5 Favourite Reads of 2015

I concede that these lists of “Top X” anything are not without issue. It’s not easy to rank favourites from such an expansive selection of great fiction. In fact, one could argue is it not particularly necessary. However, these lists are useful to provide a literary snapshot of the year, although I will be the first to admit even writing these words feels a bit problematic. Compiling this list somehow feels strange, because I become aware of all the fantastic fiction I have read which is not included. Yet, it also makes me aware of my reading habits and enables me to expand my literary gaze in the New Year.

So, here is a list of our five favourite books of 2015, in no particular order. All are contemporary works; most have been first published this year, except in two cases where new editions of the books were produced. Let us know what you think, and happy reading to all in the coming year!

 

  1. Pond by Claire-Louise Bennett (Fitzcarraldo Editions)

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This wonderful collection of short stories was published in October 2025 by Fitzcarraldo Editions. Although the tales are divided and given separate titles, they are all told by the same voice – an anonymous, hermit-type woman who has taken up residence in the west coast of Ireland. Each sentence is rich and engrossing; this is not a work to be read for plot, but rather it is a literary experience sure to enchant the reader.

 

 

2.  The Dumb House by John Burnside (Vintage)

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This haunting title was originally published in 1997, but was re-issued this year as a part of Vintage’s “Scottish Modern Classics” series. This is an unsettling tale about a man who becomes obsessed with the idea of language; how humans acquire language and what happens if the road to this acquisition is cut off. This is a dark psychological tale of untoward experimentation and unnerving psychopathic destruction.

 

 

3.  Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki  Murakami (Harvill Secker)

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This book was originally published in English in 2014, but the paperback was brought out by Harvill Secker in summer 2015, so we decided to include it in this list. This is a beautifully written book which tells the story of Tsukuru Tazaki, who is the only member in his group of childhood friends whose name does not include a colour. The story explores how Tsukuru, now in his thirties, returns to his childhood friends in order to discover why they suddenly cut off all contact with him. It is one of his more grounded works, and Murakami’s writing manages to be touching, without being overly sentimental.

 

4.  Upright Beasts by Lincoln Michel (Coffee House Press)

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This is the second short story collection on our list, and is the first work of fiction published by Lincoln Michel. These stories are all a little bit odd, perfectly apt as they deal with the bizarre reality of human nature – implicit in the title Upright Beasts. The collection is almost a study in magical realism and more, borrowing elements from all literary categories. Some of his stories are creepy, some are gripping and some are very funny, and the whole collection is simply brilliantly crafted. Michel is surely a promising emerging author, we look forward to what he produces next.

 

5.  Slade House by David Mitchell (Sceptre)

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The latest work by the notable British author was suitable published just before Halloween 2015. In Slade House Mitchell presents an absorbing take on the classic haunted house narrative. A series of nine stories told nine years apart, each with a different narrator, but all centred around the mysterious and disturbing Slade House. Mitchell perfectly captures the eerie nature of the traditional ghost story, much in the tradition of M.R. James or Robert Aickman. Yet Mitchell still manages to feel fresh with a few added twists and turns, and throughout the tale a genuinely creepy atmosphere prevails.

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Amazon Books – and what makes a great bookish space?

Last week Amazon caused a bit of a kerfuffle by opening a bookshop. It caused a bit of a anger, a bit of worry, a bit of soul-searching and a lot of confusion. To many the very notion of an Amazon bookstore, a physical building stocked with physical books appeared to be a non-sequitur – in fact an “Amazon bookstore” sounds like an oxymoron. And yet, the Amazon bookstore is upon us, snug and safe on the streets of Seattle.

Now, Amazon has caused its fair share of controversies in the past – news about the cut-throat nature of the corporation, the dismal conditions of warehouse workers and shoddy payment to publishers and writers are nothing new. Amazon has been dealing with these issues for years, but this latest move to open a bookshop is rather (dare we say it?) unprecedented. It is a development made all the more strange by the fact that Amazon’s entire brand seemed to pride itself on eradicating, first, the independent bookshops, and then, the highstreet chainstores. So the question is … why?

