Book People's Top 10 Best Books of 2015

This sensational selection of 2015's best books ranges from adrenaline-pumping thrillers to fascinating non-fiction works on war, nature and much, much more. Take a look here at the award-winners and the big hitters from the world of literature in 2015.

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1. The Girl on the Train

Paula Hawkins

This gripping thriller features a run-down protagonist called Rachel, a woman with a turbulent past who has turned to alcohol to cope. She catches the same commuter train every morning, and watches the same row of back gardens and houses on the journey. She feels she gets to know one particular couple who live there, whom she calls Jess and Jason. But then she sees something shocking, and everything changes. Will she stand back, or step into the lives she's only watched from afar?

2. So You've Been Publicly Shamed

Jon Ronson

For the past three years, Jon Ronson has been meeting the recipients of high-profile public shamings, a phenomenon that has been sweeping the nation. Whatever mistake they've made, humans are all too keen to collectively pounce on these errors with outrage and jeers, mercilessly attacking people's faults. Powerful and hilarious, this candid book is full of wisdom and insights on the intensifying war being waged on human flaws - and the terrifying part we all play in it.

3. A Brief History of Seven Killings

Marlon James | Winner of the Man Booker Prize 2015

Jamaica, 1976. Seven men storm Bob Marley's house, machine guns blazing. Marley survives, but doesn't return to his home country for another two years. Inspired by this horrendous event, James creates an imagined oral biography that travels between strange landscapes and enigmatic characters. It examines motivations and asks questions through a series of ghosts, witnesses, killers, drug-dealers, conmen, beauty queens and more.

4. The Invention of Nature: The Adventures of Alexander von Humboldt, the Lost Hero of Science

Andrea Wulf | Winner of the Costa Biography Award 2015

Humboldt's rich and colourful life was full of adventure and new discoveries. He explored deep into the rainforest, climbed the world's highest volcanoes, and inspired princes, presidents, scientists and poets alike. Napoleon, Simon Bolivar and Darwin were all inspired by him. In this fascinating book, Wulf shows us why his life and ideas remain so important today, including his prediction of human-induced climate change as early as 1800.

5. A God in Ruins

Kate Atkinson | Winner of the Costa Novel Award 2015

Discover the life of Teddy Todd, heroic World War II bomber pilot, would-be poet, husband, father and grandfather, as he navigates the perils and progresses of the 20th century. He must endure much in battle, but his greatest challenge will be to face living a future he never expected to have. Gripping, hilarious yet emotionally devastating, this book examines war and the effect it has on those who live through it as well as subsequent generations.

6. Farewell Kabul

Christina Lamb

How did the mighty force of NATO, along with 48 countries and 140,000 troops, fail to defeat a group of religious students and farmers? That is the question tackled by this engrossing book. It tells the story of well-intentioned men and women venturing into a place they didn't understand at all, and the fiasco that allowed Afghanistan to remain one of the poorest and most dangerous places on Earth.

7. The Lie Tree

Frances Hardinge | Winner of the Costa Book of the Year Award 2015

This dark, powerful and stunning novel stars Faith, whose curiosity is piqued when she stumbles upon her disgraced father's journals, filled with scribbles and theories that have driven a man to the cusp of madness. Amongst the notes, she finds tales of a strange tree which can uncover a truth if it is told a lie. On Faith's quest to find the tree, she finds herself in real peril, and quickly realises these lies could shatter the truths her world has been built around...

8. The New Spymasters

Stephen Grey

If you've ever wondered how modern espionage works, this is the ideal book for you. Follow the enthralling stories of momentous missions and the multifaceted characters who undertook them. There were pivotal moments when success“ - and, ultimately, life or death - depended on whether the right person was in the right place at precisely the right time.

9. Fortune Smiles: Stories

Adam Johnson | Winner of the National Book Award for Fiction 2015

Discover the stories of characters you never thought you'd meet, from a former Stasi prison warden in denial of his past, to a UPS driver in hurricane-torn Louisiana, looking for the mother of his son. Explore tales of love and loss, natural disasters, the impact of technology, and how the political moulds the personal. Compelling, thoughtful and droll, these stories reveal humanity where you’d least expect it.

10. The Soul of an Octopus

Sy Montgomery

Nature- and animal-lovers will adore this fascinating insight into the lives of octopuses. They have varied personalities and intelligence which they show in many ways, including endless trickery to escape enclosures, and jetting water playfully to bounce objects around! But with a beak like a bird, venom like a snake and teeth all over its tongue, what sort of consciousness can these bizarre creatures have? Discover their lives in this entertaining and touching book.

