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Patricia Puentes

What Makes a Good Book Club Read?

latest top 10 books to read

Whether you’ve been a member of a book club for a long time, just joined your local chapter of a Silent Book Club , became a new member of Book of the Month or — like me — simply decided reading consistently is one of your easily achievable new year’s resolutions , finding the right title can be a bit of a challenge.

I’m part of three different book clubs, each with different levels of commitment, and I only read whatever has been chosen about half of the time, and that’s being generous. Sometimes I don’t feel like spending time with a particular title — or author. The more participants a book club has, the more difficult it is to choose a novel that’ll appeal to and satisfy everyone involved. 

“We think the best book club books are the ones you keep thinking about long after you’ve turned the last page — the ones that make you ask every friend and family member, ‘Have you read…?’ just so you can talk about it,” say the folks at the online bookstore AbeBooks . 

latest top 10 books to read

I couldn’t agree more with that. Even though there’s no perfect answer to what makes for the great book club fit, here are a few additional tips that could help you choose that next memorable title:

  • Length matters . Even though I devoured Donna Tartt’s Pulitzer Prize-winning The Goldfinch , the members of one of my book clubs didn’t appreciate that I suggested it as a read. I have the suspicion that the fact that Tartt’s contemporary mystery is 771 pages long didn’t help my case. We’ve since established a books-no-longer-than-300ish-pages rule .
  • Genre matters. If your book club is themed or devoted to one genre or subject, stick to it. If you’re a readers’ collective who dig political memoirs, don’t branch out into romantic literature and vice versa. If your book club doesn’t have a theme though, find it . If you’re open to anything — fiction, non-fiction, science books, essays, thrillers, best-sellers — you risk alienating part of the membership. One of my book clubs has that “anything goes” motto and more often than not I just don’t even start whatever is supposed to be read that month. Even though the openness of the group allowed me to enjoy Simone de Beauvoir’s feminist manifesto The Second Sex or Octavia E. Butler’s dystopian novel The Parable of the Sower , I just knew Blockchain Chicken Farm was not for me. 
  • Don’t frown upon best-selling or popular books . They’re popular for a reason and they tend to make for safe choices when it comes to book clubs and conversation topics at parties — not that we’re celebrating or assembling much lately, but one can only hope to do it again soonish. There’s nothing like deciding to read Amanda Gorman’s poetry the same year everyone else is doing it or diving into Brit Bennett’s The Vanishing Half ahead of its HBO adaptation . There’s nothing wrong with starting Sally Rooney’s Normal People after you’ve watched the show on Hulu and everyone else has already read it. 
  • If you run out of ideas about what to read, check what Oprah Winfrey has suggested over the years , what Reese Witherspoon is up to , the suggestions from Barnes & Noble Book Club or Goodreads’ latest Choice Awards Winners . Sometimes it’s just good to know what other readers are enjoying . If you keep seeing The Last Thing He Told Me by Laura Dave everywhere, maybe that means your book club will enjoy it too. 
  • Recent releases make for fewer surprises and a better understanding of the current cultural sensibilities . In my search for great adventure reads, I gave both Jules Verne’s Around the World in Eighty Days (1872) and Rafael Sabatini’s Captain Blood (1922) a try. Both were problematic and I ended up abandoning the second one entirely. I’m not saying read only recently published stuff, but be aware that certain content with inapppropriate or outdated depictions of race, gender, class or sexual orientation can trigger readers.
  • And remember that it’s perfectly OK to not finish a book — you don’t even have to start reading it in the first place. Choosing a title that will please you every single time is daunting. Doing it when there’s a whole group of people involved is an impossible task. The power of a book club is to socialize and gather around a table — or Zoom meeting or a patch of grass in the park, in COVID times. You can even make things easier for your co-members and opt for the cheat method we employ at Ask’s book club: we’re selecting books that have also been adapted into movies. Don’t judge us — sometimes we like chatting about a book even if we’ve only watched the movie.


latest top 10 books to read

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The best books to read this month

From gripping thrillers to literary gems, here are some brilliant reads out this month.

Headshot of Joanne Finney

Water by John Boyne

Another slice of emotional storytelling from the author of The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas . This is the first in a planned quartet of loosely linked novels and opens with a woman arriving on an island off the coast of Galway with a new name and newly shorn hair. As the story progresses, it becomes clear she is fleeing a scandal involving her ex-husband and dealing with guilt about her complicity.

Water by John Boyne

The Future by Naomi Alderman

I raced through this dystopian thriller from the author of The Power. As the world comes to an end, three all-powerful CEOs who run huge tech platforms (think Facebook and Amazon) are preparing for the end of days by setting up elaborate bunkers to escape to. What they don’t realise is that someone close to them wants to disrupt their plans.

The Future by Naomi Alderman

The Square by Celia Walden

One of the key things I look for in a thriller is that it keeps me guessing, and this did, brilliantly. When ‘fitfluencer’ Laila is found dead, her neighbours in fancy Addison Square are all suspects – especially as it becomes clear that one of them had been cyberstalking her.

The Square by Celia Walden

A December To Remember by Jenny Baylis

This cosy read is guaranteed to put you in the festive spirit. When their father dies, half-sisters Maggie, Simone and Star – once close but now estranged – come together to fulfil his last wish to bring back the village winter solstice celebrations. In the process, many secrets and forgotten feelings are unearthed.

A December to Remember by Jenny Baylis

A December to Remember by Jenny Baylis

Playing Games by Huma Qureshi

Sisters Mira and Hana share the same birthday, two years apart, but their relationship has become increasingly strained as they’ve got older. When Mira overhears an argument between Hana and her husband, she uses it as inspiration for the play she has long been trying to write, but at what cost? Qureshi brilliantly captures the complexities of sisterhood in this intimate novel.

Playing Games by Huma Qureshi

Went To London, Took The Dog by Nina Stibbe

I’ve been a fan of Stibbe’s hilarious words since her debut, Love, Nina . This new book is a diary of the year she turned 60, during which she left Cornwall to move back to London, where she lodged with novelist Deborah Moggach. It’s as funny as you’d expect, but there’s a relatable vulnerability, too, as she makes a rather wobbly fresh start.

Went to London, Took the Dog by Nina Stibbe

Went to London, Took the Dog by Nina Stibbe

Things We Lose In Waves by Lucy Ayrton

After her father’s sudden death, Jenny returns home to run his pub and manage its staff, Alex and Si – her former best friend and ex-boyfriend, now a couple. This moving story of grief and loneliness is beautifully told and the characters are so vivid and memorable, I couldn’t stop thinking about them.

