In the past sixteen months, I’ve devoured over ninety books spanning various genres. These are my absolute favorites, all deserving of a solid five-star rating. I highly recommend them to you and hope you find a few you love just as much. I’ve also included my favorite six books of all time, which are just the best!
Top 5-Star Book Recommendations
Yep, it’s me, I’m the voracious reader. And when I say read, I actually mean listen, since I prefer to listen to all my books on Audible these days. While I do love having that book in hand, I’ve found I get through so many more books on my list when I listen to them, rather than read. Listening to books and not getting distracted does take some practice, but once you figure out how to focus, it’s amazing.
I listen to books on walks, in the car, while cooking, gardening and doing so many other things. Anyway, this is not a post about listening to books, but just wanting to share books I have absolutely loved in the most recent past that I feel good about recommending.
By the way, all of the books in this post fall under the realm of fiction, encompassing an array of genres. From sizzling beach reads, to heartwarming stories that will absolutely uplift your spirits, and gripping psychological thrillers that will keep you up at night thinking – it’s a wide spectrum for sure. Among this list, is my personal favorite category, historical fiction set during the World War II era. While I do also read a lot of technical books on subjects like wine, agriculture, farming, soils and autobiographies, they clearly LACK the same entertainment value that fictional novels provide, so we’re going to stick with fiction only in this post. Let’s face it, who doesn’t want a spicy beach read?
One day I hope to have a book club full of like-minded book readers where we read the books and get together to discuss the book, while we feast on only food or drink that was mentioned in the book we read. Fingers crossed.
My Favorite Six Books of All Time
I do have a few favorites, all historical fiction (except for two), which are not on this list of five star reads. If you haven’t read them, put them on your TBR list, they are all wonderful stories. And if you listen to them, they are narrated in the best, performance-level way.
- The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah – This is my absolute FAVORITE book I have ever read. It will gut you. It’s a heartbreaking story that takes place during WWII. It is so well written and it took me a long time to read another book after this one, knowing there wouldn’t be anything quite like it. There still isn’t. I think a movie was supposed to be made, but those are never as good as the original book. Read this book, it is so, so, so AMAZING.
- Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly – Another stunning war time novel you won’t be able to put down. This novel brings to light so many things about WWII you never wanted to think about. It’s gut-wrenching, but an incredible book.
- The Alice Network by Kate Quinn – While men fought on the front lines of the wars in Europe, women were also doing amazing things as spies and unsung heroes. This book celebrates the courage displayed by women during those perilous times and honors their unwavering bravery. It’s an incredible read.
- The German Wife by Kelly Rimmer – It was really surprising to find out this was based on a true story. It’s such good read coming from the perspective of a German family during WWII. All of it heartbreaking and horrible.
- The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah – This book evokes a lot of emotions. So many (bad) things happen, while this dysfunctional family tries to survive in the treacherous wilderness of Alaska.
- Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir – This is probably the best audiobook I’ve ever listened to, and won audiobook of the year for good reason. I do not recommend reading the physical hardcopy, as it’s filled with huge scientific numbers you would not want to read, just hear. This book is so entertaining. It is so great for a road trip because it is male and female friendly. Such a great story and you are on edge the whole time. So much love for this space tale. And you do not need to like sci-fi to adore this book.
I love listening to historical fiction books the best, as they pronunciation of all of the French, German, Russian etc. words are all spoken perfectly, making it a really enjoyable experience.
Having said all that, out the 95 books I read over the past year-and-a half, I’m giving thirty six of them my seal of approval. I thoroughly enjoyed all of them and wish I could read them again for the first time!
The following books are in no particular order of favorites, just all good reads!
- Lessons In Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus – It’s about a woman in the 60’s, a chemist, who gets every curveball imaginable thrown at her in her career and becomes the most unlikely candidate for a cooking show. It’s absolute perfection as she excels in the education of cooking, with great side characters.
- The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton – This book is the game of Clue, meets Groundhog Day, meets Sliding Doors (film). There is a murder every day, at the same time and the only way out is to solve it.