Dennis Johnson did a brilliant job answering this question on the Melville House blog, and we highly recommend reading the piece (it’s fairly short and far more factual that this one!). There seems to be no logical reason as to why Amazon have opened a bookstore, so Johnson simply has to as “why are Amazon so nasty” ? (And, yes, we are slightly paraphrasing).

Essentially, Johnson concludes and we agree, Amazon want to be the only game in town – that is ultimately their goal. To be fair, Amazon is not unique in this regard, market domination is basically the end goal for many big businesses. But this means you have to ask the question – do you love books? And if you do love books, you’ve got to ask whether Amazon can nurture that love and instil it in others. And honestly, we don’t think Amazon can do that – which is mainly down to the fact that they don’t want to and don’t care to.

Amazon is here to stay, that much is undeniable. But it is now up to the community of booklovers, and that is a world-wide community, to prove that there is a public appetite for more than just low prices. There’s a demand for more than “I want my book here, and I want it now!” – rather, there’s a demand events, author-signings, live story-readings, book clubs and all sorts of bookish-related pastimes. These things exist, and they’re fantastic – it would be a shame to lose them just because we wanted to pay a little less and found it inconvenient to take a trip to our local bookshops. Because a book is more than the sum of its parts, as any bookworm knows – a good book contains more than paper and ink, within those pages exists entire worlds. So let’s try to preserve those worlds, by building a community which maintains the magic of literature. This can be done online, as seen by the success of projects such as Goodreads and Booktube (a whole branch of YouTube dedicated to reading, reviewing and sharing books), but it’s also important to keep this bookish spirit alive by supporting those bookshops that really just love books.

The bookworld is changing, but that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Rather, let’s embrace it and help mould it, because bookish spaces can basically offer something that Amazon cannot – they can offer passion, authenticity and heart. Sure, Amazon is cheap – but really, where’s the fun in that?

More on this topic:

Denis Johnson’s post for Melville House (in case you missed it!)

The Guardian article on the Amazon bookstore from last week

Some theories by Rob Salkowitz at Forbes 

Read Sarah Kliff’s experience at the Amazon store from Vox

Feature: What Haunts Us This Halloween?

Halloween is a time for spooks and scares, and often the scariest things come from inexplicable sources. Spectres of the supernatural have haunted the human mind for generations; but in an era of technology and scientific rationality, can something as simple as a spirit from beyond the grave still give us the shivers?

Recently, The Guardian published this piece on the re-emergence of tales of ghostly hauntings, stating “the good old-fashioned ghost story is back with a bang”. The article speculates that a key reasons the ghost story has grown in popularity is because the reading public have become more receptive to genre fiction. Is genre snobbery finally at an end? (Well, not quite, but we’re getting there).

Ghoulish figures never left our literature or media – the vampire obviously garnered a lot of attention post-Twilight, though the new sexy model lacked the creepy leer of Dracula. Zombies, too, enjoyed a spell in the spotlight – they were embraced in various media forms, in films like 28 Days Later, in graphic novel and tv series The Walking Dead and even ushered in (yet another) take on Pride and Prejudice. The intent of these ghouls isn’t always to frighten the reader or viewer, but our culture’s fascination with such creatures is clearly still strong. These fiends aren’t always there to scare!

However, the supernatural continues to unnerve. Despite the fact that we know more about the workings of the world, the universe and outer space than ever before, we can still be spooked by stories about ghosts. In fact, the more we discover about the universe, the more we realise how little we actually know. In this grey space is where the philosophy of H.P. Lovecraft reigns – we, as humans, are limited in what we can understand about the cosmos, and what is most scary is that we are aware of our limitations.

Everything from cosmic horror to the ghost story is frightening because at the heart of those stories is the unexplained. Worse still, something as seemingly simple as a ghostly spectre is not only inexplicable, but has the potential to be utterly incomprehensible. But let’s not get too upset by the fundamental shortcomings of the human mind – it’s Halloween, let’s just have some fun and scare ourselves silly!

So, our advice is curl up with a classic ghost story from M.R. James or get a thrill from David Mitchell’s new novel Slade House; generally just have a good time! And rest assured, we’ll still be grappling with all those unfathomable forces after Halloween’s over – there is still much to be uncovered in the dark and bewildering universe (or, is that multiverse?).

