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.
ALL OUR WRONG TODAYS by Elan Mastai. You know that future we were supposed to have with flying cars and renewable energy and world peace? Turns out we could have had it if it weren’t for the protagonist in this book (and time travel!). A+ premise.
THE SPARROW by Mary Doria Russell. This book WRECKED me. Couldn’t get it out of my head for a week. I originally came across it on a list of classic science fiction tackling ethical issues and boy does it. It’s both brilliant and extremely upsetting, which I suppose a lot of brilliant books are.
LOVE MINUS EIGHTY by Will McIntosh. Imagine if your only chance for life-after-death was someone swiping right. In this future, women near death are frozen and woken for “dates” with men wealthy enough to revive them. Sound creepy? Yep! Also some really interesting and novel takes on future technology.
WALKAWAY by Cory Doctorow. Hey it’s a near future science fiction novel about the tragedy of the commons! Lots of big ideas that made my information scientist heart go pitter pat.
WARCROSS by Marie Lu. YA science fiction about an immersive virtual world based game. This novel has the kind of kickass teen girl coder protagonist I’ve been wanting to see in YA for a while now!
LEIA: PRINCESS OF ALDERAAN by Claudia Gray. It’s been a while since I’ve read a tie-in novel! (My all-time favs by the way are the Han Solo series of many years ago, and the Star Trek novel about Sarek, both by Ann Crispin.) This one is great – Leia as a rebellious teen, featuring some characters you’d recognize from the new Star Wars film. I also had the pleasure of meeting Claudia Gray recently, and she’s just lovely. I also recommend her original YA scifi novel DEFY THE STARS.
THE SONG OF ACHILLES by Madeline Miller. Yet another Achilles and Patroclus romance, really beautifully written. Shades of Mary Renault, but I think I liked this better (despite the fact that I didn’t actually like Patroclus’ characterization all that much).
THE NAME OF THE WIND by Patrick Rothfuss. I don’t think I need to actually say much about this, except that 2017 was the year that I finally read this book after years of everyone assuming that I had and then being horrified that I hadn’t. Yes, I loved it. 🙂
AND NOW… BONUS books-that-aren’t-out-yet! Because I have cool friends.
THE CRUEL PRINCE by Holly Black is probably my new favorite of hers, just barely edging out THE COLDEST GIRL IN COLDTOWN. I feel like in general the fairy genre in YA has been oversaturated over the past decade, but this felt new again. Also her writing is gorgeous.
BRIGHTLY BURNING by Alexa Donne. Alexa’s a good friend of mine and was kind enough to let me read a not-quite-final copy of this book. Jane Eyre in Space! So if you like scifi and Jane Austen and YA then you should definitely pick this up. It’s out in May, and is already getting lots of buzz!
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.)