6 Quality Books That Were Years in the Making

January 25 2023
Share 6 Quality Books That Were Years in the Making

For authors, there are moments in their careers when books seemingly write themselves, almost in an instant. There are, of course, also periods when new books are delayed by writer’s block, perfectionism, or even disinterest. And then there are works that authors have quietly cultivated for years—single stories so epic or personal (or both) that they must be given all the time necessary to properly craft and conclude.

These books, years in the making, hold a special place in readers’ hearts, as they not only compel us with plot and prose but inspire us by their very creation. Here’s a collection of works that required years, and sometimes decades, to complete and that, in our opinion, were well worth the wait.

The Deluge
by Stephen Markley

In the case of Stephen Markley’s sprawling new book, THE DELUGE, it could be as simple as this: creating a hyperrealistic plot about the complete collapse of civilization is going to take a long time to write. But it doesn’t disappoint. The crisis, predictably, is a climate catastrophe that forecasts in visceral detail ravaging forest fires, apocalyptic flooding, and a political system ill equipped to handle any of it (sounds so familiar . . .). Following an eccentric cast of characters, including a visionary scientist; a rebel activist; a skilled, immoral adman; and a drug addict, Markley’s expansive work captures the slow demise of the world, with each event seemingly a direct consequence of our actions—or lack thereof. As their fates intertwine, each character must sacrifice a part of themselves to make humanity’s last stand amid the ecological disasters and subsequent violence. A once-in-a-generation novel from the bestselling author of OHIO, THE DELUGE is Stephen Markley’s masterpiece and a terrifying reality check.

Amazon logo Audible logo Barnes & Noble logo Books a Million logo Google Play logo iBooks logo iTunes logo Indiebound logo Kobo logo Kindle logo Bookshop logo Libro.fm logo
The Deluge
Stephen Markley

“This book is, simply put, a modern classic. If you read it, you'll never forget it. Prophetic, terrifying, uplifting.” —Stephen King

From the bestselling author of Ohio, a masterful American epic charting a near future approaching collapse and a nascent but strengthening solidarity.

In the first decades of the 21st century, the world is convulsing, its governments mired in gridlock while a patient but unrelenting ecological crisis looms. America is in upheaval, battered by violent weather and extreme politics. In California in 2013, Tony Pietrus, a scientist studying deposits of undersea methane, receives a death threat. His fate will become bound to a stunning cast of characters—a broken drug addict, a star advertising strategist, a neurodivergent mathematician, a cunning eco-terrorist, an actor turned religious zealot, and a brazen young activist named Kate Morris, who, in the mountains of Wyoming, begins a project that will alter the course of the decades to come.

From the Gulf Coast to Los Angeles, the Midwest to Washington, DC, their intertwined odysseys unfold against a stark backdrop of accelerating chaos as they summon courage, galvanize a nation, fall to their own fear, and find wild hope in the face of staggering odds. As their stories hurtle toward a spectacular climax, each faces a reckoning: what will they sacrifice to salvage humanity’s last chance at a future? A singular achievement, The Deluge is a once-in-a-generation novel that meets the moment as few works of art ever have.

Amazon logo Audible logo Barnes & Noble logo Books a Million logo Google Play logo iBooks logo iTunes logo Indiebound logo Kobo logo Kindle logo Bookshop logo Libro.fm logo

MENTIONED IN:

10 Magnificent Books for Kate Morton Fans to Read Next

By Karen Bellovich | February 2, 2023

February eBook Deals: 10 Books You’re Destined to Meet

By Off the Shelf Staff | February 1, 2023

The 15 Most Popular Books of January

By Off the Shelf Staff | January 31, 2023

10 Fictional Tales of Historical Icons

By Alice Martin | January 30, 2023

A Speculative Fiction Gem Imparting Valuable Wisdom on Life’s Purpose

By Ethan Joella | January 27, 2023

7 Binge-Worthy Colleen Hoover Audiobooks You’ll Never Want to Pause

By Gabrielle Audet | January 26, 2023

Close
Damnation Spring
by Ash Davidson

As she shared with us in an author guest post, Ash Davidson “read about three hundred books in the ten years I spent writing my first novel, DAMNATION SPRING.” In her efforts to teach herself how to write a book, she composed a compelling story of a family in conflict. The Gunderson clan lives in a timber town on the California coast in the late 1970s. Rich makes his living off the logging industry, as does most of the community. It’s dangerous work, but, third in a generation of tree toppers, he’s convinced it’s the key to his family’s happiness, especially that of his son, Chub. That is, until Rich’s wife, Colleen, experiences a miscarriage and blames herbicides being used by the local logging company. The couple quickly find themselves on opposing sides, with a community equally in chaos as their very way of life becomes threatened. An intimate portrait of a family, and a community, facing extinction, DAMNATION SPRING is a moving epic that’s filled with emotion.

