Fiction Reading Recommendations

Every year at the end of December, I post a list on Facebook of my favorite novels I read that year. I tend to read about 50-ish (non-academic) books a year, and so I pick through them for 5 to 10 that I think others would enjoy! Rather than these recommendations being trapped in the transitory nature of Facebook, I’ll be reproducing them here as well.



THE CUCKOO’S CALLING by Robert Galbraith (JK Rowling). As I first thought with The Casual Vacancy, Rowling is a great writer regardless of genre. This is a really compelling mystery series; I read all of three of them!

ENTER TITLE HERE by Rahul Kanakia. A realistic and slightly disturbing depiction of a hyper-over-achieving Stanford-bound high school student. Really creative structure to the storytelling.

THE FIFTH SEASON by NK Jemisin. This won all the awards, and well deserved! I read it partly because of how much the Sad Puppies hated everything about it, and was really struck by the originality of the worldbuilding and characters.

THE GLITTERING WORLD by Robert Levy. Great characters, very psychological. The sense of creeping small town weirdness and scary-as-they-should-be fairies made it kind of Stephen King + Neil Gaiman for me.

A DARKER SHADE OF MAGIC by VE Schwab. Her first adult novel Vicious is one of the best books I’ve read in years, and though it took me a while to start this series, I really loved it. High(ish) fantasy set in a really original world. While in progress Schwab called it “Pirates, Thieves, and Sadist Kings.” The third one comes out soon!

CROSSTALK by Connie Willis. I’ve been wanting more novels about slightly dystopic tech companies since reading The Circle. Sold! Near future scifi where couples can get brain implants to sense each other’s emotions. The main character works for a tech company trying to make the next big breakthrough in phones…

AMERICAN GODS (10th anniversary edition) by Neil Gaiman. I first read this novel 15 years ago when it came out, and wanted to do a re-read before the TV series starts, so I picked up the expanded edition. As good as I remembered, and I suspect the extra material really adds to it. There’s even an addendum of a deleted scene where Shadow meets Jesus.

THE THREE-BODY PROBLEM by Cixin Liu. I have mixed feeling on how much I enjoyed this novel from a character and narrative standpoint but it feels like a new take on an old trope, and I also appreciate books that really bring on the SCIENCE in science fiction. It also prompted me to read up on the Chinese cultural revolution!



STATION ELEVEN by Emily St. John Mandel. Beautifully written post-apocalyptic tale with multiple narratives.

I’LL GIVE YOU THE SUN by Jandy Nelson. Another beautifully written novel, breathtakingly original for YA, and my good friend Steve Berman gets the credit for convincing me to read this one with the best review of a book I’ve ever heard.

UPROOTED by Naomi Novik. Compelling characters and amazing worldbuilding, rooted in fairy tales which I’m not normally that taken with, but I loved this.

BIG LITTLE LIES by Liane Moriarty. I am a sucker for effective foreshadowing. Small community intrigue, reminded me of The Casual Vacancy.

HERO by Perry Moore. YA superhero novel that parallels coming out with powers and coming out as gay.

THE AERONAUT’S WINDLASS by Jim Butcher. Rip-roaring fantasy about airship pirates. But mostly about how awesome cats are.

CARRY ON by Rainbow Rowell. Everything the Harry Potter fangirl of my early twenties hoped it would be.

THE WICKED AND THE DIVINE by Kieron Gillen. I actually read a number of graphic novels this fall, and the first two volumes of this are fantastic. Highly recommended for fans of e.g., American Gods. He is still my favorite comics writer!



THE MARTIAN by Andy Weir. Science fiction, heavy on the science.

THE BONE CLOCKS by David Mitchell. Ambitious literary fantasy.

LOCK IN by John Scalzi. Near future scifi about technological solutions for a widespread disease.

SHADOW AND BONE by Leigh Bardugo. Young adult high fantasy in a Russia-inspired world.

THE ROSIE PROJECT by Graeme Simsion. A nice voice, with a touch of unreliable narrator, a protagonist who most likely has Aspergers.

THE BOY KINGS by Katherine Losse. Technically this is non-fiction, but it reads like a novel, and like any memoir is probably somewhat fictionalized. Early days of Facebook.

ESCAPE FROM MR. LEMONCELLO’S LIBRARY by Chris Grabenstein. Middle-grade Charlie and the Chocolate Factory-esque romp through a library.

WILL GRAYSON, WILL GRAYSON by John Green and David Levithan. The only John Green book that I’m crazy about, a really nice LGBT YA novel.

BLOOD AND BEAUTY by Sarah Dunant. Historical fiction, heavy on the historical, an account of the Borgias.

THE OCEAN AT THE END OF THE LANE by Neil Gaiman. Atmospheric and nostalgic, like Coraline written for adults.



VICIOUS by V.E. Schwab. Basically, if the science bros (/geek reference to Bruce and Tony in Avengers) were evil. Awesome sympathetic villain origin story. If you’ve got a thing for Loki, read this book.

S. by J.J. Abrams and Doug Dorst. Experimental narrative story-within-a-story-within-a-story with margin notes and pull-out letters and etc. A love letter to the printed, physical book.

FANGIRL by Rainbow Rowell. Not only an incredibly accurate portrayal of fandom, but also an incredibly accurate portrayal of social anxiety, and (IMO) what it’s like to be in love at 18. (Also recommended is ELEANOR & PARK by the same author, but Fangirl is a little less YA.)

READY PLAYER ONE by Ernest Cline. I probably already raved about this to anyone who would care, but it’s virtual world cyberpunk awesomeness drowning in 80s nostalgia.

THE CIRCLE by David Eggers. If Facebook/Google were turned up to eleven, and the creepiness just crept up on you without you realizing what’s happening. The book starts out seeming entirely plausible, and at some point you’re like, “wait where did this dystopia come from?!”

BLOOD ENGINES by T.A. (Tim) Pratt. A general rec for the entire Marla Mason series, since I made my way through them all last spring. Best urban fantasy I’ve read since Dresden Files. Actually has original ideas, which I weren’t sure existed in that genre anymore. Also kudos for the author’s initiative in self publishing to continue after his publisher (stupidly) dropped the series.

YOUNG AVENGERS by Kieron Gillen. Throwing in one comic. There are two trades so far though, so that counts as a book, right? My new favorite comic writer taking on one of my very favorite teams, and bringing along Kid Loki, who is made of wonderful.

THE COLDEST GIRL IN COLDTOWN by Holly Black. Because I’m really, really sick of vampires and yet somehow I still really liked this book. Probably my favorite of hers since the Tithe series. (And also Holly was one of my Clarion instructors and she’s lovely.)

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