The Best Books for January 2015 - and a sneak peek at February and March

The new year is upon us and with it come many wonderful new books to discover. Here are a dozen books that are publishing in the first three months of 2015. We like them so much we are showcasing each - as a professionally reviewed book, a First Impressions review book, a focus for discussion or a giveaway - and we think you will like them too!


Top 10 Author Interviews of 2014

Insights from authors take us beyond just a glimpse into the writing process, they shed light on the human condition, often in places we can only visit through the written word. We have carefully culled the cream of the crop to present the year's Top 10 Best Author Interviews (in no particular order.) You'll find plenty of food for thought.


The Top 20 Books of 2014

The end of the year is a perfect time to take stock, to reflect on the many great books we made time for and to add many other remarkable recommendations to our ever-expanding "to read" lists.

This is where BookBrowse's annual Best of the Year awards come in. As opposed to most other award programs which encourage vote stuffing and are more an indication of an author's fan base, our best of year winners are chosen on a weighted scale by our members. No vote-stuffing, no simple yes or no vote. These are considered responses; we take our awards program seriously. In this issue, we feature the four overall winners in the Best Fiction, Best Non-Fiction, Best Young Adult, and Best Debut categories; and the runners up. The books are displayed in ratings order - starting with the Top 10 in fiction, followed by the Top 5 in non-fiction and young adult categories.

The dazzling gem, All The Light We Cannot See, wins our Best Book of 2014 in the fiction category; while the gripping adventure story, In the Kingdom of Ice takes it home for best non-fiction. The quirky A Man Called Ove wins best debut while Jandy Nelson's altogether brilliant I'll Give You the Sun wins in the young adult category.


Best Books for Book Clubs in 2015

Looking for the perfect books for your book club to read in 2015? Look no further!

Below we showcase 24 exceptional books: From historical fiction to speculative fiction, these books tell stories of ordinary and extraordinary lives that explore the worlds of art, war and so much more. Mostly fiction, you'll also find a handful of carefully selected nonfiction and young adult recommendations.

All have published in paperback since September 2014, or will do by March 2015.


BookBrowse's 2014 Award Winners

Congratulations to BookBrowse's 2014 Award Winners!
Click on the image to read the review, backstory and excerpt for each book:

Book Jacket 
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Best Fiction
Best Debut
Best Nonfiction
Best Young Adult

Next week we'll publish the full list of 2014 BookBrowse Favorites as selected by BookBrowse's members & subscribers

About the awards
Most "people's choice" book awards actively encourage authors and publishers to send their fans to the voting page ("vote stuffing"). Clearly this gives a huge advantage to those authors with the widest fan base. Also, the standard method of voting is to simply cast a yes or no vote for a book - which again gives an advantage to the books with the highest sales. Thus most "people's choice" awards measure popularity, which is not always the same as quality!


How the Word "Ghost" Got Its Spelling

In addition to reviewing books, BookBrowse goes "beyond the book" to explore interesting aspects relating to each book we feature. Here is a "Beyond the Book" feature written to complement our review of Spell It Out by David Crystal

David Crystal is a prolific scholar of linguistics who specializes in language pathology, phonetics, and linguistic disability.

What I admire most about Crystal's scholarship in Spell It Out is its humanity. He never loses sight of language as a form of human expression—whether through orthography or pronunciation.

Consider for example, the history of the word, "ghost":

"Why is there an h here? And in ghastly, aghast and the whole family of related words –– ghostly, ghostliness, ghastliness, ghostbusters and so on? It wasn't there when the word first came into English. In Anglo-Saxon England we find it used in the form gast, with a long 'ah' vowel...But there was no h in the Anglo-Saxon spelling: the Holy Ghost was a Hali Gast. Nor was there an h in the word in Chaucer's time…Then along came Caxton [William Caxton, the first printer and publisher of books in England], who sets up his printing-shop. But who was to carry out the painstaking task of typesetting the new books, letter by letter? There was nobody capable of doing it in England. Caxton had learned his trade on the European mainland…so he looked to the Continent for help. We know the name of one of his assistants, Wynkyn de Worde. He and the other compositors…all spoke Flemish."

Crystal points out that the Flemish-speaking typesetters were on their own: "There were no dictionaries or house style guides to help them choose which spellings to use. In Bruges they would all have been used to reading manuscripts in Flemish spelling. So, if a word reminded them of its Flemish counterpart, why not spell it the Flemish way?"

William CaxtonAnd so Caxton refers to the "Holy Ghoost," and "ghost" appears in his printing of Chaucer's "House of Fame." This spelling looked "right" to the Flemish printers and, Crystal reports, soon looked "right" to everyone else: "…by the end of the 16th century everyone was using the new form. Hamlet's dead father is a ghost, not a gost. And slowly the h spread to related words. Aghast appears first in the 15th century, and eventually replaces agast. Ghastly replaces gastly."

Even today contemporary Wynkyn de Wordes are inventing new spellings for old words - in books or perhaps while texting or Tweeting - that will someday catch on as "ghost" did and exert their own "ghostly" influence on other words as well.

By Jo Perry, first published on BookBrowse as the "beyond the book" article relating to Spell It Out by David Crystal

Picture of Caxton from Unrealcityaudio

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First Frost by Sarah Addison Allen
Love and Treasure by Ayelet Waldman