The readers have spoken! Heart-pounding thrillers. Beautiful historical fiction. Powerful literary novels. Here are the 10 most popular book recommendations on Off the Shelf this year. We have to admit, you guys have pretty great taste.
“I love character-driven thrillers, and this book was geared perfectly for me. But—more than the type of book—there’s something more, something that lingers, that keeps me coming back to it. Ultimately, DESCENT is more than a mystery or an exploration of a family in the aftermath of a tragedy: it’s a story about resilience, and the many facets of the endurance of the human spirit—to survive, to hope, to go on.”
The Courtland family is taking one last vacation in the Rocky Mountains before their daughter leaves for college. But when Caitlin and her younger brother, Sean, go out for an early morning run and only Sean returns, the mountains become as terrifying as they are majestic.
Read our review of DESCENT here.
“A quirky and utterly charming story about a community wrought with secrets and two girls learning what it means to belong, THE TROUBLE WITH GOATS AND SHEEP has it all—endearing characters, an enticing plot, pitch-perfect prose, and expertly executed touches of humor and humanity.”
“Back in March, I went to DC to visit my college roommate and I was a terribly rude houseguest. I blame Laura McBride. It’s not my fault that I started her new novel, ’ROUND MIDNIGHT, on the bus ride and was so spellbound by the beautiful and compelling story that I couldn’t put it down all weekend. Spanning 60 years in Las Vegas, ’ROUND MIDNIGHT follows the lives of four women whose stories are connected through a small nightclub.”
“It’s suspenseful, a mystery, a thriller, and a character study with nods to classic literature and theater. And at the risk of being labeled the hackiest writer of all time, EVERYTHING YOU WANT ME TO BE is everything you want a novel to be.”
Full of twists and turns, EVERYTHING YOU WANT ME TO BE reconstructs a year in the life of a dangerously mesmerizing young woman, during which a small town’s darkest secrets come to the forefront . . . and she inches closer and closer to her death.
Read our review of EVERYTHING YOU WANT ME TO BE here.
“Like other perennial top picks on bookstore displays, such as THE ROSIE PROJECT, WHERE’D YOU GO, BERNADETTE, and A MAN CALLED OVE, this little novel with the whimsical jacket packs an emotional punch for which you might not be prepared. These books tick all the boxes for an unforgettable and recommendable read: fresh narrative voices, moments of hilarity in ordinary absurdity, and the kinds of relationships that make you want to reread discussions and heartfelt declarations between the characters again and again.”
Ted and his elderly dachshund are at the center of this story of steadfast companionship, loss, and longing that will break your heart and put it back together again. The two share a comfortable life spent chatting about boys, playing board games, and ordering pizza just so Lily can bark at the delivery boy. But then the Octopus arrives and their simple little world begins to change. By turns hilarious and poignant, LILY AND THE OCTOPUS is a book you’ll never stop talking (and crying) about.
“If you’ve ever felt like an outsider, if you’ve ever felt nervous about becoming close with someone, you may find something sympathetic and reassuring in this novel’s thoughtful, solitary protagonist. I certainly did.”
“OUR SOULS AT NIGHT is a deceptively benign story that is, in fact, a searing indictment of the cruelty humans are capable of inflicting upon those they are supposed to love. Haruf makes a quiet plea for compassion, for us to allow one another the freedom to love and be loved on our own terms.”
Seventy-year-old widow Addie Moore makes a surprising proposal to her neighbor Louis Waters, a 70-year-old widower. What follows is the engaging story of two isolated people finding solace in each other’s company, falling in love, sharing memories, and reflecting on their lives—their joys, regrets, fears.
Read our review of OUR SOULS AT NIGHT here.
“Many might read the novel and take away its meditations on wartime morality, meticulously researched history, or simply the gorgeously written characters, but its most telling feature for me is its dedication to celebrating human connection. Just as love blooms in the correspondence of EVERYONE BRAVE IS FORGIVEN, so, too, does this everyday celebration of resilience and human emotion make a lasting impression.”
From the beloved author of LITTLE BEE comes this masterful historical novel set in London during the blitz. Inspired by the real-life love letters between Chris Cleave’s grandparents, EVERYONE BRAVE IS FORGIVEN is a moving wartime love story. Against the great theater of world events, it is the small battles and the daily human triumphs that change us the most.
Read a review of EVERYONE BRAVE IS FORGIVEN here.
“SING, UNBURIED, SING deftly examines the ugly truths at the heart of the American story and the power—and limitations—of family bonds. Few writers possess Ward’s artfulness, and fewer still write about topics more relevant—justice and injustice, poverty, incarceration, racial profiling, family, drug abuse, faith, the limits and the limitlessness of love. Her incredibly skillful writing makes these topics digestible.”
“I was feeling adrift. It had been forever since a book had gripped me viscerally and not let me go until the final page. THE NORTH WATER by Ian McGuire was the cure for my every literary ennui. Beyond being a book I couldn’t put down, it was one I didn’t want to finish, realizing on the very first page how rare a reading experience this would be.”