Top 20 Roundup: Best Fiction

Hi all you Rockin Readers,

As an enthusiastic and ever invitee of awesome books recommended by others, I would love to return the favor.

Because, as all impassioned readers know, one of the many facets of reading which is so satisfying and stellar is not only the reading of a phenomenal book yourself, but also in sharing these life changing reads with others.

Without further ado, a list below (as it stands now) of my most adored fictional books.  The stories I’ve read that stayed with, affected me deeply, changed me in some way.  The ones that continued rustling to me from underneath their closed cover, long after my concluding reading it.  The books that blew my mind, gripped, and awed me.

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Here they are (not in any particular order):

This book is so engrossing, gripping, and awesome.  It grabbed me from the start and didn’t let go until the end.  The writing is poetic, beautiful, and the characters, while many, not types with whom one would ever wish to associate, are such fun to read about.  This book is dark, though very much glitters.  The plot line is unique and wildly fun.

For a more in-depth (though without spoilers) review, here you go.

 

This is a richly nuanced and engrossing one.  Its ruminations and statements on race in America, necessary and thought provoking, as well as eye opening and powerful.  Several of which, I had never considered myself and now see anew through more aware and observant eyes.

Adichie is a superb storyteller.  A poet and an artist.  Insightful, romantic, watchful, and supremely intelligent.  This is a phenomenal book.  The story made my heart both race and sing.  It changed my viewpoint on various things, gripped and inspired me.  I cared about these characters.

Run, dont walk, to snag a copy and dive in yourself.  You will not regret it.

For a more detailed (though without spoilers) review of the synopsis, here you go!

 

Read this.  It will be one of the best you’ve ever read.

 

For a fuller (dont worry, no spoilers) review, here you go.

The gold in this book is found within the message of the story.  One of the more unique love stories I have ever read.  This one proposes the question: what if some major life dream/need/goal involves having to choose between either this grand dream or their romantic relationship?  That to pursue this major dream/need would involve walking in an opposite direction from the relationship for a time?  How does one make that choice?

Most of the time (at least from my limited and humble perspective), people give up the personal needs/dreams in order to “keep” the relationship.  But what if there were a different approach?  What if it were something that involved walking in a differing direction for a time, though with the purposeful leaving of a door open? Keeping in touch intentionally, without agenda.  Allowing one another to proceed down their separate paths, while staying in some semblance of touch and trusting in the universe?  That if meant to be together romantically over the long term, you will be.

To me, that made this book incredibly compelling and memorable, a rare story, unlike others I have found or read (and I have read hundreds).  The areas in which the book have weakness are the dialogue, some of which sounds contrived, a bit false, even canned.  So while the writing/dialogue could use growth and further nuance, the story is a thought-provoking, inspiring, and awesome one.

 

Oh my gosh, I have read this book some three or four times, and each one has never failed to move me emotionally.  I LOVE this story.  The concept that we have no idea, the depth of impact we may have had on certain others lives.  Even people we may hardly know.  The fact that we touch so many people, many of which we are aware, and a plethora of which we are not.  This book is romantic, beautiful, and awe inducing.

 

Wow, was this a surprising read.  For the power it packed and the depths to which it dove, some rather disturbing ones, as well as just emotionally jarring ones.  This book is a intricately layered, emotionally riveting ride, to say the least.

About a man and woman who are married for decades, happily (seeming), with a close friendship between them to boot.  Until she leaves him for a woman.  The story is sad but thought provoking and beautiful.  There is also an added challenging emotional layer, which I don’t want to spoil, but within which some chapters are narrated through the perspective of a truly despicable character, to say the least.  This is, while repulsive, incredibly well drawn and just, wow.

As a brief side note, I don’t think reading is or should be solely about just the “pretty,” “positive” “happy” or “good” in life.  That’s a great reason to read, but real life also contains darkness.  So to get an accurate, eye opening, real taste of stories and human experiences that are authentic and true to life, one should consider reading stories that entail both light and dark.  This story is one of them.

