Happy holidays, friends! It’s that time of year again. Mistletoe and roaring fires, roasted chestnuts and creamy hot chocolate. And books. Curling up with a good one over the holidays. Or buying them for friends.
Which is why it’s a great time to sit down and take stock of my reading for the year…and offer up my recommendations.
So far this year, I have read 73 books, including some unpublished manuscripts that I can’t talk about publicly yet (boo) and several chapter books in Portuguese.
I also DNFed (Did Not Finish) 26+ books, of which I read anywhere from one chapter to half the book before putting it down (for a wide variety of reasons). I also read, skimmed, or spot-read some heftier history texts for research (though I generally only include commercial history books in my actual for-fun reading lists).
So, what were my favorites? What am I looking forward to next year? And why did I love what I loved? Read on to find out.
(Please note that links below are affiliate links, which means if you click through and purchase something, I get a small commission at no extra cost to you.)
(Books marked with an * were written by a writer from a marginalized group. By supporting these authors, you’re telling publishers we want more books from underrepresented authors.)
First up…did you know I wrote two books you can buy or pre-order now?
Not included in the above reading numbers is the ridiculous number of times I read and re-read my own work, honing each into a book ready to be in the hands of other readers.
If you haven’t grabbed your copies yet, The Wicked Unseen is available for pre-order now (and psst…sometimes pre-orders ship early, so if you want to be the first with a copy in your hands, now’s your moment). It’s a comedic horror novel set during the 1990s Satanic Panic, in which a new girl moves to town just before Halloween and then the pastor’s daughter disappears.
And for adult historical romance fans, The Empress (of Netflix fame) is out now. It follows the story of Empress Sisi before she was empress.
Best new book you read (not including re-reads):
Kaikeyi is a retelling of an Indian myth from the perspective of its villain (and you know how I love anything told through the lens of a villainous woman). Rich Young Widows was an extremely ridiculous ROMP of a book, set during the 80s and featuring four women whose dead spouses left them their law firm…and the shady mob business that went with it. And Her Majesty’s Royal Coven was pitched as “what if the Spice Girls were witches”?
In non-fiction, Solutions and Other Problems* is the standout. If you need a laugh, the author always delivers.
Most surprising (in a good or bad way) book you read?
Ahhh, I wish I could talk about this unpublished manuscript I read (and don’t worry, I will be talking about it later because it has definitely been picked up for film rights…just everything is still hush-hush). I laughed, then I gasped, then I wept. Like full-on, choke-weeping, can’t see the book through my tears.
Other than that heavy hitter, I don’t think many books surprised me this year. I had plenty of love moments, but no big “holy shit, wasn’t expecting that” moments.
Favorite new author you discovered?
Best book from a genre you don’t typically read?
As I told the Learning the Tropes podcast, I’m not genre-monogamous. So there isn’t really a genre I won’t kiss…errr, read. And as I surveyed what I read this year, nothing was really that far outside my comfort zone. The farthest I strayed from my comfort was Cherish Ferrah*, which went too far into body horror for me (and thus wasn’t a favorite read).
Most action-packed/thrilling/unputdownable book of the year?
Not including the favs already mentioned above, The Lies I Tell by Julie Clark lives in my head rent-free (Julie Clark in general can have my money; after The Last Flight, I will pick up anything she wants to write).
Which book would you be most likely to re-read?
Most memorable character?
I would stab a bitch for Krystal in Rich Young Widows*. She is a mess, and she is my mess. The main characters in Kaikeyi* and Bad Witch Burning* also always have my attention. Messy women and girls club for life.
Most beautifully written book?
Call Down the Hawk*. Maggie Stiefvater’s writing always has this dream-like quality without being distracting. I aspire to that level of prose (and hers are books I re-read when I need to feel inspired).
Which book was most fun to read/put a smile on your face?
Rich Young Widows* and Her Majesty’s Royal Coven* were both ROMPS. Patricia Wants to Cuddle* was also weird af in a fabulous way. On the non-fiction side, Girly Drinks is super fun (an exploration of the history of women and alcohol!).
Any other books you want to tell us about?
In addition to the books mentioned above, I also recommend The Female of the Species and Be Not Far From Me if you like dark thrillers (and with Mindy McGinnis, no happy endings guaranteed). Choose Lobizona* if you’ve been craving a werewolf story. And don’t sleep on The Collective if you’re looking for a revenge thriller.
On the non-fiction side, Cultish (an exploration of cults), Because Internet (an exploration of how the internet has shaped language), Whipping Girl* (an exploration of gender), and The Body is Not an Apology* (an exploration of fatness/fatphobia/body positivity) all deserve a mention.
Books you’re most excited to read next year?
Yesss, I love this question. It doesn’t come out until 2024, but I’m going to bully, beg, and plead for a copy of Bethany Baptiste’s The Poisons We Drink* next year. I’m also obsessed with the title of Reader, I Murdered Him. And Emily Varga better give me an advance copy of For She Is Wrath* or else.
And I still need to work through a lot of the amazing-sounding books already on my shelves, including London Snow Falling* by Hayden Stone (queer romance), Orleans* by Sherri Smith (dystopia), and Dead End Girls by Wendy Heard (thriller).
My goal to read more books by marginalized authors
For the last few years, I also challenged myself to read at least one book per month by an author of color, one book per month by a queer author, and one book per month by a disabled/mentally ill/chronically ill author. There are a number of reasons I made this specific goal, including the fact that publishing tends to give marginalized authors less marketing support and less PR coverage, which means if you aren’t seeking these books out, you might simply not hear of them, even though they’re great.
I’ll be undertaking the same challenge next year and I hope you’ll join me, especially if you’ve never challenged yourself in this way before.
My reading habits, broken down:
Because I’m a big ol’ nerd, I also made a chart. Here’s the breakdown of what I read this year, genre-wise:
As you can see above, this year really fell into four genre buckets: thriller/horror, SFF, historical fiction, and non-fiction. Non-fiction is the heavy hitter here, with a lot of those books being history-related (not surprising). And I’m super proud to say I finished four books in Portuguese, including one adult book (the rest were chapter books).
What have been your favorite reads so far this year?