Our TBRs might be towering, but there’s always room for more—especially if that one is a fiction favorite that has long enthralled readers and rocked the literary scene, influencing generations and sparking endless discussions. Whether it’s the innovative storytelling, unforgettable characters, or the bold ideas they present, these books have earned their status as must-reads. So, if you’re looking to be part of the conversation or just hunting for your next great read, we’ve got you covered. Here are the influential novels that continue to resonate, impress, and inspire.
In Jesmyn Ward's National Book Award-winning novel, thirteen-year-old Jojo navigates his understanding of manhood through the lens of his Black grandfather, Pop, and other male figures, including his absent White father and the memories of his deceased uncle. His mother, Leonie, struggles with her own demons and inconsistent presence in his life. As they journey to Parchman Farm for the father's release from prison, Jojo encounters the ghost of a dead inmate, intertwining the past's brutal history with his personal quest for identity and understanding in a tale rich with life, grief, and love.
WINNER of the NATIONAL BOOK AWARD and A NEW YORK TIMES TOP 10 BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR
A finalist for the Kirkus Prize, Andrew Carnegie Medal, Aspen Words Literary Prize, and a New York Times bestseller, this majestic, stirring, and widely praised novel from two-time National Book Award winner Jesmyn Ward, the story of a family on a journey through rural Mississippi, is a “tour de force” (O, The Oprah Magazine) and a timeless work of fiction that is destined to become a classic.
Jesmyn Ward’s historic second National Book Award–winner is “perfectly poised for the moment” (The New York Times), an intimate portrait of three generations of a family and an epic tale of hope and struggle. “Ward’s writing throbs with life, grief, and love… this book is the kind that makes you ache to return to it” (Buzzfeed).
Jojo is thirteen years old and trying to understand what it means to be a man. He doesn’t lack in fathers to study, chief among them his Black grandfather, Pop. But there are other men who complicate his understanding: his absent White father, Michael, who is being released from prison; his absent White grandfather, Big Joseph, who won’t acknowledge his existence; and the memories of his dead uncle, Given, who died as a teenager.
His mother, Leonie, is an inconsistent presence in his and his toddler sister’s lives. She is an imperfect mother in constant conflict with herself and those around her. She is Black and her children’s father is White. She wants to be a better mother but can’t put her children above her own needs, especially her drug use. Simultaneously tormented and comforted by visions of her dead brother, which only come to her when she’s high, Leonie is embattled in ways that reflect the brutal reality of her circumstances.
When the children’s father is released from prison, Leonie packs her kids and a friend into her car and drives north to the heart of Mississippi and Parchman Farm, the State Penitentiary. At Parchman, there is another thirteen-year-old boy, the ghost of a dead inmate who carries all of the ugly history of the South with him in his wandering. He too has something to teach Jojo about fathers and sons, about legacies, about violence, about love.
Rich with Ward’s distinctive, lyrical language, Sing, Unburied, Sing is a majestic and unforgettable family story and “an odyssey through rural Mississippi’s past and present” (The Philadelphia Inquirer).
Eilis Lacey, growing up in a small Irish town post-World War II, embarks on a life-altering journey when a Brooklyn priest sponsors her move to America. After leaving her family behind, she starts anew with a job at a bustling department store and unexpectedly finds herself falling for Tony, a charming man with a passion for the Dodgers and his large Italian family. Just as her new life starts to take shape and her heart settles, a tragic update from back home in Ireland looms over her newfound happiness, challenging the bright future she's started to build.
Acclaimed character actress Saoirse Ronan takes center stage as Eilis Lacey, a young woman who abandons small-town Ireland and the comfort of her mother's home for the anonymous shores of New York City. In Brooklyn, she finds a city in flux—a city where immigrants from Ireland and Poland live amongst Jewish and black communities—and just as she is beginning to fall in love with a young man, devastating news from Ireland threatens the promise of her new life.
Release Date: November 6, 2015
In Stephen King's classic MISERY, successful novelist Paul Sheldon meets his biggest fan, Annie Wilkes, after a car crash leaves him at her mercy. What begins as grateful recovery in her secluded home spirals into a terrifying captivity when Annie, a deranged nurse, demands Paul write a novel to her liking. Trapped by his injuries and Annie's increasing violence, Paul engages in a desperate psychological battle to save his life and sanity, realizing that escaping the twisted world of his number one fan is a matter of life and death in this chilling tale of obsession and suspense.