Dialogue Books Things We Lose in Waves by Lucy Ayrton

Things We Lose in Waves by Lucy Ayrton

The 12 Days Of Murder by Andreina Cordani

This entertaining thriller is the first book for adults from the Young Adult fiction author (and former GH writer). The Masquerade Murder Society formed at university to host murder-mystery evenings – until their founder vanished. Twelve years later, they’re back together for one last game...

The 12 Days of Murder by Andreina Cordani

The 12 Days of Murder by Andreina Cordani

Absolution by Alice McDermott

A woman looks back on the early years of her marriage in this stunning novel set in 1960s Saigon. When Tricia follows her husband on a posting to Vietnam, she meets fellow US expat Charlene, a rule-breaker who takes her under her wing and comes to dominate her.

Absolution by alice McDermott

Absolution by alice McDermott

Orbital by Samantha Harvey

Escape the Christmas madness with this otherworldly short novel set aboard a spacecraft. The latest offering from an author I’ve long loved, it’s gorgeously written and offers a intriguing perspective on the human race’s treatment of our planet.

Orbital by Samantha Harvey

Joe Nuthin' Guide To Life by Helen Fisher

Prepare to have your cockles warmed by this adorable book about 23-year-old Joe, who unexpectedly finds himself out of his comfort zone, with only his mum’s notebooks full of life advice to guide him through new challenges. His unique, charming voice make this a joy to read.

Joe Nuthin's Guide to Life by Helen Field

Joe Nuthin's Guide to Life by Helen Field

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The 10 Most Popular Books Right Now

We’ve rounded up the top 10 most viewed books of the past week so that you can see what’s trending, what’s new, or simply what’s being talked about. Which of these popular books will you add to your to-be-read list?

Iron Flame

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By Rebecca Yarros

In Stock Online

Violet may have survived her first year at Basgiath War College for dragon riders, but this epic adventure is just heating up. An electrifying follow-up to a brutally addictive fantasy.

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes (B&N Exclusive Edition) (Hunger Games Series Prequel)

Paperback $14.95 $16.99

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes (B&N Exclusive Edition) (Hunger Games Series Prequel)

By Suzanne Collins

Fans of  The Hunger Games  won’t want to miss this long-awaited prequel to the beloved series, following a young Coriolanus Snow determined to prove himself as a mentor in the deadly Games. Filled with just as much high-stakes action and emotion as the original series,  The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes  is an enthralling return to the Capitol. The film adaptation was released on November 17, 2023.

Happy Place (B&N Exclusive Edition)

Hardcover $21.99 $27.00

Happy Place (B&N Exclusive Edition)

By Emily Henry

Rom-com and Emily Henry are two of our favorite pairings. Book lovers, meeting people on vacation, beach reads—these are all key components (and titles) of Emily Henry’s previous three books. Put them all together, and we not only have our “happy place” but the NEW book by Henry. We know you’ve swooned over her books, and if not, you will soon. Trust us.

The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store (2023 B&N Book of the Year)

Hardcover $25.20 $28.00

The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store (2023 B&N Book of the Year)

By James McBride

From the author of  Deacon King Kong  and National Book Award winner  The Good Lord Bird  comes a gorgeous novel about a small town and the bonds of community that are formed between marginalized groups in order to survive.

Fourth Wing

Fourth Wing

A young scribe is thrust into an elite war college for dragon riders where the only rule is graduate or perish. An addictive fantasy with epic levels of spice and world-building.

Fourth Wing Special Edition

Hardcover $32.99

Fourth Wing Special Edition

The fantasy that took — and is still taking — the world by storm now has a brand-new look. With black sprayed edges and a cover fit for a dragon rider, this special edition has a limited supply, so get it while you can.

A Day of Fallen Night

Hardcover $17.50 $35.00

A Day of Fallen Night

By Samantha Shannon

Get lost in the enchanting world of  The Priory of the Orange Tree  in this stunning prequel filled with even more dragons, magic, and lore. An epic feminist fantasy series that’s a master class in world-building. Don’t be intimidated by the length; every page is a gift!

All the Light We Cannot See (Pulitzer Prize Winner)

Paperback $15.98 $18.99

All the Light We Cannot See (Pulitzer Prize Winner)

By Anthony Doerr

As literary as it is mysterious and fantastical, Doerr masterfully blends history and fiction in this epic tale of strangers whose paths spin closer and intertwine during WWII.


Hardcover $17.99 $19.99

By Lauren Roberts

Fans of Sarah J. Maas are swooning over this new YA romantasy. Featuring a powerful prince and an ordinary girl in a post-plague world full of magic this fantasy novel has everything from action to romance.

Jujutsu Kaisen Box Set Vols. 1-4 (B&N Exclusive Edition)

Paperback $19.98 $39.96

Jujutsu Kaisen Box Set Vols. 1-4 (B&N Exclusive Edition)

By Gege Akutami

Dip into the dark and addictive world of Jujutsu Kaisen with the first four volumes, introducing you to the unforgettable cast of heroes, villains and whatever resides in between. When Yuji eats a cursed finger, he doesn’t realize that he’s just invited the deadliest being into his own body. But it sure doesn’t dampen his spirits. Complete with an exclusive poster, this boxed set is necessary material for fans and newcomers alike.

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The 10 best books of 2023

Red literary editor Sarra Manning shares her favourite reads of the year

best books 2023

If you're looking for inspiration for your reading list, then Red' s literary editor, Sarra Manning, has you covered with her pick of the 10 best books of the year.

Sarra says: "I say this every year, but 2023 really was an excellent year for book lovers! Every month, I struggled to choose my favourite books as there were so many great titles clamouring for my attention. So to have to then select my ten absolute best of the best to round off the year was no mean feat but I’ve managed it. Just about. If you missed out on any of these crackers throughout the year, now is a great time to add them to your Christmas list."

Here is Sarra's expert edit of the 10 best books released in 2023. Happy reading!

We All Want Impossible Things by Catherine Newman (Penguin)

We All Want Impossible Things  by Catherine Newman (Penguin)

A tale of two best friends, one of them in end of life care at a hospice, the other trying to navigate her grief. We All Want Impossible Things is heartbreaking but also manages to be utterly joyous and life-affirming too.

Tom Lake by Ann Patchett (Bloomsbury)

Tom Lake by Ann Patchett (Bloomsbury)

When Lara was a promising young actress, she had an affair with an actor who later becomes a megastar. Now middle aged, she tells her adult daughters about that unforgettable summer. A masterclass in the art of story-telling, do check out Meryl Streep narrating the audiobook.

