Summer book planning is in full swing, and a lot of these popular books of May reflect just that! From the top most anticipated summer releases to page-turning premises and thrillers, the books here don’t just serve as a roundup of popular books. They’re also a solid prediction for what readers will be bringing everywhere this summer.
LADY TAN’S CIRCLE OF WOMEN takes us back to the Ming Dynasty, where a young Tan Yunxian grows up under the caring, upper-class tutelage of her grandmother, who shares her knowledge about Chinese medicine with her. Over the years, Yunxian befriends a poor apprenticing midwife, and together they practice medicine focused on pregnancy and childbirth, as well as puzzle their way through medical emergencies and mysteries, despite the many restrictions that society places on them. When Yunxian is forced into an arranged marriage, it breaks her away from a circle of female friendships and into a space where she fears being confined. That Yunxian finds a way to continue practicing as a physician—in healing arts that continue to influence medicine today—is inspiring.
The latest historical novel from New York Times bestselling author Lisa See, inspired by the true story of a woman physician from 15th-century China—perfect for fans of See’s classic Snowflower and the Secret Fan and The Island of Sea Women.
According to Confucius, “an educated woman is a worthless woman,” but Tan Yunxian—born into an elite family, yet haunted by death, separations, and loneliness—is being raised by her grandparents to be of use. Her grandmother is one of only a handful of female doctors in China, and she teaches Yunxian the pillars of Chinese medicine, the Four Examinations—looking, listening, touching, and asking—something a man can never do with a female patient.
From a young age, Yunxian learns about women’s illnesses, many of which relate to childbearing, alongside a young midwife-in-training, Meiling. The two girls find fast friendship and a mutual purpose—despite the prohibition that a doctor should never touch blood while a midwife comes in frequent contact with it—and they vow to be forever friends, sharing in each other’s joys and struggles. No mud, no lotus, they tell themselves: from adversity beauty can bloom.
But when Yunxian is sent into an arranged marriage, her mother-in-law forbids her from seeing Meiling and from helping the women and girls in the household. Yunxian is to act like a proper wife—embroider bound-foot slippers, pluck instruments, recite poetry, give birth to sons, and stay forever within the walls of the family compound, the Garden of Fragrant Delights.
How might a woman like Yunxian break free of these traditions, go on to treat women and girls from every level of society, and lead a life of such importance that many of her remedies are still used five centuries later? How might the power of friendship support or complicate these efforts? Lady Tan’s Circle of Women is a captivating story of women helping other women. It is also a triumphant reimagining of the life of a woman who was remarkable in the Ming dynasty and would be considered remarkable today.
This mystery is packed with lavish descriptions of picturesque Provence and lots of drama. The whole murder thing aside, the cover alone makes me wish I could hop on a plane right now! Darcy and her friends Jade, Vix, and Arabelle studied abroad together in college and would spend their weekends visiting Darcy’s grandmother, Séraphine, at her chateau in Provence. Twenty years later, Séraphine invites them all back for one last party for Jade’s fortieth birthday. Despite their deep bonds, each of the women has her own reason for accepting this invitation, but before Séraphine is able to tell them the truth, she is found brutally murdered. Reeling from her grandmother's death, Darcy and her friends search for answers. But how well do they really know each other? As secrets are revealed and blames are placed, someone beings posting their intimate moments on Instagram. With the killer stalking their every move, they’ll quickly learn that there is more than one secret worth killing for at the chateau.
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A dream girls trip to a luxurious French chateau devolves into a deadly nightmare of secrets and murder in this stylish, twisty thriller for fans of Lucy Foley, Ruth Ware, and Lisa Jewell.
Welcome to picturesque Provence, where the Lady of the Chateau, Séraphine Demargelasse, has opened its elegant doors to her granddaughter Darcy and three friends. Twenty years earlier, the four girlfriends studied abroad together in France and visited the old woman on the weekends, creating the group’s deep bond. But why this sudden invitation?
Amid winery tours, market visits, and fancy dinners overlooking olive groves and lavender fields, it becomes clear that each woman has a hidden reason for returning to the estate after all these years. Then, following a wild evening’s celebration, Séraphine is found brutally murdered.
In the midst of this shocking crime, a sinister Instagram account pops up, exposing snapshots from the friends’ intimate moments at the chateau, while threatening to reveal more.
As they race to uncover who murdered Séraphine—and is now stalking them—the friends begin to suspect each other. Because the chateau houses many secrets…several worth killing for.
