Recommending books for people often feels so hard for me because I’m always obsessed with 80% of what I read. Giving someone a list of 20 books they HAVE TO READ RIGHT THEN is really ineffective, as it turns out. But at the same time, I really want people to read some of my favorite mildly unknown books and also I’m here to help if you’re down with the classics, but don’t know where to start or what you’ve missed.
Since it’s almost Thanksgiving, it seems like it’s time for all of those year-end lists where everyone on the Internet ranks things (usually incorrectly- unless Beyoncé’s song/album/outfit/video is always on the top of your list, you just be quiet).
This year, I read a lot of books and a pretty wide variety of books too. Okay, actually I mean a wide variety of different types of fiction and a very small handful of non-fiction books. Who do you think I am? A boy?
After eight years where I either worked on a campaign and had very little time or where I went to school and read hundreds of pages on childhood development a week, I was finally able to spend the year reading whatever I wanted.
I’ve taken it real seriously.
I’ve been using Goodreads to order the books I’m going to read in the right order, mixing up books I’ve had on my shelves for three years with new releases I was dying to read, and mixing up which types of books I’m reading in a row. (Side note- are you on Goodreads yet? It’s social media for your books! But also, it’s the best for keeping track of books you want to read but can’t right at that moment and for seeing books your friends recommend).
So I’m going to do you a little favor. I’m going to share my book recommendations from Alice’s year of reading: the 2015 version. Let’s do it.
If you love warm stories about sweet and perfect older people:
Read Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand.
Oh, this book, you guys. It’s set in England and follows a retired army Major in the latter part of his life as he, spoiler alert (not really), falls in love and fights everyone’s snobby expectations. It’s straight the sweetest.
If you want to read a long, hard classic that you actually enjoy reading:
Oh man you guys, Middlemarch! Middlemarch is SO long so I kind of looked at it with a little dread (have you noticed that I read a lot of things I feel like I should read?), but I loved it SO much, the entire time. My Goodreads review sums it up best:
“How lovely to be in a little world for that long and never get restless. I feel for the characters exactly as George Eliot wanted me to, except REDACTED is definitely my favorite.”
If you’re not really a mystery person but you also like suspense:
Read The Cuckoo’s Calling.
Okay really, I read The Cuckoo’s Calling a while ago and this year, I read the third in the series, Career of Evil. But obviously you have to start in the beginning.
These are detective novels written by J.K. Rowling with her pseudonym Robert Gailbraith. The last one (Career of Evil) had a little too much crazy person in it for me, but they’re all still great. They each have the J.K. Rowling quality to them- you get about 200 pages in and you’re not putting it down until you’re done.
If you want to try a Henry James novel so you can feel a little pretentious:
Read The Portrait of a Lady.
Here’s the thing with Henry James. If you’re into it, you’re into it. He’s the type of writer that takes half a page to finish one sentence and it’s so full of perfect and lovely clauses that don’t exactly move the story forward, but are pretty and descriptive. I’m into it.
But even I was like, okay, really? Really? I just read those million pages of The Wings of the Dove and that was it? NO. No. Now look, I gave it 4 stars of Goodreads because I don’t want people to think I’m uneducated and weak. But no.
The Portrait of a Lady, however? That is some Henry James I’m down for. It’s still Henry James- you’re still going to occasionally wonder if the sentence is ever going to end, but that’s a part of the magic. And Miss Isabel Archer’s is a heroine you’ll fall in love with and get mad at and care immensely about.
If you want to read an easy, fun classic that’s smart and quick:
Read A Room with a View.
A Room with a View is one of my favorites of the year. It is so delightful and Lucy Honeychurch is the sassiest little heroine I’ve ever fallen in love with (I even wrote about it her My Favorite Sassy Ladies of Literature post).
It’s a classic with a Jane Austen feel to it- it’s sophisticated and the language is lovely, but you’re not exhausted after reading it.
“How you do do everything” as the best burn for nosy people forever.
If you want to read a book that feels like you’re gossiping with your best friend:
Read Why Not Me?.
Well, this one really isn’t a surprise when you consider how much I love Mindy Kaling. But Why Not Me? is very good in its own right. In her second book, Mindy is much more personal and sweet and still as funny. Also, if you want to know whom her White House affair chapter is on (best chapter title ever: “One of the President’s Men”), just ask me. Working for Obama finally paid off! (Jokes.)
If you want to be challenged (like, your character, not like your reading ability):
Now surely I’m not the first person to tell you to read this. But it’s finally time you listened to everyone.
My Goodreads review, again:
“Well, it should probably be required reading for all Americans. And special shout out to the Obama love. But most importantly, I found my heart beating faster and faster as I neared the end for a love story I had slowly fallen in love with.”
If you want to sob and feel full of light and magic at the same time,
This is another one where I read the sequel this year, A Well Tempered Heart. But if you haven’t met Julia yet, you just have to.
This is a lovely story of woman who tries to find her father who suddenly disappears from New York. It’s a “mystery” technically, but it’s mostly a beautifully written story of magical love. And also, the book cover is straight gorgeous.
*Feature image source: Bookshelf Porn