Dear Readers,

If you’re anything like me, you think summer is made for reading. But nothing is more frustrating than picking up the latest (and much-hyped) new release to find that even though it’s a bestseller, it’s not the right book for you.

How do you enjoy the hits without wasting time on the misses? Enter the summer reading guide. For the eighth year running, I’ve read hundreds (literally, hundreds!) of new releases to prepare this year’s guide, thinking of you all the while, and now you’re holding the end result in your hand. I’ve compiled my favorite summer titles in one compact, user-friendly guide that whittles the overwhelming array of readerly options down to these 30 titles, with the tastes of Modern Mrs Darcy readers in mind.

I began putting out these summer guides in 2012, and it’s always interesting to see how the book offerings vary from year to year. In some years, I had a hard time finding books I LOVED, and really had to dig to find titles I felt deserved a spot. In others, I had plenty of wonderful titles to choose from. Never has that been truer than in 2019. Curating this year’s guide was brutal, because never have I read so many great books that I’d be happy to include in these pages. I intended to include 25, but couldn’t bear to cut those last five, so 30 it is. (For those for whom 30 is way too many, don’t miss the Minimalist Guide in these pages, where I share my 5 top summer titles, and yes, choosing just 5 was sheer agony!)

Every book here has earned its spot, and I’ve personally read them all, front to back. I can vouch for them, and answer any questions you have. If I didn’t love a title, I didn’t include it here—even if I suspect most readers will enjoy it.

If you find something great in the Summer Reading Guide, would you spread the book love? Share on your favorite social media platform or with your favorite bookish friends. Our official hashtags are #summerstooshort—because summer is too short to read books you don’t love—and #IdRatherBeReading, because we’re all book lovers here.

(For our friends in the Southern Hemisphere—I can’t tell you how much I love your Instagram photos of you reading the books in this guide while curled up by the fire. You’re not forgotten.)

Readers, I hope you find a book (or twelve) you LOVE on this list. Happy summer, and happy reading!

WHOLLY UNEXPECTED LOVE STORIES

Field Notes on Love

Field Notes on Love

When Hugo Wilkinson’s girlfriend Margaret unexpectedly breaks up with him, he’s left with a broken heart and an extra ticket for the trip of a lifetime they’d planned to take together between high school and college. It would be a grand adventure and an opportunity for Hugo to get out of his siblings’ shadow for a bit. As one of the famed Surrey sextuplets, there’s very little he gets to do on his own. Hugo would be happy to travel alone, but there’s a catch—Margaret booked the nonrefundable, nontransferable tickets for their cross-country American rail adventure in her name, which means if the trip is going to happen, he needs to find another Margaret Campbell. What follows is a story of chance, friendship, coming out of your shell, and into your own … while maybe finding love on the way. Part coming-of-age story, part romance, part travel adventure, wholly absorbing. More info →
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Waiting for Tom Hanks

Waiting for Tom Hanks

Author:
Annie is a Nora Ephron-obsessed writer who dreams of both writing a rom com and finding a Tom Hanks of her own to love. Those dreams begin to come true when a Hollywood film crew invades her Columbus neighborhood to shoot a new romantic comedy featuring a handsome sitcom star … who Annie believes to be an overgrown manchild who cares more about on-set pranks than acting. But as Annie gets to know the people on set better, her life starts to take on an eerie resemblance to some of her favorite movies. This familiar story feels fresh and fun in Winfrey’s hands, and absolutely oozes charm. (In this closed-door romance, the sexy stuff is present, but happens off screen.) More info →
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Evvie Drake Starts Over

Evvie Drake Starts Over

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In the debut novel from Pop Culture Happy Hour host Holmes, a grieving widow and a disgraced Major League pitcher start over after each suffers their own kind of tragedy. Evvie’s husband dies in a car accident, but the truth surrounding his death is painful for reasons her small town community can never know. Dean’s career took a nosedive when he inexplicably developed “the yips”—he can’t pitch for reasons that might be all in his head, but nobody can figure it out. Evvie needs the income a boarder would bring, and Dean needs a refuge, so a mutual friend connects the two. Out of mutual kindness and witty banter, a friendship develops, and then something more … but starting over as a grown-up is complicated. A warm, witty, and satisfying summer read. More info →
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Time After Time: A Novel