This epic love story from the author of THE SEVEN HUSBANDS OF EVELYN HUGO follows one woman as she is forced to choose between the two men she loves. Emma is in her twenties when she marries her high school sweetheart, Jesse, and begins a life of adventure with him. But when Jesse’s helicopter disappears over the Pacific, it seems he’s gone forever. Years later, Emma moves home and reconnects with Sam, an old friend. After their engagement, Emma discovers that Jesse is still alive; now Emma must choose who she loves and which life she wants to lead.
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Alice Hoffman’s THE INVISIBLE HOUR illustrates the power of books to captivate us, embed us into alternate universes, and help us transcend even the most difficult challenges. Ivy is born into a life of isolation after her mother sees a restrictive commune as the only path to survival for both her and her unborn child. The commune’s tyrannical leader, who is also Ivy’s adopted father, deems books evil, but Ivy is naturally drawn to the written word and finds a way to consume all the reading material she can possibly sneak past his watchful eye. She specifically finds solace in the words of Nathaniel Hawthorne, creating a powerful connection that could make or break both. Ivy is the perfect example of a heroine, born into a life of oppression, who yet finds a way to liberate herself and embrace true independence while surmounting endless challenges. Her story underlines how libraries serve as sanctuaries and inspiration for the disenfranchised and how we can all be transformed and enchanted through literature.
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From the beloved New York Times bestselling author of The Marriage of Opposites and the Practical Magic series comes an enchanting novel about love, heartbreak, self-discovery, and the enduring magic of books.
One brilliant June day when Mia Jacob can no longer see a way to survive, the power of words saves her. The Scarlet Letter was written almost two hundred years earlier, but it seems to tell the story of Mia’s mother, Ivy, and their life inside the Community—an oppressive cult in western Massachusetts where contact with the outside world is forbidden, and books are considered evil. But how could this be? How could Nathaniel Hawthorne have so perfectly captured the pain and loss that Mia carries inside her?
Through a journey of heartbreak, love, and time, Mia must abandon the rules she was raised with at the Community. As she does, she realizes that reading can transport you to other worlds or bring them to you, and that readers and writers affect one another in mysterious ways. She learns that time is more fluid than she can imagine, and that love is stronger than any chains that bind you.
As a girl Mia fell in love with a book. Now as a young woman she falls in love with a brilliant writer as she makes her way back in time. But what if Nathaniel Hawthorne never wrote The Scarlet Letter? And what if Mia Jacob never found it on the day she planned to die?
Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote: “A single dream is more powerful than a thousand realities.”
This is the story of one woman’s dream. For a little while it came true.
The exclusive cruise liner RMS Atlantica in Will Dean’s THE LAST ONE is the perfect place to settle in for some deadly intrigue on the high seas. Caz was hoping to start her life with her new love, Pete, with a dream vacation, but after one magical night aboard the ship, Pete disappears. What’s worse, when she exits the cabin in search of him . . . she finds the entire cruise liner empty. With no crew aboard and the Atlantica full steam ahead, Caz must unravel the mystery of the missing passengers and find a way to extract herself safely. You’re going to want to hold on tight.
An unputdownable locked-room thriller about family, trust, and survival from the acclaimed author of the “utterly thrilling” (Lisa Jewell, #1 New York Times bestselling author) First Born.
When Caz steps onboard the exclusive cruise liner RMS Atlantica, it’s the start of a vacation of a lifetime with her new love, Pete. On their first night they explore the ship, eat, dance, make friends, but when Caz wakes the next morning, Pete is missing.
And when she walks out into the corridor, all the cabin doors are open. To her horror, she soon realizes that the ship is completely empty. No passengers, no crew, nobody but her. The Atlantica is steaming into the mid-Atlantic and Caz is the only person on board. But that’s just the beginning of the terrifying journey she finds herself trapped on in this white-knuckled mystery.
It makes sense that Brinda Charry’s THE EAST INDIAN is such an achievement worthy of comparison to literary greats. The author is a Shakespeare scholar herself, but what makes her U.S. debut so Dickensian is the picaresque journey of her main character. Tony is only eleven when his mother dies in their native India. Left alone, a family friend secures him passage to London where he finds work on the docks and spends his free time watching performances of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. That is until he’s kidnapped and taken to colonial Virginia where he’s forced into indentured servitude, working tobacco fields for a series of cruel masters. Despite his position in life, Tony is sustained by the relationships he forms while on the plantation. And, much to the reader's delight, his entire life is rich with hijinks and humor—to balance out the tragedy of it all. A vivid, coming-of-age story, THE EAST INDIAN has all the Dickensian elements to make this novel a bona fide classic.
