Nothing makes me more excited on the internet than to see lists of people’s favorite books. I love reading, I always have, and it’s the one thing I will never, ever skip doing a single day of my life. I’m always searching for new books to read, no matter how many I have queued up on my kindle. I love wandering bookstores for new ideas and inspirations. I savor all the Goodreads emails I get and I’ve started stalking Instagram feeds for companies like Book Riot and Book of the Month Club for more recommendations. I also listen to multiple podcasts that are all about books (What Should I Read Next? with Anne Bogel is my favorite). Books are a major part of my life and I’m really excited to share some of my favorites from the year as well.
Looking back over my year, I realized I read a lot of Young Adult fiction. A LOT. There’s something about the simplicity of a teenage love story that really pulls at me. Maybe because my own love story started at age 15 and I so strongly identify with them? I also think it has a lot to do with just needing to escape reality. I have almost no interest reading about the drudgery of parenting or failing relationships or novels steeped in grown up realism. I much prefer books that focus on growing relationships and have happy endings. I don’t, however, like total fluff. I’m not a fan of the actual Romance genre because I need to see a lot more substance in the characters before they progress. I also tend to avoid the books that I know are going to make me think a little too much. Bestsellers and award winners are great in moderation, but most of the time I’m reading purely for my own enjoyment and prefer to stick with what I love. And just to clarify, I do read almost all the books that get a lot of buzz (or at least they’re waiting for me on my kindle!), but they just don’t usually get my highest ratings.
Every year I keep a spreadsheet of what I’ve read, along with a rating between 1 and 5. My criteria for a five star rating is simple – it needs to make me cry at some point (happy or sad), and it needs to make me want to stay up too late or skip doing household chores because it’s just too good to put down. If I was completely immersed in the story line, I read it in just a day or two, and the characters stick with me, it was probably worthy of a five star rating. Anyway, my list is long, so I better get started!
This has been by far my favorite newly discovered author of the year. I rated ALL HER BOOKS 5 stars. My favorite was P.S. I Like You. I liked it so much I immediately wanted to read it all over again. That never happens! Kasie West is classified as Young Adult and I absolutely adored every single book. Beautifully written and engaging teenage love stories. My other favorites (I think every book she’s written) were The Fill-In Boyfriend, Pivot Point, Split Second, The Distance Between Us, and On the Fence. I found all of these books to be deliciously delightful to read.
Carry On by Rainbow Rowell
Rainbow Rowell is another really great author. When I picked up her newest book Carry On, I was a little surprised by it. I wasn’t aware that it was Harry Potter fan fiction until about a third of the way through when I kept complaining to Greg about how I didn’t understand how one of my favorite authors could keep ripping off the story line of such a great series of books. He looked it up and set me straight. Obviously this is my first encounter with fan fiction! Once I understand what it was, I really, really enjoyed this book. It’s about the unexpected relationship that arises between the hero and supposed villain when they band together to fight evil. It surprised me how invested I was by the end.
A Thousand Boy Kisses by Tillie Cole
This book was both heartbreaking and beautiful. It’s about the love between a boy and a girl that begins at age eight. The book follows the story of their lives and relationship until their late teenage years. It’s tender and sweet, but also incredibly sad. This book will stay with me for a long time.
Roomies by Lindy Zart
I’m such a sucker for love stories that begin in unexpected places (though are totally predicable in books). This book is about roommates who are in love with each other, but too afraid to cross the divide between friendship and what could be more. I found this book to be refreshing because man in the story was truly the good guy. It seems that so often the heroine falls for the bad boy, the brooding type that needs to be won over. I really appreciated the character traits that made this guy the type you’d really fall for in real life.
The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau
I read a lot of dystopian fiction. It’s interesting to see what new realities authors create after the inevitable fall of life as we know it. Similar to Hunger Games I found this trilogy to be very intriguing. I liked the first book the best, but the whole series is definitely worth reading if you’re into that type of fiction.
