyzy from her White House Chef series, which I devoured as far as possible in 2014 (the ninth new book comes out in 2016). I couldn’t believe my luck when I realized she also writes the Manor House series. I’ve read, until now, six books in 2015. Lovely and endearing characters, great plots with enough turns and twists to keep you guessing.

The Library Lover’s Mystery series – Jenn McKinlay (starts with Books Can Be Deceiving)
Six books to date, I’ve read five of them. Spunky and vibrant sleuth, romantic interest(s) we all want to meet and great friends and community to boot. Nothing else needed to make my top 5.

Me Before You & After You – Jojo Moyes (ebooks herehere)
If I didn’t shed enough tears at the beginning of 2015 with Me Before You, I certainly made up for it at the end of the year with After You. Moyes is a master in telling a beautiful, though heartbreaking, story of everyday people who have to make difficult, if not impossible, choices. With the smallest details she captures the relationships with friends and family, the hurt and misunderstandings and everyday life that doesn’t stand still for anything. You will laugh, you will cry, you will read these books in one sitting.

The Tarnished Eye – Judith Guest
A fictional mystery based on a true story. A very intriguing read written in a way only Guest can: very matter-of-factly, but with an in-depth insight of all the characters involved in this gruesome tale of murder.

A Cruel Bird Came to the Nest and Looked In – Magnus Mills (ebook)
Weird & brilliant. I’m trying to say more, to describe more, but more is not necessarily better, so: Weird. Brilliant. Read.

Looking forward to in 2016: More cozy-crime series – who would have thought I would be such a sucker for this genre 😛 . Also, whatever my book club ladies will throw at me and whatever comes my way at any given time. So nothing in particular really.

Grace Under Pressure - Julie HyzyBooks Can Be Deceiving - Jenn McKinlayMe Before You - Jojo MoyesAfter You - Jojo MoyesThe Tarnished Eye - Judith GuestA Cruel Bird Came to the Nest and Looked In - Magnus Mills

IrisIris

A Wild Swan & Other Tales – Michael Cunningham (ebook)
As soon as I found this book, I knew I had to have it. I came across it when I was unpacking a shipment and it never even made it to the shelf. And I have no regrets, because it turned out to be my absolute favourite read of 2015! This is a collection of short stories, all of which are based on fairy tales in one way or another. What stands out most about this book is the narration: every story is told in a specific style that suits the subject matter, and some of these styles are quite unusual. The illustrations by Yuko Shimizu are absolutely stunning as well.

The Dumb House – John Burnside (ebook)
I don’t usually read a lot of horror, mostly because – let’s face it – I am a huge wimp and I wouldn’t be able to sleep after reading something too scary. However, The Dumb House is one of those books that I’d heard a lot of people talk about on Youtube (or booktube, specifically), and I figured I’d jump on the bandwagon. This deeply disturbing and yet strangely compelling story is about a man who is obsessed with the ‘innateness’ of language. He develops an experiment which involves bringing two children up in his cellar without ever exposing them to any form of human language. I especially loved the beautiful writing style and the unreliability of the narrator.

The Bees – Laline Paull (ebook)
This story is about Flora 717: she is born into the lowest class of worker bees in her hive, but it is quickly discovered that she is different from the others. Flora manages to escape the fate that usually awaits mutations, but also continues to discover the secrets at the heart of the totalitarian hive society. The Bees reads like a modern version of 1984. With bees.

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake – Aimee Bender (ebook)
This is one of those books of which I was aware looong before I finally decided to pick it up, but when I did, it definitely didn’t disappoint! The story is about Rose Edelstein, a sweet but otherwise unremarkable girl who suddenly discovers that she has a strange magical talent: she can taste people’s emotions in the food they have prepared. This talent is sometimes a blessing but mostly a curse, and the story tracks Rose’s growing up and learning how to cope.

The Graveyard Book – Neil Gaiman (ebook)
Gaiman is one of my favourite authors of all time, so I was happy to finally get my hands on this book. This story (essentially a reimagining of Kipling’s The Jungle Book) is about a young boy named Nobody (or ‘Bod’) Owens, who loses his family at the hands of the man Jack, and is consequently raised in the local graveyard by the resident ghosts and spirits. As Bod grows up, he discovers that the evil that killed his parents is still out there, and after him.

Looking forward to in 2016: I’m pretty excited about The Song Rising by Samantha Shannon (third part of The Bone Season series), although I do still need to read the second part.

Yes, you can find me online: youtube.com/user/MsWoollyWolf

A Wild Swan - Michael CunninghamThe Dumb House - John BurnsideThe Bees (UK cover) - Laline PaullThe Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake - Aimee BenderThe Graveyard Book - Neil Gaiman + The Song Rising - Samantha Shannon

JeroenW Gift Ideas 2015JeroenW

The Magicians – Lev Grossman (ebook)
I’ve always been curious about this book, and this year I finally got around to reading it. Suffice it to say I was more than pleasantly surprised by how much I liked it. Anyone who grew up reading Harry Potter and Narnia owes it to themselves to read this.

