It’s the end of another year, which means it’s time for end of year roundups and favorites lists. These are some of my favorite posts to write and read. I enjoy highlighting the things I loved about the year and getting recommendations from others when I read their roundup posts.
Usually I’d struggle a bit to select just 10 books for my favorites list, but this year it was easy to choose. Only a few reads stuck out to me and the first five in this list are my top favorites of the year. Some of you might not be surprised to see them mentioned first since I’ve spoken about them often in various posts throughout the year, but here they are again one more time.
Shape of Water by Guillermo del Toro and Daniel Kraus ★★★★★
A historical romance novel about a mute woman who falls in love with an amphibious man, who’s held captive at a government facility. The movie preceded the book, so I watched it first and fell in love with the story; but the book is also worth reading. The book gives us the characters’ backstories and adds more depth to them, giving the story more meat. But what I love the most about the book is the writing. That’s what hooked me first and pulled me along and made me mark the book a favorite.
Kintu by Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi ★★★★★
A historical novel set in Uganda that begins in 1750 and ends in 2004 and is about how a curse has affected a family for generations. I picked this up at random at the library and am so happy I did. After reading a few pages, I hopped online to order a copy for myself. I love the writing. I love how the story is narrated. And, by the end, I loved how the story is structured. But what I love the most is how Uganda’s history is woven in and that the book doesn’t go out of its way to explain things to the reader.
The Golden Fool by Robin Hobb ★★★★★
The second novel in the Tawney Man trilogy in which Fitz and the Fool pair up for another adventure. This is my favorite of Hobb’s books. I love it for many reasons that I can’t mention because of spoilers, but the Fool is a major reason as well as his friendship with Fitz.
Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen ★★★★☆ ½
A magical realism novel about the estranged Waverley sisters who reunite after 10 years apart. The Waverleys are known about their small town for their garden, which supposedly contains plants that possess interesting powers, including an apple tree that bears prophetic fruit. I immediately fell in love with this book. The story sucked me in as soon as I started reading, and I was swept away by the writing, which I loved. It’s so descriptive and I loved the quirky characters (my favorite is the apple tree).
Dread Nation by Justina Ireland ★★★★☆ 1/2
A YA alt-historical novel with zombies set shortly after the U.S. Civil War. I love zombie stories. I wasn’t sure at first that this one would work well when I read the synopsis somewhere online, but I believe it does. I loved this one because of the protagonist, who is a fiesty bad-ass Black teenage girl. Love her! This was an entertaining read and I can’t wait to read the next in the series.
Here by Richard McGuire (illus.) ★★★★★
A graphic novel about a room and how it changes over time. This is one of the most unique books I read this year and though I love it, I had to read it twice to appreciate it. I love that it shows how a space may change overtime and how we might interact with our past and our future in the spaces we use. It’s a very interesting read.
The Book of Hidden Things by Francesco Dimitri (transl.) ★★★★★
A fantasy novel about four guys who made a pact after high school to return to the same place in their hometown every year to hang out. But this time, one of them doesn’t show up. The others search for him and shit starts to get weird. I read this out of curiosity and am glad I did. The writing pulled me in and kept me going. I loved it. It’s descriptive and so atmospheric that I felt as if I was in southern Italy as I read.
Providence by Caroline Kepnes ★★★★★
A mystery novel with a hint of paranormal about a boy who gest kidnapped but when he returns home, he believes he has gained powers that hurt those around him. The story is about how this affects his relationship with those he loves. I was so hooked on this story! I just love Kepnes’s voice. It’s one that immediately gets me hooked on the story because the same thing happened when I read You, which is also a favorite of mine. Providence is not a story I usually go for, but I was willing to try it because of Kepnes and I love it because she’s a great writer and I like the commentary on current social issues in her stories.
Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen (narr.) ★★★★★
This is Springsteen’s autobiography. I listened to it on audiobook and Springsteen narrated it himself. It was so good! I didn’t expect that. I didn’t expect to be hooked or pay close attention to what’s being said or to marvel at the writing because it’s hard for me to pay attention to the prose when listening to an audiobook. This was a good read. The story of Springsteen’s life captivated me and I appreciated the words of wisdom he dropped as he went along.
Nightlights by Lorena Alvarez Gomez (illus.) ★★★★☆
A sweet illustrated children’s graphic novel about a girl who works past her fears to continue creating the whimsical drawings she loves. I love this both for the story, which carries an important message, and for the vibrant, colorful illustrations that accompany it. It’s such a cute book.