Top FifTEeN of 2020 (Heh! No one will notice the extra five, right?)

This has been an unusual year (such an understatement!) and (not shockingly) it’s translated to what I wound up reading this year… (so much insight!) But like every previous year, it was a struggle to decide which books and why. Hopefully you’ll find a new book to try or you’ll have a happy “oh! meeee too!” moment! (Bonus comments in parentheses because you can’t see me doing eyerolls at myself. Enjoy!)

Now let’s get on to the goods, in alphabetical order by author, The Books:

Adult Fiction

Poppy Redfern and the Midnight Murders by Tessa Arlen

It felt like reading an excellent BBC series: engaging characters, smart mystery, and a great WWII time/place setting. The second book in the series will be out before the end of the year: Poppy Redfern and the Fatal Flyers! (Historical Mystery)

Anxious People by Fredrik Backman

Mr. Backman can write a likable,  curmudgeonly character like few can but this book is really more of an ensemble journey and each character has their own quirky personality. The beginning is a little dark but quickly becomes an uplifting story of how individuals can build their own supportive community. (General Fiction)

Recipe for a Perfect Wife by Karma Brown

Just like when you hear about any picture of a perfect wife, husband, or marriage, it becomes clear there is no such thing as perfect. Quiet and thoughtful, suspenseful and satisfying, this book was everything I wanted it to be. (General Fiction)

Ready Player Two by Ernest Cline

I loved Ready Player One and was a little worried the sequel wouldn’t live up to the original, what a waste of a decent worry! All the pop culture references, interesting future-thinking ideas, and plenty of exciting plot twists, this is *chef’s kiss* a delight! Fun extra -the IRL setting is Columbus, Ohio!(General Fiction/Science Fiction)

Weather by Jenny Offill

Odd, quirky, sometimes uncomfortable, and completely engaging. If you’re looking for a book short on pages and long on impact, this might be the one for you! (Literary Fiction)

Bellweather Rhapsody by Kate Racculia

Tuesday Mooney Talks to Ghosts was on my list last year and prompted me to read this older title by the same author. Yep, just as good! It’s a long-game mystery with shades of The Shining suspense. (Mystery)

The Daughters of Erietown by Connie Schultz

The family relationships, the wanting to be a part of something while also needing to be an individual, watching how society’s views on a variety of topics changed with the decades, all made each page of this book a pleasure. If you grew up in a small town, you’ll feel this story that much more deeply. (General Fiction)

Fortune Favors the Dead by Stephen Spotswood

Mix a little Thin Man, Nick and Nora, with a little Mickey Spillane, add a female Sherlock Holmes and Watson, put World War II espionage into the background, and you’ll get close to understanding why you want to read this next. It’s a debut and I’m typing this with my fingers crossed that the second book will be coming soon! (Historical Mystery)

Mr. Nobody by Catherine Steadman

This author consistently connects her characters and action in smart and surprising ways, with conclusions that are unexpected and satisfying. I’ve only listened to the audio versions of Ms. Steadman’s books, and I don’t plan to change that, it’s like hearing a radio drama with all the sound effects a listener could hope for! (Mystery)

Set My Heart to Five by Simon Stephenson

Charming and insightful, this is the story of a “bot” who has a degree of self-awareness that he needs to seek therapy before going on a journey to fulfill his dreams. It’s not a simple journey as he needs to hide his true nature as our society is prejudiced against AI and are as likely to attack him as help him. You might shed a tear or two along the way, but it’s worth it. (General Fiction)

Hench by Natalie Zina Walschots

If you like superhero/supervillain movies or you’ve watched The Boys on Amazon Prime, you will love every page of this book. Anna shows some small but special abilities with numbers but she’s tired of being a contract worker for whichever villain needs temporary help. Offered what seemed to be an easy and high paying gig changed everything, just not for the better. With engaging characters, interesting thoughts on how we think of good vs. evil, and some really clever surprises, this book checked all the boxes for me this year. (General or Science Fiction)