Asterios Polyp – David Mazzucchelli
A beautifully drawn (literally) portrait of an architect who realises that he basically has been a bit a of a prick all his life, and tries to better himself.

Dear Committee Members – Julie Schumacher (ebook)
The story of an English Professor at a second rate university in the USA, told through the letters of recommendation he’s asked to write for his students and colleagues. He used to be a succesful author, now he isn’t even a succesful human being. Funny and pleasantly depressing.

Het Onzienbare – Erik Kriek 
A graphical adaptation of a few classic Lovecraft stories, in Erik Kriek’s trademark pulp horror style. Unfortunately only available in Dutch.

Aama, vol. 1: The Smell of Warm Dust – Frederik Peeters (ebook)
I’m normally not a big fan of European graphic novels, but this one caught my eye. A weird scifi story in the vein of The Incal. I’m looking forward to reading part 2.

Looking forward to in 2016:  I’m looking forward to the next instalments of Saga (#6) and The Wicked and the Divine (#3)!

The Magicians - Lev GrossmanAsterios Polyp - David MazzucchelliDear Committee Members - Julie SchumacherHet onzienbare - Eric KriekAama, vol. 1 - Federik Peeters + The Wicked and The Divine, vol. 3 - Kieron Gillen et al

Gift Ideas from Jesse, 2015Jesse

The Master and Margarita – Mikhail Bulgakov (ebook)
One of the best books I’ve read and I immediately wanted to read it again as soon as I finished it. Which is why I have this nice hardcover edition!

Angela Carter’s books (i.e. Nights at the Circus) (ebook)
I read a lot of Angela Carter’s books and short stories this year after finishing The Magic Toyshop, which was just as lovely as Nights at the Circus. Her stories are quite dark and surreal with haunting characters and I love her sense of humor and her prose.

The Happy Reader – Penguin & Fantastic Man
A quarterly magazine by Penguin Books and Fantastic Man (magazine) about reading and books. Half of the magazine consists of an interview with a reader (the person on the cover). The other half takes a closer look at a literary classic, which is always revealed in the previous issue so you can read it in advance (for the Spring issue it will be The Saga of Gösta Berling by Selma Lagerlof, which I might start reading).

In Montmartre: Picasso, Matisse and Modernism in Paris, 1900-1910 – Sue Roe (ebook)
A very enjoyable read about Art at the beginning of the 20th century in Montmartre Paris. I never knew Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse were such rivals.

Other books I enjoyed, or still am enjoying, like the cooking book My New Roots:

Looking forward to in 2016: The Jungle Book – Rudyard Kipling. Earlier this year Harper Collins published a new edition of Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie as the start of a beautifully designed classics series. Up next is The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling, which comes out in March. These editions are illustrated by MinaLima Design, who are also known for their graphic design for the Harry Potter films. I’m looking forward to seeing which other classics they will be re-designing next.

The Master and Margarita - Michael BulgakovNights at the Circus - Angela CarterThe Happy Reader (winter 2015)In Montmartre - Sue Roe + The Jungle Book - Rudyard Kipling

 

JillesGift Ideas from Jilles, 2015

Gimp – Mark Zupan (ebook)
A great, inspiring story about an 18 year-old boy who gets into a car crash and becomes a quadreplegic. Having been a great athlete, it is sport that saves him. In his case murderball. In the end he becomes an Olympic medal winner.

The Surrender Experiment – Michael A. Singer (ebook)
After The Untethered Soul Micheal Singer writes a book about his own life as an experiment of surrendering to Life. The result: an amazing book that shows what trust in the universe, or God, really means.

Ordinary People – Judith Guest
A classic novel about an American family trying to hold on to their status quo after one of their sons dies and the other tries to commit suicide out of guilt. A heartwrenchingly good novel about the disintegration of a family (als made into a wonderful movie by Robert Redford in 1980).

Murder as a Fine Art – David Morrell (ebook)
When you pick up a thriller written by David Morrell you know a couple of things: it is very well researched, fast-paced, and great entertainment value. This book, set in London of the 1850s, is all of that and more. Great crime read with an abundance of information about living in those times that gives reading it an extra special something.

The Bone Collector – Jeffrey Deaver (ebook)
One of the best thrillers I read this year. The main character is a forensic criminologist and now quadriplegic.  He wants to commit suicide but gets drawn into solving a bizarre crime. He uses a young woman on her last day as a cop on the street to do all the fieldwork. The characters are amazing and the plot crackles with anticipation.

Looking forward to in 2016: End of Watch, the third installment Stephen King’s trilogy about Bill Hodges and friends, which started with Mr. Mercedes, followed by Finders Keepers. King is a great storyteller. When he hits all the right notes he is amazing, when he digresses, which he sometimes does, he is still great to read.

