When I was a freshman, I struggled with finding time to read for fun while managing classwork, extracurriculars, and general social activities (plus, the reading burnout from textbooks is very real). It was only after we got sent home last spring that I was able to rediscover my childhood love for reading and really find my niche of books that I love. (I also love making lists, so from these two passions this idea was born).
**Disclaimer: I do not plan on spoiling any of these books, and generally am a big rambler when it comes to talking about the books I love. I care about them too much to have a coherent thought.**
- Britt-Marie Was Here & A Man Called Ove – Fredrik Backman
If you know me even a little bit, you’ve probably heard me obsess over Fredrik Backman at some point. He is my favorite author, hands down, which is why I decided to combine the first two books into one section—I’m self-aware enough to know that I would repeat myself if I separated them. Two books, one author, one section to gush about them. Cool? Cool.
Fredrik Backman is a Swedish author who has mastered the art of making me cry, something I look for in every book I read—I even have a rule that I won’t rate a book five stars on Goodreads if it didn’t make me cry. Backman writes about people, often the outcasts and curmudgeons of the world. He writes about communities and found families, which is why I love him to the extent that I do. Rarely do I find books that I read purely because I care about the characters, the plot coming as an afterthought, but Backman’s novels are just that (of course, this isn’t to say that his plots are bad, as they are incredibly well thought out—I’m just saying that I love him for his characters).
Every time I begin one of his books (I’ve now read four—these two, My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry, and Anxious People), I wonder if it will be the one to break the chain and not make me fall in love with the characters (spoiler alert: this has yet to happen).
- The Sun Down Motel – Simone St. James
I read this book in one Sunday, sitting at my kitchen table. It follows two parallel stories. One follows the character Viv in the year 1982. She moves to the small town of Fell and begins working the night shift at the local motel while investigating the disappearances of local teen girls. The other story takes place in 2017 and follows Viv’s niece Carly, who is investigating the disappearance of her aunt.
This book is by no means perfect—I was pretty critical of it for the first half (and absolutely loved the second half, once I immersed myself in the world). My favorite part of the experience was reading it in one day because it allowed me to fully become a part of the book and get progressively more shocked by every twist and turn (this is a formal apology to my roommates, who heard me gasp very loudly every thirty minutes).
The Sun Down Motel won’t necessarily make it on my “top books of the year” list, but it was definitely a fun read.
- The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo – Taylor Jenkins Reid
When reading this book, I thought that it might just be the one to make me break my “five stars ONLY if I cry” rule. I didn’t think that it would make me cry but still believed that it deserved five stars.
The joke was on me. It turned out that yes, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo absolutely deserves five stars, but I cannot deny that it made me cry. There were moments when I could not see the page because my vision was so blurred (and yet I plowed forward because I could not put it down). I couldn’t even get up to get a tissue because I was too invested to stop reading.
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo employs the oral history format, following journalist Monique as she interviews the elusive Hollywood star Evelyn Hugo, determined to find out which of her many husbands was the love of Evelyn’s life (I won’t spoil it, but I absolutely adored the story). I completely understand why the whole world was obsessed with Evelyn for so long, and why everyone wanted to know her story. From the second she started speaking, I, too, fell in love with her.
The “big twist” could probably have been predicted with just a bit of thought—generally, I try to avoid figuring out what will happen—but it didn’t diminish how I felt when it was revealed.
It’s hard to talk about this book without simply gushing about how much I loved it but also, I don’t care, that is what I will continue to do. Read this book as soon as you possibly can.
- The Final Revival of Opal & Nev – Dawnie Walton
The Final Revival of Opal & Nev is also written in the oral history format, although it switched perspective much more frequently than The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo does (in the sense that it switches perspective at all). It took me a bit longer to adjust to the format—I kept forgetting to look at who was speaking—and to get into the plot in general, but overall, I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Similar to The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, The Final Revival of Opal & Nev tells the story of how musical artists and ‘70s rock legends Opal Jewel and Nev Charles began working together and eventually rose to stardom. A major part of their journey out of obscurity comes when a rival band signed to Opal & Nev’s label represents themselves with a Confederate flag at a promotional concert. Opal’s protest against the symbol and the violence that follows skyrockets the duo into the limelight, positioning the two (specifically Opal) as faces of the revolution.
As the interviews are being conducted (and Opal considers a reunion tour with Nev), the journalist and daughter of Opal’s former lover S. Sunny Shelton takes the opportunity to understand exactly what happened at the riots that killed her father.
I don’t want to spoil anything, but I absolutely loved this book; once I really got into the book I couldn’t put it down.
If I were to make this list even a week later, it would definitely be different—I’m currently reading two books by Emily Henry that I absolutely love—but at least for now, these are my favorite books I read this semester.