Now that we’re halfway through the year, we’re looking back on the most popular book lists so far, in case you missed them the first time around (or need a reminder of what popular book to pick up next). While it’s nearly impossible to highlight just 10 books, we certainly tried. Check out the full articles for even more books in the list. Here you’ll find the books that got you out of reading ruts, many most anticipated reads, and thrilling picks for book club.
I know I can’t be the only one who blew off their reading goal for 2020, but back in the early winter, when it was perfect weather to curl up with a book, I couldn’t think of anything less appealing. Focus on a story for longer than the length of a TikTok? No thanks. But when one of my colleagues with perfect editorial taste passed me THE MISSING TREASURES OF AMY ASHTON, I decided to read a chapter—just a chapter—to see how it felt after my monthlong reading drought. From the first few pages of THE MISSING TREASURES OF AMY ASHTON, I could tell I was reading something special. Amy Ashton’s house is littered, cluttered; she’s spent the past twenty years hoarding vases, ceramic birds, newspapers, and mugs. But as you uncover the story behind each object and learn to appreciate its beauty, your heart will open for Amy more and more. And as Amy gets to know her unjudgmental neighbor Richard and his sons, you’ll be reminded to be gentle and patient with yourself. THE MISSING TREASURES OF AMY ASHTON (publishing as EVERYTHING IS BEAUTIFUL in the UK) will remind you what it’s like to fall into a story and back in love with reading.
For fans of The Keeper of Lost Things and Evvie Drake Starts Over comes a funny and tender debut about a reclusive artist whose collection has gotten out of control—but whose unexpected friendship with a pair of new neighbors might be just what she needs to start over.
Amy Ashton once dreamed of becoming an artist—of creating beautiful objects. But now she simply collects them. Aquamarine bottles, bright yellow crockery, deep Tuscan red pots (and the odd slow-cooker) take up every available inch of space in her house. Having suffered a terrible tragedy—one she staunchly refuses to let herself think about, thank you very much—she’s decided that it’s easier to love things than people. Things are safe. Things will never leave you.
But when a new family moves in next door with two young boys, one of whom has a collection of his own, Amy’s carefully managed life starts to unravel, prompting her to question why she began to close herself off in the first place. As Amy embarks on a journey back into her past, she has to contend with nosy neighbors, a meddlesome government worker, the inept police, and a little boy whose love of bulldozers might just let Amy open up her heart—and her home—again.
Quirky and charming, big-hearted and moving, The Missing Treasures of Amy Ashton proves that it’s never too late to let go of the things that don’t matter...and welcome the people who do.
One of the buzziest books of the year, and rightfully so, is THE OTHER BLACK GIRL by debut novelist Zakiya Dalila Harris. Some of the anticipation stems from its setting in the world of book publishing and that it’s written by an author who has worked in the industry herself: she gets the little details of an editorial assistant exactly right. A bigger part of the excitement surrounding this book, though, comes from how masterfully it combines a gripping suspense plot with incisive cultural criticism about what it’s like to be a Black woman in a majority-white workplace. THE OTHER BLACK GIRL will draw you in with the story of 26-year-old Nella Rogers, who’s the only Black employee on her floor at Wagner Books, until the arrival of a new colleague named Hazel. While at first hopeful she and Hazel will be fast friends, Nella soon starts to feel that they’re in competition. And then one evening she finds a disturbing note on her desk…. To reveal any more would be to ruin some big story twists, so I will leave it at this: once you pick up this thriller, you won’t be able to put it down!
“Riveting, fearless, and vividly original. This is an exciting debut.” —Emily St. John Mandel, New York Times bestselling author of The Glass Hotel
Get Out meets The Devil Wears Prada in this electric debut about the tension that unfurls when two young Black women meet against the starkly white backdrop of New York City book publishing.
Twenty-six-year-old editorial assistant Nella Rogers is tired of being the only Black employee at Wagner Books. Fed up with the isolation and microaggressions, she’s thrilled when Harlem-born and bred Hazel starts working in the cubicle beside hers. They’ve only just started comparing natural hair care regimens, though, when a string of uncomfortable events elevates Hazel to Office Darling, and Nella is left in the dust.
Then the notes begin to appear on Nella’s desk: LEAVE WAGNER. NOW.
It’s hard to believe Hazel is behind these hostile messages. But as Nella starts to spiral and obsess over the sinister forces at play, she soon realizes that there’s a lot more at stake than just her career.
A whip-smart and dynamic thriller and sly social commentary that is perfect for anyone who has ever felt manipulated, threatened, or overlooked in the workplace, The Other Black Girl will keep you on the edge of your seat until the very last twist.
Let’s kick off the spring season on bucolic Maple Street as the Wilde family leaves city life for their dream life in lovely Garden City, New York. GOOD NEIGHBORS by Sarah Langan is part thriller and part suburban miasma, exploring friendships, family relationships, mob mentality, and climate change. This book will keep you furiously turning pages until the very last one. I was lucky to speak with Sarah Langan about her book and more on a recent Facebook Live interview. I hope you enjoy our chat!
