Mid-Year Wrap Up: Our Favourite Books of 2015… So Far


That’s right, bookworms, we’re half way through 2015! The Stella Prize and the Miles Franklin have been awarded and the days will only get warmer and longer from here.

Lectito is still brand spanking new (happy three week birthday to us!), and while we may have only just started posting reviews, we’ve had a pretty amazing year of reading so far. Our TBR pile (tower) is growing by the day and we’re sure we’ll have some incredible titles to add to this list come year’s end (we just started reading Sofie Laguna’s The Eye of the Sheep (2014), and oh boy are the first few pages incredible), but for now we’re named our ten favourite reads of 2015 to date.

Like the rest of you, we’re still catching up on four-hundred odd years of novels, so while we’ve stuck to recent titles for this list, not all of them were published in 2015. More accurately, it’s a list of the top ten books we’ve read in 2015 so far.

Honourable mentions also go out to a few classics: Frenchman’s Creek (1941) by Daphne du Maurier, The Pursuit of Love (1945) and Love in a Cold Climate (1949) by Nancy Mitford and We Have Always Lived in the Castle (1962) and The Haunting of Hill House (1959) by Shirley Jackson 

* = Go, Aussie, go!

The Strays by Emily Bitto* (2014)

The Strays coverWinner of the 2015 Stella PrizeThe Strays is an enchanting foray into a bohemian paradise where art reigns supreme, creation and destruction walk hand in hand and desire winds snake-like through the grass.

Lonely school girl Lily can’t believe her good luck when she befriends Eva Trentham and begins spending her weekends with the Trentham sisters at the artists’ commune their parents have established outside Melbourne. However, as the children grow and the adult world comes more sharply into focus, it becomes clear that the Trentham household is not the paradise it seems.

Read the full Lectito review. 

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My Real Children by Jo Walton (2014)

My Real ChildrenThis one is the very best kind of heart breaker. Jo Walton has a gift for seeking out the ordinary, the meek and the ignored and making them extraordinary. In My Real Children Patricia is in a nursing home and suffering from dementia. But even in her confused state she retains two sets of memories from two very different lives.

In 1948, two years out from Oxford and working as an English teacher at a remote boarding school in Cornwall, Patricia receives a phone call from her fiance, Mark, and makes a choice. In one life, Pat breaks off the engagement, in another Tricia does not. Patricia’s choice has far reaching consequences, not only for herself but the world at large.

Read the full Lectito review.

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This House of Grief by Helen Garner* (2014)

The House of GriefA genuinely harrowing read, Garner attends the drawn-out trial of Robert Farquharson, the Victorian father accused of drowning his three young sons in 2005. With great empathy, Garner delves into the murky areas of the case trying to understand if the children’s deaths were a tragic accident or revenge, and if they were revenge, then what could drive a loving father to such a heinous act? One of Australia’s most revered writers, Garner resists the easy sensationalism of true crime and instead seeks humanity where many would look for monsters.

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A Small Madness by Dianne Touchell* (2015)

A-Small-MadnessWhen year twelve student Rose learns she’s pregnant, her confusion and panic quickly shift to denial. Her mother taught her that ‘A happy face reflects a happy home,’ and so Rose, a talented actress, decides to pretend the pregnancy isn’t real. She convinces herself that if she can play her part convincingly, it will become the truth.

Chilling as it is compelling, A Small Madness is a story of wilful blindness in which adults fail in their responsibly to act and three teenagers are faced with a terrible dilemma.

Read the full Lectito review.

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My Salinger Year by Joanna Rakoff (2014)

My Salinger Year coverAfter graduating in the mid 1990s Joanna Rakoff, an aspiring poet, moved to New York and took at job as a literary agent’s assistant while she waited for her writing career to take off. The agency she worked for represented none other than J. D. Salinger, one of America’s most-loved writers, and a writer Rakoff had never read.

