Top 5 Tuesday is hosted by the wonderful Shanah @ Bionic Book Worm. This week’s topic is perfect for me! I am someone who prefers character-driven novels vs. plot-driven novels. The majority of the books that I loved and rated five stars have been character-driven. The books I chose to talk about in this post are just five of the many character-drive books that I absolutely adored!
Tin Man by Sarah Winman
I have talked about Tin Man at every opportunity since I read it in the beginning of June, and I will continue to talk about it for the foreseeable future. It is a breathtaking story that is about an almost love story between two characters. The first half of the story is told from the perspective of one character, and the last half from the other. There is not much of a plot to Tin Man, and the story truly is about the lives of these two characters and how they navigate the world both together, and apart. It is truly beautiful.
Swimming Lessons by Claire Fuller
I went in to Swimming Lessons knowing nothing about it because it was a complete cover buy, and I was blown away by it. The story is about a woman who goes missing, and years later her husband finds letters she had written to him hidden in books throughout his collection. There is not much of a plot to speak of and the story is truly about the ups and downs of this marriage, and how the wife’s disappearance affects the family. Each and every character is flawed and completely human. I found myself sympathizing with each of them in very different ways.
Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders
Apparently there are 166 characters in Lincoln in the Bardo, so it is definitely a book all about the characters! The majority of the book is simple dialogue and banter between the overwhelming number of characters. It definitely takes awhile to get used to all of the voices and the unique way that the story is told, but once you do, it is truly a work of genius.
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine is a story all about Eleanor and she completely drives the story. This book is written in first person and it was an absolute joy to spend some time living in the mind of Eleanor. There is a lot of character development and the reader slowly discovers why she is the way that she is and you start to completely fall in love with her. She is not the only character that I loved! The side characters, especially Raymond, are wonderful as well.
I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson
I’ll Give You the Sun is one of those books that is a perfect balance between plot-driven and character-driven. While I adored the plot, it was the characters that truly shined in my opinion. I became completely attached to both Noah and Jude and felt every emotion that they felt when they felt them. Jandy Nelson is such a talented writer and brought her characters to life. I appreciated that her characters were in no way cookie cutter and were individuals. It was such a moving story!
Do you prefer plot-drive or character-drive novels? I would love to know what your favourite character-driven novels are!
50 thoughts on “Five Character-Driven Novels I Absolutely Loved”
Swimming Lessons was the first book I read this year, and I absolutely loved it, too!
I’m so glad you loved it too!! I don’t see a lot of people talking about it which is a shame!
Character is definitely the most important element for me. If there aren’t any characters I can connect with, then I probably won’t finish the book.
For character driven books, I would have to recommend The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers. I just finished it last night. There isn’t much plot, but I love all the characters!
I completely agree! I have been meaning to read that book for absolute ages!! I am so happy you loved it!
I’m going to get the second book from the library tonight. It’s been described as ‘comfort science fiction’, and that is definitely what it is.
If I have to pick I prefer character-driven novels, but my most favorite books all have a really good balance between characters and plot like The Bear and the Nightingale. Now I really want to re-read I’ll Give You the Sun, I think summer’s the perfect time for it 😊
The Bear and the Nightingale is the perfect balance between plot and characters! Summer is the perfect time for I’ll Give You the Sun. I am thinking of rereading it soon myself. I hope you enjoy it!
Swimming Lessons sounds incredible! I’ll have to keep it on my radar and check it out soon 🙂
It’s really amazing. I hope you enjoy it! 😀
I haven’t read any of these yet, but I own I’ll Give You the Sun, and everyone always tells me how much they loved it. I need to move it up my TBR soon.
Ah you need to read I’ll Give the Sun! It’s truly amazing!!
I have read the last 2 books on this list and I just love Eleanor Oliphant *Heart eyes*
She’s so amazing!! One of my favourite characters that is for sure!
She just sticks with you for a long time, I don’t think I will forget her anytime soon!
Swimming Lessons sounds so good! More books to add to the infinite tbr list 😂
Yay! That makes me so happy! I want everyone to read that book!
I loved Eleanor Oliphant too!! Great list!
Thank you! She’s the best!
You’re welcome! Yes!!
Character driven for me personally! It’s the empathy part that makes me enjoy reading. Of course those few books that have the perfect balance of both is my favorite 😁
I totally agree! It takes a really talented author to find a perfect balance. I love when I find books like that!
Character driven stories are THE BEST. I’m already eager to read Elinor Oliphant, and hearing that it’s so character driven only makes me more excited!!
I think you’re really going to love it!!
I need to read these but the cover of Tin Man is gorgeous!
It really is! The story itself is even better!!
I’ve heard such great things about Lincoln at the Bardugo. One of these days I’ll pick it up. Especially since it made your list!
Thanks for participating 🙂
It’s really great! Takes some getting used to though! I hope you enjoy it!
I don’t read many character-driven novels but Swimming Lessons definitely sounds interesting! And I have I’ll Give You the Sun but I have yet to crack it open. But your rave review is definitely encouraging me to move it up on my TBR!
Ohh I am so excited for you to read I’ll Give You the Sun!!
I’m so excited too! I bet it’ll touch my heart and I can’t wait to read a book like that 😀
I prefer character-driven novels. I love a deep dive into the characters to explore what drives them and see how much they change as the story progresses. Plot-driven stories are fun, but I get a lot more out of the character-driven ones.
I completely agree. Character driven stories are the ones that stick with me!
I’m hearing great things about Tin Man, and I loved the characters in Eleanor Oliphant. That book could have been silly or cute, but it wasn’t, because the characters felt real.
I highly recommend Tin Man!! You’re so right. That book could have gone so wrong but it was brilliant!
Character-driven. As a writer, character is what draws me in to a story; as a reader, same. Interesting book list and your breakdown has me adding more books to my TBR…I’m a bit mad about that (lol).
Haha sorry but I am so happy that you found books to add to your TBR!
So looking forward to Eleanor Oliphant — my book group is reading it in August!
I hope you love it! I think you will!
Character driven books are my love and my soul. The writing in I’ll Give You The Sun is SO BEAUTIFUL AND HEARTBREAKING; I wholeheartedly stan Jandy Nelson.
Me too! She’s an absolute genius!
I had Swimming Lessons on my tbr, didn’t realise it was a character focused story. I thought it was some kind of mystery. I guess the two things are not mutually exclusive.
Eleanor Oliphant also sounds pretty good!
Thank you! There is a little mystery in Swimming Lessons but it is not the main focus of the story! I absolutely recommend Eleanor Oliphant!
yaaaay i’ll give you the sun <3 and i recently added eleanor oliphant to my tbr so now i'm excited! i love a good character driven novel – we are okay by nina lacour comes to mind, even though i only gave it like 3.5 stars :p great post!
I have that one on my TBR! I have heard really great things about Nina Lacour’s writing. Hopefully I will get to it soon! Thank you!
Totally agree about Lincoln at the Bardo. What a wonderfully unique work and I didn’t realize there were so many characters, but thinking back it’s not surprising, although I didn’t find it overwhelming.
It says a lot about George Saunders writing that he created so many characters and yet somehow the reader is not overwhelmed by them!
A couple of these are already on my TBR so it’s great to see you loved them already 🙂
Awesome! Can’t wait to see what you think!