8 Surprising Titles from Beloved Authors

June 9 2022
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In cracking open a book, you never know exactly what you’re getting into. Even the most descriptive summary can’t replicate the characters’ voices, the chapter pacing, or the feel of a plot. Being familiar with the author might give you an edge, as you expect the kind of story you know they’re capable of; in certain cases, however, relying on previous experiences may bring more surprise than recognition. Get ready to see a different side to your favorite authors with this list of books showcasing their departure from a usual genre or style.

Manhattan Beach
by Jennifer Egan

I’ll never forget my opportunity to see Egan’s presentation on this book, which included photos and anecdotes of her research process and, of course, much passion for the topic and the people she’d met while putting it together. You would never guess that this was her first historical novel, and as winner of the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction, apparently many others were equally as entranced. The Brooklyn Naval Yard setting, the father-daughter relationship, the complexities of war, and the introduction of female divers all make for a great unraveling of plots, emotions, and fascinating historical facts.

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Manhattan Beach
Jennifer Egan

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • A New York Times Notable Book

Winner of the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction

The daring and magnificent novel from the Pulitzer Prize–winning author.

Named One of the Best Books of the Year by NPR, Esquire, Vogue, The Washington Post, The Guardian, USA TODAY, and Time

Anna Kerrigan, nearly twelve years old, accompanies her father to visit Dexter Styles, a man who, she gleans, is crucial to the survival of her father and her family. She is mesmerized by the sea beyond the house and by some charged mystery between the two men.

‎Years later, her father has disappeared and the country is at war. Anna works at the Brooklyn Naval Yard, where women are allowed to hold jobs that once belonged to men, now soldiers abroad. She becomes the first female diver, the most dangerous and exclusive of occupations, repairing the ships that will help America win the war. One evening at a nightclub, she meets Dexter Styles again, and begins to understand the complexity of her father’s life, the reasons he might have vanished.

“A magnificent achievement, at once a suspenseful noir intrigue and a transporting work of lyrical beauty and emotional heft” (The Boston Globe), “Egan’s first foray into historical fiction makes you forget you’re reading historical fiction at all” (Elle). Manhattan Beach takes us into a world populated by gangsters, sailors, divers, bankers, and union men in a dazzling, propulsive exploration of a transformative moment in the lives and identities of women and men, of America and the world.

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Zone One
by Colson Whitehead

Who knew that Whitehead had dabbled in zombies? Certainly not me, until a friend mentioned that she’d stumbled upon it and I needed to read it. It’s just the right level of action for that captivating adrenaline rush. Following a man named Mark Spitz as he encounters zombies precisely where they shouldn’t be leads us into flashbacks of his startlingly average pre-apocalyptical life and wanderings through strange semblances of empty Manhattan offices with his sweeper team. Is it fair to say you can find yourself and hone in on the actuality of your surroundings in a world infested with terror? It’s definitely an interesting journey for Mark, and an even greater one for readers.

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Zone One
Colson Whitehead

In Colson Whitehead’s acclaimed novel, a pandemic has ravaged the planet, dividing humanity into two groups: the infected and the non-infected. Over the course of three days, Mark Spitz, a member of a unit charged with clearing lower Manhattan of the infected, comes to terms with the fallen world and the new dangers that have emerged.

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After the Party
by Lisa Jewell

I reach for a Jewell thriller whenever I’m in the mood for complex characters, unsettling atmospheres, and page-turning plots, but I wouldn’t have expected those elements to come together in a romance novel. What is easily recognizable, however, is the focus on family; only this time, instead of running from outside forces, the trouble is within the thread of relationships. Jem and Ralph have been together for a long time—long enough to add children to their family, sink into the comforts of home, and remind themselves of the love that connects them. But the tricky thing about spending years together is the difficulties in finding the points of cracks and frustrations. The book’s title and cover image say so much, and the content is just as thought-provoking.

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After the Party
Lisa Jewell

"Lisa Jewell’s writing is like a big warm hug. After the Party is a touching, insightful, and gripping story which I simply couldn’t put down." —Sophie Kinsella

From the New York Times bestselling author of Then She Was Gone comes an irresistible novel about the power of starting over.

Eleven years ago, Jem Catterick and Ralph McLeary fell deeply in love. They thought it would be forever, that they’d found their happy ending. As everyone agreed, they were the perfect couple. Then two became four, and an apartment became a house. Romantic nights out became sleepless nights in. And they soon found that life wasn’t quite so simple anymore. But through it all, Jem and Ralph still loved each other. Of course they did.

Now Jem is back at work part-time as a talent agent. Ralph, a successful painter, is struggling to come up with new, hopefully groundbreaking, work for his upcoming show. But the unimaginable has happened. Two people who were so right together are starting to drift apart. And in the chaos of family life, Jem feels like she’s losing herself, while Ralph, stuck on the sidelines, feels like he’s lost his muse altogether. Something has to change. As they try to find a way back to each other, back to what they once had, they both become momentarily distracted—but maybe it’s not too late to recapture happily ever after…

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Hello, Sunshine
by Laura Dave

In my mind, Dave is another writer who I associate with thrillers, but her 2017 novel, HELLO, SUNSHINE, pulled me back for further investigation. A romance with an eye-catching purple cover, death appears here in a slightly different form: the loss of a seemingly perfect life. Sunshine Mackenzie is a big deal in the food world until she’s unceremoniously thrown from the public eye. Without the fans, the cookbooks, and the happy family, what comes next? It’s a big question for someone who has already climbed so high, albeit with the aid of fickle support and adoration provided by an online platform.

