Do you ever find a book you really like and then find out there are 25 other books in the (what you now realize is a) series?
While this can be great news, because who doesn’t want to read more about a world that is fantastically built and a story that is beautifully written?, it can be a little daunting. This is especially the case when you think you are picking up a stand-alone book.
While you are reading some great series this summer, here is a list of stand-alones you can pepper in for when you need a palate cleanser. It includes a wide variety of genres, mainly because my tastes are all over the place. Okay, for real, here they are:
1- The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
I remember when this book was brand new, there wasn’t a ton of buzz about it yet, and Starbucks was doing a thing where you could download and read the first few chapters for free to see if you liked it and I remember being completely blown away by it and immediately finished the book and LOVED IT. When more people started talking about it, I reread it and was just as impressed as I was the first time.
The Night Circus is a beautiful, heavily descriptive fantasy novel about a circus, Le Cirque des Rêves, that shows up unexpectedly and dazzles its patrons with breathtaking attractions, but only at night. When the sun comes up, the circus closes down. However, what circus-goes don’t realize is that behind the circus, there is a competition between two magicians, Celia and Marco, that could put everything in danger.
Recommend for anyone who: likes fantasy that feels more like magical realism, wants to secretly be a part of a nocturnal circus, or likes a slow-moving, but very beautifully written book.
2- The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
This book probably doesn’t need an introduction, but it’s about a 16-year-old girl, Starr who witnesses a while police officer shoot and kill her best friend, Khalil. Starr must deal with what this means for the part of her that lives in a poor neighborhood and the part of her that attends a suburban prep-school with mostly white students.
This book addresses issues that are relevant and all of the characters and situations feel incredibly real. It currently has a 4.66/5 stars on Goodreads and it definitely deserves the high rating.
Recommend for: everyone.
3- The Unseen World by Liz Moore
This book is a new favorite since I read it for my bookclub. It takes place mostly in the 1980s and follows Ada Sibelius, who is raised by her brilliant, but eccentric father, David. When Ada’s father is unable to care for her, she moves in with his colleague and best friend and has to navigate a new life as well as uncover some of David’s secrets.
The Unseen World was a slow start for me, but once I made it about 100 pages in, I was completely hooked with the beautiful writing and characters I fell in love with.
Recommend for anyone who: likes character driven stories, likes a little bit of mystery to go with their literary fiction, or likes any of the following: the 80s, particularly if you’re interested in how computer science developed through the 80s (not necessary, just if you are interested in this area), strong female characters, and for romance to take the back seat.
4- The Passion of Dolssa by Julie Berry
The Passion of Dolssa was so refreshing and different from any YA book I have ever read. First, it takes place in Provensa (Provence, France) in 1241. Yep, 1241. Yet, the characters are so real and Julie Berry does an excellent job of building a world in a time period you shouldn’t relate to, but you end up being completely sucked in. The story is about a young woman, Dolssa, on the run because of her unique gifts that some say is heresy, and Botille, a peasant matchmaker who shows kindness to Dolssa. But, when Friar Lucien comes to Botille’s village in search for Dolssa, everyone is in danger.
If you still aren’t convinced, I wasn’t 100% sure I would like it going into the book either, but I promise it is absolutely worth your time.
Recommend for anyone who: likes historical fiction (or doesn’t), wants to read something completely different and original in YA, wants well-written characters and fantastic world building in YA or in general.
5-You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) by Felicia Day
I love memoirs, especially funny memoirs. Bossypants by Tina Fey, Yes Please by Amy Poehler, Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson, and You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) by Felicia Day are some of my favorites. Felicia Day’s book stands out because she is just so relatable. She has experienced Anxiety firsthand and those chapters really stood out to me. And of course, she is just ridiculously funny.
Felicia Day is an internet star (her fans dubbed her “Queen of the Geeks”), writer, actress (Dr. Horrible’s Sing Along Blog, Supernatural, and her brainchild, The Guild, among others) , and all around fabulous human. Oh, and if you haven’t watched The Guild yet, do yourself a huge favor and get on it!
Recommend for anyone who: has already watched The Guild and needs to read more from the fabulous Felicia Day (good job, you), if you are in a fandom or would like to be in a fandom and love finding other people who are in fandoms, or like funny, witty, and well-written books.
6- Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
I have a review up on Big Little Lies here if you don’t mind a ton of gifs from the show I haven’t even finished watching yet (I felt it very necessary to the blog post, you know, for academic reasons). This was my first Liane Moriarty book and I can’t wait to read more because a) I loved Big Little Lies and b) her books are stand-alones and that is beautiful.
Recommend for anyone who: likes their contemporaries with a side of mystery, likes female driven stories, or wants to read something fast paced that you will not be able to put down until you’ve finished, even if it’s 1am. I know from experience.
7- Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye
Have you always thought to yourself,
I really liked Jane Eyre, but I don’t know, I just wish she was a serial killer?
Have no fear, because this is the book for you.
In Jane Steele, the title character draws inspiration from Jane Eyre’s story because like Eyre, Jane Steele is wronged by those who are closest to her. Except Jane Steele turns to murder to escape everyone who means her harm. And it’s awesome.
Recommend for anyone who: wants a book inspired by the original Jane Eyre (but with more stabbing) and likes heroines who bite back.
8- Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly
Finally, Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly. This is a story based upon the lives of three real women during World War II. Kasia is a Polish teenager sent to Ravensbrück, the concentration camp for women where experiments were conducted on a group called “The Rabbits”, Herta, a German doctor at the camp, and Caroline, a New York socialite who helped the group of women that survived Ravensbrück gain justice after their horrific experience.
You can tell that Kelly put a lot of time and research into this book and it highlighted atrocities during WWII that were, to me, not as well known.
Recommend for anyone who: wants to learn about less written about injustices of WWII, wants to read about these events from the perspectives of three different women, or wants to read a very human, emotional story that reminds us of the atrocities that happened less than 80 years ago.
P.s. If you’ve made it to the end of another long, eclectic book list, thank you and congratulations! You have officially earned a grande mocha latte hazelnut caramel crunch frappe with extra whip, sprinkles on top, and an extra shot of espresso. Go ahead, you deserve it!
P.p.s. Except please don’t because that sounds disgusting. Maybe just give yourself a pat on the back.