Time After Time: A Novel

Author:
On December 5, 1937, Joe first meets Nora, a beautiful woman who appears out of nowhere in the concourse of Grand Central Terminal. She seems a little disoriented; her dress is endearingly out of style. But she’s witty and warm and fun, and Joe is instantly smitten. There’s just one problem: when Joe tries to walk Nora home, she vanishes, seemingly into thin air. When he calls the number she gave him, well, that’s when things get really strange. Don’t worry, readers, he’ll see her again, and puzzling out the how, where, and why it’s all so complicated is half the fun of reading. This novel inventively combines history, mystery, love story, and Manhattanhenge. A must-read for fans of The Time-Traveler’s Wife and The Masterpiece; with interesting parallels to A Gentleman in Moscow. More info →
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FAMILIES ARE COMPLICATED

To Night Owl From Dogfish

To Night Owl From Dogfish

I've never included a middle-grade novel in a Summer Reading Guide before, but this modern version of The Parent Trap earned its spot: it's exactly the kind of delightful read I'd eat up by the pool or on an airplane. This collaboration between two highly successful authors—one who primarily writes for kids, the other for grown-ups—is about two twelve-year old girls who live on opposite coast who strike up an unwanted correspondence after they discover their dads fell in love at a building conference and are secretly dating. This is not good news to either of them, as they make clear in the ensuing emails that comprise the book. And then it gets worse, when the girls are forced to attend camp together because their fathers went them to become friends. Things go horribly wrong in more ways than one, but there's not a single page here that doesn’t feel fresh, funny, charming, and real. A feel-good story for readers of all ages.

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Hope and Other Punch Lines

Hope and Other Punch Lines

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To millions of Americans, Abbi Hope Goldstein is known as simply "Baby Hope"—the subject of an iconic 9/11 photograph that shows her being carried to safety while Tower 1 collapses in the background. Abbi is 17 now, and her face remains instantly recognizable. For her own painful reasons, Abbi wants to enjoy one final carefree summer while she can, as an anonymous camp counselor, not as a 9/11 icon. But then she meets Noah, a teen with his own devastating 9/11 history, who knows exactly who she is, and wants her help finding answers that have long eluded him about that tragic day. Her subject matter may be heavy, but Buxbaum's light touch makes this both emotionally resonant and surprisingly funny. A great story, well told, for teen and adult readers.

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The Last Romantics

The Last Romantics

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Early tragedy forged a strong bond between the four Skinner siblings, but it also broke them in ways that don’t become apparent for many years, when another unfolding tragedy makes them question everything they know about their family. A sweeping family saga.

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Ask Again, Yes

Ask Again, Yes

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If you love dysfunctional family novels, this is one doozy of a story—and a must-read. When two rookie cops who meet at the NYC Police Academy strike up a friendship, it sets in motion a tragic chain of events that echo through the decades, through the lives of their children and their children’s children. I found this book exceptionally difficult to read—it’s depressing and dark and triggers abound—yet I was eager to find out what would happen next to these doomed families, and the astonishing developments of the last 75 pages vaulted this to my best-of-the-year list. A poignant story of grace, forgiveness, and redemption, for fans of Atonement and Little Fires Everywhere.

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Searching for Sylvie Lee: A Novel

Searching for Sylvie Lee: A Novel

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This much-anticipated novel from the author of Girl in Translation is part suspenseful mystery, part family drama, and inspired by a real-life tragedy in Kwok’s past. The story begins when her family discovers Sylvie—the beautiful, confident golden child of her family—visits the Netherlands to visit her dying grandmother, and then vanishes. As her family searches for her, we learn about the family’s complicated past and Sylvie’s own upbringing as the daughter of Chinese immigrants, first in Netherlands, then in New York. Her sister’s pursuit reveals a series of increasingly startlingly secrets, but no easy answers. Compulsively readable, with an ending I didn’t see coming. For fans of Everything Here is Beautiful and Everything I Never Told You.