Inspired by a historical figure, an exhilarating debut novel about the first native of the Indian subcontinent to arrive in Colonial America—for readers of Esi Edugyan and Yaa Gyasi.
Meet Tony: insatiably curious, deeply compassionate, with a unique perspective on every scene he encounters. Kidnapped and transported to the New World after traveling from the British East India Company’s outpost on the Coromandel Coast to the teeming streets of London, young Tony finds himself in Jamestown, Virginia, where he and his fellow indentured servants—boys like himself, men from Africa, a mad woman from London—must work the tobacco plantations. Orphaned and afraid, Tony initially longs for home. But as he adjusts to his new environment, finding companionship and even love, he can envision a life for himself after servitude. His dream: to become a medicine man, or a physician’s assistant, an expert on roots and herbs, a dispenser of healing compounds.
Like the play that captivates him—Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream—Tony’s life is rich with oddities and hijinks, humor and tragedy. Set during the early days of English colonization in Jamestown, before servitude calcified into racialized slavery, The East Indian gives authentic voice to an otherwise unknown historic figure and brings the world he would have encountered to vivid life. In this coming-of-age tale, narrated by a most memorable literary rascal, Charry conjures a young character sure to be beloved by readers for years to come.
To say Wini has been having a rough time would be an understatement. Her fifteen-year marriage is over, her brother has died, and her job is actively crushing her soul. So, when her friends offer to take her away for a little peace and quiet in the wilderness, who is she to say no? Well, maybe she should have because the women end up trapped, only to be saved by some not-so-good Samaritans. Fast-paced and full of drama, THE RIVER AT NIGHT is sure to make you feel like you’re careening down white-water rapids.
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A “raw, relentless, and heart-poundingly real” (Ruth Ware, New York Times bestselling author) thriller set against the harsh beauty of the Maine wilderness, The River at Night charts the journey of four friends as they fight to survive the aftermath of a white water rafting accident.
Winifred Allen needs a vacation.
Stifled by a soul-crushing job, devastated by the death of her beloved brother, and lonely after the end of a fifteen-year marriage, Wini is feeling vulnerable. So when her three best friends insist on a high-octane getaway for their annual girls’ trip, she signs on, despite her misgivings.
What starts out as an invigorating hiking and rafting excursion in the remote Allagash Wilderness soon becomes an all-too-real nightmare; a freak accident leaves the women stranded, separating them from their raft and everything they need to survive. When night descends, a fire on the mountainside lures them to a ramshackle camp that appears to be their lifeline. But as Wini and her friends grasp the true intent of their supposed saviors, long buried secrets emerge and lifelong allegiances are put to the test. To survive, Wini must reach beyond the world she knows to harness an inner strength she never knew she possessed.
With intimately observed characters and visceral prose, The River at Night “will leave you gasping, your heart racing, eyes peering over your shoulder to see what follows from behind” (Mary Kubica, New York Times bestselling author). This is a dark exploration of creatures—both friend and foe—that you won’t soon forget.
In MRS. EVERYTHING, Jennifer Weiner follows the lives of two sisters from their cookie-cutter 1950s home to the existential chaos of our present day. Jo, the uncompromising intellectual, emerges from the upheaval of the 60s and 70s with a conservative, suburban life. Meanwhile, her girlish, traditional sister still hasn’t left the counterculture of the 60s behind. Witty, ambitious, and moving, Weiner’s novel will appeal to generations of readers as it explores the power of expectation versus reality in an ever-changing world.
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In this instant New York Times bestseller and “multigenerational narrative that’s nothing short of brilliant” (People), two sisters’ lives from the 1950s to the present are explored as they struggle to find their places—and be true to themselves—in a rapidly evolving world from #1 New York Times bestselling author Jennifer Weiner.
Jo and Bethie Kaufman were born into a world full of promise.
Growing up in 1950s Detroit, they live in a perfect “Dick and Jane” house, where their roles in the family are clearly defined. Jo is the tomboy, the bookish rebel with a passion to make the world more fair; Bethie is the pretty, feminine good girl, a would-be star who enjoys the power her beauty confers and dreams of a traditional life.
