My top ten favorite fiction books, in no particular order and from no particular year, is a decently wide-ranging list when it comes to genre. There is, of course, Harry Potter. It was my gateway to reading because when I was seven-years-old my parents promised me a new bike if I could read the first book entirely on my own. I am decently sure they only did this because they did not think I was yet capable of accomplishing this task and thus they would not have to get me a bike. They were wrong. I got my bike and a lifelong obsession with reading. But Harry Potter is not actually on this list. Mostly because I view my gateway book as being on a level beyond my favorites. There’s plenty of other books to fill out the list, though, and here they are:
This is one I picked up specifically because the author himself pitched it to me. We’d chatted a couple times over the years when we ran into one another at Denver Comic Con and one of those times he pitched the series to me as “Supernatural meets Criminal Minds.” As a lover of both these shows I was sold immediately and bought the first three books right then and there. It was a fantastic purchase. The book was exactly as Dan pitched it. The main character is a sociopath determined to not become a serial killer, a task that becomes much harder when an actual serial killer comes to town and starts dropping bodies that end up in the morgue owned and operated by the main character’s family. Except these crimes might not be regular murders, and the build to this realization is wonderfully slow and sweet.
This isn’t a book full of demons and monsters, it is our world with just a touch of the weird. Also, the movie is fantastic.
I will always, always be an advocate of fanfic authors going mainstream with totally original projects as well as with fanfictions they’ve adapted into original projects. Point Pleasant started out as a Destiel (Dean/Castiel from Supernatural) fanfiction that was then adapted into an original story about two men facing the threat of Mothman as they try to repair a shattered childhood relationship. You can see the threads of the fanfic origin of this book, but it is also an entirely new story with new characters and new rules.
This book was a gift from a friend back in middle-school, and it is easily my most read book. It is a historical fiction account of a famous murder that occurred in 1906. The protagonist, Mattie Gokey, is working at the local hotel to support her family when she becomes embroiled in the murder of another young girl who had entrusted Mattie with letters to burn. Except Mattie never burned them. I’ve never quite figured out why this book clicks as well as it does with me, but it certainly does. Maybe it’s the fact that Mattie feels like an outsider in her country town, maybe it’s that she’s a writer and lover of words. Either way, I’ve read this at least twenty times and I never get tired of it.
I will pretty much always be a sucker for anything based in my home state of Colorado, especially if it’s in a place I actually go rather frequently. So when I saw a book that had Monument Colorado right in the title I snatched it up and was delighted to find it was an apocalypse survival story. This is one of those apocalypse stories that manages to tell a wonderful story with wonderful characters without relying on “death and doom and gloom and gore” which is getting harder and harder to find. We’ve all thought about riding out an apocalypse in a superstore, and that’s what this book is all about. 14 kids get trapped inside a superstore when the world starts to end and are forced to try and survive as a cascade of disasters occur outside, and even inside, their safe haven. The whole series is a good read and I’m rather excited about the rumors I’ve heard of a movie.
This book checks so many of my “yes please!” boxes for reading. Amazing female protagonists capable of killing in unique and creative ways, no overdose of romance, deadly fashion accessories, women in positions of power, subterfuge, stunning world building. It has it all. Four girls from different kingdoms are raised as sisters to prevent future wars between their kingdoms, a great plan in theory. Doesn’t work out so well in the long run, however.
Another historical fiction selection, this one follows a woman named Kitty who is on the run from an abusive past and hides out by getting hired as a nurse at a remote hospital for shell-shocked veterans in 1919. But not all is as it seems at this hospital and Kitty quickly teams up with Jack Yates, a pretty-boy war hero who has isolated himself from the public eye since the end of the war, to the point even the other patients in the hospital don’t know that he’s there. Together they work to unravel the mystery of the hospital as people start to die and they all become more and more isolated.
The romance in this was a wonderful slow build and never felt overdone or rushed, which was a big part of why I enjoyed it so much. I’m also determined to one day find a Captain America Alternate-Universe fanfiction with Peggy and Steve based on this book, because it would be amazing.
This one is weird. So weird. You know those gothic fairies that are so popular? The ones with stripey socks and black lace and corsets and heavy makeup and all that? Yeah. Take those, squish them together with Alice in Wonderland, and you’ve got this book. Bizarre, but also weirdly delightful. Alyssa Gardner comes from a family full of women who have all gone insane as they grew older. As she starts to suffer the same symptoms as her mother did she begins to uncover the secrets of her family and their strange connection to the story of Alice, a story she—like everyone else—thought fictional. It all becomes very real, however, and Alyssa must go down the rabbit hole herself to solve what went wrong last time someone in her family ventured down there…
I come from a family obsessed with World War II due to my grandfather fighting in the war but something my family, and many other people, gloss over is the real human toll for regular people caught up in the chaos. People in their home countries that were suddenly being destroyed by the Nazis, forcing them to flee their homes and their friends and everything they had ever accomplished. Salt to the Sea dives right into the deep end of what life was like for those people as it follows a diverse range of people stumbling their way to safety as their world shatters around them. The characters and story feel incredibly real and I couldn’t put the book down the entire time I was reading.
Child of a badass lady pirate escapes boarding school to become a badass lady pirate in her own right and in the process gives me a life-long love of all things pirate. This is another one I first read years and years ago, but it has stuck with me as one of those books that I can always look back on as having influenced my reading habits for the rest of my life. I mean, who hasn’t dreamed of escaping school to go off and be an adventurer?
This was actually a book that I didn’t realize I loved until about a week after I’d finished it. I never hated it, but originally it was just sort of a mid-range book in terms of my scale of book love. But the more I thought about it, about the characters and the themes and the world, the more I fell in love with it. There’s a wonderful diversity of mental and physical capabilities in this book and the characters struggles all felt so real. I think the reason it took awhile to resonate with me is because a lot of it hit very close to home in a way that was a bit uncomfortable but ended up being satisfying once I accepted it.
The book is what I would call post-post apocalyptic. The world has ended, but the book isn’t about that. It isn’t about fixing the world or finding out what went wrong, it’s just about surviving in the new world that comes out of the destruction—scars and all. Hallie and her sister Marthe struggle not only to keep their family farm running on their own but struggle with their relationship to one another, a relationship strained by dark secrets in their past. Things only get worse when a veteran comes to work on their farm, bringing with him remnants of a war that could destroy everything they’ve all fought so hard for. This was easily my favorite read of 2016.