The dawn of September signals the end of summer. As beach days draw to a close, we’re shelving our poolside reads to make room for fall titles. Pick up one of these great new paperbacks, all of which will both transport you and make you think. With historical dramas, multi-generational family portraits, and atmospheric thrillers, this list is guaranteed to deliver entertainment to even the pickiest of readers. The reads on this list, with their page-turning pacing and thought-provoking themes, strike the perfect balance for a summer-to-fall transition, helping you both disconnect from and reinvest in the world outside your window.
10 Fantastic Fiction Novels New in Paperback This September
In 1941 Berlin, two young Jewish girls are brought together when their parents attempt to send them to safety. Lea is comforted by the brave Ettie, and even more comforted by Ava, the mystical golem Ettie creates to protect her. Lea ultimately embarks on an awe-inspiring journey to a mountain village, while Ettie descends into hiding. But Ava and their bond hold the two together in this fantastical story of love and resistance.
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER * LONGLISTED FOR THE ANDREW CARNEGIE MEDAL
On the brink of World War II, with the Nazis tightening their grip on Berlin, a mother’s act of courage and love offers her daughter a chance of survival.
“[A] hymn to the power of resistance, perseverance, and enduring love in dark times…gravely beautiful…Hoffman the storyteller continues to dazzle.” —THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW
At the time when the world changed, Hanni Kohn knows she must send her twelve-year-old daughter away to save her from the Nazi regime. Her desperation leads her to Ettie, the daughter of a rabbi whose years spent eavesdropping on her father enables her to create a mystical Jewish creature, a rare and unusual golem, who is sworn to protect Hanni’s daughter, Lea. Once Ava is brought to life, she and Lea and Ettie become eternally entwined, their paths fated to cross, their fortunes linked.
What does it mean to lose your mother? How much can one person sacrifice for love? In a world where evil can be found at every turn, we meet remarkable characters that take us on a stunning journey of loss and resistance, the fantastical and the mortal, in a place where all roads lead past the Angel of Death and love is never-ending.
In HOUSE ON ENDLESS WATERS, author Yoel Blum begrudgingly returns to Amsterdam to promote his new book, despite the promise he made to his mother years ago to never return to his hometown. While visiting the Jewish Historical Museum, Yoel is shocked to see his parents holding an unknown infant in old film footage. This image launches Yoel on a mission to learn about the underground networks his parents existed within and the pain that has unknowingly defined his past.
“Elon powerfully evokes the obscurity of the past and its hold on the present as we stumble through revelation after revelation with Yoel. As we accompany him on his journey…we share in his loss, surprise, and grief, right up to the novel’s shocking conclusion.” —The New York Times Book Review
In the tradition of The Invisible Bridge and The Weight of Ink, “a vibrant, page-turning family mystery” (Jennifer Cody Epstein, author of Wunderland) about a writer who discovers the truth about his mother’s wartime years in Amsterdam, unearthing a shocking secret that becomes the subject of his magnum opus.
Renowned author Yoel Blum reluctantly agrees to visit his birthplace of Amsterdam to promote his books, despite promising his late mother that he would never return to that city. While touring the Jewish Historical Museum with his wife, Yoel stumbles upon footage portraying prewar Dutch Jewry and is astonished to see the youthful face of his beloved mother staring back at him, posing with his father, his older sister…and an infant he doesn’t recognize.
This unsettling discovery launches him into a fervent search for the truth, shining a light on Amsterdam’s dark wartime history—the underground networks that hid Jewish children away from danger and those who betrayed their own for the sake of survival. The deeper into the past Yoel digs up, the better he understands his mother’s silence, and the more urgent the question that has unconsciously haunted him for a lifetime—Who am I?—becomes.
Part family mystery, part wartime drama, House on Endless Waters is “a rewarding meditation on survival” (Kirkus Reviews, starred review) and a “deeply immersive achievement that brings to life stories that must never be forgotten” (USA TODAY).
