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:
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 →
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 →
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.
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 →
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 →
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 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 →
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 →
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 →
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 →
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.
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 →
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 →