Adult Nonfiction

Barnstorming Ohio to Understand America  by David Giffels

The 2020 General Election may have cost Ohio our “bellwether state” title but if you want a better understanding of how one state can represent so much of the entire USA, this book is the one to read. The author uses his own travels to different locations and conversations with individuals to make each experience engaging for the reader. (Nonfiction)

Talking to Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell

I’m embarrassed to say this is the first book I’ve read by Mr. Gladwell but this book sent me off on a “what else” deep dive, and now I’m a die-hard fan. I learned so much but reading the book felt more like I was reading a series of short, connected, stories. If you pick this one up, we can talk about how crazy it is that our brain defaults to what we want to believe even when the facts show a different reality. Just, so good!

The Greatest Love Story Ever Told by Megan Mullally and Nick Offerman

Individually, they are funny and the laughs only increase as they tell how they became a couple. I listened to the audio version and highly recommend this option as Megan and Nick are the readers -it starts to feel like you’re in a candid conversation with new friends.

Teen Fiction

The Darkness Duology: Courting Darkness and Igniting Darkness by Robin LaFevers

The characters and setting are part of the His Fair Assassin series, and it feels like catching up with old friends (who can kick some serious hiney). Sybella must protect her younger sisters from being used as political pawns while also trying to keep the new Queen safe from enemies within the Royal House. The author always provides such strong women as main characters but remembers to give them flaws and quirks so they remain relatable. Ms. LaFevers never disappoints! (Historical Mystery)

Of course, I also think pretty highly of the books I suggested for the RRPL Gift Guide -ya know- and I might be counting those books as part of a bigger list for the year? Anyway… Happy Holidays, with books and snackies, for all!!

-Stacey

Stacey’s Top Ten Fiction (and Nine Nonfiction) of 2019!

If you check out some of my previous Top Ten lists -you might notice I like to go for bonus titles.. heh! This year I split my list into ten fiction and a bonus nine nonfiction… double heh! I’ll also mention, this year I was part of the Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence in Fiction & Nonfiction Committee -and the entire list is worth a look! You’ll also notice some of the titles on that list are also on mine, so maybe that counts as a double Top Ten suggestion?

This list is *not* in order of preference but does follow the Librarian Tradition of Alphabetical Order:

Fiction
 Fleishman is in Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner
No one in this story is perfect, and that’s what makes it such a fun book to read!

Here and Now and Then by Mike Chen
Time travel is a key feature, but it’s really about family and finding a place you belong.

The World That We Knew by Alice Hoffman
A magical, emotional, thoroughly engaging story!

The Jane Austen Society by Natalie Jenner
You don’t have to love Jane Austen to love this book.

The Swallows by Lisa Lutz
A mystery set in a boarding school with plenty of surprises.

Tuesday Mooney Talks to Ghosts by Kate Racculia
Like The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin -for adults.

Normal People by Salley Rooney
Teens growing into young adults -set in Ireland.

Save Me From Dangerous Men by Eli Saslow
Gritty and graphic, and all kinds of grrl power.

The Grammarians by Cathleen Schine
If you’re a word nerd -this one’s for you!

The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead
Ah -all the feels.

Nonfiction
Elderhood: Redefining Aging, Transforming Medicine, Reimagining Life by Louise Aronson
We should all rethink how we think about aging.

Catch and Kill by Rowan Farrow
Fascinating and well-researched look at decades of misconduct by men in power.

Becoming Dr. Seuss by Brian Jay Jones
Theodore Geissel was more than the creator of children’s books, and this book will tell you that story.

Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland by Patrick Radden Keefe
While telling the story of one woman’s disappearance (and likely murder), readers will also get a clear background on The Troubles in Ireland.

Underland: A Deep Time Journey by Robert Macfarlane
A beautifully written look at the natural world and how it’s changed, and continues to change.

The Library Book by Susan Orlean
Not just a book about libraries, but also a great “true crime” mystery!

Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men by Caroline Criado Perez
Ladies, be ready to be annoyed and then -let’s change the world!

