The 12 Most Popular Books of October

October 29 2021
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As October comes to an end, as well as daylight saving time (November 7!), the need for immersive reads becomes ever more important. Get ready for the long winter haul with the most popular books on our site this month—these reads will carry you safely to spring.

The Distant Hours
by Kate Morton

Few authors’ books embody the fall like Kate Morton, and THE DISTANT HOURS certainly does not disappoint. A gothic tale of suspense and grim secrets, the story bounces between the 1990s and World War II–era London after Edie, a young girl working at a local press, shows her mother, Meredith, a long-delayed letter that has been dropped into their mailbox. The message is from Juniper Blythe, the youngest of the Blythe spinster sisters, who were longtime inhabitants of Milderhurst Castle. What Edie doesn’t know is that her mother was evacuated to the castle to flee routine bombing during the war. What follows is a riveting and intricate tale of Meredith’s interactions with the Blythe family, including the father, Raymond, a famed children’s author suffering severe bouts of dementia. Edie learns of her mother’s dashed dreams from half a century ago and Milderhurst Castle’s many mysterious chronicles. Classic Morton and perfect for a cool, crisp autumn night, THE DISTANT HOURS is ready when you are.

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The Distant Hours
Kate Morton

A long-lost letter compels Edie Burchill to visit the great but decaying old house of the elderly Blythe spinsters—a set of twins and their disturbed younger sister. Edie is soon drawn into the mysteries of the house and the hidden truth of the sisters’ past in this richly atmospheric tapestry of madness, forbidden love, and family secrets.

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We Are Not Like Them
by Christine Pride

WE ARE NOT LIKE THEM will leave a lasting impact on any reader, especially in light of the harsh reality of senseless violence and crimes against Black people. Written by two authors and alternating between two points of view, this book is an incredible story that you won’t be able to put down. Jen and Riley have been best friends their whole lives and are as close as sisters, despite the different paths they’ve taken in life. But when Jen’s police officer husband is involved in the shooting of an unarmed Black teen, the women’s bonds are tested. Jen is white and Riley is Black. Jen worries about her husband’s freedom and wants to support him while trying to understand Riley’s perspective, while Riley struggles with her connections to Jen and her community as she covers the tragic story.

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We Are Not Like Them
Christine Pride

“Now these women, they can WRITE!” —Terry McMillan, New York Times bestselling author of It’s Not All Downhill from Here

We Are Not Like Them will stay with you long after you turn the last page.” —Laura Dave, New York Times bestselling author of The Last Thing He Told Me

Told from alternating perspectives, an evocative and riveting novel about the lifelong bond between two women, one Black and one white, whose friendship is indelibly altered by a tragic event—a powerful and poignant exploration of race in America today and its devastating impact on ordinary lives.

Jen and Riley have been best friends since kindergarten. As adults, they remain as close as sisters, though their lives have taken different directions. Jen married young, and after years of trying, is finally pregnant. Riley pursued her childhood dream of becoming a television journalist and is poised to become one of the first Black female anchors of the top news channel in their hometown of Philadelphia.

But the deep bond they share is severely tested when Jen’s husband, a city police officer, is involved in the shooting of an unarmed Black teenager. Six months pregnant, Jen is in freefall as her future, her husband’s freedom, and her friendship with Riley are thrown into uncertainty. Covering this career-making story, Riley wrestles with the implications of this tragic incident for her Black community, her ambitions, and her relationship with her lifelong friend.

Like Tayari Jones’s An American Marriage and Jodi Picoult’s Small Great Things, We Are Not Like Them explores complex questions of race and how they pervade and shape our most intimate spaces in a deeply divided world. But at its heart, it’s a story of enduring friendship—a love that defies the odds even as it faces its most difficult challenges.

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The Painted Bridge
by Wendy Wallace

At risk of stating the obvious, one of the defining features of the fall is the (playful) fear and horror of Halloween. A holiday that begs for books that ooze psychological suspense and superstition. In Wendy Wallace’s THE PAINTED BRIDGE, a woman is unfairly committed to an insane asylum by her deceitful husband as punishment for her disobedience. Anna Palmer, very much sane, isn’t sure what to expect at Lake House asylum, as she clearly doesn’t belong. But she quickly realizes that her freedom isn’t so easily returned. In fact, the longer she’s at Lake House, the more she begins to question her sanity amid haunting visions and memories. When she befriends a few fellow inmates and ultimately makes plans for an escape, she is stunned to learn a secret about the husband who had her committed. Suspenseful and dramatic, THE PAINTED BRIDGE may just leave you with some excellent Halloween decorating ideas.

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The Painted Bridge
Wendy Wallace

Spellbinding and intricate, The Painted Bridge is a tale of secrets, lost lives, and a woman seizing her own destiny: “A chilling page-turner about the muddy line between sanity and madness” (Caroline Leavitt, author of Pictures of You).