Gimp - Mark ZupanThe Surrender Experiment - Michael A. SingerOrdinary People - Judith GuestMurder as a Fine Art - David MorrellThe Bone Collector - Jeffery Deaver + End of Watch - Stephen King

Gift Ideas from Jitse, 2015Jitse

  1. Low – Rick Remender
  2. Sandman: Overture – Neil Gaiman et al
  3. Lone Sloane: Delirius – Philippe Druillet et al
  4. Killing and Dying – Adrian Tomine
  5. Trashed – Derf Backderf (ebook)

Looking forward to in 2016: Patience – Daniel Clowes

Low, vol. 1 - Rick Remender and Greg TocchiniSandman: Overture - Neil Gaiman et alLone Sloane: Delirius - Philippe Druillet et alKilling and Dying - Adrian TomineTrashed - Derf Backderf + Patience - Daniel Clowes

Gift Ideas from Jouke 2015Jouke

PhantomPolice – Jo Nesbø (ebooks here + here)
A good example of why you should read detective series in order. Cliffhangers at the end of Phantom are continued in Police, so I devoured these back-to-back during my holiday.

Dead Mountain: The Untold True Story of the Dyatlov Pass Incident – Donnie Eichar
Siberia, 1959. A group of tech university students – all very skilled hikers – flee their tents in a freezing winter night, without footwear, and perish under mysterious circumstances…

My Fight / Your Fight – Ronda Rousey (ebook)
A nice combination of soap opera and dojo wisdom, giving a peek into the life of Mixed Martial Artist ‘Rowdy’ Ronda Rousey. This makes for a quick, entertaining read.

Empire magazine
Soaking in a hot bath once a month while leisurely catching up on the latest developments in the movie industry = bliss.

Phantom - Jo NesbøPolice - Jo NesbøDead Mountain - Donnie EicharMy Fight / Your Fight - Ronda RouseyEmpire magazine

Karin's favorites 2015Karin

Station Eleven – Emily St. John Mandel (ebook)
Wonderful post apocalyptic fiction story. Won the Arthur C. Clarke Award and rightfully so.  Wonderful characters and a very believable and creative story about a group of people trying to cope with a new way of life in very distressing times. So sorry to miss Emily when she visited ABC in Amsterdam earlier this year.

Us – David Nicholls (ebook)
On my want-to-read list since 2014. A must-read, especially when you are over 40 and thinking back about the first half of you life and you have a teenager under your care. Hilarious, heart-warming, well written. A classic!

East Meets West – Yang Liu
This little cute infographic book is a tip for anyone familiar with Asian and in particular Chinese culture versus our Western culture. The cute and very smart infographics hit the nail on the head on every page! Sooooo recognisable in a very fun way.

Make My Day: Hong Kong – Lonely Planet
The pages in the little Make My Day travel guides are cut in 3 sections to plan your days in a very creative and fun way. Can’t wait to use it in February!

The Glass Castle – Jeanette Walls (ebook)
My favorite of 2015. An excellent choice for book clubs. A heartbreaking true story of poverty and endurance in the USA told by a young girl. Sometimes so unbelievable that one of the women in my book club did not realise it was an autobiography until we told her when discussing the book together. Wanted to give my mum a copy but the Dutch translation is out of print!

California – Edan Lepucki (ebook)
Hyped, near-future, post-apocalyptic fiction, but not nearly as good and believable as Station Eleven. Still, a very pleasant read and it made for a good book discussion with my book club.

Station Eleven - Emily St. John MandelUs - David NichollsEast Meets West - Yang LiuLonely Planet Make My Day Hong KongThe Glass Castle - Jeannette WallsCalifornia - Eden

Klaartje

The Go Between – J. A. Hartley (ebook)

The Beat of my Own Drum – Sheila E
My favorite drummer from my youth was playing in Paradiso in April 2015;  she is still a great artist. I am going to read her book again, because it is now available in paperback.

The Bees – Laline Paull (ebook)
This is a story about a population of bees, written like it is an ancient human society. One bee wonders whether she is special; is she perhaps a princess? As a beekeeper I know some details about bees in a hive. To them the question of who will become queen is not mysterious. Worker bees make her themselves.

Open City – Teju Cole (ebook)
This main character is a doctor, who was born in Nigeria. The book is about the differences in cultures in the Western world.

The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden – Jonas Jonasson
This is the same writer who wrote The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared. It is as funny as his previous book. In a funny way he criticizes politics between Africa and Europe in the years of Apartheid.

Sleeping Giants – Sylvian Neuvel 
I liked reading this book (I read an ARC). There are scientists who find body parts, spread over the world. They attach the parts and then it is an 8000-year-old working robot. The story teller is an unknown person, who interviews his assistants.  To me it was Toy Story for grown ups.

