Hey guys! I hope you’re all doing well. It’s been pouring rain all day today…up until now (around 6PM), when the weather decided to be sunny again. Go figure. Anyway, I thought I would share with you guys my favorite stand-alone novels!
I love a good series, but every now and then it’s refreshing to read a book that has a start and end, cover to cover. This list is in no particular order, sooooo…let’s get to it!
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
Three words to describe this book: magical, atmospheric, and wonderful. Although we technically have two main characters (both of which are magicians/illusionists) Erin Morgenstern includes so many other characters with their own perspectives and is able to develop them SO WELL despite the fact they are not the main focus of attention. They all play a role, however, in this mystical, wondrous place that is the traveling Night Circus. When I read this book, I felt as though I was in a romantic, magical black and white film. I wanted to explore the beautiful European cities the book is set in (for the most part), and then spend an endless night exploring all of the curious tents, all the while being friends with each unique character. This book will forever be one of the fictional worlds I wish I could live in.
Of Bees and Mist by Erick Setiawan
This is a book I had NEVER heard about until I saw a friend of mine reading it, and when I expressed interest in it she let me borrow it. Eventually I had to get my own copy because I wanted to take my time savoring it. It has a somewhat similar feeling to The Night Circus, but it’s definitely more dark and ominous. Our main character has to deal with a dark household (both emotionally and literally), and a mother-in-law who is one of the most evil, magical characters I have ever met. Peculiar fortune tellers, vengeful swarms of bees, unnatural (demon?) babies, a mysterious woman wailing into the midnight mist, and much more strange and magical things are in this novel. I can say with confidence that this is probably the strangest and most unique novel I have ever read.
And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks by Jack Kerouac and William S. Burroughs
I feel as though this book is an unknown classic. To me it is the epitome of the Beat Generation but in fiction rather than poetry, which is what the Beat Generation is most known for. In this novel, Kerouac and Burroughs fictionalize a real murder that both were involved in (but not directly). It’s a really simple and quick read, but it highlights the atmosphere and feel of the Beat Generation so well, it makes the Beat fangirl in me so happy. Despite the…dank, smoky atmosphere the book gives off. It’s perfect if you want to get a little insight into these writer’s lives. AND if you haven’t heard of the movie Kill Your Darlings, which was based on the book and the actual murder that happened, I definitely recommend it. It stars Daniel Radcliffe and Dane DeHaan (both beautiful, talented actors) and although it isn’t an exact adaption of the book, it does a pretty damn good job. If you’re even remotely interested in the Beat Generation, you gotta read this book. *ad for this book over*
Under Rose-Tainted Skies by Louise Gornall
(Trigger Warning for self-harm in this book). This is a 2017 release, so not many people may be as familiar with it yet. It has been getting fairly well-known in the young adult reading community, but not as much as it should in my opinion. This is an own-voices contemporary novel following a teenage girl who has extreme agoraphobia, anxiety, depression, and OCD. The reason I love this novel so much is because I am someone who has suffered from all of these things (except the OCD) and can say that this book is not sugar-coated, and it is such an honest and true representation of what people with these invisible illnesses go through every day. Sure, it has the cutesy romance that every YA contemporary has, but it is not the focus of the novel, the mental illness is. I think that’s so important because a lot of books have the love interest fix the MC’s mental illness, and that is just not accurate. That does not happen, and this book showcases that. It shows struggle and difficulty, it shows days where it feels like nothing will get better. But, at the end, it shows hope. And that’s honestly the one thing anyone can ask for when it comes to dealing with a mental illness. The author is such a sweet person, and it’s so great to hear a story that lies in truth; one that people who suffer from these illnesses can relate to.
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
This is a modern classic. It’s a historical fiction WWII novel that follows our main character Liesel, a little girl adopted by an older couple. She loves to read, write, and steal books. It is heartbreaking, beautiful, and, like I said, a modern classic. I honestly don’t know what else to say about this. I feel like it’s so popular that I don’t need to say much, so I’ll just leave it at that.
I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson
This is another YA contemporary. We see twins Noah and Jude grow up through a tragedy. We see how close they were when they were young and how far from each other they are when they grow up. This novel is beautifully written. Jandy Nelson makes your heart ache for each character, even when one is negatively depicting the other. This book, I think, is the ultimate coming-of-age novel. It explores art, friendships, family tragedy, and the troubles of growing up among peer pressure, unrequited love, and all those things that we deem cliché in YA books but are often rooted in truth. This is my favorite young adult contemporary book of all time, and I’ve read a lot of YA contemporary. Not to sound pretentious (although it will probably come across that way anyway), I think that’s saying something.
A World Without You by Beth Revis
I would say this is a young adult contemporary…but at the same time it’s not. But at the same time it is. It’s confusing and you would probably only understand what I mean if you’ve read the book (hint hint: read the book). A lot of this book feels like magical realism, especially when we’re in our main character’s point of view. However, when we switch from our MC’s view to his sister’s view, things aren’t as they seem. In our main character’s point of view, we are in a boarding school for teens who have super powers. In our MC’s sister’s POV, her brother is in a school for teens with mental illnesses and/or disabilities. Therefore, each POV is very different from the other. This makes the book a tragically beautiful story of remorse and regret, a book of what it means to be mentally ill. It explores the fine line between truth and fiction; reality and imagination. I can’t say whether or not this is strictly contemporary fiction, as the ending of the book leaves the reader questioning that, but it definitely comes in a hard second to I’ll Give You the Sun if it is.
Uprooted by Naomi Novik
We’re rounding this list off with a clear-cut fantasy novel. No magical realism, illusions, etc. It takes place in a fictional world with storybook-like settings and characters. The magic in this world is made up of beautiful, non-sensical words and various mystical potions that can either hurt or help you. The villain of the story is a dark forest with unforgiving creatures and trees that hold old secrets. The main character is locked in a tower with a stern magician, who slowly but surely comes to like her and teach her magic. If all of these things don’t describe a classic fairytale story (with just a smidgen of R-rated material), then I don’t know what does. Naomi Novik’s writing is slow and sweet, setting up the ominous dark forest and the hate-to-love relationship between the magician and our main character beautifully. If I could recommend any stand-alone fantasy novel, it would be this one.
That’s it for this list, folks! Let me know what are some of your favorite stand-alone books. I love getting some good stand-alone recommendations! 🙂