5 authors worth binge reading this summer

5 authors worth binge reading this summer

Readers, it’s been so much fun helping you fill up your summer TBRs. So far I’ve shared the 2019 Summer Reading Guide with subscribers, my Minimalist Summer Reading Guide, 20 hot new releases everyone will be talking about this summer, and 10 romance novels that are perfect for summer reading. But today, I want to talk about a different kind of summer reading and it all has to do with the backlist.

For those of you working your way through the 2019 MMD Reading Challenge, one category is “a book in the backlist of a favorite author.”

This is always the category we get the most questions about, because not everyone knows what “backlist” means. It’s easy: a backlist title is one that’s not an author’s newest release.

It works like this: right now Kingdom of the Blind is Louise Penny’s frontlist title, because it’s her most recent release, just published in November. But when A Better Man is published on August 27—not like I’m counting the days or anything—it will become her frontlist title, and Kingdom of the Blind will shift to backlist.

The time is right to dig into the backlists of these specific authors, because while they all have new books out this season, they also have healthy back catalogs to catch up on. So whether you’ve read their newest release and are left wanting more, or you’re impatiently waiting to work your way up the library holds list, you can enjoy the author’s work right now.

Enjoy today’s list and let me know in the comments section which author’s backlist you’ll be reading this summer. I can’t wait to hear all about it.

To catch up on Peter Heller

I adore Peter Heller’s new March 2019 release The River—it’s still the best new book I’ve read so far this year, and featured in this year’s Summer Reading Guide. Now I’m on a mission to read his entire back catalog, beginning with these titles:

The Dog Stars

The Dog Stars

Author:
Hig is the lone survivor of a flu pandemic, save for his dog and a gun-toting loner. Or so he thinks. When he receives a random transmission on the radio, he begins to dream of what might exist beyond life on the hangar. Heller’s post-apocalyptic novel is reminiscent of Cormac McCarthy's THE ROAD but you don’t have to have read that in order to appreciate the way Heller examines the landscape between hope and despair. More info →
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Celine

Celine

Author:
Private investigator Celine is a recovering alcoholic with emphysema who specializes in finding missing persons. When a young woman asks Celine to find her missing photographer father, Celine and her partner head to Yellowstone National Park, where it becomes clear someone wants this man to stay missing. Read this for the way Heller writes about nature and explores the intersection of family, privilege, and the secrets we keep. More info →
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To catch up on Julie Buxbaum

I love Julie Buxbaum’s work and flew through her new release Hope and Other Punchlines, just out May 7. Tell Me Three Things is the one I’ve read the most, and just this week I’ve been (gently) pushing it on both teen and adult readers in my life.

Tell Me Three Things

Tell Me Three Things

Author:
A girl-next-door type suddenly finds herself in an elite California prep school, and has to figure out how to navigate this new privileged world while still grieving her mother's death. When she gets an email from an unidentified boy who calls himself "Somebody Nobody" offering to be her spirit guide to her new school, she doesn't want to say yes—but she really needs his help. A sweet and fun teen romance, but also a pitch-perfect portrayal of the grieving process. I couldn't stop myself from cheering for Jessie as she put her life together again. More info →
Buy from Amazon Kindle
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What to Say Next

What to Say Next

Author:
Fans of The Rosie Project will enjoy Buxbaum’s tale of the unlikely friendship between David, a teen on the Autism spectrum, and Kit, a popular girl whose father recently died. Kit wants to learn the truth about her father’s car accident and David agrees to help but neither of them know what’s in store. What To Say Next explores grief, family dynamics, and cyberbullying in a way that’s still compulsively readable. More info →
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To catch up on Lisa See

Lisa See’s new release The Island of Sea Women is the first book I’ve finished by her, but it won’t be my last. Luckily, she has a large collection of backlist titles to choose from. These are the ones you’ve recommended to me the most.

Shanghai Girls

Shanghai Girls

Author:
Shanghai Girls presents a realistic depiction of life for Chinese immigrants in the 40s and 50s. When Japanese bombs attack Shanghai, sisters Pearl and May flee, undertaking a journey across the Chinese countryside and ultimately bringing them to Los Angeles. Between racism, Communist witch hunts, and the traditions of Chinatown, not to mention forging a relationship with the strangers they married, Pearl and May have a fresh start but it is not without difficulty. And it does not mean all is well in the sisters’ complicated relationship. More info →
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The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane: A Novel

