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:
I recently sat down with William Kent Krueger for an amazing discussion about This Tender Land. MMD Book Clubbers can catch the replay in our Book Club community.
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 →
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 →
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 →
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 →
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 →
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 →
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 →
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 →
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 →
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 →
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 →
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 →
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 →
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 →
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?