If you’re not sure what you want to read next this season, we’ve gathered a list of new books recommended by booksellers from all over the country. From thrillers to fantasy to historical fiction, there’s something for everyone on this list. Take a look at the recommendations below, complete with publishers’ descriptions.
Strange Weather by Joe Hill
A collection of four chilling novels, ingeniously wrought gems of terror from the brilliantly imaginative, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Fireman, Joe Hill.
“One of America’s finest horror writers” (Time magazine), Joe Hill has been hailed among legendary talents such as Peter Straub, Neil Gaiman, and Jonathan Lethem. In Strange Weather, this “compelling chronicler of human nature’s continual war between good and evil,” (Providence Journal-Bulletin) who “pushes genre conventions to new extremes” (New York Times Book Review) deftly expose the darkness that lies just beneath the surface of everyday life.
“Snapshot” is the disturbing story of a Silicon Valley adolescent who finds himself threatened by “The Phoenician,” a tattooed thug who possesses a Polaroid Instant Camera that erases memories, snap by snap.
A young man takes to the skies to experience his first parachute jump… and winds up a castaway on an impossibly solid cloud, a Prospero’s island of roiling vapor that seems animated by a mind of its own in “Aloft.”
On a seemingly ordinary day in Boulder, Colorado, the clouds open up in a downpour of nails — splinters of bright crystal that shred the skin of anyone not safely under cover. “Rain” explores this escalating apocalyptic event, as the deluge of nails spreads out across the country and around the world.
In “Loaded,” a mall security guard in a coastal Florida town courageously stops a mass shooting and becomes a hero to the modern gun rights movement. But under the glare of the spotlights, his story begins to unravel, taking his sanity with it. When an out-of-control summer blaze approaches the town, he will reach for the gun again and embark on one last day of reckoning.
Masterfully exploring classic literary themes through the prism of the supernatural, Strange Weather is a stellar collection from an artist who is “quite simply the best horror writer of our generation” (Michael Kortya).
Recommendation: Michael R. at Harvard Bookstore in Cambridge, MA, says, “These stories are highly unusual (hence the title) and — at least for me — funny. Joe Hill craftily weaves the bizarre with his unique sense of humor.”
Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is planned — from the layout of the winding roads, to the colors of the houses, to the successful lives its residents will go on to lead. And no one embodies this spirit more than Elena Richardson, whose guiding principle is playing by the rules.
Enter Mia Warren — an enigmatic artist and single mother — who arrives in this idyllic bubble with her teenaged daughter Pearl, and rents a house from the Richardsons. Soon Mia and Pearl become more than tenants: all four Richardson children are drawn to the mother-daughter pair. But Mia carries with her a mysterious past and a disregard for the status quo that threatens to upend this carefully ordered community.
When old family friends of the Richardsons attempt to adopt a Chinese-American baby, a custody battle erupts that dramatically divides the town — and puts Mia and Elena on opposing sides. Suspicious of Mia and her motives, Elena is determined to uncover the secrets in Mia’s past. But her obsession will come at unexpected and devastating costs.
Little Fires Everywhere explores the weight of secrets, the nature of art and identity, and the ferocious pull of motherhood — and the danger of believing that following the rules can avert disaster.
Recommended by: Hannah R. at Malaprop’s Bookstore in Asheville, NC
The Ninth Hour by Alice McDermott
A magnificent new novel from one of America’s finest writers — a powerfully affecting story spanning the 20th century of a widow and her daughter and the nuns who serve their Irish-American community in Brooklyn.
On a dim winter afternoon, a young Irish immigrant opens a gas tap in his Brooklyn tenement. He is determined to prove — to the subway bosses who have recently fired him, to his badgering, pregnant wife — that “the hours of his life… belonged to himself alone.” In the aftermath of the fire that follows, Sister St. Saviour, an aging nun, a Little Nursing Sister of the Sick Poor, appears, unbidden, to direct the way forward for his widow and his unborn child.
In Catholic Brooklyn in the early part of the 20th century, decorum, superstition, and shame collude to erase the man’s brief existence, and yet his suicide, though never spoken of, reverberates through many lives — testing the limits and the demands of love and sacrifice, of forgiveness and forgetfulness, even through multiple generations. Rendered with remarkable delicacy, heart, and intelligence, Alice McDermott’s The Ninth Hour is a crowning achievement of one of the finest American writers at work today.