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    From the Sunday Times top ten bestselling author of The Psychopath Test, a captivating and brilliant exploration of one of our world's most underappreciated forces: shame. 'It's about the terror, isn't it?' 'The terror of what?' I said. 'The terror of being found out.' For the past three years, Jon Ronson has travelled the world meeting recipients of high-profile public shamings. The shamed are people like us - people who, say, made a joke on social media that came out badly, or made a mistake at work. Once their transgression is revealed, collective outrage circles with the force of a hurricane and the next thing they know they're being torn apart by an angry mob, jeered at, demonized, sometimes even fired from their job. A great renaissance of public shaming is sweeping our land. Justice has been democratized. The silent majority are getting a voice. But what are we doing with our voice? We are mercilessly finding people's faults. We are defining the boundaries of normality by ruining the lives of those outside it. We are using shame as a form of social control. Simultaneously powerful and hilarious in the way only Jon Ronson can be, So You've Been Publicly Shamed is a deeply honest book about modern life, full of eye-opening truths about the escalating war on human flaws - and the very scary part we all play in it.
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    In 2011 Sy Montgomery wrote a feature for Orion magazine entitled 'Deep Intellect' about her friendship with a sensitive, sweet-natured octopus named Athena and the grief she felt at her death. It went viral, indicating the widespread fascination with these mysterious, almost alien-like creatures. Since then Sy has practised true immersion journalism, from New England aquarium tanks to the reefs of French Polynesia and the Gulf of Mexico, pursuing these wild, solitary shape-shifters. Octopuses have varied personalities and intelligence they show in myriad ways: endless trickery to escape enclosures and get food; jetting water playfully to bounce objects like balls; and evading caretakers by using a scoop net as a trampoline and running around the floor on eight arms. But with a beak like a parrot, venom like a snake, and a tongue covered with teeth, how can such a beingknowanything? And what sort of thoughts could it think? The intelligence of dogs, birds, and chimpanzees was only recently accepted by scientists, who now are establishing the intelligence of the octopus, watching them solve problems and deciphering the meaning of their colour-changing camouflage techniques. Montgomery chronicles this growing appreciation of the octopus, but also tells a love story. By turns funny, entertaining, touching and profound, The Soul of an Octopus reveals what octopuses can teach us about consciousness and the meeting of two very different minds.
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    This is the runaway sunday times no. 1 bestseller and thriller of the year. "Really great suspense novel. Kept me up most of the night. The alcoholic narrator is dead perfect." (Stephen King). Rachel catches the same commuter train every morning. She knows it will wait at the same signal each time, overlooking a row of back gardens. She's even started to feel like she knows the people who live in one of the houses. 'Jess and Jason', she calls them. Their life - as she sees it - is perfect. If only Rachel could be that happy. And then she sees something shocking. It's only a minute until the train moves on, but it's enough. Now everything's changed. Now Rachel has a chance to become a part of the lives she's only watched from afar. Now they'll see; she's much more than just the girl on the train...
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    WINNER OF THE 2015 COSTA BIOGRAPHY AWARD Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859) is the great lost scientist: more things are named after him than anyone else. There are towns, rivers, mountain ranges, the ocean current that runs along the South American coast, there's a penguin, a giant squid - even the Mare Humboldtianum on the moon. His colourful adventures read like something out of a Boy's Own story: Humboldt explored deep into the rainforest, climbed the world's highest volcanoes and inspired princes and presidents, scientists and poets alike. Napoleon was jealous of him; Simon Bolivar's revolution was fuelled by his ideas; Darwin set sail on the Beagle because of Humboldt; and Jules Verne's Captain Nemo owned all his many books. He simply was, as one contemporary put it, 'the greatest man since the Deluge'. Taking us on a fantastic voyage in his footsteps - racing across anthrax-infected Russia or mapping tropical rivers alive with crocodiles - Andrea Wulf shows why his life and ideas remain so important today. Humboldt predicted human-induced climate change as early as 1800, and The Invention of Nature traces his ideas as they go on to revolutionize and shape science, conservation, nature writing, politics, art and the theory of evolution. He wanted to know and understand everything and his way of thinking was so far ahead of his time that it's only coming into its own now. Alexander von Humboldt really did invent the way we see nature.
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    From the award-winning co-author of 'I Am Malala', this book asks just how the might of NATO, with 48 countries and 140,000 troops on the ground, failed to defeat a group of religious students and farmers? How did it go so wrong? 'Farewell Kabul' tells how the West turned success into defeat in the longest war fought by the United States in its history and by Britain since the Hundred Years War. It is the story of well-intentioned men and women going into a place they did not understand at all. And how, what had once been the right thing to do had become a conflict that everyone wanted to exit. It has been a fiasco which has left Afghanistan still one of the poorest and most dangerous nations on earth. The leading journalist on the region with unparalleled access to all key decision makers, Christina Lamb is the best-selling author of 'The Africa House' and 'I Am Malala', co-authored with Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai. This revelatory and personal account is her final analysis of the realities of Afghanistan, told unlike anyone before.
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    Acclaimed by the likes of Patrick Ness and Matt Haig, Frances Hardinge's Costa Book of the Year-winning The Lie Tree is a dark, powerful and beautiful novel. It's presented here with incredible black-and-white illustrations from the Children's Laureate, Chris Riddell.