Maame by Jessica George (Hodder & Stoughton)

Maame by Jessica George (Hodder & Stoughton)

All her life Maddie has been the dutiful, diligent people pleaser in her Anglo Ghanaian family until she finally has a chance to break free. A touching coming-of-age story about finding the power within yourself.

Romantic Comedy by Curtis Sittenfeld (Doubleday)

Romantic Comedy by Curtis Sittenfeld (Doubleday)

Curtis Sittenfeld writes a romcom? Be still, my heart! Romantic Comedy was sexy, funny, thought-provoking and everything I hoped it would be. And even more pertinent now that Harry Styles has shaved his head. #iykyk. Her best novel since American Wife .

The Future by Naomi Alderman (Fig Tree)

The Future by Naomi Alderman (Fig Tree)

A gripping dystopian thriller about the end of the world as sponsored by three tech giants and the unlikely gang who comes together to stop them. One of those books that I still can’t stop thinking about.

Minor Disturbances At Grand Life Apartments by Hema Sukumar (Coronet)

Minor Disturbances At Grand Life Apartments by Hema Sukumar (Coronet)

I was utterly charmed by this debut novel set in the Indian coastal town of Chennai. Neighbours Kamala, Reva and British ex-pat Jason deal band together when evil property developers threaten their beloved apartment block.

The Happy Couple by Naoise Dolan (Weidenfeld & Nicolson)

The Happy Couple by Naoise Dolan (Weidenfeld & Nicolson)

Naoise Dolan followed up Exciting Times with this darkly funny, clever look at modern relationships centred around a wedding that seems doomed to everyone involved.

Preloved by Lauren Bravo (Simon & Schuster)

Preloved by Lauren Bravo (Simon & Schuster)

My debut novel of the year. I loved this tender-hearted story and its heroine Gwen who volunteers in a charity shop after being made redundant, and is as lost as the shop’s unwanted donations.

Yellowface by Rebecca F Kuang (Borough Press) 

Yellowface by Rebecca F Kuang (Borough Press) 

When literary sensation Athena Liu dies in a freak accident, her friend, the deliciously loathsome June, steals Athena’s unseen manuscript and passes it off as her own. This was one of the summer’s most talked about novels for good reason.

You, Again by Kate Goldbeck (Penguin)

You, Again by Kate Goldbeck (Penguin)

I fell hard for this New York-set, snarky but sexy, thoroughly modern take on When Harry Met Sally . And it still manages to be unashamedly romantic too. I’ve recommended You, Again to so many people in actual real life, all of whom loved it.

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The Weekly Top 10 Fiction Bestseller List

The Weekly Top 10 Fiction Bestseller List

You can also check out the weekly  top 10 bestselling non-fiction list  and the  top 10 bestselling children’s books list  on Better Reading.

1. Iron Flame : Hunger Games meets House of Dragon in this epic fantasy romance series. Perfect for fans of Leigh Bardugo, Sarah J Maas and dark academia.

2. The Secret : A hospital patient wakes to find two strangers by his bed. They show him a list of names and ask a simple but impossible question. Minutes later he falls to his death from his twelfth-floor window…

3. Fourth Wing : Alliances will be forged. Lives will be lost. Traitors will become allies… or even lovers. But sleep with one eye open because once you enter, there are only two ways out: graduate or die.

4. Lola in the Mirror : A big, moving, blackly funny, violent, heartbreaking and beautiful novel of love, fate, life and death and all the things we see when we look in the mirror.

5. Resurrection Walk : From No. 1 bestselling author Michael Connelly: Lincoln Lawyer Mickey Haller is back, and he’s taken on another long-shot case. The chance of winning is one in a million…

6. The Edge : Following The 6:20 Man , this is the second thrilling novel featuring Travis Devine from the international bestselling author David Baldacci.

7. Mr Einstein’s Secretary : Spanning forty years, this is the thrilling tale of a young woman propelled through history’s most dangerous times.

8. The Year of the Locust : The long awaited follow-up to global bestseller I Am Pilgrim – and a massive event publication from Transworld

9. Lessons in Chemistry : Chemist Elizabeth Zott is not your average woman. In fact, Elizabeth Zott would be the first to point out that there is no such thing.

10. Everyone On This Train Is A Suspect : The eagerly awaited follow-up to the international bestseller Everyone in my Family has Killed Someone – another deliciously witty locked room mystery.

  • Iron Flame by Rebecca Yarros (Hachette)
  • The Secret by Lee Child & Andrew Child (Bantam)
  • Fourth Wing by Rebecca Yarros (Hachette)
  • Lola in the Mirror by Trent Dalton (HarperCollins)
  • Resurrection Walk by Michael Connelly (Allen & Unwin)
  • The Edge by David Baldacci (Macmillan)
  • Mr Einstein’s Secretary by Matthew Reilly (Macmillan)
  • The Year of the Locust by Terry Hayed (Bantam)
  • Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus (Penguin)
  • Everyone On This Train Is A Suspect by Benjamin Stevenson (Penguin)

©  Nielsen BookScan 2023 Week Ending 18/11/23. To stay up-to-date with book-related news subscribe here  or like our  Facebook  page.

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New York Times Best Sellers: Current List

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The 100 Must-Read Books of 2022

Gripping novels, transporting poetry, and timely nonfiction that asked us to look deeper Andrew R. Chow, Lucy Feldman, Mahita Gajanan, Annabel Gutterman, Angela Haupt, Cady Lang, and Laura Zornosa

latest top 10 books to read

A Heart That Works

All the lovers in the night, all this could be different, an immense world, ancestor trouble, anna: the biography, bitter orange tree, the book of goose, butts: a backstory, calling for a blanket dance, the candy house, carrie soto is back, chef's kiss, civil rights queen, constructing a nervous system, cover story, the crane wife, the daughter of doctor moreau, dirtbag, massachusetts, ducks: two years in the oil sands, easy beauty, eating to extinction, the emergency, the employees, the escape artist, everything i need i get from you, the extraordinary life of an ordinary man, the family outing, fellowship point, fiona and jane, the furrows, getting lost, half american, the hero of this book, his name is george floyd, honey & spice, how far the light reaches, the hurting kind, i came all this way to meet you, i'm glad my mom died, if an egyptian cannot speak english, if i survive you, index, a history of the, the invisible kingdom, learning to talk, lesser known monsters of the 21st century, liberation day, life between the tides, the light we carry, lost & found, lucy by the sea, the man who could move clouds, maps of our spectacular bodies, the marriage portrait, mouth to mouth, the naked don't fear the water, night of the living rez, nightcrawling, now is not the time to panic, nuclear family, olga dies dreaming, our missing hearts, the rabbit hutch, the revolutionary: samuel adams, scattered all over the earth, the school for good mothers, shrines of gaiety, signal fires, siren queen, south to america, strangers to ourselves, ted kennedy: a life, this time tomorrow, time is a mother, tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow, the trayvon generation, under the skin, when we were sisters, woman without shame, the world keeps ending, and the world goes on, young mungo.

