1. Your Blue Is Not My Blue: A Missing Person Memoir by Aspen Matis
Aspen’s and Justin’s paths serendipitously aligned on the Pacific Crest Trail when both were walking from Mexico to Canada, separately and alone—both using thru-hiking in hopes of escaping their pasts. Both sought to redefine themselves beneath the stars. By the time they made it to the snowy Cascade Range of British Columbia—the trail’s end—Aspen and Justin were in love.
Embarking on a new pilgrimage the next summer, they returned to those same mossy mountains where they’d met, and they married. They built a world together, three years of a happy marriage. Until a cold November morning, when, after kissing Aspen goodbye, Justin left to attend the funeral of a close friend.
He never came back. As days became weeks, her husband’s inexplicable absence left Aspen unmoored. Shock, grief, fear, and anger battled for control—but nothing prepared her for the disarming truth. A revelation that would lead Aspen to reassess not only her own life but that of the disappeared as well.
The result is a brave and inspiring memoir of secrets kept and unearthed, of a vanishing that became a gift: a woman’s empowering reclamation of unmitigated purpose in the surreal wake of mystifying loss.
2. Mrs. Lincoln’s Sisters by Jennifer Chiaverini
The New York Times bestselling author of Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker returns to her most famous heroine, Mary Todd Lincoln, in this compelling story of love, loss, and sisterhood rich with history and suspense.
In May 1875, Elizabeth Todd Edwards reels from news that her younger sister Mary, former First Lady and widow of President Abraham Lincoln, has attempted suicide.
Mary’s shocking act followed legal proceedings arranged by her eldest and only surviving son that declared her legally insane. Although they have long been estranged, Elizabeth knows Mary’s tenuous mental health has deteriorated through decades of trauma and loss. Yet is her suicide attempt truly the impulse of a deranged mind, or the desperate act of a sane woman terrified to be committed to an asylum? And—if her sisters can put past grievances aside—is their love powerful enough to save her?
Maternal Elizabeth, peacemaker Frances, envious Ann, and much adored Emilie had always turned to one another in times of joy and heartache, first as children, and later as young wives and mothers. But when Civil War erupted, the conflict that divided a nation shattered their family. The Todd sisters’s fates were bound to their husbands’ choices as some joined the Lincoln administration, others the Confederate Army.
Now, though discord and tragedy have strained their bonds, Elizabeth knows they must come together as sisters to help Mary in her most desperate hour.
3. Exciting Times by Naoise Dolan
An intimate, bracingly intelligent debut novel about a millennial Irish expat who becomes entangled in a love triangle with a male banker and a female lawyerAva moved to Hong Kong to find happiness, but so far, it isn’t working out. Since she left Dublin, she’s been spending her days teaching English to rich children—she’s been assigned the grammar classes because she lacks warmth—and her nights avoiding petulant roommates in her cramped apartment.When Ava befriends Julian, a witty British banker, he offers a shortcut into a lavish life her meager salary could never allow. Ignoring her feminist leanings and her better instincts, Ava finds herself moving into Julian’s apartment, letting him buy her clothes, and, eventually, striking up a sexual relationship with him. When Julian’s job takes him back to London, she stays put, unsure where their relationship stands.Enter Edith. A Hong Kong–born lawyer, striking and ambitious, Edith takes Ava to the theater and leaves her tulips in the hallway. Ava wants to be her—and wants her. Ava has been carefully pretending that Julian is nothing more than an absentee roommate, so when Julian announces that he’s returning to Hong Kong, she faces a fork in the road. Should she return to the easy compatibility of her life with Julian or take a leap into the unknown with Edith?Politically alert, heartbreakingly raw, and dryly funny, Exciting Times is thrillingly attuned to the great freedoms and greater uncertainties of modern love. In stylish, uncluttered prose, Naoise Dolan dissects the personal and financial transactions that make up a life—and announces herself as a singular new voice.