“A modern-day Crucible….Beneath the surface of a suburban utopia, madness lurks.” —Liv Constantine, bestselling author of The Last Mrs. Parrish
“Sarah Langan is a phenomenal talent with a wicked sense of wry humor. Good Neighbors knocked me out. Like Shirley Jackson, Langan’s work blends a bleak streak with an underlying sense of the humane that wrung my heart.” —Victor LaValle, author of The Changeling
Celeste Ng’s enthralling dissection of suburbia meets Shirley Jackson’s creeping dread in this propulsive literary noir, when a sudden tragedy exposes the depths of deception and damage in a Long Island suburb—pitting neighbor against neighbor and putting one family in terrible danger.
Welcome to Maple Street, a picture-perfect slice of suburban Long Island, its residents bound by their children, their work, and their illusion of safety in a rapidly changing world.
Arlo Wilde, a gruff has-been rock star who’s got nothing to show for his fame but track marks, is always two steps behind the other dads. His wife, beautiful ex-pageant queen Gertie, feels socially ostracized and adrift. Spunky preteen Julie curses like a sailor and her kid brother Larry is called “Robot Boy” by the kids on the block.
Their next-door neighbor and Maple Street’s Queen Bee, Rhea Schroeder—a lonely community college professor repressing her own dark past—welcomes Gertie and family into the fold. Then, during one spritzer-fueled summer evening, the new best friends share too much, too soon.
As tensions mount, a sinkhole opens in a nearby park, and Rhea’s daughter Shelly falls inside. The search for Shelly brings a shocking accusation against the Wildes that spins out of control. Suddenly, it is one mom’s word against the other’s in a court of public opinion that can end only in blood.
A riveting and ruthless portrayal of American suburbia, Good Neighbors excavates the perils and betrayals of motherhood and friendships and the dangerous clash between social hierarchy, childhood trauma, and fear.
WHITE IVY by Susie Yang is the very first title that Book Club Favorites discussed in 2021. This stunning debut novel traces the life of a Chinese-American girl and her dark obsession with one classmate. Ivy Lin’s immigrant grandmother teaches her that stealing is the quickest way to blend in with the white upper-class town they live in. With this in mind, Ivy builds a web of lies as she works her way into the close-knit circle of her elitist crush. This novel is perfect for book clubs because it offers incredible insight into the immigrant experience and an exploration of class and race in America. As your club reads this story, ask yourself this question: Why does Ivy struggle so much with embracing her Chinese culture?
***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.
It's hard being a Puritan woman in the New World. The second wife of a powerful but abusive man, Mary Deerfield is looking to escape her situation and make a better life for herself. But soon rumors start among her neighbors that Mary is a witch, especially as strange events keep happening around her. Will Mary be able to escape both her marriage and a death sentence, or will she join the many women hanged for witchcraft? THE HOUR OF THE WITCH presents a twisted historical thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat as the evidence mounts against Mary, with the truth darker than anyone could have imagined.
Sara's Pick: It's hard being a Puritan woman in the New World. The second wife of a powerful but abusive man, Mary Deerfield is looking to escape her situation and make a better life for herself. But soon rumors start among her neighbors that Mary is a witch, especially as strange events keep happening around her. Will Mary be able to escape both her marriage and a death sentence, or will she join the many women hanged for witchcraft? THE HOUR OF THE WITCH presents a twisted historical thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat as the evidence mounts against Mary, with the truth darker than anyone could have imagined.
I am very excited to read this debut novel! THE MEMORY COLLECTORS is a story about two women who have a special gift: they can feel the emotions people leave behind on objects. Harriet and Ev decide to use their gift to curate a collection of objects that contain the purest and happiest emotions, in order to help heal others. But while they work to bring light back into people’s lives, they must be careful to avoid the darkness that has already consumed another memory collector.
Perfect for fans of The Scent Keeper and The Keeper of Lost Things, an atmospheric and enchanting debut novel about two women haunted by buried secrets but bound by a shared gift and the power the past holds over our lives.
Ev has a mysterious ability, one that she feels is more a curse than a gift. She can feel the emotions people leave behind on objects and believes that most of them need to be handled extremely carefully, and—if at all possible—destroyed. The harmless ones she sells at Vancouver’s Chinatown Night Market to scrape together a living, but even that fills her with trepidation. Meanwhile, in another part of town, Harriet hoards thousands of these treasures and is starting to make her neighbors sick as the overabundance of heightened emotions start seeping through her apartment walls.
When the two women meet, Harriet knows that Ev is the only person who can help her make something truly spectacular of her collection. A museum of memory that not only feels warm and inviting but can heal the emotional wounds many people unknowingly carry around. They only know of one other person like them, and they fear the dark effects these objects had on him. Together, they help each other to develop and control their gift, so that what happened to him never happens again. But unbeknownst to them, the same darkness is wrapping itself around another, dragging them down a path that already destroyed Ev’s family once, and threatens to annihilate what little she has left.
