Every once in a while I’ll stumble upon a new-to-me author and feel immediately compelled to read everything they’ve ever written—preferably before the week is over.
I’m always delighted to find another author whose work I love, whose books feel compulsively readable, whose work I can’t get enough of.
The ninth category for the 2017 Reading Challenge—for those of you who want to put the “oomph” back in your reading life—is “a book in the backlist of a new favorite author.” Now, you may already have your favorite authors whose work you are still catching up on. I hope you do. But just in case, I’m sharing some of my favorites today to bolster/crush your personal To Be Read list. (And yes, they all happen to be female. Hmm…)
Feel free to borrow as needed; I’m happy to share the book love.
Some of you have told me you don’t know what “backlist” means, so here’s the scoop: it just means a book that’s not an author’s newest. As in, when John Green’s new book Turtles All the Way Down hits shelves in October, The Fault in Our Stars will become a backlist title. Now you’re in the know. (Wasn’t that easy?)
This is Nigerian novelist Adichie's third novel, but the first I read. A highlight: Adichie seamlessly weaves blog posts—about race, national identity, class, poverty, and hair—into the narrative. The novel grapples with difficult issues without becoming overwrought. I would not have read this based on the flap copy, but I was hooked from page one. Haunting, moving, incredibly well done. Terrific on audio. Heads up, Reading Challenge players: this is a fantabulous pick for your immigrant story. More info →
In 1967 Nigeria, the Igbo people of the East seceded to form their own nation of Biafra, inciting a bloody three-year civil war followed. This novel tells the story of that conflict, known as the Biafran War—an event largely forgotten outside Nigeria—through the eyes of five diverse characters: a university professor, his privileged girlfriend, their servant boy, her twin sister, and her British journalist boyfriend. This is a story that will stay with you long after you turn the last page. (Hot tip: the audio version is fantastic.) More info →
This little book packs a powerful punch. When a friend asked for advice on how to raise her new daughter as a feminist, Adichie responded with this letter, which includes 15 suggestions for how to empower her baby girl to become a strong, independent written. Easy to read in one sitting, and worth doing so. More info →
An MMD Summer Reading Guide pick. Owen and Lucy live in the same apartment building, but don’t meet until they’re stuck in an elevator together during a blackout. They forge an instant connection—but almost immediately after, Owen and his father take off for New Mexico, then California, then Seattle, and Lucy and her parents move to Scotland, then England. As they move farther apart, their connection deepens, which makes them wonder: what if home isn’t a place, but a person? More info →
This is such a fun read for anyone who has a soft spot in their heart for a solid YA novel, and it's a must-read if you loved the movie Notting Hill. When a teenage Hollywood star mistypes an email address, his message ends up in the inbox of a small-town teenage girl in Maine. The two strike up a witty correspondence, even though (or really, because) she doesn't know who he is. When his latest film is shot on location in her town, the relationship moves from online to real life. But the paparazzi make his life miserable, and the girl has secrets of her own. You could read this in one afternoon. More info →
Alice doesn't believe in luck, at least not the good kind. But when she buys her friend Teddy a lottery ticket for his 18th birthday, she picks the good ones: 31 (Teddy's birthday). 9 (the number of years they've been friends). And for the Powerball number: 13 (the date both her parents died, 13 months apart, making her an orphan). That unlucky number wins him 140 million dollars. Teddy promises her the money won't change anything, but of course it does. A novel of love, family, fate, and Chicago, and one that you could read in the course of one happy afternoon. More info →
This was my first Joshilyn Jackson novel. Several devoted readers told me they didn't fall in love with Joshilyn Jackson's writing until they listened to her narrate her own stories on audio and from the opening scene you'll understand why. This Southern novel begins with a holdup at the Circle K, and weaves together themes of loss, love, date rape, and Asperger's Syndrome into one strange but strangely fitting story. Heads up for a few disturbing/graphic scenes. More info →
I LOVED this (and gushed about it on What Should I Read Next). Part love story, part murder mystery, and pure Southern fiction. After spending ten years in Chicago, hiding from her past, Arlene returns home to face a secret she's been hiding since she fled town after high school, and introduce her black boyfriend to her racist mother. There's a lot of strong language and more than a few triggers, so do a little research before diving in if you're a sensitive type, but the author does it for a reason, to powerful effect. Perhaps my favorite Joshilyn Jackson novel, and that's saying something. More info →
I loved Jackson's latest novel, about a complicated Alabama family and the "two Souths" it inhabits. Graphic novelist Leia finds herself unexpectedly pregnant after a drunken one-night-stand at a comic book convention. She doesn't know the father's name, but she knows he was a handsome black man who looked even cuter in his Batman suit. As Leia absorbs the knowledge that she'll soon be a mother to a biracial baby, she is summoned home to Alabama to do what she can for her struggling family—her stepsister's unraveling marriage, her grandmother's worsening dementia, and a shocking secret hidden in the family attic. This is a fast-reading, big-hearted novel that tackles Serious Issues really, really well—while spinning a terrific story. More info →
In the second of Tana French's Dublin Murder Squad series, which can be read in any order, detective Cassie Maddux is pulled off her current beat and sent to investigate a murder. When she arrives at the scene, she finds the victim looks just like her, and—even more creepy—she was using an alias that Cassie used in a previous case. The victim was a student, and her boss talks her into trying to crack the case by impersonating her, explaining to her friends that she survived the attempted murder. The victim lived with four other students in a strangely intimate, isolated setting, and as Cassie gets to know them, liking them almost in spite of herself, her boundaries—and loyalties—begin to blur. A taut psychological thriller that keeps you guessing till the end.
This addictive mystery plays with the ideas of long-lost love and what might have been—and it's a good one. When he was 19, Frank Mackey planned to run off with his girlfriend Rosie Daly: they would cut ties to home, get married, and start a new life in England. When Rosie didn't show, Frank assumed she changed her mind and left without him. But 22 years later, Rosie's suitcase is found hidden in their planned meeting spot. Frank never got over her, and he'll do whatever it takes to uncover what happened. This is a sad, sad story, but it's such a good one. (Hot tip: the fabulous accents in the audio version bring it to life.) More info →
In her latest Dublin Murder Squad novel, French shines her spotlight on Antoinette Conway, who readers first met in The Secret Place. Conway and her partner are assigned to work what appears at first glance to be an ordinary domestic dispute that ended badly, but the evidence makes her suspect there's a little more to it. As they investigate, they keep bumping up against obstacles from within their own squad. Riveting from start to finish. More info →
Who are your favorite authors worth binge reading? What are YOU reading for this category?