Outside London behind a stone wall stands Lake House, a private asylum for genteel women of a delicate nature. In the winter of 1859, recently married Anna Palmer becomes its newest arrival, tricked by her husband into leaving home, incarcerated against her will, and declared hysterical and unhinged. With no doubts as to her sanity, Anna is convinced that she will be released as soon as she can tell her story. But Anna learns that liberty will not come easily. The longer she remains at Lake House, the more she realizes that—like the ethereal bridge over the asylum’s lake—nothing is as it appears. She begins to experience strange visions and memories that may lead her to the truth about her past, herself, and to freedom…or lead her so far into the recesses of her mind that she may never escape.

Set in Victorian England, as superstitions collide with a new psychological understanding, novelist Wendy Wallace “masterfully creates an atmosphere of utter claustrophobia and dread, intermingled with the ever-present horror of the reality of women’s minimal rights in the nineteenth century” (Publishers Weekly). The Painted Bridge is a tale of self-discovery, secrets, and a search for the truth in a world where the line between madness and sanity seems perilously thin.

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The Night She Disappeared
by Lisa Jewell

Thrill master Lisa Jewell is never one to disappoint, with her multitude of characters and heart-stopping twists. Her latest novel, THE NIGHT SHE DISAPPEARED, only serves to further cement that reputation. What thrills and terrors could await in an idyllic English cottage? Newly-moved-in writer Sophie certainly isn’t expecting a dark mystery in her own backyard. But when she finds a note on a tree that reads “Dig here,” she gets sucked into the dark intrigue of what happened to a young couple, and what happened to them on these haunted grounds. The twists don’t stop coming until the very end, leaving your heart in tatters.

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The Night She Disappeared
Lisa Jewell

“I love all Lisa’s books, but The Night She Disappeared is her best thriller yet.” —Harlan Coben, New York Times bestselling author of Win

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Then She Was Gone and The Family Upstairs comes another riveting work of “gloriously twisted” (Marie Claire) psychological suspense about a web of people whose lives are forever changed in the wake of a young couple’s disappearance.

On a beautiful summer night in a charming English suburb, a young woman and her boyfriend disappear after partying at the massive country estate of a new college friend.

One year later, a writer moves into a cottage on the edge of the woods that border the same estate. Known locally as the Dark Place, the dense forest is the writer’s favorite area for long walks and it’s on one such walk that she stumbles upon a mysterious note that simply reads, “DIG HERE.”

Could this be a clue towards what has happened to the missing young couple? And what exactly is buried in this haunted ground?

With her signature “rich, dark, and intricately twisted” (Ruth Ware, New York Times bestselling author) prose, Lisa Jewell has crafted a dazzling work of suspense that will keep on the edge of your seat until the final page.

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Wideacre
by Philippa Gregory

Beatrice Lacey, as strong-minded as she is beautiful, refuses to conform to the social customs of her time. Destined to lose her heritage and beloved Wideacre estate once she is wed, Beatrice will use any means necessary to protect her ancestral name. Seduction, betrayal, even murder—Beatrice’s passion is without apology or conscience. “She is a Lacey of Wideacre,” her father warns, “and whatever she does, however she behaves, will always be fitting.” Yet even as Beatrice’s scheming seems about to yield her dream, she is haunted by the one living person who knows the extent of her plans...and her capacity for evil.

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Wideacre
Philippa Gregory

From #1 New York Times bestselling author Philippa Gregory comes the stunning first novel of a thrilling trilogy about the Lacey family, and the captivating woman at the heart of a power-hungry estate willing to go to any means to protect her family name.

Beatrice Lacey, as strong-minded as she is beautiful, refuses to conform to the social customs of her time. Destined to lose her heritage and beloved Wideacre estate once she is wed, Beatrice will use any means necessary to protect her ancestral name. Seduction, betrayal, even murder—Beatrice’s passion is without apology or conscience. “She is a Lacey of Wideacre,” her father warns, “and whatever she does, however she behaves, will always be fitting.” Yet even as Beatrice’s scheming seems about to yield her dream, she is haunted by the one living person who knows the extent of her plans...and her capacity for evil.

Sumptuously set in Georgian England from the “queen of royal fiction” (USA TODAY), Wideacre is intensely gripping, rich in texture, and full of color and authenticity. It is a saga as irresistible in its singular magic as its heroine.