The Memory Collectors casts the everyday in a new light, speaking volumes to the hold that our past has over us—contained, at times, in seemingly innocuous objects—and uncovering a truth that both women have tried hard to bury with their pasts: not all magpies collect shiny things—sometimes they gather darkness.
Canada isn’t often the setting for historical fiction. What’s more, it’s not often used as the backdrop to a forgotten chapter of history like British “brideship” wives. Leslie Howard’s THE BRIDESHIP WIFE uncovers the plot by the British government to make newly inhabited areas of its colonies—located near Victoria, Canada—more “British” by sending ships of young, marriageable women to an area almost entirely populated by American men drawn by a gold rush. Howard’s debut boldly takes on this little-known topic to teach us the meaning of freedom and adds another debut to the unique historical fiction canon.
Inspired by the history of the British “brideships,” this captivating historical debut tells the story of one woman’s coming of age and search for independence—for readers of Pam Jenoff's The Orphan's Tale and Armando Lucas Correa’s The German Girl.
Tomorrow we would dock in Victoria on the northwest coast of North America, about as far away from my home as I could imagine. Like pebbles tossed upon the beach, we would scatter, trying to make our way as best as we could. Most of us would marry; some would not.
England, 1862. Charlotte is somewhat of a wallflower. Shy and bookish, she knows her duty is to marry, but with no dowry, she has little choice in the matter. She can’t continue to live off the generosity of her sister Harriet and her wealthy brother-in-law, Charles, whose political aspirations dictate that she make an advantageous match.
When Harriet hosts a grand party, Charlotte is charged with winning the affections of one of Charles’s colleagues, but before the night is over, her reputation—her one thing of value—is at risk. In the days that follow, rumours begin to swirl. Soon Charles’s standing in society is threatened and all that Charlotte has held dear is jeopardized, even Harriet, and Charlotte is forced to leave everything she has ever known in England and embark on a treacherous voyage to the New World.
From the rigid social circles of Victorian England to the lawless lands bursting with gold in British Columbia’s Cariboo, The Brideship Wife takes readers on a mesmerizing journey through a time of great change. Based on a forgotten chapter in history, this is a sparkling debut about the pricelessness of freedom and the courage it takes to follow your heart.
The idea for A. J. Pearce’s irresistible debut novel came to her after she read actual letters and articles in wartime magazines written by the women who remained behind during World War II. DEAR MRS. BIRD is a charming story about a bygone era, with likable characters in Emmeline Lake and her best friend Bunty, and a refreshingly different perspective on wartime Britain that history buffs and casual readers alike will love.
This story alternates timelines between two women fifty years apart who work in Grand Central Terminal in New York City. Clara works in the Terminal’s art school in the 1920s and Virginia in an information booth in the 1970s. When Virginia discovers a stunning piece of art in what was once the Terminals esteemed art school, she goes on a quest to find out what happened to the artist. If you love historical fiction, this is for you!
Five women. Three time periods. One amazing book. In THE LAST GARDEN IN ENGLAND, Julia Kelly tells the story of how the lives of five women are irrevocably changed over the course of a century because of one garden. Spanning 1907 to the present, the sweeping novel shows the life-changing impact of one special place in England. If you want to make the reading experience extra delightful, make sure to grab a chair or blanket and find a garden to relax in.
From the author of the international bestseller The Light Over London and The Whispers of War comes a poignant and unforgettable tale of five women living across three different times whose lives are all connected by one very special place.
Present day: Emma Lovett, who has dedicated her career to breathing new life into long-neglected gardens, has just been given the opportunity of a lifetime: to restore the gardens of the famed Highbury House estate, designed in 1907 by her hero Venetia Smith. But as Emma dives deeper into the gardens’ past, she begins to uncover secrets that have long lain hidden.
1907: A talented artist with a growing reputation for her ambitious work, Venetia Smith has carved out a niche for herself as a garden designer to industrialists, solicitors, and bankers looking to show off their wealth with sumptuous country houses. When she is hired to design the gardens of Highbury House, she is determined to make them a triumph, but the gardens—and the people she meets—promise to change her life forever.
1944: When land girl Beth Pedley arrives at a farm on the outskirts of the village of Highbury, all she wants is to find a place she can call home. Cook Stella Adderton, on the other hand, is desperate to leave Highbury House to pursue her own dreams. And widow Diana Symonds, the mistress of the grand house, is anxiously trying to cling to her pre-war life now that her home has been requisitioned and transformed into a convalescent hospital for wounded soldiers. But when war threatens Highbury House’s treasured gardens, these three very different women are drawn together by a secret that will last for decades.
In this sweeping novel reminiscent of Kate Morton’s The Lake House and Kristin Harmel’s The Room on Rue Amélie, Julia Kelly explores the unexpected connections that cross time and the special places that bring people together forever.
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