I don’t know about you, but I love scouring the shelves for the latest reads and discovering those new paperback gems to fill my summer beach bag with as the weather warms up! These ten reads are a wonderful mix of literary fiction, memoir, essays, genre-bending thrillers, and more. So no matter what type of book you’re craving, we’ve got you covered.
Lyrical and heart-wrenching, this novel is worth digging into no matter what genre you love. Set in the mid-90s, April has never really felt connected to her small town. Her mother abandoned her as a child and her father would rather spend time with his much younger girlfriend than with his daughter. April’s been fending for herself for a while now, but everything changes when she goes to an open mic night and realizes what she wants. Her dreams of being a singer-songwriter will never happen in Little River. And so April sets out on an adventure of a lifetime chronicling her life through her songs and finally finding a family that is all her own.
BOOK RIOT’S BEST BOOKS OF 2021
“This is a novel of great empathy, about connections and coming-of-age, built families and self-acceptance. It contains heartbreak and redemption, and a plucky, irresistible protagonist…[A] propulsive, empathetic novel.” —Shelf Awareness
Little River, New York, 1994: April Sawicki is living in a motorless motorhome that her father won in a poker game. Failing out of school, picking up shifts at a local diner, she’s left fending for herself in a town where she’s never quite felt at home. When she “borrows” her neighbor’s car to perform at an open mic night, she realizes her life could be much bigger than where she came from. After a fight with her dad, April packs her stuff and leaves for good, setting off on a journey to find a life that’s all hers.
Driving without a chosen destination, she stops to rest in Ithaca. Her only plan is to survive, but as she looks for work, she finds a kindred sense of belonging at Cafe Decadence, the local coffee shop. Still, somehow, it doesn’t make sense to her that life could be this easy. The more she falls in love with her friends in Ithaca, the more she can’t shake the feeling that she’ll hurt them the way she’s been hurt. As April moves through the world, meeting people who feel like home, she chronicles her life in the songs she writes and discovers that where she came from doesn’t dictate who she has to be.
This lyrical, luminous tale “is both a profound love letter to creative resilience and a reminder that sometimes even tragedy can be a kind of blessing” (Caroline Leavitt, New York Times bestselling author).
Asha is a brilliant MIT coder hoping to make her parents proud and change the world of artificial intelligence forever. And then her high school crush, Cyrus Jones, walks back into her life. Suddenly they’re married, her Ph.D. abandoned and they’ve created a sensational app for religious rituals that plunges them into a world of fame. Will their marriage be able to survive the start-up pressure? Anum has created a funny and feminist look at relationships and tech culture.
Named a Best Book of the Year by NPR
In this “wise and wickedly funny novel about love, creativity, and the limitations of the tech-verse” (Vogue) newlyweds Asha and Cyrus find themselves running one of the most popular social media platforms in the world.
Meet Asha Ray. Brilliant coder and possessor of a Pi tattoo, Asha is poised to make a scientific breakthrough when she is reunited with her high school crush, Cyrus Jones.
Before she knows it, Asha has abandoned her lab, exchanged vows with Cyrus, and gone to work at an exclusive tech incubator called Utopia to develop an app called WAI—“We are Infinite.”
WAI creates a sensation, with millions of users logging on every day. Will Cyrus and Asha’s marriage survive the pressures of sudden fame, or will she become overshadowed by the man everyone is calling the new messiah?
This “scathing—and hilarious—take on startup culture, marriage and workaholism” (Politico) explores whether or not technology—with all its limits and possibilities—can disrupt modern love.
If you’re a fan of Miranda’s, or you’re new to her work, you’ll want to read this consuming thriller. Prepare to be filled with dread as you enter Hollow’s Edge. This used to be a place with friendly neighbors, block parties, and people who cared about each other. That was until Brandon and Fiona Truett were murdered. And now the residents of Hollow’s Edge are stuck with the empty Truett house, unable to sell their own properties, and still reeling from the testimonies that accused Ruby Fletcher of the crime. Tensions are high, everyone is on edge. And then Ruby’s conviction gets overturned, and she returns to Hollow’s Edge and the house she shared with her friend Harper. Everyone is talking, and Harper is terrified. Then she receives threatening messages, and she knows she has to find the truth before someone else ends up dead.
From the New York Times bestselling author of The Last House Guest—a Reese Witherspoon Book Club selection—comes a riveting, “suspenseful” (BookPage, starred review) novel about a mysterious murder in an idyllic and close-knit neighborhood.
Welcome to Hollow’s Edge, where you can find secrets, scandal, and a suspected killer—all on one street.
