Farm Lane Book Awards 2015

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2015 has been a fantastic year for books – especially if you like chunksters as much as I do! All my favourite reads this year have had a massive amount of pages – they may require a big investment of time, but they are worth it.

Here are a selection of my favourites, with award categories invented to ensure I mention all the books I that I enjoyed the most:

Book of the Year: A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

A Little Life

This book deserves all the hype it’s received. It is gripping throughout and packed with emotion. I don’t think I’ll ever forget this cast of characters.

Most Underrated Book: I Am Radar by Reif Larsen

I Am Radar

I Am Radar should have been showered with awards. It is one of the most intelligent books I’ve ever read and deserves much more attention than it’s received so far. Hopefully this will change when the paperback is released in March.

Best Memoir: Home is Burning by Dan Marshall

Home is Burning

Terminal illnesses have never been so funny! If you can cope with the coarse language, this book will give you an incredible insight into how one family coped with a terrible situation.

Most Atmospheric Book: Death and Mr Pickwick by Stephen Jarvis

Death and Mr Pickwick

If you enjoy reading about Dickensian England, this is for you! You can almost smell those dirty London streets.

Most Disappointing Release: The Mountain Shadow by Gregory David Roberts

The Mountain Shadow

Shantaram is one of the best books I’ve ever read. Unfortunately the sequel isn’t in the same league and actually makes the original seem worse than it is. I recommend avoiding it!

Funniest scene: Pigs in Clover by Simon Dawson

 Pigs in Clover: Or How I Accidentally Fell in Love with the Good Life

This book is packed with funny anecdotes, but the electric fence/testicle incident had me smiling for days!

Most original premise: Blackass by A Igoni Barrett

Blackass

A black man wakes up to discover that every inch of his skin has turned white, with the exception of his bottom. This satire of race relations in Nigeria makes some very important points, but is also very funny. It deserves more attention that it has received so far.

Special Mention: All Involved by Ryan Gattis

All Involved

Parts of this book were very disturbing, but it does a fantastic job of explaining why people are drawn into violence. It’s one of the most important releases of the year.

Special Author Award: Haruki Murakami

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage

Haruki Murakami continues to produce excellent books. Colorless Tsukuru and His Years of Pilgrimage is one of his more realistic stories, but retains the magic of his observational skills. Especially recommended to those who have lost contact with old friends.

Best New Children’s Character: Squirrel Boy

Squirrel Boy vs the Bogeyman

Fast paced and funny, Squirrel Boy is a fantastic creation. My boys (8 and 10) were captivated by him!

Books Published in Previous Years

It would be a shame to forget books released in previous years, so here are a few of the best from the back catalogue:

Best Audio Book: The Martian by Andy Weir (Audio Book)

The Martian

It combines comedy and science with real tension. One of the best audio books I’ve ever listened to.

Best Survival Story: Into That Forest by Louis Nowra

Into That Forest

This book about children being brought up by Tasmanian tigers is atmospheric and emotional. I recommend it to anyone who enjoys reading about the natural world.

Most Inspiring Book: Ghost Boy by Martin Pistorius

Ghost Boy

This is one of the most amazing stories I’ve ever read. If you ever feel that you can’t achieve your dreams, read this and you’ll see that nothing is impossible –  if you want it enough.

Weirdest Book: Strangers by Taichi Yamada 

Strangers 

I love the strangeness of Japanese fiction – you never know exactly what will happen next. This is one of the best example of its genre. Highly recommended!

Have you read any of these books?

Which were you favourite reads in 2015?


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18 Comments

  1. Lisa Hill says:

    I’m ashamed to say that I haven’t read a single one, but I love the way you’ve done your awards:)

    1. Jackie says:

      Lisa, Thank you! Don’t be ashamed that you haven’t read any – there are far too many books out there for us to read them all!

  2. Alex says:

    I haven’t read ‘Pigs in Clover’ but I can’t help thinking that the electric fence/testicles incident didn’t have whoever it happened to smiling even for a couple of minutes, let alone several days!

    1. Jackie says:

      Alex, You’re right – but he has a great sense of humour when writing about it!

  3. Diane says:

    Just started thinking about my picks for 2015 and the only one I know for certain is my #1 book – A Little Life – same as you. I’ve never been so moved by a story before.

    1. Jackie says:

      Diane, I think it will be top of lots of lists! It is going to be very hard to find a book to beat it next year. I look forward to seeing which other books you select.

  4. David says:

    I love your categories, Jackie, so much more interesting than a top ten. The only one of those I’ve read is ‘A Little Life’ which as you know I liked a lot but not without reservations.