The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane: A Novel

Author:
Li-yan and her family, Akha ethnic minorities, farm tea in their remote mountain village in China. When a stranger arrives at the village gate, Li-yan’s life takes a turn and she begins rejecting the rituals and routines that shaped her life thus far. When she becomes pregnant, she leaves the baby in an orphanage but never stops thinking about her. That baby is ultimately adopted by a white American family in California. Haley wonders about her birth parents and where she came from. A moving story about family, tea farming, and what gives life meaning. More info →
Buy from Amazon Kindle
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To catch up on Chris Pavone

My husband flew through the new Chris Pavone novel The Paris Diversion, which I featured in our recent list of 20 hot new releases everyone will be talking about this summer. If you love his brand of spy thriller, catch up with these titles:

The Expats: A Novel

The Expats: A Novel

Author:
The wife chooses to quit her high-powered job in order to accompany her husband to Luxembourg for his. Because she has time to kill, she begins to analyze her current life, and the lives of the handful of people she knows in Luxembourg, through the lens of her old profession. She's shocked by what she sees. I read this one in a day because I couldn't wait to find out what happens next. More info →
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The Accident

The Accident

Author:
In this fast-paced thriller where publishing meets true crime, the action begins when a rookie author’s book proposal hits an agent's desk. For reasons I don't want to reveal to anyone who hasn't read it, this would make an excellent book club novel. More info →
Buy from Amazon Kindle
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To catch up on Jean Kwok

Jean Kwok doesn’t release novels terribly often, but she makes them worth the wait. I was happy to feature her brand-new release Searching for Sylvie Lee in this year’s guide, and hope many readers move from there to these older titles.

Girl in Translation

Girl in Translation

Author:
When 12-year-old Kimberly and her mother emigrate from Hong Kong to Brooklyn, Kimberly quickly assumed a double life: model student by day, Chinatown sweatshop worker by night. Kwok emigrated herself as a young girl, and her own immigrant experience imbues this plucky story with the ring of truth. You could also choose this as a 2019 Reading Challenge book you read for the cover. More info →
Buy from Amazon Kindle
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Mambo in Chinatown

Mambo in Chinatown

Author:
Twenty-two-year-old American-born Chinese woman Charlie grew up in New York and still lives with her widowed father and younger sister, eking out a living as a dishwasher. When she’s hired as a receptionist at a ballroom dance studio, her world expands exponentially, especially as she begins taking lessons herself. Even as her confidence grows, she feels compelled to hide her discoveries about herself and her work from her father, who eschews all things Western. But when her sister becomes chronically ill and their father insists on only treating her with Eastern practices, Charlie will have to decide how to make her worlds collide. More info →
Buy from Amazon Kindle
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P.S. Authors worth binge reading, 4 female authors worth binge reading, and 7 series to read next after you’ve run out of Louise Penny novels.

34 comments | Comment

34 comments

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  1. Trisha says:

    I love Julie Buxbaum, Lisa See and Jean Kwok! Snow Flower and the Secret Fan was the first book I read by Lisa See and it’s still my favorite of hers, but I love her others as well. She’s a great choice when you’re in the mood for a novel highlighting Chinese culture.

  2. Rebecca says:

    I love Lisa See! You might not know this, but she wrote a trio (maybe a quartet) that are mysteries and they are so good. I devoured them!

  3. Patti says:

    The Dog Stars is one of my favorite books of all time. You are in for a treat! I haven’t read The River yet to compare (saving it for a vacation) but it will be interesting after your rave review to see if it overtakes The Dog Stars.

    • Kristen in CT says:

      Celine is great too, @Patti! I started it on the advice of a friend knowing nothing about it and was immediately drawn in. An enchanting and original heroine!

      • Michelle Ann says:

        I like dystopian fiction as long as it has no graphic violence or sadism in it. I loved Station Eleven for that reason. The Dog Stars sounds great, but is one of those nasty serial killer type stories, or not? (I do wish there were some way to rate a book for disturbing content, as there is in film)

        • Mary Hunt says:

          I second that wish! I have started books that sound like they have a great plot, only to come to a grinding halt when excessive language, sex or graphic violence appears.

  4. Ellen says:

    I’m never quite sure if a book is in a series, (and therefore should be read “in order,”) so I count on fantasticfiction.com to help me.
    For example, in my opinion, Louise Penny’s Inspector Gamache series needs to be read in order. (She introduces the main characters in Still Life and those (mostly) loveable characters develop in subsequent books,) so I rely on the above mentioned web site for guidance. “Stand alone” books are also on the website.
    Does anyone else use fantastic fiction.com?
    Are there other web sites that may be recommended?

    • Janice Cunning says:

      Ellen thanks for sharing this great resource. I have always just googled and gone to the author or publisher page or wikipedia for this info. But fantastic fiction seemed much easier to navigate.

