Best Fiction of the Year: Here's What to Read Next

Books a Million: Gripping Fiction for Your Holiday Travel

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It’s been awhile since I’ve recapped my reading list, and with the holidays coming up, I’m hoping many of you have plans to cozy up to the fire under a blanket with a dog and a good book. There is so much new fiction that’s just out—where are my Fourth Wing fans?—or coming down the pipeline that I can’t even keep up, but you know I’m excited. Here’s what I’ve read over the last few months.

How I read my books: I get the majority of my books via Libby, the free library app, but I also order paperbacks and hardcovers from Bookshop, which supports independent bookstores. For listening, I subscribe to LibroFM, and all my purchases support my local bookseller Parnassus Books. That said, I know sometimes you just need that book right away, so I’m also including Amazon purchase links below. Any time you can use a creator’s links to make purchases, it helps us earn a small commission that covers the cost of this blog and we’re so thankful for that support!

Five-Star Weekend by Elin Hilderbrand

Is there an author I adore more than Elin Hilderbrand? I think not. And like everything she does, her Five-Star Weekend was a five-star read.

The premise: Widow Hollis Shaw is a Pioneer Woman level of Internet food blogger celebrity living on Nantucket who decides to curate the perfect weekend for four friends: one from every decade of her life. The friends are mostly strangers—one of whom is even a stranger to Hollis (read: blog reader)—and the drama that ensues is a wild and twisty ride. It’s the perfect snackable holiday read. And if you want more Hilderbrand, The Hotel Nantucket and 28 Summers are two of my all-time favorites.

Buy it on Bookshop | Buy it on Amazon | Buy the audiobook on LibroFM

Happy Place: Five-Star Weekend by Elin Hilderbrand

Romantic Comedy by Curtis Sittenfeld

I’ve ready everything by Sittenfeld, and it had been a few years since we saw anything new from her, so this was one of my top most anticipated novels of the year—and it delivered. The premise: Sally Milz is a sketch writer for an SNL-like late-night show, which is how she meets Noah Brewster, who is both the host and musical guest. They start collaborating on a series of sketches and hit it off—then the pandemic happens. After they reconnect over email and start up a penpal relationship, they decide to see what taking that offline looks like. For those who love SNL, you will love this behind-the-scenes look at working for a late-night show.

Buy it on Bookshop | Buy it on Amazon | Buy the audiobook on LibroFM

Best Fiction of the Year: Romantic Comedy

Fourth Wing by Rebecca Yarrow

When I saw this marketed as a “sexy dragon novel,” I didn’t think it was for me. After all, I’m not big on cheesy, I like select fantasy novels but it’s typically not my go-to genre, and overall, I just wasn’t sure. What I’m sure of now is that I was wrong. Deeply, deeply wrong. I’ll be the 500th person on your feed (or in your inbox) to tell you that this book—which can best be summarized as a hybrid of Hunger Games meets Game of Thrones—deserves a place in your Kindle or on your nightstand.

The premise: The frail but determined Violet Sorrengail eschews life as a scribe to follow in her older sister’s footsteps to become a dragon rider at an elite and deadly war college. The school—whose only goal is to quite literally survive—is very much designed to weed out the fittest and smartest students as they move toward the ultimate challenge of being chosen by the dragon and awarded a signet (or special power).

Buy it on Bookshop | Buy it on Amazon | Buy the audiobook on LibroFM

Happy Place: Fourth Wing novel

Drowning by TJ Newman

After absolutely devouring Newman’s debut novel Falling a few years back, I could not download this book more quickly when it came out—and it took me exactly one sitting to tear through, it’s that gripping and also that stressful. The premise: A commercial flight goes down off the coast of Maui, and the surviving passengers have to figure out what to do as the plane continues to sink to the ocean’s bottom. Flames from the spilled jet fuel have made the wreckage an impossible rescue mission, and the world watches as the survivors work against the clock as the oxygen slowly starts to run out.

Note: This book is not for those with a fear of flying or high anxiety. It’s also worth noting it released prior to the Maui fires and the OceanGate tragedy.

