10 things that make me fall in love with books + recommendations

Hello friends!

As my reading tastes have been shifting the past year or so (a topic for another day) I started thinking about what the fixtures are in all of this, the immovable things that, no matter how much my reading changes, will always be there for me to count on when it comes to books. What are some things that draw me to books? The things that I look for in a story to be able to say with confidence that I think I would love it. Things that, if incorporated into a story, if weaved in seamlessly into the narrative will make a book leave an everlasting impression on me, if not make it a new favorite of mine.

This post is going to not only be a list of all tropes and elements I love as well as the reasons I love them, but also books that, in my opinion, do these things right. So without further ado, let’s get on with the lovefest. Keep in mind that these are books I’ve read I’m recommending. I have a lot more that fit on my TBR.

Title = goodreads page

1- Found Family

This has got to be my favorite trope, hands down. The one that I would go for, no questions asked. If I’m told a book has found family, I do not care about the genre, the plot, the synopsis, or anything else. If it has a good found family, I’m there. Now, if you make it queer? I’ll move sky and earth to get my hands on said book and read it ASAP. There’s just something about a bunch of people who have gone through a multitude of things, coming together, having each other’s backs, loving each other unconditionally and helping each other heal from whatever it is they have gone through. It’s so tender and it feels like a warm hug every single time. Like coming home.

Books that do it right:

2- Messy characters and messy relationships

Here’s the thing, I don’t like perfect characters. Maybe “don’t like” is too strong of a sentiment, but really, good characters who do no wrong, or catch themselves whenever they stumble don’t…make me feel any type of way. I’ll read about them, even love books about them, but the characters themselves will probably be forgettable for me. Maybe because I do not find them relatable, maybe for another slew of reasons I haven’t even as much as tried exploring yet but the point is, I like characters who either fuck up or are fucked up, to put it bluntly. Most of the time, one is consequential of the other and they go hand in hand.

That being said, I don’t like these characters to go unchecked. One of the main reasons I like them, I think, is that they make for higher stakes, more compelling narratives and more intense stories. I like to see characters as “imperfect” as they come, I like to see them lash out, have bad coping mechanisms, push people away and maybe even hurt themselves and others in the process because they do not know any different, any better. But what I need these types of narratives to go hand in hand with? Consequences. It is imperative that, without spelling it out, it is made clear that whatever they are doing or going through isn’t right.

Then my favorite part of these types of stories? Healing. There always comes a breaking point, them hitting the lowest of lows when there really is nowhere to go but up, if they choose to. No matter what that healing looks like. And I can guarantee you it looks different for different people and that’s the beauty of it. Seeing these characters grow and change, and pull themselves into a version of themselves they can healthily live with. These characters will speak to so many people, and many find solace in them more than they could ever find in other types of characters.

Books that do it right:

3- Sisterhood

I don’t know how many of you know this, but I have a younger sister, it’s just the two of us and I love her to death. But I can’t tell you how hard it is to find books that do sisterhood right. And no, I do not mean that I am looking for just *one* type of sister relationship. What I mean though is that I can count on one hand the books I’ve read that show sister relationships for the complex thing that they are, no matter what form they take, no matter if blood or found. Maybe two if I push it. So when I find a book that actually does it right, it’s almost guaranteed to become a new favorite. Especially if said relationship is central and pivotal to the story.

Books that do it right:

4- Real life issues in fantasy

You know what I love? When Fantasy books, all subgenres included, throw subtle (or not so subtle) shade at real life issues and oppressors, dismantling and critiquing their power and misuse of it through fiction. Be it current events or those of the past. If it is written, you bet I want to read it. Are you drawing inspiration from your culture and critiquing your colonizers? Are you tackling very real immigration issues through fictitious settings and characters? Are you using your book as a metaphor or allegory for any number of other problems that need discussion and awareness? Give me all of it. I guarantee you I want to read it all.

Books that do it right:

  • We Set the Dark on Fire by Tehlor Kay Mejia (undocumented immigration)
  • Mirage by Somaiya Daud (Colonialism and the erasure and assimilation of Indigenous folks in Morocco)
  • The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang (the Sino-Japanese war)
  • The Deep by Rivers Solomon (Slavery and intergenerational trauma)

5- Political intrigue in fantasy

This might be a bit of an unpopular opinion, but I really do not care for action and fight scenes in Fantasy books. Do I love them when they’re well executed? Yes! Do I need them to enjoy a book? Do they make me enjoy the book more? No, on both accounts. As long as the book has other strengths then I’m going to love it regardless of the action. And one of my favorite things, if not my ultimate favorite thing, in fantasy is when it does a deep dive in politics. When it has you so wrapped up in clans and sides and insidious fights for power that you don’t care about anything else, especially when it’s all so complicated and grey that there is no clear “good” side.

Books that did it right:

6- Queer characters in historical settings

This one is pretty self-explanatory because of the old age excuse of “queerness is a new concept” when it actually is as old as time itself, so I love seeing queer characters in all time periods, living their lives, flipping it to everyone who tries to erase their existence from history with all the “gals being pals” and “gents rooming” and even the little to no mention of non-binary folks when there are historical records of all type of LGBTQIA+ identities in various points of time.

Now I gotta admit, I have a lot of catching up to do in this department as this is a newly found love of mine, but over the past few months, every single historical fiction book that has queer main characters that passed through my radar has been added to my TBR.