Adorkable by Cookie O’Gorman
This is another fairly predicable, but still completely juicy and beautiful teenage romance. I clearly had a book type I continued to seek out again and again this year. I love them, though. This book is about a girl whose mom and friend continue to set her up on horrible blind dates. She finally gets them off her back by begging her best male friend to pretend to be her boyfriend for awhile. The path they take from there is highly entertaining, but also emotional and sincere. Another great YA read!
Holding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven
This was a fascinating read about the intricate relationship between a boy who suffers from prosopagnosia (face blindness) and a girl who was at one point so fat she had to be rescued from her house by a crane. Full of emotion, this book will really tug at you as you see the characters struggling with their own doubts and ultimately coming together to make each other stronger.
Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum
You guys, I was so emotionally invested in this book. I’m not sure I’ve ever been more happy with an ending. It’s about a girl whose mom died and her dad soon after remarried and uprooted their midwestern life to big city LA. The story follows her as she struggles to fit in at a private school with a stepmother and brother she can’t stand, still still reeling in grief from losing her mother. On one of her first days of school she begins to receive anonymous emails from somebody at school that wants to help her out, but also isn’t emotionally ready to get involved with her in person. I think I’m greatly addicted to books where characters fall in love through letters (P.S. I Like You!), but this is seriously another awesome one.
Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys
This is a somber, but enthralling story about a Lithuanian girl and her mother and little brother who are sent to a Soviet work camp during World War II. It’s definitely sad, but also beautifully written and surprisingly positive. This is a portion of history that I was completely unaware of before reading this book. Their story was harrowing and insightful.
It Ends with Us by Colleen Hoover
Colleen Hoover is one of my favorite authors of books I literally cannot put down. This is her newest book and while it’s not my favorite of hers, I thoroughly enjoyed it. All of her books are deep and real, diving into the characters’ deepest pain, while still showing us a fantastic evolving relationship.
Bread & Wine by Shauna Niequist
I mentioned this the other day in my Favorite Things post. This is definitely one of the best books I read all year. I’m kind of obsessed with finding new and intriguing nonfiction books to read, but really horrible at following through on them. I only have so much time a day to read and my fiction selections usually win out. But this is a nonfiction title I couldn’t put down. It really spoke to me about the kind of person I want to be when it comes to my family, my friends, and opening my home and heart to the people around me. It’s kind of a food memoir, but also a lot about faith and entertaining and life in general. I loved her writing style and am greatly looking forward to reading all of her other books in the coming months.
A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg
I picked up this book because Molly Wizenberg is one of my favorite podcasters on Spilled Milk. I was also a lot more interested in checking out other food memoirs after reading Bread & Wine. I really enjoyed reading more about Molly’s life and how food impacted her story. The chapters are short and always followed by a recipe. It was a great book to pick up when I just needed a five minute break from something else.
The Cookies & Cups Cookbook by Shelly Jaronsky
No book list of mine will be complete without a cookbook thrown in the mix. 🙂 Once upon a time, my cookbook shelf was filled with dessert books. I wanted to be a baker and I found my greatest joy in making treats to share with people. In more recent years I realized that I really better learn more about cooking and actually making healthy and fulfilling meals. But occasionally I get wind of a new dessert cookbook that I just have to check out. This one was well worth the money! I think I got the book in November and I’ve used it at least ten times since then. Many delicious recipes to try and love!
The Magnolia Story by Chip and Joanna Gaines
I picked this book up because my mom talks about them a lot and there’s been a ton of buzz around the internet about it. I’ve never seen their show Fixer Upper and I barely knew a thing about this couple. But I loved the book! It was really interesting to learn about the love story of a real life couple. But I found it especially inspiring to read about the business side of their lives. These two people followed their passions again and again and carved out a professional life for themselves that is completely dream worthy. It was a little bit overwhelming to see how far they’ve come just by doing the things they love and never giving up. It’s given me more confidence to dream more about my own life, though, and where I want to go with my business and other passions in the coming years.
After going through my list, I’m thinking I might need to go back and write more posts on books I loved from other years. 2015 was a great year of books and I’d love to share some more recommendations for you. In the meantime, though, I would LOVE to hear some of your favorite books of the year!