The best thing about a book is its potential. Between two covers, there are infinite possibilities waiting for you to uncover. Some books will make you laugh, others will make you cry, but a special few will contain words and ideas so powerful that they’ll change your heart—and feel so real that you’ll want to hold them close for a moment afterward. So if you’re looking for a deeply moving read that may just compel you to forget the book isn’t a living, breathing person right beside you, here are ten books you should be sure to add to your list.
Imagine you marry the love of your life only to find out, within the first year of marriage, that they are going to turn into a shark. Not a metaphorical shark, but literally a living-in-the-ocean great white shark. SHARK HEART takes this seemingly ridiculous premise and breaks down every agonizing and heartbreaking moment in the unwilling dissolution of a marriage. Lewis, who will soon be a shark, deals with his unfulfilled dreams while Wren, his wife, deals with repressed trauma from her childhood as she faces an uncertain future. As lovely as it is sad, SHARK HEART will have you question what you know about love.
A gorgeous debut novel of marriage, motherhood, metamorphosis, and letting go, this intergenerational love story begins with newlyweds Wren and her husband, Lewis—a man who, over the course of nine months, transforms into a great white shark.
For Lewis and Wren, their first year of marriage is also their last. A few weeks after their wedding, Lewis receives a rare diagnosis. He will retain most of his consciousness, memories, and intellect, but his physical body will gradually turn into a great white shark. As Lewis develops the features and impulses of one of the most predatory creatures in the ocean, his complicated artist’s heart struggles to make peace with his unfulfilled dreams.
At first, Wren internally resists her husband’s fate. Is there a way for them to be together after Lewis changes? Then, a glimpse of Lewis’s developing carnivorous nature activates long-repressed memories for Wren, whose story vacillates between her childhood living on a houseboat in Oklahoma, her time with a college ex-girlfriend, and her unusual friendship with a woman pregnant with twin birds. Woven throughout this bold novel is the story of Wren’s mother, Angela, who becomes pregnant with Wren at fifteen in an abusive relationship amidst her parents’ crumbling marriage. In the present, all of Wren’s grief eventually collides, and she is forced to make an impossible choice.
A sweeping love story that is at once lyrical and funny, airy and visceral, Shark Heart is an unforgettable, gorgeous novel about life’s perennial questions, the fragility of memories, finding joy amidst grief, and creating a meaningful life. This daring debut marks the arrival of a wildly talented new writer abounding with originality, humor, and heart.
Losing a loved one is hard, but losing the glue that holds a family together has even more devastating consequences. When matriarch Orquídea Divina invites her far-flung family to come to her funeral, they come to celebrate her life and mourn her strange and untimely death. Seven years pass, and family members Marimar, Rey, and Rhiannon start to realize their potential, taking heart in the lessons Orquídea taught them, all while a killer looks to cut short the family line. THE INHERITANCE OF ORIQUÍDEA DIVINA delves into the complex relationships that make up a family, so much so that you’ll feel like a part of this quirky, bizarre clan by the time the book is through.
Perfect for fans of Alice Hoffman, Isabel Allende, and Sarah Addison Allen, a family searches for the truth hidden in their past in this “expertly woven tale of family power, threaded with as much mystery as magic” (V.E. Schwab, #1 New York Times bestselling author).
The Montoyas are used to a life without explanations. They know better than to ask why the pantry never seems to run low, or why their matriarch won’t ever leave their home in Four Rivers—not for graduations, weddings, or baptisms. But when Orquídea Divina invites them to her funeral and to collect their inheritance, they hope to learn the secrets that she has held onto so tightly their whole lives. Instead, Orquídea is transformed into a ceiba tree, leaving them with more questions than answers.
Seven years later, her gifts have manifested in different ways for Marimar, Rey, and Rhiannon, granting them unexpected blessings and powers. But soon, a hidden figure begins to tear through their family tree, picking them off one by one as it seeks to destroy Orquídea’s line. Determined to save what’s left of their family and uncover the truth behind their inheritance, her descendants travel to Ecuador—to the place where Orquídea buried her secrets and broken promises and never looked back.
Alternating between Orquídea’s past and her descendants’ present, The Inheritance of Orquídea Divina is a “spellbinding tale, both timeless and fresh, that will stay with you long after you’ve turned the last page. Prepare to fall in love” (Kim Liggett, New York Times bestselling author).
