My criteria for what makes these books stand out as my all time favorite fiction books, is much the same as I had for my early post on my all time favorite NONFICTION books. You can read that post HERE.
All of these books have the following in common:
- I am taken to a place I’ve never been.
- I learn about a subject I previously had very little knowledge of.
- I am immersed in the story.
- The story is like nothing I’ve read before.
- I remember it years later.
Memoirs of a Geisha
By Arthur Golden
Published in 1997
To Purchase: Memoirs of a Geisha
This story transports you so intimately into the life of a Japanese geisha. A geisha is not a prostitute as Westerners sometimes assume. A geisha is an artist. To be taken into a world that I previously had very little knowledge of was captivating. A geisha must master the arts of music, dance, and clever conversation. The author spent 10 years researching every detail of geisha culture, and found inspiration from real life geisha Mineko Iwasaki. I thought it was a dreamy world to live in for 434 pages!
The Da Vinci Code
By Dan Brown
Published in 2003
To Purchase: The Da Vinci Code
This book is an intriguing puzzle. You have a dead body inside the Louvre museum in Paris; you have a trail of clues hidden inside the works of DaVinci; you have a secret society whose members included Sir Isaac Newton, Botticelli, and DaVinci to name a few; you have a faceless adversary who shadows Langdon’s every move; and you have a deeply hidden Holy Grail. Dan Brown takes you on a thrill ride through the cathedrals and castles of Europe.
The Kite Runner
By Khaled Hosseini
Published in 2003
To Purchase: The Kite Runner
This is a beautifully written story about the friendship between the son of a wealthy Kabul merchant and the son of his father’s servant. Between the boys, there is no difference in class, until an unexpected incident causes an unforgivable act of betrayal. This is a story that spans decades during a tumultuous time in Afghanistan’s history.
The Time Traveler’s Wife
By Audrey Niffenegger
Published in 2003
To Purchase: The Time Traveler’s Wife
Such a unique debut novel about a man who has a rare disorder that causes his genetic clock to reset periodically, sending him to different time periods in his life. This is a love story that follows Clare and Henry as they navigate their relationship – Clare as she ages chronologically, and Henry, popping up at all different ages.
I also loved Audrey Niffenegger’s second novel, Her Fearful Symmetry, which also has magical realism in it. This time, centered around two sisters and their aunt, who has bequeathed to them her London flat, but is having trouble adjusting to the afterlife. You will need to suspend your disbelief of the supernatural for this one, but I loved the creepiness of the afterlife, the setting of Highgate Cemetery in London, and all the quirky characters in the apartment building where they live. I feel like Audrey Niffenegger does magical realism so well. She makes her stories accessible to regular readers like me who don’t normally like the supernatural.
Water for Elephants
By Sara Gruen
Published in 2006
To Purchase: Water for Elephants
I had never read a story that takes place within a circus before, so I was caught up in this traveling group of misfits. It’s not all glitz and glamour – far from it. It’s a low budget circus during the time of the depression. The atmosphere and characters are so richly drawn, the story is captivating, and the ending is satisfying. It’s a love story of sorts, but as with any love story, the road can be rocky.
By Lisa Genova
Published in 2009
To Purchase: Still Alice
This book blew me away. The story is told from inside the mind of a 50 year old woman who is suffering from early onset Alzheimer’s. It’s brilliantly written. When Alice, who is an accomplished professor at Harvard, goes to a faculty event, she doesn’t recognize one of her students, but what makes the scene so memorable is how we see it play out from Alice’s perspective.
The notes Alice writes to herself reminding her what to do if things get so bad that she can’t handle it anymore, is also a unique aspect running through the story. It’s a sad story, because it is about Alzheimer’s, but is still so beautifully written from a unique perspective.
Devotion of Suspect X
By Keigo Higashino
Published in 2011
To Purchase: The Devotion of Suspect X
The author, Keigo Higashino, is one of the biggest selling fiction authors in Japan. I don’t remember how I was introduced to his books, but once I was, I’ve continued to read every one. He writes in a way that I rarely experience – it’s like a slow, calculated, step-by-step unveiling.
In The Devotion of Suspect X, it’s no mystery that the female protagonist in this story murders her ex-husband and enlists the help of her neighbor to cover it up. The cat and mouse game begins because the police have no clues and cannot prove that the ex-wife is the murderer – they only sense something is amiss in her story. Agatha Christie fans or anyone who loves a good police procedural will enjoy this.
The Night Circus
By Erin Morgenstern
Published in 2011
To Purchase: The Night Circus
I loved the world that Erin Morgenstern created with The Night Circus. It is magical, creative, charming, enchanting, fantastical… I better stop with the adjectives before you vomit, but you get the picture, right? So did I – the author created this great imaginary world that I enjoyed living in for the length of the book.
The circus mysteriously arrives at different locations, without any advanced warning, and only at night. Behind the scenes, there is a fierce competition that takes place between the two main characters, Celia and Marco. They come from different backgrounds, but are both trained in their own unique art of magic. If Harry Potter and The Hunger Games had a baby, it would be The Night Circus!
State of Wonder
By Ann Patchett
Published in 2011
To Purchase: State of Wonder
Dr. Marina Singh is sent into the Amazon jungle to find her former mentor, Dr. Annick Swenson, who has disappeared while working on an important new fertility drug that her pharmaceutical company is spending millions on to fund. Getting there is an adventure in itself. The research was being done in this tiny, remote village where this tribe of people were able to procreate well past middle aged. This atmospheric novel is not necessarily fast paced, but Ann Patchett’s writing is something to be admired and which held my interest throughout. I was completely transported into the Amazon jungle which I found so captivating.
Published in 2014
To Purchase: Gone Girl
The book that started an avalanche of twisty psychological thrillers. What mystery/suspense book blogger’s list would be complete without mention of this book?! It was so unexpected at the time, and completely had my jaw hanging open. If you’ve been living under a rock, and don’t know anything about this book, it starts with the disappearance of Nick’s wife. While the investigation is going on, Nick makes some poor choices and exhibits inappropriate behavior. Could it really be that cut and dry? That the husband is the number one suspect? It was so much fun to find out!
I’d love to hear what some of your favorite fiction books are!