These are books that I am reading/have read in the last year that I believe are good enough to blanket recommend to pretty much anyone:
Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell (in-progress)
It's literary. It's better than the movie. It informs the reader about human nature and themselves. And unlike the movie, IMHO, it isn't just about slavery. If you like short-stories, but find they leave you wanting more...ding-ding-ding.
Blood of Tyrants by Naomi Novik
Of course, read the other books first, but that's sort of the point. The Temeraire novels are terrific almost all the way through. Well researched, wonderful characters. Basically, it's Horatio Hornblower with dragons. And actually, yes, it is mostly about slavery.
Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
Another human condition-type book, but the prose is wonderful, the suspense is palpable, and it will make you (the reader) think hard about what's important in life. Uncomfortably funny, very British, but worth the read.
Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
Best thing in modern, dark fantasy for the younger crowd. Seriously dark for my tastes, but utterly inspired from beginning to end, incredibly daring. If Gaiman, Pullman, and Nix had a literary love-child, I think it would look something like this. Bonus: the sequel is just as good, but even darker.
Speaking from Among the Bones by Alan Bradley
This is from the Flavia de Luce series of mystery novels. Start at the beginning. Please? Again, seriously anglophilic, but charming. The series takes place in post-WWII England in a quaint village with even quainter people. Flavia is...twelve, I think? She solves mysteries and thinks about poisoning people.
Defending Jacob by William Landay
A little too popular, but still worth the time. Readers of John Grisham might especially enjoy this one. I am not such a person myself. The book provides an interesting look into the justice system and into family curses.
Seraphina by Rachel Hartman
Again, dragons, but this time in a more high-fantasy style, although definitely with modern twists. The book asks interesting questions about love, kinship, and family secrets. I am eagerly awaiting more from the author. I usually don't say that.
Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness
Second book in the All Souls Trilogy. I feel the urge to defend this as not being paranormal romance. The author did some terrific research into history, science, and literature. She also wrote a vampire novel I actually read...and loved. But, yes, tons of romance novel here. Aching for the final volume.
So that's a year of the best books from my reading life, brought to you with memory-jogging help from Good Reads. If you read, you need a Good Reads account.