Most readers remember the first time they fell in love with reading. And for so many of us, that moment happened in the dead of night, stuck in the middle of a plot that was just too good to leave. Although, for some of us, it’s a bit harder these days to bounce back from an all-nighter, the books in this list are absolutely worth it. So have fun reading till the sun comes up.
Chris’s Pick: Already convinced of Carole Johnstone’s storytelling chops after devouring her debut, MIRRORLAND, I was ready to sit and read THE BLACKHOUSE all night if need be. What I was not ready for was a one-way ticket to the Scottish isles as Johnstone hurls readers on to the Outer Hebrides with mesmeric descriptions of the violent sea, the desolate farmlands, and the tight-lipped townspeople. Inside this atmospheric novel, we meet Maggie, in her mid-twenties, still haunted by when she infamously claimed (at the age of five years old) to be the reincarnation of a man murdered on the remote island of Kilmeray. Visiting the island, set on solving this mystery, she isn’t well received by a local community still carrying resentment for her unfounded claims. But the truth resides on the island and an “outsider” named Robert, seeking to escape his own dark secrets, may be the missing piece of the puzzle. Narrated by both Maggie and Robert, often in different timelines, I was completely locked in well past midnight by this thriller, waiting for the other shoe to drop. I was not disappointed—and you won’t be either—because Johnstone’s conclusion truly pays off. Cancel your evening plans and plant yourself on the couch, THE BLACKHOUSE is all the entertainment you need.
From the author of the “dark and devious...beautifully written” (Stephen King) Mirrorland comes a richly atmospheric thriller set on an isolated Scottish island where nothing is as it seems and shocking twists lie around every corner.
A remote village. A deadly secret. An outsider who knows the truth.
Robert Reid moved his family to Scotland’s Outer Hebrides in the 1990s, driven by hope, craving safety and community, and hiding a terrible secret. But despite his best efforts to fit in, Robert is always seen as an outsider. And as the legendary and violent Hebridean storms rage around him, he begins to unravel, believing his fate on the remote island of Kilmeray cannot be escaped.
For her entire life, Maggie MacKay has sensed something was wrong with her. When Maggie was five years old, she announced that a man on Kilmeray—a place she’d never visited—had been murdered. Her unfounded claim drew media attention and turned the locals against each other, creating rifts that never mended.
Nearly twenty years later, Maggie is determined to find out what really happened, and what the islanders are hiding. But when she begins to receive ominous threats, Maggie is forced to consider how much she is willing to risk to discover the horrifying truth.
Unnerving, enthralling, and filled with gothic suspense, The Blackhouse is a spectacularly sinister tale readers won’t soon forget.
Sara’s Pick #1: It's always stressful taking over for someone else's work. It's even more stressful when you're finishing up a highly popular series for a prolific author who’s just gotten into a devastating accident. That’s the situation our protagonist, Lowen, finds herself dealing with in VERITY. But it gets even worse—after arriving at the author’s home (and trying not to flirt with the author’s very hot husband), she discovers an autobiography that reveals the now bedbound writer to be a monster. As the dread and paranoia mount, you can’t help but wonder if Lowen is cracking under all the pressure, or if Verity has one more terrible secret. Whether you love or hate the ending, it’s hard to deny that this book keeps you glued to the page to find out what happens next.
Sara’s Pick #2: True story, I devoured this book in three hours on a dark and rainy train ride and missed my stop. NO EXIT follows Darby, a college student on her way home to see her dying mother. Due to an intense snowstorm, she’s forced to pull into a highway rest area, only to discover a little girl trapped inside a car. From there, Darby must figure out whom among the rest stop patrons she can trust, and save the little girl from her kidnappers, all while dealing with her own grief. Fast-paced, thrilling, and at times utterly heartbreaking, there’s definitely no exit for you once you start this book.
Sharon’s Pick: From the moment I started IN CASE OF EMERGENCY, I was hooked on Mahsa Mohebali’s prose and unforgettable characters, so much so that I finished this book well into the night. I loved following our central protagonist, the disillusioned Shadi, as she crisscrosses the city of Tehran in search of her next fix of opium . . . all while the city is experiencing a cataclysmic earthquake. Shadi’s biting sense of humor and Mohebali’s satirical commentary on contemporary Iranian life made IN CASE OF EMERGENCY my perfect late-night read.
Heather’s Pick: There’s nothing quite like a good love triangle to keep you up late at night, feverishly turning page after page in your mission to learn how it will all turn out. Case in point: the complex love triangle at the heart of Jenny Han’s THE SUMMER I TURNED PRETTY, which did exactly that. Except I didn’t lose sleep over just the one book, but over all three installments in the beloved young adult trilogy that is soon to become an Amazon Prime Video TV show too. Once you start, it’s impossible to look away from the coming-of-age tale of Isabel “Belly” Conklin, who harbors crushes on two brothers, Conrad and Jeremiah Fisher. Belly has spent every summer with them since she was a kid because their parents are close friends too, so admitting her feelings to one or both of them is a high-risk prospect. Luckily for them, and for readers, Jenny Han isn’t called the queen of contemporary YA romance for nothing. The satisfying ending to Belly’s story reminds you that there are no easy answers when it comes to matters of the heart, not least because different people may simply be right for you at different stages of your life.
