I was so excited when She Reads asked me to share some of my favorite books I’ve read this year! I am a bookstagrammer and avid reader. I love books that make me cry and stay with me long after I’ve read them. I tend to reach for literary fiction the most often, with some fantasy sprinkled in occasionally. I’ve been reading a good mix of new releases and backlist titles, and I’m excited to share my top 10 so far this year! These are the books @jennareadsbooks has been loving this year.
The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai
The Great Believers alternates point-of-view between Yale, an art curator and gay man living in Chicago, and Fiona, the younger sister of Yale’s close friend Nico who died of AIDS. Yale’s story takes place at the height of the AIDS crisis as he watches the disease affect more and more people he knows and loves. Fiona’s story takes place in the modern day as she reflects on how the disease affected her life while she tries to track down her long-lost daughter in Paris. This one is a heart-wrenching, compelling book that I couldn’t stop thinking about.
Tin Man by Sarah Winman
This novel by Sarah Winman is about a friendship between two boys who meet in the 1960s. Ellis is reserved and sweet with a passion for drawing that his dad does not approve of, while Michael is energetic and charming. Their friendship eventually grows into something more, although Ellis marries Annie and Michael has to live his own life. This book is incredibly moving. For a short novel, it really packs a large punch.
Fruit of the Drunken Tree by Ingrid Rojas Contreras
Fruit of the Drunken Tree had me googling Colombian history constantly! I love when novels inspire me to learn more about the history of a different place. It follows a girl, Chula, growing up in a wealthy suburb in Bogota during Pablo Escobar’s reign, and the family’s maid Petrona who starts working for them when she is just 13-years-old. Chula is fascinated with Petrona, and Petrona does what she has to do to care for her family in a tough situation. This book is engrossing and touching and great for anyone interested in historical fiction set in South America.
Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik
This new release is everything I want in a fantasy novel. An escape from real life, full of strong female characters – this retelling of Rumpelstiltskin is just so wonderful. Miryem, a moneylender’s daughter, learns she has a talent for the family business when she takes over for her father and is in fact so good that she gets a reputation for turning silver into gold. This book has magic, a frozen kingdom, a demon prince and more. Highly recommend this atmospheric fairytale to fans of Uprooted or anyone who wants a fantasy escape.
Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier
I was skeptical of this book because I just don’t have the best luck with picking good classics, and I thought that it sounded boring. It’s anything but boring! In fact, I was surprised that a book written in 1938 could be so relatable in 2018. The new bride Mrs. de Winter moves to her husband’s estate of Manderley where he used to live with his first wife, Rebecca, who’s now dead. Mrs. de Winter lives in the shadow of Rebecca’s legacy and tries to understand the truth about her in this haunting, twisty and thrilling classic.
A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra
This book takes place over five days during the 2004 Chechen war. After an eight-year-old girl witnesses her father’s abduction, a neighbor comes to her rescue and takes her to a nearly abandoned hospital where she’s treated by Sonja, the last remaining doctor who is holding out hope of seeing her sister again. Marra’s writing is incredibly beautiful and I was blown away by how well this poignant story came together in the end.
Less by Andrew Sean Greer
Less is a rare book that made me laugh out loud, repeatedly, in public. It’s also touching and insightful and so heartwarming. Greer’s novel follows middle-aged, mildly successful author Arthur Less as he takes extreme measures to avoid attending his ex-boyfriend’s wedding by accepting invitations to teach and lecture around the world. The writing is witty and clever and Arthur’s naïvety and innocence make him an extremely charming character that you can’t help but love. Highly recommend this Pulitzer winner.
Plainsong by Kent Haruf
Phew, this is a moving one. Set in the fictional town of Holt, Colorado, Plainsong tells the stories of some of the town’s characters, including twins and their dad who were abandoned by their mom, a pregnant teen with nowhere to turn, and a couple of old farmers. Their stories come together in such a lovely way. Haruf’s unassuming writing invokes a strong sense of place. Haruf paints a bleak portrait of a small town and then somehow leaves you feeling hopeful in the end. I’m a huge fan of Haruf’s work and looking forward to meeting some of these characters again, as this is part of a trilogy, but also stands on its own if you’re not into series.
Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff
I feel like I was a little late to the party on Groff’s writing, but I’m so glad I finally got on board! Written in lyrical prose full of beautiful language, this book follows the ups and downs and trials and tribulations of Lotto and Mathilde as they get married, move to NYC, struggle to make ends meet and find success. With the first half focusing on Lotto and the second on Mathilde, powerful secrets about what holds them together are slowly revealed.
This Must Be the Place by Maggie O’Farrell
This book blew me away! The story of a reclusive ex-movie star, Claudette, her husband Daniel, their life in Ireland and Daniel’s past. The writing, the way she weaves together the stories of the characters so that you feel like you got to read 10 different books, and the way she writes about relationships are all just so good. This book tells the story of multiple complex relationships, and of a man coping with grief and confronting his demons. I can’t say enough good things about it.