4. Parakeet by Marie-Helene Bertino
The week of her wedding, The Bride is visited by a bird she recognizes as her dead grandmother because of the cornflower blue line beneath her eyes, her dubious expression, and the way she asks: What is the Internet?
Her grandmother is a parakeet. She says not to get married. She says: Go and find your brother.
In the days that follow, The Bride’s march to the altar becomes a wild and increasingly fragmented, unstable journey that bends toward the surreal and forces her to confront matters long buried.
A novel that does justice to the hectic confusion of becoming a woman today, Parakeet asks and begins to answer the essential questions. How do our memories make, cage, and free us? How do we honor our experiences and still become our strongest, truest selves? Who are we responsible for, what do we owe them, and how do we allow them to change?
Urgent, strange, warm-hearted, and sly, Parakeet is ribboned with joy, fear, and an inextricable thread of real love. It is a startling, unforgettable, life-embracing exploration of self and connection.
5. The Guest List by Lucy Foley
Set on a remote island off the Irish coast, this is one guest list no one would want to be on, just as no one would have wanted an invitation to the New Year’s Eve party in Foley’s previous novel, The Hunting Party . Lives unravel amid the revelry on an eerie and remote island as family and friends assemble for a glam wedding in an updated Murder on the Orient Express. Each of the principal characters has a reason to want one of their number dead, there are old secrets, and one of them is murdered.
6. The Next Great Migration: The Beauty and Terror of Life on the Move by Sonia Shah
The news today is full of stories of dislocated people on the move. Wild species, too, are escaping warming seas and desiccated lands, creeping, swimming, and flying in a mass exodus from their past habitats. News media presents this scrambling of the planet’s migration patterns as unprecedented, provoking fears of the spread of disease and conflict and waves of anxiety across the Western world. On both sides of the Atlantic, experts issue alarmed predictions of millions of invading aliens, unstoppable as an advancing tsunami, and countries respond by electing anti-immigration leaders who slam closed borders that were historically porous.
But the science and history of migration in animals, plants, and humans tell a different story. Far from being a disruptive behavior to be quelled at any cost, migration is an ancient and lifesaving response to environmental change, a biological imperative as necessary as breathing. Climate changes triggered the first human migrations out of Africa. Falling sea levels allowed our passage across the Bering Sea. Unhampered by barbed wire, migration allowed our ancestors to people the planet, catapulting us into the highest reaches of the Himalayan mountains and the most remote islands of the Pacific, creating and disseminating the biological, cultural, and social diversity that ecosystems and societies depend upon. In other words, migration is not the crisis–it is the solution.
Conclusively tracking the history of misinformation from the 18th century through today’s anti-immigration policies, The Next Great Migration makes the case for a future in which migration is not a source of fear, but of hope.
7. A Burning by Megha Majumdar
Jivan is a Muslim girl from the slums, determined to move up in life, who is accused of executing a terrorist attack on a train because of a careless comment on Facebook. PT Sir is an opportunistic gym teacher who hitches his aspirations to a right-wing political party, and finds that his own ascent becomes linked to Jivan’s fall. Lovely–an irresistible outcast whose exuberant voice and dreams of glory fill the novel with warmth and hope and humor–has the alibi that can set Jivan free, but it will cost her everything she holds dear.
Taut, symphonic, propulsive, and riveting from its opening lines, A Burning has the force of an epic while being so masterfully compressed it can be read in a single sitting. Majumdar writes with dazzling assurance at a breakneck pace on complex themes that read here as the components of a thriller: class, fate, corruption, justice, and what it feels like to face profound obstacles and yet nurture big dreams in a country spinning toward extremism. An extraordinary debut.
8. The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett
From The New York Times -bestselling author of The Mothers , a stunning new novel about twin sisters, inseparable as children, who ultimately choose to live in two very different worlds, one black and one white.