Looking forward to in 2016:  Butterfly in the Dark – Gilly Macmillan.  The story begins with pianist Zoe Maisey, who gives the best performance of her life and six hours later her mother dies. Was it a crime or not? The names of the 3 main female characters are Zoe, Tessa and Sam. Is one of them the killer, or is it Lucas, or Richard?

The Go-Between - L. P. HartleyThe Beat of My Own Drum - Sheila E.The Bees (UK cover) - Laline PaullOpen City - Teju ColeThe Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden (UK cover) - Jonas JonassonSleeping Giants - Sylvain Neuvel + Butterfly in the Dark - Gilly Macmillan

Gift Ideas from LiliaLília

  1. Full-Figure Fashion – BurdaStyle Magazine
  2. The Boy in the Dress – David Walliams (ebook)
  3. Me Before You – Jojo Moyes (ebook)
  4. Us – David Nicholls (ebook)
  5. If I Stay + Where She Went – Gayle Forman (ebook here + here)

Looking forward to in 2016:  The Beast – J. R. Ward.

BurdaStyle Full-Figure FashionThe Boy in the Dress - David WalliamsMe Before You - Jojo MoyesUs - David NichollsIf I Stay - Gayle FormanWhere She Went - Gayle Forman + The Beast - J. R. Ward

Lynn

  1. Still Here: Embracing Aging, Changing, and Dying – Ram Dass
  2. Go Set a Watchman – Harper Lee (ebook)
  3. The 100-Year-Old man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared – Jonas Jonasson (ebook)
  4. M-Train – Patti Smith (ebook)
  5. Fear of Dying – Erica Jong (ebook)

Looking forward to in 2016: anything by Dave Eggers or David Mitchell.

Still Here - Ram DassGo Set a Watchman (US edition) - Harper LeeThe 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared - Jonas JonassonM-Train - Patti SmithFear of Dying - Erica Jong

Gift Ideas Maarten 2015Maarten

A list of 5 – why only 5?! – books I liked best of all the books I’ve read this year, for all kinds of reasons: they are very well written, have beautiful language; they present interesting facts and/or knowledge; the topic is both entertaining ánd interesting; they provide new insights and ideas, and make you think or reconsider things; they are just very pleasant to read, relaxing, for when your head is either too full or too empty to read anything with more substance…

The best books are those that have all these qualities, but these are rare…  So here are ‘my favourites’, for one or more of these reasons, in a semi-random order:

Severed : A History of Heads Lost and Heads Found – Frances Larson (ebook)
A well written, very interesting – to some – (anthropological) history of the severed head.  From head-hunters to the guillotine, and from shrunken heads to the collecting of enemy skulls by American soldiers in World War II, this book provides not only nice facts about decapitation through the ages, but also insights into human behaviour and our attitude towards death.

De schaduw van Tambora, de grootste natuurramp sinds mensenheugenis – Philip Dröge
After (at least) two English books about this topic, finally a Dutch one. (This, after all, happened in Indonesia, then the Dutch East Indies.) This book explores, in a nice, journalistic style, all kinds of effects, in weather patterns, politics, religion, and even literature, of the enormous explosion of the volcano Tambora in 1815. Surprising how diverse and far-reaching these effects can be. Makes you realize how powerful Mother Earth is; she could shake us off like the fleas we are…

All the Time in the World – E.L. Doctorow (ebook)
Continuing my habit of reading books by recently deceased authors, this collection of stories I found very impressive. This guy knew how to write, and had a not-very-positive opinion of humanity, resulting in great and convincing stories about people who are, in Doctorow’s own words, “in some sort of contest with the prevailing world”. Aren’t we all?

Viktor Wynd’s Cabinet of Wonders
Not specifically because this is the best book about this topic – collecting, cabinets of curiosities, weird but beautiful objects and such – but because that Wynd guy is rather peculiar. And because the other similar books I’ve read this year are either difficult to get, or too popular… (I like to feel different.) This one is also very good, by the way, and quite pretty.

I will end this list not with a 5th book – I really do like to feel different – but with a few titles that I enjoyed this year for various reasons, and that together form the fifth, so to speak: Het behouden huis – W.F. Hermans ; Beasts of Burden, Animal Rites – Evan Dorkin and Jill Thompson ( I re-read it again this year) ; Het verlangen van de Egel – Toon TellegenThe Crossing of Antarctica ; and, why not, the Sherlock Holmes stories by Arthur Conan Doyle.

Looking forward to in 2016:  The book I am really going to read in 2016 – among hopefully many others! – is Congo by David van Reybrouck. So many people have told me what a good book this is, and I already sort of agree, even without reading it. A supposedly very well-written, high quality literary-non-fiction title, about a topic that is both very interesting and important. Hereby I solemnly promise I definitively will read this book in 2016. I hope.

