My Favorite Novels From the Last 2 Years

If you follow me on Instagram, you probably already know that I love to share what I’m reading. I have received SO many good book recommendations over the years from friends, both online and off. And a good book can really turn your week around, if you ask me. 🙂 So, I thought I’d share a list of some of my very favorite novels from the last few years. If you are needing something for your next vacation or just like to read to unwind at night, here’s some good books for you!

Before the Fall – I actually read this one a loooong time ago but still knew I needed to include it here because it was so good! There is one part where a character is forced to swim a great distance (I won’t say too much on why or when it happens in the book, but it’s really not spoiling anything either way) and that whole sequence was just so vividly written I still think about it from time to time. Have you ever had a book do that? It’s not super often for me, but this is one of them. This book also has some pretty interesting commentary on the role of media and wealth in our politics and world.

The Hypnotist’s Love Story – I think I love Liane Moriarty. This was actually the first of her books I’ve ever read, but I fell for it pretty much immediately. The story is fun and touching, the characters are relatable but also quirky. It’s just a really fun and interesting read. I can’t wait to devour another of her novels soon!

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore – Originally I was drawn to this book because of the cover design and title, but I am so glad I took a chance on it because this may be one of my favorites! It is a bit whimsical, with a secret society and maybe even a little magic involved (maybe), but this was so much fun to read. Five stars, must recommend! 🙂

Crazy Rich Asians – I read this pretty recently but it’s still making the list! First, I read this book before I saw the movie, but just in case you’ve already seen the movie and are afraid the book will be boring because you already know the plot—don’t worry. The book is crazy different (although similar enough). The book is part of a larger series, while the movie ties up at the end because I guess they didn’t plan to do a series? (To be honest, I don’t know the full story behind the making of the movie. This would just be my guess based on seeing it.) Anyway, this is a really fun and pretty hilarious read. I am very excited to read the next one!

Modern Lovers – Loved this book and after reading another novel from Emma Straub recently (that I also loved but I think I loved this one a little more, so that’s why I’m mentioning it here), I think I can safely say I just love her writing. This one has a coming-of-age love story, for a number of different couples with different types of relationships. Set in NYC, it also feels very cool and hip (sorry if that’s dorky to say, but I personally like books in cool settings). I really enjoyed this easy and sweet read and think almost anyone would.

Diamond Head – I *think* this was Cecily Wong’s first novel and WOW, I hope she writes more. It’s beautiful, tragic, and full of fascinating family dynamics. I really don’t know what to say to do this book justice, but I loved it in a similar way to 100 Years of Solitude. Not that they are the same, I just felt a similar kind of fondness, sadness and ultimately just depth from the stories. It’s a great book.

The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao – I almost didn’t put this on the list just because of all the books I’m recommending here this one is easily the most dark. There are some very heavy and graphic scenes in the book. But ultimately it’s just so good. This might be a weird comparison but it kind has a similar thing to A Clockwork Orange (but a completely different story). The way the characters speak is sort of a hybrid dialect that you have to first get used to before you can really start to understand everything. It’s interesting and ultimately very worth reading!

The Book of Dust – I absolutely love the His Dark Materials series (The Golden Compass is the first, if you’ve heard of that book). It’s one of my very favorite YA series ever, and I must admit that I’ve read a LOT of those. Ha. This is the same author and a prequel to the series. I believe there are going to be a few more and I cannot wait to read those as well. You can just mark me down as a superfan of this one.

A Window Opens – Just a really enjoyable and pretty quick read mostly centered around a woman who is starting her career up again after years being more focused on her family. It’s relatable (in many ways, not just her situation), touching and just a really easy page-turner. After I read this, I reached out to the author on Instagram just to say how much I loved her book and she wrote me back! That seriously made my day and isn’t really related to the book per se, but just wanted to brag about having author friends, I guess. 🙂

The Woman in Cabin 10 – I do really enjoy a good mystery/thriller although I won’t lie, I think it must be one of the most difficult genres to write. It’s probably really hard paying off all the suspense while still keeping the story believable. And although this book’s ending isn’t exactly “normal” or what you probably expected (or at least I didn’t), I really enjoyed the entire book from the beginning to end. So if you like a good thriller and haven’t read this one yet, you should.

Euphoria – If I had to pick just one novel out of all of these to recommend from this list, it might be this one (although that would be really hard!). It took a little bit to get into this book, because the premise is a bit out there and I really didn’t know much about the book when I picked it up. But once I got into it, I really, really loved this one! It’s such a fascinating look at humanity through the eyes of three very different anthropologists and their interwoven stories from the field. It is quite sad and I wouldn’t necessarily call it an easy read. You have to be in the mood for something with a good amount of depth. But it’s a truly beautiful book and I highly recommend it.

Bellweather Rhapsody – I think this one might count as Young Adult Fiction, I think. It’s sort of a mystery centered around a bunch of high school students at a very weird band/music camp (or at least I’ve never heard of a band camp like this). It’s funny, it’s interesting, and it definitely had me reading chapters long after I was tired and ready for bed because I just wanted to know what happened next. Super fun one!

I’ve linked to all these books on Amazon because I know that’s more accessible to most, and we have an affiliate program with them. BUT I did want to mention that I think it’s really awesome to buy books from local or independent bookstores any chance you get. I also personally love to check out books from my local library, so I highly recommend that too. Pretty obvious, but still figured I’d mention. xo. Emma

    • It’s so fun! I loved that one and really can’t wait to read the next in the series. I try not to devour series too fast but sometimes it’s hard! 🙂

  • This looks like a great list. I finished Crazy Rich Asians in about a week and just started the sequel. I’m with you on books set in cool places. I live in Albuquerque, but dream of living in a greener locale, so I like to have a little getaway with my books. I’ve really enjoyed the Liane Moriarty novels I’ve read, so I’ll have to pick up the one you suggested. Wouldn’t mind a mental trip to Australia!