Amazon logo Audible logo Barnes & Noble logo Books a Million logo Google Play logo iBooks logo iTunes logo Indiebound logo Kobo logo Kindle logo Bookshop logo Libro.fm logo
Damnation Spring
Ash Davidson

NATIONAL BESTSELLER

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.

Amazon logo Audible logo Barnes & Noble logo Books a Million logo Google Play logo iBooks logo iTunes logo Indiebound logo Kobo logo Kindle logo Bookshop logo Libro.fm logo

MENTIONED IN:

6 Quality Books That Were Years in the Making

By Chris Gaudio | January 25, 2023

9 Page-Turners Stephen King Recommends

By Off the Shelf Staff | November 4, 2022

New in Paperback: 11 May Reads That’ll Freshen Up Your TBR

By Alice Martin | May 13, 2022

8 Hopeful and Eye-Opening Reads on a Disappearing World

By Sarah Woodruff | April 22, 2022

Author Picks: 6 Literary Quotes That Stuck with Me

By Ash Davidson | November 29, 2021

Close
Pomegranate
by Helen Elaine Lee

Having been on the board of PEN New England for over a decade and volunteering with its Prison and Justice Writing Program, which she helped start, it’s not hard to see how those many years served as research for her novel POMEGRANATE. The story of a queer Black woman named Ranita, this book explores how one heals following incarceration. Now three years clean from her opioid addiction (which landed her a four-year sentence for possession), Ranita is determined to regain her freedom and custody of her children. But she must do so without the aid of her lover, Maxine, a woman who has changed how Ranita views the world at large—and that means not backsliding into a world of temptation while also atoning for her previous missteps. A complex portrayal, POMEGRANATE is a powerful novel with a clear connection to the tragic realities faced by those behind bars. And it’s those firsthand insights that allow Helen Elaine Lee to craft an emotional story about the impact of incarceration and addiction while simultaneously providing us hope through humanity’s ability to find redemption.

Amazon logo Audible logo Barnes & Noble logo Books a Million logo Google Play logo iBooks logo iTunes logo Indiebound logo Kobo logo Kindle logo Bookshop logo Libro.fm logo
Pomegranate
Helen Elaine Lee

“A remarkable feat of literary conjuration.” —Jennifer Haigh, nationally bestselling author of Mercy Street

The acclaimed author of The Serpent’s Gift returns with this gripping and powerful novel of healing, redemption, and love, following a queer Black woman who works to stay clean, pull her life together, and heal after being released from prison.

Ranita Atwater is “getting short.”

She is almost done with her four-year sentence for opiate possession at Oak Hills Correctional Center. With three years of sobriety, she is determined to stay clean and regain custody of her two children.

My name is Ranita, and I’m an addict, she has said again and again at recovery meetings. But who else is she? Who might she choose to become? As she claims the story housed within her pomegranate-like heart, she is determined to confront the weight of the past and discover what might lie beyond mere survival.

Ranita is regaining her freedom, but she’s leaving behind her lover Maxine, who has inspired her to imagine herself and the world differently. Now she must steer clear of the temptations that have pulled her down, while atoning for her missteps and facing old wounds. With a fierce, smart, and sometimes funny voice, Ranita reveals how rocky and winding the path to wellness is for a Black woman, even as she draws on family, memory, faith, and love in order to choose life.

Perfect for fans of Jesmyn Ward and Yaa Gyasi, Pomegranate is a complex portrayal of queer Black womanhood and marginalization in America: a story of loss, healing, redemption, and strength. In lyrical and precise prose, Helen Elaine Lee paints a humane and unflinching portrait of the devastating effects of incarceration and addiction, and of one woman’s determination to tell her story.

Amazon logo Audible logo Barnes & Noble logo Books a Million logo Google Play logo iBooks logo iTunes logo Indiebound logo Kobo logo Kindle logo Bookshop logo Libro.fm logo

MENTIONED IN:

