The long-awaited (by two days) part 3 of my best books of the decade — adult fiction!
This year especially I noticed that my reading tastes have changed and skewed towards adult fiction, which is hard for me being a YA book blogger, but the heart wants what the heart wants. Which is why this list has 20 books, as opposed to the other two lists which had ten books each.
You’ll also notice that a lot of the books on this list came out this year, because this year is when I started reading predominately adult books.
The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern (2019)
“Strange, isn’t it? To love a book. When the words on the page become so precious that they feel like part of your own history because they are.”
This is one of the best books I’ve ever read in my life. It’s enchanting and beautiful, and the writing was so absorbing I felt like I could curl up and read for hours. The Starless Sea follows Zachary Ezra Rawlins, a semi-hermit university student with anxiety, who finds a book at his school library that has a scene from his own childhood on it. Zachary is then swept up into a magical underground library that has been underneath the earth for thousands of years.
I connected a lot to Zachary, which is partly why I adore this book so much. But I also love books about books, which this book is definitely about. The fantasy elements were also stunning as this book is on the cusp of all-out fantasy and magical realism. Do yourselves a favour and read this book.
Check out my review!
The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon (2019)
“We may be small, and we may be young, but we will shake the world for our beliefs.”
Dragons! Queens! Female warrior mages! Prophecies! If you love any of these things, you will adore this book. The Priory of the Orange Tree is an epic fantasy that follows two women and two men: Ead, a warrior mage sent to protect Queen Sabran who might be the only person capable of preventing the rise of the Nameless One; Tane, who is training to become a dragon ride; Niclays, an old, exiled alchemist; and Loth, who is sent on a diplomatic mission to an allied country that has recently started worshipping the Nameless One and has shut its borders completely.
You are not ready for what happens in this book! The amazing characters will make you fall in love with them and you’ll be terrified for each and every one of them. The plot is epic and fast-paced, and even though so much is happening, there’s never a moment where I was confused or couldn’t understand what was happening. Also, the romance. THE ROMANCE. Killed me.
Check out my review!
The Binding by Bridget Collins (2019)
Which was worse? To feel nothing, or to grieve for something you no longer remembered?
Oh gosh, I adore this book so much! This was such a surprising read because I thought I would like it, but I didn’t expect to love it so much but I did. The Binding follows a young man named Emmett who is sent by his family to become a book binder’s apprentice. In this world, book binders take people’s memories — ones they no longer want to remember — and bind them into books. Emmett doesn’t understand why his parents sent him away excuse they’ve always tried to keep him away from books, and at the same time, a mysterious young man keeps showing up around him and Emmett hates him — but doesn’t understand why.
This book had me sobbing, which was awkward as I listened to it as an audiobook at work. This book is so lush and beautiful, and the world building is so unique. But even so, its a character-driven book and has a big plot twist about halfway through the book.
Check out my review!
The Ruin of Kings by Jenn Lyons (2019)
She pushed a dagger into my hands. “And now you are a man with a knife. Woe to the Empire.”
This is another book that was a surprise! I really got back into fantasy this year after a good break from it, so this book made me fall in love with the genre all over again. The Ruin of Kings is presented in three different perspectives: from the main character, Kihrin; from his jailor, Talon; and from Thurvishar, who is writing the footnotes. The story follows Kihrin from two different points in his life: from his childhood to his discovering he is the son of a royal family, to after he is sold as a slave a year later, until both stories meet up to the present, where he is sitting in a cell telling his story to Talon.
The Ruin of Kings can be a bit confusing at times, but once you get used to the two different timelines, its amazing. And if you need more convincing: dragons, reincarnation, soul magic, bisexual disasters, gods, royalty, demons, and a secret war that has been raging for centuries.
Check out my review!
Red, White and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston (2019)
“I thought, this is the most incredible thing I have ever seen, and I had better keep it a safe distance away from me. I thought, if someone like that ever loved me, it would set me on fire. And then I was a careless fool, and I fell in love with you anyway. When you rang me at truly shocking hours of the night, I loved you. When you kissed me in disgusting public toilets and pouted in hotel bars and made me happy in ways in which it had never even occurred to me that a mangled-up, locked-up person like me could be happy, I loved you. And then, inexplicably, you had the absolute audacity to love me back. Can you believe it? Sometimes, even now, I still can’t.”