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Dancing With Einstein
by Kate Wenner

This book, full of idiosyncrasies and trauma, explores how the understanding of the world that we develop as kids shapes the rest of our lives. The protagonist, Marea Hoffman, is such an interesting character, and the storyline immediately drew me in. After wandering the world for years, Marea has finally decided to return to New York and begin her “real life,” so to speak. She suddenly finds herself seeing not one but four different therapists simultaneously, telling each of them a different version of the story of her tumultuous 1950s childhood. Marea grew up in Princeton, New Jersey, with a pacifist mother and a father who survived the Holocaust and worked on the Manhattan Project. One of the bright spots of that time was the charming and grandfather-like Albert Einstein. But when he suddenly disappears from Marea’s life and her father dies, she finds herself alone with her mother. Decades later, Marea reluctantly returns to Princeton, where she finds her father’s Cold War diary, which changes her perspective on everything.

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Dancing With Einstein
Kate Wenner

From the acclaimed author of Setting Fires, this highly original novel offers a protagonist so intensely felt and so compassionately rendered that readers will not easily let her go at the novel's end. She is Marea Hoffman, who, after wandering the world for seven years, has returned to New York at age thirty with the intention of starting her real life.

But Marea approaches everything in her own idiosyncratic style, and she is soon seeing four different therapists simultaneously and telling her story to each in a different way. The story she reveals is about her childhood in 1950s Princeton during the age of "duck and cover" drills and McCarthyism, when fear of communism obsessed America. Marea's father, a Holocaust survivor, worked on the Manhattan Project and later on the development of the hydrogen bomb; her mother was a confirmed pacifist.

Frightened by her early exposure to the threat of nuclear annihilation, young Marea finds comfort in the company of her father's colleague and friend, the grandfatherly Albert Einstein. Einstein charms Marea even as he provokes the wrenching moral debate that will drive her parents apart. When Einstein disappears from Marea's life as suddenly as he entered it and her father is killed in a mysterious car accident, she is left alone with a mother she no longer trusts and with questions that won't go away.

Nearly two decades later, during the August hiatus from her four therapists, Marea takes a reluctant trip home to Princeton. There her eyes are newly opened to the past when she uncovers her father's secret Cold War diary.
Weaving back and forth between 1970s New York and 1950s Princeton, Wenner's exploration of the impact that history can have on a young life is powerful and moving—a deeply intelligent look at the challenge of finding hope in the modern age.

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The Lincoln Highway
by Amor Towles

I fell in love with Amor Towles’ writing after reading A GENTLEMAN IN MOSCOW, so it should come as no surprise that I am incredibly excited for his latest novel, THE LINCOLN HIGHWAY. The book follows Emmett, having just finished his work farm sentence for involuntary manslaughter, as he dreams of heading West with his brother and starting a new life. Unfortunately, two of his friends from the farm have escaped and have very different plans for Emmett’s future. A master of prose, Towles’s immersive and beautiful writing style is sure to capture the imagination and probably make you cry once or twice.

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The Lincoln Highway
Amor Towles

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The Seed Keeper
by Diane Wilson

A novel about nature and the many transformations of our country’s landscape, Diane Wilson’s THE SEED KEEPER centers on a Native American woman’s journey to recover her family’s traditions and the history that is too often forgotten. After losing her father at a young age, Rosalie Iron Wing is sent to live in foster care. There she remains until, at the age of eighteen, she marries a local white farmer, John Meister, struggling to navigate the introduction of chemical fertilizers and genetically modified seeds that are slowly being introduced into the town. When John dies from those same chemicals years later, their son, Tommy, must reckon with the prosperity of farming upon the stolen land of his and his mother’s ancestors while Rosalie travels back to her original home to reestablish her connection with her native territory. A story of ancestry, the natural world, and family dynamics, THE SEED KEEPER is a transformative tale perfectly timed for the changing of the leaves.

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The Seed Keeper
Diane Wilson

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Shriver
by Chris Belden

The opening pages of SHRIVER had me both laughing and grimacing at the protagonist’s confusion. An older man who appears not to have left his home for a significant period of time, he accepts an invitation to a writers’ conference to give a reading of a popular novel he never wrote. He expects the letter to be revealed as a practical joke, but when a driver arrives to take him to the airport and he meets a fan on the plane, he soon realizes the predicament he’s in: There is a Shriver who’s penned a novel, but it’s not him. The ridiculous situations that pile up make this lonely, befuddled man all the more endearing, and his ill-advised actions make it impossible to look away.

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Shriver
Chris Belden

An academic farce and literary puzzle set at a writer’s conference at a small liberal arts college, SHRIVER is the story of a solitary divorcé who is mistaken for a famous but reclusive author of the same name. Unable to admit that he isn’t an author, Shriver participates in the conference under false pretenses. But it soon becomes clear that nothing is quite as it seems.

Read the full review of SHRIVER here.

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Grave Reservations
by Cherie Priest

GRAVE RESERVATIONS has everything I love in a quirky mystery—a psychic travel agent, a cold case she’s helping to crack for the Seattle PD, and, of course, a body count. Sprinkle in a ragtag supporting cast and some karaoke, and you’ve got a fun detective romp with a supernatural twist, coming out just in time for Halloween!

