1. Ove (from A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman)
Ove is from a different time. He values hard work, rules, and consistency-and never hesitates to tell you he hates everything else. As the story progresses, we see flashbacks from Ove's tortured past and realize he has no reason to think otherwise. Yet we don't pity Ove-we just want to give him a hug and adopt him as our grandpa.
"Ove couldn't give a damn about people jogging. What he can't understand is why they have to make such a big thing of it. With those smug smiles on their faces, as if they were out there curing pulmonary emphysema. Either they walk fast or they run slowly, that's what joggers do. It's a forty-year-old man's way of telling the world that he can't do anything right. Is it really necessary to dress up as a fourteen-year-old Romanian gymnast in order to be able to do it? Or the Olympic tobogganing team? Just because one shuffles aimlessly around the block for three quarters of an hour?" -- A Man Called Ove
2. Jaime Lannister (from Game of Thrones series by George R.R. Martin)
The whole sprawling series begins with Jaime shoving a child out a tower window all nonchalant. And you keep hating Jaime throughout the whole show, until all of a sudden, you don't. The loss of limb? The great haircut? There isn't one definitive moment in which you realize you love Jaime, you just find yourself caring for the man who uses a bully mask to hide his sensitivity and insecurity. Swoon(?)
3. A.J. Fickry (from The Storied Life of A.J. Fickry by Gabrielle Zevin)
"I do not like postmodernism, postapocalyptic settings, postmortem narrators, or magic realism. I rarely respond to supposedly clever formal devices, multiple fonts, pictures where they shouldn't be -- basically, gimmicks of any kind. I find literary fiction about the Holocaust or any other major world tragedy to be distasteful -- nonfiction only, please. I do not like genre mash-ups à la the literary detective novel or the literary fantasy. Literary should be literary, and genre should be genre, and crossbreeding rarely results in anything satisfying. I do not like children's books, especially ones with orphans, and I prefer not to clutter my shelves with young adult. I do not like anything over four hundred pages or under one hundred fifty pages. I am repulsed by ghostwritten novels by reality television stars, celebrity picture books, sports memoirs, movie tie-in editions, novelty items, and -- I imagine this goes without saying -- vampires." - A.J. Fikry
We book nerds find A.J. particularly hilarious-mostly because we've all bashed commercial fiction at some point or another. But we've all read and loved some too. But when A.J. finds a little girl abandoned in his book shop, his mind opens.
4. Joe Ransom (from Joe by Larry Brown)
Like the overwhelming majority of Rough South Lit protagonists, ex-con Joe Ransom cares for his dog, his booze, his pickup truck, and little else, until fifteen-year-old Gary Jones crosses his path looking for work to support his impoverished family. As Joe takes Gary under his wing-teaching him to drive, giving Gary his first sips of alcohol, telling him about the Birds and the Bees (to put it lightly)-Joe not only becomes a father figure to Gary, but also an unlikely force of justice in the small southern town. Break out the foam fingers because you'll find yourself rooting for Joe Ransom despite his hard exterior.
5. Renée and Paloma (from The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery)
Renée is the bitter, middle-aged concierge at a high-end Parisian apartment complex in which Paloma, her twelve-year-old kindred spirit, lives with her very wealthy family. The chapters alternate between Renée and Paloma's first-person perspectives on their loathing for Bougie Paris. These highly intellectual characters hate pretty much everything-until they find people with whom they connect. You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll have an existential crisis about the relationship between movement and space. But most of all, you'll fall head over heels for these heart-wrenching misanthropists.