With spring in full swing, it’s time to freshen up that to-read pile you’ve had in the corner all year. Been stuck in a late-winter rut? Not finding anything that can motivate you to crack a spine? Take a look at these eleven standout titles, all new to paperback this May. With a little something for everyone, this list features thrillers, historical epics, nonfiction thought-provokers, and heart-tugging dramas galore. Skim through and see what strikes your fancy, or maybe take a chance on something new—because you never know what might become your new favorite read.
New in Paperback: 11 May Reads That’ll Freshen Up Your TBR
In this twisted psychological thriller from New York Times bestselling author Lisa Jewell, a writer stumbles upon a new clue in an old cold case. No one knows what happened to the young woman and her boyfriend who, after a party at a friend’s estate one year ago, disappeared in the woods known as the Dark Place. But when a writer moves into a nearby cottage and finds a note reading simply “Dig Here,” she uncovers more than one secret that’s been buried for years.
From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Then She Was Gone comes “her best thriller yet” (Harlan Coben, New York Times bestselling author) about a young couple’s disappearance on a gorgeous summer night, and the mother who will never give up trying to find them.
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 place 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?
“Utterly gripping with richly drawn, hugely compelling characters, this is a first-class thriller with heart” (Lucy Foley, New York Times bestselling author) that will keep you on the edge of your seat.
In this powerful and immersive novel by the author of THE BOOK OF LOST NAMES, it’s 1941, and a young woman’s kidnapper has died, leaving her alone and free for the first time since she was taken from her wealthy German parents’ home as a child. When a group of Jews fleeing the Nazis stumble upon her, she’s shocked to learn what the world has come to and offers to help them survive in the wilderness. But as she begins to reconnect with society, she discovers that she hasn’t yet completely left her past behind.
Parade “Best Books of Summer” pick * Real Simple pick * She Reads “Best WWII Fiction of Summer 2021” pick
The New York Times bestselling author of the “heart-stopping tale of survival and heroism” (People) The Book of Lost Names returns with an evocative coming-of-age World War II story about a young woman who uses her knowledge of the wilderness to help Jewish refugees escape the Nazis—until a secret from her past threatens everything.
After being stolen from her wealthy German parents and raised in the unforgiving wilderness of eastern Europe, a young woman finds herself alone in 1941 after her kidnapper dies. Her solitary existence is interrupted, however, when she happens upon a group of Jews fleeing the Nazi terror. Stunned to learn what’s happening in the outside world, she vows to teach the group all she can about surviving in the forest—and in turn, they teach her some surprising lessons about opening her heart after years of isolation. But when she is betrayed and escapes into a German-occupied village, her past and present come together in a shocking collision that could change everything.
Inspired by incredible true stories of survival against staggering odds, and suffused with the journey-from-the-wilderness elements that made Where the Crawdads Sing a worldwide phenomenon, The Forest of Vanishing Stars is a heart-wrenching and suspenseful novel from the #1 internationally bestselling author whose writing has been hailed as “sweeping and magnificent” (Fiona Davis, New York Times bestselling author), “immersive and evocative” (Publishers Weekly), and “gripping” (Tampa Bay Times).
In this moving debut, fifteen-year-old Miriam Horton is used to traveling through small southern towns with her famous Baptist preacher father during the summer revival season. But this summer, Miriam watches as one of her father’s healing services goes terribly wrong and ends in violence that challenges everything she thought she knew about her father and her faith. When Miriam begins to discover that she, too, may have the power to heal—a power her father insists cannot be held by women—Miriam must decide what kind of faith and family she wants to dedicate her life to.
The daughter of one of the South’s most famous Baptist preachers discovers a shocking secret about her father that puts her at odds with both her faith and her family in this debut novel.
“Spellbinding…Revival Season should be read alongside Alice Walker’s The Color Purple and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Purple Hibiscus.” —The Washington Post
A New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice
Every summer, fifteen-year-old Miriam Horton and her family pack themselves tight in their old minivan and travel through small southern towns for revival season: the time when Miriam’s father—one of the South’s most famous preachers—holds massive healing services for people desperate to be cured of ailments and disease. But, this summer, the revival season doesn’t go as planned, and after one service in which Reverend Horton’s healing powers are tested like never before, Miriam witnesses a shocking act of violence that shakes her belief in her father—and her faith.
When the Hortons return home, Miriam’s confusion only grows as she discovers she might have the power to heal—even though her father and the church have always made it clear that such power is denied to women. Over the course of the following year, Miriam must decide between her faith, her family, and her newfound power that might be able to save others, but if discovered by her father, could destroy Miriam.
