The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $15). Clare first meets Henry when she's 6 and he's 36. Over the next 30 years, Clare's life progresses in a linear fashion while Henry uncontrollably time-travels to the past and future. Clare is such a beautiful character — the emotional epicenter for a man dislocated in time. Her devotion to Henry, who is paradoxically most present to her when he's absent, forces her to gain strength in her solitude.
A Visit From the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan (Anchor, $16). This is a novel about the interconnected lives of many people, but Sasha, a record executive's passionate and sticky-fingered personal assistant, always struck me as the main character. She views the objects she steals as collectively expressing "the raw, warped core of her life," and it's heartbreaking. No wonder this novel won a Pulitzer.
Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout (Random House, $15). Olive is a difficult woman to love, but love her I do. Her sensitivities, emotions, and very personal perception of the world — though sometimes grating to her friends and family — feel very real.
The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom (Touchstone, $16). A young Irish immigrant begins working in the kitchen of a Southern plantation. As an indentured servant, she straddles two worlds: the world of her white master and mistress, and that of her adoptive slave family. A unique and unforgettable novel.
The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery (Europa, $15). Witty and touching, this novel features two of my favorite female characters: Renée, the concierge of a Paris apartment building who hides her passion for culture, and the precocious 12-year-old Paloma, who yearns to escape the vapid future laid out for her. As their lives intertwine, both characters learn more about themselves and the world.
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt (Little, Brown, $30). Full disclosure: I am only partway through Donna Tartt's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel. But I can already tell it's going to be one of my favorites.
— Gillian Anderson plays Hannibal Lecter's psychotherapist on the NBC series Hannibal. The actress' first novel, the science fiction thriller A Vision of Fire, was recently published by Simon & Schuster.