Just like last year, I figured I'd make a list of the best books I read this year. They weren't all published this year, just things I read. This isn't just a list of the books I rated five stars, and I'm not limiting it to a specific number, just making a list of what I enjoyed the most and thought was worth recommending.
House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski-- This book isn't for everyone, but it's perfect for me. It. Has. Everything. A fictional narrative within the narrative, footnotes, that thing where the index is part of the story. A must for people who are interested in sort of alternative formats, or books that absolutely must be read in print.
The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood-- I had heard so much hype about this, and thought it really couldn't possibly be as good as everyone said. I was prepared to be annoyed by it, really, but was pleasantly surprised. Claire Danes does an amazing job with the audio, and the story just deals with so many issues that haven't changed since Atwood wrote this almost 20 years ago.
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel-- I don't usually end up reading award-contender type books, but I was so glad I had heard so much about this one. The post-apocalyptic setting really affected me, to the point where I was like, "Oh crap I don't have a plan for if this happens!"
California by Edan Lepucki-- Another post-apocalyptic narrative, but this one is really about a marriage, or a relationship, the setting just happens to be after society has mostly collapsed. If I hadn't been following literature, I probably wouldn't have heard about this, so I'm pretty glad I started caring more about what books were coming out and looked interesting.
Wolf in White Van by John Darnielle-- This makes the list because it was written by one of my favorite musicians of all time. It is a good book, and I'm not the only one to think so (it was long-listed for the National Book Award). The writing is interesting because really, the story could be the plot of one of his songs, but you get to know more than you would in a song. It's also a poetic sort of writing, and it's one of the few books that I read paragraphs over again just to enjoy the writing.
The Magician's Land by Lev Grossman-- Really, the whole series, starting with The Magicians. Read them. Read them all.
To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis-- Time-travel has been one of my favorite genres ever since I used to watch Quantum Leap with my dad. I read several other Connie Willis books this year, one of them in the same time-travelling universe, and she is quickly becoming a new favorite.
Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloane-- Bookstores, technology, secret societies, typefaces... if those are all words that by themselves would have you picking up a book, imagine the power of them all combined!
The Martian by Andy Weir-- I can't imagine the plotting that went into this book. It's hard sci-fi, so if you're afraid of reading about a guy crunching numbers to see how many days he can survive on Mars, maybe don't pick this up. He actually calculates, like, how many potatoes he needs to grow, how long it will take, etc. For me, this was fascinating. It's almost more of a survival story, it just is fiction and takes place in space. If I had to pick one absolute favorite from this year, this would probably be it.
Cinder by Marissa Meyer-- I'm a bit late to this party, as several subsequent books in the series have come out by now. I was intrigued by the premise--robot Cinderella--but not sure about it. I ended up absolutely loving the book and can't wait to read the next.
Under the Egg by Laura Marx Fitzgerald-- I don't read many middle-grade books these days, but this was a winner. I would totally give this to 9 or 10 year old me, who probably hadn't read enough books yet to be able to guess the ending.
I read so many other good books this year, but these are the ones that stuck out to me when I was going through my list.