An Elegant Defense by Matt Ritchel
Do you know how your immune system works (or doesn’t work)? You will after you read this!

The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee: Native America from 1890 to the Present by David Treuer
How do we not talk more about some of the topics in this book?!

I hope you find something you enjoy -and- that you have a happy, wonderful Holiday Season!

-Stacey

Top Ten(ner or so) of Twenty-Eighteen

In no particular order (such a rebel this year!):

Nonfiction
Ravenmaster by Christopher Skaife
Ok -so now I want a raven!

Becoming by Michelle Obama
Funny, kind, and honest look at who she was, who she is, and who she’s becoming.

What She Ate by Laura Shapiro
The American Plate by Libby O’Connell
I do like to read about food -we really are a reflection of what we eat.

Mozart’s Starling by Lyanda Lynn Haupt
If it’s a “no” on the raven, I’d be happy with a European starling like Carmen…

Leonardo da Vinci by Walter Isaacson
The care and attention paid to the production of this book matches the content.

Rescue Board by Rebecca Erbelding
There’s always more history can teach us, if we’re willing to learn.

Fiction
The Child Finder by Rene Denfeld
Suspenseful, with nuanced characters.

Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson
Oh my! Great story about the Great War!

My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry by Fredrik Backman
Even the people closest to you have hidden stories.

The Trouble with Goats and Sheep by Joanna Cannon
Little white lies, neighborhood gossip, and friendship in tough times.

The Boy Who Drew Monsters by Keith Donohue
Unnerving! -with a great, twisty ending!

Unbury Carol by Josh Malerman
Western + fairy tale + suspense = this book.

Gilded Age by Claire McMillan
Hello Cleveland! Hello CMA’s Jazz Bowl! hello hankie (to dry my tears.)

Something in the Water by Catherine Steadman
100%! (bonus -if you like audio? Sound Up!)

Teen Fiction
Girl at the Grave by Teri Baily Black
Historical fiction mystery with a touch of feminism.

The Dark Days Deceit by Alison Goodman
Steampunk joy

Juvenile Fiction
Penderwicks at Last by Jeanne Birdsall
Sad to see the series end but loved the journey.

Hello, Universe by Erin Entrack Kelly
A Newbery Medal winner -for a reason!

 

I’m excited to see what 2019 will bring!

-Stacey

Kate’s Top Ten of 2017

Schoolwork has been taking up most of my time this year but as soon as finals are over I plan to catch up on some reading. Here are the one’s I plan on starting the year with:

life The Life She Was Given by Ellen Marie Wiseman

turtles all the way down Turtles All the Way Down  by John Green

index Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

beartowb Beartown by Fredrik Backman

one of us is lying One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus

since we fell Since We Fell by Dennis Lehane

camino island Camino Island by John Grisham

heartbreak hotel Heartbreak Hotel by Jonathan Kellerman

swimming lessons Swimming Lessons by Claire Fuller

breakdown The Breakdown by B. A. Paris

 

 

-Kate

Ann’s Top Ten 2017

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Whenever you read a good book, somewhere in the world a door opens to allow in more light. –Vera Nazarian

10. NUMMER ZEHN        THE DRYJane Harper

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9. NUMÉRO NEUF           I LET YOU GOClare Mackintosh

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8. NUMERO OCHO          THE LONG WAY TO A SMALL ANGRY PLANETBecky Chambers

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7. 數字七                              A CLOSED AND COMMON ORBITBecky Chambers

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6. NUMER SZEŚĆ             I FOUND YOU– Lisa Jewell

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5. NUMERO CINQUE      TWO IF BY SEAJacqueline Mitchard

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4. ÀIREAMH CEITHIR     THE LATE SHOWMichael Connelly

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3. NUMBER ਤੀਹ                HUM IF YOU DON’T KNOW THE WORDSBiance Marais

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2. NUMMER TO                THE CHILD FINDERRene Denfeld

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1. INOMBOLO YOKUQALA   THE KIND WORTH KILLING– Peter Swanson

