15 backlist books to enjoy while you wait for this summer’s buzziest new releases

15 backlist books to enjoy while you wait for this summer’s buzziest new releases

Readers, I know many of us are practicing patience this summer as we wait for our library holds to come in—or for back-ordered books to arrive in the mail. I trust our patience will be rewarded with incredible reading experiences, but why wait for a wonderful reading experience? There are plenty of backlist books to enjoy in the meantime.

In publishing, “backlist” simply means “not newly published.” (Those new titles are referred to as “frontlist.”) These books have been around at least a year or two; they tend to have shorter wait times at the library and are less likely to be on backorder. Many of the authors featured in this year’s Summer Reading Guide have excellent backlists.

Today I’m sharing 15 backlist books from our 2020 Summer Reading Guide authors, a mix of titles from way, way back and fresh titles from the last few years. I hope you find an old-but-new favorite on this list.

If you fall in love with the work of one of these authors, chances are we have a past Book Club event or Stay at Home Book Tour replay waiting for you! Author events and interviews are a great way to bide your time in between library holds. For those who enjoy author chats, we have two events that tie in directly to today’s book list:

15 backlist books from 2020 Summer Reading Guide Authors

Some links (including all Amazon links) are affiliate links. More details here.

The Mothers

The Mothers

Author:
I loved this book, recommended on episode 231 of WSIRN. I still think about it even though I read it many moons ago. In this coming-of-age story, debut author Bennett shows us how grief predictably consumes a 17-year old girl growing up in a tight-knit community in Southern California, and how two friends get pulled into the tangled aftermath. Bennett tells the story through the eyes of the community's mothers—the community pillars who show up with casseroles when somebody's sick—but in this story, the mothers' vicious gossip causes nothing but trouble. More info →
The Fifth Season (The Broken Earth Book 1)

The Fifth Season (The Broken Earth Book 1)

Author:
N.K. Jemisin is one of the most notable science fiction writers of our time. In the first installment of her Broken Earth Trilogy, everyone is trying to survive the Stillness’s unforgiving, unstable environment as the next Fifth Season approaches. With stellar world-building, we follow three girls trying to make their way as the catastrophic threat looms ever closer. Exploring systematic oppression and the gift of found families, it’s easy to see why this lengthy book has garnered so much praise. More info →
News of the World: A Novel

News of the World: A Novel

I loved this short novel about two unlikely companions because it reminded me of favorites like Lonesome Dove, These Is My Words, and—perhaps surprisingly—The Road. A Western for readers who (think they) don't like Westerns, featuring intriguing characters, improbable friendships, strong women, and difficult choices. More info →
Perfect Little World

Perfect Little World

Author:
Izzy, a recent high school graduate, has nowhere to go. She's pregnant, and excited about motherhood, but her family is no help, and she wants to get away from the baby's father. When Dr. Preston Grind invites her to the Infinite Family Project, she eagerly accepts and moves onto a compound with nine other couples, all there to raise their children as one big extended family. As you can imagine, things start out great but get complicated as human emotion gets in the way of the utopian ideal. Quirky and charming, this novel examines what it means to make a family. More info →
Next Year in Havana

Next Year in Havana

After her beloved grandmother dies, a Cuban-American woman travels from Miami back to Havana and unearths a treasure trove of family secrets. If you love stories that go back and forth in time, this is for you. In 1958, 19-year-old Elisa falls in love for the first time—with a dangerous revolutionary. In 2017, Elisa's granddaughter Marisol travels to newly-open Cuba, ostensibly to write an article on tourism, but really to learn more about her grandmother and the complicated country she loved. I didn't know much about Cuba, then or now, before reading this, and really enjoyed the experience. More info →
The Wedding Date

The Wedding Date

Drew and Alexa meet cute in a broken-down elevator; sparks are flying within seconds. Drew's in town to watch his ex marry his best friend (ouch). He doesn't have a date, so he asks Alexa to come along—and pretend to be his girlfriend. But soon the fake relationship starts to feel surprisingly real. But they both have big jobs they love, in different cities. Drew's track record with women isn't great. Alexa is black, and Drew is white. In short: it gets complicated. But it’s a rom-com, so they're going to see it through. Heads up, readers: this is seriously racy in parts. More info →
The Garden of Small Beginnings

