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Colette Bancroft's favorite 2015 books — and a few she didn't like

Picking 10 favorite books from the past year is always difficult. Not thinking of 10 books I loved — that's easy, in any year. The hard part is choosing which of the 30 or 40 other books I loved to leave out.

Without further ado, then, here are 10 favorites chosen from the books I reviewed in 2015. (That also leaves out some great books that I read this year but did not review, including Ta-Nehisi Coates' powerful Between the World and Me, Andrea Wulf's fascinating The Invention of Nature: Alexander von Humboldt's New World and Claire Vaye Watkins' blistering Gold Fame Citrus.)

The 2015 top 10 books are listed alphabetically by author. You can find full reviews at tampabay.com/features/books.

1 Rain: A Natural and Cultural History by Cynthia Barnett. This wide-ranging nonfiction book by a Gainesville investigative reporter gracefully weaves together history, science, literature and much more.

2 Beatlebone by Kevin Barry. A surprising, poignant, profane novel whose main character is a haunting reimagining of John Lennon.

3 The Crossing by Michael Connelly. The thrilling, complex answer to the question of what LAPD homicide detective Harry Bosch will be like when he's no longer a cop.

4 Purity by Jonathan Franzen. Set aside all the Franzenscheude; this brisk contemporary tale of love and betrayal is a great read and, I must say, my favorite of his novels so far.

5 Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff. This novel, by another Gainesville author (what's in the water up there?), is a dazzling, moving exploration of the lies we tell for love.

6 Negroland: A Memoir by Margo Jefferson. The author, a Pulitzer Prize-winning critic, grew up among the black elite and writes about that experience with fearless intelligence.

7 World Gone By by Dennis Lehane. This novel, set in Tampa in the 1940s, completes Lehane's classic gangster trilogy, a darkly lyrical look at the downside of power, legal or not.

8 H Is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald. This startlingly original memoir of grief and healing is as fierce and vivid as the creature in its title.

9 On the Move by Oliver Sacks. Another surprising memoir, this one revealing the extraordinary personal life of the doctor and bestselling author, who died not long after its publication.

10 The Sunken Cathedral by Kate Walbert. This beautifully written and emotionally resonant novel is among the most realistic depictions of loss and mourning I've read.

Contact Colette Bancroft at cbancroft@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8435. Follow @colettemb.

Trees died for these?

Every year, there are a few books I cover that, for various reasons,

I wish I didn't have to read at all. Here are the 2015 losers.

1. A double downer: Grey by E.L. James and Life and Death by Stephenie Meyer. Not content with multibazillion-dollar sales figures for their Fifty Shades of Grey and Twilight series, both of these authors released books that reworked their first novels by flipping the genders of the main characters. The problem is, neither of them did anything interesting with the premise. The author credit for both books should be "Search and Replace."

2. The Girl in the Spider's Web by David Lagercrantz. Another brazen effort to cash in on a bestselling series, this one originally written by the late Stieg Larsson. The best thing about Larsson's three novels, dark avenging angel Lisbeth Salander, is only a shadow of herself in Lagercrantz's sequel.

3. Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee. Publisher announces "new book" by one of America's most revered authors, who is now blind, deaf and in assisted living. Said "new book" was miraculously found by author's lawyer, who is conduit for all communications with her. Book is kept under wraps until much ballyhooed publication, when it is revealed to be a manuscript rejected by publishers more than 50 years ago, before Lee wrote To Kill a Mockingbird, and which she had long said she would never publish. Millions of readers are shocked that Watchman depicts Atticus Finch, one of the most heroic and beloved characters in American literature, as a banal old-school racist — a characterization that Lee changed utterly when she wrote Mockingbird. But hey, somebody is making a boatload of money on this. Maybe it will be Lee, and maybe she'll hire a new lawyer.

Colette Bancroft's favorite 2015 books — and a few she didn't like 12/23/15 [Last modified: Wednesday, December 23, 2015 10:45am]
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