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Grave Reservations
Cherie Priest

A psychic travel agent and a Seattle PD detective solve a murder in this quirky mystery in the vein of Lisa Lutz’s The Spellman Files and Charlaine Harris’s Aurora Teagarden series.

Meet Leda Foley: devoted friend, struggling travel agent, and inconsistent psychic. When Leda, sole proprietor of Foley's Flights of Fancy, impulsively re-books Seattle PD detective Grady Merritt’s flight, her life changes in ways she couldn’t have predicted.

After watching his original plane blow up from the safety of the airport, Grady realizes that Leda’s special abilities could help him with a cold case he just can’t crack.

Despite her scattershot premonitions, she agrees for a secret reason: her fiancé’s murder remains unsolved. Leda’s psychic abilities couldn’t help the case several years before, but she’s been honing her skills and drawing a crowd at her favorite bar’s open-mic nights, where she performs Klairvoyant Karaoke—singing whatever song comes to mind when she holds people’s personal effects. Now joined by a rag-tag group of bar patrons and pals alike, Leda and Grady set out to catch a killer—and learn how the two cases that haunt them have more in common than they ever suspected.

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Cloud Cuckoo Land
by Anthony Doerr

CLOUD CUCKOO LAND transports you from fifteenth-century Constantinople to a small town in present-day Idaho to an interstellar ship decades from now. The one thing that connects these vastly different settings is the readers that inhabit them and the story of Aethon, who longs to be turned into a bird so that he can fly to a utopian paradise in the sky. In Constantinople, thirteen-year-old Anna’s life is changed when she teaches herself to read and passes the story of Aethon on to the people in her life. In present-day Idaho, octogenarian Zeno leads children in a rehearsal for the play adaptation of Aethon’s story, and finally in a not-so-distant future, Konstance copies the story of Aethon, as told to her by her father.

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Cloud Cuckoo Land
Anthony Doerr

From the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of All the Light We Cannot See, perhaps the most bestselling and beloved literary fiction of our time, comes a triumph of imagination and compassion, a soaring novel about children on the cusp of adulthood in a broken world, who find resilience, hope, and story.

The heroes of Cloud Cuckoo Land are trying to figure out the world around them: Anna and Omeir, on opposite sides of the formidable city walls during the 1453 siege of Constantinople; teenage idealist Seymour in an attack on a public library in present day Idaho; and Konstance, on an interstellar ship bound for an exoplanet, decades from now. Like Marie-Laure and Werner in All the Light We Cannot See, Anna, Omeir, Seymour, and Konstance are dreamers and outsiders who find resourcefulness and hope in the midst of peril.

An ancient text—the story of Aethon, who longs to be turned into a bird so that he can fly to a utopian paradise in the sky—provides solace and mystery to these unforgettable characters. Doerr has created a tapestry of times and places that reflects our vast interconnectedness—with other species, with each other, with those who lived before us and those who will be here after we’re gone.

Dedicated to “the librarians then, now, and in the years to come,” Cloud Cuckoo Land is a hauntingly beautiful and redemptive novel about stewardship—of the book, of the Earth, of the human heart.

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Lightning Strike
by William Kent Krueger

Love the small-town charm of Louise’s novels? William Kent Krueger’s LIGHTNING STRIKE will plop you down in Aurora, a close-knit community on the shore of Minnesota’s Iron Lake. When twelve-year-old Cork O’Connor stumbles upon the hanging body of a respected community member, his sheriff father launches an investigation into what appears to be a suicide. But Cork suspects otherwise. As you delve into the mystery, you’ll fall in love with these characters while they grow and change in the aftermath of tragedy.

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Lightning Strike
William Kent Krueger

The author of the instant New York Times bestseller This Tender Land returns with a powerful prequel to his acclaimed Cork O’Connor series—a book about fathers and sons, long-simmering conflicts in a small Minnesota town, and the events that echo through youth and shape our lives forever.

Aurora is a small town nestled in the ancient forest alongside the shores of Minnesota’s Iron Lake. In the summer of 1963, it is the whole world to twelve-year-old Cork O’Connor, its rhythms as familiar as his own heartbeat. But when Cork stumbles upon the body of a man he revered hanging from a tree in an abandoned logging camp, it is the first in a series of events that will cause him to question everything he took for granted about his hometown, his family, and himself.

Cork’s father, Liam O’Connor, is Aurora’s sheriff and it is his job to confirm that the man’s death was the result of suicide, as all the evidence suggests. In the shadow of his father’s official investigation, Cork begins to look for answers on his own. Together, father and son face the ultimate test of choosing between what their heads tell them is true and what their hearts know is right.

In this masterful story of a young man and a town on the cusp of change, beloved novelist William Kent Krueger shows that some mysteries can be solved even as others surpass our understanding.

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