Highlights | 19-25 Oct 15

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The New and Improved Romie Futch by Julia Elliott (Tin House)

Out this month from Tin House is The New and Improved Romie Futch by Julia Elliott. Tin House can always be relied upon to provide fantastic new fiction, and this title is sure to garner attention. Elliott tells the tale of down-on-his-luck Romie Futch who attempts to reclaim his life by enrolling as a test subject at the Centre for Cybernetic Neuroscience. There, he hope to become “new and improved” by downloading knowledge of the humanities subjects into his brain. Safe to say, things do not go as planned, and Romie ends up on the trail of a mutant beast known as “Hogzilla” – a thousand-pound boar possessing supernatural powers. Elliott’s book seems encompass everything we love – undeniably weird, with sprinkling of the speculative and Southern Gothic. We are eagerly anticipating out copy!

Find out more on Tin House’s website and read an interview with Elliott to find out more.

Read Publisher’s Weekly review of the book here and read an excerpt here

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 Vintage Classics Bronte Sisters Series
Granted, the Brontes are not contemporary authors, but the dynamic literary sisters are back in bookish news (not that they every really left!). In honour of the bicentenary of the Bronte, Penguin Vintage Editions are re-jacketing Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte), Wuthering Heights (Emily Bronte) and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (Anne Bronte). These fantastic new covers deserve a mention because they so perfectly portray the eerie and Gothic themes embodied in these texts, which often gets let out in mainstream discussions of the Brontes. The jackets were wonderfully designed by Sarah Gillespie, find her stuff here. And just in time for Halloween, too – the only problem is you feel the unrelenting urge to buy the whole set!

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The Masters Review – New Voices for the Classic Ghost Story

Gothic is most certainly the theme of the week – the finial item on this list comes from The Masters Review. October is the month of all things creepy, and The Masters Review is determined to let their spooky side shine! The state their aim for the month is to “to bring you as many different takes on the ghost story as possible”, and this week’s feature is the new short story “Clean Hunters” by Lana Valencia. If you’re interested in a bit of non-fiction this Halloween season, The Masters Review has also published some great essays on the uncanny (“Something’s Wrong in the Garden”) and the darker side of literature in their Literary Terms series (“Literary Terms: Gothic, Grotesque and The Uncanny“).

Feature: Unsung Stories Live

This week, indie publisher Unsung Stories showcased some exciting sf and speculative stories in a public reading. On Tuesday 20th October, a crowed of sf/f enthusiasts gathered in the Star of Kings pub in Kings Cross, London, to hear some fantastic (and fantastical) tales in Unsung’s spoken-word event. The occasion was a great chance to hear some of the very talented voices from the sf world as they took to the mic – and is all the more significant as it is the only live-reading of purely sci-fi, fantasy and horror available in London!

The readings were a brilliant blend of touching, troubling, imaginative and comic tales. These superb stories were provided by David Hartley, Cassandra Khaw, Robert Sharp and Simon Guerrier (see below for links to their Twitter accounts). This was the second spoken-literature event run by Unsung Stories, and we have been dutifully told that there will be more to come! It is a great initiative to get both new and seasoned sf/f writers to share their work, so we will keep you informed on any upcoming events.

We also encourage you to check out the Unsung Stories website for more information about the publisher. They specialise in genre-blurring work that crosses traditional borders of genre fiction, often resulting in a wonderful mix of sci-fi, horror, crime and fantasy. So far, Unsung have published three books – Déja Vu by Ian Hocking, Dark Star by Oliver Langmead and The Beauty by Aliya Whiteley – and we are keeping an eager eye on them to see what they come up with next!

For an impressively detailed account of Unsung Live, take a look at this superb review by Andrew Wallace.

If you want to know what the readers are up to, follow them on Twitter:

David HartleyCassandra Khaw Robert SharpSimon Guerrier

Highlights // 12 – 18 Oct 15

Injection_01-1Graphic Novels: Descender and Injection (Image)

Although we primarily focus on text-based fiction, it would be completely misguided not to report speculative fiction from the graphic novel and comic-based world. Recently, Image introduced two new titled to their impressive catalogue of speculative and weird works: Descender by Jeff Lemire, and Injection by Warren Ellis and Declan Shalvey. The first volume of Descender was published this September; a beautiful story which artfully mixes glorious space opera with a touching, “coming-of-age” type narrative humanoid-robot Tim-21.

