These are the best books I read during 2015:
# 5 The Glass Bead Game by Herman Hesse
It won the Nobel Prize in 1946. The story is about a group of intellectuals devoted to a very exclusive university and in particular, its connection with the Glass Bead Game. The game is “capable of expressing and establishing interrelationships between the content and conclusions of nearly all scholarly disciplines. The Glass Bead Game is thus a mode of playing with the total contents and values of our culture; it plays with them as, say, in the great age of the arts a painter might have played with the colors on his palette.” It is essentially a game that plays with “the entire intellectual content of the universe.” The game often involves someone exploring two different subjects that have nothing to do with each other and then “harmoniously combining two hostile themes or ideas.” This is accomplished by finding “an organic denominator.” For instance, you could use music theory to analyze Wall Street. Or you could develop a mathematical formula based on patterns in Robert Frost’s poetry and then try to apply that formula to the orbits of Saturn’s moons.
Although it is relatively dry in spots, the basic concept is fascinating. It changes the way you see things in that everything can be creatively connected—which leads to some very interesting ideas.
#4 As You Wish by Cary Elwes
Anyone who loves the movie The Princess Bride will love this book. Anyone who doesn’t love the movie The Princess Bride doesn’t deserve to read this book. It is the behind the scenes account of the making of the film, as told by the actor who played Westley.
This is almost as entertaining as the movie itself. Elwes describes how he ended up with the role. His fond memories about the rest of the cast are touching. During the shoot, he learned to actually perform what is still considered to be one of the greatest sword fights that ever came out of Hollywood. Also during the shoot, an injury on an ATV nearly blindsided the production. His tales of Andre the Giant off camera are epic.
Once you read this book, you will want to watch the movie again. And it will be like seeing The Princess Bride again—for the first time.
#3 Horrorstor by Grady Hendrix
Part scary and part hilarious, this is essentially the story of a haunted IKEA. In the book, the store is known as Orsk. Amy is an employee who is pressured into doing an overnight shift in order to catch vandals, who have apparently been messing with the furniture after hours. She is joined by her boss Basil and a few other quirky employees.
The night progress through a series of events that are both funny and surprisingly scary. Even though the premise triggers a smirk, there is plenty of actual horror here. There is definitely a body count.
The book itself is designed like an IKEA catalogue, each chapter beginning with a featured piece of furniture, which playfully implies the meaning of what is to come. This becomes ingenious as the procession of furniture grows more grim right along with the story.
The general tone of the book is mainly just plain fun. This has been optioned for television and if they do it right, it will be an unforgettably good scare.
#2 Undivided by Neal Shusterman
This is the final volume of the four-book series that began with Unwind. The first is the best, but this one is a strong second best.
The culmination of the series is thorough and appropriately epic. Every time you think Shusterman has done all he can with the unwind concept, he presents yet another angle, which sends the story off into even more exciting directions.
The plot is merciless in that some characters come to a very grisly end. But this is also true of the first book, Unwind. Whereas this series could have fizzled, Undivided ends it with a bang.
# 1 Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson
The Stormlight series exploded in bookstores with The Way of Kings. This is the second book in the ten-book series.
It takes place in a fantasy world ravaged by storms. Power among the kingdoms depends on the possession of unique swords and armor. An assassin in white is executing his victims as dictated by a mysterious agenda. Meanwhile, the story plays out primarily through the eyes of three protagonists. Shallan—a girl with amazing artistic abilities but who also hides an even more impressive ability to wield the magic of SoulCasting. Dalinar—an older prince, haunted by visions that hold the key to saving the world. Kaladin—a soldier who has climbed out of a wretched existence to stand at the forefront of the battles that will determine the future for everyone.
Hurry up, Bradon. We’re all waiting for Volume 3!