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This project is led by Lucy Feldman and Annabel Gutterman, with writing, reporting, and additional editing by Andrew R. Chow, Mahita Gajanan, Angela Haupt, Cady Lang, Rachel Sonis, and Laura Zornosa; photography editing by Whitney Matewe; art direction by Victor Williams; video by Erica Solano; audience strategy by Alex Hinnant, Kari Sonde, and Kim Tal; and production by Nadia Suleman.

latest top 10 books to read

The 10 Best Books of 2023

The staff of The New York Times Book Review choose the year’s standout fiction and nonfiction.

Credit... By Timo Lenzen

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By The New York Times Books Staff

  • Nov. 28, 2023

Every year, starting in the spring, we spend months debating the most exceptional books that pass across our desks: the families we grow to love, the narrative nonfiction that carries us away, the fictional universes we can’t forget. It’s all toward one goal — deciding the best books of the year.

Things can get heated. We spar, we persuade and (above all) we agonize until the very end, when we vote and arrive at 10 books — five fiction and five nonfiction.

We dive more into the list in a special edition of our podcast . And in case you’d like even more variety, don’t miss our list of 100 Notable Books of 2023 , or take a spin through this handy list , which features all the books we’ve christened the best throughout the years.

Here they are, the 10 Best Books of 2023.

The book cover of “The Bee Sting,” by Paul Murray, features the title and author’s name on a blank cream-colored background. The only image on the cover is an illustration of a small bee whose tail spells “a novel.”

The Bee Sting , by Paul Murray

Murray makes his triumphant return with “The Bee Sting,” a tragicomic tale about an Irish family grappling with crises. The Barneses — Dickie, Imelda, Cass and PJ — are a wealthy Irish clan whose fortunes begin to plummet after the 2008 financial crash. But in addition to this shared hardship, all four are dealing with demons of their own: the re-emergence of a long-kept secret, blackmail, the death of a past love, a vexing frenemy, a worrisome internet pen pal and more. The novel threads together the stories of the increasingly isolated Barneses, but the overall tapestry Murray weaves is not one of desolation but of hope. This is a book that showcases one family’s incredible love and resilience even as their world crumbles around them. Read our review .

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Chain-Gang All-Stars , by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah

A dystopian satire in which death-row inmates duel on TV for a chance at freedom, Adjei-Brenyah’s debut novel — following his 2018 story collection, “ Friday Black ” — pulls the reader into the eager audience, making us complicit with the bloodthirsty fans sitting ringside. “As much as this book made me laugh at these parts of the world I recognized as being mocked, it also made me wish I recognized less of it,” Giri Nathan wrote in his review. “The United States of ‘Chain-Gang All-Stars’ is like ours, if sharpened to absurd points.” Amid a wrenching love story between two top competitors who are forced to choose between each other and freedom, the fight scenes are so well written they demonstrate how easy it might be to accept a world this sick. Read our review .

Eastbound , by Maylis de Kerangal

De Kerangal’s brief, lyrical novel, first published in France in 2012 and newly translated by Jessica Moore, follows a young Russian conscript named Aliocha on a trans-Siberian train packed with other soldiers. The mood is grim. Aliocha, unnerved by his surroundings after a brawl, decides to desert — and in so doing, creates an uneasy alliance with a civilian passenger, a Frenchwoman. Their desolate environment — de Kerangal describes the Siberian landscape as “a world turned inside out like a glove, raw, wild, empty” — only heightens the stakes. “The insecurity of existence across this vastness and on board the train emphasizes the significance of human connection,” our reviewer, Ken Kalfus, wrote. “In a time of war, this connection may bring liberation and salvation.” Read our review .

The Fraud , by Zadie Smith

Based on a celebrated 19th-century criminal trial in which the defendant was accused of impersonating a nobleman, Smith’s novel offers a vast, acute panoply of London and the English countryside, and successfully locates the social controversies of an era in a handful of characters. Chief among them are a widowed Scottish housekeeper who avidly follows the trial and a formerly enslaved Jamaican servant who testifies on behalf of the claimant. Smith is a talented critic as well as a novelist, and — by way of the housekeeper’s employer, a once popular writer and friendly rival of Dickens — she finds ample opportunity to send up the literary culture of the time while reflecting on whose stories are told and whose are overlooked. “As always, it is a pleasure to be in Zadie Smith’s mind, which, as time goes on, is becoming contiguous with London itself,” Karan Mahajan wrote in his review. “Dickens may be dead, but Smith, thankfully, is alive.” Read our review .

North Woods , by Daniel Mason

Mason’s ambitious, kaleidoscopic novel ushers readers over the threshold of a house in the wilds of western Massachusetts and leaves us there for 300 years and almost 400 pages. One after another, in sections interspersed with letters, poems, song lyrics, diary entries, medical case notes, real estate listings, vintage botanical illustrations and assorted ephemera not normally bound into the pages of a novel, we get to know the inhabitants of the place from colonial times to present day. There’s an apple farmer, an abolitionist and a wealthy manufacturer. A pair of beetles. A landscape painter. A ghost. Their lives (and deaths) briefly intersect, but mostly layer over each other in dazzling decoupage. All the while, the natural world looks on — a long-suffering, occasionally destructive presence. Mason is the consummate genial host, inviting you to stay as long as you like and to make of the place what you will. Read our review .

The Best Minds , by Jonathan Rosen

An inch-by-inch, pin-you-to-the-sofa reconstruction of the author’s long friendship with Michael Laudor, who made headlines first as a Yale Law School graduate destigmatizing schizophrenia ; then for stabbing his pregnant girlfriend to death with a kitchen knife, after which he was sent to a maximum-security psychiatric hospital. Drawing from clips, court and police records, legal and medical studies, interviews, diaries and Laudor’s feverish writings (including a book proposal of his own), Rosen examines the porous line between brilliance and insanity, the complicated policy questions posed by deinstitutionalization and the ethical obligations of a community. “The Best Minds” is a thoughtfully constructed, deeply sourced indictment of a society that prioritizes profit, quick fixes and happy endings over the long slog of care. Read our review .