Celebrating both feminism and faith, Revival Season is a “tender and wise” (Ann Patchett) story of spiritual awakening and disillusionment in a Southern, Black, Evangelical community.
Inspired by real events, THE DICTIONARY OF LOST WORDS tells the story of Esme, who grows up in the Scriptorium in Oxford, England, where her father and other men are developing the first Oxford English Dictionary. Hiding under the table where she’s unseen and unheard, Esme finds scraps of paper covered in words that have been rejected by the dictionary men. Eventually, Esme decides to collect words related to those who live on the margins—words that the men who were making meaning on the brink of the Great War chose to neglect.
In this unflinching, insightful memoir, Ly Tran reflects on her coming-of-age as a Vietnamese immigrant in New York. Ly’s family moves to Queens from a small town in Vietnam in 1993 when Ly is a toddler. As she grows up, she helps her family sew ties on their apartment floor and paints nails at the family salon in Brooklyn. She becomes intimately familiar with the feeling of being drawn between two worlds: her life at home with her paranoid, ex-POW father and her life at school, where she’s pressured to conform.
New York City Book Awards Hornblower Award Winner
One of Vogue and NPR’s Best Books of the Year
This beautifully written “masterclass in memoir” (Elle) recounts a young girl’s journey from war-torn Vietnam to Queens, New York, “showcas[ing] the tremendous power we have to alter the fates of others, step into their lives and shift the odds in favor of greater opportunity” (Star Tribune, Minneapolis).
Ly Tran is just a toddler in 1993 when she and her family immigrate from a small town along the Mekong river in Vietnam to a two-bedroom railroad apartment in Queens. Ly’s father, a former lieutenant in the South Vietnamese army, spent nearly a decade as a POW, and their resettlement is made possible through a humanitarian program run by the US government. Soon after they arrive, Ly joins her parents and three older brothers sewing ties and cummerbunds piece-meal on their living room floor to make ends meet.
As they navigate this new landscape, Ly finds herself torn between two worlds. She knows she must honor her parents’ Buddhist faith and contribute to the family livelihood, working long hours at home and eventually as a manicurist alongside her mother at a nail salon in Brooklyn that her parents take over. But at school, Ly feels the mounting pressure to blend in.
A growing inability to see the blackboard presents new challenges, especially when her father forbids her from getting glasses, calling her diagnosis of poor vision a government conspiracy. His frightening temper and paranoia leave a mark on Ly’s sense of self. Who is she outside of everything her family expects of her?
An “unsentimental yet deeply moving examination of filial bond, displacement, war trauma, and poverty” (NPR), House of Sticks is a timely and powerful portrait of one girl’s coming-of-age and struggle to find her voice amid clashing cultural expectations.
Linnea Rutledge’s COVID spring on the Isle of Palms is about to get complicated. She’s getting laid off from her beloved job at the aquarium. Her boyfriend, Gordon, is struggling to return to the States from England. And her old flame John is in town, quarantining next door. Falling in love during a pandemic, it seems, is both easier and more challenging than Linnea thought in this novel of found opportunities amid tremendous change. THE SUMMER OF LOST AND FOUND is the newest novel in Mary Alice Monroe’s adored Beach House series.
A timely, tender, and compassionate tale of perseverance, love, and the bonds of family in the face of tremendous and sometimes painful upheaval in this latest novel in the New York Times bestselling Beach House series.
The coming of spring usually means renewal, but for Linnea Rutledge, this spring is a season of challenge. Linnea faces another layoff, this time from the aquarium she adores, and her family’s finances, emotions, and health teeter on the brink. To complicate matters, her new love interest, Gordon, struggles to return to the Isle of Palms from England. Meanwhile, her old flame, John, turns up from California and is quarantining next door. She tries to ignore him, but when he sends her plaintive notes in the form of paper airplanes, old sparks ignite. When Gordon at last reaches the island, Linnea wonders—is it possible to love two men at the same time?
Love in the time of COVID-19 proves challenging, at times humorous, and ever changing. Relationships are redefined, friendships made and broken, and marriages tested. As the weeks turn to months, and another sea turtle season comes to a close, Linnea learns there are more meaningful lessons during this summer than opportunities lost: that summer is a time of wonder, and that the exotic lives in our own backyards.
Poignant and moving, The Summer of Lost and Found is “a novel of growing up, saying goodbye to the past, and learning to ask yourself the hard questions, including one of the most vital of all: ‘Who do you really want to be’” (Kristin Harmel, New York Times bestselling author).