Books that do it right:

7- Sapphics of color

If you know anything about me, you know i’m a sucker for f/f stories. I read a lot of them, love a lot of them too. But am I interested in every single one I come across? eh…not really, depends on the genre, the premise, the tropes, etc… Now, if you tell me the book has girls/women of color falling in love? I’m all over that. Yesterday. And the reason behind that is that, for a long time and still today, queer stories in general have been dominated by white narratives, which are far from being relatable to queer BIPOC. But considering my specific interest in sapphic stories, whenever I find out about one that fits the bill, I support it, want to read it and more often than not, love it.

There are so many I could recommend, that I can make a post of its own (let me know if it’s something you want to see) but for the purpose of this post, here are a handful I love.

Books that do it right:

8- Non-western fairytales and retellings

This applies to either retellings of non-western fairytales, myth and folklore or authors of color’s takes on classic tales. There’s something about them that just hits different, especially when they manage to incorporate their own cultural background into the latter. As for the former, non-Western folklore is so much lesser known so whenever I see some that manage to make it through in publishing, it feels like a victory and I want to read all of it.

Books that did it right:

9- Magic and science blends

I am a science nerd through and through, so if I manage to find a book that blends science and magic, is able to explain magic with science and makes a good job at making it believable and foolproof, I’m all over that. The book is guaranteed the highway to the top of my favorites’ list. This really doesn’t need much of explanation, I just have a weakness for science based magic.

Books that do it right:

10- Magic in the mundane

This is also pretty self-explanatory. This is something that you can most often find in Magical Realism or Fabulism, and those are both genres that I love whenever I read them but don’t reach for a lot for some reason, and that’s something I need to fix. There’s just something so tender and heart achingly beautiful about finding magic in the most normal of things, especially when that’s paired with whimsical, atmospheric writing that just wraps you in and pulls you into the story. And most of the time, the two go hand in hand.

Books that do it right:

And that’s a wrap for this post! I considered while putting it together whether or not to include romance specific tropes and elements but then, I came to the conclusion that that might need a post of its own, so romance edition? maybe soon?


That’s it until next time.

Do you have recommendations for any of these elements?

What are some things that make you pick up/love books?

Hope you enjoyed, write to you soon.

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33 thoughts on “10 things that make me fall in love with books + recommendations

  1. I love the idea for this post. Especially giving all the recommendations 🙂 It’s a crime that from all the books you’ve mentioned, I’ve only read Evelyn Hugo so far. But I have lots of them on my tbr so I plan to change that soon! I think either The Astonishing Color of After or You Should See Me in a Crown might actually be my next read 😍

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  2. I haven’t read a book in a while but I am a huge fan of a lot of these tropes and need to get on these books! The sisterhood relationship is something that I’ve never actively looked for but I’m super close with my older sister and love when I stumble across relationships that reflect ours in some way. This was a great post!

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  3. I like magic in the mundane. I think I should try the nonwestern fairy tale/myth stories and I love your recommendations! I have Blanca and Roja and I mean to read it.

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  4. I want to read more about non-western fairy tales and retellings. I’ve already read The Forbidden Wish and really enjoyed it. // I also love the found family, the “playing with the timeline” and the quest/journey theme.

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  5. I love so many of the tropes you mentioned! I have a Rocky relationship with my sister so I live vicariously through sibling relationships in books lol.
    But omg yes I adore messy characters but only when there are consequences. Consequences can make or break something. I hate when people conveniently get everything they want because that’s not what happens in life!!
    If I can’t have that you can’t either 😂😂

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  6. I still need to read most of them 😅 but yesss I love queer characters in historical settings too!! I will automatically check that book out if they have these two things: queer characters and historical fiction. Bonus point if it’s also fantasy or has some magical elements in it. Thank you for the rec!! My TBR sure is growing larger and longer 😂

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  7. Magic realism, mix of sci-fi and fantasy and non western fairytale retelling, these are some of my fave tropes! They never get old and always have something new to explore.

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  9. Reading this from a reader’s pov had me nodding from start to finish…. I couldn’t agree more. However, what was more interesting, is that as a writer, it made me open up my draft and double check many points in my draft, from plot holes, twists or the general plot itself to my characters. It was honestly an eye opener on so many things my story was missing. I genuinely thank you for this post, and deeply appreciate it 🙏🏻💗

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  10. yess fadwa i needed this to start deciding on my September tbr!! and i need to start reading jade city soon, with the adaptation announcement and all. thank you 🤍

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  11. UGH YES SISTERS. Just siblings in general, for me, I want to see everywhere. It’s such a weird, complex relationship that’s so different from friends or romance, and I don’t understand why there aren’t more siblings in everything. There’s so much potential there for such a well-developed and powerful story! Also absolutely LOVE that you picked Court of Lions for your rec of sisters! I just finished it, and I cannot get over what an excellent sequel it was.

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  12. Omg, love this post so so so much Fadwa!! Just love everything you do. Found family is also one of my faves, as well as magic in the mundane (one of my all-time fave genres). I’ve been so pumped to read The Fever King, K.A. Ancrum’s books, You Should See Me In A Crown, The House on the Cerulean Sea and Clap When You Land xx Ah Evelyn Hugo is SUCH a phenomenal character!!

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