The #1 national bestseller about a famous novelist held hostage by his “number one fan” and suffering a frightening case of writer’s block—that could prove fatal. One of “Stephen King’s best…genuinely scary” (USA TODAY).Paul Sheldon is a bestselling novelist who has finally met his number one fan. Her name is Annie Wilkes, and she is more than a rabid reader—she is Paul’s nurse, tending his shattered body after an automobile accident. But she is also furious that the author has killed off her favorite character in his latest book. Annie becomes his captor, keeping him prisoner in her isolated house. Annie wants Paul to write a book that brings Misery back to life—just for her. She has a lot of ways to spur him on. One is a needle. Another is an axe. And if they don’t work, she can get really nasty. “Terrifying” (San Francisco Chronicle), “dazzlingly well-written” (The Indianapolis Star), and “truly gripping” (Publishers Weekly), Misery is “classic Stephen King...full of twists and turns and mounting suspense” (The Boston Globe).
THE TIME TRAVELER’S WIFE unfolds the unconventional romance between Clare, an artist, and Henry, a librarian with a rare genetic disorder causing him to unpredictably time travel. Their love transcends time and space, with Clare meeting younger and older versions of Henry throughout her life. The novel navigates their struggle to lead a normal life amidst the unpredictability of time travel, the joys of their passionate love, and the heartache of inevitable separations and dangerous experiences. It's a poignant exploration of love, loss, and the enduring bond that withstands the tests of time.
“I love you, always. Time is nothing.”
A dazzling novel in the most untraditional fashion, this is the remarkable story of Henry DeTamble, a dashing, adventuresome librarian who travels involuntarily through time, and Clare Abshire, an artist whose life takes a natural sequential course. Henry and Clare’s passionate love affair endures across a sea of time and captures the two lovers in an impossibly romantic trap, and it is Audrey Niffenegger’s cinematic storytelling that makes the novel’s unconventional chronology so vibrantly triumphant.
Made iconic by just how much its emotional storyline impacts readers, IT ENDS WITH US follows Lily Bloom as she navigates the complexities of first love and the cycle of abuse in a poignant story of resilience and courage. After a tumultuous childhood, Lily meets Ryle Kincaid, a neurosurgeon who challenges her no-dating rule. As they fall deeply in love, Lily's past reemerges, and she finds herself caught between her new relationship and unresolved feelings for Atlas, her first love. The novel delves deep into the heartache of abusive relationships, the difficulty of breaking patterns, and the strength required to pursue a better future, making it a profound narrative about the power of hope and inner strength.
In this “brave and heartbreaking novel that digs its claws into you and doesn’t let go, long after you’ve finished it” (Anna Todd, New York Times bestselling author) from the #1 New York Times bestselling author of All Your Perfects, a workaholic with a too-good-to-be-true romance can’t stop thinking about her first love.
Lily hasn’t always had it easy, but that’s never stopped her from working hard for the life she wants. She’s come a long way from the small town where she grew up—she graduated from college, moved to Boston, and started her own business. And when she feels a spark with a gorgeous neurosurgeon named Ryle Kincaid, everything in Lily’s life seems too good to be true.
Ryle is assertive, stubborn, maybe even a little arrogant. He’s also sensitive, brilliant, and has a total soft spot for Lily. And the way he looks in scrubs certainly doesn’t hurt. Lily can’t get him out of her head. But Ryle’s complete aversion to relationships is disturbing. Even as Lily finds herself becoming the exception to his “no dating” rule, she can’t help but wonder what made him that way in the first place.
As questions about her new relationship overwhelm her, so do thoughts of Atlas Corrigan—her first love and a link to the past she left behind. He was her kindred spirit, her protector. When Atlas suddenly reappears, everything Lily has built with Ryle is threatened.
An honest, evocative, and tender novel, It Ends with Us is “a glorious and touching read, a forever keeper. The kind of book that gets handed down” (USA TODAY).
The lives of a blind French girl, Marie-Laure, and a German boy, Werner, intersect amidst the devastation of World War II. Marie-Laure, who flees to the walled citadel of Saint-Malo with her father, and Werner, a young soldier tasked with using his technical skills to track the resistance, both navigate the horrors of the war while trying to maintain their humanity. Their stories weave a tapestry of courage, survival, and the enduring power of the human spirit against the backdrop of the war's brutal landscape. ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE illuminates the ways, against all odds, people try to be good to one another.
Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, a New York Times Book Review Top Ten Book, National Book Award finalist, more than two and a half years on the New York Times bestseller list
From the highly acclaimed, multiple award-winning Anthony Doerr, the stunningly beautiful instant New York Times bestseller about a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II.
Marie-Laure lives in Paris near the Museum of Natural History, where her father works. When she is twelve, the Nazis occupy Paris and father and daughter flee to the walled citadel of Saint-Malo, where Marie-Laure’s reclusive great uncle lives in a tall house by the sea. With them they carry what might be the museum’s most valuable and dangerous jewel.
