It’s a rare book that takes root in our minds, grows alongside us, and continues to flourish years later. We’ve rounded up past reviews of older books that constantly feel new again, whether because their stories resonate later in life or because current events shed a different light on them.
I remember reading FALL ON YOUR KNEES in high school. It was recommended to me by a friend. She didn’t try to explain it, just pressed it into my hands and said, rather seriously, “You need to read this book. I think you would love it.” She was right on both accounts. It is a powerful story, and it has stayed with me.
FALL ON YOUR KNEES is an exploration of obsession and lust. It is a multigenerational story following the lives of the women of the Piper family, characters who are large, complex and drawn in cripplingly beautiful prose that lays bare their imperfections and heartbreak and will make you flinch as you read about how they suffer and overcome horrific experiences. The Pipers are a colorful collection of personalities, vastly different from each other but united by their strength and common tragedy.
Read more of Elaine’s review
Set on stormy Cape Breton Island off Nova Scotia, Fall on Your Knees is an internationally acclaimed multigenerational saga that chronicles the lives of four unforgettable sisters. Theirs is a world filled with driving ambition, inescapable family bonds, and forbidden love.Compellingly written, by turns menacingly dark and hilariously funny, this is an epic tale of five generations of sin, guilt, and redemption. An Oprah Book Club Pick!
Ann Pancake’s powerful novel STRANGE AS THIS WEATHER HAS BEEN does what a truly great book does best: it reveals our humanity in the midst of beauty and grief and heartbreak and joy, while simultaneously opening our eyes to something we all need to see—in this case, environmental disaster—without ever sacrificing character or story.
Set in a West Virginia town in the midst of a coal boom, the novel introduces a family plagued by poverty and by the effects of the mountaintop removal mining that is destroying the land around them.
While the novel is told through the eyes of several characters living amid the ruinous effects of coal mining, this story belongs mostly to Lace and her teenage daughter, Bant, born when Lace herself was a teenager. In these pages we see the daily struggles of those who live amid mountain-removal mining: the constant fear of “black floods” (rivers of coal sludge that come from pools of toxic waste) weighed against a desperate need for work; the memories of what once was versus the wasteland that now exists. Lace and Bant are deeply connected to the land and feel these effects more strongly than most, in their very bones.
Read more of Midge’s review
Highly acclaimed, award-winning author John Edgar Wideman tells a deeply personal and emotional story of his own with his beautiful book WRITING TO SAVE A LIFE.
A brilliant combination of historical research, personal memory, and imagination, Wideman writes about Emmett Till, the famous civil rights martyr, and his father, Louis Till. He studies how the family was treated by the justice system following their alleged involvement in two separate dramatic acts provoked by racism. Bravely explored and unrelentingly researched, Wideman’s work is history like you’ve never seen before. It is poetically described and vividly constructed. It will leave you better informed of the obstacles the Civil Rights Movement faced in pursuit of racial equality and, more importantly, better prepared for the continued fight.
Read more of Chris’s review
In 1955, Emmett Till was brutally murdered for allegedly whistling at a white woman. Ten years earlier, Emmett’s father, an iconic Civil Rights martyr, was executed by the Army for rape and murder. In WRITING TO SAVE A LIFE, John Edgar Wideman searches for Louis Till, a silent victim of American injustice. An evocative and personal exploration of individual and collective memory in America by one of the most formidable intellectuals of our time.
I happen to judge books by their “stickiness,” or how long the story, resolution, or characters stick with me after I finish the last page. The stickiest book that I’ve read in a long while was Mindy Mejia’s EVERYTHING YOU WANT ME TO BE.
Meet high schooler Hattie Hoffman. Hattie has spent her entire life being good: a good daughter, a good student, a good girl. Or has she? But this too-smart-for-her-own-good young woman may not know how much power she has or how manipulative she is. Then, she is stabbed to death on opening night of her school play. We see her family in peril because their daughter is murdered, and another marriage in peril because they had to move back to the wife’s hometown to take care of her ailing mother. The story is told from three different points of view and alternates between pre-murder, leading up to the crime, and post murder, investigating the crime.
For the all-too-brief time it took to read EVERYTHING YOU WANT ME TO BE, I lived in that town, I knew those characters, and I felt their feelings. I investigated along with the authorities, felt the stress of the unknown and the shock of every twist and turn. And I still feel it today. It stuck.
Read more of David’s review
SPEAK NO EVIL is one of the most powerful novels I have ever read. The pitch-perfect execution of this novel was simply breathtaking. It’s hard to really even grasp how necessary, timely, and important this novel is.
What makes SPEAK NO EVIL so captivating is how Uzodinma Iweala, author of the acclaimed BEASTS OF NO NATION, wields his characters’ privilege. Meredith is a straight, white female and Niru a gay, black male. The two are best friends, and the bulk of the novel’s conflict stems from the repercussions of Niru coming out to Meredith. This revelation instantly changes their friendship and sets off a chain of events that result in a devastating amount of pain.
SPEAK NO EVIL is the pinnacle of what literary fiction aspires to be. It adds to the current cultural dialogue in a timely way, but it’s also just a fantastic story with flawless prose.
Read more of Will’s review
“You want to believe your husband. She wants to destroy him.” When I first read this line describing ANATOMY OF A SCANDAL by Sarah Vaughan, I got goose bumps. James, a powerful man in the British government, is accused of rape. The government and media are quick to jump on the story. There will, of course, be a trial, but the slow unraveling of the story is what makes ANATOMY OF A SCANDAL so gripping. And, at the center of it all, are two women forced to grapple with the actions of a powerful man.
ANATOMY OF A SCANDAL hit the book world shortly after the #MeToo movement drastically altered the cultural conversation. The hashtag went viral in October 2017, and ANATOMY OF A SCANDAL was published shortly after, in January 2018. This external factor only added to the intensity of the novel.
ANATOMY OF A SCANDAL is so much more than a timely novel—it is an edge-of-your-seat courtroom drama that delves into the mysterious history of its characters.
Read more of Will’s review
SOON TO BE A NETFLIX SERIES
Instant International Bestseller
“A nuanced story line perfectly in tune with our #metoo times.” —People, Book of the Week
“One of the season’s most buzzed-about thrillers.” —Bookish
Some people’s secrets are darker than others.
Sophie Whitehouse has a lovely home, two adorable children, and a handsome, successful husband. In other words, she has the “perfect” life. But everything changes the night her husband James comes home and confesses an indiscretion. Suddenly, her neat, ordered world is turned upside down. Did she ever really know the man she married?
And, as it turns out, James’s revelation is just the tip of the iceberg. He stands accused of a terrible crime. But, the truth is even more shocking than anyone ever could have thought. Is James the guilty perpetrator or an innocent victim of a toxic agenda?
In this riveting story of love, revenge, and deception, no one’s motives are pure, but some people’s secrets are much darker than others.
Photo credit: iStock / MihailUlianikov