Hollow’s Edge use to be a quiet place. A private and idyllic neighborhood where neighbors dropped in on neighbors, celebrated graduation and holiday parties together, and looked out for one another. But then came the murder of Brandon and Fiona Truett. A year and a half later, Hollow’s Edge is simmering. The residents are trapped, unable to sell their homes, confronted daily by the empty Truett house, and suffocated by their trial testimonies that implicated one of their own. Ruby Fletcher. And now, Ruby’s back.
With her conviction overturned, Ruby waltzes right back to Hollow’s Edge, and into the home she shared with Harper Nash. Harper, five years older, has always treated Ruby like a wayward younger sister. But now she’s terrified. What possible good could come of Ruby returning to the scene of the crime? And how can she possibly turn her away, when she knows Ruby has nowhere to go?
Within days, suspicion spreads like a virus across Hollow’s Edge. It’s increasingly clear that not everyone told the truth about the night of the Truetts’ murders. And when Harper begins receiving threatening notes, she realizes she has to uncover the truth before someone else becomes the killer’s next victim.
Pulsating with suspense and with Megan Miranda’s trademark shocking twists, Such a Quiet Place is Megan Miranda’s best novel yet—a “powerful, paranoid thriller” (Booklist, starred review) that will keep you turning the pages late into the night.
An excellent story of a little-known influential woman from modern history. This historical fiction novel unravels the story of Belle da Costa Greene, actually born Belle Marion Greener. Belle became a pivotal member of New York society when J.P. Morgan hired her as the librarian for the Pierpont Morgan Library, curating incredible manuscripts and artwork for his collection. But Belle has a secret. She is the white-passing daughter of Richard Greener, the first Black Harvard graduate. Follow this incredible story with a wickedly smart woman who will do anything to protect her career and her family.
THE OTHER BLACK GIRL is a genre-bending piece with unexpected twists. Compared to Get Out for its thriller/horror aspects, Zakiya Dalila Harris is sure to shock you again and again. Nella is an editorial assistant at Wagner Books who has been dealing with the microaggressions of being the only Black employee in their office. So when Hazel is hired and seated at the cubical next to hers, she’s thrilled. That is, until Hazel becomes the office favorite, leaving Nella to fend for herself. And then Nella starts receiving threatening notes telling her to leave her job. Nella doesn’t want to believe that Hazel’s the one behind the messages, but she quickly becomes obsessed. But there is more at stake than just her career.
“Riveting, fearless, and vividly original” (Emily St. John Mandel, New York Times bestselling author), this instant New York Times bestseller explores 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. Having joined Wagner Books to honor the legacy of Burning Heart, a novel written and edited by two Black women, she had thought that this animosity was a relic of the past. Is Nella ready to take on the fight of a new generation?
“Poignant, daring, and darkly funny, The Other Black Girl will have you stressed and exhilarated in equal measure through the very last twist” (Vulture). The perfect read for anyone who has ever felt manipulated, threatened, or overlooked in the workplace.
Emily Austin has captured the feeling of loneliness in a crowded room and a deep understanding of depression in this very dark and sometimes genuinely funny novel. Gilda is a 27-year-old lesbian, atheist, and liar who is incredibly obsessed with death. She can’t keep a job or even find the will to do the dishes piling up in her apartment. Hoping to find some relief, Gilda visits the local Catholic church advertising free therapy. Instead, she meets Father Jeff who assumes she’s there for a job interview. Anxious and awkward, Gilda doesn’t correct him and soon finds herself working as the new receptionist. So while Gilda is pretending to be a good Catholic and trying not to tell anyone about her new girlfriend, she begins corresponding with a woman desperately trying to reach her friend, the former receptionist, Grace. Not having the heart to tell her that Grace is dead, Gilda pretends to be her in their correspondence, but when the police begin investigating Grace’s death, all of Gilda’s secrets could come bubbling up.
In this “fun, page-turner of a novel” (Sarah Haywood, New York Times bestselling author) that’s perfect for fans of Mostly Dead Things and Goodbye, Vitamin, a morbidly anxious young woman stumbles into a job as a receptionist at a Catholic church and soon finds herself obsessed with her predecessor’s mysterious death.
Gilda, a twenty-something, atheist, animal-loving lesbian, cannot stop ruminating about death. Desperate for relief from her panicky mind and alienated from her repressive family, she responds to a flyer for free therapy at a local Catholic church, and finds herself being greeted by Father Jeff, who assumes she’s there for a job interview. Too embarrassed to correct him, Gilda is abruptly hired to replace the recently deceased receptionist Grace.
In between trying to memorize the lines to Catholic mass, hiding the fact that she has a new girlfriend, and erecting a dirty dish tower in her crumbling apartment, Gilda strikes up an email correspondence with Grace’s old friend. She can’t bear to ignore the kindly old woman who has been trying to reach her friend through the church inbox, but she also can’t bring herself to break the bad news. Desperate, she begins impersonating Grace via email. But when the police discover suspicious circumstances surrounding Grace’s death, Gilda may have to finally reveal the truth of her mortifying existence.