Severed - Frances LarsonDe schaduw van Tambora - Philip DrögeAll the Time in the World - E. L. DoctorowCabinet of Wonders - Viktor Wynd + Congo - David van Reybrouck

Gift Ideas Martijn 2015Martijn

The Tao trilogy (The Lives of Tao, The Deaths of Tao, The Rebirths of Tao – Wesley Chu (ebooks here, here, and here)
There’s always been been war on Earth between two opposing sets of aliens, inhabiting humans to attain their goals.  This is what loser Roen Tan finds out when he is (by chance) selected to become a host of one of these aliens.  This particular one is called Tao, who at some point inhabited Dzjengis Khan and invented T’ai Chi. Yes, the premise is weird to say the least, but this is top-notch popcorn (science)fiction.  Light reading and a lot of fun; A+ entertainment!

Us – David Nicholls (ebook)
Nice, tasty in-between-er.  About a couple around the age of 50 with an almost-adult son, who decide to divorce.  The book, which is funny and emotional, focuses equally on the beginning of their relationship (in flashbacks) and their attempts to save their marriage.  Will they manage to save it…?

All the Light We Cannot See – Anthony Doerr (ebook)
BEAUTIFUL!  This is where fiction easily beats a history book. It makes you ‘feel’ a very complex period in human history. Exciting, moving, educating.  Well-written without being difficult to read.

Undermajordomo Minor- Patrick DeWitt (ebook)
What a strange book!  It’s been named a Gothic Comedy of Manners and it’s been compared to the film Grand Budapest Hotel (although Tim Burton would do nicely as a director in this case).  I guess it’s both true.
I couldn’t stop reading it. It’s funny, smart (even philosophical), disgusting, and even a little touching. The main character is the dialogue, though. All characters are absurdly eloquent and witty. This often contrasts with the various situations in a way that’s very, very amusing.

The entire Dresden Files (starts with Storm Front) – Jim Butcher (ebook)
I’m currently rereading this.  Still my all-time favorite series.  The build-up across the books of the characters and the overall plotline is even more clear now that I’m rereading it than the first time.  Glorious action, great villains and cast, lots of wise-cracks, and you even start to care for the characters. Unputdownable.

The Lives of Tao - Wesley ChuThe Deaths of Tao - Wesley ChuThe Rebirths of Tao - Wesley ChuUs - David NichollsAll the Light We Cannot See - Anthony DoerrUndermajordomo Minor - Patrick DeWittstormfrontnewcover

Gift Ideas Nyjolene 2015Nyjolene

Lockwood & Co.: the Screaming Staircase – Jonathan Stroud (ebook)
This book is amazing, as are all of Jonathan Stroud’s books. It’s set in London and the main character, Anthony Lockwood, is like a teenage Sherlock.  He’s a mysterious and somewhat pretentious Psychic Detection Agent and founder of Lockwood & Co., a small agency run without ‘adult supervision’.  Not only are the characters a joy to read, but the story is very exciting.  Lovers of the Bartimaeus Trilogy will LOVE this.  Granted, there aren’t any sarcastic djinn like Bartimaeus, but Anthony is as annoying yet lovable as Nathanial, and the story is as dark and exciting.
I strongly recommend it (and if I’ve sparked and interest in The Bartimaeus Trilogy, go for it! That series remains my favorite Young Adult series of all time.)

The Book of Night Women – Marlon James (ebook)
This book is so raw… If slavery never happened, I wouldn’t recommend it… but it did. And this account is painfully realistic.  As a Jamaican living free in Holland, I owe it to my ancestors and my past to acknowledge the “realness” of this unimaginably grotesque part of history, wrapped up in fiction. I’m forever grateful to Marlon James for daring to write so true, with a gift of writing and storytelling I can only marvel at… a masterpiece.  And a reminder: 200+ years is not that long ago. But look how far humanity has come. Far from healthy, far from whole, but fighting for it… That really hit me, while reading.  I hope strongly, when the honest and truthful recollections of history in ‘fiction’ books like these, are embraced by so many;
that the real history that this story represents, in all its brutality, and all the ugly trails that it has left in our current society, will soon belong completely to the past, and never return again.

Endgame: The Calling – James Frey (ebook)
Ok, it’s clear to me that within the Young Adult section, many books have a similar theme: the world is about to be destroyed and only a few young ‘chosen ones’ can help save it… BUT…
even though Endgame is no different, what makes this book fantastic are the characters. They come from all over the world, they are all born killers, they are mostly brutally vicious, but so fascinating!  They team up in ways you don’t expect and make choices that are cruel but understandable. The question ‘why’ the earth is about to be wiped out is poorly explained and not very satisfying, to be honest, but the fact that the series (yes, I have also read Sky Key!) is part of my top 5 (I read 29 books this year) says how amazing the rest was to make up for that.
(And I silently hope that in the parts that follow the ‘why’ of the story will be explained more fully 😉 )  Oh! Did I mention the book is filled with all kind of clues for you to figure out while reading?  It’s not a must, I was lazy and didn’t look up a thing, but if you like to research while you read, this book is all the more one you will love!

