Top 10 Books Of The Year – 2015 – Part 1 (10-6)

Of the 67 books I read this year it’s time to select the Top 10.  (That total was a couple up from last year but quite a few less than the golden reading year of 2013).  Getting in the Top 10 is important as only those hallowed tomes are allowed to remain on the bookshelves.  In an annual  book cull which seems to mark for me the end of the old year those that did not make the cut are already bagged up ready to donate to the library and charity shops and the unsuccessful e-books have been permanently deleted off the Kindle.  It’s a tough world over at reviewsrevues – but it’s really only to stop me appearing on one of those hoarder documentaries or being discovered half-buried under collapsed piles of books.  (Anyway, on the very same day as I cleared space on the Kindle I got excited about those Delphi Complete Classics editions on Amazon which has the complete works of writers for under £1 – so don’t think I’m depriving myself!)  Without further ado here starts of the rundown of the ten best books I have read this year.  (I haven’t restricted my list to those published this year but anything I read this year.)  However, my reading habits  must have changed as there are an unprecedented 6 out of the 10 that made their appearance in 2015.  I have separated the eight books I re-read into their own list- otherwise the same books would win time after time.  My favourite re-read will be announced in two posts time.  7 out of the ten books are by women.  It’s been a great year for women writers at reviewsrevues.  All of the 10 have been reviewed on this site- click on the titles to link to the full review.

10. Becoming Nancy- Terry Ronald (Corgi 2011) (Read in July- Reviewed in September)


Set in the late 70’s in East Dulwich this is a coming out story which is in turns sweet, romantic, coarse, gritty, tragic and funny.  What more could you ask for? Debut novel from ex-pop star.  Sent me glassy-eyed with nostalgia.

9. Spill Simmer Falter Wither – Sara Baume (Windmill 2015) (Read and reviewed in November)


The debut novel of  2015?  It’s currently on shortlists for First Novel at The Costas and  has just scooped Newcomer of the Year at the Irish Book Awards.  Beautifully and powerfully written this is an extended love letter of one man to his dog.  Watch this book pick up many more fans over the coming months.

8. I’ll Never Write My Memoirs – Grace Jones (Simon & Schuster 2015) (Read and reviewed in October)


Thank goodness you did, Grace….  This was the celebrity biography I had waited years to be written and I wasn’t disappointed.  As told to music journalist Paul Morley the weird wonderful world of Grace Jones comes shining through.

7. Dear Blue Peter – Edited by Biddy Baxter (Short Books 2008) (Read in June- Reviewed in December)


Sheer unashamed entertainment and a genius way to celebrate Blue Peter’s 50th anniversary (back in 2008).  Let the viewers do the work with a collection of their letters over the years, all itching for their Blue Peter badges.  Reading this you can appreciate why this programme has been important to so many and why it has lasted so long.  Very funny and well balanced between praise and criticism this is a real slice of Britishness.

6. Murders At White House Farm – Carol Ann Lee (Pan Macmillan 2015) (Read and reviewed in June)


The non-fiction book of the year as far as I am concerned this chilling and through account of events in 1985 at Tolleshunt D’Arcy, Essex which resulted in the murder of five members of the Bamber family and the trial and conviction of Jeremy Bamber.  Painstakingly researched.  I was delighted to interview author Carol Ann Lee.  I thought it might set me off on a true crime reading spree but that hasn’t happened yet but I’m still keeping the titles Carol Ann recommended on my To Be Read list.

Next post – The Top 5 – All novels, three published in 2015.

The Easter Book Cull


Despite my being (almost) true to my New Year’s Resolution of not bringing any new books into the house for the first two months of the year and only reading what was already sat waiting my bookshelves were still looking extremely tight. The wider shelves had succumbed to a second layer of books some time ago, and although I was reluctant to do that it was always a nice surprise to pull out a book and find a hidden layer of books behind (even if removing back row books from the shelves was beginning to resemble a game of Jenga), but when it got to starting to stack books horizontally on top of the front rows of books I decided enough was probably enough. That elixir of life better be discovered pretty soon if I’m going to make inroads on reading or re-reading everything I had. So, taking a tip from an episode of “Spartacus- War Of The Damned” (only with books and not flesh and blood members of the Roman Army) it was time for a decimation.

All books had to take part in this – both the unread and the waiting to be re-read. I counted along the shelves in groups of ten and one of those ten had to go. It took all day. It wasn’t too long before I added a little trade-off. If removing one from the set of ten proved too arduous for me (what about those ten book set collections I’d bought from “The Book People” and hadn’t got round to reading ? Taking one out of those would surely disrupt the set!) I was allowed to take two out of another group and build up a little reserve collection to trade in when I just couldn’t choose. Sounds harsh? It was, but the strict structure meant I carried on with it rather than giving up halfway and sneaking all the books to be discarded back onto the shelves. I did remember some “Clear out your Clutter” guru saying that nobody would miss 10% going out of their collections and kept that in mind, even though I wasn’t convinced. Mind you, I think the same person saying “if you haven’t worn something in six months it needs to go”, which would do for most of my wardrobe!

And the end results- six bags to the charity shops and four to a Book Sale. Conveniently I was selling books for the local library I volunteer for last weekend and so my nearly-new, mostly unread books joined the others that had been donated and as I was manning the stall it meant that I could keep an eye on what was going where, ensuring my precious books went off to a good home. Most got sold. And the shelves – well my partner says they are no different, which means that the clear up the clutter guru might have been right in more ways than one, but the horizontal stacking has gone, a few of the shelves just have one row of books on them and, do you know, I think I can detect the odd space. Will I miss them? Time will tell……Quick, where’s that Book People Catalogue?