The most popular books of June are here! And it’s clear that Ann Patchett’s seal of approval and an all-around craving for summer thrillers had big impacts on this month’s rankings. Check out which recommendations captured readers’ attention the most and which books topped the list.
“HIS FAVORITES is exactly the book for our times. That Kate Walbert has managed to write a novel that is riveting, terrifying, and yet always charmingly buoyant, speaks volumes to how well she understands women. If you’re trying to figure out what’s going on, how these things happen, read this book.”—Ann Patchett
Chris’s Pick #1: I love an isolated thriller—and 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.
Despite being raised in an aristocratic British family, Aleen knows that her calling in life is to work with animals. Too bad that in 1870s Ireland, where she was raised, no woman has ever gone into veterinary science before. Regardless of this fact or her family’s disapproval, Aleen enrolls in the New Veterinary College in Edinburgh under a new name to save her family from embarrassment. And despite the formidable odds she faces as she attempts to break into an all-male profession, Aleen is determined to succeed in this heartwarming and impeccably researched novel.
Once upon a time, New York City was a small town, and in GOLDEN HILL, it comes to vivid life, following a mysterious new arrival carrying a staggering amount of money. Who is he, how did he come by such a sum, and will savvy New Yorkers be willing to do business with him? A sweeping and irresistible portrait of New York City that is both unfamiliar and recognizable.
Read more of 8 Historical Fiction Books Set in Colonial America
A Wall Street Journal Top Ten Fiction Book of 2017 * A Washington Post Notable Fiction Book of the Year * A Seattle Times Favorite Book of 2017 * An NPR Best Book of 2017 * A Kirkus Reviews Best Historical Fiction Book of the Year * A Library Journal Top Historical Fiction Book of the Year * Winner of the Costa First Novel Award, the RSL Ondaatje Prize, and the Desmond Elliott Prize * Winner of the New York City Book Award
“Gorgeously crafted…Spufford's sprawling recreation here is pitch perfect.” —Maureen Corrigan, Fresh Air
“A fast-paced romp that keeps its eyes on the moral conundrums of America.” —The New Yorker
“Delirious storytelling backfilled with this much intelligence is a rare and happy sight.” —The New York Times
“Golden Hill possesses a fluency and immediacy, a feast of the senses…I love this book.” —The Washington Post
The spectacular first novel from acclaimed nonfiction author Francis Spufford follows the adventures of a mysterious young man in mid-eighteenth century Manhattan, thirty years before the American Revolution.
New York, a small town on the tip of Manhattan island, 1746. One rainy evening in November, a handsome young stranger fresh off the boat arrives at a countinghouse door on Golden Hill Street: this is Mr. Smith, amiable, charming, yet strangely determined to keep suspicion shimmering. For in his pocket, he has what seems to be an order for a thousand pounds, a huge sum, and he won’t explain why, or where he comes from, or what he is planning to do in the colonies that requires so much money. Should the New York merchants trust him? Should they risk their credit and refuse to pay? Should they befriend him, seduce him, arrest him; maybe even kill him?
Rich in language and historical perception, yet compulsively readable, Golden Hill is “a remarkable achievement—remarkable, especially, in its intelligent re-creation of the early years of what was to become America’s greatest city” (The Wall Street Journal). Spufford paints an irresistible picture of a New York provokingly different from its later metropolitan self, but already entirely a place where a young man with a fast tongue can invent himself afresh, fall in love—and find a world of trouble. Golden Hill is “immensely pleasurable…Read it for Spufford’s brilliant storytelling, pitch-perfect ear for dialogue, and gift for re-creating a vanished time” (New York Newsday).
“At the risk of sounding hyperbolic, EVERYTHING’S FINE is one of the best novels I’ve read in years. I fell so much in love with Jess (and, to our surprise, with Josh) that I knew I had to acquire this book. Cecilia Rabess’s debut has it all: a one-of a kind character in the form of the brilliant and very funny Jess, who is fine-tuning her moral compass in the midst of one of the most divisive times in our history; a breathtaking romance between polar opposites who we’d never thought we’d root for, but who we truly shed tears (of laughter and of sadness over); and rich social commentary on our polarized times and current culture war. At a time when many of us are in our separate silos, when we can’t imagine having a civil conversation with someone on the opposite side of the political aisle, we were shocked to find the romance at the heart of this novel not only believable, but also heart-shattering. But ultimately, EVERYTHING’S FINE is a smart, hilarious, emotionally resonant look at how much we can (and should) sacrifice for love.” —Carina G., Senior Editor, on Everything’s Fine
“Extraordinarily brave...plain funny as hell, too.” —Zakiya Dalila Harris, New York Times bestselling author of The Other Black Girl
“A subtle, ironic, wise, state-of-the-nation novel, sharp enough to draw blood, hidden inside a moving, intimate, sincere and very real love story--or vice versa.” —Nick Hornby
When Jess lands a job as an analyst at Goldman Sachs, she’s less than thrilled to learn she’ll be on the same team as Josh, her preppy, white, conservative sparring partner from college. Josh loves playing the devil’s advocate and is just…the worst.
