I read 21 books in 2015. After looking back, it's very fantasy heavy. Here's the genre breakdown:
- 11 fantasy, with probably 7 of those fitting in the epic category
- 5 science fiction
- 1 supernatural
- 1 western
- 1 steampunk
- 1 nonfiction
- 1 classic literature
I usually read more than 1 nonfiction book in a year, but not in 2015.
Though I read many very good books and only disliked two, four broke through as truly excellent and make my list of my all-time favorites. I discuss two of those here.
The Name of the Wind and The Wise Man's Fear by Patrick Rothfuss
In October 2014, I attended the Writing Excuses Retreat. Most of the participants were fellow fantasy fans, and we often discussed our favorite books. One that came up often as a recent favorite was The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss. It came up too often for me to ignore.
So started it in in early 2015 and finished several weeks later. I was blown away by the writing, the most beautiful fantasy prose I'd read in a long time. Within a few chapters, I began wondering if this work would become one of my favorite books., and if Rothfuss would join Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Brandon Sanderson, Robert Jordan and Madeleine L'Engle as my favorite authors in the genre.
Though the writing is fantastic and the story is thrilling, what sets The Name of the Wind and The Wise Man's Fear apart from other excellent fantasy tales is how enraptured I was by the book's main character, Kvothe. I feel like I know him, and he's joined my favorite fictional characters of all time, like Ebeneezer Scrooge, Jack Ryan, Egwene Al'Vere, Kaladin, Harry Potter, Vin, Meg Murry,and more.
I'd heard the second book had been a letdown for some, so I delayed reading that until July, but found it similarly awesome. Sure, it didn't contain the same mystery and wonder as the first book in a series often does, but it quickly became one of my favorite books as well. Two hundred pages in the plot had hardly moved, yet I was absolutely engaged. If that's not a wonderful endorsement, I don't know what is.
As a writer, I learned a lot from his books. He does many things editors and agents would advise against: a lot of it is set in a school (often used trope) and the entire series is a flashback, to name two. But, I would guess instinctively, Rothfuss knows how a story works, knows that a great character pulls you farther than anything else. If someday I write a novel 25% as good as The Name of the Wind, I will consider my writing life a massive success.
The list of things I didn't like was very short. The Wise Man's Fear stalled a little for me in the middle, as I think Rothfuss had his 'Tom Bombadil' moment with Kvothe's dalliance with the Fae Felurian. It was highly sexual and it added almost nothing for me personally, though it did aid some in character development. But I feel like Rothfuss could have plucked that out and the story would have been fine.
If you love great writing and great characters and you haven't read these books, do it. Both engrossed me as few books can, and I hope to follow Rothfuss' red-headed protagonist through many more adventures in the future.