I've not done too shabby of a job reading this year, even with a demanding little person to care for and, whenever possible, read in front of. Ironically enough, I also have my daughter to thank for some of the gems I've read this year, and my mom's group book club whose members believe as heartily as I do that reading > housekeeping. Julianna Baggott's Pure was weird and thrilling and unexpectedly brilliant. I remember her name bandied about when I was in graduate school, so I hardly expected to love a speculative novel from her (not because she's not awesome, but because my graduate school experience was not what I would call genre-fiction friendly). But I totally did. If you like your post-apocalyptic futures a little, okay, a lot on the creepy side, your heroines complex and vulnerable, read this book. You will not be disappointed.
I don't need to tell you why Veronica Roth's Divergent was amazing, because you've probably read it already. I don't know why I didn't read it sooner and wish I had, especially since the reaction I've gathered from the internet in regards to Allegiant has scared me off of continuing the series (for now). Also, I have so many feels, none of them good, about the upcoming film adaptation.
Alif the Unseen was hands-down the most imaginative book I read all year, possibly in years, a novel so rich in imagination I was left wanting for fanfiction at the end. But really good, depthy fanfiction full of capricious djinn. The characters are dynamic and a few of them unexpectedly endearing, and Wilson's hackers look nothing like this. Thank goodness. (I do love Jonny Lee Miller and Fisher Stevens, though; have you heard Fisher Stevens read Christopher Moore? Fantastic.)
You may want to throw Eli Brown's Cinnamon and Gunpowder against the wall when you get to the end, but don't let that stop you from devouring it anyway. Because with pirates and food porn what else, really, can you do? It's probably the most literary of these, but only in the best of ways. Except for that damned ending.
While the rest of these really aren't in any sort of order, my favorite novel of the year is the one I finished most recently, and literally lost days of my life daydreaming over once I had done. Yangsze Choo's The Ghost Bride was likened in a couple of reviews to a grown-up version of Spirited Away, and it's so, so true (though I've always immensely enjoyed Spirited Away as a grown-up, and I think the themes are timeless). The world of the dead was more vivid and compelling than the narrator's reality, the romance surprising, and the unexpected humor! I just can't even get into all of the things that I loved without giving some of the best bits away. Just read it.
And an honorable mention because I was so pleased with this little gem and would not have picked it up were it not for the fact that it's from my publisher, but Winona Kent's Persistence of Memory is a really delightful little romp into Regency England. Accidental time travel and intrigue and romance? Yes, please. I only wish the cover did it better justice. Get a girl and a clock and a frock on there, already.