Tag Archives: Top Ten Books

2016 Reading Year End Review: Top 10 Reads

2 Jan

I’m back for a third year with my top 10 books of 2016! If I was more organized, I’d do this before Christmas as a buying guide suggestion, but let’s be honest and admit that will never happen. I also squeeze a lot of books in during December so we’d miss a lot of good material.

10. The Unlikely Disciple by Kevin Roose. I love a good memoir and this was a great one. It was part investigatory journalism by someone who was mentored by the amazing A.J. Jacobs which made it all the better. Roose had a great voice and he was very open-minded about his project which made him a great test subject for the experiment. I recommend this book for people over 16, especially those with an interest in Christianity and evangelism.

9. Stiff by Mary Roach. (I feel bad all of the non-fiction is at this end of the list, but oh well.) Stiff was creepy and awesome at the same time. Roach approached the subject of human cadavers in a way that was both funny and respectful, a delicate balance (though some in my book club didn’t agree with me here). This book would be best for someone over 18 and might be enjoyed more by those in the medical field.

8. Slade House by David Mitchell. I think I’m more surprised than anyone to see Mitchell on this list after the debacle that is Cloud Atlas in December of last year. I was blown away by how fun this book was and how much I was sucked into the terrifying world. I’m almost tempted to read The Bone Clocks, almost. This is a great book to read around Halloween to add a new level of ‘creep’ to the fall. I recommend this book for anyone 16 and up.

7. A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab. I hope I’m still going to agree with this when I read the sequel, which I plan to do next year. It’s been a while since I was sucked into a fantasy world as quickly as Schwab grabbed me. I’m vested in these characters and there were a few times I got excited because I think I figured out what happens in the next books. I recommend this book for fans of YA, ideally 14-19 plus adults who enjoy the genre.

6. Brooklyn by Colm Toibin. This was a great book with a slow build-up and a great reward for enjoying it thoroughly. I thought there were some rich characters and Eillis’s struggle really hit me. The awesome movie helped, I’m sure. I think the historical setting helped me enjoy it even more. I think this book would appeal most to women 16 and older.

5. Carry On by Rainbow Rowell. This is the third year out of three years that Rowell has made the list. I didn’t realize she was one of my favorite authors! I was super skeptical of this book at first. I thought it would be too much like Harry Potter and it would be so unoriginal that I couldn’t enjoy it. But then I got hooked. It was a lot of Rowell’s amazing writing style but it was also some good plot structure that I really got into. I recommend this book for primarily women ages 16-30. I HIGHLY recommend reading Fangirl first because the two are closely tied.

4. Norwegian by Night by Derek B. Miller. I really enjoyed this contemporary work, more than I normally do. Sheldon was a bit unreliable, but only enough that you weren’t sure if you could trust him, which was great. I thought Miller did a great job of making Sheldon the villain and the hero at the same time and I loved the adventures they went on. I recommend this book for readers over 16.

3. Once Upon a River by Bonnie Jo Campbell. Maybe I have a recency bias with this title, but I really enjoyed the story of Margo living on the river. I was a bit put off by the ending, but I could live with it because the story and the characters won me over.  It helps that this story took place in my home state and that I love the area where Margo lived. I recommend this book for women 18 and older.

2. Bellwether by Connie Willis. This was my type of Science Fiction. It was fiction about scientists in a lab in the 1990s (contemporary at its time). Sandra had an amazing voice to narrate this book which kept it fun and teasing. It was great to look at the fads Sandra studied and I’m not sure how she kept from laughing at her coworkers all the time. I recommend this book for women 18 and up.

And #1 is…….


1. The Ice Cream Queen of Orchard Street by Susan Jane Gilman. Talk about a great voice! The voice of Lillian was amazing and I loved how she called the readers ‘Darling’ like Lillian was telling the story on her fun-house show. The setting of this one won me over again and I think Gilman did a great job of using the time periods to make her characters and story come alive. I can’t remember who recommended this one to me, but thank you to whoever that was. This book is great for women over 16.

What were your favorite books of 2016? Are you surprised by anything on my list? I hope to find an equally good crop in 2017 to fill out another great list. If you want to check out last year’s list, click here and click here for 2015’s list. Have a great year and happy reading!

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

2015 Reading Year End Review: Top 10 Reads

4 Jan

I did this last year and it was so fun I decided to do it again! I read some amazing books in 2015 but I thought about it and I picked my top 10! I’ll list them here for you to ponder and disagree with. I listed age/gender recommendations for them if you’re thinking of getting a gift or tackling one yourself. Again, this is all opinion, but these are my favorites.

10. Waiting to be Heard by Amanda Knox. I’m a sucker for memoirs and with the Amanda Knox trial popping into and out of the news, I wanted to hear what she had to say. I went to study abroad in Spain soon after the Knox trial broke so I’ve always thought of it as a ‘What If’ to my life. Knox is a great writer and her story is so twisted it’s hard not to be engrossed. I recommend it for anyone 18+.

9. Dark Places by Gillian Flynn. This is the second  year Flynn comes in at #9 on my list. Weird. I liked Gone Girl so I had some expectations of what Dark Places would be like. I was not disappointed. I liked the unlikable Libby and even though I TOTALLY CALLED the ending, I was engrossed the whole time. I recommend it for anyone over 18 though I think women would enjoy it more.

8. Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner. My second Stegner book and, again, I’m not disappointed. He has a mastery of the English language I can only hope to imitate. The story is basic, two couples going through their young adult years together, but we grow to love them beyond reason. I recommend this book for men and women over 20.

7. The Round House by Louise Erdrich. How a grown woman can write like a boy and do it this well is beyond me. The character is able to look back on his youth and it allows the book to transcend age and cover adult problems from a child’s perspective. I thought Erdrich did this wonderfully. I recommend it for readers 16+ and think men especially would enjoy it.