Buy it on Bookshop | Buy it on Amazon | Buy the audiobook on LibroFM

Best Fiction of the Year: Drowning

Happy Place by Emily Henry

I’ve been slow to fall in love with Emily Henry. I hated Beach ReadPeople We Meet on Vacation was just OK, but then Book Lovers drew me in and remains my favorite Emily Henry novel. Happy Place, however, was indulgent and fast-paced enough to hold my interest.

The premise: A group of friends who have been together since college reunite in Maine for one last vacation before their beloved vacation cottage is sold. The problem? Harriet, a surgical resident, and Wyn haven’t told the rest of the crew that they’re technically separated and living in different states. The week becomes an elaborate lie of them both hiding their separation from their friends and their true feelings from each other.

Buy it on Bookshop | Buy it on Amazon | Buy the audiobook on LibroFM

Best Fiction: Happy Place

Beartown by Fredrik Backman

I love Backman’s nonconventional writing style, and it’s on full display in Beartown, a series about a hockey town in Scandinavia whose residents decide to look the other way during a big scandal to protect one of its star players (trigger warning: rape). As with all of Backman’s novels, this story is told from multiple third-person perspectives—including the coach, the team manager, the local bar owner and more—and is heavy on character development, making you wish that Beartown and its people were a place you could visit in real life. I’m currently reading (listening to) the second book of his three-part seriesUs Against You.

Buy it on Bookshop | Buy it on Amazon | Buy the audiobook on LibroFM

Best Fiction: Beartown

The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner

After falling in love with Zentner’s work via In the Wild Light, I immediately downloaded his other books, which technically are classified as young adult but are truly written for all ages to enjoy. The Serpent King was an excellent second Zentner read and possibly his most popular to date.

The premise: A trio of best friends—Dill, Lydia and Travis—in small-town Tennessee struggle to overcome their upbringings (including lack of education, religious fanaticism and domestic abuse) and feelings of being outcasts while the main character also comes to terms with his dad’s sordid past as a speaking-in-tongues kind of preacher who was jailed for child pornography. It came before Demon Copperhead but evokes similar feelings to what it’s like to grow up in the poverty-stricken South.

Buy it on Bookshop | Buy it on Amazon | Buy the audiobook on LibroFM

Best Fiction: The Serpent King

Cassandra in Reverse by Holly Smale

This book about a loner who is possibly (most likely) on the spectrum completely stole my heart and gave me Eleanor Oliphant vibes. The premise: Cassandra Penelope Dankworth is a middle manager at an ad agency in London and doesn’t have many friends. That could be because she’s a bit of an acquired taste—a straight shooter who tells it exactly like it is—or also because she does not veer outside of her carefully constructed life schedule. Then she gets fired, and everything changes as Cassandra realizes she has the ability to turn back time and undo past mistakes.

Buy it on Bookshop | Buy it on Amazon | Buy the audiobook on LibroFM

Best Fiction: Cassandra in Reverse

Tom Lake by Ann Patchett

Classic Patchett, Tom Lake is a coming-of-age novel that straddles two timelines: the back then and the present, set in the middle of the pandemic. The premise: As a teen, Lara is a stage sensation in New Hampshire who is plucked from the life she knows and sent to Hollywood to film her first big movie. She winds up deeply embedded in the theater scene at Tom Lake, the years of which she recounts to her trio of daughters who are all home working on the family cherry farm in Michigan in the thick of the pandemic.

Pro tip: If you’re a Meryl Streep fan, save this one for audiobook and download it via LibroFM as she narrates!

Buy it on Bookshop | Buy it on Amazon | Buy the audiobook on LibroFM

Best Fiction: Tom Lake by Ann Patchett

East Coast Girls by Kerry Kletter

My only DNF of the year, this book was painfully slow and never really got to the point—I finally caved and Googled the big twist they were building to from page 10 and it didn’t come until 85% through the novel—so I eventually put it down. The cover is gorgeous and totally drew me in, but you know what they say about judging a book…


Main Character Energy by Jamie Varon

The premise: Poppy is a plus-sized copywriter for a BuzzFeed-esque website who finds herself in possession of a beloved writer’s retreat in the south of France after her mom’s estranged sister mysteriously dies. Poppy quits her job and moves abroad to both check out this retreat she was gifted, as well as attempt to write her own novel. While this classic “finding yourself” novel was cute, in the end, I found this novel a tad bit cheesy for me, but online reviewers seem to love it, so download a sample and see what you think!