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                                                                                                                                                      ~Ann >^.^<

 

Lauren’s Top Ten of 2017

Last year I read my first ever book by Neil Gaiman (I KNOW.) (American Gods).  So 2017, for me, was sort of The Year of Gaiman and I spent it getting my hands on as much of his work as I could.  I picked out a few of my top Gaiman reads for the year and gave them one spot on my list (the rules are pretty liberal around here).  I did the same for another author I happened to discover this year, Jason Reynolds.  Again, as soon as I read my first book by Reynolds I immediately went after more.  Playing catch-up is SUPER fun when you don’t have to wait around for an author to put out more stuff for you to read.  The rest is, as per me, a little bit of everything.  Happy New Year and Happy Reading!

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1.) Favorites by Neil Gaiman (The Ocean at the End of the LaneThe Graveyard BookNeverwhere)

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2.) Favorites by Jason Reynolds (Ghost- Track Series #1When I Was the GreatestAll American Boys)

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3.) A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

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4.) Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

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5.) The Secret History of Twin Peaks by Mark Frost

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6.) The Missing Ones by Patricia Gibney

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7.) Braving the Wilderness by Brené Brown

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8.) The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov

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9.) The Magician’s Land by Lev Grossman (The Magicians Series)

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10.) The Story of the Lost Child by Elena Ferrante (The Neapolitan Novels)

Top Ten of 2017 (plus a few) if You Were Asking Me -by Stacey

It’s my favorite time of year! All the sparkly lights and sweet treats and sappy movies? Love ‘em all! …Plus?! It’s time for everyone’s Top Ten books, movies, television, songs and Everything Else! Oh, what’s that? You want to know *my* Top Ten reads of 2018? Well, thanks for asking! Here they are -in alphabetical order- a mix of old, new, true stories, and fiction for all ages:

 

 

Braving the Wilderness by Brene Brown
I’ve learned –and enjoyed!- something from every book Ms. Brown has written and this book continues that tradition! If you’ve never read any of her previous books, I might suggest starting with Daring Greatly.

 

 

 

 

The Girl With All the Gifts by M.R. Carey
Odd, creepy, and thought-provoking! (Do you really need more?) Read it before you see it?

 

 

 

 

Evicted by Matthew Desmond
I read this for Notable Books Council but have re-read it in preparation for Our Community Reads –coming in 2018! This book stands the test of time –and repeated reading!

 

 

As You Wish by Cary Elwes
I listened to Cary Elwes read his own memories of making The Princess Bride (one of the most perfect movies ever made!!). Charming! (But maybe more for die-hard fans of the movie than for the general reader…)

 

 

 

Turtles All the Way Down by John Green
This must have been a tough book to write but the effort was well worth it. I won’t waste your time with what I liked –read it and you’ll know on your own why it’s so good.

 

 

 

The Gilded Cage by Vic James
A world that feels familiar but isn’t anytime/anywhere I’d like to live. I’d describe this as fantasy with strong social commentary message?

 

 

Renegades by Marissa Meyer
Not all superheroes are super people but as the two main characters begin to really consider the world they’re growing up in –part of what they’re learning is the world is less black & white (more shades of gray) than they thought.

 

 

 

The Sport of Kings by C.E. Morgan
For all of my enjoyment of a sappy holiday movie –this book would kind of have the opposite effect. The story isn’t easy to read, but I think it’s one of an overlooked gem.

 

 

 

A Tangle of Gold by Jaclyn Moriarty
The final book in The Colors of Madeline series, this book was well worth the wait! The author kept a few good surprises and the ending was just right (for me)!

 

 

 

The Gene: an intimate history by Siddhartha Mukherjee
Taking a huge, almost incomprehensible topic, and making it engaging with personal connections? I give this an A++++!

 

 

 

Blood at the Root by Patrick Philips
Completely disturbing and completely true, this sordid history of a white-only county in Georgia continues to haunt me.

 

 

 

Grocery by Michael Ruhlman
A mini-history of grocery stores with more than a few entertaining shout-outs to Heinen’s, and the brothers currently running this expanding chain.

