The Must-Read Fiction of 2015

We're keeping an ongoing tally of the best reads of the year for you.

best fiction books 2015

Mother Nature has hit the northeastern United States hard so far this winter. Terrible weather makes for a difficult work and school commute, but once you’re safely home, there’s no better time than to curl up with a quality book.

Last year was fantastic in terms of literature, and specifically genre fiction (I’m looking at you, Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel, my favorite book of the year; you’re next on my to-read list, The Book of Strange New Things by Michael Faber). With Toni Morrison’s God Help The Child due out in April, Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird sequel (never thought I’d write those beautiful words) Go Set a Watchman due out in July, and Jonathan Franzen’s Purity due out in September, 2015 is looking like a blockbuster year for literature, too.

Not every noteworthy genre fiction new release needs publicity (Paula Hawkins’ The Girl on the Train will be just fine without my fanboying over it), but here are five genre fiction reads out in hardcover now, and a few newly released paperbacks, that Den of Geek readers should enjoy.  

The Magician’s Lie by Greer Macallister

If You Liked…: Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen, The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, Metropolis by Elizabeth Gaffney

Billed as “Water For Elephants meets The Night Circus” Macallister’s debut novel follows female illusionist The Amazing Arden, who saws a man in half onstage as part of her show. When her husband is found dead underneath the stage, is it an unfortunate tragedy, or murder? I’m a sucker for carnival/circus-themed—my first novel-in-progress involves a travelling carnival, go figure—and magic-themed literature, so The Magician’s Lie hits my wheelhouse.

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Comparison to Gruen and Morgernstern is high praise, and praise that could  spell film adaptation if Macallister can deliver. Either way, The Magician’s Lie is a page-turning howler of a read.

The Last American Vampire by Seth Grahame-Smith

If You Liked…: Android Karenina by Ben H. Winters, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith   

Seth Grahame-Smith is a bit of an enigma. Receiving national fame with his shocker of a hit Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Grahame-Smith went on to write the surprisingly entertaining (and mostly factual—with the exception of, you know, vampires) Abraham Lincoln semi-biography Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, detailing how Honest Abe went from log cabin to the presidency…with the help of, and by slaying, vampires. I was referred to Vampire Hunter by a retired police officer who unleashed a flurry of expletives while lauding the book; I wasn’t sure if it was for me at that point. But I picked it up and was surprised how much I liked it.

The Last American Vampire picks up where Vampire Hunter left off, with Henry Sturges mourning the death of his beloved friend Abe. In The Last American Vampire, Henry brushes toes with Jack The Ripper, Tesla, Edison, the first and second World Wars, and the assassination of JFK. Grahame-Smith is a clever alchemist at weaving true history into his own fictionalized version; the vampire fad may have taken to its casket, but The Last American Vampire transcends the former trend’s comatose state.

West of Sunset by Stewart O’Nan

If You Liked…: The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler, The Love of the Last Tycoon by F. Scott Fitzgerald…you get the idea.

As exemplified by Billy Wilder’s luminous Sunset Boulevard, there are few things as sad as a former star desperately clinging to fame after it’s gone. Such is the sadness of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s  final three years, from 1937-1940, working at MGM in Hollywood, broke, drunk, and considered a has-been.

As the $351 million worldwide gross of Leonardo DiCaprio‘s The Great Gatsby pointed out—as well as the success of numerous 2014 books such as Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler, So We Read On: How The Great Gatsby Came to Be and Why It Endures by Maureen Corrigan, and Careless People: Murder, Mayhem, and the Invention of the Great Gatsby by Sarah Churchwell—F. Scott Fitzgerald is more popular now than he’s been in years. Stewart O’Nan takes on those final, murky three years of Fitzgerald’s life in West of Sunset. As a Fitzgerald—both F. Scott and Zelda—obsessive, I need no more cajoling than that.

There’s Something I Want You To Do by Charles Baxter

If You Liked…: If you have any interest in writing, or reading, short stories

If you’re a young writer looking to hone your craft, or you’re simply intrigued by short stories, look no further than Charles Baxter. Two of his books—Burning Down The House: Essays on Fiction and The Art of Subtext: Beyond Plot—are hailed as imperative reads in terms of the craft of writing. Whereas some authors will write a short story collection just because, Baxter is a master at the top of his game, an artist who’s perfected his technique. There’s Something I Want You To Do is an explosive addition to his already stellar resume.

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Funny Girl by Nick Hornby

If You Liked…: Juliet, Naked by Nick Hornby, Love Monkey by Kyle Smith, The Commitments by Roddy Doyle

Nick Hornby is best known for writing aimless, introverted male characters who ask the dark questions plaguing the psyche of men. His best books have featured devil-may-care protagonists at their hearts: High Fidelity and About a Boy, both books that you’ve seen adapted to a big or small screen.

Though Hornby’s most recent novel—the bleak 2009 tale Juliet, Naked—is about a reclusive rock star releasing new music after decades of silence and the way the internet devours and spits out art, the unpredictable, damaged characters (namely Annie, the female lead) are what keeps the pages turning. Hornby’s Funny Girl takes place London in the 1960s, following the enticing Sophie Straw as she transforms from bland Everywoman into a television star. Hornby’s track record is outstanding; Funny Girl only adds to it.

Three Paperbacks Out Soon:

The Mermaid’s Sister by Carrie Anne Noble: Noble is new to publishing, but her YA debut, The Mermaid’s Sister, is the right mix of kooky and endearing. Set in Pennsylvania in the late 19th century, sixteen-year-old Clara discovers her sister is becoming a mermaid. It’s an interesting blend of journey tale and coming-of-age, but somehow, Noble pulls off an immensely readable tale. (March 1st)

Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi: Oyeyemi, a wunderkind thirty-one-year-old, has already published five novels, including the frightening White is For Witching and the Stranger Than Fiction-esque Mr. Fox. Oyeyemi delights in fairy tales, and her most recent takes on Snow White (March 3rd)

To Rise Again at a Decent Hour by Joshua Ferris: In 2015, identity theft is no laughing matter; To Rise Again at a Decent Hour is a compelling argument for the opposite. Here, Ferris—a PEN/Hemingway Award finalist and a 2010 member of The New Yorker’s “20 Under 40”—examines what could happen if your identity thief invents a far more intriguing life than the one you’re living. (March 10th)

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