This year, according to Goodreads, I have read 41 books and over 12, 713 words. Of these, I found some real blockbusters--and some real toilet water.
If you trust me (which you may if you jam to my fiction [see Flash-Fiction and Grounded]), I do most humbly offer my recommendations as to which are the must-adds to your To-Be-Read pile. This is not an exhaustive list of what I've read this year; it only includes books about which I got summat to say.
And guys, you should trust me. I'm a real-live volunteer editor now. I'm basically an expert.
The Martian / Andy Weir / sci-fi
My favorite book of the year. A main character that jumps off the page, real conflict, and a plot driven by hard-science. Oh baby.
Written in Red / Anne Bishop / young adult fantasy
Distinct, memorable characters; an immersive experience; gritty conflict; tight, succinct. prose. Read my full review.
Ready Player One / Ernest Cline / young adult sci-fi
Nostalgic feels, immersive experience, a fun romp through cyberworld.
The Gunslinger / Stephen King / fantasy
Thoughtful genre-bender, somewhere between medieval and western. Not your average King.
Murder on the Orient Express / Agatha Christie / mystery
A classical, luxurious mystery with a humorous edge. Clever and indulgent.
Just After Sunset / short stories by Stephen King / thriller, paranormal, fantasy
Pick your poison. Something ethereal and symbolic or hard and gritty? King is rapidly becoming one of my favorite authors (though I'm no fan of horror).
Fear Nothing / Dean Koontz / thriller
Koontz knows how to set a scene. He also knows how to make it creepy. And funny. And fantastic. What a ride.
The Midnight Charter / David Whitley / young adult fantasy
Magical, meaningful, instructive, written for kids, but adults will steal it from the kids' bookshelf. Read my full review.
A Wizard of Earthsea / Ursula K. Le Guin / young adult fantasy
Similar to The Midnight Charter, with a more whimsical, antique feel. A story of epic proportions, condensed into a silky smooth tale. Read my full review.
An Abundance of Katherines / John Green / young adult
Cannot say enough about how greatly I underestimated this author. The characters are the friends you wish you had. This book is hysterical and smart. Good luck putting this ish down.
Disclaimer: This is the controversial bit. Many of these are best-sellers to which you're deeply attached. These books are here because a comparable book did it the right way. In most cases, I could quote you one sentence from the book that sent it sailing across the room. This is not to say an author is a poor writer. I fully support my fellow writers, but I'm definitely going to call them out when they're lazy. Hence the following list.
A Wrinkle in Time / Madeleine L' Engle / young adult fantasy
The main character has no motivation and is dragged along until her cup of care begins to fill. Illogical link between plot points. At least the book was better than the movie -.-
>>Try instead: The Magician's Nephew (Chronicles of Narnia) or A Wizard of Earthsea
Beyond the First Draft / John Casey / nonfiction
Craft book for writers. Or just the pontifications of an academic, providing neither practical content nor linear thought.
>>Try instead: Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft
The Shoemaker's Wife / Adriana Trigiani / historical romance
I was into this fairly-relaxing read for about half the book. Eventually I tired of the overabundant descriptions of clothing, underdevelopment of characters, and passive voice.
>> Try instead: Pride and Prejudice or Cold Mountain
The Eye of the Minds / James Dashner / middle grade sci-fi
My new buzz-word for books of this type is "spazzy." The characters are caricatures, the plot is fast-paced but nonsensical, and the stakes are light. I did not begin to finish this.
>>Try instead: Ready Player One
Percy Jackson, Books 1 - 3 / Rick Riordan / middle grade fantasy
My biggest disappointment this year. Another spazzy series. At least this had the bonus of some humor. Read my full review.
>>Try instead: Magyk (Septimus Heap Book 1) or Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
Lethal White / Robert Galbraith / mystery
This makes the list mostly as it compares to its predecessors. Like the Crimes of Grindelwald movie, the first twenty minutes knocked my socks off, but the rest was overwritten, under-strategized, and boring, boring, boring! I miss the zippy succinct prose of Galbraith (and J.K. Rowling's, btw) authorial youth. Read my full review.
>>Try instead: I Detest all My Sins or The Cuckoo's Calling