The Garden of Small Beginnings

Author:
This is laugh out loud funny, tender, and written in a fresh voice, which you might not expect given the premise. Lilian's husband died in a car accident in front of their house four years ago and she hasn’t been quite ready to move on. Lili is no longer stuck in her grief, but she is in a rut, and generally okay with it: life with her daughters is enough. But when she's given a special project at work to illustrate a book about vegetables, she's signed up for their six-week garden class, introducing Lili (and the readers!) to a delightful cast of fellow gardeners. An unlikely community forms, and no one is quite the same by the time the class ends. More info →
The Friend Zone

The Friend Zone

Author:
Add one salty infertile heroine and one firefighter hero who dreams of having a big family someday and you have a debut friends-to-lovers contemporary romance you might stay up reading until the wee hours of the night. Ahem. Josh and Kristen have some big things to overcome but there’s no denying their chemistry from the moment they meet. In a fender bender, no less. This story will make you laugh out loud one minute and cry the next. It doesn’t shy away from the hard topics and it makes the happy ending that much more satisfying. (Heads up for an open door scene or two.) More info →
Iron Lake (Cork O’Connor Mystery Series Book 1)

Iron Lake (Cork O’Connor Mystery Series Book 1)

This series was enthusiastically recommended for readers who've run out of Louise Penny novels. After reading the first book, I understand why. After losing his job and separating from his family in a marital dispute, Cork O’Connor can barely crawl out from under his guilt. Cork is eager to win back his family—winter in Minnesota lake country is hard enough without bitterness and loss. But when a local judge is murdered, and a friend asks Cork to find her missing son, he takes on the investigation. Town officials try to stop him at every turn, but Cork is determined to find the truth, even if that means exposing a dark secret. Part Irish, part Anishinaabe, Cork straddles two worlds and calls on friends who owe him favors in order to solve the case. More info →
The Flatshare: A Novel

The Flatshare: A Novel

Author:
I read this entire novel in one sitting on a Sunday afternoon; it's a romantic comedy that manages to tackle serious issues while maintaining a light and breezy feel. Don't miss the backstory on how the author's personal life inspired the premise, and how she managed to write nearly every word of the 320-page novel on her own commute in and out of London. There are a few spicy scenes but this romance is mostly closed-door. More info →
The Poet X

The Poet X

This novel-in-verse won the National Book Award for Young People's Literature. Xiomara finds her voice as she pours her soul into her notebook. Every frustration, every harassment, every triumph and every secret is turned into a poem. When she gets invited to share her work in slam poetry club, Xiomara isn't sure if she can keep her passion secret from her strict family. But she soon learns that speaking up and living her truth is the only way to be fully herself. Ibi Zoboi, author of American Street says "Acevedo has amplified the voices of girls en el barrio who are equal parts goddess, saint, warrior, and hero." More info →
A Million Junes

A Million Junes

Author:
Henry spins a magical tale that echoes the story of Romeo and Juliet or the Hatfields and McCoys. June has been warned about the hatred between her family and the Angerts, and the mythical tales surrounding their feud. When Saul Angert returns to their small town, he and June are drawn together. As their connection grows, so do the magic forces around them. A generational curse, a Shakespearean love story, and an atmospheric Midwestern setting make for a wholly unique YA reading experience.  More info →
Euphoria

Euphoria

Author:
I just recommended this in yesterday's new episode of What Should I Read Next! Inspired by the life of anthropologist Margaret Mead, this stunning novel follows Nell Stone and her husband, who are working in the jungle of New Guinea. When Andrew Bankson crosses their path, the three of them quickly become a dynamic trio, doing some of the best anthropological research of their careers. But eventually, jealousy and human drama get in the way, putting their relationships and lives in danger.  More info →
Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief

Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief

Wright is a Pulitzer-winning journalist, and his investigative skills combined with compelling storytelling make for page-turning nonfiction reads. In this insider look at the Church of Scientology, Wright illuminates the church's esoteric beginnings, explains the illusive induction process, and shares how famous Hollywood stars end up joining. He asks interesting questions and makes fascinating connections across religion, pop culture, and the law in this thoroughly detailed exposé. More info →
Girls Made of Snow and Glass