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The Unlikely Adventures of the Shergill Sisters: A Novel

The Unlikely Adventures of the Shergill Sisters: A Novel

When their mother dies, three British-born Punjabi sisters are tasked with fulfilling her dying wish: returning to Punjab to make the pilgrimage she never could. The sisters were never terribly close, and now that they’re older, don’t get along at all—but how can they refuse their mother’s last wish to scatter her ashes in her homeland? They’re all dreading the trip, but once they’re together, they find it’s not as bad as they feared, and they begin to understand one another once again. But each sister is keeping a serious secret, and it’s unclear if when revealed, those secrets will cement the sisters’ relationship, or destroy it. This novel deals in serious issues—love, sisterhood, grief, immigration—but the high zany factor keeps the mood light.

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Gravity Is the Thing: A Novel

Gravity Is the Thing: A Novel

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The night before Abi turned 16, her brother vanished. That same year, she begins to receive strange packages in the mail: chapters from an odd little self-help book called The Guidebook. Those chapters provided hope when she needed it, and have always felt intimately connected to her brother’s unsolved disappearance. When, at age 35, she’s invited to a retreat on a remote Australian island to learn the truth about The Guidebook, she can’t say no. The truth is bewildering, but for the first time in years, hope does begin to glimmer again. The style is quirky and playful, the sense of humor wry. Gravity is sad but heartwarming, tender and funny, a little familiar yet wholly original. For fans of Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine and Nine Perfect Strangers.

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The Mother-in-Law

The Mother-in-Law

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In the ten years she’s known her, Lucy has never felt her mother-in-law Diana approved of her—an especial disappointment because she’d hoped Diana would finally be the mother she’d never had. Yet she’s distraught when the police show up to announce that Diana has died by apparent suicide—and even more so when they reveal that the evidence points to possible murder. As we get to know the family members, we discover each of them had a motive to harm Diana, and stood to benefit from her death. The story is told alternately from Lucy and Diana’s points of view, so we get to understand what’s going on in their minds, and how badly they misunderstand each other through the years. But is it badly enough to lead to murder? A wholly satisfying domestic mystery, perfect for Liane Moriarty fans, that kept me guessing till the end. I devoured this on audio.

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(NOT) JUST FOR JANEITES

Unmarriageable

Unmarriageable

Author:
This contemporary Pride and Prejudice update is set in Pakistan, 2001, and features a modern day version of the family you know and love: the Binat family includes a sharp-witted father, marriage-obsessed mother, and five daughters. Despite the difference of centuries, it’s clear how women’s concerns are similar between Austen’s time and Kamal’s. Alysba teaches English, and in a fun opening scene she challenges her teenage students to reinterpret Austen’s famous opening line. Kamal uses her heroine’s profession—and accompanying love of reading—to explore themes of colonialism and identity; she also despite these weighty themes she keeps her tone light and sometimes irreverent. (Just wait till you hear how the Bingleys make their money!) This is, above all, a rom com—and it’s a fun one. More info →
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Ayesha At Last

Ayesha At Last

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While it is a truth universally acknowledged that a single, Muslim man must be in want of a wife, there’s an even greater truth: “To his Indian mother, his own inclinations were of secondary importance.” In this P&P-inspired retelling, set in contemporary Toronto, Darcy becomes Khalid, a devout Muslim man whose mother is trying to marry him off. Elizabeth becomes Ayesha, a teacher who’d much prefer to be a poet. When they first meet, it’s utter disaster: she thinks he’s rigid and judgmental; he thinks she’s not a good Muslim because of the drink (virgin) and cigarettes (not hers) she’s holding. But circumstances bring them together again, of course. I loved the supporting cast featuring good friends, a cousin dreaming of a Bollywood-inspired wedding, an embarrassing mother, and a Shakespeare-quoting grandpa. If you’re a P&P devotee, this is a delight. If you’ve never read the original, you can still enjoy this story about friendship, family, obligation, and love. More info →
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The Accidental Beauty Queen