Often we read stories of kids with imaginary friends and how they outgrow them, but when is the last time you read a story from the perspective of the imaginary friend? Budo’s mission in life is to protect Max, a young boy on the autism spectrum, from the rough and cruel world around him, having done so for five years. But as Max continues to grow and get new support systems, Budo worries that soon he might be entirely forgotten. If you think you’d never cry over an imaginary person, think again. Because MEMOIRS OF AN IMAGINARY FRIEND will have you bawling.
Budo is five years old and the imaginary friend of Max. Max is eight years old and on the autism spectrum—it’s Budo’s job to protect Max from the dangerous world he inhabits every day. But can Budo protect Max and also sustain his own existence when Max goes missing? A poignant book about friendship that should be top on the list of anyone who loved the movie "Inside Out."
It’s good to feel loved and appreciated by the people around you, but if you don’t internalize it, it can all feel hollow. For Lucas Goodgame, this comes to a head when his community begins to see him as a hero after a recent tragedy, because he feels undeserving of that title. After a visit from his dead wife (which may or may not be a hallucination), and once the town’s outcast, Eli, starts camping out in his backyard, Lucas begins to come back to himself and helps his community heal and grow. A tale of loss and longing, WE ARE THE LIGHT feels like a literary warm hug, reminding readers it’s okay to need a little help sometimes.
From Matthew Quick, the New York Times bestselling author of The Silver Linings Playbook—made into the Academy Award–winning movie starring Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper—comes a poignant and hopeful novel about a widower who takes in a grieving teenager and inspires a magical revival in their small town.
Lucas Goodgame lives in Majestic, Pennsylvania, a quaint suburb that has been torn apart by a recent tragedy. Everyone in Majestic sees Lucas as a hero—everyone, that is, except Lucas himself. Insisting that his deceased wife, Darcy, visits him every night in the form of an angel, Lucas spends his time writing letters to his former Jungian analyst, Karl. It is only when Eli, an eighteen-year-old young man whom the community has ostracized, begins camping out in Lucas’s backyard that an unlikely alliance takes shape and the two embark on a journey to heal their neighbors and, most importantly, themselves.
From Matthew Quick, whose work has been described by the Boston Herald as “like going to your favorite restaurant. You just know it is going to be good,” We Are the Light is an unforgettable novel about the quicksand of grief and the daily miracle of love. The humorous, soul-baring story of Lucas Goodgame offers an antidote to toxic masculinity and celebrates the healing power of art. In this tale that will stay with you long after the final page is turned, Quick reminds us that life is full of guardian angels.
Happiness can be defined as certain people, beloved objects, or even times of year. But sometimes, happiness can be a place, and for June, Lanier, Daphne, and Mary Stuart, that place is Camp Holly Springs. The four women have deep connections to the camp, with June having opened it after a personal tragedy, and her niece, Daphne, having met her two best friends, Lanier and Mary Stuart, there as a child. But with the camp in danger of closing forever, the four band together to save their beloved campground and discover their own strengths in the process. THE SUMMER OF SONGBIRDS is a love letter to summer nostalgia, enduring friendships, and the power of one’s own convictions in the face of insurmountable odds.
Four women come together to save the summer camp that changed their lives and rediscover themselves in the process in this moving new novel from the New York Times bestselling author of The Wedding Veil and the Peachtree Bluff series.
Nearly thirty years ago, in the wake of a personal tragedy, June Moore bought Camp Holly Springs and turned it into a thriving summer haven for girls. But now, June is in danger of losing the place she has sacrificed everything for, and begins to realize how much she has used the camp to avoid facing difficulties in her life.
June’s niece, Daphne, met her two best friends, Lanier and Mary Stuart, during a fateful summer at camp. They’ve all helped each other through hard things, from heartbreak and loss to substance abuse and unplanned pregnancy, and the three are inseparable even in their thirties. But when attorney Daphne is confronted with a relationship from her past—and a confidential issue at work becomes personal—she is faced with an impossible choice.
Lanier, meanwhile, is struggling with tough decisions of her own. After a run-in with an old flame, she is torn between the commitment she made to her fiancé and the one she made to her first love. And when a big secret comes to light, she finds herself at odds with her best friend…and risks losing the person she loves most.
But in spite of their personal problems, nothing is more important to these songbirds than Camp Holly Springs. When the women learn their childhood oasis is in danger of closing, they band together to save it, sending them on a journey that promises to open the next chapters in their lives.
From an author whose “writing coats your soul with heart” (E! Online), The Summer of Songbirds is a lyrical and unforgettable celebration of female friendship, summertime freedom, and enduring sisterhood—and a love letter to the places and people that make us who we are.