The Vignes twin sisters will always be identical. But after growing up together in a small, southern black community and running away at age sixteen, it’s not just the shape of their daily lives that is different as adults, it’s everything: their families, their communities, their racial identities. Ten years later, one sister lives with her black daughter in the same southern town she once tried to escape. The other secretly passes for white, and her white husband knows nothing of her past. Still, even separated by so many miles and just as many lies, the fates of the twins remain intertwined. What will happen to the next generation, when their own daughters’ storylines intersect?
Weaving together multiple strands and generations of this family, from the Deep South to California, from the 1950s to the 1990s, Brit Bennett produces a story that is at once a riveting, emotional family story and a brilliant exploration of the American history of passing. Looking well beyond issues of race, The Vanishing Half considers the lasting influence of the past as it shapes a person’s decisions, desires, and expectations, and explores some of the multiple reasons and realms in which people sometimes feel pulled to live as something other than their origins.
As with her New York Times-bestselling debut The Mothers, Brit Bennett offers an engrossing page-turner about family and relationships that is immersive and provocative, compassionate and wise.
9. Devolution: A Firsthand Account of the Rainier Sasquatch Massacre by Max Brooks
As the ash and chaos from Mount Rainier’s eruption swirled and finally settled, the story of the Greenloop massacre has passed unnoticed, unexamined . . . until now.
But the journals of resident Kate Holland, recovered from the town’s bloody wreckage, capture a tale too harrowing–and too earth-shattering in its implications–to be forgotten.
In these pages, Max Brooks brings Kate’s extraordinary account to light for the first time, faithfully reproducing her words alongside his own extensive investigations into the massacre and the legendary beasts behind it.
Kate’s is a tale of unexpected strength and resilience, of humanity’s defiance in the face of a terrible predator’s gaze, and inevitably, of savagery and death.
Yet it is also far more than that.
Because if what Kate Holland saw in those days is real, then we must accept the impossible. We must accept that the creature known as Bigfoot walks among us–and that it is a beast of terrible strength and ferocity.
Part survival narrative, part bloody horror tale, part scientific journey into the boundaries between truth and fiction, this is a Bigfoot story as only Max Brooks could chronicle it–and like none you’ve ever read before.
10. How Beautiful We Were by Imbolo Mbue
“We should have known the end was near.”
So begins Imbolo Mbue’s powerful second novel, How Beautiful We Were. Set in the fictional African village of Kosawa, it tells the story of a people living in fear amidst environmental degradation wrought by an American oil company.
Pipeline spills have rendered farmlands infertile. Children are dying from drinking toxic water. Promises of clean-up and financial reparations to the villagers are made—and ignored. The country’s government, led by a brazen dictator, exists to serve its own interest. Left with few choices, the people of Kosawa decide to fight back. Their struggle would last for decades and come at a steep price.
Told through the perspective of a generation of children and the family of a girl named Thula who grows up to become a revolutionary, How Beautiful We Were is a masterful exploration of what happens when the reckless drive for profit, coupled with the ghost of colonialism, comes up against one community’s determination to hold onto its ancestral land and a young woman’s willingness to sacrifice everything for the sake of her people’s freedom.
11. Wonderland by Zoje Stage
If Shirley Jackson wrote The Shining, it might look like this novel from the acclaimed author of Baby Teeth: A mother must become a protector when unnatural forces threaten her family’s new and improved life in a rural farmhouse.
The Bennett family – artist parents and two precocious children – leave their familiar urban surroundings for a new home in far upstate New York. They’re an hour from the nearest city, a mile from the nearest house, and everyone has their own room for the very first time. Shaw, the father, even gets his own painting studio, now that he and his wife Orla, a retired dancer, have agreed that it’s his turn to pursue his passion.
But none of the Bennetts expect what lies waiting in the lovely woods, where secrets run dark and deep. Orla must finally find a way to communicate with – not just resist – this unknown entity that is coming to her family, calling to them from the land, in the earth, beneath the trees … and in their minds.