The Accidental Beauty Queen

Author:
From the author of Unleashing Mr. Darcy, a tale of sisters, love, mistaken identity, and the beauty pageant circuit. Charlotte and Ginny are identical twins, but they couldn’t be more different. Ginny’s a regular on the beauty pageant circuit, currently competing for the title of Miss American Treasure in Orlando. Book-obsessed librarian Charlotte has come to support her sister, for once—in no small part because of the pageant’s proximity to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. But when a major allergic reaction threatens to put Ginny out of the running, she begs her sister to step in until she can get back on stage. To further complicate matters, Charlotte develops a crush on a handsome man who bears an uncanny resemblance to Mr. Darcy, catches all her literary references, laughs at all her jokes … and thinks she’s her sister. This breezy, entertaining, and unexpectedly poignant novel caught me by surprise; I’m so glad I didn’t miss it. More info →
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HISTORY COMES ALIVE

The Huntress

The Huntress

Author:
The Alice Network author Quinn also takes on the aftermath of WWII in her latest historical release. Inspired by a true story she stumbled upon in the historical archives (which would totally spoil the big reveal—you’re going to have to read the author’s note to learn all!), Quinn weaves together three perspectives to tell a gripping story: Jordan is a Boston teenager who works in her father’s Boston antiques store, Ian is a British journalist determined to bring his brother’s killer— known as “the Huntress”—to justice, and Nina is a Russian fighter pilot and the only woman alive who can identify the Huntress. There’s no weak link in the story; each thread is fascinating—and when they began to come together I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough. A mesmerizing tale of war crimes, coming of age, love and fidelity, and the pursuit of justice, with stirring implications for today. The audio version is fantastic. More info →
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When We Left Cuba

When We Left Cuba

Author:
The standalone sequel to Next Year in Havana delivers a tale of politics, history, and love. Beatriz Perez was forced to flee her beloved homeland of Cuba for the refuge of Palm Beach, and will do whatever it takes to help her family and the country she still sees as her own, including begging the CIA to put her to use as a spy—something virtually unheard of in the 1960s. But her offer is too good for her government to refuse, and she soon finds herself uncomfortably close to Castro and other dangerous men, seeking precious information the U.S. can use to bring down his regime. Things get complicated when she falls for a handsome and politically ambitious U.S. senator, a man who will change her life—though perhaps not in the way either of them hoped. A page-turning story of love and revenge, though not necessarily in that order. More info →
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Daisy Jones & The Six

Daisy Jones & The Six

I was a little skeptical when I first picked this up: I mean, a tell-all “documentary” about a fictional 1970s band? It took Taylor Jenkins Reid about three pages to win me over, with her fast-moving storyline and characters so convincing I had to google again to make sure the band wasn’t really real. The plot revolves around Billy Dunne, the tortured, talented lead singer for the Six, and Daisy Jones, the beautiful, soulful girl with a troubled past who catapults the Six to fame when she begins singing—and writing—their songs. Daisy and Billy’s chemistry is electric, and fans can’t get enough of it. We know from the beginning that the story is about why the band broke up, and the reasons are both expected and surprising, unfurled in an enthralling story of sex, drugs, and rock ’n’ roll. More info →
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Resistance Women

Resistance Women

This new historical novel was inspired by the life of Mildred Harnack, a real historical figure whose story was previously untold because the U.S. government deliberately buried it after the war. Harnack was one of dozens of members of the network of American and German resistance fighters the Gestapo called die Rote Kapelle (Red Orchestra). The bulk of the action takes places between the wars, beginning in 1929; I was initially surprised that a novel about Nazi Germany before and during WWII began SO early, but Chiaverini’s chosen timeline serves her story well: as a reader, you see events escalate over time through these women’s eyes: first they’re incredulous, then increasingly horrified, all the while asking each other, what do we do? The setup feels leisurely but the payoff is worth it. Recommended reading for fans of We Were the Lucky Ones. More info →
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The Gown: A Novel of the Royal Wedding