Friendship and family can be found in even the worst of places, including a plantation in the southern United States during the time of slavery. Cato and William are two Stolen (as they refer to themselves) who work on the Placid Hall plantation. There, they deal with unimaginable cruelties of the physical, psychological, and emotional varieties, but also manage to find solidarity, brotherhood, and love. Will they be able to find their freedom, or is their trust about to be misplaced? YONDER is a moving story of hope in the hopeless world, and it will surprise you with its beauty and brutality.
The Water Dancer meets The Prophets in this spare, gripping, and beautifully rendered novel exploring love and friendship among a group of enslaved Black strivers in the mid-19th century.
They call themselves the Stolen. Their owners call them captives. They are taught their captors’ tongues and their beliefs but they have a language and rituals all their own.
In a world that would be allegorical if it weren’t saturated in harsh truths, Cato and William meet at Placid Hall, a plantation in an unspecified part of the American South. Subject to the whims of their tyrannical and eccentric captor, Cannonball Greene, they never know what harm may befall them: inhumane physical toil in the plantation’s quarry by day, a beating by night, or the sale of a loved one at any moment. It’s that cruel practice—the wanton destruction of love, the belief that Black people aren’t even capable of loving—that hurts the most.
It hurts the reserved and stubborn William, who finds himself falling for Margaret, a small but mighty woman with self-possession beyond her years. And it hurts Cato, whose first love, Iris, was sold off with no forewarning. He now finds solace in his hearty band of friends, including William, who is like a brother; Margaret; Little Zander; and Milton, a gifted artist. There is also Pandora, with thick braids and long limbs, whose beauty calls to him.
Their relationships begin to fray when a visiting minister with a mysterious past starts to fill their heads with ideas about independence. He tells them that with freedom comes the right to choose the small things—when to dine, when to begin and end work—as well as the big things, such as whom and how to love. Do they follow the preacher and pursue the unknown? Confined in a landscape marked by deceit and uncertainty, who can they trust?
In an elegant work of monumental imagination that will reorient how we think of the legacy of America’s shameful past, Jabari Asim presents a beautiful, powerful, and elegiac novel that examines intimacy and longing in the quarters while asking a vital question: What would happen if an enslaved person risked everything for love?
There’s something deeply moving about a good memoir, and FROM THE ASHES is one such example. Jesse Thistle and his two brothers are placed with their paternal grandparents, constantly enduring the memory of Jesse’s drug-addicted father. After surviving a rough childhood, becoming homeless, and then becoming addicted to drugs, Jesse reached a point where he had to do the hard work of living or ultimately lose his life. This memoir is harrowing but provides perspective on what it means to choose love and life—and is sure to change both heart and mind on some complicated issues.
This #1 internationally bestselling and award-winning memoir about overcoming trauma, prejudice, and addiction by a Métis-Cree author as he struggles to find a way back to himself and his Indigenous culture is “an illuminating, inside account of homelessness, a study of survival and freedom” (Amanda Lindhout, bestselling coauthor of A House in the Sky).
Abandoned by his parents as a toddler, Jesse Thistle and his two brothers were cut off from all they knew when they were placed in the foster care system. Eventually placed with their paternal grandparents, the children often clashed with their tough-love attitude. Worse, the ghost of Jesse’s drug-addicted father seemed to haunt the memories of every member of the family.
Soon, Jesse succumbed to a self-destructive cycle of drug and alcohol addiction and petty crime, resulting in more than a decade living on and off the streets. Facing struggles many of us cannot even imagine, Jesse knew he would die unless he turned his life around. Through sheer perseverance and newfound love, he managed to find his way back into the loving embrace of his Indigenous culture and family.
Now, in this heart-wrenching and triumphant memoir, Jesse Thistle honestly and fearlessly divulges his painful past, the abuse he endured, and the tragic truth about his parents. An eloquent exploration of the dangerous impact of prejudice and racism, From the Ashes is ultimately a celebration of love and “a story of courage and resilience certain to strike a chord with readers from many backgrounds” (Library Journal).
The love between siblings can be an especially powerful thing (and something we only children can experience only in the pages of a book). For Hazel and Flora, that means creating a private world of magic and fun as they flee their war-ravaged home of London in 1939. But when Flora disappears suddenly, Hazel is full of guilt, thinking it was somehow her fault that her little sister vanished. But things only get more mysterious when, years later, a book appears in shops all about the adventures in the made-up world Hazel and Flora came up with. Is Flora still alive, or is there something else at play? Tragic, heartwarming, with just a touch of mystery, THE SECRET BOOK OF FLORA LEA is the kind of read that feels like a warm cup of tea and a blanket on a rainy night.
