16 books that are better together: 8 hot new releases paired with 8 backlist titles that will have a much shorter library waiting list

It’s the time of year when sports fans—plus a whole bunch of people who, eleven months of the year, couldn’t care less—turn their attention to college basketball.

What’s so great about March Madness? The match-ups. As readers, we know all about the importance of a strategic pairing. So over the next four weeks we’re hosting our own Book Flight Bonanza to bring a whole bunch of great book match-ups—or, in our terms, book flights— your way. 32 pairings, to be exact, for a total of 64 fantastic books.

To stay on top of each week’s picks and get access to your updated printable “brackets” (to serve as your shopping/library list), subscribe below. Print your brackets, grab your highlighter, and start planning what you want to read next. Subscribers will get their printable book lists in their inbox automatically with each new Book Flight Bonanza post.

For today’s new “region” I’m sharing eight flights (that’s sixteen books) that pair hot new releases with backlist titles that enhance your reading experience.

Click here to read the first post in the series: 8 terrific novels paired with 8 illuminating nonfiction picks to elevate your reading experience.

I hope you find something YOU love today. Happy reading!

Siblings and Schizophrenia

Everything Here Is Beautiful by Mira T. Lee
I Know This Much Is True by Wally Lamb

Lee’s debut (published January 16) tells the story of two sisters, once close, but whose relationship is now defined by the mental illness of the other. Lee gently and movingly probes how the younger’s diagnosis, once believed to be cured, soon entraps both, and the utter helplessness the older feels in the face of it.

Pair this with Wally Lamb’s 1998 novel about two identical twins, and how the schizophrenia diagnosis of one creates chaos in both their lives. It’s a long story, with enough digressions to fill this and two more novels, yet it’s a good one, with one of the most satisfying endings I’ve read in a long time.

Click here to buy Everything Here Is Beautiful: Amazon | B&N
Click here to buy I Know This Much Is True: Amazon | B&N

Love and Grief

Tell Me More: Stories About the 12 Hardest Things I’m Learning to Say by Kelly Corrigan
The Bright Hour: A Memoir of Living and Dying by Nina Riggs

Corrigan’s moving collection (published January 9) is all about relationships, examined through the lens of 12 important statements that can be hard to say out loud: No, It’s like this, Good enough, I was wrong. I loved this so much, and can confidently tell you this: grab the Kleenex before you get started.

Riggs was a 38-year-old wife and mother of two when she was diagnosed with terminal cancer; this is her meditation on facing that reality (with a whole lot of help from Emerson). The Bright Hour (published 2017) isn’t exactly old, but the paperback version is already out, so we’re counting it. Pair these two for a tearful but thoroughly life-affirming reading binge. These books aren’t the same, but they just might be soulmates.

Click here to buy Tell Me More: Amazon | B&N
Click here to buy The Bright Hour: Amazon | B&N

Unexpected Love

The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory
Happiness for Beginners by Katherine Center

In Guillory’s new novel (published January 30), Drew and Alexa meet when their elevator gets stuck in a San Francisco hotel. They hit it off, and she agrees to accompany him to a wedding as his fake girlfriend. But then a one-night-stand becomes a weekend, and soon they’re flying back and forth between L.A. and Berkley to see each other. But they’re sure each means nothing to the other … and that’s when it gets complicated. Sweet and fun, but heads up for some racy content.

This pairs beautifully with Katherine Center’s outdoorsy novel Happiness for Beginners (published 2015), whose romantic leads are similarly in plot-driving denial about how they really feel. Newly-divorced Helen needs a do-over, so she signs up for a notoriously tough wilderness survival course to prove that she can make it on her own. But then she finds out an old acquaintance is joining her, wrecking her plans before she even gets to the mountains. Both books feel fun and light, yet still manage to tackle serious topics.

Click here to buy The Wedding Date: Amazon | B&N
Click here to buy Happiness for Beginners: Amazon | B&N

Neighbors, Friends, and Strangers

Not That I Could Tell by Jessica Strawser
Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

In Strawser’s new domestic suspense (coming March 27, and a March Book of the Month selection now), a tight-knit group of neighborhood women gather around the backyard firepit, drink a little too much wine, stay up a little too late. By morning, one of them has vanished, and so have her children. As the authorities (and the women) begin to investigate what might have happened, they find they have more questions than answers. Did she simply run away, or was she harmed, and above all—why?

Moriarty’s darkly comic 2014 novel follows three moms with children in the same kindergarten class in an idyllic Australian seaside community. When disaster strikes at the school’s trivia night, the subsequent revelations expose the lies these women have been telling themselves in order to survive.

Click here to buy Not That I Could Tell: Amazon | B&N
Click here to buy Big Little Lies: Amazon | B&N

Love and Politics

Home Fire: A Novel by Kamila Shamsie
High Dive: A Novel by Jonathan Lee

Shamsie’s new novel (published August 15) is a modern retelling of Antigone, and was long-listed for the 2017 Man Booker Prize. I’m not sure I would have realized this was rooted in the Greek myth if I hadn’t been told: Shamsie’s story feels modern, timely, and incredibly relevant to current events, tackling themes of love, identity, terrorism, and political power.

Pair this with Lee’s 2016 novel, which he loosely based on the very real 1984 bombing that targeted Margaret Thatcher and members of her conservative party at Brighton’s Grand Hotel. Heads up: the opening scene is intense.