Sketcher – Roland Watson-Grant (ebook)
This book is amazing, and that’s an understatement. It moved me on so many levels I can’t try and explain. But magic hasn’t been incorporated into a book so smoothly and convincingly, leaving me yearning to be a part of its great adventure, since Boy’s Life by Robert R. McCammon. Five out of five stars!

One Kick – Chelsea Cain
This book was a shocker!! The way it starts is so heavy and well described it’s the best kick off of a story I’ve ever read. From moment one, I couldn’t put it down. The story is heart-wrenching, fast-paced, and chilling. Kick is a fighter passionately driven by her past. Her fighting skills are brilliant, but her mind is so messed up, that it leaves a knot in your stomach throughout the story.  A beautiful character, a painful story and a fantastic read…

Lockwood & Co.: The Screaming Staircase -The Book of Night Women - Marlon JamesThe Calling (Endgame 1) - James Frey and Nils Sketcher - Roland Watson-GrantOne Kick - Chelsea Cain

Pleun

The Killer Next Door – Alex Marwood (ebook)
Loved this book about a group of different people living in a bedsit in London. They all have something to hide and one of them is a serial killer.  Could not put it down, even if I wanted to!

Jo Frost’s Confident Baby Care – Jo Frost (ebook)
This year I had a baby and I, like every parent on the planet, am sometimes unsure what to do. Time to bring out the baby books and of all the books I picked up and read this was the one with the most straightforward information. Clear and with an eye for detail.  Loved it.

Baby’s Very First Books: Faces – John Fordham
OK, I work in a bookshop so that means my child is going to be exposed to a lot of books. When she was 3 weeks old I showed her this book thinking it would not leave a big impression, but I was so wrong. Her eyes became big and she just looked at it for ages. She loves the different faces and even smiles at them. Great first read 🙂

Baby Play – Wendy Masi
Playtime is big in our house but sometimes I am just stuck and out of ideas. And because I want to mix up the routine and want the activities to be suitable for her age I went looking and found this great book that is a real good source of information. Some games are very obvious but I just forgot!

Mindful Motherhood – Cassandra Vieten
I got this book from my dear friend and colleague Jilles. During my pregnancy I did a Mindfulness course – a great way to stay relaxed during pregnancy and this book also helps, a lot!

The Killer Next Door - Alex MarwoodJo Frost's Confident Baby Care - Jo FrostBaby's Very First Books: Faces - John FordhamBaby Play - Wendy MasiMindful Motherhood - Cassandra Vieten

Gift Ideas from RenateRenate

Mystiek Lichaam – Frans Kellendonk
I’d never read anything by Kellendonk before, but found an old copy of Mystiek Lichaam, his most famous novel, somewhere lying around in my house, and I’m glad I did. I can’t believe I’d never read this before. It’s comic and tragic and Kellendonk’s prose is amazing.

De Brieven – Frans Kellendonk
Beautifully published collection of Letters by Kellendonk. His letters are as wonderful as his stories and novels. 2015 was Kellendonk-year in the Netherlands, as he died 25 years ago.

The Vegetarian – Han Kang (ebook)
Dark and mysterious novel about art and sex and the limits of being human.

Just Kids – Patti Smith (ebook)
After Patti Smith’s 3rd visit to our store in Amsterdam, I decided it was time to read her memoir, which I’ve heard so much about.  I finished reading it on the train home to my parents, and had a big lump in my throat as I closed the book. It was such a beautiful read and I just stared smilingly and full of wonderful sadness at the people sitting in front of me. They must’ve thought I was a crazy person.

Our Endless Numbered Days – Claire Fuller (ebook)
Haunting read about a girl living in the woods with her father, who tells her the world has ended and they are the only ones left. I never read these kind of stories. They somehow sound too sentimental to me, but this one left me reading way past my bedtime.

Between the World and Me – Ta-Nehisi Coates
A book everyone should read, in my opinion. Coates writes a strong personal memoir, disguised as a letter to his son, about what it’s like to be black in America. Thought-provoking and sad, but not without hope.

Mystiek lichaam - Frans KellendonkDe Brieven - Frans KellendonkThe Vegetarian - Han KangJust Kids - Patti SmithOur Endless Numbered Days - Claire FullerBetween the World and Me - Ta-Nehisi Coates

giftssimone2015Simone

Spark Joy: An Illustrated Master Class on the Arto of Organizing and Tidying Up – Marie Kondo
The follow-up to the massive bestseller The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up that took us by storm. This second inspirational book contains more practical instructions, and will for sure help you even more with this new approach to managing all your ‘stuff’. I have thoroughly enjoyed reading both books, and have adapted a new attitude towards my belongings.  Kondo’s insights, somewhat different from our Western habits, are refreshing and truly inspiring!