But when Jess finds herself the sole Black woman on the floor, overlooked and underestimated, it’s Josh who shows up for her in surprising—if imperfect—ways. Before long, an unlikely friendship—one tinged with undeniable chemistry—forms between the two. A friendship that gradually, and then suddenly, turns into an electrifying romance that shocks them both.
Despite their differences, the force of their attraction propels the relationship forwards, and Jess begins to question whether it’s more important to be happy than right. But then it’s 2016, and the cultural and political landscape shifts underneath them. And Jess, who is just beginning to discover who she is and who she has the right to be, is forced to ask herself what she’s willing to compromise for love and whether, in fact, everything’s fine.
A stunning debut that introduces Cecilia Rabess as a blazing new talent, Everything’s Fine is a painfully funny, poignant, heartfelt novel that doesn’t just ask will they, but…should they?
Chris’s Pick #2: So often my favorite historical fiction is the kind that delves deep into a little-known story—especially one about a remarkable lady. Such is the case in A RIGHT WORTHY WOMAN, the chronicle of the first Black woman to establish and preside over a United States bank. But Maggie Lena Walker is too great a figure to remain a footnote in history, as we come to learn. She grew up in 19th-century Virginia, suffered the loss of her father at age twelve, and became self-sufficient early on, helping her mother and her community. I readily got caught up in the rich detail that Ruth P. Watson provides in depicting Maggie’s dedication to improving her Black community. With intriguing family dynamics thrown in for good measure, this work of historical fiction blew me away and made me wonder why I had never heard of Maggie Lena Walker before. Though, now, I surely won’t forget her.
In the vein of The Engineer’s Wife and Carolina Built, an inspiring novel based on the remarkable true story of Virginia’s Black Wall Street and the indomitable Maggie Lena Walker, the daughter of a formerly enslaved woman who became the first Black woman to establish and preside over a bank in the United States.
Maggie Lena Walker was ambitious and unafraid. Her childhood in 19th-century Virginia helping her mother with her laundry service opened her eyes to the overwhelming discrepancy between the Black residents and her mother’s affluent white clients. She vowed to not only secure the same kind of home and finery for herself, but she would also help others in her community achieve the same.
With her single-minded determination, Maggie buckled down and went from schoolteacher to secretary-treasurer of the Independent Order of St. Luke, founder of a newspaper, a bank, and a department store where Black customers were treated with respect. With the help of influential friends like W.E.B. DuBois and Mary McLeod, she revolutionized Richmond in ways that are still felt today. Now, her rich, full story is revealed in this stirring and intimate novel.
Laura’s Pick: I’ve devoured everything written by Megan Collins since THE WINTER SISTER, which is why I’m so excited for her new book, THICKER THAN WATER, to be released this summer. Julia and Sienna Larkin are not only sisters-in-law—through Sienna’s brother and Julia’s husband, Jason—but they are also business partners and best friends. Julia truly does not know what she would do without Sienna in her life, especially with Jason working longer and longer hours. But when Jason’s boss is found murdered with his lips sewn shut and Jason gets into a car accident that leaves him in a coma, tensions rise between the sisters-in-law as Julia begins to suspect that Jason had a hand in his boss’s death. Certain her protective and caring brother could never hurt someone, Sienna insists they investigate to find the truth. But as the investigation unfolds, Julia and Sienna discover lies and secrets revealing that Jason might not be so innocent.
Two sisters-in-law find themselves at painful odds when the man who connects them—the brother of one, the husband of the other—is accused of a brutal crime in this twisty thriller from the author of the “exceedingly entertaining” (The New York Times) The Family Plot.
Julia and Sienna Larkin are sisters-in-law, connected by Julia’s husband and Sienna’s brother, Jason. More than that, the two are devoted best friends and business partners, believing that theirs is a uniquely unbreakable bond. To Sienna, her protective brother can do no wrong, and although Julia knows he’s not perfect, they’ve built a comfortable life and family together. Recently, Jason has been putting in long hours to secure a promotion at work, so when his boss is found brutally murdered—his lips sewn shut—the Larkins are shocked and unsettled, especially as local gossip swirls.
A few days later, Julia and Sienna’s lives are upended when Jason gets into a car accident and is placed in a medically induced coma. Worse, the police arrive with news that he’s the prime suspect in the murder investigation. With Jason unable to respond—and with Julia and Sienna working to clear his name—the two women find their friendship threatened for the first time: Sienna staunchly maintains her brother’s innocence, but as their investigation uncovers a complicated web of secrets, Julia is less sure she’s willing to defend her husband.