Click here to buy Home Fire: Amazon | B&N
Click here to buy High Dive: Amazon | B&N

Seriously Dysfunctional Childhoods

Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover
The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls

In Westover’s new bestselling memoir (published February 20), she recounts how she was raised by Idaho survivalists, preparing with them for the looming end of the world, didn’t attend school till age 17, and yet went on to earn degrees from Harvard and Cambridge. Harrowing, riveting, nearly—but not quite—unbelievable.

This pairs wonderfully with Walls’s powerful 2006 memoir about growing up with nonconformist, nomadic parents. The specifics of these stories differ, but the incredible resiliency, eloquence, and courage of their authors unites them.

Click here to buy Educated: Amazon | B&N
Click here to buy The Glass Castle: Amazon | B&N


Whites Houses: A Novel by Amy Bloom
No Ordinary Time: Franklin & Eleanor Roosevelt: The Home Front in WWII by Doris Kearns Goodwin

In Bloom’s new biographical novel (published February 13), she focuses on Eleanor Roosevelt, and specifically on her longstanding friendship (or—historians wonder—perhaps something more?) with journalist Lorena Hickock. The story begins shortly after FDR’s death, when Eleanor and Hick see each other for the first time in eight years, prompting a series of reminiscences about their years together.

Pair this with Goodwin’s lauded (and large) 2008 biography, which chronicles the Roosevelts, the frequent characters who appeared in their lives (including Hick), and U.S. history during their lifetime in an extraordinarily compelling way.

Click here to buy White Houses: Amazon | B&N
Click here to buy No Ordinary Time: Amazon | B&N

Melancholy Road Trips

Census by Jesse Ball
The Road by Cormac McCarthy

Ball’s strange and compelling new novel (published March 6) was inspired by Ball’s own family. He tells the story of a father and son on the road together. When the father is diagnosed with a terminal illness, he decides he wants to take one more trip with his son, a boy with Downs Syndrome, whose fate he worries about. They accept a job taking a census for an unnamed government agency, tattooing those they’ve interviewed, quite literally traveling from town A to town Z.

Pair this with McCarthy’s 2006 dystopian novel about a father and son on the road through a burned, grey, and treacherous landscape.

Click here to buy Census: Amazon | B&N
Click here to buy The Road: Amazon | B&N

Which pairing are you most excited to read? Can you think of any great match-ups to add to this list? Please tell us about them in comments!


Leave A Comment
  1. Kelly S says:

    This post is FANTASTIC, and exactly why I have read your blog forever and ever, and always will. THANK YOU for all of the time it takes to research books so that we don’t have to 🙂

  2. Shannon says:

    Hypothetically speaking… which books should one begin with, say if she wanted to get a jump start on the 2018 Summer Reading Guide selections? Asking for a friend 🙂

  3. Susan V says:

    I read The Glass Castle in 2017, and I was the first to check Educated out of our library, but it was due (on reserve, of course, so I couldn’t renew it) before I could get past page 40. So I’m requesting it from the library again.

    To those who enjoyed (not sure if “enjoyed” is the right word for that book, though) The Glass Castle, I would recommend Hillbilly Elegy. It’s interesting to compare and contrast the upbringing of the two main characters. I read the books close together, so maybe that’s why I think they’re somewhat similar. Very dysfunctional families for sure, but for somewhat different reasons.

  4. Eva says:

    I’m really into your suggestion for Neighbors, Friends, and Strangers!!! I loved Big Little Lies and I heard the author has written a couple of fun, interesting books. Thanks for sharing. The Glass Castle was a tough, unbelievable read.

    Eva | http://www.shessobright.com

  5. Kathy says:

    Another great post! An additional suggestion would be The Orphan Train paired with The Chaperone. Another would be War Brides read along with The Chilbury Ladies Choir and In Farleigh Field.

  6. Carrie says:

    I’ve read the Seriously Dysfunctional, so my top pick would be the Eleanor pairing. Seriously, it looks like a great flight and I want to read them all! Anne, you are a amazing! And, I agree the Chaperone and Orphan Train would be a great pairing.

  7. Janet says:

    Our book club just read “Etched in Sand” by Regina Calcaterra, which was very similar to “The Glass Castle”. The author is speaking at the library here tomorrow night.
    My other suggestion would be “Caroline” by Sarah Miller, a novel based on Ma Ingalls’s point of view and “Prairie Fires” by Caroline Fraser, which is a biography of Laura Ingalls Wilder and her daughter Rose.
    Happy First Day of Spring everyone!

  8. Amy Herbert says:

    I love reading the pairings and adding them to my TBR! I recently read ‘The Nightingale’ (after hearing about it so many times on WSIRN!) and loved it! I am currently listening to ‘Last Hope Island’ by Lynne Olson and have found this non-fiction book about Britain’s role in WW2 a good pairing to explain a little more about the background of the resistance movement in mainland Europe. Also there are some really interesting parts about the women who inspired Kristin Hannah’s character Isabelle!

  9. Lauren says:

    I love these pairings! One I thought of was “Beneath a Scarlet Sky” and “We Were the Lucky Ones”. Both are based off of true stories of families fighting to survive WWII and were excellent reads!

  10. Dawn says:

    I think that a better pairing with the Wedding Date would be 32 Candles. The best part of the Wedding Date was that it featured a black woman who was successful and smart. 32 Candles is an equally fun and smart novel with a POC protagonist. I couldn’t get enough of either book!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.