Perfect for fans of Diane Setterfield, THINGS IN JARS is an atmospheric, gothic mystery set in Victorian London. Birdie Devine, a renowned female detective, has a stunning new case: Christabel, a girl whose supernatural powers have long made her an obsession of curiosity collectors worldwide, has been kidnapped. Determined to find her, Birdie and her crew of unusual accomplices dig deep into London’s foggy, grime-encrusted underworld. In uncovering and telling Christabel’s story, they desperately try to prove that there is some humanity left in the world.
In this “miraculous and thrilling” (Diane Setterfield, #1 New York Times bestselling author) mystery for fans of The Essex Serpent and The Book of Speculation, Victorian London comes to life as an intrepid female sleuth wades through a murky world of collectors and criminals to recover a remarkable child.
Bridie Devine—flame-haired, pipe-smoking detective extraordinaire—is confronted with the most baffling puzzle yet: the kidnapping of Christabel Berwick, secret daughter of Sir Edmund Athelstan Berwick, and a peculiar child whose reputed supernatural powers have captured the unwanted attention of collectors in this age of discovery.
Winding her way through the sooty streets of Victorian London, Bridie won’t rest until she finds the young girl, even if it means unearthing secrets about her past that she’d rather keep buried. Luckily, her search is aided by an enchanting cast of characters, including a seven-foot-tall housemaid; a melancholic, tattoo-covered ghost; and an avuncular apothecary. But secrets abound in this foggy underworld where nothing is quite what it seems.
Blending darkness and light, Things in Jars is a stunning, “richly woven tapestry of fantasy, folklore, and history” (Booklist, starred review) that explores what it means to be human in inhumane times.
After being kidnapped from his suburban home, Luke Ellis wakes up in a room that looks just like his own, but with no windows. He’s in the Institute, a sinister operation that collects and imprisons children with extraordinary powers. Luke and his new friends all live in the Front Half but dread the Back Half, a shadowy place no one ever returns from. As the Institute’s staff begin to do whatever they can to extract the children’s abilities, Luke and the others must fight for their lives and freedom against impossible cruelty.
From #1 New York Times bestselling author Stephen King, the most riveting and unforgettable story of kids confronting evil since It. “This is King at his best” (The St. Louis Post-Dispatch).
In the middle of the night, in a house on a quiet street in suburban Minneapolis, intruders silently murder Luke Ellis’s parents and load him into a black SUV. The operation takes less than two minutes. Luke will wake up at The Institute, in a room that looks just like his own, except there’s no window. And outside his door are other doors, behind which are other kids with special talents—telekinesis and telepathy—who got to this place the same way Luke did: Kalisha, Nick, George, Iris, and ten-year-old Avery Dixon. They are all in Front Half. Others, Luke learns, graduated to Back Half, “like the roach motel,” Kalisha says. “You check in, but you don’t check out.”
In this most sinister of institutions, the director, Mrs. Sigsby, and her staff are ruthlessly dedicated to extracting from these children the force of their extranormal gifts. There are no scruples here. If you go along, you get tokens for the vending machines. If you don’t, punishment is brutal. As each new victim disappears to Back Half, Luke becomes more and more desperate to get out and get help. But no one has ever escaped from the Institute.
As psychically terrifying as Firestarter, and with the spectacular kid power of It, The Institute “is another winner: creepy and touching and horrifyingly believable, all at once” (The Boston Globe).
With Britain on the brink of World War II, the bond among three childhood friends is seriously tested. Nora is a socialite eager to get involved in the war effort. Hazel struggles to keep two dark secrets hidden behind her positive exterior. And German expat Marie faces internment after Germany invades Poland. In this tender, cinematic piece of historical fiction, Julia Kelly presents a powerful story about the lengths three women will go to in order to protect one another.
For fans of historical novels by Kristin Harmel and Martha Hall Kelly comes a “gripping tale by a writer at the top of her game” (Fiona Davis, author of The Chelsea Girls) following three friends who struggle to remain loyal as one of them is threatened with internment by the British government at the start of World War II.
