2015 Top Reads

Well, another year has come to an end.  Maybe you noticed that, but more than likely you’re too busy watching Star Wars.  I get it.  If I wasn’t terrified of crowds, I’d be seeing it today, too.  Instead, I’m writing this for you.  Pretty cool, huh?  Eh, just roll with it….

Anyway, as I have to say every time I do one of these lists, these are not all books that came out this year.  These are books I read this year.  I am constantly playing catch up and–shocking!–I still haven’t caught up.

So enjoy.  Then follow some links and buy some books.  There’s still time before Christmas!

10. KNIFE FIGHT AND OTHER STRUGGLES by David Nickle – This year, I read a lot of short fiction.  Gotta say, I am so glad I did!  Of all the amazing genre shorts I read this year, this collection contains some of the best.  Nickle’s short fiction settles in deep and refuses to let go.  Strange love stories like “Looker” leave you feeling lovely and shaken and aching, while horrifying satire like “Knife Fight” leaves you thrilled and…also shaken.  To me, the masterpiece of this collection is “Basements,” a story that scared the hell out of me and is one of the quartet of stories I think every genre author should read.

9. HAIR SIDE, FLESH SIDE by Helen Marshall – Marshall writes the kind of dark fantasy the makes your skin crawl.  The stories in this collection cover the gamut from ghost stories to the downright bizarre. Little girls who receive the bodies of saints for their birthdays, editors who find lost manuscripts written on the inside of their skin, and so much more.  You will find something incredible in this collection.

8. THE VISIBLE FILTH by Nathan Ballingrud – Brutal, grimy, horrifying. This novella, about a bartender who recovers a cell phone after a violent brawl and starts receiving more and more disturbing/violent messages, pulls no punches.  Ballingrud starts with a place full of dirt and shadows, makes you feel at home there, and then slowly turns up the heat.  An excellent study in rising tension and engaging characters.

7. WE ARE ALL COMPLETELY FINE by Daryl Gregory – A support group made up of very unique people might just save the world from a very ancient, otherworldly terror.  This novella was the first Gregory I’ve read, but it will be nowhere near the last.  He creates riveting characters and lets the story roll out naturally, not to mention the amazing amount of imagination and a brilliant, heartfelt final twist.  Read.  Now.

6. AVAILABLE DARK by Elizabeth Hand – Cass Neary ain’t your standard heroine.  I mean, she has experience with heroin.  And speed.  And pills.  And death.  She’s lived hard, she’s a mess, and she’s tough as a metal bucket.  There is a lot to love about Cass Neary, but don’t you dare pity her.  This book, the sequel to Generation Loss, is in many ways its equal and in some ways its better.  In this one, Cass travels to Europe to authenticate a series of gruesome photographs for a collector and ends up embroiled in a series of murders related to the Scandinavian black metal scene.  If the standard crime novel isn’t mean enough for you, check out this one.

5. CONFESSIONS by Kanae Minato – Yuko Moriguchi is a teacher giving her last lecture in the wake of her four-year-old’s accidental drowning.  Here’s the thing, though: Yuko knows her child’s death was no accident.  It was murder.  Further, she knows two of her students are the murderers.  This novel, told from several points of view, adds layers of tension and intrigue in a way that never lets you forget the very real hearts of its characters.  You’ll find yourself cringing on one page and then cheering on the next.

4. LET’S PLAY WHITE by Chesya Burke – I was four years late reading Chesya Burke’s most recent collection.  It’s a mistake I will not make again.  At turns terrifying, thought-provoking, and heartbreaking, the stories in Let’s Play White examine society, relationships, and the horrors humans inflict on each other and ourselves, all wrapped in delicious, fantastical prose. The story “Purse” is still lodged in my brain.  I can’t shake it loose.

3. NOT FOR NOTHING by Stephen Graham Jones – Hands down, the best noir I’ve read in years.  Nicholas Bruiseman is a disgraced homicide detective living in a storage unit in his Texas hometown.  When his former cheerleader crush shows up asking for help, it leads him on a path straight to destruction.  Nicholas is all too human, making choices he thinks are the right ones only to find they were wrong at best and downright stupid at worst.  Jones writes prose that crackles with a pitch black energy.  This one, here…amazing.

2. A HEAD FULL OF GHOSTS by Paul Tremblay – Look, if you read any list of the best horror novels of the year, you’ll read about this book.  Stephen King loved it.  Brian Keene loved it.  Everyone loved it.  Why?  It’s amazing.  A demon possession novel that makes you continuously doubt there’s an actual possession taking place, A Head Full of Ghosts keeps you guessing right up to the last page and beyond, the way The Caretaker of Lorne Field and Gone Girl did in years past.  Paul always delivers the goods.  He does the same here, and it is well worth the read.

1. THE PULSE BETWEEN DIMENSIONS AND THE DESERT by Rios de la Luz – Holy Hell, man.  I was not prepared.  Not even a little. Rios de la Luz came out of nowhere to deliver this collection–her first–and amaze me on every level.  In these stories she rides a razor’s edge between crime, fantasy, and horror (so much so that some might call these stories bizarro, which I find steals some of the credit due her incredible balancing act) while exploring such themes as alienation, racism, sexism, family, and so much more.  Some stories are sweet and wondrous, while some are so brutal they’ll make you flinch.  No other book I read this year was so refreshing and thought-provoking.  nothing made me feel as deep and desperately as this collection.  Rios is it.  Check her out immediately.