Black Seconds – Karin Fossum (ebook)
This novel is another example of Fossum’s characteristic style of writing: psychological insights, slow pace, not all crimes are resolved. Detective Sejer tries to resolve the crime, but sometimes the lesson learned from people’s actions are just as important as finding and punishing the culprit.

The Death of Faith – Donna Leon
Detective Brunetti looks into the routine of a convent, after a nun tells him about her suspicions regarding the wheeling and dealing of the place. Another great story in the series of detective Brunetti, with appropriate doses of grappa, pasta and sunshine. On a cold day, reading a Donna Leon novel is warmly recommended.

Seize the Day – Saul Bellow (ebook)
Just as reading it the first time, the second time I read this novel it grabbed me by the throat again. The main character Wilhelm is unlucky in his working life, and tries to get by with some dubious financial transactions. When he is in financial dire straits again, he approaches his wealthy father who shows him ‘tough love’: he will give him no money, for ‘his own benefit’. Financial ruin looms, his options disappear one by one, and he is trapped in the corner of the room that is his miserable life.

Real Simple magazine
If ever in need of a great (simple!) recipe, a fun decoration tip, a household gadget, book tips and much, much more, you only need to open up this magazine, which remains as popular as ever! I also recommend their mailing messages, which you can adjust entirely to your wishes.

Looking forward to in 2016:  I am looking forward to reading a new novel in 2016 by David Nicholls or Daphne Kalotay!!

Yes, you can find me online: www.depapierhandel.com@simonemirjam

Spark Joy - Marie KondoBlack Seconds - Karin FossumThe Death of Faith - Donna LeonSeize the Day - Saul BellowReal Simple (January 2016)

Gift Ideas from Sophie, 2015

Sophie

The Imperial Radch Trilogy (Ancillary Justice, Ancilly Sword, and Ancillary Mercy) – Ann Leckie (ebook here, here, and here)
My favorite reads of the year.  Subtle, challenging, philosophical, intense.  Leckie has created a vast universe of which you see only snippets.  She pushes you to think about many concepts like language, gender, AI, humanity, and significance.  And then the most crucial twists hinge on something like a half-second hesitation in someone’s reply!  Awesome sauce.  I’m already looking forward to rereading this entire series in 2016.

The Reality Dysfunction – Peter F. Hamilton (ebook)
I’m still reeling, and I read this back in September!  If you like your SciFi *BIG* then you cannot get any bigger than this.  Multiple planets and universes and systems, all carefully introduced (including how the physics of the world worked to make it the way it is); alien species; a cast of hundreds; absolutely vast and devastating space battles.  And still Hamilton manages to zoom in on the personal stories as well.  There were many times I sat on the edge of my chair as I was reading, knuckles white from grasping the edges of the book.  And this is only part 1 of 3.  O.o

Inherent Vice – Thomas Pynchon (ebook)
I haven’t seen the movie yet, but the announcement of the movie did make me pick up this book.  I had such a good time reading this!  Just sit back, relax, and join Doc’s nonsensical adventures (that all make sense in the end, somehow).  Meet Denis-rhymes-with-penis, menacing dentists, a sax player who may or may not be dead, and other flotsam from the late 60s in L.A.  As Martijn said above: A+ entertainment.

A Brief History of Seven Killings – Marlon James
I read this back in January, so you can imagine I felt all kinds of prophetic when it won the Booker Prize.  🙂  Intense, violent, absorbing book.  I know very little about Jamaica, so the first 50 or so pages involved a lot of Wikipedia and Google searches, but once I got my feet on the ground, so to speak, I was caught up with the various characters, from ghetto rude-boys to Miami drug dealers.  This is the kind of book that brings home what a privilege it is to live in a stable place with a roof over your head and enough food to eat.

H Is For Hawk – Helen Macdonald (ebook)
Oh, the writing!  It just soars.  (Please forgive me that avian pun.)  Rarely do I read a book where the joy lies in the words on the page, where you reread passages simply for the beauty of the language found there.  On top of that it is also an engrossing story of a woman losing herself in grief, and trying to claw her way back from the darkness with the help of nature, in the form of Mabel, a goshawk.  You will see every feather in your mind’s eye, and flinch every time she bates.  Not everything about the structure of the book worked for me, but that’s just me being very, very picky.

Looking forward to in 2016: This Must Be The Place by Maggie O’Farrell.  The only author (other than Nick Harkaway) that I will tear through every single box of a new shipment for to get my hands on that first copy.  Hardcover, paperback, I don’t care.  Whatever comes in first goes home with me and is binged on that evening.

Ancillary Justice - Ann LeckieAncillary Sword - Ann LeckieAncillary Mercy - Ann LeckieThe Reality Dysfunction - Peter F. HamiltonInherent Vice - Thomas PynchonA Brief History of Seven Killings - Marlon JamesH is for Hawk - Helen Macdonald + This Must Be The Place - Maggie O'Farrell

Tiemen 2015Tiemen

On the Edge of Gone – Corinne Duyvis
Finally a book in which Amsterdam gets destroyed. The world is hit by a giant meteor and a young Dutch girl and her addicted mother are trying to survive. This is a thrilling story that really makes you feel how it is to view the world as an autistic person. Especially recommended for people living in Amsterdam as you will recognize a lot of the destroyed landmarks.  Note, scheduled to be published March 2016.