Girls Made of Snow and Glass

I love a good fairytale retelling. This spin on the classic Snow White story features two young women, destined to be rivals. Mina's magician father cut her heart out and replaced it with glass when she was little; though her heart literally beats for no one, she sets her sights on marrying the king and falling in love the storybook way. She becomes a stepmother in the bargain, to a young girl named Lynet who was crafted out of snow in her mother's image. When the king pits Mina and Lynet against one another, they must decide whether their rivalry, their territory, or their complex relationship is most important of all. More info →

What titles do you have on hold at the library right now?

P.S. This list of book flights pairs 8 hot new releases with 8 backlist titles. Plus 5 authors worth binge reading this summer.

15 backlist books to read while you wait for this summer's buzziest new releases

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32 comments

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  1. Mary says:

    My hold list is diverse and as long as they’ll let me make it:
    Head Over Heels by Hannah Orenstein
    The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett (I’m #499! Ha!)
    On Ocean Boulevard by Mary Alice Monroe
    Beach Read by Emily Henry
    Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens (#2048!At least a 6 month wait…)
    The 20th Victim by James Patterson
    The House of Kennedy by James Patterson
    Walk the Wire by David Baldacci
    Falling for Her by Debbie Macomber
    and
    The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson
    And my TBR list is at least five times that long as I try to get through my Kindle reads and all the actual books I have bought lately!

  2. Jennifer says:

    I’ve been on the hold list for On Ocean Boulevard by Mary Alice Monroe since May 4, and I can finally pick it up today! 😀

  3. Michelle says:

    As an added bonus, A Million Junes by Emily Henry is narrated by Julia Whelan (who also narrates Beach Read).
    My library holds are currently Mexican Gothic, The Girl With the Loudon Voice, Clap When You Land, The Henna Artist, Girl Serpent Thorn, and The City We Became. I just got The Vanishing Half and The Jane Austen Society.

    • Kate says:

      The Girl With the Louding Voice is excellent! The main character, Adunni, is such a strong and worthy young woman. You will love her.

  4. Betsy says:

    Two of my all-time favorites on this list. News of the World and Euphoria. Highly recommend these two for sure.

  5. Emily Johnson says:

    Currently have on hold:
    The Lovely War by Julie Berry
    The Ten Thousand Doors of January
    The Last Train to Key West
    How to be Antiracist

    Just picked up: Ann Patchett’s Bel Canto (which I placed pre Covid-19) and The Jane Austen Society

  6. Wendy Barker says:

    I just picked up 9 books from the library yesterday and there are 3 more on hold that I can’t suspend because the library website says they are in transit. They are The Hollows by Jess Montgomery, The Fan Man by William Kotzwinkle and Radicalized by Cory Doctorow. The good news is that the library is allowing 2 months to keep books at this point so maybe I’ll be able to get through all of these. I’m trying to read the ones that have the most holds first so that they can go back into circulation. I just started American Dirt last night.

  7. Mrs. G says:

    Sharing my perspective on The Friend Zone, I feel like it needs a large red flag and trigger warning for the infertility issues discussed. That “happy” ending was not satisfying for all readers. Instead, it felt like a slap in the face. I get irrationally angry every time I see it mentioned anywhere.

    • Tiffanie says:

      Yes, I also found a couple of the plot points in this book unsettling for its genre. The next book (Happy Ever Playlist) less so, but I agree that this one has some strong triggers.

  8. LisaF says:

    Currently reading News of the World and absolutely loving it–such elegant, lyrical writing and a wonderful story, too. I’m seriously considering reading Simon the Fiddler next.

  9. Ruth says:

    Most of my upcoming holds are on Libby. I was able to suspend many of my hold dates before our library opened up for curbside pick up so that They could be staggered through summer and fall. The exception was the book on hold I hadn’t been able to pick up before the closure: Bird Summons by Leila Aboulela. Looking forward to adding it into my summer reads.