Man oh man, did this book fill me with wonder.  An emotionally stirring story to be sure.  I’ve read it a couple times and still, think of it from time to time.  Told through the eyes of a fourteen year old girl who has been murdered.  Now, watching from heaven, both her family and their lives unfolding in her absence, as well as with curiosity, her killer.  Will he ever be caught?  And, what will happen to the people she loves most?  How will their lives unfold?  This book is poetic and compelling, gorgeously written, and gripping.

 

This book is a collection of interconnected stories, all of which I find quite compelling, unique, and ones with which I can empathize/identify with, or if nothing else, was moved by.  One such story offers us the searing inner emotional experience of a woman who discovers her husbands affair, though the way in which her inner experience with this is offered, I found more moving and nuanced than other accounts of such I have read.  Another story comes from her husbands point of view, with regards to his affairs, making for a fascinating, alternate point of view to the same coin.  There is a story of a woman who has a son, though he claims to be a girl, loving to dress in female clothing at the age as young as five.  His mother grapples and struggles with this, between wanting to allow him to be who is he, all while fearing for his safety and well-being (after he is violently attacked one morning in the park).  I love this book, for the engaging and what I feel, unique stories it tells.

 

What a fun, rollicking read this one is.  The villains within are sinister, sly, and the most entertaining of bad guys of which to read.  This story has it all.  Suspense, thrill, romance, sadness, surprise.  Beginning one afternoon at an all-boys school, during which one boy purposefully drowns the other on an afternoon swimming sojourn.  Then, the lengths this boy then goes to cover up the murder he committed in the years to follow are what lead the way for this novels direction and path.  I’ve read it several times and have yet to tire of this fantastic story.

 

This book is a richly peopled book, focusing on five main characters, each of whom we get to know in depth and come to care for.  There is a jarring injury on the ball field, an elicit affair between two people with some 40 years between them, a runaway bride, a drug addicted though great mentor and coach entwined in an interesting friendship/connection with his teammate, whom he helps along the way in monumental ways.  This is a stellar story.

 

This one packs a jaw-dropping punch.  About a young woman working as a baker who befriends one of the customers in the cafe.  In their growing closer over time, he reveals to her an astounding thing on asking for a favor.  He used to be a Nazi.  Very likely at the same concentration camp in which her own grandmother was kept.  He asks the baker, his now friend, to help him die.

Caught between the moral ethics of such and her own desire for vengeance on behalf of her grandmothers suffering, this beautiful story grabs hold of you fast.  We enter the alternate perspectives of both the grandmother and the bakers friend who used to be a Nazi, are taken back in time and enter each of their narrations.  This book is gorgeously written, an awe inspiring read, and with a terrific twist at the end.

 

Lily and Nick were incredibly in love, until time and outside circumstances pulled them apart.  Now, years later, Lily’s former best friend, Budgie is married to Nick.  When Lily returns to her former hometown, she is seduced by Budgies glamorous influence, pulling her into a tangle of complicated friendships and connections, including something poignant reigniting with Nick.  The writing in this book is atmospheric and gorgeous.  The story, evocative and intriguing.  One of my favorites.

 

This story is rich in terms of the character and relational developments the reader is invited to delve into.  One comes to know the people in these stories intimately.  To care, empathize with, root for, and feel engaged/invested in what happens to them.  Its a fast and fun read.  I’ve read it several times, finding myself finishing it in a couple of days with each return to such.  Its a great one.

 

I couldn’t put together a list of “favorite fiction” without including the Harry Potter series (yes, I am implying/recommending the whole series, not just “The Sorcerers Stone”).  These books.  Those who haven’t read them tend to dismiss such as “kids books,” or with remarks along the lines of, “I am not into magic or fantasy.”  This is so not what Harry Potter is.  None of these sentiments even touch upon what these books actually entail and offer up to their readers.

