Our 2015 Favorites: Fiction & Nonfiction

As the year comes to a close, our librarians wanted to share their favorite books, movies, television series, and music that either came out in the past year, or that we just discovered in 2015.

All of these titles are available for checkout from the Kansas City Public Library collection, so why not start off 2016 with an awesome new read from this list?

Many thanks to our library staff who helped contribute to this list and descriptions, including: Crystal, Rachel, Anna, Ron, and Clare in Youth & Family Engagement; Eli in Special Collections; Kaite in Readers' Services; Andy and Courtney in Public Affairs; Heather in Executive Services, John in the Digital Branch; Jill and Ryan in Customer Services; Joel in Branch Administration; and Susan at the Waldo Branch.

Author: 
Kate Atkinson
ISBN: 
9780316176538
Using the slipperiness of time and narrative, Kate Atkinson plays with her reader, and story, like a kitten with a ball of literary yarn. In this novel from the award-winning author of Life After Life, the second half of the 20th century plays out in the rewarding, yet crumbling, lives of Teddy Todd and his beloved family.
Author: 
T. J. English
ISBN: 
9780062290984
The fascinating true-life account of the trial and history of notorious Boston crime figure Whitey Bulger. While the reports of Bulger's violence and illegal activities were terrifying, what was even more shocking were the revelations about the relationship between certain gangland leaders and federal law enforcement during the FBI's fight against organized crime, particularly in 1970s and 1980s. Author T.J. English had incredible access to some of the figures (both underworld and aboveworld, as it were) whose lives intertwined with this decades-long case.
Author: 
Michael Punke
ISBN: 
9781250066626
The Revenant is based on the real-life case of Hugh Glass, a fur trapper and explorer who achieved sort of a folk-hero mythos due to a series of incredible life events. During an 1823 fur trapping excursion, Glass was savagely attacked by a bear. Severely mauled, he was subsequently left for dead by his team, particularly the two men entrusted with tending to his wounds who stole his goods and gear, including his prized rifle. Against all odds he survived the attack and set out on a quest for revenge against these men, battling the harsh arrival of winter, hostile tribes, other trappers, and starvation.
Author: 
Elizabeth A. Fenn
ISBN: 
9780809042395
Our understanding of the history and experiences of the indigenous peoples of North America during the era of European colonization is undergoing significant and exciting expansion and reinterpretation. A stellar example of this is Encounters at the Heart of the World, winner of the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for History. It's a work that reveals the voices of North American natives that have been missing from standard histories for far too long.
Author: 
Sinclair Lewis; Christopher Hurt (Read by)
ISBN: 
9781433222061
Known more for Main Street and Elmer Gantry, Sinclair Lewis wrote the less remembered novel It Can't Happen Here in 1935, when the threat of fascism loomed across the globe. The story—in which an aw-shucks, dissembling demagogue skillfully pulls off the 1936 presidential nomination of the Republican Party and then wins the general election—swiftly descends to a tale of the formation of an American totalitarian state. Lewis's novel, as superbly read in this 2008 audiobook, might not have been so frightening if we weren't going through a vaguely similar presidential cycle in 2015 / 2016.
Author: 
T. J. Stiles
ISBN: 
9780307592644
What more can be said about the lucky boy general of the Civil War and the loser of the Battle at the Little Bighorn? When you're Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer T. J. Stiles apparently a lot, and the result is Custer's Trials: A Life on the Frontier of a New America. Stiles focuses on Custer as a product of his Gilded Age times, devotes the bulk of his narrative before the fateful year of 1876, and pushes the story of the epic defeat to the epilogue. Having written excellent bios of Jesse James and Cornelius Vanderbilt, Stiles has completed his great trilogy of three nineteenth century icons.
Author: 
Dale Russakoff
ISBN: 
9780547840055
A New York Times Bestseller, The Prize is very well written account of the difficult, sometimes misguided, fight to reform our one city's failing urban school district. Russakoff, who spent several years as a journalist with the Washington Post brings her in-depth and objective reporting skills to this hot-button issue.
Author: 
Erik Larson
ISBN: 
9780307408860
From the author of The Devil in the White City and In The Garden of Beasts, this might be the best Erik Larson narrative non-fiction yet. Dead Wake well researched detailed narrative of the sinking of the luxury liner that finally led to the United States' entry into the First World War.
Author: 
Kate Morton
ISBN: 
9781451649321
Morton's books fascinate and satisfy. Impeccably plotted with fascinating characters, in The Lake House readers meet Alice as a teen just before Midsummer's Eve when her baby brother disappears. Years later, we're reintroduced to Alice as a soul-weary police detective attempting to solve that cold case.
Author: 
Paolo Bacigalupi
ISBN: 
9780385352871
National Book Award Finalist Paolo Bacigalupi (Ship Breaker) presents a thrilling, prescient novel about the struggle for survival via water rights in a dystopian, drought-stricken United States.
Author: 
Harper Lee
ISBN: 
9780062409850
While this "second" novel from the acclaimed author of the American classic, To Kill a Mockingbird, probably won't make many "best of" lists, it is certainly the book that generated the most conversation about books and reading in 2015. For that alone, it deserves mention.