12 Books That Will Never Leave This Industry Insider’s Shelf

October 8 2015

I fell in love with reading when my school librarian read to us every Wednesday in the Somerville Elementary School Library. From Hop on Pop to The Hardy Boys to Alfred Hitchcock’s The Three Investigators, I read and read and read. I fell in love with publishing when I did a college internship at Simon & Schuster in the late eighties. I’ve been reading books as a career ever since.

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My favorites will always have a place of honor on my bookshelf. Here are twelve books that I would happily read again (and some I already have).

Bury Your Dead
by Louise Penny

This is the book I recommend to anyone who wants to see what Louise Penny is about. It’s a sweeping and epic story that traverses a very personal murder, domestic terrorism, and a historical mystery. She tells three different stories in one novel, and each is harrowing, suspenseful, and emotional.

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Bury Your Dead
Louise Penny

This is the book I recommend to anyone who wants to see what Louise Penny is about. It’s a sweeping and epic story that traverses a very personal murder, domestic terrorism, and a historical mystery. She tells three different stories in one novel, and each is harrowing, suspenseful, and emotional.

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Ship of Gold in the Deep Blue Sea
by Gary Kinder

Kinder’s story first tells the tragedy of this 1857 shipwreck on personal terms. Then his prose matches the treasure hunt as Tommy Thompson and crew salvage one of the most fabled wrecks in history—the gold-laden SS Central America.

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Ship of Gold in the Deep Blue Sea
Gary Kinder

Kinder’s story first tells the tragedy of this 1857 shipwreck on personal terms. Then his prose matches the treasure hunt as Tommy Thompson and crew salvage one of the most fabled wrecks in history—the gold-laden SS Central America.

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River of Darkness
by Rennie Airth

Set in post–WWI England, this tension-filled mystery follows Inspector John Madden as he begins to suspect a brutal madman of carrying out a seemingly ordinary robbery. No matter how many mysteries you’ve read, you’re not going to figure this one out.

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River of Darkness
Rennie Airth

Set in post–WWI England, this tension-filled mystery follows Inspector John Madden as he begins to suspect a brutal madman of carrying out a seemingly ordinary robbery. No matter how many mysteries you’ve read, you’re not going to figure this one out.

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A Place of Execution
by Val McDermid

Ooh, I shiver just thinking about this one. Val McDermid is an award-winning acknowledged master of suspense, but this book, set in rural England in 1963—to me—is far and away her most accessible masterpiece. A thirteen-year-old girl is missing, and a rookie inspector must solve the case.

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A Place of Execution
Val McDermid

Ooh, I shiver just thinking about this one. Val McDermid is an award-winning acknowledged master of suspense, but this book, set in rural England in 1963—to me—is far and away her most accessible masterpiece. A thirteen-year-old girl is missing, and a rookie inspector must solve the case.

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Absolute Power
by David Baldacci

David Baldacci’s grandfather and my great-grandfather were brothers. So, of course I was rooting for this debut—which generated a lot of industry buzz—to be great. And it was. It’s worth a re-read merely for the masterful plotting and many twists and turns.

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Absolute Power
David Baldacci

David Baldacci’s grandfather and my great-grandfather were brothers. So, of course I was rooting for this debut—which generated a lot of industry buzz—to be great. And it was. It’s worth a re-read merely for the masterful plotting and many twists and turns.

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High Five
by Janet Evanovich

I was at Simon & Schuster when Janet Evanovich’s debut was first published, but this one just might be the funniest Stephanie Plum love-triangle car wreck of them all.

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High Five
Janet Evanovich

I was at Simon & Schuster when Janet Evanovich’s debut was first published, but this one just might be the funniest Stephanie Plum love-triangle car wreck of them all.

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Time and Again
by Jack Finney

I love the idea of time travel. I love a historical novel. I love New York. Jack Finney puts these three elements together in what many agree is a masterwork.

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Time and Again
Jack Finney

When advertising artist Si Morley is recruited to join a covert government operation exploring the possibility of time travel, he jumps at the chance to leave his twentieth-century existence and step into New York City in January 1882. Aside from his thirst for experience, he has good reason to return to the past—his friend Kate has a curious, half-burned letter dated from that year, and he wants to trace the mystery. But when Si begins to fall in love with a woman he meets in the past, he will be forced to choose between two worlds—forever.

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The World Without Us
by Alan Weisman

This book begins with a simple conceit: imagine that the human presence was removed from the Earth instantly. What would happen? Alan Weisman takes the concept further than you may anticipate.

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The World Without Us
Alan Weisman

This book begins with a simple conceit: imagine that the human presence was removed from the Earth instantly. What would happen? Alan Weisman takes the concept further than you may anticipate.

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The Path Between the Seas
by David McCullough

Winner of the National Book Award, this is the story of the men and women as well as the tragedy and triumph behind the engineering feat that solved the age-old problem of maritime travel: the creation of the Panama Canal.

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The Path Between the Seas
David McCullough

Winner of the National Book Award, this is the story of the men and women as well as the tragedy and triumph behind the engineering feat that solved the age-old problem of maritime travel: the creation of the Panama Canal.

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Save Me
by Lisa Scottoline

One split-second choice between saving her daughter or another girl nearly costs a mom her freedom and her reputation, and in true Scottoline style, there is far more going on than first appears.

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Save Me
Lisa Scottoline

One split-second choice between saving her daughter or another girl nearly costs a mom her freedom and her reputation, and in true Scottoline style, there is far more going on than first appears.

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True Colors
by Kristin Hannah

This novel has everything—cowboys and horses and sisters and moral choices. Most of all, this is a story about what it can mean to be a family, with all the betrayal, forgiveness, and loyalty that can mean.

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True Colors
Kristin Hannah

This novel has everything—cowboys and horses and sisters and moral choices. Most of all, this is a story about what it can mean to be a family, with all the betrayal, forgiveness, and loyalty that can mean.

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The Wordy Shipmates
by Sarah Vowell

Sarah Vowell makes me laugh, and she makes me feel smart just by reading her books. Here, she tackles the Puritans (figuratively, of course) and their desire to create the Shining City on the Hill. Sure, it sounds dry, but her prose is addicting and illustrative.

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The Wordy Shipmates
Sarah Vowell

Sarah Vowell makes me laugh, and she makes me feel smart just by reading her books. Here, she tackles the Puritans (figuratively, of course) and their desire to create the Shining City on the Hill. Sure, it sounds dry, but her prose is addicting and illustrative.

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