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Hello, Sunshine
Laura Dave

Best Books of Summer Selection by People, Elle, Redbook, Domino Magazine, US Weekly, PopSugar, PureWow, InStyle.com, WMagazine.com, HarpersBazaar.com, SouthernLiving.com, Arizona Republic, and Tallahassee Democrat

Epicurious Best Foodie Reads Selection

Library Reads Pick

“A clever beach bag must-have” (People) from Laura Dave—the author of the “addictive” (Us Weekly) and critically acclaimed bestseller Eight Hundred Grapes—“a smart, fun read about trying to live an authentic life in the age of social media overload” (PopSugar).

Sunshine Mackenzie has it all…until her secrets come to light. Sunshine is living the dream—she’s a culinary star with millions of fans, a line of #1 bestselling cookbooks, and a devoted husband happy to support her every endeavor. Sunshine Mackenzie has it all…until she gets hacked.

When Sunshine’s secrets are revealed, her fall from grace is catastrophic. She loses her husband, her show, the fans, and her apartment. She’s forced to return to the childhood home—and the estranged sister—she’s tried hard to forget. But what Sunshine does amid the ashes of her own destruction may well save her life.

“A delightfully addictive page-turner” (WMagazine.com) that takes place in a world where celebrity is a careful construct, Hello, Sunshine is “wickedly funny and gorgeously entertaining…there is no chance you won’t consume this golden summer read in one sitting” (Redbook.com).

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Ghost Lover
by Lisa Taddeo

With one nonfiction and one fiction already under her belt, I shouldn’t have been surprised to see Taddeo penning in a new form. I imagine the beauty of establishing an audience eager to read any type of book you produce is a compelling enough reason for more experimentation. GHOST LOVER lives up to that bar, gifting us more of Taddeo’s views on love, sex, and relationships, as well as unique takes on issues we know all too well. Plus, without being contained to just one narrative, we get to meet even more characters in an array of unparalleled circumstances, proving Taddeo remains a timely, unique voice who should be in every home, bookstore, and library.

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Ghost Lover
Lisa Taddeo

From Lisa Taddeo, #1 New York Times bestselling and award-winning author of Three Women and “our most eloquent and faithful chronicler of human desire” (Esquire), Ghost Lover is an electrifying collection of fearless and ferocious short stories.

Behind anonymous screens, an army of cool and beautiful girls manage the dating service Ghost Lover, a forwarding system for text messages that promises to spare you the anguish of trying to stay composed while communicating with your crush. At a star-studded political fundraiser in a Los Angeles mansion, a trio of women compete to win the heart of the slick guest of honor. In a tense hospital waiting room, an inseparable pair of hard-partying friends crash into life’s responsibilities, but the magic of their glory days comes alive again at the moment they least expect it.

In these nine riveting stories—which include two Pushcart Prize winners and a finalist for the National Magazine Award—Lisa Taddeo brings to life the fever of obsession, the blindness of love, and the mania of grief. Featuring Taddeo’s arresting prose that continues to thrill her legions of fans, Ghost Lover dares you to look away.

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The Humans
by Matt Haig

Get ready for a quirky, humorous ride from an alien on a mission: Destroy all evidence of a mathematical breakthrough. Inhabiting the body of deceased professor Andrew Martin—who had the misfortune of learning something another planet did not wish him to know—this alien must sort out how to dress and communicate and love a woman and son he’s never seen before while also completing his very important task. With Haig’s more recent THE MIDNIGHT LIBRARY taking the literary world by storm, THE HUMANS surprises and captivates in a completely different way.

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The Humans
Matt Haig

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You Made a Fool of Death with Your Beauty
by Akwaeke Emezi

The title is a winner on this one; if that doesn’t make you want to learn more, then let me sell you on the writing. Learning to connect again after intense grief is an unfortunately familiar tale for many, but under Emezi’s hands, the characters come alive in an exploration of love, meaning, and contradiction. We gain insight into the lives of artists and chefs and how they see the world, as well as their differing versions of romance and commitment. As the National Book Award finalist says in their Reading Group Guide on simonandschuster.com, “Genre is a loose concept for me, and because I read across genres, it feels natural to write across them as well.”

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You Made a Fool of Death with Your Beauty
Akwaeke Emezi

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.

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A Wild Swan
by Michael Cunningham

I’ve known Cunningham to pack a punch in a few words, but it never registered just how well that talent would translate to short stories, especially ones lingering in the familiar. We’re used to fairy tale retellings; we’re not used to someone stripping them down to their real-world connotations, altering points of view, and injecting both subtle and ominous endings that really sit with you. And, there are illustrations! As someone not usually drawn to the genre, I can reassure you that it doesn’t matter whether or not fairy tales intrigue you; if you appreciate Cunningham’s work, you will love this collection.

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A Wild Swan
Michael Cunningham

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Photo credit: iStock / zozzzzo

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