Bottoms Up and the Devil Laughs , by Kerry Howley

Howley’s account of the national security state and the people entangled in it includes fabulists, truth tellers, combatants, whistle-blowers. At the center is Reality Winner (“her real name, let’s move past it now”), the National Security Agency contractor who was convicted under the Espionage Act for leaking classified information to The Intercept and sentenced to 63 months in prison. Howley’s exploration of privacy and digital surveillance eventually lands her in the badlands of conspiracy theorists and QAnon. It’s an arc that feels both startling and inevitable; of course a journey through the deep state would send her down the rabbit hole. The result is a book that is riveting and darkly funny and, in all senses of the word, unclassifiable. Read our review .

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Fire Weather , by John Vaillant

In 2016, raging wildfires consumed Fort McMurray in the Canadian province of Alberta. In the all-too-timely “Fire Weather,” Vaillant details how the blaze started, how it grew, the damage it wrought — and the perfect storm of factors that led to the catastrophe. We are introduced to firefighters, oil workers, meteorologists and insurance assessors. But the real protagonist here is the fire itself: an unruly and terrifying force with insatiable appetites. This book is both a real-life thriller and a moment-by-moment account of what happened — and why, as the climate changes and humans don’t, it will continue to happen again and again. Read our review .

Master Slave Husband Wife , by Ilyon Woo

In 1848, Ellen and William Craft, an enslaved couple in Georgia, made a daring escape north disguised as a sickly young white planter and his male slave — Ellen as the wealthy scion in a stovepipe hat, dark green glasses and a sling over her right arm to conceal her illiteracy. Improbably, despite close calls and determined slave catchers, the Crafts succeeded in their flight, going on to tour the abolitionist speaker circuit in England and to write a popular account of their journey. Their story, which a leading American abolitionist called “one of the most thrilling in the nation’s annals,” is remarkable enough. But Woo’s immersive rendering, which conjures the Crafts’ escape in novelistic detail, is equally a feat — of research, storytelling, sympathy and insight. Read our review .

Some People Need Killing , by Patricia Evangelista

This powerful book mostly covers the years between 2016 and 2022, when Rodrigo Duterte was president of the Philippines and pursued a murderous campaign of extrajudicial killings — EJKs for short. Such killings became so frequent that journalists like Evangelista, then a reporter for the independent news site Rappler, kept folders on their computers that were organized not by date but by hour of death. Offering the intimate disclosures of memoir and the larger context of Philippine history, Evangelista also pays close attention to language, and not only because she is a writer. Language can be used to communicate, to deny, to threaten, to cajole. It can propagate lies, but it also allows one to speak the truth. Read our review .

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Penguin Random House

The Must-Read Books of 2021

2021 has brought us some incredible titles. if you want to read the books that people couldn’t stop talking about this year, see below for our list of powerful memoirs, page-turning novels, and more.

Project Hail Mary Book Cover Picture

Project Hail Mary

By andy weir, paperback $20.00, buy from other retailers:.

Hamnet Book Cover Picture

by Maggie O'Farrell

Paperback $16.95.

Klara and the Sun Book Cover Picture

Klara and the Sun

By kazuo ishiguro, paperback $18.00.

The Anthropocene Reviewed Book Cover Picture

The Anthropocene Reviewed

By john green.

Gold Diggers Book Cover Picture

Gold Diggers

By sanjena sathian, paperback $17.00.

Broken Horses Book Cover Picture

Broken Horses

By brandi carlile.

Before She Disappeared Book Cover Picture

Before She Disappeared

By lisa gardner.

The Prophets Book Cover Picture

The Prophets

By robert jones, jr..

Four Hundred Souls Book Cover Picture

Four Hundred Souls

By ibram x. kendi and keisha n. blain.

Great Circle Book Cover Picture

Great Circle

By maggie shipstead.

People We Meet on Vacation Book Cover Picture

People We Meet on Vacation

By emily henry, paperback $16.00.

My Life in Full Book Cover Picture

My Life in Full

By indra nooyi, hardcover $28.00.

Crying in H Mart Book Cover Picture

Crying in H Mart

By michelle zauner.

Oh William! Book Cover Picture

Oh William!

By elizabeth strout.

Malibu Rising Book Cover Picture

Malibu Rising

By taylor jenkins reid.

The Turnout Book Cover Picture

The Turnout

By megan abbott.

A Swim in a Pond in the Rain Book Cover Picture

A Swim in a Pond in the Rain

By george saunders.

How to Avoid a Climate Disaster Book Cover Picture

How to Avoid a Climate Disaster

By bill gates.

The Sum of Us Book Cover Picture

The Sum of Us

By heather mcghee.

Call Us What We Carry Book Cover Picture

Call Us What We Carry

By amanda gorman, paperback $17.99, preorder from:.

While Justice Sleeps Book Cover Picture

While Justice Sleeps

By stacey abrams.

1000 Years of Joys and Sorrows Book Cover Picture

1000 Years of Joys and Sorrows

By ai weiwei, paperback $18.99.

Yearbook Book Cover Picture

by Seth Rogen

The Paper Palace (Reese's Book Club) Book Cover Picture

The Paper Palace (Reese’s Book Club)

By miranda cowley heller.

Empire of Pain Book Cover Picture

Empire of Pain

By patrick radden keefe.

The Judge's List Book Cover Picture

The Judge’s List

By john grisham.

Beautiful Country Book Cover Picture

Beautiful Country

By qian julie wang.

Will Book Cover Picture

by Will Smith

Hardcover $30.00.

Whereabouts Book Cover Picture


By jhumpa lahiri.

Go Tell the Bees That I Am Gone Book Cover Picture

Go Tell the Bees That I Am Gone

By diana gabaldon, paperback $22.00.

Harlem Shuffle Book Cover Picture

Harlem Shuffle

By colson whitehead.

Matrix Book Cover Picture

by Lauren Groff

A Slow Fire Burning Book Cover Picture

A Slow Fire Burning

By paula hawkins.

No Cure for Being Human Book Cover Picture

No Cure for Being Human

By kate bowler.

The Lincoln Highway Book Cover Picture

The Lincoln Highway

By amor towles, paperback $19.00.