10 Magnificent Books for Kate Morton Fans to Read Next

By Karen Bellovich | February 2, 2023

February eBook Deals: 10 Books You’re Destined to Meet

By Off the Shelf Staff | February 1, 2023

The 15 Most Popular Books of January

By Off the Shelf Staff | January 31, 2023

10 Fictional Tales of Historical Icons

By Alice Martin | January 30, 2023

A Speculative Fiction Gem Imparting Valuable Wisdom on Life’s Purpose

By Ethan Joella | January 27, 2023

7 Binge-Worthy Colleen Hoover Audiobooks You’ll Never Want to Pause

By Gabrielle Audet | January 26, 2023

Close
Properties of Thirst
by Marianne Wiggins

National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize finalist Marianne Wiggins was eight years in and nearly ready to complete her great American classic when tragedy struck. A massive stroke disrupted her memory and ability to create a logical sequence of events, leaving her work in jeopardy—that is, until her daughter, Lara Porzak, stepped in to preserve her mother’s legacy and finish the novel with the help of Wiggins’s notes and a collaborator. The work itself centers on Rockwell “Rocky” Rhodes, who is fighting to protect the California ranch where he and his wife, Lou, raised their twins, Sunny and Stryker, from the LA Water Corporation. But when Pearl Harbor is bombed, Rocky must watch as Stryker joins the war effort, leaving him and Sunny on the ranch. But in another twist, the Department of the Interior decides to build a Japanese American internment camp right next to the family’s land, and their way of life is again thrown into chaos. To make matters worse, Sunny and the camp’s leader begin to fall for one another, until he begins to truly understand the atrocities he’s supervising. An honest and at times unforgiving snapshot of one of America’s darkest periods, PROPERTIES OF THIRST is profound, and we’re grateful it was completed.

Amazon logo Audible logo Barnes & Noble logo Books a Million logo Google Play logo iBooks logo iTunes logo Indiebound logo Kobo logo Kindle logo Bookshop logo Libro.fm logo
Properties of Thirst
Marianne Wiggins

Fifteen years after the publication of Evidence of Things Unseen, National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize finalist Marianne Wiggins returns with a novel destined to be an American classic: a sweeping masterwork set during World War II about the meaning of family and the limitations of the American Dream.

Rockwell “Rocky” Rhodes has spent years fiercely protecting his California ranch from the LA Water Corporation. It is here where he and his beloved wife Lou raised their twins, Sunny and Stryker, and it is here where Rocky has mourned Lou in the years since her death.

As Sunny and Stryker reach the cusp of adulthood, the country teeters on the brink of war. Stryker decides to join the fight, deploying to Pearl Harbor not long before the bombs strike. Soon, Rocky and his family find themselves facing yet another incomprehensible tragedy.

Rocky is determined to protect his remaining family and the land where they’ve loved and lost so much. But when the government decides to build a Japanese-American internment camp next to the ranch, Rocky realizes that the land faces even bigger threats than the LA watermen he’s battled for years. Complicating matters is the fact that the idealistic Department of the Interior man assigned to build the camp, who only begins to understand the horror of his task after it may be too late, becomes infatuated with Sunny and entangled with the Rhodes family.

Properties of Thirst is a novel that is both universal and intimate. It is the story of a changing American landscape and an examination of one of the darkest periods in this country’s past, told through the stories of the individual loves and losses that weave together to form the fabric of our shared history. Ultimately, it is an unflinching distillation of our nation’s essence—and a celebration of the bonds of love and family that persist against all odds.

Amazon logo Audible logo Barnes & Noble logo Books a Million logo Google Play logo iBooks logo iTunes logo Indiebound logo Kobo logo Kindle logo Bookshop logo Libro.fm logo

MENTIONED IN:

10 Magnificent Books for Kate Morton Fans to Read Next

By Karen Bellovich | February 2, 2023

February eBook Deals: 10 Books You’re Destined to Meet

By Off the Shelf Staff | February 1, 2023

The 15 Most Popular Books of January

By Off the Shelf Staff | January 31, 2023

10 Fictional Tales of Historical Icons

By Alice Martin | January 30, 2023

A Speculative Fiction Gem Imparting Valuable Wisdom on Life’s Purpose

By Ethan Joella | January 27, 2023

7 Binge-Worthy Colleen Hoover Audiobooks You’ll Never Want to Pause

By Gabrielle Audet | January 26, 2023

Close
The Last Chairlift
by John Irving

John Irving’s THE LAST CHAIRLIFT gives us plenty to be excited about. For starters, it’s been a full seven years since his last novel, and we’re eager to devour another compelling page-turner. What’s more, this novel has been in the works for a number of years—20 to be exact(ish)—and it includes all the elements of an Irving classic, not to mention some autobiographical details throughout. Perhaps the most critical event in this novel occurs in 1941, when slalom skier Rachel Brewster is impregnated in Aspen, Colorado. She returns to New England to raise her son, Adam, and marries an English teacher to maintain appearances. Rachel, or “Little Ray,” as she’s known, is gay, and spends part of the year with her partner, Molly. For Adam, growing up around these loving women is a blessing, yet he still wonders about his biological father. Haunted—literally, in the form of ghosts that appear throughout the novel—by the question, Adam travels to the hotel in Aspen where he was conceived. Imaginative and emotionally affecting, THE LAST CHAIRLIFT is a ghost story and a love story all in one, shining a light on sexual politics and the universal desire to feel supported..