  10. Alicia says:

    I went to the library to pick up my requests (first time all year). Got:
    The Vacationers
    All Fall Down
    Ayesha at Last
    The Girl in White Gloves
    Meet me in Monaco

  11. Chris says:

    I think you or one of your guests recommended The Lager Queen of Minnesota, and I am listening to now — and loving it. I fell so hard for the story and the writing that I dashed off an email to the author….and got a very sweet reply the next day. This one is heartfelt!

  12. Nanette Stearns says:

    I’m currently reading Abbi Waxman’s newest – I love her backlist and was really happy to get this one quickly from the library. I’m rereadng American Marriage for my bookclub and keep meaning to get to some of Tayari Jones’s backlist. Some of my library holds are coming in but not many and it seems they are ordering fewer copies which also slows things down.

  13. Anna says:

    I have several of these on hold already – as well as pretty much the entire summer reading guide! Just read Flatshare and loved it!

  14. Susan says:

    The Poet X was fantastic, but I found Euphoria simply depressing. I’m waiting most impatiently for Anti-Racist by Ibrim X. Kendi, Don’t Turn Around by Jessica Berry, The Invicible Summer of Juniper Jones by Daven McQueen, Five Days by Wes Moore, Deathless Divide by Justina Ireland, Not So Pure and Simple by Lamar Giles, Dot Con by James Veitch, The Madwoman and the Roomba by Sandra Tsing Loh, and The Falling Woman by Richard Farrell.

    • Teresa says:

      It means the bedroom door is “open” so you are privy to the details of the romantic encounter rather than “closed” when what happened in the bedroom (or wherever) is more left to the imagination.

  15. Stress having rendered me nearly useless, I find myself unable to actually pick a book to read, and when I’ve tried, I’ve been unable to interest myself in actually reading it. (Is this depression? Probably.) Back in January and February, before everything closed suddenly, I tried an experiment in which I went to my library and picked six books at random, based solely on their titles and cover art (I didn’t read anything about them at all). It was surprisingly successful! I absolutely loved several of them, was intrigued by all of them, and only hated one, based on ethical differences in which I felt the author dehumanized and tokenized the POC in her memoir. Several thousand years later, our library just reopened, allowing holds to be picked up. Still fighting this crippling inability to pick a book to save my life, I’ve just placed holds on all fifteen of these backlist titles! Thank you for helping out a struggling bibliophile in the Age of Corona.

  16. Deepa says:

    I am finally listening to The Dutch House again on Libby (couldn’t focus back in April and it went back to the library). I finished A Burning, also on Libby, and recommend it. In some ways it made me think of Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line, though that it a different book, but there are common themes like the experience of Indian Muslims, poverty, and expendable lives. I also read Missed Translations, by yet another Indian-American author. I have Members Only requested at the library, and that too is by an Indian-American. I don’t know if it’s just me coming across all these books, or Indian-American authors are having a moment in the sun! It’s a good thing.

    Oh, and I also listened to Eight Perfect Murders on Libby. It references (and spoils) eight books/plays/movies and now I want to read all of them.

    I have The Glass Hotel on my nightstand, it’s next in line after The Dutch House. I thought Tom Hanks was way too big a star to perform audiobooks, so my already high opinion of him has edged even higher.

  17. Jayne Wehmeyer says:

    I just finished Big Summer by Jennifer Weiner. Listened on Audiobook. Also finished Loved Walked In by Marissa de los Santos.
    On my Library hold list is:
    Hello Summer
    The Happy Ever After Playlist
    I’d Give Anything
    And they called It Camelot
    Rodham
    Mexican Gothic
    The Room Where It Happened
    The Vanishing Half

    Thank you so much for Modern Mrs Darcy!! and Anne Bogel and all the great reads suggested!

  18. Joyce says:

    News of the World was one of my first reads during quarantine. I loved it! I’m really looking forward to these holds coming through from the library:
    Children of Blood and Bone
    Children of Virtue and Vengeance (looks like book 2 will be become available before book 1 – oh no!)
    Kindred
    Look Both Ways
    The Jane Austen Society (it will no longer be summer when this summer read makes its way to me – oh well…) 😉

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