Hey, Bookish readers! Kelly here, avid bookworm and Bookish’s executive editor. You may have heard that we recently launched an exciting new feature (humbly named “Kelly’s Pick”) to help you and your reading buddies decide what to read next. I’ll be making those seasonal selections, and I thought it might be helpful to share some of my personal all-time favorite reads so you know what to expect.
Let me first say, this is the most painful article I’ve ever had to write. Narrowing down a list of favorite books was a challenge, but here are 15 that I absolutely adore. Don’t be surprised if you see another list from me in the future to include many more great titles that didn’t make it into this feature.
Tana French’s Dublin Murder Squad series is exquisite. Her novels feature hunts for killers, but also take deep psychological dives into the minds of the leading detectives. Of the series, the second book is my all-time favorite. It follows an undercover agent who begins to blur the line between her real identity and the one she’s performing. To me, French is at her best when exploring the dynamics between friends, and this book captivated me from start to finish.
This book left me in awe. Roxane Gay puts all of her cards on the table and spins a raw, relatable, and honest narrative. The book explores her relationship with her body, as well as her sexuality, craft, and personal history. It also dives into the way society polices female bodies. It’s a book I have been pushing into the hands of the women in my life ever since it was released.
This is a book that completely surprised me. I was unsure if the choice to have 5-year-old Jack narrate would work for me or not, but once I began reading I found myself totally engrossed. Room also earns bonus points for having a movie adaptation I loved as much as the book and for casting the brilliant Jacob Tremblay and Brie Larson in the starring roles.
There are books you read and there are books you experience. This, for me, was the latter. Adam Silvera’s YA novel follows two teens who know they’ll die within 24 hours. The story is a reminder of the small and meaningful moments that make life extraordinary, as well as a rallying cry to be bold and brave, and to break out of your comfort zone because no day is guaranteed.
V.E. Schwab’s fantasy novel introduces readers to a world where there are four parallel Londons, ranging from a city with no magic to one utterly consumed by it. This series enchanted me from beginning to end. Schwab’s worldbuilding, characterization, and plotting are incredible. Her writing transports you to a place where you believe magic is right at your fingertips and that adventure is around every corner.
I can’t start an Alyssa Cole book too late at night because the next thing I know, it’ll be 6am. This is the second book in a series about royal romances. It’s the perfect blend of drama and heart, and packed with complex characters who are learning to trust and open themselves up to love. Tavish (aka #swordbae) is a wonderful hero, and I particularly loved Portia, a heroine who is learning to be kinder to herself and to accept that moments of vulnerability don’t make you weak, they make you strong.
I haven’t read a Lauren Beukes book I didn’t like. Her writing is sharp, intelligent, and packed with creativity. I’m always on my toes when reading her work, never sure what twist or turn she may deliver next—especially since she blends genres like an artist mixes paints. Broken Monsters combines mystery and horror as a Detroit detective hunts for a killer, and I stayed up late into the night turning pages until I reached the thrilling conclusion.
Julie C. Dao’s debut reimagines the Evil Queen from Snow White as Xifeng, a young girl who believes it is her destiny to be empress. Xifeng walks a slippery slope, and each cunning move she makes opens the door for what she’s capable of doing next. She’s utterly unapologetic and prepared to do anything to keep the power she’s taken. This is an addictive story with an antiheroine I couldn’t get enough of.
I was on a medical nonfiction kick after I devoured The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (another favorite), and my coworker Elizabeth pushed this work of investigative journalism into my hands. Sheri Fink reports on the events that took place at Memorial Medical Center in the wake of hurricane Katrina. Reader be warned: it is harrowing, heartbreaking, and will stay with you long after the final page.
This book is filed under “cried while reading on the subway.” It’s a breathtaking verse novel that takes place over the course of a single elevator ride. Will carries a gun in the waistband of his jeans and in the sixty seconds it takes for the elevator to take him from his home to the ground floor of his building, he’s visited by those he’s personally lost to gun violence. The poems are concise and powerful, making this book impossible to put down once you’ve picked it up.
I’ve always loved romance novels, but Christina Lauren is largely responsible for turning me from a casual romance reader into a voracious one. This author duo hooked me with their Wild Seasons series, and I’ve been reading every word they publish ever since. Picking a top Lauren book is a challenge, I’d happily recommend them all, but My Favorite Half-Night Stand was a book that made me feel seen. It’s a book about vulnerability, bravery, and (of course) love.
The Winners trilogy explores the imbalance of power between a group of conquerors and the people they’ve enslaved through the eyes of two protagonists: Kestrel, the daughter of a general, and Arin, a slave and spy for his people. Rutkoski’s writing is captivating and her twists and turns are always surprising. This is a series where characters who care for each other double-cross one another, and where every action comes with a devastating consequence. Writing about it now makes me want to read it all over again.
Nimona is a hilarious and delightfully subversive graphic novel about a shapeshifter who teams up with a villain to prove that the kingdom’s heroes aren’t as great as people think. Nimona herself is a fantastic heroine who is unafraid of being herself. It’s a book I’ve revisited more than once (the cover has actually been my Gmail background for years, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon). Stevenson continues to charm me with her Netflix series She-Ra, and I’m waiting with bated breath for the Nimona adaptation scheduled for next year.
Citizen by Claudia Rankine
Claudia Rankine’s poetry tackles racism in modern America. It focuses on the senseless deaths of men, women, and children who are killed simply because they are black. Rankine also focuses on another kind of death: the slow kind that happens every time someone is ignored or silenced or told they don’t matter. This collection should be mandatory reading.
One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez
The majority of the books on this list were published within the last 10 years, and I wanted to include at least one book outside of that range. When I think back on books that have shaped me as a reader, One Hundred Years of Solitude stands out. I still remember the exact feeling I had when I read the first line and realized I was about to witness something truly extraordinary. It swept me away.