Looking for some good books to add to your reading list for 2017? I’ve got you covered today!
Earlier this week I posted a list of my favorite non-fiction books from 2016, and today I’m sharing my favorite fiction. Again, these aren’t books necessarily published in 2016, but ones I managed to read during the past year.
Almost all of these were 5-star reads for me. . . which made me start wondering what exactly compels me to rate a book 5 stars?
- First off, I have to enjoy reading the book. If I find myself hesitant or worse — dreading — the act of opening it up, well then obviously I won’t rate it 5 stars. My 5-star novels are always the ones I can’t seem to put down. They’re the ones that make me ignore my chores, the TV, and everyone in my life until I just finish the book already!
- Even more important, though, is the power of 5-star books to stick with me. These are books that I can’t stop thinking about, both while I’m reading and after I’ve finished.
- And finally, 5-star books are the ones that move me in some way. Often I’ll find myself relating on a deep personal level to a character. Or the language will be lyrical and gorgeous and poetic. Or I become emotionally invested in the story and end up laughing and crying right along with the characters.
All of these books have elements of each of these criteria, and have therefore made it to my favorites list. I hope you enjoy as much as I did!
Favorite Fiction of 2016
Britt-Marie Was Here by Fredrik Backman
This might just be the perfect novel. Britt-Marie is an irritating 63-year old with an obsession for cleanliness and a penchant for taking everything literally. She ends up in a small town where she worms her way into the hearts of the community there. The more you read about her, the more your heart will soften. This book is about the importance of community, and how loving others helps heal the wounds we carry. I adored this one. 5/5 stars
Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye
Gush. I LOVED this novel. It has a little bit of everything: suspense, well-written characters, interesting plot, romance, and — of course –murder. It’s not exactly a retelling of Jane Eyre, although it borrows elements from the classic novel. I found the character of Jane Steele to be one of the most complex literary figures I’ve encountered in a while, and I enjoyed every single page of being inside her head. By the way, the Audible version of this book is absolutely superb! 5/5 stars
A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
This one’s a tragic, wrenching novel that won’t be a good pick for everyone. Extreme trauma and incidents of abuse too intense for the faint of heart or the extremely sensitive reader make up a solid portion of the story. That said, it’s a beautifully written book with themes of redemption and love that had me mulling things over long after I finished. Unsettling but gorgeously human. The character of Harold alone makes it worth reading. 5/5 stars
My Name Is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout
This latest offering by Strout (and the first book of hers I’ve read) is short and poignant. It’s not a plot-driven novel, but is more of an inward journey, as Lucy narrates her way through connecting the dots of her life story. After reading this, I had an ache in my soul that made me want to weep — the way a good poem does. 5/5 stars
The One-in-a-Million Boy by Monica Wood
The story of a 104-year old woman, an odd little boy who has recently died, and the boy’s grief-stricken parents, this one’s a tearjerker for sure. The characters are so well-written, and the story is intensely sad, but also uplifting and hopeful. A great read for fans of Fredrick Backman’s A Man Called Ove and Jonathan Safran Foer’s Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. 4/5 stars
My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry by Fredrik Backman
Oh my. Where to start with this book? First off, it’s a story about a young girl and her grandmother and I found myself missing my own Granny terribly while I read it. This novel is so deep at times you’ll want to cry, and yet I laughed out loud multiple times. The characters are delightful — each in their own unique way — and the story is gracefully and perfectly woven together. An absolutely gorgeous book with a little bit of everything. This one’s my favorite of Backman’s so far. But be sure to check out his other books A Man Called Ove and Britt-Marie Was Here, too! 5/5 stars
What She Knew by Gilly McMillan
This one’s a fast-paced, mystery thriller about a child who disappears. I could not stop reading. It was absolutely fascinating, especially the aspect of social media shaming involved in the crime, and the twists just kept coming. A real whodunit that kept me guessing until the end. 5/5 stars
All the Missing Girls by Megan Miranda
I started this July 4th weekend, and I hunkered down and read the entire thing in a couple of days. Wow! What a ride! The entire mystery unravels backwards and it will have you guessing and second guessing until the end. Fantastic psychological thriller! 5/5 stars
Before We Visit the Goddess by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
This book is fabulous. It’s about the complex relationships of mothers and daughters, and yet it’s also about love and strength and the power of women. The writing is superb and the separate storylines piece together beautifully. I couldn’t put it down. 5/5 stars
I Let You Go by Claire Mackintosh
Wow! This is a fantastic thriller with lots of Gone Girl-esque twists and turns. I listened to this book on Audible and I never wanted to turn it off. A real page-turner with an intricate plot, shady characters, and lots of mystery. Let’s just say that what you think this book is going to be about. . . well, that’s not what it’s about! 5/5 stars
All Things Cease to Appear by Elizabeth Brundage
It’s hard to pin this book down. The story begins with the murder of George Clare’s wife, but then delves into the characters’ pasts, the intricacies of their relationships, and the small town drama that ties them all together. This is a literary thriller, a murder mystery — yes — but it’s also so much more. The writing is exquisite and the story compelling. Just be prepared to really hate some of the characters. 5/5 stars
Harmony by Carolyn Parkhurst
More than any other book I’ve read, Carolyn Parkhurst’s latest novel absolutely nails what it’s like to be the mom of a child with autism. Her descriptions were spot-on and so familiar to me that at times I was moved to tears. This is a story about a family desperate for healing and wholeness, a family willing to do anything to help their child, and the heartbreaking consequences that happen as a result. I highly recommend this one, especially for parents of special needs kids. 5/5 stars
The Mothers by Brit Bennett
Fantastic writing, an un-put-downable plot, and incredibly deep characters made this one of my favorites this year. It’s a story about life choices, friendship, betrayal, and the constant wondering what our lives would be like if we’d taken different paths. I simply loved this one. Reminded me a little of Before We Visit the Goddess, another favorite read. 5/5 stars
The Bookshop on the Corner by Jenny Colgan
Yes, yes, yes!! This is a fluffy little book with lots of sugar on top and I adored it. Absolute, pure unadulterated chick lit that made me want to sell all my stuff, move to Scotland and open a mobile bookstore. And can I just say, the romantic interest in this story — a Scottish farmer named Lennox — absolutely made the novel for me. He’s like a mashup of Wuthering Heights’ Heathcliff and Jamie Fraser from Outlander. Mmmmmm. . . dreamy. 5/5 stars
As you see, there’s a little bit of something for everyone in this list! Please send me your recommendations as well– I always love hearing from you! What made your favorite fiction list of 2016?
*Disclosure: Amazon affiliate links included in this post.