When a woman stumbles across a mysterious children’s book, long-held secrets about her missing sister and their childhood spent in the English countryside during World War II are revealed in this “transporting, heartfelt, and atmospheric” (Christina Baker Kline, #1 New York Times bestselling author) novel from the New York Times bestselling author of Surviving Savannah and Becoming Mrs. Lewis.
1939: Fourteen-year-old Hazel and five-year-old Flora evacuate their London home for a rural village to escape the horrors of the Second World War. Living with the Aberdeen family in a charming stone cottage, Hazel distracts her young sister with a fairy tale about a magical land, a secret place they can escape to that is all their own: Whisperwood.
But the unthinkable happens when Flora suddenly vanishes after playing near the banks of the River Thames. Shattered, Hazel blames herself for her sister’s disappearance, carrying the guilt into adulthood.
Twenty years later, Hazel is back in London, ready to move on from her job at a cozy rare bookstore for a career at Sotheby’s. With a cherished boyfriend and an upcoming Paris getaway, Hazel’s future seems set. But her tidy life is turned upside down when she unwraps a package containing a picture book called Whisperwood and the River of Stars. Hazel never told a soul about the storybook world she created just for Flora. Could this book hold the secrets to Flora’s disappearance? Could it be a sign that her beloved sister is still alive after all these years? Or is something sinister at play?
For fans of Kate Morton, Janet Skeslien Charles, and Kristin Hannah, this is a “fantastical” (Jamie Ford, New York Times bestselling author) celebration of sisterhood and the magic of storytelling wrapped up in a “heartrending, captivating tale of family, first love, and fate” (Kristin Harmel, New York Times bestselling author).
There’s that old saying that our elders have much to teach us, but for journalist David Von Drehle, that sentiment is true when it comes to his neighbor Charlie. More than one hundred old, Charlie has lived through some of the most turbulent times in history, including the Great Depression, both world wars, and the technology boom. But despite his age, his words of wisdom, survival, and strength are timeless. THE BOOK OF CHARLIE explores how much has changed and how much has stayed the same, especially when it comes to people.
One of our nation’s most prominent writers finds the truth about how to live a long and happy life in the centenarian next door.
When a veteran Washington journalist moved to Kansas, he met a new neighbor who was more than a century old. Little did he know that he was beginning a long friendship—and a profound lesson in the meaning of life. Charlie White was no ordinary neighbor. Born before radio, Charlie lived long enough to use a smartphone. When a shocking tragedy interrupted his idyllic boyhood, Charlie mastered survival strategies that reflect thousands of years of human wisdom. Thus armored, Charlie’s sense of adventure carried him on an epic journey across the continent, and later found him swinging across bandstands of the Jazz Age, racing aboard ambulances through Depression-era gangster wars, improvising techniques for early open-heart surgery, and cruising the Amazon as a guest of Peru’s president.
David Von Drehle came to understand that Charlie’s resilience and willingness to grow made this remarkable neighbor a master in the art of thriving through times of dramatic change. As a gift to his children, he set out to tell Charlie’s secrets. The Book of Charlie is a gospel of grit—the inspiring story of one man’s journey through a century of upheaval. The history that unfolds through Charlie’s story reminds you that the United States has always been a divided nation, a questing nation, an inventive nation—a nation of Charlies in the rollercoaster pursuit of a good and meaningful life.
Have you just seen a face, you can't forget the time or place where you just met, and she's just the girl for you? Then you might sympathize with Gary Thorn, who had the same thing happen at a bar . . . and yet he didn’t manage to catch her name. All he knows is that she was reading a book called The Clementine Complex. From there, Gary is on the hunt for another chance encounter, but when his friend Brandon also goes missing, things might not be what they appear. Light but profound, THE CLEMENTINE COMPLEX, coming out September 5, is a wonderful read to end the summer.
Bob Mortimer, beloved comedian and #1 Sunday Times (London) bestselling author of the memoir And Away…, returns with a delightfully quirky mystery in the vein of Richard Osman and Nita Prose.
Unremarkable legal assistant Gary Thorn goes for a pint with his coworker Brendan, unaware his life is about to change. There, Gary meets a beautiful woman, but she leaves before he catches her name. All he has to remember her by is the title of the book she was reading: The Clementine Complex. And when Brendan goes missing, too, Gary needs to track down the girl he now calls Clementine to get some answers.
And so begins Gary’s quest, through the estates and pie shops of South London, to find some answers and hopefully, some love and excitement in this page-turning, witty, and oddly sweet story with a cast of unforgettable characters.
Photo credit: iStock / demaerre