The Agency is stuck in the past. There’s no computers, the photocopier is new and Salinger’s works are given pride of place over new releases from prominent writers. Rakoff’s fellow employees are still clinging to a bygone golden age of publishing. And while Rakoff pokes fun at The Agency’s eccentricities, she too is hung up on dreams and ideals far removed from her current circumstances.

My Salinger Year is a fascinating memoir narrated with sensitivity and insight that only the distance of many years can bring.

Read the full Lectito review. 

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The First Bad Man by Miranda July (2015)

The First Bad ManChampion of the meek and mild, Miranda July sees the world askew. The First Bad Man is her debut novel, following on the heels on her award-winning short story collection, No One Belongs Here More Than You (2005).

Narrator Cheryl Glickman is a middle-aged recluse and longtime sufferer of severe depression. When her employers’ daughter, Clee, crashes on Cheryl’s couch, Cheryl’s world is upended. Clee is everything Cheryl is not: young, gregarious, oozing sex appeal, and perhaps the perfect person to draw Cheryl out of herself.

Funny, eccentric and poignant, The First Bad Man is like nothing else you’ll read this year.

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The Female Factory by Lisa L. Hannett and Angela Slatter* (2014)

The Female FactoryWinner of the 2015 Aurealis Award for best collection, The Female Factory tells speculative, unsettling stories that challenge our understanding of women’s bodies and motherhood. From a mother who communicates in secret with her never-to-be born children via tablet, to a hyper fertile woman who’s employer rents out her womb, to a mother stitched together from discarded parts by orphans in a brilliant reworking of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818), these are stories that question society’s ownership and objectification of women’s bodies and the advancing role of technology in shaping these bodies and the reproductive process.

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Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein (2012)

Code Name VeritySet during World War Two, Code Name Verity is narrated by Scottish Spy, ‘Verity’ and English pilot Maddie. After a botched landing over occupied France, Verity is captured by the Nazis, while Maddie is rescued and hidden by resistance fighters, with neither girl knowing what has happened to the other. The first half of the story is Verity’s written ‘confession’ to her captors and the second half is a collection of Maddie’s diary entries from her time in hiding.

Wein is a meticulous researcher with a keen eye for detail and a robust imagination, and Code Name Verity is a brilliant work of historical fiction that sheds light on a largely unseen side of the war. However, it’s the characters who really make the story. Verity and Maddie are smart, brave (and at times hilarious) narrators who share an unlikely friendship.

The sequel, Rose Under Fire (2013), is on our TBR list for the second half of the year!

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Annihilation (Book One, The Southern Reach Trilogy) by Jeff VanderMeer (2014)

Annihilation_by_jeff_vandermeerFifteen years ago a geographic anomaly appeared, a stretch of coastal land known as Area X. Since its discovery a government agency, The Southern Reach, has been sending research teams into Area X to explore and document their findings. All but one team have disappeared without a trace. The researchers from that mission mysteriously reappeared in their homes only to die of cancer shortly after.

The latest mission is the first all-female mission and also the first to enter Area X after the survivors’ return, and nothing in the researchers’ training could prepare them for the horror that awaits.

Annihilation is a rare find: a genuinely terrifying blend of science fiction and gothic storytelling.

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Pieces of Sky by Trinity Doyle* (2015)

Pieces of sky coverLucy’s brother, Cam, has been dead eight weeks and it’s time Lucy started piecing her life back together. Time to get back in the pool. ‘Today should feel right,’ she tells herself. ‘Today school goes back and routine of train, study, train can start again.’ Only Lucy—state champion backstroker—can’t make herself get in the water. She can’t find her way back into her old routine or enjoy hanging out with her old friends whose lives revolve around swimming.

Pieces of Sky is a moving novel about grief, growing up and moving on, a refreshing debut from a talented YA writer to watch.

Read the full Lectito review. 

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What else should we be reading this year? If you’ve got suggestions, throw ’em at us in the comments below. 

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