This book makes me laugh and cry and laugh again because it is so damn beautiful! Red, White and Royal Blue is about Alex, the son of the first female President of the United States and his forced friendship with Henry, the Prince of England. The two men are forced to spend time with each other after an embarrassing fight at a royal wedding, but soon their friendship develops into a romance.
This book is so adorable and I read it with a huge smile on my face. But what I love most about Red, White & Royal Blue are the small moments of historical education peppered throughout the text. This comes in the form of Alex and Henry’s emails to one another, discussing and debating about the lives of prominent queer people from history, most of whom never had the opportunity to come out themselves due to the laws of the era they lived in.
Check out my review!
Over and Over Again by Cole McCade (2018)
He was in so many ways a stranger to Imre now; the boy he had been, that child who’d followed Imre everywhere, wasn’t in this young man who moved as though his body were made of music and laughter, who carried his hurts inside as if they were jewels to be hoarded, small and shining things that belonged to him and only him.
Over and Over Again is a stunning, quiet novel. Reading this was a very calming experience and I can’t recommend it enough. The book follows Luca, a nineteen-year-old man whose life is spiralling. His parents sent him to an old friend of theirs, Imre, farm for a few months in the hope to give him some guidance in life. Luca and Imre very slowly begin to fall for each other while working on Imre’s farm and caring for the animals, so when I say this is a quiet book, I mean it.
I personally love age-gap romances but I know a lot of people don’t and that’s fine, but let me just say: there is nothing inappropriate about this novel. Imre doesn’t begin to fall for Luca until Luca is 100% an adult, and Luca’s crush on Imre is the same as any crush a kid has on an unattainable adult (think of any crushes you might have had on celebrities way older than you when you were a kid). All in all, this book is stunning and lovely and I will definitely be rereading it.
Circe by Madeline Miller (2018)
But in a solitary life, there are rare moments when another soul dips near yours, as stars once a year brush the earth. Such a constellation was he to me.
Madeline Miller is a goddess herself and the only thing she’s ever allowed to write is Ancient Greek retellings. Circe is an unconventional retelling of The Odyssey and puts the witch Circe at the forefront. Circe is the daughter of a sea nymph and the titan Helios, and when she shows kindness to a human, her father punishes her and exiles her to a solitary island, where she must spend the remainder of her days. During her time there, many famous figures of Greek myth visit her including Medea and Jason, Daedalus (who she is allowed to visit), and, of course, Odysseus.
Circe is another quiet book: there is definitely a plot, and a lot happens, but the writing is so calming and lovely, that it almost feels like not much is happening, which actually the opposite. I adore this book so much: Madeline Miller has added a feminist undertone to this Greek myth which has opened my eyes to all Ancient Greek mythology.
Check out my review!
Point of Contact by Melanie Hansen (2018)
“If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that grief is a journey, except there’s no point A to point B. It’s a fucking twisty-turny, up-and-down, forward-and-back piece of shit. It’s one good day … hell, maybe it’s only a few good hours … in the midst of a shit-ton of bad ones. But you don’t give up, and you keep going.”
If you want a book that will have you sobbing into your pillow for hours on end, then pick up Point of Contact. The novel is split into two different parts: before and after; before Trevor’s son died in Afghanistan and after he died in Afghanistan. Its dual POV narrated from Trevor, the father of Riley who dies at war, and Jesse, his best friend and fellow solider while in Afghanistan. When Jesse comes back to the States, he contacts Trevor and the two — very slowly, and very naturally — start up a beautiful romance that continually brought me to tears.
Fair warning: this book is sad. Like, really sad. Trevor has lost his son and Jesse his best friend, and they spend a good portion of the novel bonding over their relationship with Riley, and once they start dating, you’ll want to cry all over again for different reasons. This book is about grief and the different ways we can come out of it — never overcome, but make life a little bit easier.
Check out my review!
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid (2017)
“It’s always been fascinating to me how things can be simultaneously true and false, how people can be good and bad all in one, how someone can love you in a way that is beautifully selfless while serving themselves ruthlessly.”
