After quite a chaotic November, it helps to escape from reality by diving into a truly immersive book. With the arrival of chilly winter winds, many of us have been forced to spend less time reading in the parks, and more time huddled under our warm blankets by the glow of the candlelight. This month, our readers enjoyed a full range of books built for escaping—from spectacular historical fiction to atmospheric adventures. Here are the top books our readers have picked up this month. They all make a great start to the holiday season!
The 10 Most Popular Books We Escaped Into This November
In the spring of 1946, best friends Vera Frankel and Edith Ban arrive in Naples. Refugees from Hungary, they managed to escape from a train headed for Auschwitz and spent the rest of the war hiding on an Austrian farm. Now, the two young women are starting new lives abroad. Vera finds work at the United States embassy where she falls in love with Captain Anton Wight. But as Vera and Edith grapple with the aftermath of the war, so too does Anton, and when he suddenly disappears, Vera is forced to change course. Their quest for a better life takes Vera and Edith from Naples to Ellis Island to Caracas as they rebuild their lives after terrible loss. Inspired by an incredible true story of two Jewish friends who survived the Holocaust, THE LIGHT AFTER THE WAR is an amazing story of friendship, resilience, and love.
Inspired by an incredible true story of two Jewish friends who survived the Holocaust, this “heartfelt and memorable tale of family, love, resilience, and the triumph of human spirit” (Pam Jenoff, New York Times bestselling author) spans World War II from Budapest to Austria and the postwar years from Naples to Caracas, perfect for fans of The German Girl and We Were the Lucky Ones.
Spring 1946: Best friends Vera Frankel and Edith Ban arrive in Naples. Refugees from Hungary, they managed to escape from a train headed for Auschwitz and spent the rest of the war hiding on an Austrian farm. Now, the two young women are starting new lives abroad.
Armed with a letter of recommendation from an American officer, Vera finds work at the United States embassy where she falls in love with Captain Anton Wight. But as Vera and Edith grapple with the aftermath of the war, so too does Anton, and when he suddenly disappears, Vera is forced to change course. Their quest for a better life takes Vera and Edith from Naples to Ellis Island to Caracas as they start careers, reunite with old friends, and rebuild their lives after terrible loss.
Moving, evocative, and compelling, The Light After the War is a timely and “unforgettable story of strength, love, and survival” (Jillian Cantor, USA TODAY bestselling author).
In Katrine Engberg’s debut novel, translated from her native Danish, veteran Copenhagen police partners Jeppe Kørner and Anette Werner catch a doozy of a case together: the vicious slaying of a young woman in her first-floor apartment. The twist? Her landlady and upstairs neighbor, aspiring author Esther de Laurenti, has somehow predicted details of the murder in her manuscript. Is Esther involved, or is something else going on? The twists and turns of this bizarre case will keep you guessing until the end. If you’re a sucker for moody Scandinavian crime dramas (a.k.a. Nordic Noir), then THE TENANT is most definitely for you.
An Indie Next Pick
An O, The Oprah Magazine Titles to Pick Up Now
A People Book Pick
A New York Post Best Book of the Week
A Parade Most Anticipated Books of Early 2020
A Bustle Most Anticipated Books of January 2020
A CrimeReads Most Anticipated Crime Books of 2020
A She Reads Most Anticipated Thrillers of 2020
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).
Bridie Divine is a hard-hitting female detective ready to take on even the most bizarre of cases. With her pipe in hand and seven-foot-tall house maid in tow, Bridie accepts a mysterious case surrounding the kidnapping of Sir Edmund Berwick’s daughter, Christabel. But Bridie quickly discovers that Christabel is no ordinary little girl. She is reported to have supernatural powers that have captured the unwanted attention of curiosity collectors. In Victorian London, Bridie sets off on a miraculous and magical adventure to find the missing child, accompanied by a tattoo-covered ghost—even if this journey digs up her buried past. For a wildly immersive read with a tinge of magical elements, THINGS IN JARS is the perfect escapist read.
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.