- Black Cake by Charmaine Wilkerson – This book is straightforward, contemporary fiction. A very moving story about two siblings who return to California after their mother passes away and the only thing she leaves them in their inheritance is a recipe for Caribbean Black Cake. This touches on family and sibling relationships and memories and it’s just so good.
- Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid – A narrative style book that’s told interview style. It was incredibly well-done as an audiobook, as you could easily differentiate between the characters. The premise of the book is about the rise and fall of a famous 1970’s rock group. It’s really wow level. Loved it and listened to it twice.
- Bad Summer People by Emma Rosenblum – This was a fun murder mystery, if murder can be fun? I loved all the tennis references throughout the book and every character is completely horrible, which made it even more entertaining in its own way.
- The Five-Star Weekend by Elin Hilderbrand – A woman who is a food blogger loses her husband and puts together a five star girls weekend. The amount of descriptions that went into this book makes you feel like you are eating every meal and thinking the thoughts of every character. It’s just so good and very relatable.
- The Invisible Life Of Addie Larue by V.E. Schwab – I will never forget this book and is one everyone should read. I think about it often, it’s a beautiful, life-changing piece of literature. I wish I could erase my memory and read it again! Read it, just read it.
- The Wish by Nicholas Sparks – This book does have a slow start, but is worth the perseverance to push through. There is a twist at the end that blew my mind and I didn’t see coming. Absolutely loved this read.
- Beach Read by Emily Henry – This is everything a romance novel should be. January and Gus are just great characters, two rival authors who find out they have a lot more in common than they think. It’s captivating, perfect and cute in every way. Light-hearted and so good for the pool and beach!
- These Tangled Vines by Julianne Maclean – This is a painful, but incredible love story taking place in the vineyards of Tuscany. It’s so good and you can’t wait to get to the end to see how it all turns out.
- Beyond The Moonlit Sea by Julianne Maclean – There were so many page-turning, worthy obstacles to overcome in this book. It has all the scandal, taboo and struggle you could ask for in an easy reading format. Loved it.
- The Hotel Nantucket by Elin Hilderbrand – My favorite author as far as beach reads go! This book is about a hotel staff that is trying to get a perfect five star review from an anonymous hotel reviewer. You meet a lot of characters in this book, but all are so perfect in their own individual ways and each are tied together so well at the end. I loved it.
- The Wishing Game by Meg Shafer – Such a feel good story, with a love story intertwined. This book is very much a love letter to people who love books. The premise falls around a reclusive children’s author, who after many years has written another book and is holding an invite-only contest for people to win the rights to the book. It’s a life-changing opportunity for the main character. This is such a warm and fuzzy good read. I loved it.
- The House In The Cerulean Sea by TJ Kline – This book has a fantasy vibe and will leave you feeling so warm and full at the end. I cannot recommend it enough. Just the sweetest story with the sweetest characters I’ve read in a long time.
- Stars and Smoke by Marie Lu – He is a pop star, she is a spy and they have to work together to solve a crime. I could not put it down! Definite romance book and its finest.
- Swear On This Life by Renée Carlino – This book had been on my TBR list forever and I finally read it. I loved the thoughts this incredible story provoked, the emotion, and the belief that love and friendship can really be enough. Forgiveness is a running theme in this book, something that’s always good to remember.
- Fourth Wing by Rebecca Yarros – This book could end up on my favorite books of all times list and I’ll accept no criticism of it. It’s a little bit Hunger Games, a little Throne of Glass and Divergent all mixed into one. And so many dragons. There’s a love triangle. World-building and an enemies to lovers situation. It’s an amazing read.
- Yours Truly by Abby Jimenez – I found this book to be a warm and fuzzy example of love and unlike any other romance novel I had ever read. I instantly fell in love with the characters and just absolutely adored it.
- The Nanny by Lana Ferguson – An incredibly steamy, contemporary romance novel. He’s a chef. She’s a student who becomes the nanny to his single-parent household. Page-turning beach read for sure!
- One Italian Summer by Rebecca Serle – Set in the Amalfi Coast and will tug at your heart. A book about mothers and daughters. It’s powerful. There’s loss. It’s such a powerfully moving story. It’s so, so good. You will love it and finish it quickly.