The Gown: A Novel of the Royal Wedding

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Historian-turned-novelist Robson sets her latest historical release in 1947, when times are grim: so many have lost so much, war rationing continues, Britain is in ruins. But in a bleak year, there’s a bright spot: Princess Elizabeth’s royal wedding captured the hearts of a nation, and was a beacon of hope to a country on its knees. The people insisted on a real celebration, including a beautiful gown. Robson’s story shifts among three protagonists and spans 70 years, but the common thread is Elizabeth’s gown—and specifically, the women who make it. While Robson has a fine eye for detail, and her behind-the-scenes descriptions of the fine atelier’s workroom are riveting, the heartbeat of the story comes from female friendship, secret pasts, and life after loss. A must-read for fans of The Crown, and recommended for all seeking an intimate take on the often neglected postwar era. More info →
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The Island of Sea Women: A Novel

The Island of Sea Women: A Novel

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See spins a tale of female friendship spanning eighty years, set against the backdrop of history in an incredible setting—the very real South Korean island of Jeju. On Jeju, women are the breadwinners, making their families’ livings by free-diving into the chilly waters of the Pacific Ocean, harvesting seafood to sell, while the husbands stay home with the children. This tradition has gone on for thousands of years, and we see it lived out in the lives of Young-sook Mi-ja. The two girls become fast friends as seven-year-olds in 1938, but their respective marriages take them down different paths, and bring unforeseen tensions into their relationship. (The real historical events woven into the pages make for heartrending reading.) A second storyline, set in 2008, gives readers hints of what may have caused the rift between the girls, but it’s only in the final pages that all is revealed. A rewarding story of strong women, little-known history, and human resilience. More info →
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TELL ME SOMETHING TRUE

Inheritance: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity, and Love

Inheritance: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity, and Love

Author:
This is Shapiro’s story about how at age 54, she discovered a life-changing, identity-threatening secret about her family, and how Shapiro chooses to move forward. At the moment of discovery, Shapiro has no idea what to do. “I couldn’t imagine what might come next,” she writes. “It turns out that it is possible to live an entire life — even an examined life, to the degree that I had relentlessly examined mine — and still not know the truth of oneself.” If you have any inclination to pick this up, I recommend you avoid the spoiler-laden reviews (that specify what the family secret is) and dive right in. Inheritance reads like a twisty mystery, full of false starts and dead ends, but with a lot of help—some from unlikely places—she solves her case in the end. More info →
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I Miss You When I Blink: Essays

I Miss You When I Blink: Essays

In her entertaining essay collection, Philpott shares real, relatable stories that feel highly personal yet manage to encompass the universal experience of managing a life that, at times, grows unwieldy. The situations Philpott writes of will be familiar to many readers; after all, we’ve lived them ourselves. But she articulates her own experience in a way that makes you see it again, for the first time—and for that, I am grateful. Funny and poignant, smart and witty, and highly recommended for fans of Kelly Corrigan, Glennon Doyle, and Beth Ann Fennelly. More info →
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Save Me the Plums: My Gourmet Memoir

Save Me the Plums: My Gourmet Memoir

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I’ve adored Reichl’s food writing in the past, but if I wasn’t a devoted Gourmet magazine reader, would I be interested in reading the book aptly subtitled “My Gourmet Memoir”? The answer: YES!! The story begins in 1999, when Reichl is offered (another) dream job: to take the helm at Gourmet, with free reign to make the staid publication relevant to today’s cooks. Reichl dishes like a gossipy friend, sharing the behind-the-scenes scoop on the big picture, like livening up Gourmet’s stuffy culture, and the specific, like what was going through her head when she published David Foster Wallace’s notorious piece “Consider the Lobster.” Gourmet’s rise—and fall—is intimately connected with the publishing trends of the aughts, and as a reader and writer I found her take on her company’s troubles captivating. This is pure delight from start to finish. If you love it, read Garlic and Sapphires next, her un-put-down-able story of her years as the New York Times food critic. More info →
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Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, HER Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed

Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, HER Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed

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In her compelling new book, psychotherapist Gottlieb gets to the heart of what matters in life: how do we grow, how do we change, how do we connect with each other—and how can we do it all more effectively? She explores human nature through the lens of psychotherapy, employing an unusual two-pronged approach to show us how therapy really works. First, Gottlieb introduces us to four of her patients, taking us inside the room to show us what happens in their sessions. But Gottlieb is also in therapy herself, thanks to a sudden breakup, and through her eyes, we get the patient’s perspective as well. I so enjoyed getting to know the people in these pages, session by session, and rooted hard for them as they worked through the process. Part memoir, part educational glimpse into the profession: if you like to learn something from the books you read, and you enjoy a good story, well told, add this to your summer list. More info →
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GRIPPING SUSPENSE