Recommendation: Betsy Burton at The King’s English Bookshop in Salt Lake City, UT, says, “McDermott’s quietly claustrophobic tale of Catholicism in early 20th century Brooklyn artfully threads together the strong relationships among a group of women whose lives are intertwined, whether due to circumstances or affinities, and whose beliefs determine (whether out of obedience or its opposite) their fates.”
The Lying Game by Ruth Ware
On a cool June morning, a woman is walking her dog in the idyllic coastal village of Salten along a tidal estuary known as the Reach. Before she can stop him, the dog charges into the water to retrieve what first appears to be a wayward stick, but to her horror, turns out to be something much more sinister…
The next morning, three women in and around London — Fatima, Thea, and Isabel — receive the text they had always hoped would never come, from the fourth in their formerly inseparable clique, Kate, that says only, “I need you.”
The four girls were best friends at Salten, a second rate boarding school set near the cliffs of the English Channel. Each different in their own way, the four became inseparable and were notorious for playing the Lying Game, telling lies at every turn to both fellow boarders and faculty, with varying states of serious and flippant nature that were disturbing enough to ensure that everyone steered clear of them. The myriad and complicated rules of the game are strict: no lying to each other — ever. Bail on the lie when it becomes clear it is about to be found out. But their little game had consequences, and the girls were all expelled in their final year of school under mysterious circumstances surrounding the death of the school’s eccentric art teacher, Ambrose (who also happens to be Kate’s father).
Atmospheric, twisty, and with just the right amount of chill that will keep you wrong-footed — which has now become Ruth Ware’s signature style — The Lying Game is sure to be her next big bestseller. Another unputdownable thriller from the Agatha Christie of our time.
Recommendation: Amy Palmer at Northshire Bookstore in Manchester, VT, says, “After a body is discovered in a marshy area called the Reach near the English Channel, three English women living in London receive a terse message from a fourth friend, ‘I NEED YOU,’ forcing them to break a pact of silence stemming from a tumultuous year at boarding school 17 years earlier — when lying led to murder.”
The Last Ballad by Wiley Cash
The New York Times bestselling author of the celebrated A Land More Kind Than Home and This Dark Road to Mercy returns with this eagerly awaited new novel, set in the Appalachian foothills of North Carolina in 1929 and inspired by actual events. The chronicle of an ordinary woman’s struggle for dignity and her rights in a textile mill, The Last Ballad is a moving tale of courage in the face of oppression and injustice, with the emotional power of Ron Rash’s Serena, Dennis Lehane’s The Given Day, and the unforgettable films Norma Rae and Silkwood.
Twelve times a week, 28-year-old Ella May Wiggins makes the two-mile trek to and from her job on the night shift at American Mill No. 2 in Bessemer City, North Carolina. The insular community considers the mill’s owners — the newly arrived Goldberg brothers — white but not American and expects them to pay Ella May and other workers less because they toil alongside African Americans like Violet, Ella May’s best friend. While the dirty, hazardous job at the mill earns Ella May a paltry nine dollars for seventy-two hours of work each week, it’s the only opportunity she has. Her no-good husband, John, has run off again, and she must keep her four young children alive with whatever work she can find.
When the union leaflets begin circulating, Ella May has a taste of hope, a yearning for the better life the organizers promise. But the mill owners, backed by other nefarious forces, claim the union is nothing but a front for the Bolshevik menace sweeping across Europe. To maintain their control, the owners will use every means in their power, including bloodshed, to prevent workers from banding together. On the night of the county’s biggest rally, Ella May, weighing the costs of her choice, makes up her mind to join the movement — a decision that will have lasting consequences for her children, her friends, her town — indeed all that she loves.
Seventy-five years later, Ella May’s daughter Lilly, now an elderly woman, tells her nephew about his grandmother and the events that transformed their family. Illuminating the most painful corners of their history, she reveals, for the first time, the tragedy that befell Ella May after that fateful union meeting in 1929.
Intertwining myriad voices, Wiley Cash brings to life the heartbreak and bravery of the now forgotten struggle of the labor movement in early 20t-century America — and pays tribute to the thousands of heroic women and men who risked their lives to win basic rights for all workers. Lyrical, heartbreaking, and haunting, this eloquent novel confirms Wiley Cash’s place among our nation’s finest writers.
Recommendation: Mary Grey from Parnassus Books in Nashville, TN, says, “Perfect for book clubs.”
The Book of Dust by Philip Pullman
Malcolm Polstead is the kind of boy who notices everything but is not much noticed himself. And so perhaps it was inevitable that he would become a spy…
Malcolm’s parents run an inn called the Trout, on the banks of the river Thames, and all of Oxford passes through its doors. Malcolm and his daemon, Asta, routinely overhear news and gossip, and the occasional scandal, but during a winter of unceasing rain, Malcolm catches wind of something new: intrigue.
