Every few years, there’s one book I latch onto that I keep recommending to people, over and over. And for the last year, that book has been DESCENT by Tim Johnston. I love character-driven thrillers, and this book was geared perfectly for me. But—more than the type of book—there’s something more, something that lingers, that keeps me coming back to it.
There is this silly word that only exists in book reviews and was probably invented by a book reviewer. It’s “unputdownable.” Spell check will always underline it in red, auto-correct will always suggest confusing replacements, and I’ll always picture a book with some sticky, glue-like substance on it preventing you from releasing it. The word might be silly, but the concept isn’t.
I happen to judge books by their “stickiness,” or how long the story, resolution, or characters stick with me after I finish the last page. The stickiest book that I’ve read in a long while was Mindy Mejia’s EVERYTHING YOU WANT ME TO BE.
As the conclusion to my Promise Falls trilogy, THE TWENTY-THREE, hits bookstores, I thought I’d share my 23 favorite novels that, in one way or another, thrilled me. I know I’ve left some out, or forgotten one or two I will remember moments after I finish writing this, but these are all great books, for a variety of reasons.
Twenty-nine years ago, my agent, who was also V.C. Andrews’s agent, changed my life. “We would like you to think about finishing Virginia Andrews’s latest novel,” she said. “She’s too sick to do so.”
The idea was at first overwhelming. V.C. Andrews was a major worldwide publishing success. I was, at the time, a high school English and creative writing teacher who graded papers and wrote thrillers, but I had never before been asked to write in another author’s voice. I attacked the challenge with all my research skills and spent hours reading and rereading Virginia Andrews’s works until I understood what made her writing distinct. Her vocabulary and syntax, images, and dialogues were truly special.
I like books about lawyers. Where real trials are long and often dry, novels can skip all the boring stuff and show only the juicy parts. Even when lawyers aren’t in court, their work is rich with story potential: gathering evidence, winning over reluctant witnesses, delving into all sorts of long-buried secrets. Here are a few of my favorite legal thrillers.
New York City is rich with fascinating stories. Some are heartbreaking, some funny, and some so mysterious and odd, you would assume they are fictional.
One such story is the tragic tale of Mary Rogers—a young woman whose body was found floating in the Hudson River in 1841. Her story seems to be straight out of a Gothic mystery…perhaps because it inspired one.
I collect ghost stories. I don’t believe in ghosts—but I’ll read any and all types of haunting stories. One of my favorites, REBECCA by Daphne du Maurier, is a Gothic novel that doesn’t technically have a ghost but features many fundamentals of a classic ghost story. There’s a huge, labyrinthine old mansion, a spooky woman in black, a mysterious death, an eerie painting, and a dead woman whose haunting presence is felt in every corner of her former home, Manderley.