Top Ten Tuesday: Character-Driven Novels

For today’s Tuesday Top 10 (hosted by The Broke and the Bookish), participants have been asked to list their favorite character-driven novels. Since character-driven novels are pretty much all I ever read, I could just point you to any of my year-end favorite posts and say, “Have at it,” but what fun would that be? It’s difficult for me to only pick ten, but I’ll give it a shot:

Benediction, Kent Haruf. All of Haruf’s works are character driven, and while my favorite of his is probably Plainsong, this particular novel really wrenched my heart.

Benediction Cover
Texasville, Larry McMurtry. This novel (part two of the Thalia Trilogy) revisits some of the cast of The Last Picture Show, 33 years later. Set during the 1980s Texas oil bust, it’s both funny and melancholy.

Texasville (Thalia Trilogy) Cover
In the Woods, Tana French. I could have picked any of French’s books, but I decided to pick her first one because it was the first one I read and it was also the first time I felt like everything I love about literary fiction had been married to everything that’s great about suspense.

In the woods.jpg
Straight Man, Richard Russo. Again, I could have picked any of Russo’s books, but this is one of my favorite books of all time. If you like books about father-son relationships or dry-witted academics (among other things), then pick it up ASAP.


Lamb, Bonnie Nadzam. This one is not for the faint of heart, but Nadzam does such an amazing job showing what’s going on inside the head of David Lamb that it’s both frightening and mesmerizing.

Lamb Cover
Canada, Richard Ford. When Dell Parson’s parents are arrested for robbing a bank, he is estranged from his twin sister and exiled to Canada, where he works for a man with a dark secret. I read this on a whim and loved every second of it.

CanadaNovel.jpg
The Sisters Brothers, Patrick deWitt. The Sisters brothers are assassins sent to kill a man who has invented a way to discover and steal gold from their boss. It’s a love story about two brothers, it’s a Western, and it’s darkly and awesomely funny.

Thesistersbrotherscover.jpg
You Are One of Them, Elliott Holt. What if your best friend disappeared? What if you had defined yourself around that disappearance, and then you learned it might not be true? This is an unusual coming-of-age story that I thoroughly intend to read again.

You Are One of Them Cover
Olive Kitteridge, Elizabeth Strout. this is more a novel in stories, all which center around the central character of Olive Kitteridge, who lives in Crosby, Maine. Her story is told mostly through the eyes of the relatives and townspeople who know her.

Olive-kitteridge l.jpg
The Dart League King, Keith Lee Morris. I’m big on stories about sad-sacks with big dreams. Russell Harmon is getting ready for his dart league to play its final championship game of the season, and he’s banking on more than a trophy if he wins. This book has so much more than meets the eye, and I wish I could get it into the hands of more people.

The Dart League King Cover

*images and links from powells.com and Wikipedia

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6 comments

  1. This is such a great list, I am a big Tana French fan! I have a couple of these in the 746 – The Sisters Brothers and Canada, so I’m looking forward to those.

  2. I wish I had never read Texasville, so that I could read it again for the first time. It’s a book I read every couple of years just for the experience.

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