As a kid, it seemed like every novel I picked it up was a good one.

Adult fiction seems to be more hit or miss. I think that’s why I read so heavy in non-fiction for a few years because I couldn’t find solid writing that wasn’t full of sex or foul language. So I just re-read YA favorites, ventured out into historical fiction pick every once in a while, but mostly was disappointed with the fiction I came across.

However, my fiction luck has increased, mostly due to listening to Anne Bogel’s podcast, What Should I Read Next. So while there are some golden oldies on this list, I have discovered new favorites through her recs.

As a point of reference, I enjoy mystery series and historical fiction picks, along with longer novels with complex storylines. I owned some of these books, but most I checked out through the library!

“Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen

I discovered Jane Austen through my Granny Sherry at the beginning of this decade, so it’s been ten years of loving Austen and her work. What I love most about her work, as I know it is for most people, is the ability to completely lose yourself in the grand country houses and wide English fields in a time when longing glances across the room meant you were practically engaged. I first read them at a time when I could identify with the heartfelt but often tongue-tied heroines and their struggles to express how they really felt to their crushes (Anne Elliot anyone?) Now as I read them many years later, I appreciate Austen’s journey to become a female writer in a male-dominated arena, and the quiet rhythms of her life that supported her work. Wherever you turn, there is something to adore about her work.

“Anne of Green Gables” by L.M. Montgomery

I tried reading the first book a few times growing up but was bogged down by the slow pace and constant whining from the odd redhead. I finally decided to try again about four years ago, and immediately gobbled up four or five Anne books in a row. (Still have more to read!) I completely fell in love with Anne’s outlook on life and could eat Montgomery’s nature descriptions with a spoon. Anne matures through the books and seeing that character arc made me overlook her very whiny beginnings. I was reading them during a particularly difficult time and her words made me remember there are still good and beautiful things to hold onto

“The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins

When was the last time you stayed up until 2:00 in the morning finishing a book? “The Hunger Games” was that series for me. This was one of Kurtis’ Christmas gifts to me for our first holiday together, and I got to indulge in reading through the series over Christmas break. It re-awakened my love for reading for pleasure and became a series that Kurtis could enjoy together. Looking forward to the prequel which comes out in May of this year!

“The Book Thief” by Markus Zusak

I think it’s safe to say I’ve learned more about history by reading historical fiction than by studying maps and lists of names and dates. There are many, many excellent books that take place during World War II, but this one stands out for me in that you see the effects of the war through German citizens. Liesel Memminger’s love affair with books and words pierced me, and some of my favorite literary quotes came from this book.

“The Martian” by Andy Weir

This was one of the books that awakened Kurtis and I to the magic of audiobooks. We listened to this on our road trip to Chicago about four years ago and remained riveted to the peril of the lone botanist on Mars. A thrilling adventure, cheering for the underdog, and a palatable amount of science make this a delightful read. Just know there is pervasive language throughout the book and the audio version would not be a good choice for little ears.

“The Beekeeper’s Apprentice” by Laurie R. King

A solid mystery series is my go-to when I just want to relax. Sherlock Holmes is 100% my favorite literary private eye, and I’m happy to read anything inspired by the reclusive, dysfunctional detective at 221B Baker Street. The Mary Russell series by Laurie King is no exception. I don’t even remember how I came across this book; I think it was in a random comment on Facebook, but I went on to chomp through seven of the fifteen in the series (and I’ve partially read three other). While the series does get repetitive (hence why I stopped reading), I absolutely loved the revival of the character with his taking on of a partner: the young Mary Russell. Their adventures are reminiscent of Doyle’s settings, but with a slightly edgier twist. Woven through their joint adventures is Mary’s complex, compelling back story, which comes to a head in Book 8, “Locked Rooms.” (My favorite after “The Beekeeper’s Apprentice.”)

“The Great Alone” by Kristin Hannah

I don’t know what it is, but I love a good Alaska story. There’s something about the weather and geography proving to be a sinister unnamed character that draws me in. And “The Great Alone” did not disappoint. It’s a moving look at the impact that PTSD* has on families and the will to survive. And like Hannah’s other novels, the characters draw you in from page one and don’t let up until the end.

*There are episodes of violence and abuse periodically throughout the book (not gratuitous but very present) so sensitive readers beware.

“The Gown” by Jennifer Robson

This was one of the most delightful books I read in 2019. Weaving two storylines into the making of Queen Elizabeth II’s wedding dress, this novel crisscrosses between England and Canada. You get a serving of the royal family, deep dive on dress-making, compelling storylines, and a dollop of wistful family history. It just hits a lot of right notes!

“Sensible Shoes” by Shannon Garlough Brown

Can you weave fiction and non-fiction together? Shannon Brown does so successfully. Following the storylines of four women and their various traumatic experiences, the “Sensible Shoes” series weaves together the spiritual practices of meditation, prayer, and solitude by seeing it applied in the lives of these women. When I first read them, I was immediately swept up in their stories and enjoyed trying out some of their reflection exercises. But after going through a spiritual discipline book in Sunday School, I realized that’s what’s at the heart of this series. Such a unique way to communicate the power and importance of time-honored spiritual disciplines. Four total books in the series!

Honorable Mentions:

“The River” by Peter Heller

“Celine” by Peter Heller

The Flavia DeLuce series by Alan Bradley

Enhance your reading life:

My non-fiction picks

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What Should I Read Next Podcast

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