In this eclectic Brooklyn neighborhood, private storms brew amongst four married couples and their children. COBBLE HILL chronicles a year in the life of these four families as they seek purpose, community, and meaningful relationships—until one unforgettable night at a raucous neighborhood party knocks them to their senses. Mix together an ex-groupie Mandy, her ex-boyband member husband Stuart, his crush who also happens to be the unconventional new school nurse, and then throw in two hormonal teenagers, a ten-year-old pyromaniac, a drug dealer pretending to be a doctor, and a lot of hidden cameras, and you’ve got a combustible mix of egos, desires, and secrets bubbling in brownstone Brooklyn. Smart, sophisticated, yet surprisingly tender, COBBLE HILL is a highly entertaining portrait of contemporary family life and the colorful characters who call Brooklyn home.
“Best Novels of Fall 2020” —Vogue
“Most Anticipated List for Fall 2020” —Parade
“Best of Fall 2020” —PopSugar
“Best Books of 2020” —Marie Claire
From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Gossip Girl series, a deliciously irresistible novel chronicling a year in the life of four families in an upscale Brooklyn neighborhood as they seek purpose, community, and meaningful relationships—until one unforgettable night at a raucous neighborhood party knocks them to their senses.
Welcome to Cobble Hill.
In this eclectic Brooklyn neighborhood, private storms brew amongst four married couples and their children. There’s ex-groupie Mandy, so underwhelmed by motherhood and her current physical state that she fakes a debilitating disease to get the attention of her skateboarding, ex-boyband member husband Stuart. There’s the unconventional new school nurse, Peaches, on whom Stuart has an unrequited crush, and her disappointing husband Greg, who wears noise-cancelling headphones—everywhere.
A few blocks away, Roy, a well-known, newly transplanted British novelist, has lost the thread of his next novel and his marriage to capable, indefatigable Wendy. Around the corner, Tupper, the nervous, introverted industrial designer with a warehose full of prosthetic limbs struggles to pin down his elusive artist wife Elizabeth. She remains…elusive. Throw in two hormonal teenagers, a ten-year-old pyromaniac, a drug dealer pretending to be a doctor, and a lot of hidden cameras, and you’ve got a combustible mix of egos, desires, and secrets bubbling in brownstone Brooklyn.
Smart, sophisticated, yet surprisingly tender, Cobble Hill is highly entertaining portrait of contemporary family life and the colorful characters who call Brooklyn home.
In England 1932, Grace Hamblin was the beekeeper's daughter, growing up happily in a beautiful estate—that is until her father died and left her to fend for herself. When her childhood friend Freddie became her lover, she is glad to have finally found stability in someone, but another man always held her thoughts. Years later, in 1973 Massachusetts, Grace’s daughter, Trixie Valentine, is in love with wild Jasper Duncliffe. When he leaves for England, he promises to come back for Trixie one day, but Grace knows he never will. Grace tries to reach out to her daughter, but Trixie brushes off her mother’s advice and comfort, sure Jasper’s love for her was real. Surrounded by charming architecture, beautiful landscape, and quirky islanders, both mother and daughter search for happiness, confront the secrets of the past, and unravel the lies told long ago.
Treasure hunts are always thrilling. Throw in a love triangle, multiple car explosions, and you’ve got one rollicking good time. In Janet Evanovich’s newest book FORTUNE AND GLORY, the action is more packed than ever. Stephanie Plum is on the hunt with her Grandma for mobster treasure left hidden by her recently deceased husband. Filled with danger, love, and Janet’s trademark humor, this newest book in the series will fill your day with fast-paced adventure in no time. Plus, it features one of the most intriguing, multitalented adversaries yet: Gabriela Rose is a chef, martial artist, fashionista, and more.
The twenty-seventh entry in the #1 New York Times bestselling series isn’t just the biggest case of Stephanie Plum’s career. It’s the adventure of a lifetime.
When Stephanie’s beloved Grandma Mazur's new husband died on their wedding night, the only thing he left her was a beat-up old easy chair…and the keys to a life-changing fortune.
