Traverse City News and Events

Local Bookies Weigh-In On Best 2015 Reads

Dec. 26, 2015

Sure, Christmas is behind us, but there's still plenty of holiday time to enjoy a good read. And now that Traverse City is known as a “bookie town,” we thought we’d ask local booksellers and experts their picks for best books of 2015.

Having a strong connection to local writers is something Amy Reynolds of Horizon Books in Traverse City believes in. “All my picks are local authors. It enhances my reading to know the writer,” she says.

Reynolds likes “She’s Not There” by a New York Times bestselling sister writing team that uses the singular nom de plume P.J. Parrish. One of the sisters, Kristy Montee, lives in Elk Rapids. “Their book is part of a series of mysteries. Some of clues are given upfront, so it’s also a character study," says Reynolds. "An injured woman runs. But her husband is always just one step behind.”

Reynolds also enjoys the writing of Richard Alan Hall, a former northern Michigan cardiac care nurse. Hall’s “No Gray Twilights,” the third in a series, draws characters from his real-life emergency room experience, but also features Vietnam War vets living above a bar that Reynolds says bears a resemblance to TC’s own Sleder’s Family Tavern.

Reynolds also picks “Drummond Girls,” a memoir by TC author Mardi Jo Link. “It’s about a friendship between women who’ve been having an annual weekend at retreat at Drummond Island for nearly 20 years," she notes. "It’s about sisterhood."

Matt Sutherland of TC-based Foreword Magazine uses terms like “strange," "dreamlike” and “existential” to describe “The Memory Theater” by Simon Critchley. “It’s based on the idea of preserving all of the world’s information in one place – like a universal library,” Sutherland says. “Critchley’s a big thinker.”

A new prose translation of Homer’s "Odyssey" caught Sutherland’s eye this year for the way it brings the ancient tale to life. Sutherland admits he’s never been able to finish Homer, but he says Valerio Massimo Manfredi’s “Odysseus: The Return, Book Two” creates “an eerie, almost drug-like state as the story bounces around the Mediterranean.”

Sutherland also points to “Under Another Sky, Journeys in Roman Britain” by Charlotte Higgins as an example of great travel writing. Higgins takes readers to ancient Roman sites such as Hadrian’s Wall. “She’s a fantastic writer and historian,” Sutherland says.

Matt Ambs, co-manager at TC’s Books-A-Million, recommends “The Witches” by Stacy Schiff. “It’s about the Salem witch trials, when the religious and cultural influence on America from Europe was very unsettled.”

Ambs also picks “Thomas Jefferson and the Tripoli Pirates” by Brian Kilmeade. “We forgot that early U.S. history and presidents were full of surprises,” Ambs says.

Also high on Ambs’ list is “Career of Evil” by Robert Galbraith (a pseudonym for author J.K. Rowling). “It’s my wild card. I love mystery,” Ambs says. “I’ll read anything that has a narrative like this. I like her ability to use deception.”

Jodie Brandt of Brilliant Books selects a surprising author as a top pick. Actor Kevin Costner -- with help from writer Jon Baird - offers up “The Explorers Guild,” described by Brandt as “a classic, fast-paced adventure reminiscent of classics by Jack London and Rudyard Kipling.” The plot, Brand says, centers around “the search by an English explorers guild for places archeology may have missed.”

A fan of sci-fi, Brandt finds Andy Weir’s “The Martian” – the basis of the popular movie starring Matt Damon – intriguing in large part because “it is based on hard science.” Stranded alone on Mars, the main character is forced to improvise to survive. “A lot of science fiction is very speculative,” says Brandt. “This one is plausible.”

Brandt calls his other pick, “Armada” by Peter Kline, “humorous, action packed, based sort of on 80s video game culture, with a weird conspiracy twist to it.” The main character discovers his dad’s notebook, which changes everything. “It’s sort of a nostalgic look at invaders,” Brandt says. Steven Spielberg owns the movie rights.

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