    When Faith discovers her disgraced father's journals, her curious nature takes the better for her. She has a love for science, secrets and knowledge and these notes are full of scribbles and theories that have driven a man close to madness.

    In amongst the nonsensical work are tales of a strange tree which, when told a lie, will uncover a truth. The greater the lie, the greater the truth that is revealed to the liar. As Faith searches for this tree she finds herself getting into greater danger. She quickly realises these lies could shatter the truths her world has been built around...
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    "Number one Evening Standarad bestseller book of the year". (Daily Telegraph). "Exceptional. A blueprint for productive, sophisticated espionage in the age of Islamist terror". (Daily Telegraph). Spying has changed. In this era of email intercepts and drone strikes, spooks are expected to uncover plots buried in mountains of data. Yet this makes the need for trained field operatives who can verify facts and uncover secrets more acute than ever. The human factor endures. In The New Spymasters, the first real account of how modern espionage works, we follow riveting stories of dramatic missions and the larger-than-life characters who undertook them. These were moments when success - and ultimately life or death - depended on whether the right person was in the right place...at exactly the right time.
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    A God in Ruins was named winner in the Costa Book Awards Novel Category for 2015.

    A God in Ruins relates the life of Teddy Todd - would-be poet, heroic World War II bomber pilot, husband, father, and grandfather - as he navigates the perils and progress of the 20th century.

    For all Teddy endures in battle, his greatest challenge will be to face living in a future he never expected to have. This gripping, often deliriously funny yet emotionally devastating book looks at war - that great fall of Man from grace - and the effect it has, not only on those who live through it, but on the lives of the subsequent generations. It is also about the infinite magic of fiction.

    Those who loved the bestselling Life After Life will recognise Teddy as Ursula Todd's adored younger brother - but for those who have not read it, A God in Ruins stands fully on its own. Few will dispute that it proves once again that Kate Atkinson is one of the most exceptional novelists of our age.
  • A Brief History of Seven Killings - Hardback - 9781780745879 - Marlon James
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    Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2015, Marlon James' A Brief History of Seven Killings is a novel set against the backdrop of 1970s reggae culture, disco, sex and excess.

    It's 1976 in Jamaica and seven men storm Bob Marley's house with machine guns blazing. Marley survives, but doesn't return to his home country for another two years. Inspired by this event, James creates an imagined oral biography that traverses between strange landscapes and shady characters.

    Compared to Quentin Tarantino and David Foster Wallace, the book examines motivations and asks questions through a series of ghosts, witnesses, killers, drugdealer, conmen, beauty queens and more.
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    WINNER OF THE NATIONAL BOOK AWARD FOR FICTION 2015. By the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction winner of THE ORPHAN MASTER'S SON - for fans of international literary fiction, especially Hanya Yanigahara, Jonathan Franzen and Anthony Doerr. "Unputdownable is an overused word, but at their best these stories are completely gripping." (Sunday Times). "Ironic, witty, super-intelligent". (The Times). Adam Johnson takes you into the minds of characters you never thought you would meet - a former Stasi prison warden in denial of his past, a refugee from North Korea unsettled by his new freedom, a UPS driver in hurricane-torn Louisiana looking for the mother of his son. These are tales of love and loss, natural disasters, the influence of technology, and how the political shapes the personal. Tender, wry, utterly compelling, they show us humanity where you might least expect it.