6. Bird Box by Josh Malerman. I’m not being biased toward Michigan authors, but this is only the first on the list. Malerman wrote an amazing horror story. It’s a genre I don’t read often (if ever) but thank God for book clubs! I loved this book and finishing it in a dark tent while I wanted for my husband added to the creepy factor for a delicious effect. I recommend the book to readers 16+

5. Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell. This is Rowell’s second year on my list as well. I’ve read a lot of Rowell’s books and what I absolutely love about them is that the characters are frighteningly real. I could swear parts of Eleanor’s life were from my adolescence and other parts from my friend’s. Her books address real issues in a startling light and I’m so glad there’s an author in our time who can talk about the things Rowell addresses, in this case, abuse. I recommend this book for female readers 16+.

4. The Girls at the Kingfisher Club by Genevieve Valentine. The setting of this book alone sold me. 1920s? I’m in. Add into that a great fairy tale retelling and a strong female protagonist. I loved the 12 sisters, their bond, and their devotion to each other. I recommend this book to women 16+.

3. The Martian by Andy Weir. I’m sure this book will be on a lot of ‘top books’ lists and it deserves it. Weir told a great story with a main character who’s completely alone and wins us over with his voice alone. Amazing. Watney is someone I want to be friends with or, at least, share a beer with. He’s a very three-dimensional and I think America fell in love with him. I recommend the book for any reader over 16.

2. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. I knew this book would end up on this list when I couldn’t get a single thing done until I finished it. I was blown away by the characters and how much Mandel had thought through the world they were living in. The society was very realistic and it was frighteningly easy to picture. I recommend it for readers over 16 though I think women are more likely to enjoy it.


AND my #1 book of 2015

Penumbra1. Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan. This was the best audiobook choice I’ve made, hands down. We had an eight-hour each way drive to Southern Indiana and it was a breeze with this book to listen to. Sloan is my second Michigan author on this list, by the way. I loved the puzzle Sloan put together in this book and the way that we found out the mystery plus the characters we meet along the way. I’m smiling think about it. I recommend this book to anyone who hasn’t read it yet, especially men 16-35.

What were your favorite books of 2015? Are you surprised by anything on my list? I hope to find an equally good crop in 2016 to fill out another great list. If you want to check out last year’s list, click here. Have a great year and happy reading!

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

2014 Reading Year End Review: Top 10 Reads

6 Jan

I read some amazing books in 2014. Yes, there were some duds mixed in, but I want to concentrate here on the awesomely amazing ones that I think  you all should read. So I’ve decided to do a Top 10 list for the books I read and say a few words about their amazingness. I’ve given age/gender recommendations for all of them, but in reality, I enjoyed them and I think anyone can.

10. Wild by Cheryl Strayed. This was a solid book club selection. The character progression was great. Strayed seemed whiny and self-centered at first, but by the end of her trip, she was very self-sufficient and ready to get on with her life. Kudos to her. I recommend this for women 20+.

9. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. For the way this one screwed with my mind alone it’s on this list. Flynn wrote in such an engaging way that I ignored house chores for two days to finish it. This is really a great thriller, which is a genre I don’t read very often, though this made me want to. I recommend this for anyone over 16.

8. A Hologram for the King by Dave Eggers. I was that weird kid in school who loved Waiting for Godot and to me, that’s the closest thing I can compare this book to. It was so true to life that the characters were just kind of floating along. I’m not sure if I’ll see the movie of this that’s promised next year, but it was a great book. I recommend this for men 30+.

7. The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett. Wow, this book. It was so full of action and moving characters that really amazed me. It’s a great example of historical fiction and a book I know has been recommended me to a number of times. The only daunting thing is its length, which is why it’s not closer to the top of this list. I recommend this for any historical fiction lover, ages 18+.

6. Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn. I love books written in diary or letter formats so this was perfect for me. It was a quick read and it was so much fun to read because of the story and how it talked about words and letters. I mean, is there anything better for a book lover? My book club adored it. I recommend it to anyone (though I think women would prefer it) 14+.

5. Looking for Alaska by John Green. If I hadn’t been in the car with someone while I listened to this, I might have cried. John Green is great at making me want to cry and I think he would be proud of that. A really great story about how to deal with changes in life and how to move on from tragedy. Great for teenagers (13-17) but anyone who likes well written YA would enjoy it.

4. These Is My Words by Nancy E. Turner. Once I got past the beginning where the narrator couldn’t use proper grammar, I really enjoyed the fast paced events of this novel. Turner brought the old west to life in a way I haven’t seen before. I would hesitate to call this a Western, but it had parts of that to it. Great historical fiction would be a better way to classify it. I’d recommend this to women 20+.

3. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell. Having some distance from this novel has made me like it more. I could relate to the characters Rowell created so much that it scared me. She did a great job of exploring a college student’s insecurities and giving nerd-girls a character to root for. I recommend this for any woman who writes or has written fan fiction and women 18-30.

2. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. I did not expect to like this book so much but wow. It really stole my breath away. A great story that I’d compare to Ender’s Game in awesomeness. I recommend this for boys 13-18.

AND my #1 book of 2014

1. The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach. This book… wow. Because of this book, I always finish book club books. I never know how much one can surprise me because this one was so good. This is the book I recommend to people who are ‘looking for something good’ to read. I recommend it to everyone reading this. It’s not a sports book and you don’t have to know anything about baseball to enjoy it. This is a great story about life. While I think everyone should read it, I’d say especially those in college, 18-25 males.

What were your favorite books of 2014? Are you surprised by anything on my list? I hope to find an equally good crop in 2015 to fill out another great list. Have a great year and happy reading!

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!