- Little Secrets by Jennifer Hillier – Sophisticated, compelling, gut-wrenching, stunning, and magnificent for a thriller. Almost all of the characters in this book do terrible things, but they are illuminated in such a way that you understand why they are doing the things they do and find yourself rooting for them. It’s a great read.
- Love & Other Words by Christina Lauren – A favorite, favorite love story. A second chance romance type of tale that happens on alternating timelines. There’s a love triangle of course, but it’s so heartwarming and worth your time.
- Love Theoretically by Ali Hazelwood – Such the perfect romcom, nerdy academia love story. Women in STEM (which I love), physics, fake-dating, but not in the way you think. It’s truly the best!
- Reminders of Him by Colleen Hoover – Unique and authentic, I think I got through it in two days. It’s a page-turner with the premise being about making one mistake that changes the course of your whole life. It’s such a good book you won’t be sorry you read.
- The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid – A very Elizabeth Taylor-esque story about a Hollywood starlet and all her marriages. While it’s heartbreaking, it’s fascinating and such a good vacation book. It’s such a fun read with all the old Hollywood references.
- 28 Summers by Elin Hilderbrand – Another fantastic choice for poolside reading about a 28 summer, one weekend love affair. There is sadness, but it is a love story you’ll want to read and be entertained by. The hook on this book is a good one.
- Same Time Next Summer by Annabel Monaghan – A beach read that will make your heart happy. It has all the summer love expectations – second chance romance, dual timelines, childhood friends to lovers. A great getaway weekend read you will finish.
- Code Name Hélène by Ariel Lawhorn – An amazing historical fiction book. Truly gripping. Woman heroine. Epic love story. You will laugh, cry and rejoice while on the edge of your seat. A page turner from beginning to end.
- The Book of Lost Names by Kristin Harmel – Another WWII novel about a woman who is a talented forger and helps young children get away from the Nazis. It’s so well written and just amazing and sad. Such a great read I could not put it down until the end.
- The Things We Leave Unfinished by Rebecca Yarros – Storytelling at its finest, especially when alternating timelines are involved. Fun and satisfying with complicated family dynamics. Your heart will break so many times while reading this book, but you’ll love it anyway.
- The Net Beneath Us by Carol Dunbar – About grief after loss and the resilience and healing that can take place over the course of a year after losing someone. It’s a beautifully written book you need to read!
- The Simple Wild by K.A. Tucker – A grumpy-sunshine romance that’s a truthful reminder that life is short, so do all the things and love hard. So many parts of this gut-wrenching book will take your breath away. It’s just so…I don’t even have the words to describe it. Read it and find out for yourself.
- A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini – I liked it even more than Kite Runner, by the same author. It has plot twist. It will make you cry. Hard. It’s a tear jerking portrayal of a society where men ruthlessly treat women with impunity and brag about it under the guise of having superior religious values. A must read.
- The Winemaker’s Wife by Kristin Harmel – I was originally drawn to this historical book by simply it taking place in the champagne region of France. Just when you think you know where there book is going, you don’t, so it’s a page turner for sure.
- Unfortunately Yours by Tessa Bailey – There’s a Napa heiress. A marriage of convenience. Wine caves. A cat. It has all the things you’re going to love in a light-hearted book! Totally fun read that I really enjoyed.
- Verity by Colleen Hoover – I have yet to find a psychological thriller that tops this book. This has made me sit up at night and think about it. It’s a mind-blowing page-turner!
Currently On My To Be Read (TBR) List
I’m looking forward to what is coming up on my reading list!
- The Quiet Tenant – mystery, thriller
- The Most Agreeable Murder – mystery, thriller
- Golden Girl – beach read
- Flock and Exodus – love story book series
- Credence – a cringy, throw out your morals book apparently
- One True Loves – love story
- One Dark Wing -gothic fantasy
I would love to hear about what you’ve read, your personal recommendations and what’s on your upcoming reading list. I hope you refer to this list again and again and don’t hesitate to share it with friends.
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