13 of Off the Shelf’s Favorite Book Recommendations from 2016

Off the Shelf is made possible by a small group of passionate readers who love nothing more than discovering fantastic books and sharing them with Off the Shelf readers. We recommend books that move us to laughter and tears—and everything in between. It gives us great pleasure to offer you a collection of our favorite single-title recommendations from 2016. Trust us when we say, “You’ve got to read this!”

Euphoria
by Lily King

“The engine that propels this juicy, smart novel is desire—sexual and intellectual, essential and existential. It seeps out of every sentence, filling the reader with the longing of the characters.” - Molly Prentiss

Gone to Soldiers
by Marge Piercy

“Upon finishing GONE TO SOLDIERS, I immediately recommended it to several friends, my mother, and my sister. I went to social media and wrote the same message to all: this is a book you need to read—all 750+ pages of it. It’s a beautiful story that will leave you haunted, as the characters are, by a war that shattered so many lives.”

Read the full review by Erin Flaaen here.

The Spellman Files
by Lisa Lutz

“There’s something delightfully endearing about Lisa Lutz’s kinetic and quirky THE SPELLMAN FILES. It reads like a well-scripted television sitcom/family drama and, considering Lutz’s screenwriting background, that vibe makes perfect sense. As soon as I’d finished reading this offbeat novel, I wanted to binge-read the rest of the books in the series.”

Read the full review by Allison Tyler here.

Different Seasons
by Stephen King

“You’ll find the themes of hope and innocence weaved throughout the four novellas that comprise Stephen King’s DIFFERENT SEASONS, warped and broken as they may seem. The ways in which they’re tested, sustained, mangled, or transformed are often uncomfortable but always captivating.”

Read the full review by Amar Deol here.

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves
by Karen Joy Fowler

“WE ARE ALL COMPLETELY BESIDE OURSELVES is one of those completely absorbing books that makes the rest of the world disappear, while at the same time reminding us all too clearly of the world we come from and its occasional cruelty.”

Read the full review by Midge Raymond here.

The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl
by Issa Rae

“I’ve spent much of my twenties trying to come to terms with my awkwardness, cringing months—years, even—after any given social misstep. Enter Issa Rae, the queen of graceless girls like me. Her web series “The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl” and hilarious resulting memoir provide an uncannily accurate and helpful guide for navigating the world as an awkward black girl.”

Read the full review by Tolani Osan here.

The Elegance of the Hedgehog
by Muriel Barbery

“The novel contains all the hallmarks of a modern French classic: quirky characters prone to fatalistic philosophical musings, action set against the florid backdrop of a ritzy hôtel particulier in bourgeois Paris, vivid voyeuristic depictions of the residents’ interior lives—and just a touch of playful pretention.”

Read the full review by Hilary Krutt here.

The Age of Miracles
by Karen Thompson Walker

“THE AGE OF MIRACLES was so frightening because the apocalypse begins as an annoyance, like a lipstick that has melted. Walker’s greatest device is that the end of the world comes incrementally, almost casually, and each turned page winds the reader just a little more tightly.”

Read the full review by Richard Fifield here.

The Song of Achilles
by Madeline Miller

“I’ve always thought that a good book should be either the entry point inward, to learn about yourself, or a door outward, to open you up to new worlds. With THE SONG OF ACHILLES, Madeline Miller gave me both.”

Read the full review by Taylor Jenkins Reid here.

The Interestings
by Meg Wolitzer

“Like any good friend group, Wolitzer’s novel has a little bit of everything. There’s romance, there’s comedy, there’s drama, there’s sadness, and there’s an undeniable, everlasting devotion to the people you take the journey with.”

Read the full review by Julianna Haubner here.

Crazy Love You
by Lisa Unger

“I am a scaredy-cat. I can’t get past the opening credits of ‘American Horror Story,’ the poster for ‘The Silence of the Lambs’ gave me nightmares for months, and I still can’t look at a spider without wanting to cry. So maybe reading Lisa Unger’s CRAZY LOVE YOU wasn’t the best idea for me. But I am so glad I did, and I want everyone else to experience this horrifying and wonderful book, too.”

Read the full review by Leora Bernstein here.

Bee Season
by Myla Goldberg

“When asked about how she structured the novel, Goldberg said in an interview with Grendel.org, ‘I did write it very consciously to get darker and stronger as it continues. I wanted it at first to be [a] sunny, happy . . . read, and to lull people into this sense of complacency and then hit them over the head.’ As I read BEE SEASON, I was pleased to find just that; what begins with a child’s small victory leads to the unraveling of a family.”

Read the full review by Sarah Jane Abbott here.

Eight Hundred Grapes
by Laura Dave

“Laura Dave takes what seems to be a romantic comedy and spins it into a thoughtful meditation on the nature of love, partnership, and family—and what it means to take your life into your own hands.” - Elizabeth Breeden