Only Ever Her

Only Ever Her

In small-town Ludlow, South Carolina, Annie Taft’s wedding is set to be the social event of the year, and maybe even the decade. Everyone knows and loves Annie; they’ve looked out for her ever since her mother was killed when she was three years old, and they’re eager to turn out for her big day. But then the bride vanishes, four days before the wedding. Those close to her know Annie needs her space, and they don’t worry much—in the early hours. But as the wedding draws ever nearer they begin to fear that she’s dealing with more than cold feet. Perhaps it’s not a coincidence that Annie went missing right after her mother’s alleged killer was released from prison due to problems with his trial—problems for which Annie herself shares responsibility. Rotating perspectives and a slew of uncovered secrets keep you on your toes, and you won’t find out what really happened until the final pages. More info →
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Never Have I Ever

Never Have I Ever

Jackson’s latest Southern story feels both exactly like the books her longtime readers know and love and like a total departure—and I am here for it. Her new domestic thriller (yes, really!) begins at a book club meeting in a sleepy suburban neighborhood. These women live quiet lives revolving around family and sometimes work; they know each other well, and everything unfolds as usual … until a new guest arrives, one who has a score to settle based on long-buried secrets, and who won’t rest until she makes the woman pay for her crimes. But what happened back then, and why does it matter now? I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough in my quest to discover the truth for myself. An absorbing mystery that will delight her loyal readers and entice new fans. More info →
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The River

The River

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I didn’t know a book could be both gorgeous and terrifying—but then I devoured this in a day. When two college friends plan a long canoeing trip in northern Canada, they anticipate a peaceful yet memorable summer escape filled with whitewater paddling, fly fishing, and campfire cooking. The first hint of danger is a whiff of smoke, from an encroaching forest fire. The next comes from a man, seemingly in shock, who reports his wife disappeared in the woods. If these boys didn’t feel compelled to do the right thing and go look for her, they’d be fine, but instead they step in to help—and are soon running for their lives, from disasters both natural and man-made. A tightly written wilderness adventure, a lyrical mystery, and a heartrending story of friendship, rolled into one. This is the best book I’ve read this year, and that’s saying something. Pair with Sebastian Junger’s Fire for a next-level reading experience. More info →
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The Current: A Novel

The Current: A Novel

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In the opening pages, chance and fate bring two college women together despite their differences—and thanks to bad luck and an impulsive offer, they set out on an ill-fated road trip that will end one life and forever change the other when their car plunges into a Minnesota river. The suspicious circumstances bear an uncanny resemblance to the death of another young girl a decade ago. As the survivor struggles to come to terms with her friend’s death, she discovers the lingering sense of loss for that other girl remains strong, and her own safety—for reasons she can’t grasp—remains precarious. The current doesn’t just refer to the force that swept her friend away, but the pull of unresolved emotions and untold secrets moving just below the surface. Not quite a thriller, not quite a crime novel, but oddly beautiful and completely mesmerizing. More info →
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Recursion: A Novel

Recursion: A Novel

Author:
The new sci-fi thriller from Dark Matter author Crouch is already in Shonda Rhimes’s hands for development for the big and small screen. In the book’s opening, an NYPD police detective is summoned to the 41st floor of a Manhattan highrise to try and talk a woman struggling with a terrifying new condition known as False Memory Syndrome down from the ledge. Meanwhile, across the country, a brilliant scientist is hard at work on her passion project, a chair that will shield Alzheimer’s and dementia patients from the worst effects of the disease by reactivating their most important memories. As the detective begins to trace the line from False Memory Syndrome to the scientist—and the sinister motivations driving the project—the stakes for not just the parties involved, but the entire world, grow ever higher. Part save-the-world thriller, part police procedural, part love story, and above all, a real brain-bender More info →
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