 

 

As You Wish by Chelsea Sedoti
If you were granted one wish on your 18th birthday, what would you do? In this tiny town in the middle of the Nevada desert, they’re wishes have been granted –but the results aren’t always positive for the wisher…

 

 

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
Thoughtful and timely – oh, please read this one!

 

 

 

 

Another Day in the Death of America by Gary Younge
Individual snapshots of how gun violence affects not just the individuals involved but the entire community.

 

Now that I’m done, I notice two big things… I read the same title (on different books) twice and there are a lot of serious-type books on my list. If you’re looking for some of the more upbeat titles I read, you can check out a collection development article I wrote for Library Journal this year called Twice-Told Tales. The books are all classic stories with a twist, for example: telling the story from a different character’s point of view or taking a recognizable storyline from the past and putting in a modern setting.

Happy Reading all Season Long!
-Stacey

Lauren’s Top Ten of 2016

Each year I worry that I won’t know what to come up with for my top ten list–this worrying lasts all of two seconds because as soon as I start to look back over a year’s worth of nose-in-a-book, I realize I read PLENTY of wonderful stuff!  This year my list is a little bit all over the place, just like my reading preferences.  Enjoy! ~Lauren

trespasser

The Trespasser by Tana French

amy-schumer

The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo by Amy Schumer

felicia-day

You’re Never Weird on the Internet by Felicia Day

hamilton

Hamilton: The Revolution by Lin-Manuel Miranda

britt-marie

Britt-Marie Was Here by Fredrik Backman

american-gods

American Gods by Neil Gaiman

ready-player-one

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

flavia

Thrice the Brinded Cath Hath Mew’d by Alan Bradley

gabby-b

The Universe Has Your Back: Transform Fear to Faith by Gabrielle Bernstein

mccullers

The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers

BONUS SECTION: LATE TO THE PARTY

Here are a couple of extra favorites for me this year that I was inspired to read by my coworkers who picked them for their Top Ten lists last year. So if that initial plug wasn’t enough to motivate you, maybe my two-thumbs-up will help!

fates-and-furiesmount-charoctopus

Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff / The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins / The Soul of an Octopus by Sy Montgomery

Top Ten of 2016 -if you’re asking me… (aka Stacey’s list)

How is it already the second week of December? Where did the year go? Well, at least we have the “Best of” end of year lists to look forward to… And so, we continue our tradition of Top Ten books we found memorable here on Read it or Weep! Not all the books will have been published this year -but they were read this year- and you’ll find a good mix of long/short, genres and formats, and written for different ages.

I chose sixteen titles (for Top Ten + Six = Sixteen) -they are in alphabetical order by author (cause I’m a librarian) and include books I listened to, read (with my peepers,) fiction, nonfiction, for adult or teen audience. Feel free to let me know if you’ve enjoyed some of these as much as I did!

existentialist-cafespill-simmer-falter-witherat-the-edge-of-the-orchardthe-alchemist

1) At the Existentialist Cafe by Sarah Bakewell
Oh, please! Do *not* judge this book by it’s cover! -Or even its title really. Charming, easy to read, and thoughtful, you’ll enjoy reading this more than might expect… So, go ahead! Try it! (Don’t forget =Library books are FREE and we offer no hassle returns all year long!)

2) Spill Simmer Falter Wither by Sara Baume
This one will haunt you a little. The unnamed narrator and his dog are damaged but endearing in ways that leave you hoping for the best, even as the story takes a darker turn.

3) At the Edge of the Orchard by Tracy Chevalier
Starting in the Black Swamp, around the Toledo area, this story takes place during the time of Johnny Appleseed. John Chapman makes a few appearances but it’s the hardscrabble, dysfunctional Goodenough family you’ll get to know best.