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The best fiction books of 2023 & all time

From gripping sequels to debuts by fresh new voices, discover the best new fiction books of 2023. we also look back at the best fiction books of 2022 and share our edit of some of the best novels of all time..

latest top 10 books to read

Albert Camus once said that ‘fiction is the lie through which we tell the truth’, and with these eight words he perfectly encapsulated the immense power of the novel. The best fiction teaches us history that the curriculum never did, sees us break in a new pair of shoes in a new city, breaks our heart and mends it –⁠ sometimes in the same chapter. It lets us breathe in a past era, step into fantasy worlds and even offers glimpses into dystopian futures. As 2023 marks another exciting year of new books, we've also collected the best fiction of 2022, and of all time. 

The best new fiction of 2023

By hernan diaz.

Book cover for Trust

Winner of the 2023 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, Trust is undoubtedly one of the novels of the year. Everyone in 1920s New York knows of Benjamin and Helen Rask, the Wall Street tycoon and the daughter of bohemian aristocrats. They live in a sphere of untold wealth, but what is the true cost of their fortune? This mystery sits at the heart of a bestselling novel that all of New York has read. But, like all stories, there are different perspectives. Hernan Diaz tracks these narratives across a century and documents the truth-bending power of money, with provocative revelations at each turn.

Western Lane

By chetna maroo.

Book cover for Western Lane

Exploring themes of grief and sisterhood, this debut coming-of-age story packs all the feels into just 176 pages. Eleven-year-old Gopi has been playing squash for as long as she can remember. When her mother dies, her father enlists her in a brutal training regimen. Soon, the game has become her entire world, causing a rift between Gopi and her sisters. But on the court, governed by the rhythms of the sport, she feels alive. This novel beautifully captures the ordinary and annihilates it with beauty as we follow a young athlete's struggle to transcend herself. 

Everything's Fine

By cecilia rabess.

Book cover for Everything's Fine

This stunning debut is a whip-smart exploration of an age-old question: what have you got to lose when you fall in love? When Jess first meets Josh at their Ivy League college she dislikes him immediately: an entitled guy in chinos, ready to take over the world. Meanwhile, Jess is almost always the only Black woman in their class. And Josh can’t accept that life might be easier for him because he’s white. But when they end up working for the same investment bank, their tempestuous friendship soon turns into an electrifying romance, forcing Jess to question who she is and what she's willing to compromise for love. 

‘ The book of the moment . . It’s so good — funny, sexy, unafraid, brilliantly nuanced, completely unputdownable. ’ The Times on Everything's Fine

Atlas: The Story of Pa Salt

By lucinda riley.

Book cover for Atlas: The Story of Pa Salt

Paris, 1928. A boy is found, moments from death, and taken in by a kindly family who gives him a life he could never have dreamed of, but he refuses to tell anyone who he truly is. As he grows into a young man, an evil is rising across Europe and he knows he must soon flee again. The final novel in the Seven Sisters series ,  Atlas: The Story of Pa Salt,  reveals how the sisters came to be adopted by their beloved, mysterious father, drawing the epic series to a stunning, unforgettable conclusion. Finally, readers will know the answer to the ultimate question: who is Pa Salt?

Don't Miss

The Seven Sisters books in order: a complete guide

By kate morton.

Book cover for Homecoming

A gripping mystery set between Australia and London, Homecoming , is the long-awaited new novel by Kate Morton. When 89-year-old Nora's health takes an unexpected turn for the worse, Jess boards the first plane out of London, her home of twenty years, to be by her grandmother's bedside in Sydney. Soon, she discovers that the usually stoic Nora has been hiding a family secret and vows to get to the heart of the mystery of what happened on a fateful Christmas Eve sixty years before. 

To Paradise

By hanya yanagihara.

Book cover for To Paradise

This novel from the author of A Little Life spans stories of love, family, and loss over three centuries. 1893: New York is part of the Free States, and a member of a privileged family falls for an impoverished music teacher. 1993: Manhattan is being swept by the AIDS epidemic, and a Hawaiian man with a wealthy older partner must hide his family background. 2093: a world where plague and totalitarian rule is rife, a woman tries to solve the mystery of her husband's disappearance. This symphonic vision of America is a demonstration of Hanya Yanagihara's literary genius as she weaves three stories together. 

Bright Young Women

By jessica knoll.

Book cover for Bright Young Women

January 1978. Tallahassee. When sorority president Pamela Schumacher is startled awake at 3 a.m. by a strange sound, she’s shocked to encounter a scene of implausible violence – two of her friends dead and two others, maimed. The only person to see the man responsible, she is thrust into a terrifying mystery, entangled in a crime that captivates public interest for more than four decades. This extraordinary novel is inspired by the real-life sorority targeted by America's first celebrity serial killer in his final murderous spree. 

by Jane Harper

Book cover for Exiles

Small-town detective Aaron Falk returns in Exiles , the new novel from the bestselling author of The Dry , Jane Harper. When a young mother disappears on a warm spring night, leaving her baby alone in her pram at a busy festival, Falk begins to suspect that this is more than a cut-and-dry missing person’s case. A thrilling mystery novel with an evocative outback setting and heart-pounding twists, Exiles is a book you’ll want to discuss with everyone you know. 

Jane Harper's books in order: a complete guide

Before the coffee gets cold, by toshikazu kawaguchi.

Book cover for Before the Coffee Gets Cold

Translated by Geoffrey Trousselot

First published in the UK in 2019, this million-copy bestseller is now available in a beautiful collectible hardback edition – the perfect gift. In a small back alley in Tokyo, there is a café which has been serving carefully brewed coffee for more than one hundred years. But this coffee shop offers its customers a unique experience: the chance to travel back in time. This opportunity is not without risks: customers must sit in a particular seat, they cannot leave the café, and finally, they must return to the present before the coffee gets cold. Toshikazu Kawaguchi’s beautiful novel has stolen the hearts of readers the world over. Through it, we meet four visitors to the café and explore the age-old question: what would you change if you could travel back in time?

Sword Catcher

By cassandra clare.

Book cover for Sword Catcher

Two outcasts find themselves at the centre of world-altering change. In Castellane, Kel is stolen to become Prince Conor Aurelian’s body-double. As his ‘Sword Catcher', Kel lives for one purpose: to die for Conor. Lin Caster is an Ashkar physician, part of a community ostracised for its rare magical abilities. But events pull her and Kel together and into the web of the mysterious Ragpicker King who rules Castellane’s criminal underworld. Together, they’ll discover an extraordinary conspiracy. But can forbidden love bring down a kingdom? 

How (Not) to Have an Arranged Marriage

By amir khan.