In August of 1939, as Britain watches the headlines in fear of another devastating war with Germany, three childhood companions must choose between friendship and country. Erstwhile socialite Nora is determined to find her place in the Home Office’s Air Raid Precautions Department, matchmaker Hazel tries to mask two closely guarded secrets with irrepressible optimism, and German expat Marie worries that she and her family might face imprisonment in an internment camp if war is declared. When Germany invades Poland and tensions on the home front rise, Marie is labeled an enemy alien, and the three friends find themselves fighting together to keep her free at any cost.
Featuring Julia Kelly’s signature “intricate, tender, and convincing” (Publishers Weekly) prose, The Whispers of War is a moving and unforgettable tale of the power of friendship and womanhood in the midst of conflict.
In this electrifying bestseller, perfect for fans of Tana French, Copenhagen detectives Jeppe and Anette must solve a twisted murder before another victim is claimed. After a young woman is brutally murdered in her apartment, the detectives quickly uncover a link between her and her eccentric, alcoholic landlady, Esther. But as they dig deeper into the cultish dinner parties Esther hosts and the unfinished murder mystery she’s been writing, Jeppe and Anette begin to suspect that Esther may not be the one pulling the strings.
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An electrifying work of literary suspense from internationally bestselling author Katrine Engberg, The Tenant—heralded as a “stunning debut” by #1 New York Times bestselling author Kathy Reichs—follows two Copenhagen police detectives struggling to solve a shocking murder and stop a killer hell-bent on revenge.
When a young woman is discovered brutally murdered in her own apartment with an intricate pattern of lines carved into her face, Copenhagen police detectives Jeppe Korner and Anette Werner are assigned to the case. In short order, they establish a link between the victim, Julie Stender, and her landlady, Esther de Laurenti, who’s a bit too fond of drink and the host of raucous dinner parties with her artist friends. Esther also turns out to be a budding novelist—and when Julie turns up as a murder victim in the still-unfinished mystery she’s writing, the link between fiction and real life grows both more urgent and more dangerous.
But Esther’s role in this twisted scenario is not quite as clear as it first seems. Is she the culprit or just another victim, trapped in a twisted game of vengeance? Anette and Jeppe must dig more deeply into the two women’s pasts to discover the identity of the brutal puppet-master pulling the strings.
Evocative and original, The Tenant promises “dark family secrets—and a smorgasbord of surprises” (People).
An empowering, historic epic, THE SHADOW KING sheds light on the forgotten 1935 invasion of Ethiopia by Mussolini’s Italian army. Orphaned Hirut has just begun working as a maid in an officer’s household, where she often has to fight off his sexual advances, but her world is turned upside down when Mussolini invades and war breaks out. While the technologically advanced Italians begin to crush the Ethiopian forces, Hirut spearheads a daring plan to put the disempowered into roles of authority and inspire women to take arms to defend themselves.
From award-winning, bestselling author Jacqueline Woodson comes a poignant multigenerational family tale. Dipping forward and backward in time, RED AT THE BONE tells the story of sixteen-year-old Melody, on the brink of her coming-of-age ceremony; her mother, whose teenage pregnancy pulled together two disparate families; and her grandparents, whose experience of parenthood makes them question their own identities. Threaded through these personal portraits is the pull of culture and history, which threatens to tear them all apart.
James is a rich Manhattan attorney whose complicated relationship with his son, Rufus, gets more difficult to navigate after Rufus marries Claudia, a Black woman. Years earlier, Agnes, Claudia’s mother, moves to the Bronx after a devastating encounter on a back road in Georgia. Her husband, Eddie, meanwhile, is shipped off to Vietnam, where he struggles against mounting racial tension. Their stories are intersected by those of other unforgettable characters, arching across decades of American history, in this spectacular family saga.
The Tuchman family gathers in New Orleans as their patriarch lies on his deathbed. Daughter Alex is determined to get her mother, Barbara, to tell her the truth about her father’s checkered past. Barbara can’t stop thinking back over her own difficult life with her husband. Son Gary keeps his distance as he attempts to jump-start his career while his wife, Twyla, has a nervous breakdown. In powerful prose, Jami Attenberg explores the web of damage that radiates from a toxic center of masculine power.
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