4) The Alchemist by Paulo Coehlo
There are some books I feel like everyone else has already read and I either 1) then stubbornly refuse to read like a big baby or 2) finally cave in and read to discover “everyone” was right to keep suggesting it to me. -I’m glad I caved in on this one!

are-we-smart-enough-to-know-how-smart-animals-arerosalie-lightning

5) Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are by Frans de Waal
After reading this book? I’ll say, “no” with absolute confidence. Read it -we’ll talk!

6) Rosalie Lightning by Tom Hart
The author wrote and illustrated a nonfiction graphic novel about how he and his wife grieved the unexpected loss of their little girl. It’s beautiful.

7) To the Bright Edge of the World by Eowyn Ivey
This book continues to defy my ability to explain all the amazing things going on inside -this is the best I can do: great details about the natural world, historical facts, folklore, and a feeling of mystical truth. (PS -illustrations included!)

to-the-bright-edge-of-the-worldwhen-breath-becomes-airheartless

8) When Breath Becomes Air by Dr. Paul Kalanithi
At thirty-six Paul Kalanithi was on verge of realizing his dream, to become a neurosurgeon who examined not just the mechanical working of the brain but also its cognitive function as part of our moral being. Diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer, his family, his work, and this book are his lasting legacy.

9) Heartless by Marissa Meyer
Ms. Meyer has a gift for retelling fairy tales and making them unique, modern, thoughtful, outstanding, and all the other adjectives I/you can think of! This is her retelling of Alice in Wonderland… and. it’s. great!

10) Approval Junkie by Faith Salie
This collection of essays has humor, honesty, and some pretty good life lessons packed into every page!

darker-shadea-gatheringm-trainscarlet-women11) and 12) A Darker Shade of Magic *and* A Gathering of Shadows by VE Schwab
Alternate worlds? Magic? Great characters? Drama and Intrigue? =yep! I’m loving this series!

13) M Train by Patti Smith
Wow. Even when Patti Smith isn’t writing about “big ideas” she’ll “wow” you.

14) A Study of Scarlet Women by Sherry Thomas
If Sherlock Holmes was actually a woman? Well, that’s this book… You’ll recognize all the odd Holmesian quirks and secondary characters you’ve come to love -plus- you’ll find a whole new set of oddities to enjoy! This could have gone so wrong but it turned out just right!

trouble-is-a-friendnatural-way15) Trouble is a Friend of Mine by Stephanie Tromly
This is one of those rare, laugh-out-loud (repeatedly!) books. Need I say more?

16) The Natural Way of Things by Charlotte Wood
A little bit of horror, a little bit of allegory, and a lot to think about. Ten women are abducted and taken to a desolate bunkhouse in the middle of the remote, Australian Outback. With no way to know who’s responsible for their brutal imprisonment, they begin to form a social order to match their dark world.

Now my hard work is done? I get to sit back and enjoy -with you!- as everyone begins to post their selections as the week goes on… (This makes my book nerd heart so happy!)

happy reading!
Stacey

Lauren’s 2015 Top Ten (and then some…)

This year I’ve got an even split between fiction and non-fiction! While I am always reading both, I definitely read more fiction in general.  I guess if it’s non-fiction it’s something I’ve heard about and really want to read, so I am usually not disappointed. Here are some of my favorites I’ve read the past year–and a chunk of bonus books!

Fiction

Man Called Ove

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

Crimson Petal

The Crimson Petal and the White by Michel Faber

One Plus One

One Plus One by Jojo Moyes

I'll Give You the Sun

I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

Light Between Oceans

The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman

Non-Fiction

Thunder and Lightning

Thunder & Lightning: Weather Past, Present, Future by Lauren Redniss

Dead Wake

Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson

Why Not Me

Why Not Me?  by Mindy Kaling

Publicly Shamed

So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson

Spinster

Spinster: Making a Life of One’s Own by Kate Bolick

My bonus section is reserved for series that I love and that have taken up a lot of my reading time this year–they are mostly historical fiction/mystery, with a little YA and sci-fi/fantasy thrown in.  Any of these books’ “partners” in their respective series are a GO.

As Chimney SweepersCareer of EvilMortal Heart

Curious BeginningWinter

-Lauren