Belly has an unforgettable summer in this stunning start to the Summer I Turned Pretty series from the New York Times bestselling author of To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before (soon to be a major motion picture!), Jenny Han.
Some summers are just destined to be pretty
Belly measures her life in summers. Everything good, everything magical happens between the months of June and August. Winters are simply a time to count the weeks until the next summer, a place away from the beach house, away from Susannah, and most importantly, away from Jeremiah and Conrad. They are the boys that Belly has known since her very first summer -- they have been her brother figures, her crushes, and everything in between. But one summer, one wonderful and terrible summer, the more everything changes, the more it all ends up just the way it should have been all along.
Elizabeth's Pick: On the surface, the plot for END OF THE WORLD HOUSE reads like a dream: imagine you’re on vacation in Paris with your best friend visiting the Louvre for a private tour–wouldn’t you want to live that day forever? But for Bertie and Kate, friends from San Francisco on a last-hurrah trip before Kate moves to LA, emotions are running high and it doesn’t help that Bertie seems to keep losing Kate in the halls of an empty museum . . . and things keep having an air of déjà vu. Caught in a time loop, Bertie relives visiting the Louvre again and again, only to realize the choice to change her past–and her future–has been there all along. A heartfelt ode to friendship which reads like a mash-up of Sliding Doors meets recent Netflix hit Palm Springs, this whip-smart exploration of love and self-discovery will stay with you long after you leave the Louvre.
Groundhog Day meets Ling Ma’s Severance in End of the World House, a thought-provoking comedic novel about two young women trying to save their friendship as the world collapses around them.
Bertie and Kate have been best friends since high school. Bertie is a semi-failed cartoonist, working for a prominent Silicon Valley tech firm. Her job depresses her, but not as much as the fact that Kate has recently decided to move from San Francisco to Los Angeles.
When Bertie’s attempts to make Kate stay fail, she suggests the next-best thing: a trip to Paris that will hopefully distract the duo from their upcoming separation. The vacation is also a sort of last hurrah, coming during a ceasefire in a series of escalating world conflicts.
One night in Paris, they meet a strange man in a bar who offers them a private tour of the Louvre. The women find themselves alone in the museum, where nothing is quite as it seems. Caught up in a day that keeps repeating itself, Bertie and Kate are eventually separated, and Bertie is faced with a mystery that threatens to derail everything. In order to make her way back to Kate, Bertie has to figure out how much control she has over her future—and her past—and how to survive an apocalypse when the world keeps refusing to end.
Emily’s Pick: I can’t say exactly what switched in the plot that made me stay up all night, without giving too much away, but, basically, once you get about halfway through the book you won’t be able to put it down. Luckily for me, that happened at about midnight. The story follows Feyi Adekola five years after a horrible accident killed her husband. She’s still struggling to date seriously again, but when things start heating up with Nasir, she thinks she might be ready. He invites her to his rich father’s island home, where she’s treated to a luxurious vacation. It’s perfect—until her feelings get in the way. I’m a sucker for any plot where the character has to hide a secret and every chapter gets closer to the big reveal. And this one does it so well. Pair that excellent premise with one of the most intense, believable love stories, and there was no hope for me to put the book on pause. But be warned, you should have some food on hand while you read; one of the characters is a celebrity chef and you’ll be craving all the food.
A New York Times bestselling author, National Book Award finalist, and “one of our greatest living writers” (Shondaland) reimagines the love story in this fresh and seductive novel about a young woman seeking joy while healing from loss.
Feyi Adekola wants to learn how to be alive again.
It’s been five years since the accident that killed the love of her life and she’s almost a new person now—an artist with her own studio, and sharing a brownstone apartment with her ride-or-die best friend, Joy, who insists it’s time for Feyi to ease back into the dating scene. Feyi isn’t ready for anything serious, but a steamy encounter at a rooftop party cascades into a whirlwind summer she could have never imagined: a luxury trip to a tropical island, decadent meals in the glamorous home of a celebrity chef, and a major curator who wants to launch her art career.
She’s even started dating the perfect guy, but their new relationship might be sabotaged before it has a chance by the dangerous thrill Feyi feels every time she locks eyes with the one person in the house who is most definitely off-limits. This new life she asked for just got a lot more complicated, and Feyi must begin her search for real answers. Who is she ready to become? Can she release her past and honor her grief while still embracing her future? And, of course, there’s the biggest question of all—how far is she willing to go for a second chance at love?
Akwaeke Emezi’s vivid and passionate writing takes us deep into a world of possibility and healing, and the constant bravery of choosing love against all odds.
Photo credit: iStock / emeliemaria