I'll start with the classics. They are classics for a reason!
Three classics I had never read before and just loved were East of Eden by John Steinbeck, The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas, and The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde. The quickest, easiest read of the three would be the Wilde novel. And, it had a plethora of underlinable nuggets of writing that I found hilarious or particularly insightful into human nature. A classic I had read before but rediscovered was To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. If ever there was a book that everyone should read at some point, that would be it.
In the historical fiction category, I've got 3 recommendations. My Name is Mary Sutter by Robin Oliveira chronicles the story of a young woman who wants to be a doctor during the time of the Civil War. I learned so much about that time period through this book and enjoyed the well-told story. An even finer crafted novel is Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese. It features the story of twin brother doctors in Africa in the mid 1900's. It's an epic, fascinating tale. And finally there is Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes which tells of marines during the Vietnam War. All three of these are excellent choices though I liked Mary Sutter slightly less than the other two.
I didn't read a lot of fantasy/science fiction this year, but I did finish out the Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins. All three of those books were incredible. I can't recommend the series enough.
I hardly ever read "westerns" and I hesitate to call The Time It Never Rained by Elmer Kelton by that name. Though it is set in the 1950's in Texas and deals with the drought that wreaked havoc on the ranchers and farmers then. I loved this book. This story stuck with me a long time. It's slightly haunting and tough to read without aching for the characters.
I'm not a big fan of the everyday life of everyday people novels. Those tend to bore me (think Anne Tyler, she is the queen of that genre.) But I did read two of this kind that I actually liked pretty well, and if someone loves that genre these would definitely be the books for them. Check out The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister. The lives of several people who have joined the same cooking class are gently unfolded and tied together with some lessons from the kitchen. It was done very well. I actually cared about the characters which almost never happens for me in this type of book. Also, Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri is a touching novel that tells the tales of several Indian Americans trying to make life in America.
For religious reading it's hard to top The Hole in Our Gospel by Richard Stearns. It is a moving call to action for Christians to relieve the suffering of the poor across this world. It's almost impossible to read this book and come away unchanged in your thinking.
So there are my top picks from the year. You can find out more about them on Amazon if they spark your interest!