This book destroyed me. Absolutely annihilated me. It’s beautiful and heartbreaking and makes you believe in love. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is a bit of a misnomer: it’s definitely about her and her seven husbands, but she also has a secret great love throughout all of her husbands. But basically this book follows Evelyn’s life from 1940s to 1960s Hollywood star, and the husbands she had along the way. She is telling her life to an unknown magazine reporter, whose life is intertwined with Evelyn’s in a way she doesn’t know.
The romance in this book is one of the best I’ve ever read and it brings tears to my eyes immediately. All the characters in this book are horrible people making some pretty poor decisions, but you can’t help but root for them because they are so emphatically real. I also adore the messages around love and how it’s dangerous and powerful and worth fighting for.
Check out my review!
If We Were Villains by M.L. Rio (2017)
You can justify anything if you do it poetically enough.
This is such a strange, atmospheric, low-key pretentious book that I love with my whole heart. If We Were Villains follows Oliver at two points of his life: when he was at university as an acting student, and ten years later when he is in prison for the murder of one of his friends. Oliver is narrating to a detective who never believed that he was the one who murdered his friend, but rather it was someone else in Oliver’s friendship group.
I love the pretentiousness of this book. I know that’s a complaint by a lot of people who read this, but there’s a big difference in book pretentiousness when books know they’re pretentious — and that’s If We Were Villains. I also adore a romance in this book — seriously one of the best — but you need to read it to find out who its between!
Check out my review!
Peter Darling by Austin Chant (2017)
Hook gave a low chuckle. “Your obsession is flattering, Pan. And I share it.”
“Is that not what they call it,” Hook said, “when two men can think of nothing but each other?”
A trans retelling of Peter Pan. I repeat: a trans retelling of Peter Pan!!! Peter Pan left Neverland and grew up, leaving behind a world of youth and dreams, and resigning himself to life as Wendy Darling. Years later, Peter returns to Neverland to reclaim the life he once had. But everything has changed: the Lost Boys are no longer boys, and the pirates lead boring and dull lives, but when Peter returns, he reignites the feels happy for the first time in ten years. But when the war suddenly becomes deadly, Peter and his old nemesis Captain Hook are forced to spend a long period of time with one another and Peter is startled when he begins to feel a shocking attraction toward the pirate king.
I absolutely adore this book. The attraction between Peter and Hook is so powerful and amazing, I’m honestly surprised there’s not more retellings with Peter and Hook getting together. And I love that Peter is trans, and that this book is also written by a trans author!
Check out my review!
It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover (2016)
Just because someone hurts you doesn’t mean you can simply stop loving them. It’s not a person’s actions that hurt the most. It’s the love. If there was no love attached to the action, the pain would be a little easier to bear.
It Ends With Us is one of the most powerful novels I’ve ever read. I’m not the biggest fan of Colleen Hoover’s books because they are all carbon copies of each other, but this book is so different from the rest. The novel is about Lily who moves to Boston to open her own flower store; there, she meets Ryle, a surgeon, whom she feels an immediate attraction to and starts dating. But while Ryle is assertive, brilliant and handsome, he also becomes abusive and obsessive and Lily struggles with what she should do. In the meantime, her first boyfriend, Atlas, comes back into her life.
This book made me cry — full-on ugly crying. Obviously there should be a trigger warning for domestic violence, but even though this book is hard to read, it’s still so incredibly important. For anyone who has ever wondered why a woman stays with her abuser, read this book to find out why.
Check out my review!
Days Without End by Sebastian Barry (2016)
A man’s memory might have only a hundred clear days in it and he has lived thousands. Can’t do much about that. We have our store of days and we spend them like forgetful drunkards.
I only read this book this year and it took me two tries to really get into it. I started with an audiobook and hated the narrator, so I decided to read a physical copy instead and adored it. Days Without End follows Thomas who, along with his best friend John Cole, signs up for the U.S. Army in the 1850s. Together, Thomas and John Cole fight in the Indian Wars and struggle to stay alive admit famine and war. But eventually they settle down together and adopt a Sioux girl, who was a hostage, while Thomas discover he prefers to live his life dressed in traditionally “female” clothes.