  5. Nicole M says:

    I can’t wait to check out some of these recommendations for myself and my teen daughter! I also love to binge read Jodi Piccoult for her novels centered around hot current event topics. And also Christian fiction “chaste” romance author Robin Lee Hatcher has some wonderful series.

  6. Cathy McM says:

    Chris Pavone’s backlist also includes The Travellers; it is referenced in a minor way in the action in his latest, The Paris Diversion.

    I like mysteries and just discovered the works of Donna Leon. She published a book nearly every year since 1992 so long backlist for me, yay!

  7. Kitty Balay says:

    I have been savoring Louise Penney’s books for a couple of years now. Instead of plowing into the next one, I wait until it feels like just the right moment to catch up with Inspector Gamache and all of my friends in Three Pines. I go so far as to read each one in the corresponding season in which it’s written. What a nerd! It definitely enhances my reading experience. I’m also a completionist so Louise has her own page in my book journal as I slowly work my way forward through her books. She’s in her own category. But today, and I know this is ridiculous, you’ve given me permission to count these as backlist in my 2019 reading challenge! That’s a good reason as any to move Inspector Gamache closer to the top of my very long summer reading list!

  8. Nancy B. says:

    I’m excited to read The River by Peter Heller. I loved The Dog Stars! It had such beauty and nostalgia in the Rockies coupled with the meaningfulness of human contact in a world with very little of it. Celine was a novel that pulled me along, but I get tired of the female leads (3 of them) who are unforgettable because of the allure of their astonishing physical beauty. Give me character worth any day…
    I’m also looking forward to learning about Chris Pavone.

  9. SoCalLynn says:

    Last month I read all of Charles Frazier’s books except Cloud Mountain, which I have already read but should read again. Thirteen Moons was the best, but still enjoyed Varina. Nightwoods is different in that it’s not historical fiction, more like suspense.

  10. Brandon Harbeke says:

    Bill Bryson has a new book coming out this year called The Body: A Guide for Occupants. My introductions to him from his backlist were I’m a Stranger Here Myself and A Short History of Nearly Everything.

    • Laura says:

      I’m so excited to hear this! He’s a favorite of mine- there have been some duds, but so many great ones. I especially loved A Walk in the Woods and In a Sunburned Country.

  11. Michelle Wilson says:

    Definitely agree with reading The Dog Stars by Peter Heller. It is my favorite post apocalypse novel and is probably just a lifetime favorite. It is one of those books that I wish I could read again for the first time!

  12. Robin says:

    My sister just turned me on to the podcast “that sounds fun” and my first listen was with you and Annie. I am SO EXCITED to have found you both!! I cant wait to start reading everything!!

  13. Ooooh, Celine and Girl In Translation both sound fantastic, and both entirely new to me! I’d never heard of them before! THANK YOU for sharing – I read almost entirely backlist titles, so I’m always grateful when they get a look-in amongst the sea of “new release” hype 😍

  14. Currently listening to The Mother’s Promise by Sally Hepworth while I wait for The Mother-In-Law to come up in my holds. I’m about halfway and enjoying it, and the narrator, Barrie Kreinik, is a new favorite. Looks like she has narrated all of Sally Hepworth’s books including The Mother-In-Law, as well as many others.

  15. Laurie says:

    Hi there. Is The River or The Dog Stories appropriate for a 14-year-old girl? My daughter is a big fan of dystopian type novels, but not sure if these 2 are too adult for her?
    Thanks!

    • Anne says:

      I haven’t yet finished The Dog Stars (it’s on my nightstand!). I know every kid is different, but I wouldn’t hand The River to my 14-year-old. Nothing is particularly graphic but the themes are heavy.

  16. Luana says:

    Can’t wait for Louise Penny’s A Better Man!! Got hooked on her mid-winter last year and finished the series this February. Another good author, Estelle Ryan. Her Genevieve Lenard Connection series is a great read. The characters are family!

  17. Linda Hanna says:

    I love Lisa See and my favorite was Snow Flower and the Secret Fan. It is a must read. Completely engrossing and so interesting. Also absolutely loved Peter Heller’s The Dog Stars. Fascinating look at a post apocalyptic world but also hopeful and beautifully written (albeit, done in an unusual style). Have my copy of The River and looking forward to diving in!

  18. Anna says:

    I just finished Celine and I’m crossing my fingers (so hard!) that it is a first in a series! I loved her character and voice, and he left her personal story dangling just the right amount to keep things open for another book. Please let us know if you catch wind of a sequel!!

  19. Jane says:

    I have just binge read all 4 Robert Galbraith/J K Rowling Strike novels in the space of a couple of weeks. I need to know what happens next between Strike and Robin. Send help.

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