And if that wasn’t enough, Image are set to release volume one of Injection. We can’t wait for this one – it contains a serialised collection of graphic novels which detail the fall-out of a 21st century “poisoned by five crazy people”. Injection has been described as a blend of weird, science fiction, crime and horror all rolled into one. So, naturally, we had to get in on that – we are ready to dive into our copy!

e433eb8de9132a354277d9f4b44fc17aR.R.A.P. Magazine – Black Speculative Fiction Month

R.R.A.P. Magazine is a great place that forefronts diverse stories, characters and writers from different backgrounds. Of course, this is a great initiative in any context, but October is a very interesting month. During October, R.A.A.P. Magazine are championing works of black authors writing speculative, fantasy and science fiction. Hop over to their website to see their selection of the best in speculative fiction, with a fantastic mix of often marginalised voices dabbling in the speculative genres.

Follow R.R.A.P. on Twitter here for more exciting discussions about race and culture in fiction and the media.

35108-1Publishers Weeky – Big Indie Books of Fall 2015

Check the Publishers Weekly list of the Big Indie Books of Fall 2015 which is chock-full of thrilling new titles coming out this autumn. There are some great titles on the list, such as Learning to Die in the Anthropocene by Roy Scranton (City Lights), The Story of My Teeth by Valeria Luiselli (Coffee House) and Killing and Dying by Adrian Tomine (Drawn and Quarterly). It’s really important to support indie publishers – after all, they bring us some great texts that big publishing houses are reluctant to get behind. So wander on over to Publishers Weekly’s website and take a peek at the impressive range of essays, graphic novels, fiction and non-fiction on offer!

Hope you found something you like here! If you have any suggestions or have something you would like to see featured in the upcoming weeks – please let us know in the comments! Keep the conversation going – MEGLO

Highlights // 05 – 11 Oct 15

A selection of exciting things happening in the literary world! The high points of the week for us!

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Upright Beats by Lincoln Michel (Coffee House Press)

This new title was just launched by Coffee House Press earlier in the week. This is a début book by Lincoln Michel, co-editor of Gigantic Magazine. There has been a lot of buzz around this collection of short stories, with high praise coming from early reviewers. Michel’s writing ” reads something like translated Kafka”, according to The New York Times Book Review, so we here at Meglo are can’t wait to get our hands on a copy!

Upright Beasts was also featured in Vanity Fair’s list of “October’s 6 Scariest New Books”: http://www.vanityfair.com/culture/2015/10/scary-new-october-books-the-witches-stacy-schiff

Cofee House Press website: http://coffeehousepress.org/shop/upright-beasts/

Read Michel’s short story “My Life in the Belly of Beasts” on Vice: http://www.vice.com/read/read-this-story-from-upright-beasts-by-lincoln-michel

Follow Lincoln Michel on Twitter: https://twitter.com/TheLincoln

Popshot Issue 14

Popshot Issue 14, “The Curious Issue”

Popshot  released the 14th issue of their magazine earlier this month, under the umbrella theme of “Curious”. Popshot is a quarterly magazine of poetry and short fiction, full of dark and strange stories, prefect for our taste at Meglo. Not only do they have a great selection of short stories with lyrical prose, the also produce amazing artwork from some very talented artists.

Find out more about Popshot here: http://popshotpopshot.com/index.html

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The Heart Goes Last Fan Fiction Contest

Write fan fiction inspired by Margaret Atwood’s latest novel, The Heart Goes Last. The competition is being held by Book Riot and will be judged by a selection of Book Riot staff along with Margaret Atwood herself. Atwood has thoroughly embraced speculative fiction in the past few years, so this competition could be of particular interest to anyone eager to write strange or dystopian literature. Best of luck!

Details on Book Riot’s website here: http://bookriot.com/2015/09/29/announcing-heart-goes-last-fan-fiction-contest/

Get the latest from Book Riot on Twitter: https://twitter.com/BookRiot