This is another quiet book, despite the fact that it takes place during horrific war. There is a lot of violence in this book but I think Barry describes it in quite a sensitive way — but also I’m not Native American, so I can’t say for sure. I also love that Thomas finds solace in dressing in traditionally female clothes — his pronouns are still he/him, but he lives his life as a woman and John Cole, his lover, is very supportive of him.
The Lightning-Struck Heart by TJ Klune (2015)
“I’m sorry I made an oath. I did it because I thought it was the right thing to do. And I’m sorry that I can’t break it. But you have to believe me that it’s always been you. I promise. I promise.” His voice cracked and my hands shook. “I promise, because when I look upon these stars, there is nothing I wish for more than you.”
Oh my gosh, this is one of my favourite books of all time and for a very good reason: it’s freaking hilarious. The Lightning-Struck Heart follows wizard’s apprentice Sam of Wilds as he goes on a magical journey with his best friends, Gary the gay, hornless unicorn and Tiggy the half-giant, and Ryan, the knight he has a massive crush on and who happens to be his soulmate, to find Prince Justin who was kidnapped by a dragon and who just so happens to be Ryan’s fiancé.
TJ Klune is one of my favourite authors ever: I will read this guy’s grocery list, that’s how much I love him. His books are usually so funny and kinda awkward, but all of them have heart and love and sweetness too. And The Lightning-Struck Heart is no different. Sam and Ryan are also one of my OTPs, I adore them so much!
Check out my review!
The Fifth Season by NK Jemisin (2015)
Tell them they can be great someday, like us. Tell them they belong among us, no matter how we treat them. Tell them they must earn the respect which everyone else receives by default. Them them there is a standard for acceptance; that standard is simply perfection. Kill those who scoff at those contradictions, and tell the rest that the dead deserved annihilation for their weakness and doubt. Then they’ll break themselves trying for what they’ll never achieve.
The Fifth Season is undoubtedly one of the most unique books I’ve ever read, and I don’t think I’ll ever read a book quite like it. The book follows three women who are orogenes, people who have magical earth powers, in an apocalyptic world: Essun, a mother who is hunting down her husband who killed their orogene son and has kidnapped their orogene daughter; Syenite, a young woman who has trained her powers at the Fulcrum and has been sent on a mission with a man who is much more powerful than her and who she must bed in order to produce a child with; and Damaya, a young girl who discovers she is an orogene and is taken by a Guardian to be trained at the Fulcrum.
God, this book is just amazing! It seems like it’s a sci-fi but it’s not: it’s a dystopian fantasy that is set in our own world but in the far, far future where something has happened to the Earth that has destroyed the seasons, and every few years the earth has a “season” that is apocalyptic and destroys the planet over and over again. I loved every single character in this book, particularly Syenite because of her relationship with Alabaster, the orogene she travels with. Pick this series up!
How To Be a Normal Person by TJ Klune (2015)
“I smiled,” Gus insisted, “in the mirror this morning. It was awkward and I regret it ever happened.”
TJ is one of only two people who get a second book on this list, and it is worth it! I only read How to be a Normal Person this year, but I know it will be an all-time favourite. The book follows Gustavo Tiberius, an awkward, kind of lonely man who lives a very rigid structured life in Abbey, Oregon. His only friends are three old women who are either sisters of polyamorous lesbians, and a weird coffee store owner who annoys him. Then one day, a high hipster named Casey shows up in town and rocks Gus’s perfectly ordered world.
Like The Lightning-Struck Heart, this book is hilarious. Gus is such a sweetheart, but a grumpy one, and when people try and mess with his life, he freaks out in very funny and sweet ways. And I absolutely adore his relationship with Casey: Casey is asexual and Gus is so supportive of that, to the surprise of a lot of people in their lives. I adore Gus.
Black Iris by Elliot Wake (2015)
Girls love each other like animals. There is something ferocious and unself-conscious about it. We don’t guard ourselves like we do with boys. No one trains us to shield our hearts from each other. With girls, it’s total vulnerability from the beginning. Our skin is bare and soft. We love with claws and teeth and the blood is just proof of how much. It’s feral. And it’s relentless.
This is a frightening, terrible novel that is unputdownable. It follows Laney who’s world was destroyed by high school bullies after her crush on a girl gets out: they call her a slut, queer, psycho and mentally ill. Then her own mother commits suicide and Laney decides she needs to leave. So she goes to college to start clean and finds new friends: charming Armin and fiery Blythe. But then a ghost from her past resurfaces and Laney gets Armin and Blythe to help her deal with them. But Laney is lying to them: she’s not trying to start fresh; she was always planning revenge.