But as Stephanie and Grandma Mazur search for Jimmy Rosolli’s treasure, they discover that they’re not the only ones on the hunt. Two dangerous enemies from the past stand in their way—along with a new adversary who’s even more formidable: Gabriela Rose, a dark-eyed beauty from Little Havana with a taste for designer clothes. She’s also a soldier of fortune, a gourmet cook, an expert in firearms and mixed martial arts—and someone who’s about to give Stephanie a real run for her money.
Stephanie may be in over her head, but she’s got two things that Gabriela doesn’t: an unbreakable bond with her family and a stubborn streak that will never let her quit.
She’ll need both to survive because this search for “fortune and glory” will turn into a desperate race against time with more on the line than ever before. Because even as she searches for the treasure and fights to protect her Grandma Mazur, her own deepest feelings will be tested—as Stephanie could finally be forced to choose between Joe Morelli and Ranger.
Joanna Stafford, a Dominican nun, learns that her favorite cousin has been condemned by Henry VIII to be burned at the stake. Defying the rule of enclosure, Joanna leaves the priory to stand at her cousin’s side, but she's soon arrested and sent to the Tower of London. While Joanna in the Tower, the ruthless Bishop of Winchester forces her to spy for him: to save her father’s life she must find an ancient relic—a crown so powerful, it may possess the ability to end the Reformation. What follows is one dangerous quest to find an ancient relic during Cromwell’s reign of terror.
An astonishing debut in historical fiction, hailed as “part The Da Vinci Code, part The Other Boleyn Girl,” (Woman’s Day), The Crown follows one nun’s dangerous quest to find an ancient relic during Cromwell’s reign of terror.
Joanna Stafford, a Dominican nun, learns that her favorite cousin has been condemned by Henry VIII to be burned at the stake. Defying the rule of enclosure, Joanna leaves the priory to stand at her cousin’s side. Arrested for interfering with the king’s justice, Joanna, along with her father, is sent to the Tower of London.
While Joanna is in the Tower, the ruthless Bishop of Winchester forces her to spy for him: to save her father’s life she must find an ancient relic—a crown so powerful, it may possess the ability to end the Reformation.
With Cromwell’s troops threatening to shutter her priory, bright and bold Joanna must decide who she can trust so that she may save herself, her family, and her sacred way of life. This provocative story melds heart-stopping suspense with historical detail and brings to life the poignant dramas of women and men at a fascinating and critical moment in England’s past.
Part detective story and part family history, WHEN TIME STOPPED recounts Ariana Neumann’s experience uncovering her father’s past and family history. Growing up in Venezuela, Ariana knew something terrible had happened to her father but didn’t know much about his experience escaping the Nazis. When he died, he left her a box of letters and memorabilia, which sent her on a journey around the world to uncover the man he truly was and the legacy he left behind.
In this astonishing story that “reads like a thriller and is so, so timely” (BuzzFeed) Ariana Neumann dives into the secrets of her father’s past: “Like Anne Frank’s diary, it offers a story that needs to be told and heard” (Booklist, starred review).
In 1941, the first Neumann family member was taken by the Nazis, arrested in German-occupied Czechoslovakia for bathing in a stretch of river forbidden to Jews. He was transported to Auschwitz. Eighteen days later his prisoner number was entered into the morgue book.
Of thirty-four Neumann family members, twenty-five were murdered by the Nazis. One of the survivors was Hans Neumann, who, to escape the German death net, traveled to Berlin and hid in plain sight under the Gestapo’s eyes. What Hans experienced was so unspeakable that, when he built an industrial empire in Venezuela, he couldn’t bring himself to talk about it. All his daughter Ariana knew was that something terrible had happened.
When Hans died, he left Ariana a small box filled with letters, diary entries, and other memorabilia. Ten years later Ariana finally summoned the courage to have the letters translated, and she began reading. What she discovered launched her on a worldwide search that would deliver indelible portraits of a family loving, finding meaning, and trying to survive amid the worst that can be imagined.
