I absolutely adore giving my favorite backlist titles their own time to shine, so let’s not waste any time because these are some absolutely fantastic books and I don’t want you to miss out on them if you kept putting them off like me. I will say, these books are in no particular order because I could not have ranked them if you had threatened me.
The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware
“Better to achieve perfect marks on an easy test than flunk a hard one, that was my motto.”
This thriller was incredibly terrifying and super well done. I wasn’t expecting to enjoy it nearly as much as I did, but I loved it. I still think about that ending. Technically I wanted more from the ending. Much more. But I definitely thought it was amazing. This one is about a nanny who finds herself basically living in the house from Smart House and the house seems haunted and there’s a real poison garden out on the grounds. The vibes of this book!!!
A Madness of Sunshine by Nalini Singh
“The way it had been displayed, the way it had been discarded, that was a thing too many men had done to too many women across time.”
Nalini is really the reason I picked up a thriller again and we all know Nalini so we should all know that I loved A Madness of Sunshine. I thought this thriller was remarkably well crafted and I enjoyed it immensely. The audiobook narration is exquisite and so atmospheric. I’m not the most visual reader so Nalini’s ability to actually evoke the New Zealand setting is so remarkably helpful to me as a reader. Plus, I thought she wove the romance together perfectly and I loved it so much.
Burnout by Emily Nagoski and Amelia Nagoski
“To be “well” is not to live in a state of perpetual safety and calm, but to move fluidly from a state of adversity, risk, adventure, or excitement, back to safety and calm, and out again. Stress is not bad for you; being stuck is bad for you.
This book was an unexpected gift in 2020 as one of my last reads. I think that it is really well done with the way that it combines science and vignettes and just really does such a brilliant job of articulating practical ways to close the stress cycle and explaining how that’s different than dealing with a stressor. I already know I’m going to need to read it again and again to really take every crumb from it that I can because I know that I’ve been fast approaching and have likely crashed headfirst into burnout and need to find my way out of here. One of the things I really appreciated about this book was the section about how to decide to stay or go. Honestly, I just think this book is a complete game changer for me.
Small Change by Roan Parrish
“I don’t really think my job is to make myself easy to like,” I bit off. It had been the hardest lesson to learn; taken the longest to believe, since everything insisted the opposite. I still had to repeat it in my head sometimes, and even then it didn’t always work.“
One of my most highlighted books of all time, Small Change is such a perfect book for me as a person. I love Ginger and her prickly ways and her fierce determination to do everything her way because she fought hard for this independence. And how can you not love Chris? He is the sweetest cinnamon roll to have ever lived and he’s so achingly beautiful in how he loves the people in his life.
The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics by Olivia Waite
“What I meant to say is: I’ve learned some since then. Loving someone shouldn’t be the end of anything. It should be a beginning.”
This book really is an exploration of loneliness and connection and the importance of finding your people, not just your person. It follows Lucy Mulcheny, who responds to a letter asking her to recommend someone to translate an astronomy text by showing up at the widowed Countess of Moth’s country home. She and Catherine slowly take steps toward becoming friends and then into being more than that. This book is gorgeously written and is, similar to Small Change, one of my most highlighted books of all time.
The Rogue of Fifth Avenue by Joanna Shupe
Why had he ever considered her audacity a defect?
Mamie and Frank’s love story was absolutely brilliant and swept me off my feet. I love this cover, but more than the cover, I found myself falling completely head over heels for the book inside the cover. Mamie is essentially playing a modern day Robin Hood and is taking the money she earns in the casinos she’s not supposed to be in to the parts of town she is not supposed to be in. Her father’s lawyer knows he has to intervene because scandal is ruinous, but instead Frank finds himself utterly captivated and contemplating risking it all for Mamie. I loved it.
The Chocolate Kiss by Laura Florand
She had just undone him utterly with a few words and might, or might not, be willing to mold him back together again.
Honestly, these next four picks are just a testament to how well Aarya knows my reading tastes. Shout out to her for these perfect recommendations. The Chocolate Kiss is such a gorgeous book. Another that I highlighted so many lines because Laura Florand writes so gorgeously. Magalie is so uncertain of her place in the world, though she presents herself as so strong, something we see pretty immediately as she discovers Philippe Lyonais is opening a chocolate shop right down the street from the one she helps run with her aunts. Magalie views this as a threat to the one place she feels most comfortable and so she storms into Philippe’s flagship store to confront him. It’s glorious because she is so fierce and he is so intrigued. I really loved this book and the role food and hot chocolate played. It’s absolutely wonderful.
Pretty Face by Lucy Parker
“Your body and mind is your own. Your happiness is your responsibility and your right.”
I mean, Lily Lamprey and Luc Savage absolutely destroyed me. Like Luc talks about how he is undone by Lily, but I was undone by them both. They are absolutely gorgeous together. From the beginning of the book when Luc is silly and sexist and Lily knows about it to when he realizes how much of a jerk he was… Such a great book. One of the bests. I just love it so much. And now I want to reread it. Oops. I apparently didn’t leave my desire to reread every book I’ve ever loved behind in December.
The Firebird by Susanna Kearsley
“If we cannae be what we were born to be, the whole of it, we die a little on the inside, every day we live the lie.”
It almost feels like cheating to list The Firebird and The Winter Sea but like, the truth is what it is and I absolutely adored each of these books as separate entities. And though they are very much linked, they are very much separate entities. But anyway, when I got to the end of this book, I wanted to immediately go back to the beginning and read it again. This book is absolutely magnificent. Susanna Kearsley is absolutely magnificent. As for what this is about, Rob and Nicola are on a quest to figure out the origins of this little firebird statuette and their adventures have them following Anna. Both Rob and Nicola’s storyline in the present, a second chance romance with themes of learning to accept and love yourself for exactly who and what you are, and Anna’s storyline in the past where we get to see her come into her own are enthralling. I cannot even tell you how much I loved this book because I do not have the words for you.
The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley
“But life, if nothing else, had taught her promises weren’t always to be counted on, and what appeared at first a shining chance might end in bitter disappointment.”
Honestly, y’all, I know I’ve raved about Aarya already when I started this string of four books I wouldn’t have read without her, but like, this book is such a GIFT that I am just so grateful to Aarya for these recommendations. The Winter Sea captivated me from page one. There’s something about the story within a story, which is how this book sort of starts until you start to realize there’s more going on. Carrie Mclelland is compelled to stop near Slains Castle and doesn’t quite understand why, but she finds herself so inspired by the area that she knows she must live near there in order to write the book she’s been working on. While living there, she meets Graham and their slow developing relationship was captivating. But my heart was really, really swept up in Sophia and John’s story set in the past. I think I experienced every possible emotion reading this book and I am just… Susanna Kearsley forever. I can’t wait to read my next book by her again soon.
Okay, that is all I have for you for overall top tens! Stay tuned for tomorrow’s Quarterly Favorites post where you’ll see a few familiar covers. It almost feels redundant, but it would feel incomplete if I didn’t make the post so here we are! Hopefully you want to just know all the books I’ve loved? Anyway, please tell me your favorite backlist titles and feel free to compete with Aarya to try and give me four favorites in the same year. I could use more people like that. (Also if we count You Deserve Each Other as an Aarya rec, then she gave me five. What a friendship. <3)