With a “kindhearted heroine we all need right now” (Courtney Maum, New York Times bestselling author), Everyone in This Room Will Someday Be Dead is a crackling and “delightfully weird reminder that we will one day turn to dust and that yes, this is depressing, but it’s also what makes life beautiful” (Jean Kyoung Frazier, author of Pizza Girl).
Set in the 90s, this unique coming-of-age story follows Séraphin in his final year of law school in Cape Town, South Africa. But so much can change in a year as Séraphin makes decisions and navigates the life he is trying to live. After his family was forced to flee their home during the Rwandan civil war, they find themselves in Namibia where they are treated like foreigners and looked down upon by most of the people there. Because of that, Séraphin’s family has pushed him to become a lawyer and find a good job for himself. Desperate to leave Namibia, Séraphin is excited to be able to spend his final year of school in a big city with new friends, parties, adventures, and racial controversies. Ngamije weaves an expresive non-linear story about a young man discovering who he is with a dark sense of humor.
“Meet the future of African literature” (Mukoma Wa Ngugi, author of Nairobi Heat) with this “gorgeous, wildly funny, and, above all, profoundly moving and humane” (Peter Orner, author of Am I Alone Here) coming-of-age tale following a young man who is forced to flee his homeland of Rwanda and make sense of his reality.
Nobody ever makes it to the start of a story, not even the people in it. The most one can do is make some sort of start and then work toward some kind of ending.
One might as well start with Séraphin: playlist-maker, nerd-jock hybrid, self-appointed merchant of cool, Rwandan, stifled and living in Namibia. Soon he will leave the confines of his family life for the cosmopolitan city of Cape Town, where loyal friends, hormone-saturated parties, adventurous conquests, and race controversies await. More than that, his long-awaited final year in law school promises to deliver a crucial puzzle piece of the Great Plan immigrant: a degree from a prestigious university.
But a year is more than the sum of its parts, and en route to the future, the present must be lived through and even the past must be survived in this “hilarious and heartbreaking” (Adam Smyer, author of Knucklehead) intersection of pre- and post-1994 Rwanda, colonial and post-independence Windhoek, Paris and Brussels in the 70s, Nairobi public schools, and the racially charged streets of Cape Town.
“Visually striking and beautiful told with youthful energy and hard-won wisdom” (Rabeah Ghaffari, author of To Keep the Sun Alive), The Eternal Audience of One is a lyrical and piquant tale of family, migration, friendship, war, identity, and race that will sweep you off your feet.
This is a high-stakes political thriller from none other than former Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton, and renowned mystery/thriller writer Louise Penny. Together, they have concocted a riveting great plot that will hook you from the beginning and draws on Clinton’s own experience in her former position. After losing the presidential election, Ellen Adams is offered the role of Secretary of State by her rival. Now she is trying to come to terms with the new administration and assess her position when a series of terrorist attacks in Europe begin to draw the public eye. When there are whispers of the same threat attacking American soil, the president tasks her with assembling an expert team and finding the truth before any more lives are lost.
AN INSTANT #1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
Named one of the most anticipated novels of the season by People, Associated Press, Time, Los Angeles Times, Parade, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, The Guardian, Publishers Weekly, and more.
From the #1 bestselling authors Hillary Clinton and Louise Penny comes a novel of unsurpassed thrills and incomparable insider expertise—State of Terror.
After a tumultuous period in American politics, a new administration has just been sworn in, and to everyone’s surprise the president chooses a political enemy for the vital position of secretary of state.
There is no love lost between the president of the United States and Ellen Adams, his new secretary of state. But it’s a canny move on the part of the president. With this appointment, he silences one of his harshest critics, since taking the job means Adams must step down as head of her multinational media conglomerate.
As the new president addresses Congress for the first time, with Secretary Adams in attendance, Anahita Dahir, a young foreign service officer (FSO) on the Pakistan desk at the State Department, receives a baffling text from an anonymous source.
Too late, she realizes the message was a hastily coded warning.
What begins as a series of apparent terrorist attacks is revealed to be the beginning of an international chess game involving the volatile and Byzantine politics of Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iran; the race to develop nuclear weapons in the region; the Russian mob; a burgeoning rogue terrorist organization; and an American government set back on its heels in the international arena.
As the horrifying scale of the threat becomes clear, Secretary Adams and her team realize it has been carefully planned to take advantage of four years of an American government out of touch with international affairs, out of practice with diplomacy, and out of power in the places where it counts the most.
To defeat such an intricate, carefully constructed conspiracy, it will take the skills of a unique team: a passionate young FSO; a dedicated journalist; and a smart, determined, but as yet untested new secretary of state.
