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2015 Top Five: Best Books of the Year


Last week our reviewers shared their favorite movies and music of the year with us. This week they’ve tackled their favorite books of 2015, with the same result: it’s hard to narrow it to just five, to a list of titles, and even to one year. What were your favorite books of 2015?

From Dave Baker, diversity officer at Baker Book House in Grand Rapids, Mich.:

Leadership Resources

  1. Beyond Championships: A Playbook for Winning at Life by Dru Joyce II (Zondervan). Joyce was LaBron’s high school coach; this is for anyone interested in coaching as leadership.
  2. Leadership Pain: The Classroom for Growth by Samuel Chand (Thomas Nelson). Insights on organizational leadership; Chand is part of the NEXT Leadership Network.
  3. Fortune Magazine. This longstanding business magazine is an excellent resource for women in leadership. The September 2015 issue is noteworthy.
  4. This website is run by Duke Divinity School with a focus on reconciliation and transformational leadership. Their e-newsletter goes out free to subscribers.
  5. Most Likely to Succeed: Preparing Our Kids for the Innovation Era by Tony Wagner and Ted Dintersmith (Scribner). For those interested in parenting and educational leadership.


From Philip Christman, who teaches English at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor:

  1. The Givenness of Things by Marilynne Robinson (Farrar, Straus and Giroux). So much truth between two covers.
  2. Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates (Spiegel & Grau). See item (1) above.
  3. Oreo by Fran Ross (New Directions). A great humorist's lone, lost novel, from 1974, rescued from oblivion by the good souls at New Directions. It's a pun-filled, stylistically dazzling (and extremely bawdy) recreation of the myth of Theseus.
  4. Counternarratives by John Keene (New Directions). I already called this the best book of short fiction in years in my earlier Banner review, so . . .
  5. Ms. Marvel by G. Willow Wilson (Marvel). In an era of anti-Islamic xenophobia (note: that's a different thing from merely choosing, where it differs from Islam, to commit to Christian doctrine and ideas), it's an odd comfort that the best ongoing superhero comic is about a totally rad and lovable shapeshifting Muslim teenager.


From Jenny deGroot, a teacher/librarian in Langley, British Columbia:

  1. Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf (Knopf)
  2. The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe (Knopf)
  3. Narrow Road to the Deep Northby Richard Flanagan (Vintage)
  4. The Paris Architect by Charles Belfoure (Sourcebooks)
  5. Leaving Before the Rains Come by Alexandra Fuller (Penguin)
  6. Bread and Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table with Recipes by Shauna Niequist (Zondervan)
  7. Being Mortal by Atul Gwande (Metropolitan)


From Adele Gallogly, a communications writer for World Renew and creative writer in Hamilton, Ont.:

  1. The Buried Giantby Kazuo Ishiguro (Knopf)
  2. Wanted by Chris Hoke (HarperOne)
  3. My Sunshine Away by M.O. Walsh (G.P. Putnam’s Sons)
  4. Father Brother Keeper by Nathan Poole (Sarabande Books)
  5. Hold Tight, Don't Let Go by Laura Rose Wagner (Harry N. Abrams)


From Francene Lewis, head of Collection Department Management at Hekman Library, Calvin College, Grand Rapids, Mich.:

Upper Middle School and Young Adult Fantasy

  1. Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho (Ace)
  2. Prairie Fire by E.K. Johnston (Carolrhoda Books)
  3. Uprooted by Naomi Novik (Del Rey)
  4. Court of Fives by Kate Elliott (Little, Brown)
  5. The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow (Margaret K. McElderry Books)


Graphic Novels for Middle Schoolers

  1. Lumberjanes written by Noelle Stevenson and illustrated by Brooke A. Allen (BOOM! Box)
  2. Ms. Marvel written by G. Willow Wilson and illustrated by Adrian Alphona (Marvel)
  3. Nimona written and illustrated by Noelle Stevenson (HarperTeen)
  4. The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl written by Ryan North and illustrated by Erica Henderson (Marvel)
  5. Gunnerkrigg Court written and illustrated by Thomas Siddell (Archaia)


From Kristy Quist, Tuned In editor of The Banner:

  1. Our Souls at Nightby Kent Haruf (Knopf)
  2. Orhan’s Inheritance by Aline Ohanesian (Algonquin)
  3. We Were Brothers by Barry Moser (Algonquin)
  4. The Hardest Peace: Expecting Grace in the Midst of Life’s Hard by Kara Tippetts (David C. Cook)
  5. Orbiting Jupiter by Gary D. Schmidt (Clarion)
  6. The Turner House by Angela Flournoy (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)


From Jim Romahn, a freelance journalist in Kitchener, Ont.:

  1. Stress Test: Reflections on Financial Crises by Timothy Geithner (Broadway Books)
  2. Saving Capitalism: For the Many, Not the Few by Robert B. Reich (Knopf)
  3. Pastrix: The Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner & Saint by Nadia Bolz-Weber (Jericho Books) 
  4. Heretic: Why Islam Needs a Reformation Now by Ayaan Hirsi Ali (Harper)
  5. No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the U.S. Surveillance State by Glenn Greenwald (Metropolitan Books)


From Otto Selles, who teaches French at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Mich.:

  1. Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf (Knopf)
  2. The Road to Character by David Brooks (Random House)
  3. Accidental Saints: Finding God in All the Wrong People by Nadia Bolz-Weber (Convergent)
  4. The Meursault Investigation by Kamel Daoud (Other Press)
  5. Waiting by Kevin Henkes (Greenwillow)


From Sandy Swartzentruber, a freelance writer and editor in Grand Rapids, Mich.:

  1. The Little Gardener written and illustrated by Emily Hughes (Flying Eye Books)
  2. In a Village by the Sea written by Muon Van and illustrated by April Chu (Creston Books)
  3. The Blue Whale written and illustrated by Jenni Desmond (Enchanted Lion Books)
  4. The Bear Ate Your Sandwich written and illustrated by Julia Sarcone-Roach. (Knopf)

Hoot Owl, Master of Disguise written by Sean Taylor, illustrated by Jean Jullien (Candlewick)

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