With her signature “moody and atmospheric” (USA TODAY) writing, Megan Collins has crafted a rich, gripping story that explores just how fragile our closest bonds can be.
It’s 1886 and young Eliza Brightwell has just arrived on the Western Australia shore. She’s wary of this place that has drawn her father to it with the promise of pearls. A decade later, Eliza has acclimated to the glamor of her new life; but when her father goes missing on one of his ocean expeditions, Eliza is determined to discover what really happened to him. Rich and expertly researched, MOONLIGHT AND THE PEARLER’S DAUGHTER is an adventure tale with a headstrong woman at its helm.
For readers of The Light Between Oceans and The Island of Sea Women, a “sensitive and compassionate” (The New York Times Book Review) feminist adventure story set against the backdrop of the dangerous pearl diving industry in 19th-century Western Australia, about a young English woman who sets off to uncover the truth about the disappearance of her eccentric father.
Western Australia, 1886. After months at sea, a slow boat makes its passage from London to the shores of Bannin Bay. From the deck, young Eliza Brightwell and her family eye their strange, new home. Here is an unforgiving land where fortune sits patiently at the bottom of the ocean, waiting to be claimed by those brave enough to venture into its depths. An ocean where pearl shells bloom to the size of soup plates, where men are coaxed into unthinkable places and unspeakable acts by the promise of unimaginable riches.
Then years later, the pearl-diving boat captained by Eliza’s eccentric father returns after months at sea—without Eliza’s father on it. Whispers from townsfolk point to mutiny or murder. Headstrong Eliza knows it’s up to her to discover who, or what, is really responsible.
As she searches for the truth, Eliza discovers that beneath the glamourous veneer of the pearling industry, lies a dark underbelly of sweltering, stinking decay. The sun-scorched streets of Bannin Bay, a place she once thought she knew so well, are teeming with corruption, prejudice, and blackmail. Just how far is Eliza willing to push herself in order to solve the mystery of her missing father? And what family secrets will come to haunt her along the way?
An “extraordinarily vivid” (Kelly Rimmer, New York Times bestselling author of The Warsaw Orphan) feminist adventure story based on Lizzie Pook’s deep research into the pearling industry and the era of British colonial rule in Australia, Moonlight and the Pearler’s Daughter is ultimately about the lengths one woman will travel to save her family.
Goes First, a Crow Native woman, is renamed Mary by Abe Farwell, the white fur trader she marries at age sixteen in 1872. On their long trek to his trading post in Canada, Mary learns to love the man she has married, despite discovery of a dark secret from his past. But soon after the winter trading season ends, a group of traders—including a cruel wolfer named Stiller—massacre forty Nakota and take five women hostage. When Farwell won’t go to rescue them, Mary does, launching decades of conflict, not least of which between herself and her husband.
The New York Times bestselling author of the “touching” (The Boston Globe) book club classics The Kitchen House and the “emotionally rewarding” (Booklist) Glory Over Everything returns with a sweeping saga inspired by the true story of Crow Mary—an indigenous woman torn between two worlds in 19th-century North America.
In 1872, sixteen-year-old Goes First, a Crow Native woman, marries Abe Farwell, a white fur trader. He gives her the name Mary, and they set off on the long trip to his trading post in the Cypress Hills of Saskatchewan, Canada. Along the way, she finds a fast friend in a Métis named Jeannie; makes a lifelong enemy in a wolfer named Stiller; and despite learning a dark secret of Farwell’s past, falls in love with her husband.
The winter trading season passes peacefully. Then, on the eve of their return to Montana, a group of drunken whiskey traders slaughters forty Nakota—despite Farwell’s efforts to stop them. Mary, hiding from the hail of bullets, sees the murderers, including Stiller, take five Nakota women back to their fort. She begs Farwell to save them, and when he refuses, Mary takes two guns, creeps into the fort, and saves the women from certain death. Thus, she sets off a whirlwind of colliding cultures that brings out the worst and best in the cast of unforgettable characters and pushes the love between Farwell and Crow Mary to the breaking point.
From an author with a “stirring and uplifting” (David R. Gillham, New York Times bestselling author) voice, Crow Mary sweeps across decades and the landscape of the upper West and Canada, showcasing the beauty of the natural world, while at the same time probing the intimacies of a marriage and one woman’s heart.
“Elizabeth Strout is one of my very favorite writers, so the fact that OH WILLIAM! may well be my favorite of her books is a mathematical equation for joy. The depth, complexity, and love contained in these pages is a miraculous achievement.” –Ann Patchett
Photo credit: iStock / YakobchukOlena