    My read of the year is still probably the second book I read back in January: Paul Scott’s ‘The Jewel in the Crown’. I’d put off reading Scott’s books for years because the TV series was still vivid in my mind, and in fairness the subsequent three books do play out pretty much as they did on screen, but the first volume was a revelation – so much richer than the adaption, it’s almost modernist in the way it plays with structure and different voices with Scott himself (one presumes) as an author character collecting testimonies and tying the whole thing together.
    But Laurie Colwin’s ‘Happy All the Time’, Roger McDonald’s ‘The Ballad of Desmond Kale’ and Dorothy Edwards’s ‘Rhapsody’ were all exceptional too.

    My most disappointing read was probably Christian Kiefer’s ‘The Animals’. Purely because I’d liked his debut novel, ‘The Infinite Tides’ so much, and his second book didn’t live up to that potential – it felt like an author playing it safe with a pretty tired and unimaginative story. Not surprising that it didn’t merit a UK release.

    Underrated new books: I thought Marina Endicott’s ‘Close to Hugh’ deserved to feature more heavily in the Canadian awards season (just a Giller longlisting) as it was a complete delight, and Mia Alvar’s debut short story collection ‘In the Country’ would not have looked out of place on the National Book Awards list (maybe it will yet be a finalist for next year’s Frank O’Connor or The Story Prize?). And why oh why does Jonathan Buckley not get more attention? His ‘The River is the River’ is the best new British book I’ve read this year.

    I could mention my Worst Book of the Year, but I know you loved it, so I won’t ;)

    1. Jackie says:

      David, I’ve been promising to read ‘The Jewel in the Crown’ all year! I have no idea why I haven’t picked up my copy yet, but I really need to.

      Jonathan Buckley is an author I keep hearing great things about. The only one of his in my local library is ‘So He Takes the Dog’ Have you read that one? It sounds good. Should I try it, or just buy ‘The River is the River’?

      I’m afraid I haven’t read any of the books you describe as exceptional. ‘The Ballad of Desmond Kale’ sounds especially interesting – I do love a novel with interesting characters!

      Thank you so much for all the thoughtful comments you’ve left on this blog over the past year. I hope you have a wonderful Christmas and a Happy New Year!

      1. David says:

        I have read ‘So He Takes the Dog’ – if memory serves it is set in Ilfracombe where I used to go on holiday when I was very small. I read that one and ‘Invisible’ a few years ago and honestly don’t remember that much about them other than generally liking them. ‘Nostalgia’ and ‘The River is the River’ are the ones that have made me rate him so highly, but if your library has ‘So He Takes the Dog’ I’d give that one a go – that way if you like it you know you still have his best books still to read.

        ‘The Ballad of Desmond Kale’ is a fantastic romp of a book – a kind of Dickens meets convict era Australia. It won the Miles Franklin in 2006 but for some reason is on of very few recent winners never to be published here in the UK. Don’t know why as some of it is set here and it’s such a good read. I think I bought a second-hand copy online quite cheaply (though it looks pristine) and it was definitely worth it.

        Hope you have a fabulous Christmas too, Jackie :)

        1. Jackie says:

          David, Thanks for the advice! I’ll get a copy of ‘So He Takes The Dog’ and see what I think of his writing style. Hopefully I’ll enjoy it as much as you did.

  5. Athira says:

    Except for Martian, I haven’t read any of these titles. Strangers fascinates me the most from this list, so hoping to get to that sometime.

    1. Jackie says:

      Athira, I’m sure you’ll enjoy Strangers – I hope you get the chance to pick it up soon!

  6. I’m currently reading Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff which I think is going to be my favorite read of the year though it is a very late entry.

    It was Presidents Obama’s favorite book of the year, too. But that’s not why I’m reading it. Just a coincidence.

    1. Jackie says:

      James, I wasn’t a big fan of Fates and Furies, but I can see why you loved it. It is interesting to know it was Obama’s favourite book of 2015 – it’s great to know he’ actually willing to reveal what he reads as I don’t think many politicians in this country do so.

  7. Neil Ansell says:

    Haven’t read any of your selection, some very distinctive choices there. I must admit that I tend to avoid very long books as I have the lifelong habit of reading at the speed I would read out loud, so tend to be drawn by the very short and well crafted. My favourite novels of the year were probably The Vegetarian by Han Kang, and The Wallcreeper by Nell Zink. Both have strikingly original voices, and when I read a novel I tend to be hoping for, well, novelty.

    1. Jackie says:

      Neil, I enjoyed The Vegetarian, but longer books almost always seen to have more impact on me. I’m not sure if this is because I simply spend more time reading them so they are more likely to be remembered, or if I just prefer the more complex plots. Either way I am definitely making more time for longer books in my life now. I haven’t read The Wallcreeper, but it sounds like an interesting book – thanks for drawing it to my attention!

  8. Megan says:

    The only one of I’ve read is The Martian, but now I want to read nearly all of your favorites. This post was hard on my groaning wishlist! LOL

    1. Jackie says:

      Megan, I hope that you enjoy any you decide to pick up!

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