Buy it on Bookshop | Buy it on Amazon | Buy the audiobook on LibroFM

Best Fiction: Main Character Energy

Reign by Katharine McGee

The final of four books, American Royals IV: Reign had me so sad that this series that reimagines America as a monarchy had come to an end. It’s truly magical, and I will probably reread the whole thing at some point soon. The premise (without spoiling too much of the first three): After Bee’s car wreck at the end of the third book, she finds herself with amnesia as she attempts to hide her state from her fiance and her subjects. Meanwhile, Daphne continues to construct a house of lies, while Nina juggles a new love interest and Princess Samantha resurfaces after leaving the monarchy.

Buy it on Bookshop | Buy it on Amazon | Buy the audiobook on LibroFM

Best Fiction: American Royals

Nora Goes Off Script by Annabel Monaghan

This was a random audiobook sale purchase for me, so I knew nothing about it, that my mom and I listened to this on a round-trip to Memphis—the perfect road trip listen as it’s not too long—and we both found it positively delightful. The premise: Nora Hamilton is a successful screenwriter for a romance channel whose own house gets tapped as a set for one of her scripts. When a Brad Pitt-esque actor arrives at her home to film—and then later won’t leave—her whole life is upended in this charming love story of a single mom who juggles parenting with a career and a new love interest.

Buy it on Bookshop | Buy it on Amazon | Buy the audiobook on LibroFM

Best Fiction: Nora Goes Off Script

Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir

Yes, we’re a couple years behind the trend on this one. Yes, we loved it as much as everyone else. The premise: Ryland Grace is a middle school science teacher who is tapped to save the world when an alien life form threatens to send Earth into a devastating Ice Age. At the book’s start, Grace wakes up on the ship, the Hail Mary, to find he’s the only one who has survived the trip. A chance encounter with another ship that includes, you guessed it, an alien he dubs Rocky, turns into an interesting and weird friendship as the pair work in tandem to each save their own planet. While I liked The Martian better, there’s no denying that Project Hail Mary is truly a work of art. We listened to this one, and I truly don’t know what it would have been like to read it given that Weir gives Rocky his own language comprising various beeps and sounds.

Buy it on Bookshop | Buy it on Amazon | Buy the audiobook on Amazon (exclusive to Audible)

Best Fiction of the Year: Project Hail Mary

Joan is Okay by Weike Wang

Joan is Okay was just … okay. I loved the concept of cultural heritage and the disconnection one who grew up as a first-generation American may feel to their immigrant parents, but the plot fizzled out somewhere in the middle for me. The premise: Joan is an ICU doctor in New York and the daughter of Chinese parents. After her father unexpectedly dies and she flies home to China for a quick weekend, she starts to question everything after she returns home: her job, her relationships, her purpose. This was the most recent in a series of books I read whose plot centers on the pandemic, and I think I just have all things pandemic fatigue at the moment, because that’s when it kind of lost me.

Buy it on Bookshop | Buy it on Amazon | Buy the audiobook on LibroFM

Best Fiction of the Year: Joan is Okay

Currently, I have these books in my Kindle ready to read when I have a little bit more headspace to spare:

What’s on your holiday reading list? You can see all of my past book roundups here.



Best Books to Read for the Holidays
Best Books to Read for the Holidays
  • November 10, 2023

    Just wanted to say, I love your reading lists. Luckily, this list contains many I’ve already read, and of course a couple that don’t interest me, so I’ll get a chance to catch up over the holidays with a few of my own I’ve had on hold. Thanks for making these lists!

  • November 11, 2023
    Joan van Velsor

    Yay!!! Thanks Kristin! My kindle was running low, and now is full up. And my library hold list is now full too. Such riches!
    It is truly a gift to find new authors from a reliable source, and i will enjoy sampling these.
    I’m hoping for a series of long, gloomy, storms now to keep me inside reading. 😍😍😍

  • November 13, 2023

    Hi! Just a note to say how much I appreciate your reading roundups! I revisit old posts when looking for a new book and always end up finding something I can’t wait to start. Thank you for taking the time to pull these together! : )

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