A “beautifully told story of personal discovery” (John le Carré), When Time Stopped is an unputdownable detective story and an epic family memoir, spanning nearly ninety years and crossing oceans. Neumann brings each relative to vivid life, and this “gripping, expertly researched narrative will inspire those looking to uncover their own family histories” (Publishers Weekly).
THE POSSIBLE WORLD spans nearly a century—from the Great Depression through the Vietnam War era and into the present—and follows the converging lives of a young traumatized boy who witnesses a murder, the ER doctor who tends to him, and an elderly woman guarding her long-buried past. As they all struggle to confront the events that shattered their lives, this book captures the complicated ways our pasts shape our identities, and how timeless bonds can triumph over grief.
“A brilliantly written, moving story” (The Washington Book Review) about the converging lives of a young boy who witnesses a brutal murder, the doctor who tends to him, and an old woman guarding her long-buried past.
It seems like just another night shift for Lucy, an overworked ER physician in Providence, Rhode Island, until six-year-old Ben is brought in as the sole survivor from a crime scene. He’s traumatized and wordless; everything he knows has been taken from him in an afternoon. It’s not clear what he saw or what he remembers.
Lucy, who’s grappling with the demise of her marriage, feels a profound, unexpected connection to the little boy. She wants to help him…but will recovering his memory heal him or damage him further?
Across town, Clare will soon be turning one hundred years old. She has long believed that the secrets she’s been keeping don’t matter to anyone anymore, but a surprising encounter makes her realize that the time has come to tell her story.
As Ben, Lucy, and Clare struggle to confront the events that shattered their lives, something stronger than fate is working to bring them together.
“Schwarz blends a clear-eyed acceptance of life’s pain and cruelties with a hopeful message about the enduring power of love in this rich and memorable novel” (Publishers Weekly). The Possible World spans nearly a century—from the Great Depression through the Vietnam War era and into the present—and “in beautifully crafted prose” (Booklist) captures the complicated ways our pasts shape our identities, and how timeless bonds can triumph over grief. “A bittersweet story full of imagination and nostalgia, loss and redemption…The Possible World will seize readers from the first scene and hold tight until its satisfying conclusion” (Kirkus Reviews).
Ivy Lin is a teenager growing up outside of Boston who is taught by her grandmother to pilfer from yard sales and secondhand stores in order to maintain the appearance of a suburban teenager and win the heart of the wealthy Gideon Speyer. Ivy is sent back to China when her mom discovers her thieving habits, but she later returns to Boston and bumps into Gideon’s sister, Sylvia. Soon Ivy immerses herself in the Speyer family and is within striking distance of everything she’s ever wanted, until a figure from her past reemerges.
***LONGLISTED FOR THE CENTER FOR FICTION’S FIRST NOVEL PRIZE***
From prizewinning Chinese American author Susie Yang, this dazzling coming-of-age novel about a young woman’s dark obsession with her privileged classmate offers sharp insights into the immigrant experience.
Ivy Lin is a thief and a liar—but you’d never know it by looking at her.
Raised outside of Boston, Ivy’s immigrant grandmother relies on Ivy’s mild appearance for cover as she teaches her granddaughter how to pilfer items from yard sales and second-hand shops. Thieving allows Ivy to accumulate the trappings of a suburban teen—and, most importantly, to attract the attention of Gideon Speyer, the golden boy of a wealthy political family. But when Ivy’s mother discovers her trespasses, punishment is swift and Ivy is sent to China, and her dream instantly evaporates.
Years later, Ivy has grown into a poised yet restless young woman, haunted by her conflicting feelings about her upbringing and her family. Back in Boston, when Ivy bumps into Sylvia Speyer, Gideon’s sister, a reconnection with Gideon seems not only inevitable—it feels like fate.
Slowly, Ivy sinks her claws into Gideon and the entire Speyer clan by attending fancy dinners, and weekend getaways to the cape. But just as Ivy is about to have everything she’s ever wanted, a ghost from her past resurfaces, threatening the nearly perfect life she’s worked so hard to build.
Filled with surprising twists and a nuanced exploration of class and race, White Ivy is a glimpse into the dark side of a woman who yearns for success at any cost.
Photo credit: istock / artursfoto