These books are towering tales of layered, intricate, impressively woven plots.  Each one, laden with adult and compelling themes.  Ranging from loyalty, to sacrifice, and the fact that sometimes those who love us most will not be the ones who were “supposed to” (aka our families).  Other themes include: just how far the love of our friends can stretch.  That love isn’t evident in words (or not) but in action.  And that to figure out someones true character, this often requires looking beyond what we see on the surface or what is easy to read initially.

These books bring up life themes such as unrequited love, bravery, jealousy, and loneliness.  They are a whopper and whammy of a story, as a whole.  Incredible reads, to be sure.  You are missing out if dismissing without even reading some of one ;-).

 

This is an emotionally poignant, gripping, though dark tale.  Following the path charted through the foster care system that a young girl must travel, on the heels of her mother murdering her lover.  This book is sensual and evocative.  Its lush and sensory laden.  Exploring the complicated and even contradictory bond between a mother and daughter, as well as the devastation, confusion, and trauma one young woman suffers in her experience of navigating this pathway alone within terrible circumstances and trying environments.

 

Oh man, is this a roller coaster of thrill and suspense.  Famous author Paul Sheldon is in a horrible car accident in one of the typical Nor-Easter storms we tend to get here in the Northeast.  Pulled out of the storm by a local woman, he is lucky to be alive, until realizing he is bedridden in the home of his “number one fan,” and a totally insane one at that.  Buckle up for a wild ride with this fast read.  Its a great one.  Much better than the movie version ;-).

 

This book, while geared towards a younger crowd, is deeply affecting, thought provoking, and powerful.  About a young girl in a tragic car crash with her family, the whole of whom are killed in its aftermath.  She is left comatose, in the hospital.   Amidst visits between her great loves, her romantic partner and best friend, she must decide from her half conscious state (though they dont know that she is semi-aware).  Her decision to make: should she stay or should she go?  If she stays, she is without any family at all, to whom she was incredibly close in life.  If she goes though…thats it.  The end of her short life, already concluded.

 

This book is beautifully written, its smart, poetic, and a noteworthy coming of age told from the eyes of a young woman growing up in a dysfunctional, poverty stricken family.  The voice of Francie Nolan is a distinct, thoughtful, and insightful one that we as the readers, come to love occupying the lens of.  A marvelous book.

 

Magic and sensual, this is the mature version of Harry Potter.  The magical scenes within, particularly spellbinding and awe inducing, making one long to visit the Night Circus themselves.  The smells, sights, and exhibits, so lush and uniquely conveyed, this is a book that draws one in and enchants.

For a fuller review (though without spoilers), here you go.

 

What a heart rending love story this is.  Again, while geared towards a younger audience, its one thats affecting and leaves a mark.  Eleanor, who comes from a dark and what sounds to be, neglectful, anxiety inducing, possibly even abusive childhood, while Park comes from the quintessential white bread and picket fence, “perfect” family, these two meet and fall for each other, slowly but hard.

Park fills in the holes of Eleanor’s heart, where Eleanor challenges and moves Park in ways he hadn’t known possible.

This book is even the better for the unconventional ending, one you wouldn’t typically expect, though what feels the more real life one.

 

And, 5 runners up that nearly made the list:

What happens when 2 extra seconds are added to time, as a whole, as we know it?  A mother driving, a little girl rides out in front of her on a bike, a crash and horrible moment.  The secret, then ushering in a manipulative, blackmailing relationship.  This story is both poetry, and sucks you right in.

 

Set in a small New England town at a prestigious college, this story is about a group of teens who are part of a “secret society,” if you will.  One that doesn’t adhere to or believe in the conventions or lines drawn by society.  This is a dark, creepy, tightly gripping thriller to be sure.  The result is a murder, and lots of other icky fallout that ensues.

 

The sequel to “If I stay,” from the list just above.  Just as good, if not better than the first.

 

This is a sexy, sensual, evocative novel.  About a man torn between routine and novelty, convention and the erotic, known versus unknown, the permitted versus the forbidden.

 

This one is such fun!  From the perspective of pretentious, witty, intellectual Nate, this story follows his inner narrative and dating escapades.  The writing is so smart, perceptive, and engaging.

For a longer review, here you go.

 

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