Sorcerer to the Crown – Zen Cho (ebook)
I am a sucker for regency novels, especially when they include magic. This is a wonderful comedy of errors with magicians, familiars and public scandals. But don’t be deceived by the humorous tone of Sorcerer to the Crown, this is a deceptively easy read which has a lot to say about the legacy of colonialism, racism and sexism. Especially recommended for fans of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell.

The Traitor Baru Cormorant – Seth Dickinson
One brilliant executed punch in the gut. This is an amazing political fantasy novel. It combines so many different elements in such a grand way that one almost doubts that this is a debut. Seth Dickinson is a master storyteller.

The Fifth Season – N.K. Jemisin (ebook)
N.K. Jemisin is one of those authors who just keeps getting better with every new book.  Probably one of the most original and heart-rending epic fantasy novels I have read. Also the best.  The Fifth Season begins with the end of the world and that is just the beginning. It’s an engrossing story with perceptive and important observations about how systems of oppression function and affect the lives of people.  Jemisin is one of the best fantasy authors this decade and if you have not read anything by her yet you are really missing out.

Aurora – Kim Stanley Robinson (ebook)
Better than Interstellar and The Martian combined. This is the ultimate generation ship story ever. If you are a fan of hard science-fiction this is a must-read. Robinson weaves a masterful story about the people living and dying on a giant spaceship heading to a destination hundreds of light years away. Probably also has the best deus ex machina reveal ever.

Honorable mentions (because Tiemen doesn’t do only 5 favorite reads)
Uprooted by Naomi Novik, The House of Shattered Wings by Aliette de Bodard, Twelve Kings in Sharakhai by Bradley P. Beaulieu, The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers, Planetfall by Emma Newman and This is Where it Ends by Marieke Nijkamp.

Looking forward to in 2016:  I’m looking forward to All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders. The premise sounds mighty interesting and Anders already wrote a few short stories who are just sublime, so one can only wonder what she can do with a full length novel.

Yes, you can find me online:  Follow me on Twitter for book tips and/or photos of my adorable cat Charles: @tiemenzwaan

The Edge of Gone - Corinne DuyvisSorcerer to the Crown - Zen ChoThe Traitor Baru Cormorant - Seth DickinsonThe Fifth Season - N. K. JemisonAurora - Kim Stanley Robinson + All the Birds in the Sky - Charlie Jane Anders

 

Gift Ideas Tom, 2015Tom

Jacques Brel: De Definitieve Biografie – René Seghers
I love Belgian singer Jacques Brel’s songs and lyrics and wanted to read a book about his life.
This is a thorough and very entertaining biography – in Dutch. As far as I know this book hasn’t been translated into English (yet).

Native English for Nederlanders – Ronald van de Krol
We used to sell this book in the store but unfortunately it is no longer available.  The author is an American of Dutch descent living in the Netherlands. In this book he explains how Dutch speakers of English can sound like a native speaker by – among others – mastering the Anglo-Saxon rules of conduct. Instructive if you work in a store like ours! The author finds the Dutch sloppy speakers of both English and Dutch.

The Other – Ryszard Kapuscinski
This is an essay about ‘the other’- more specifically: the non-Westerner as seen through the eyes of Westerners. The author spent many years in Africa and argues that Westerners tend to regard non-Westerners as ‘not equal’ to themselves. It is an intelligent and very topical essay in these times of debates about refugees in Europe.

Xenophobe’s Guide to the Estonians – Lembit Öpik
Read this one in preparation for my holiday in Estonia, which was great.  As always, the Xenophobe’s guides give a handy introduction to a country and its people.

De Wonderbaarlijke Wereld van de Taal – Charles Berlitz
I picked this one up in a ‘kringloopwinkel’ (thrift store).  It is an unfortunately rather poor Dutch translation of a book that we used to sell.  It offers a treasure trove of interesting facts about languages and is hard to put down.  Though it contains a number of mistakes I liked it a lot.

Looking forward to in 2016: Some (hopefully many) of the books that I have bought over the years but are still waiting to be read.

Jacques Brel - René SeghersNative English for Nederlanders - Ronald van der KrolThe Other - Ryszard KapuscinskiXenophobe's Guide to the Estonians - Lembit ÖpikDe wonderlijke wereld van de taal - Charles Berlitz

BarryDaniele – DeborahEsterIrisJeroenW – JesseJillesJitseJoukeKarinKlaartjeLíliaLynnMaarten – MartijnNyjolenePleunRenateSimoneSophie – Tiemen – Tom