This past weekend a friend contacted me and wondered how she could use my blog to find a list of recommended books. Every January I make a list of favorite books from the previous year but I have never compiled those lists into a master list for ease of viewing. Great idea. Here is a list of 42 books I really like, have recently read, and can recommend without any hesitation. This list focuses on fiction only. Titles are hyperlinked to my reviews, which I hope you will take a look at to get a fuller idea about the book's merits. The date I completed the book is in the parentheses and the list is organized according to date read.
42 Fantastic Novels I've Read in the Past Five Years (2016-2020+)
1. The Girl with the Louding Voice by Abi Daré---Adunni lives in a village in Nigeria where women are not prized. All she wants to do is go to school so she can make a difference for other girls but her father as another idea for heAdunni. Written in vernacular which takes a few pages to get used to reading. Her story is both maddening and inspiring. (4/2021)
2. Hamnet by Maggie O'Farrell---Hamnet is Shakespeare's only son. This is a story imagining what life was like in the 1500s. It is also a story about parental grief after the death of a child. This is very well done. In fact it is also believable. I hope you take a look at my review before you dismiss it out of hand. I loved it. (3/2021)
4. Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King---I don't usually read King because I get horrified by the horror genre of fiction. This book is a detective/mystery novel. It is so well done and riveting. Honestly we had to listen to the ending of this book in one big gulp. When you are finished with it, cue up the second book in the Bill Hodges series, Finders Keepers. (8/2020)
5. The Water Dancer by Ta-Nishi Coates---A unique imagining of the underground railroad. Read this and then watch the movie "Harriet". They go well together. (6/2020)
7. The Testaments by Margaret Atwood---A continuation of The Handmaid's Tale. The story picks up fifteen years later and is told through the voices of three female narrators from Gilead. Each tell their part of the story until the three coalesce into a dynamic and satisfying conclusion, answering almost all of the questions that have bothered readers for over a decade. A must-read if you are a fan of The Handmaid's Tale. (3/2020)
13. Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid---After a super popular 70s rock band breaks up at the peak of their popularity everyone wonders why. This book is written as if all the band members are being interviewed and are giving the facts of what happened from their perspective. A fresh approach to literature and fun for old rock fans like myself. (8/2019)
19. Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens---This book has a little of everything I like in books: flawed characters, interesting/new-to-me settings, mysteries, and poetry. I loved everything about it. This book has been wildly popular since its publication with over a million ratings and over 100,000 reviews on Goodreads. Don't be the one person who hasn't read it! (1/2019)
25. Pachinko by Min Jin Lee---Pachinko is a sweeping saga of a family which takes place first in occupied-Korea and then in Japan from the early 20th century to the late 1980s. The story chronicles the lives of four generations in one family. Like many memorable novels Pachinko resists being summarized. Just let yourself be swept up in the story. (5/2018)
31. The News of the World by Paulette Jiles---Set in Post-Civil War Texas. A retired captain agrees to take a young girl, a girl kidnapped by Kiowa, the 400 miles to her only living relatives over rough and dangerous terrain. And the girl doesn't want to go. She wants to stay with her new Kiowa parents. Another book I recommend in the audio format because the print version does not use proper quotations (which really bugs me.) This book is short but has a lot of heart and soul. Read this and then watch the movie. (9/2017)
37. LaRose by Louise Erdrich---The central question of the book: Can a person do the worst possible thing and still be loved? At the hands of a master storyteller, readers explore this question through two Ojibwa families living in the North Dakota. (3/2017)
- This was a fun exercise for me and instructive, too. Part of the enjoyment came from rereading all my old reviews. I don't do that often and I should since it reminds why I liked a book at the time I finished reading it.
- On my Goodreads account I gave 5-star ratings to almost all of the books here, though a few 4-star books snuck onto the list while leaving off several that outranked them. It is such a subjective process. One 5-star book got left off because I couldn't remember anything about it, another because I didn't write a review for it.
- I retired in June of 2017. Prior to that date I didn't write as many reviews for the adult books I read instead concentrating more on YA titles. That would explain the low number of books on the list prior to that date.
- 2018 was a good year for rereading favorites---four.
- 2019 seems like the best year for chalking up favorites to add to this list. So many good books! 12. Wow.
- I'm actually surprised that five books made the list from 2020. I had such a strange reading year with COVID-19 and politics dominating my thinking it was hard to concentrate on fiction.
- 27 of the 42 books on the list were book club selections. I kept asking myself why so many of them came to my attention via this route and I decided it had to do with the discussion. If I get a chance to talk about a book after reading it, I remember more of the plot and characters and often my estimation of the book improves over the course of the meeting.
- Lastly, there are so many other fantastic books that didn't make this list. In fact, I could add another one for a recently finished book, The Midnight Library by Matt Haig, right now. Let's make this a thing. Why don't you create a list of favorite books read the past few years and share it with me. I'd love to find some more great book ideas.