Book cover for How (Not) to Have an Arranged Marriage

From Dr Amir Khan, this is a timely, heartfelt novel which looks at all aspects of modern arranged marriages. The golden child of his strict Pakistani parents, Yousef has his life planned out for him – medical degree, wife chosen by his family. . . Then Yousef meets Jess. A fellow medical student, Jess presents a complication to the plan. Suddenly, Yousef finds himself torn between two worlds – keeping each a secret from the other. Then, as graduation looms, Yousef’s mother informs him that she’s started looking for his wife.

The House of Fortune

By jessie burton.

Book cover for The House of Fortune

A glorious, sweeping story of fate and ambition, The House of Fortune is the sequel to Jessie Burton’s bestseller  The Miniaturist . Amsterdam, 1705. Thea Brandt is about to turn eighteen and she can't wait to become an adult. Walter, her true love, awaits Thea at the city's theatre. But at home on the Herengracht things are tense. Her father Otto and Aunt Nella bicker incessantly and are selling furniture so the family can eat. And, on her birthday secrets from Thea's past threaten to eclipse the present. Nella is feeling a prickling sensation in her neck, which recalls the miniaturist who toyed with her life eighteen years ago.

More Confessions of a Forty-Something F**k Up

By alexandra potter.

Book cover for More Confessions of a Forty-Something F**k Up

Thought things were all wrapped up for Nell? Think again. Falling in love may be easy, staying in love, however, can take work. . . Friendships are tested, the past won't stay there, celebrity-scented candles and Instagram filters are simply not working hard enough and it's time for Nell to escape to LA with her eighty-something best friend. Fortunately for us, it seems she has some more confessions to share. 

‘ The story of Nell Stevens’ struggle through her imperfect, messy life doesn’t just make brilliant fiction, it’s turning into a cultural revolution! ’ Matt Cain

A complete guide to Alexandra Potter's books

Christmas by candlelight, by karen swan.

Book cover for Christmas By Candlelight

As Christmas approaches and snow falls, high-flier Libby and her new boyfriend head home from a wedding to attend her university reunion at Archie Templeton's grand family estate. Stranded by the snowstorm, they're forced to spend the night. At first, being snowed in together is fun as the old friends wait in high spirits for the farmer to clear a path. But as hours pass with no news, everyone grows restless. Then the power goes out. Hunkered down together by candlelight, they reminisce about old times, and tensions soon start to rise. Secrets from the past begin to unravel and Libby is confronted with a truth she has long tried to deny.

The Theory of (Not Quite) Everything

By kara gnodde.

Book cover for The Theory of (Not Quite) Everything

Devoted siblings Mimi and Art Brotherton have always come as a pair, bound together by the tragic death of their parents. Art is a mathematical genius, and believes everything – even love –  can be boiled down to equations and algorithms. Then Mimi meets Frank, who definitely isn't algorithm approved and soon the siblings' relationship is pushed to breaking point. Something about Frank doesn't quite add up, and only Art can see it. This tale of love and loss is unique, funny and uplifting – true love, in all its forms, is more than a numbers game.  

by Sarah May

Book cover for Becky

Aspiring journalist Becky Sharp has one goal: to reach the top of the career ladder at the  Mercury , London’s top tabloid during the industry’s celebrity-obsessed 1990s heyday. But for Becky, no matter how many champagne-fuelled parties she covers or celebrity scoops she publishes, her past threatens to stop her from bagging her dream job. A nostalgia-filled trip through the heady, Britpop-obsessed world of 90s London Becky is a dark, witty novel that you won’t want to put down.

Young Mungo

By douglas stuart.

Book cover for Young Mungo

The extraordinary, powerful second novel from the Booker prize-winning author of  Shuggie Bain ,  Young Mungo  is both a vivid portrayal of working-class life and the deeply moving story of the dangerous first love of two young men: Mungo and James. Young Mungo  is a gripping and revealing story about the meaning of masculinity, the push and pull of family, the violence faced by so many queer people, and the dangers of loving someone too much.

Douglas Stuart on his favourite LGBTQIA+ books

Once a monster, by robert dinsdale.

Book cover for Once a Monster

Perfect for historical fiction fans who love a mythical twist, this imaginative retelling of the story of the Minotaur is steeped in the grime of Victorian London. Ten-year-old mudlark Nell discovers a body on the shore. It’s not the first corpse she’s encountered, but by far the strangest. Nearly seven feet tall, the creature has matted hair covering his legs, and on his head are the suggestion of horns. Nell’s fellow foragers urge her to steal his boots and rifle his pockets, but as she ventures closer it becomes clear that the figure is not dead after all. 

Stone Blind

By natalie haynes.

Book cover for Stone Blind

Longlisted for the Women's Prize for Fiction 2023, this retelling of the famed myth of Medusa asks who the real monsters are. The sole mortal raised in a family of gods, Medusa is alone in her ability to experience change and to be hurt. Then, when the sea god Poseidon commits an unforgivable act in the temple of Athene, the goddess takes her revenge where she can – and she is changed forever. Writhing snakes replace her hair, and her gaze now turns any living creature to stone. Unable to control her new power, she is condemned to a life of shadows and darkness. Until Perseus embarks upon a quest . . .

by Ayesha Manazir Siddiqi

Book cover for The Centre

Anisa spends her days writing subtitles for Bollywood films in her London flat, longing to be a translator of literature. Her boyfriend, Adam, on the other hand, has an extraordinary aptitude for language – or so Anisa thinks. But after learning to speak Urdu practically overnight, Adam reveals his secret – the Centre: an elite programme that guarantees fluency in any language in just ten days. Anisa can't help but enrol and is quickly seduced by all that it's made possible, however, she soon realizes the disturbing, hidden cost of its services. This page-turning debut announces the arrival of an extraordinary new talent. 

Open Throat

By henry hoke.

Book cover for Open Throat

A queer and dangerously hungry mountain lion narrates this fever dream of a novel, carrying us on a universal journey through a wondrous and menacing modern day L.A. The lion spends their days protecting a nearby homeless encampment, observing hikers and grappling with the complexities of their own identity. When a man-made fire engulfs the encampment, the lion is forced from the hills down into the city where they confront the cruel inequalities of Los Angeles. But even when salvation finally seems within reach, they are forced to face the question: do they want to eat a person, or become one?

The Passenger

By cormac mccarthy.

Book cover for The Passenger

A sunken jet. Nine passengers. A missing body. The Passenger  is the story of a salvage diver, haunted by loss, afraid of the watery deep, pursued for a conspiracy beyond his understanding, and longing for a death he cannot reconcile with God. The first of two eagerly anticipated novels from literary great Cormac McCarthy The Passenger is followed by Stella Maris  –  both are too good to be missed. 