He finds a secret message inquiring about a dangerous substance called Dust — and the spy it was intended for finds him.
When she asks Malcolm to keep his eyes open, he sees suspicious characters everywhere: the explorer Lord Asriel, clearly on the run; enforcement agents from the Magisterium; a gyptian named Coram with warnings just for Malcolm; and a beautiful woman with an evil monkey for a daemon. All are asking about the same thing: a girl — just a baby — named Lyra.
Lyra is the kind of person who draws people in like magnets. And Malcolm will brave any danger, and make shocking sacrifices, to bring her safely through the storm.
Recommendation: Jill O. at Powell’s City of Books in Portland, OR, says, “Pullman is at the height of his powers, including a page-turning plot, unforgettable characters, and a thoughtful and relevant philosophy behind the mesmerizing world he has created.”
Bluebird, Bluebird by Attica Locke
When it comes to law and order, East Texas plays by its own rules — a fact that Darren Mathews, a black Texas Ranger, knows all too well. Deeply ambivalent about growing up black in the lone star state, he was the first in his family to get as far away from Texas as he could. Until duty called him home.
When his allegiance to his roots puts his job in jeopardy, he travels up Highway 59 to the small town of Lark, where two murders — a black lawyer from Chicago and a local white woman — have stirred up a hornet’s nest of resentment. Darren must solve the crimes — and save himself in the process — before Lark’s long-simmering racial fault lines erupt. From a writer and producer of the Emmy winning Fox TV show Empire, Bluebird, Bluebird is a rural noir suffused with the unique music, color, and nuance of East Texas
Recommendation: Maureen at Fountain Bookstore in Richmond, VA, says, “A powerful story that is part thriller, part examination of race in America, this is a book that we all should read — especially right now.”
Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie
Isma is free. After years of watching out for her younger siblings in the wake of their mother’s death, she’s accepted an invitation from a mentor in America that allows her to resume a dream long deferred. But she can’t stop worrying about Aneeka, her beautiful, headstrong sister back in London, or their brother, Parvaiz, who’s disappeared in pursuit of his own dream, to prove himself to the dark legacy of the jihadist father he never knew. When he resurfaces half a globe away, Isma’s worst fears are confirmed.
Then Eamonn enters the sisters’ lives. Son of a powerful political figure, he has his own birthright to live up to — or defy. Is he to be a chance at love? The means of Parvaiz’s salvation? Suddenly, two families’ fates are inextricably, devastatingly entwined, in this searing novel that asks: What sacrifices will we make in the name of love?
Recommendation: Lisa M. at Politics and Prose Bookstore in Washington, DC, says, “The seventh and best book yet from this talented young writer — and my favorite novel of the year.”
Dinner at the Center of the Earth by Nathan Englander
The best work yet from the Pulitzer finalist and bestselling author of For the Relief of Unbearable Urges — a political thriller that unfolds in the highly charged territory of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and pivots on the complex relationship between a secret prisoner and his guard.
A prisoner in a secret cell. The guard who has watched over him a dozen years. An American waitress in Paris. A young Palestinian man in Berlin who strikes up an odd friendship with a wealthy Canadian businessman. And The General, Israel’s most controversial leader, who lies dying in a hospital, the only man who knows of the prisoner’s existence.
From these vastly different lives Nathan Englander has woven a powerful, intensely suspenseful portrait of a nation riven by insoluble conflict, even as the lives of its citizens become fatefully and inextricably entwined — a political thriller of the highest order that interrogates the anguished, violent division between Israelis and Palestinians, and dramatizes the immense moral ambiguities haunting both sides. Who is right, who is wrong — who is the guard, who is truly the prisoner?
A tour de force from one of America’s most acclaimed voices in contemporary fiction.
Recommendation: Paul at City Lights Booksellers & Publishers in San Francisco, CA, says, “Nathan Englander has woven a powerful, intensely suspenseful portrait of a nation riven by insoluble conflict, even as the lives of its citizens become fatefully and inextricably entwined.”
Autonomous by Annalee Newitz
When anything can be owned, how can we be free
Earth, 2144. Jack is an anti-patent scientist turned drug pirate, traversing the world in a submarine as a pharmaceutical Robin Hood, fabricating cheap scrips for poor people who can’t otherwise afford them. But her latest drug hack has left a trail of lethal overdoses as people become addicted to their work, doing repetitive tasks until they become unsafe or insane.