Amazon logo Audible logo Barnes & Noble logo Books a Million logo Google Play logo iBooks logo iTunes logo Indiebound logo Kobo logo Kindle logo Bookshop logo Libro.fm logo
The Last Chairlift
John Irving

John Irving, one of the world’s greatest novelists, returns with his first novel in seven years—a ghost story, a love story, and a lifetime of sexual politics.

In Aspen, Colorado, in 1941, Rachel Brewster is a slalom skier at the National Downhill and Slalom Championships. Little Ray, as she is called, finishes nowhere near the podium, but she manages to get pregnant. Back home, in New England, Little Ray becomes a ski instructor.

Her son, Adam, grows up in a family that defies conventions and evades questions concerning the eventful past. Years later, looking for answers, Adam will go to Aspen. In the Hotel Jerome, where he was conceived, Adam will meet some ghosts; in The Last Chairlift, they aren’t the first or the last ghosts he sees.

John Irving has written some of the most acclaimed books of our time—among them, The World According to Garp and The Cider House Rules. A visionary voice on the subject of sexual tolerance, Irving is a bard of alternative families. In The Last Chairlift, readers will once more be in his thrall.

Amazon logo Audible logo Barnes & Noble logo Books a Million logo Google Play logo iBooks logo iTunes logo Indiebound logo Kobo logo Kindle logo Bookshop logo Libro.fm logo

MENTIONED IN:

10 Magnificent Books for Kate Morton Fans to Read Next

By Karen Bellovich | February 2, 2023

February eBook Deals: 10 Books You’re Destined to Meet

By Off the Shelf Staff | February 1, 2023

The 15 Most Popular Books of January

By Off the Shelf Staff | January 31, 2023

10 Fictional Tales of Historical Icons

By Alice Martin | January 30, 2023

A Speculative Fiction Gem Imparting Valuable Wisdom on Life’s Purpose

By Ethan Joella | January 27, 2023

7 Binge-Worthy Colleen Hoover Audiobooks You’ll Never Want to Pause

By Gabrielle Audet | January 26, 2023

Close
Pachinko
by Min Jin Lee

We have twenty, we have twenty—do we hear thirty? Yes! Yes, we have thirty years in the making for Min Jin Lee’s PACHINKO! Having gotten the idea for the novel way back in 1989 while she was in college, Lee didn’t feel that she had the knowledge or skill to do this story justice. But three decades, countless hours of research and interviews, and several drafts later, PACHINKO was born. An old-fashioned epic, the story is set in early-twentieth-century Korea, where an aging fisherman and his wife run a boardinghouse. A loving couple who experience many losses, they cherish their smart, industrious daughter, Sunja—that is, until the teenager becomes pregnant after a night with a wealthy, married boardinghouse guest. A sickly minister en route to Japan offers to marry Sunja and bring her along for the trip. While Sunja’s life blossoms in Japan with a family that can support her handsomely, her first son’s father’s presence is always near. Following the story down through the generations, readers witness the love, luck, and misfortune that any family could experience, while also learning of the hardships associated with being Korean and living in Japan.

Amazon logo Audible logo Barnes & Noble logo Books a Million logo Google Play logo iBooks logo Indiebound logo Bookshop logo Libro.fm logo
Pachinko
Min Jin Lee

Amazon logo Audible logo Barnes & Noble logo Books a Million logo Google Play logo iBooks logo Indiebound logo Bookshop logo Libro.fm logo

MENTIONED IN:

10 Magnificent Books for Kate Morton Fans to Read Next

By Karen Bellovich | February 2, 2023

February eBook Deals: 10 Books You’re Destined to Meet

By Off the Shelf Staff | February 1, 2023

The 15 Most Popular Books of January

By Off the Shelf Staff | January 31, 2023

10 Fictional Tales of Historical Icons

By Alice Martin | January 30, 2023

A Speculative Fiction Gem Imparting Valuable Wisdom on Life’s Purpose

By Ethan Joella | January 27, 2023

7 Binge-Worthy Colleen Hoover Audiobooks You’ll Never Want to Pause

By Gabrielle Audet | January 26, 2023

Close

Photo credit: iStock / Sensay

You must be logged in to add books to your shelf.

Please log in or sign up now.