  • Thanks for sharing, Emma! I’m always looking for a new book. Below are a few of my favorites from the past year, that you may enjoy too (if you haven’t read already!):
    Snowflower and the Secret Fan
    Dark Matter
    An American Marriage
    Eleanor Oliphant is Perfectly Fine
    Emma in the Night
    Turtles All the Way Down
    The Bright Hour

    Happy Reading 🙂

    • I was going to get Eleanor O…. until I read a review in Amazon that said it was pretty disturbing how the author treated the abuse of a young child w aut so lightly and for the purposes of entertainment. Did you feel bothered by that? (I was one of the few that hated A Little Life bc I felt similarly that it was basically tragedy porn and in very poor taste).

      Anyway- I came here to recommend a book! My favorite book in the last year or two wasn’t on your list Emma- Where the Crawdads Sing. Such a captivating story that is beautifully written. For reference, my last favorite that writing quality wise was similar (but not plot) was All the Light You Cannot See

  • Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore is one of my favorites! I was SO excited to see it on here, I feel like it’s never on recommended or must read lists. I’m going to check out the other books on your list that I haven’t read yet.

    Have you seen that Robin Sloan came out with another book? I’m waiting for it from the library!

  • Book survey posts are a portion of my most loved presents on read! I’m continually searching for another book suggestion. Eager to attempt a portion of your top choices out – despite everything I haven’t perused Crazy Rich Asians yet!

  • I’ve read half of these and agree! I’m going to check out the rest! I’ve had Diamond Head in my Amazon cart for awhile and now I might finally pull the trigger. One of my favorites of last year was My Ex Life by Stephen McCauley – hilarious and tender with unforgettable characters. I don’t keep many books, but I set this one aside in case I want to read it again.

    • Marlad, I just finished My Ex Life and I loved it too. The writing made me laugh out loud.

  • I didn’t like Before the Fall because it just seemed too average somehow and the plot wasn’t that great. I absolutely loved the Book of Dust as PP is one of my favourite authors. His new book, the Secret Commonwealth comes out in October!

    • Yes, and I am stoked. I just LOVE his books. So happy to see His Dark Materials is getting a series too. I think on Netflix or maybe it was HBO I saw the preview of it on? I was sad that the Golden Compass movie didn’t do well years ago as I just love that series so much.

      • Emma, I love the series so much but I was not surprised the movie didn’t do well.
        If I recall correctly it came out when Narnia was going strong and there was a bit of controversy regarding Pullman and his (non)religious views. [Insert eye roll.]
        Ah, the question of ‘morality’ for young(ish) readers! For ex. I saw the Hunger Games movies before reading the books and was stunend at the amount of ‘good-washing’ that was done on Katniss (in the books, the character is much darker – loved it)

        I bet a series is – nowadays – better suited to convey the depth and scope of Pullman’s books anyways.

        BTW Have you read Call me by your name by Andre Aciman? The writing is exquisite! Also the movie is a joy to watch!

  • Thank you for this list! My friends that read are usually more into the thriller genre and so finding good books in other genres is such a pain when you’re standing in the library! I will take this list next time I go. 🙂

    I once talked to an author who writes thrillers and they seem to be the hardest to write since the readers are trying to solve much of the story while they are reading it. Can’t relate because I don’t read them but it sounds logical to me!

  • Thanks for the recommendations! I love the Libby app, which allows me to rent books/audiobooks from my local library. I added like half of these to my hold list 😊

  • Thanks for this, Emma! I always enjoy seeing what you read, and loved your book club back in the day.
    Yes, you do need to read more from Liane Moriarty. I have loved every book I’ve read of hers!
    Another one you might like is Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine. Oh, and The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah.

  • I always look forward to your reading recommendations! They are among some of my favorite posts by you! Thank you for compiling this list for us.

  • Adding some of these books to my list! A recent favorite is a collection of short stories called “The Tsar of Love and Techno” by Anthony Marra.

  • Ooh I read a Window Opens a few years ago and loved it, was at the top of my list (as are a few others you have here!). And some new recommendations – thanks Emma!
    Currently just finishing The Great Believers which is absolutely stunning and the ending is making me weep – it will be one of my favorites of last few years!

  • If I had to choose a favorite book from the last half year i would also choose Euphoria! I think I finished it in two days even though i kept willing myself to slow down. It’s such a great story and amazingly written. Since im on a budget i always check out books from the library and then I found Euphoria for 50 cents at my reuse store a week later – i think it was meant to be! here’s my library list i’m still working on: https://tps-steph.blogspot.com/2018/12/0023-library-list.html

  • I like to think I’m pretty up to date on all the new books to keep an eye out for, but surprisingly I’ve only heard of two of these before! Everyone went crazy for the movie Crazy Rich Asians so clearly the book is worth reading, and I also love a good suspense/thriller novel, so The Woman in Cabin 10 is also on my to read list 🙌

  • Unless the writing style captivates you for itself, otherwise Į completely disliked Oscar Wao…

  • I read half of them and they are really impressive!) That was the best time of my college life. I am read books, meet friends, study different interesting and not interesting subjects. Also, I wrote essays for friends. Find more information Now I work at a good company, where I write essays for students from Australia.

  • i Haven’t read books much since I’ve been out of high school, class of 2017, and this makes me miss it so dearly.
    I remember my favorites always being the twisted, keep-you-on-the-edge-of-your-seat type of books. Many of these sound interesting! I thought i would suggest a couple as well, because I tell people about them a lot. My ULTIMATE favorite being “Unwind” by Neal Shusterman. And the other being a series called “The Loners” by Lex Thomas. Hope you enjoy, as I did!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.