Hot on her trail, an unlikely pair: Eliasz, a brooding military agent, and his robotic partner, Paladin. As they race to stop information about the sinister origins of Jack’s drug from getting out, they begin to form an uncommonly close bond that neither of them fully understand.
And underlying it all is one fundamental question: Is freedom possible in a culture where everything, even people, can be owned?
Recommendation: Charlotte at Literati Bookstore, Ann Arbor, MI, says, “Newitz forces you to empathize with every character, while pondering the implications of each one of their choices. Autonomous is a true masterpiece.”
Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward
In Jesmyn Ward’s first novel since her National Book Award–winning Salvage the Bones, this singular American writer brings the archetypal road novel into rural 21-century America. Drawing on Morrison and Faulkner, The Odyssey and the Old Testament, Ward gives us an epochal story, a journey through Mississippi’s past and present that is both an intimate portrait of a family and an epic tale of hope and struggle. Ward is a major American writer, multiply awarded and universally lauded, and in Sing, Unburied, Sing she is at the height of her powers.
Jojo and his toddler sister, Kayla, live with their grandparents, Mam and Pop, and the occasional presence of their drug-addicted mother, Leonie, on a farm on the Gulf Coast of Mississippi. Leonie is simultaneously tormented and comforted by visions of her dead brother, which only come to her when she’s high; Mam is dying of cancer; and quiet, steady Pop tries to run the household and teach Jojo how to be a man. When the white father of Leonie’s children is released from prison, she packs her kids and a friend into her car and sets out across the state for Parchman farm, the Mississippi State Penitentiary, on a journey rife with danger and promise.
Sing, Unburied, Sing grapples with the ugly truths at the heart of the American story and the power, and limitations, of the bonds of family. Rich with Ward’s distinctive, musical language, Sing, Unburied, Sing is a majestic new work and an essential contribution to American literature.
Recommended by: Sarah, the co-owner of Women & Children First in Chicago, IL
The Child Finder by Rene Denfeld
A haunting, richly atmospheric, and deeply suspenseful novel from the acclaimed author of The Enchanted about an investigator who must use her unique insights to find a missing little girl.
“Where are you, Madison Culver? Flying with the angels, a silver speck on a wing? Are you dreaming, buried under snow? Or — is it possible — you are still alive?”
Three years ago, Madison Culver disappeared when her family was choosing a Christmas tree in Oregon’s Skookum National Forest. She would be eight-years-old now — if she has survived. Desperate to find their beloved daughter, certain someone took her, the Culvers turn to Naomi, a private investigator with an uncanny talent for locating the lost and missing. Known to the police and a select group of parents as “the Child Finder,” Naomi is their last hope.
Naomi’s methodical search takes her deep into the icy, mysterious forest in the Pacific Northwest, and into her own fragmented past. She understands children like Madison because once upon a time, she was a lost girl, too.
As Naomi relentlessly pursues and slowly uncovers the truth behind Madison’s disappearance, shards of a dark dream pierce the defenses that have protected her, reminding her of a terrible loss she feels but cannot remember. If she finds Madison, will Naomi ultimately unlock the secrets of her own life?
Told in the alternating voices of Naomi and a deeply imaginative child, The Child Finder is a breathtaking, exquisitely rendered literary page-turner about redemption, the line between reality and memories and dreams, and the human capacity to survive.
Recommended by: McKenna and Sally at Murder by the Book in Houston, TX
Fever by Deon Meyer
Nico Storm and his father, Willem, drive a truck filled with essential supplies through a desolate land. They are among the few in the world, as far as they know, to have survived a devastating virus that has swept over the planet. Their lives turned upside down, Nico realizes that his superb marksmanship and cool head mean he is destined to be his father’s protector, even though he is still only a boy.
Willem Storm, though not a fighter, is both a thinker and a leader, a wise and compassionate man with a vision for a new community that survivors will rebuild from the ruins. And so Amanzi is founded, drawing Storm’s “homeless and tempest-tost” — starting with Melinda Swanevelder, whom they rescue from brutal thugs; Hennie Fly, with his vital Cessna plane; Beryl Fortuin and her ragtag group of orphans; and Domingo, the man with the tattooed hand, whom Nico immediately recognizes as someone you want on your side. And then Sofia Bergman arrives, the most beautiful girl Nico has ever seen, who changes everything.
So the community grows, and with each step forward, as resources increase, so do the challenges they must face — not just from the attacks of biker brigands, but also from within. Nico undergoes an extraordinary rite of passage in this brand new world, testing his loyalty to the limits. Looking back later in life, he recounts the traumatic events that led to the greatest rupture of all — the murder of the person he loves most.