12. The Swap by Robyn Harding
Low Morrison is not your average teen. You could blame her hippie parents or her looming height or her dreary, isolated hometown on an island in the Pacific Northwest. But whatever the reason, Low just doesn’t fit in—and neither does Freya, an ethereal beauty and once-famous social media influencer who now owns the local pottery studio.
After signing up for a class, Low quickly falls under Freya’s spell. And Freya, buoyed by Low’s adoration, is compelled to share her darkest secrets and deepest desires. Finally, both feel a sense of belonging…that is, until Jamie walks through the studio door. Desperate for a baby, she and her husband have moved to the island hoping that the healthy environment will result in a pregnancy. Freya and Jamie become fast friends, as do their husbands, leaving Low alone once again.
Then one night, after a boozy dinner party, Freya suggests swapping partners. It should have been a harmless fling between consenting adults, one night of debauchery that they would put behind them, but instead, it upends their lives. And provides Low the perfect opportunity to unleash her growing resentment.
Robyn Harding brings her acclaimed storytelling, lauded as “fast-paced, thrilling, gut-wrenching” by Taylor Jenkins Reid, New York Times bestselling author of Daisy Jones & The Six, to this dark and suspenseful thriller for fans of Megan Miranda and Lisa Jewell.
13. Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
An isolated mansion. A chillingly charismatic artistocrat. And a brave socialite drawn to expose their treacherous secrets. . . .
From the author of Gods of Jade and Shadow comes “a terrifying twist on classic gothic horror” (Kirkus Reviews) set in glamorous 1950s Mexico—“fans of classic novels like Jane Eyre and Rebecca are in for a suspenseful treat” (PopSugar).After receiving a frantic letter from her newly-wed cousin begging for someone to save her from a mysterious doom, Noemí Taboada heads to High Place, a distant house in the Mexican countryside. She’s not sure what she will find—her cousin’s husband, a handsome Englishman, is a stranger, and Noemí knows little about the region.
Noemí is also an unlikely rescuer: She’s a glamorous debutante, and her chic gowns and perfect red lipstick are more suited for cocktail parties than amateur sleuthing. But she’s also tough and smart, with an indomitable will, and she is not afraid: Not of her cousin’s new husband, who is both menacing and alluring; not of his father, the ancient patriarch who seems to be fascinated by Noemí; and not even of the house itself, which begins to invade Noemi’s dreams with visions of blood and doom.
Her only ally in this inhospitable abode is the family’s youngest son. Shy and gentle, he seems to want to help Noemí, but might also be hiding dark knowledge of his family’s past. For there are many secrets behind the walls of High Place. The family’s once colossal wealth and faded mining empire kept them from prying eyes, but as Noemí digs deeper she unearths stories of violence and madness.
And Noemí, mesmerized by the terrifying yet seductive world of High Place, may soon find it impossible to ever leave this enigmatic house behind.
14. Blue Ticket by Sophie Mackintosh
“Blue Ticket is a wonder…Be sure to read everything Sophie Mackintosh writes.”–Deborah Levy From the author of the Man Booker Prize longlisted novel The Water Cure comes another mesmerizing, refracted vision of our society
In a world where women can’t have it all, don’t underestimate the relief of a decision being taken away from you.
Calla knows how the lottery works. Everyone does. On the day of your first bleed, you report to the station to learn what kind of woman you will be. A white ticket grants you marriage and children. A blue ticket grants you a career and freedom. You are relieved of the terrible burden of choice. And once you’ve taken your ticket, there is no going back. But what if the life you’re given is the wrong one?
When Calla, a blue ticket woman, begins to question her fate, she must go on the run. But her survival will be dependent on the very qualities the lottery has taught her to question in herself and on the other women the system has pitted against her. Pregnant and desperate, Calla must contend with whether or not the lottery knows her better than she knows herself and what that might mean for her child.
An urgent inquiry into free will, social expectation, and the fraught space of motherhood, Blue Ticket is electrifying in its raw evocation and desire and riveting in its undeniable familiarity.
All excerpts have been picked up from Goodreads