In a mining town in Germany, Werner Pfennig, an orphan, grows up with his younger sister, enchanted by a crude radio they find that brings them news and stories from places they have never seen or imagined. Werner becomes an expert at building and fixing these crucial new instruments and is enlisted to use his talent to track down the resistance. Deftly interweaving the lives of Marie-Laure and Werner, Doerr illuminates the ways, against all odds, people try to be good to one another.
Doerr’s “stunning sense of physical detail and gorgeous metaphors” (San Francisco Chronicle) are dazzling. Ten years in the writing, a National Book Award finalist, All the Light We Cannot See is a magnificent, deeply moving novel from a writer “whose sentences never fail to thrill” (Los Angeles Times).
MY SISTER’S KEEPER follows Anna Fitzgerald, born as a genetic match to save her older sister Kate, who suffers from leukemia. As Anna grows up, she becomes a donor for the numerous surgeries and transfusions required to keep her sister alive. However, as a teenager, Anna makes a life-changing decision to sue her parents for medical emancipation, sparking a controversial legal battle. The story delves deeply into the ethics of parental choices, the complexities of sibling bonds, and the lengths one will go to save a loved one. Told from multiple perspectives, the novel is a poignant exploration of family, love, and the unforeseen consequences of our choices.
In this emotionally riveting story, Jodi Picoult tackles the controversial subject of what it means to be a good parent and a good sister with keen insight and grace. MY SISTER’S KEEPER portrays a family is torn apart by conflicting needs between two daughters.
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THE HOUSE OF THE SPIRITS is a captivating family saga that stretches over decades, chronicling the lives of the Trueba family, led by the patriarch Esteban. His volatile desires and political ambitions are tempered by the clairvoyant abilities of his wife, Clara. The story unfolds against the backdrop of a post-colonial Chile, weaving in elements of magical realism to depict the personal and political realms that intertwine within the household. As generations pass, the family’s personal struggles mirror the societal turmoil of the country, exploring themes of love, power, and redemption. This deeply engrossing novel is a testament to the enduring spirit of the characters as they face adversity and seek their place in a rapidly changing world.
“It was an enormous pleasure for me to reread this book three decades after it first made its mark on me. I found myself still enraptured by the words of these women, still dazzled by the magic potion that is Isabel Allende’s gift for storytelling. And as I reached the final page, I smiled in wonderment at the forces that led me to where I am today, and was thankful for the reminder that our future is written in the stars.”
ARE YOU THERE GOD? IT’S ME, MARGARET. tells a touching coming-of-age story that resonates with the hearts of readers navigating the perplexing journey into adolescence. Margaret Simon, a sixth-grader, faces the universal struggles of growing up: from fitting in at a new school, to dealing with her parents' differing religious backgrounds, and the anxieties of impending puberty. She has private conversations with God, questioning everything from faith to her changing body. Blume's honest portrayal of young adult issues, such as self-identity, religion, and the yearning for acceptance, has made this novel a cherished guide and companion for young readers experiencing their own journey of discovery and growth.
THE GREAT GATSBY is a luminous and cautionary tale of the American Dream set in the roaring twenties. The novel follows the enigmatic millionaire Jay Gatsby, who finds himself obsessed with the elusive Daisy Buchanan, his former love, amidst the decadence and moral decay of high society. Narrated by Gatsby's neighbor, Nick Carraway, the story unfolds the tragic consequences of Gatsby's all-consuming passion and the hollow pursuit of wealth and status. Fitzgerald masterfully depicts the glamour and grim emptiness of the era, creating a powerful critique of materialism and the American dream's corruption.
Some consider it “the great American novel.” The story of the fabulously wealthy Jay Gatsby and his powerful love for the beautiful Daisy Buchanan is an exquisitely crafted tale that has been essential reading since it was published.
Read the full review here.
Born into a life of luxury and street-smart savvy, Winter Santiaga, the daughter of a Brooklyn drug kingpin, uses her wits, charm, and ruthless ambition to maintain her high status after her father's empire falls. As she navigates the harsh realities of the streets, prison, and poverty, Winter is determined to regain her position at the top by any means necessary. This raw and unflinching novel delves deep into the dark underbelly of inner-city life, exploring themes of survival, the consequences of choices, and the relentless pursuit of power. Souljah's powerful storytelling and unforgettable characters make THE COLDEST WINTER EVER a groundbreaking tale in urban fiction.
In THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER readers enter the mind of Charlie, a shy and introspective teen, through intimate letters he writes to an anonymous friend. Set in the early 1990s, Charlie navigates the confusing realms of high school, family troubles, and budding friendships while dealing with the emotional turbulence of adolescence. He finds solace and chaos in equal measure in his relationships with seniors Sam and Patrick, exploring love, music, and the thrill of living on the edge. As Charlie confronts the shadows of his past and the realities of his present, the novel poignantly explores themes of mental health, sexuality, and the poignant journey of self-discovery.
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