Propulsively readable, Fever is a gripping epic of humanity striving for a noble vision against its basest impulses.
Recommendation: Randy at Left Bank Books in St. Louis, MO, says, “What a great read! A gripping tale of survival and rebuilding following a pandemic killing off 95% of humans. The story is engaging and the characters are spot on. I never saw the end coming and loved it.”
The Good People by Hannah Kent
Based on true events in 19th century Ireland, Hannah Kent’s startling new novel tells the story of three women, drawn together to rescue child from a superstitious community.
Nora, bereft after the death of her husband, finds herself alone and caring for her grandson Micheál, who can neither speak nor walk. A handmaid, Mary, arrives to help Nóra just as rumours begin to spread that Micheál is a changeling child who is bringing bad luck to the valley. Determined to banish evil, Nora and Mary enlist the help of Nance, an elderly wanderer who understands the magic of the old ways.
Set in a lost world bound by its own laws, The Good People is Hannah Kent’s startling new novel about absolute belief and devoted love. Terrifying, thrilling and moving in equal measure, this follow-up to Burial Rites shows an author at the height of her powers.
Recommended by: Geoffrey at Rainy Day Books in Kansas City, KS
Young Jane Young by Gabrielle Zevin
From the author of the international bestseller The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry comes another novel that will have everyone talking.
Aviva Grossman, an ambitious congressional intern in Florida, makes the mistake of having an affair with her boss — and blogging about it. When the affair comes to light, the beloved congressman doesn’t take the fall. But Aviva does, and her life is over before it hardly begins: slut-shamed, she becomes a late-night talk show punch line, anathema to politics.
She sees no way out but to change her name and move to a remote town in Maine. This time, she tries to be smarter about her life and strives to raise her daughter, Ruby, to be strong and confident. But when, at the urging of others, Aviva decides to run for public office herself, that long-ago mistake trails her via the Internet and catches up — an inescapable scarlet A. In the digital age, the past is never, ever, truly past. And it’s only a matter of time until Ruby finds out who her mother was and is forced to reconcile that person with the one she knows.
Young Jane Young is a smart, funny, and moving novel about what it means to be a woman of any age, and captures not just the mood of our recent highly charged political season, but also the double standards alive and well in every aspect of life for women.
Recommendation: Marika at Porter Square Books in Cambridge, MA, says, “Told from three points of view, this is a story of strength, politics, growing up, and the standards society has for women at every phase of life. Oh, and it’s FUNNY.”
A Legacy of Spies by John le Carré
The undisputed master returns with a riveting new book — his first Smiley novel in more than 25 years.
Peter Guillam, staunch colleague and disciple of George Smiley of the British Secret Service, otherwise known as the Circus, is living out his old age on the family farmstead on the south coast of Brittany when a letter from his old Service summons him to London. The reason? His Cold War past has come back to claim him. Intelligence operations that were once the toast of secret London, and involved such characters as Alec Leamas, Jim Prideaux, George Smiley and Peter Guillam himself, are to be scrutinized by a generation with no memory of the Cold War and no patience with its justifications.
Interweaving past with present so that each may tell its own intense story, John le Carré has spun a single plot as ingenious and thrilling as the two predecessors on which it looks back: The Spy Who Came in from the Cold and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. In a story resonating with tension, humor and moral ambivalence, le Carré and his narrator Peter Guillam present the reader with a legacy of unforgettable characters old and new.
Recommendation: Emma at Carmichael’s Bookstore in Louisville, KY, says, “It’s a pleasure to visit with these characters, with their strengths and frailties, once again.”
A Secret History of Witches by Louisa Morgan
A sweeping historical saga that traces five generations of fiercely powerful mothers and daughters – witches whose magical inheritance is both a dangerous threat and an extraordinary gift.
Brittany, 1821. After Grand-mere Ursule gives her life to save her family, their magic seems to die with her.
Even so, the Orchires fight to keep the old ways alive, practicing half-remembered spells and arcane rites in hopes of a revival. And when their youngest daughter comes of age, magic flows anew. The lineage continues, though new generations struggle not only to master their power, but also to keep it hidden.
But when World War II looms on the horizon, magic is needed more urgently than ever — not for simple potions or visions, but to change the entire course of history.
Recommendation: Chris at Off the Beaten Path in Steamboat Springs, CO, says, “With so much history woven in, and threads of magic dispersed throughout the story, it’s a wonderful read for the fall. ”
Which of these books would you like to read? Share in the comments!