Rich Gundersen has always lived near and made his living from Damnation Grove, part of the Pacific Northwest’s redwood forests. Raised a logger, Rich is determined to build a better life for his son, particularly after his wife, Colleen, suffers a series of miscarriages. Impulsively, he spends their savings on 24-7 Ridge, a grove ripe for logging. But when Colleen starts digging into a neighborhood-wide rash of miscarriages and uncovers that the logging company’s herbicide may be to blame, the Gundersen family—and their entire community—threatens to fall apart.
Named a Best Book of 2021 by Newsweek, the San Francisco Chronicle, The Washington Post, and the Los Angeles Times
“A glorious book—an assured novel that’s gorgeously told.” —The New York Times Book Review
“An incredibly moving epic about an unforgettable family.” —CBS Sunday Morning
“[An] absorbing novel…I felt both grateful to have known these people and bereft at the prospect of leaving them behind.” —The Washington Post
A stunning novel about love, work, and marriage that asks how far one family and one community will go to protect their future.
Colleen and Rich Gundersen are raising their young son, Chub, on the rugged California coast. It’s 1977, and life in this Pacific Northwest logging town isn’t what it used to be. For generations, the community has lived and breathed timber; now that way of life is threatened.
Colleen is an amateur midwife. Rich is a tree-topper. It’s a dangerous job that requires him to scale trees hundreds of feet tall—a job that both his father and grandfather died doing. Colleen and Rich want a better life for their son—and they take steps to assure their future. Rich secretly spends their savings on a swath of ancient redwoods. But when Colleen, grieving the loss of a recent pregnancy and desperate to have a second child, challenges the logging company’s use of the herbicides she believes are responsible for the many miscarriages in the community, Colleen and Rich find themselves on opposite sides of a budding conflict. As tensions in the town rise, they threaten the very thing the Gundersens are trying to protect: their family.
Told in prose as clear as a spring-fed creek, Damnation Spring is an intimate, compassionate portrait of a family whose bonds are tested and a community clinging to a vanishing way of life. An extraordinary story of the transcendent, enduring power of love—between husband and wife, mother and child, and longtime neighbors. An essential novel for our times.
In this nightmarish, pulse-pounding thriller, longtime pilot Bill Hoffman has a dark secret. As he guides his commercial plane full of 143 passengers into the air from LAX to JFK one morning, he knows that just thirty minutes before the flight, his entire family was kidnapped. Now, he’s under orders from the kidnappers to crash the flight and kill everyone on board, or else his own family dies. Forced to sit alongside Bill on his ill-fated flight, readers will be left wondering what they would do if they were in this claustrophobic, worst-case scenario.
#1 NATIONAL BESTSELLER * NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
“T. J. Newman has written the perfect thriller! A must-read.” —Gillian Flynn
“Stunning and relentless. This is Jaws at 35,000 feet.” —Don Winslow
“Falling is the best kind of thriller…Nonstop, totally authentic suspense.” —James Patterson
“Amazing...Intense suspense, shocks, and scares...Chilling.” —Lee Child
You just boarded a flight to New York.
There are one hundred and forty-three other passengers onboard.
What you don’t know is that thirty minutes before the flight your pilot’s family was kidnapped.
For his family to live, everyone on your plane must die.
The only way the family will survive is if the pilot follows his orders and crashes the plane.
Enjoy the flight.
In this debut novel by Lisa Taddeo, the critically acclaimed author of THREE WOMEN, Joan is not a stranger to the violence of men. But when one man commits a brutal act of violence in front of her, she’s forced to remember what she’s witnessed and experienced in her past, including one act, in particular, that has haunted her every day since. Escaping New York in search of the one woman who can help her make sense of what she’s been through, Joan embarks on a visceral journal of self-discovery and unbridled female rage.
From Lisa Taddeo, author of the #1 New York Times bestseller and global phenomenon Three Women, comes an “intoxicating” (Entertainment Weekly), “fearless” (Los Angeles Times), and “explosive” (People) novel about “what happens when women are pushed beyond the brink, and what comes after the reckoning” (Esquire).
Joan has spent a lifetime enduring the cruelties of men. But when one of them commits a shocking act of violence in front of her, she flees New York City in search of Alice, the only person alive who can help her make sense of her past. In the sweltering hills above Los Angeles, Joan unravels the horrific event she witnessed as a child—that has haunted her every waking moment—while forging the power to finally strike back.
Animal is a depiction of female rage at its rawest, and a visceral exploration of the fallout from a male-dominated society.