This book is dark — very dark. Laney goes to a dark place in order to take revenge against the people who ruined her life and humiliated her and I adore her for it. The relationship between Laney and Blythe is so animalistic, in a way, because they are both obsessed with each other in ways that don’t seem healthy until the end. But they’re also another one of my OTPs!
TW: suicide, talk of rape, sexual assault, bipolar episodes, bullying, abuse, drug use, homophobia, forced outing, and addiction.
Check out my review!
Prince’s Gambit by C.S. Pacat (2013)
“To get what you want, you have to know exactly how much you are willing to give up.” Never had he wanted something this badly, and held it in his hands knowing that tomorrow it would be gone, traded for the high cliffs of Ios, and the uncertain future across the border, the chance to stand before his brother, to ask him for all the answers that no longer seemed important. A kingdom, or this.
It would be a surprise if this book wasn’t on my favourite adult books of the decade list. This is my favourite book of all-time and I’m sure everyone knows it by now. Prince’s Gambit is the second book in the Captive Prince series and follows Damen and Laurent in the Veretian countryside as they travel town to town, try and gather support for Laurent, and try to prevent Laurent’s assassination by his uncle who is currently Regent.
The romance between Laurent and Damen is just magical in this book. Basically, Damen is the prince of a rival country and during a war six years earlier, he killed Laurent’s older brother, the Crown Prince of Vere. He was sent to Vere as a slave after his half-brother usurps the throne from him, and Laurent doesn’t know who he is, because if he did, Damen wouldn’t survive. The love that develops between them is super slow and full of tension, but once it develops, its hot and intense and just so amazing. C.S. Pacat is my favourite author and I will read anything she ever writes.
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (2012)
The ones who are not soul-mated – the ones who have settled – are even more dismissive of my singleness: It’s not that hard to find someone to marry, they say. No relationship is perfect, they say – they, who make do with dutiful sex and gassy bedtime rituals, who settle for TV as conversation, who believe that husbandly capitulation – yes, honey, okay, honey – is the same as concord. He’s doing what you tell him to do because he doesn’t care enough to argue, I think. Your petty demands simply make him feel superior, or resentful, and someday he will fuck his pretty, young coworker who asks nothing of him, and you will actually be shocked.
This is the only thriller book on this list, and that’s because I’m not the biggest fan of that genre, but I had to make an exception for Gone Girl. This book. THIS BOOK. It’s the wildest thing I’ve ever read. The novel is about Nick Dunne after his wife goes missing. Every year on their anniversary, his wife Amy makes a treasure hunt of gifts for him to find, and after her disappearance he follows this hunt to hopefully find out what happened to her. But the local police suspect him of murdering his wife based on entries from Amy’s diary, and now he has to find a way to prove his innocence.
If you managed to avoid any and all spoilers for this book and movie, wow, I applaud you. The plot twist in this book is unlike any other I’ve read and for days I was in a kind of daze still trying to come to terms with it. I absolutely love Amy Dunne, even though she is a psychotic character, but she says so many important true things about the ways in which women are treated and mistreated by men.
The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller (2011)
I could recognise him by touch alone, by smell; I would know him blind, by the way his breaths came and his feet struck the earth. I would know him in death, at the end of the world.
This is undoubtedly the saddest book I’ve ever read and I don’t think anything can top this. The Song of Achilles is a The Iliad retelling from the perspective of Patroclus, Achilles’ lover. The book follows the two men from childhood to the infamous war, and how Achilles’ decision affected Patroclus.
Madeline Miller is the only other person to get a second book on this list and that’s because I adore this book so much. It will always hold a special place in my heart, but I don’t know if I can ever reread it because it just hurts so much. If you’ve ever read The Iliad, you know why. But the relationship between Patroclus and Achilles is so beautiful and loving, I couldn’t put this book down.
HAVE YOU READ ANY OF THE BOOKS ON MY LIST? WHAT ARE YOUR FAVOURITE NON-FICTION BOOKS OF THE DECADE? LET ME KNOW!