State of Terror is a unique and utterly compelling international thriller cowritten by Hillary Rodham Clinton, the 67th secretary of state, and Louise Penny, a multiple award-winning #1 New York Times bestselling novelist.
In this collection of essays, Susan Orlean explores the many different kinds of relationships that we can have with animals. She draws on a combination of her personal experiences with chickens and dogs, to larger-than-life stories about a woman in New Jersey who owns more than 20 tigers. A true exploration of how we connect to the world, Orlean wields her words with a wonderful mix of storytelling and research. Each new essay offers its own delightful or profound approach to animals and the people who care for them.
“Magnificent.” —The New York Times * “Beguiling, observant, and howlingly funny.” —San Francisco Chronicle * “Spectacular.” —Star Tribune (Minneapolis) * “Full of astonishments.” —The Boston Globe
Susan Orlean—the beloved New Yorker staff writer hailed as “a national treasure” by The Washington Post and the author of the New York Times bestseller The Library Book—gathers a lifetime of musings, meditations, and in-depth profiles about animals.
“How we interact with animals has preoccupied philosophers, poets, and naturalists for ages,” writes Susan Orlean. Since the age of six, when Orlean wrote and illustrated a book called Herbert the Near-Sighted Pigeon, she’s been drawn to stories about how we live with animals, and how they abide by us. Now, in On Animals, she examines animal-human relationships through the compelling tales she has written over the course of her celebrated career.
These stories consider a range of creatures—the household pets we dote on, the animals we raise to end up as meat on our plates, the creatures who could eat us for dinner, the various tamed and untamed animals we share our planet with who are central to human life. In her own backyard, Orlean discovers the delights of keeping chickens. In a different backyard, in New Jersey, she meets a woman who has twenty-three pet tigers—something none of her neighbors knew about until one of the tigers escapes. In Iceland, the world’s most famous whale resists the efforts to set him free; in Morocco, the world’s hardest-working donkeys find respite at a special clinic. We meet a show dog and a lost dog and a pigeon who knows exactly how to get home.
Equal parts delightful and profound, enriched by Orlean’s stylish prose and precise research, these stories celebrate the meaningful cross-species connections that grace our collective existence.
This incredible memoir from journalist and novelist Dawn Turner tells the story of her, her sister, and her friend growing up on Chicago’s South Side in the 70s. Their stories will tug at your heart as each of these three young women diverge on different paths through life. These third-generation Great Migration daughters are living on the promise that they will have more rights and freedoms than any of the previous Black American generations. But life crashes down around them and sends them each in their own direction of loss, heartbreak, and murder. As they journey through life, each of the women will deal with the unique struggle of being a Black woman in America while celebrating their sisterhood and strength.
A New York Times and Washington Post Notable Book
A Best Book of 2021 by BuzzFeed and Real Simple
An “unmissable” (Vogue), “exceptional” (The Washington Post), and “evocative” (Chicago Tribune) memoir about three Black girls from the storied Bronzeville section of Chicago that offers a penetrating exploration of race, opportunity, friendship, sisterhood, and the powerful forces at work that allow some to flourish…and others to falter.
They were three Black girls. Dawn, tall and studious; her sister, Kim, younger by three years and headstrong as they come; and her best friend, Debra, already prom-queen pretty by third grade. They bonded—fervently and intensely in that unique way of little girls—as they roamed the concrete landscape of Bronzeville, a historic neighborhood on Chicago’s South Side, the destination of hundreds of thousands of Black folks who fled the ravages of the Jim Crow South.
These third-generation daughters of the Great Migration come of age in the 1970s, in the warm glow of the recent civil rights movement. It has offered them a promise, albeit nascent and fragile, that they will have more opportunities, rights, and freedoms than any generation of Black Americans in history. Their working-class, striving parents are eager for them to realize this hard-fought potential. But the girls have much more immediate concerns: hiding under the dining room table and eavesdropping on grown folks’ business; collecting secret treasures; and daydreaming about their futures—Dawn and Debra, doctors, Kim a teacher. For a brief, wondrous moment the girls are all giggles and dreams and promises of “friends forever.” And then fate intervenes, first slowly and then dramatically, sending them careening in wildly different directions. There’s heartbreak, loss, displacement, and even murder. Dawn struggles to make sense of the shocking turns that consume her sister and her best friend, all the while asking herself a simple but profound question: Why?
In the vein of The Other Wes Moore and The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace, Three Girls from Bronzeville is a “deeply personal” (Real Simple) memoir that chronicles Dawn’s attempt to find answers. It’s at once a celebration of sisterhood and friendship, a testimony to the unique struggles of Black women, and a tour-de-force about the complex interplay of race, class, and opportunity, and how those forces shape our lives and our capacity for resilience and redemption.
Photo credit: iStock / nikkimeel