But the truth ends up looking different from what the girls imagined. Jo and Bethie survive traumas and tragedies. As their lives unfold against the background of free love and Vietnam, Woodstock and women’s lib, Bethie becomes an adventure-loving wild child who dives headlong into the counterculture and is up for anything (except settling down). Meanwhile, Jo becomes a proper young mother in Connecticut, a witness to the changing world instead of a participant. Neither woman inhabits the world she dreams of, nor has a life that feels authentic or brings her joy. Is it too late for the women to finally stake a claim on happily ever after?
In “her most sprawling and intensely personal novel to date” (Entertainment Weekly), Jennifer Weiner tells a “simply unputdownable” (Good Housekeeping) story of two sisters who, with their different dreams and different paths, offer answers to the question: How should a woman be in the world?
Nuclear fallout has left behind a ravaged US landscape where monstrous creatures are always a threat. Amongst the devastation, three survivors—a woman who discovers a mysterious artifact in the wreckage, an ex-wrestler fighting for survival in Nebraska gas station, and a young girl with a world-saving gift—find their paths inextricably linked as an ancient force set on finishing off what is left of humanity begins recruiting an army. Robert McCammon’s post-apocalyptic epic is a thrilling and disturbing page-turner, one of those long books that’s guaranteed to feel short.
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Nominated as one of America’s best-loved novels by PBS’s The Great American Read.
New York Times bestselling author Robert McCammon’s prescient and astonishing vision of a post-apocalyptic United States comes to life in this classic epic of terror and renewal.
Facing down an unprecedented malevolent enemy, the US government responds with a nuclear attack. Soon, America as it was is gone forever, and now every citizen—from the president of the United States to the homeless on the streets of New York City—will fight to stay alive. In a wasteland born of rage and fear, populated by monstrous creatures and marauding armies, Earth’s last survivors are drawn into the final battle between good and evil, which will decide the fate of humanity: Sister, who discovers a strange and transformative glass artifact in the destroyed Manhattan streets…Joshua Hutchins, the pro wrestler who takes refuge from the nuclear fallout at a Nebraska gas station...and Swan, a young girl possessing special powers, who travels alongside Josh to a Midwest town where healing and recovery can begin with her extraordinary gifts. But the ancient force behind the world’s devastation is scouring the walking wounded for recruits to build its relentless army, beginning with Swan herself…
Whether it’s Serial, Inventing Anna, or Snapped, we’ve all been enraptured by true crime at some point over the past decade. The genre has had a huge resurgence and Lisa Jewell’s newest thriller, NONE OF THIS IS TRUE, takes on this phenomenon. Popular true crime podcaster Alix Summer is out celebrating her birthday when she meets her birthday twin, an unassuming woman named Josie Fair. Josie claims she’d be a compelling subject for Alix’s podcast and quickly intertwines herself into Alix’s life. It isn’t until Josie disappears without a trace that Alix realizes her life is in danger, and that she has become the subject of her podcast rather than Josie. It’s up to her to solve the mystery before it becomes a tragedy. I know I’m going to read this in one night and not just because I’ll be too scared to sleep.
Read more of Our 25 Most Anticipated Books of Summer 2023
From the #1 New York Times bestselling author known for her “superb pacing, twisted characters, and captivating prose” (BuzzFeed), Lisa Jewell returns with a scintillating new psychological thriller about a woman who finds herself the subject of her own popular true crime podcast.
Celebrating her forty-fifth birthday at her local pub, popular podcaster Alix Summer crosses paths with an unassuming woman called Josie Fair. Josie, it turns out, is also celebrating her forty-fifth birthday. They are, in fact, birthday twins.
A few days later, Alix and Josie bump into each other again, this time outside Alix’s children’s school. Josie has been listening to Alix’s podcasts and thinks she might be an interesting subject for her series. She is, she tells Alix, on the cusp of great changes in her life.
Josie’s life appears to be strange and complicated, and although Alix finds her unsettling, she can’t quite resist the temptation to keep making the podcast. Slowly she starts to realize that Josie has been hiding some very dark secrets, and before she knows it, Josie has inveigled her way into Alix’s life—and into her home.
But, as quickly as she arrived, Josie disappears. Only then does Alix discover that Josie has left a terrible and terrifying legacy in her wake, and that Alix has become the subject of her own true crime podcast, with her life and her family’s lives under mortal threat.
Who is Josie Fair? And what has she done?
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