It’s 1986, and ten-year-old Junie loves her idyllic life in rural China with her grandparents—which is why she was determined to stay there instead of following her father, Momo, and her mother, Cassia, to America, where they immigrated years ago. While Momo meditates on his abandoned musical ambitions and makes arrangements for Junie’s future, Cassia tries to come to terms with a brutal act of violence from years ago. No matter what, Momo is determined to reunite his estranged family, even if it means revealing painful secrets.
A “beautifully written, poignant exploration of family, art, culture, immigration…and love” (Jean Kwok, author of Searching for Sylvie Lee and Girl in Translation) set against the backdrop of China’s Cultural Revolution that follows a father’s quest to reunite his family before his precocious daughter’s momentous birthday, which Garth Greenwell calls “one of the most beautiful debuts I’ve read in years.”
How many times in life can we start over without losing ourselves?
In the summer of 1986, in a small Chinese village, ten-year-old Junie receives a momentous letter from her parents, who had left for America years ago: her father promises to return home and collect her by her twelfth birthday. But Junie’s growing determination to stay put in the idyllic countryside with her beloved grandparents threatens to derail her family’s shared future.
Junie doesn’t know that her parents, Momo and Cassia, are newly estranged from one another in their adopted country, each holding close private tragedies and histories from the tumultuous years of their youth during China’s Cultural Revolution. While Momo grapples anew with his deferred musical ambitions and dreams for Junie’s future in America, Cassia finally begins to wrestle with a shocking act of brutality from years ago. For Momo to fulfill his promise, he must make one last desperate attempt to reunite all three family members before Junie’s birthday—even if it means bringing painful family secrets to light.
Swimming Back to Trout River is a “symphony of a novel” (BookPage) that weaves together the stories of Junie, Momo, Cassia, and Dawn—a talented violinist from Momo’s past—while depicting their heartbreak and resilience, tenderly revealing the hope, compromises, and abiding ingenuity that make up the lives of immigrants. Feng’s debut is “filled with tragedy yet touched with life-affirming passion” (Kirkus Reviews, starred review), and “Feng weaves a plot both surprising and inevitable, with not a word to spare” (Booklist, starred review).
In this bestselling portrait of Nobel Prize winner Jennifer Doudna, bestselling biographer Walter Isaacson explores the beginning of the life science revolution, tracing how Doudna and her team invented a tool to edit DNA called CRISPR. This discovery not only made Doudna famous but thrust her into the center of the moral conundrums that will likely define our future. While editing DNA can make us less susceptible to viruses, it can also become a gateway to making other, less humanitarian changes at will. THE CODE BREAKER celebrates Doudna’s accomplishments while acknowledging the challenges ahead.
A Best Book of 2021 by Bloomberg BusinessWeek, Time, and The Washington Post
The bestselling author of Leonardo da Vinci and Steve Jobs returns with a “compelling” (The Washington Post) account of how Nobel Prize winner Jennifer Doudna and her colleagues launched a revolution that will allow us to cure diseases, fend off viruses, and have healthier babies.
When Jennifer Doudna was in sixth grade, she came home one day to find that her dad had left a paperback titled The Double Helix on her bed. She put it aside, thinking it was one of those detective tales she loved. When she read it on a rainy Saturday, she discovered she was right, in a way. As she sped through the pages, she became enthralled by the intense drama behind the competition to discover the code of life. Even though her high school counselor told her girls didn’t become scientists, she decided she would.
Driven by a passion to understand how nature works and to turn discoveries into inventions, she would help to make what the book’s author, James Watson, told her was the most important biological advance since his codiscovery of the structure of DNA. She and her collaborators turned a curiosity of nature into an invention that will transform the human race: an easy-to-use tool that can edit DNA. Known as CRISPR, it opened a brave new world of medical miracles and moral questions.
The development of CRISPR and the race to create vaccines for coronavirus will hasten our transition to the next great innovation revolution. The past half-century has been a digital age, based on the microchip, computer, and internet. Now we are entering a life-science revolution. Children who study digital coding will be joined by those who study genetic code.
Should we use our new evolution-hacking powers to make us less susceptible to viruses? What a wonderful boon that would be! And what about preventing depression? Hmmm…Should we allow parents, if they can afford it, to enhance the height or muscles or IQ of their kids?
After helping to discover CRISPR, Doudna became a leader in wrestling with these moral issues and, with her collaborator Emmanuelle Charpentier, won the Nobel Prize in 2020. Her story is an “enthralling detective story” (Oprah Daily) that involves the most profound wonders of nature, from the origins of life to the future of our species.
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