A guide to the literary great: Cormac McCarthy

The minuscule mansion of myra malone, by audrey burges.

Book cover for The Minuscule Mansion of Myra Malone

The Minuscule Mansion of Myra Malone  is a charming and magical debut novel, with a love story at its heart. Thirty-four year-old Myra Malone blogs about a dolls' house online. Across the country, Alex Rakes, heir of a furniture business, encounters two Mansion fans trying to recreate a room from Myra's stories. To his disbelief, Alex soon recognizes that it's his own bedroom being recreated, in minute scale. Searching for answers, Alex begins corresponding with Myra. Together, the two unwind the lonely paths of their twin worlds. 

The High Notes

By danielle steel.

Book cover for The High Notes

A moving and uplifting story of following your dreams against the odds from the billion copy bestseller, Danielle Steel. Abandoned by her mother and neglected by her rodeo cowboy dad, Iris started singing in downtrodden bars across Texas when she was just twelve. After many years on the road with different bands suffering at the hands of greedy managers with no scruples, she finally gets a lucky break when she meets Boy, another talented singer, in Jackson Hole. Together they make their way to New York where Iris’s talent is recognized and nurtured by one of the top agents in the business. But then tragedy strikes. 

by Kate Foster

Book cover for The Maiden

Edinburgh, October 1679. Lady Christian is arrested and charged with the murder of her lover, James Forrester. News of her imprisonment and subsequent trial is splashed across the broadsides, with headlines that leave little room for doubt:  Adulteress. Whore. Murderess. Only a year before, Lady Christian was newly married, leading a life of privilege and respectability. What led her to risk everything for an affair? And does that make her guilty of murder? Inspired by a real-life case, this is a remarkable story with a feminist revisionist twist, giving a voice to women otherwise silenced by history.

The Square of Sevens

By laura shepherd-robinson.

Book cover for The Square of Sevens

A historical fiction novel packed with fortune-telling, travels and mystery, The Sqaure of Sevens an epic and sweeping novel set in Georgian high society. A girl known only as Red, the daughter of a Cornish fortune-teller, travels with her father making a living predicting fortunes using the ancient method: the Square of Sevens. When her father suddenly dies, Red becomes the ward of a gentleman scholar. But soon, she can't ignore the burning questions about her family. The pursuit of these mysteries takes her across the country in an tale of intrigue, heartbreak and audacious twists. 

‘ Can you name a book you have read so far this year that you know is 100% going to be in your top 10 books of the year list? This is mine. ’ @bookishreadsandme

Promise Boys

By nick brooks.

Book cover for Promise Boys

Thought-provoking and timely, Promise Boys is the new YA mystery novel that will have everyone talking in 2023. For J.B., Ramón, and Trey, attending the prestigious and ultra-strict Urban Promise Prep School is a golden ticket to college and avoiding the fates of many of the men they grew up around. That is until their principal is brutally murdered, and the boys emerge as the police’s main suspects. As they fight to investigate the crime and fight the prejudice of those around them, the trio are locked in a battle to find the real culprit and clear their names before it’s too late.

by J.F. Murray

Book cover for Fling

When Tara and Colin’s marriage starts to fall apart, they both find themselves looking to a controversial new dating app called Fling to find someone new. After meeting someone who is a 100% match, they both embark on affairs with who they believe are exciting new partners. A hilarious romance novel that will make you question what true love really means, Fling is a novel that asks – what if the person you were looking for was in front of you all along?

by Juan Gómez-Jurado

Book cover for Red Queen

Soon to be a major TV series, this serial-killer thriller is packed full of mystery with a fascinating lead character. Antonia doesn’t go outside much. Why would she when she can solve crimes from her attic in Madrid? She also never gets visitors. That's why she really doesn't like it when she hears unknown footsteps coming up the stairs. And whoever it is, Antonia is sure that they are coming to look for her. . .

Other Women

By emma flint.

Book cover for Other Women

Emma Flint’s evocative historical novels transport you to another time and place. In her new book, Other Women , the destination is London, devastated by the impact of the Great War. For unmarried Beatrice Cade, the war has robbed her of the chance to find true love and have a family, just like it has for millions of others. One day a chance encounter changes her life, and she falls head over heels in love with someone she should never have met. An enthralling tale of obsession, murder and lives intertwined by forbidden love, Other Women is a novel that you won’t be able to put down. 

Lessons in Chemistry

By bonnie garmus.

Book cover for Lessons in Chemistry

In the 1960s, Elizabeth Zott, a brilliant chemist, defies gender norms at Hastings Research Institute. Her unique bond with Calvin Evans, a Nobel-nominated scientist, sparks true chemistry. Later, she becomes an unlikely star on "Supper at Six," revolutionizing cooking with science. As her fame grows, she challenges the status quo, daring women to break barriers. Resistance follows, but Elizabeth remains unwavering in her quest for empowerment.

The best fiction of 2022

The atlas six, by olivie blake.

Book cover for The Atlas Six

Bestselling fantasy  sensation The Atlas Six  follows six young magical practitioners as they compete to join the secretive Alexandrian Society, whose custodians guard lost knowledge from ancient civilizations. Their members enjoy a lifetime of power and prestige. Yet each decade, only six practitioners are invited – to fill five places. Following recruitment by the mysterious Atlas Blakely, they travel to the Society’s London headquarters. Here, each must study and innovate within esoteric subject areas. And if they can prove themselves, over the course of a year, they’ll survive. Most of them.

Discover more unmissable reads from Olivie Blake

The lamplighters, by emma stonex.

Book cover for The Lamplighters

Inspired by true events, Emma Stonex’s debut novel is a riveting mystery which will grip the reader, and a beautifully written exploration of love and grief. In Cornwall in 1972, three keepers vanish from a remote lighthouse, miles from shore. The door is locked from the inside, and the clocks have stopped. What happened to those men, and to the women they left behind? 

The Murders at Fleat House

Book cover for The Murders at Fleat House

When a pupil suddenly dies at an exclusive boarding school in deepest Norfolk, the headmaster is keen to brand it a tragic accident. But the local police are not so sure, and Detective Inspector Jazmine ‘Jazz’ Hunter returns to the force to investigate. Together with trusty sergeant Alastair Miles, she enters the closed universe of the school. And as Jazz begins to probe Charlie Cavendish’s unsettling demise, things take a deeply troubling turn.

Discover Lucinda Riley's standalone books

By raven leilani.

Book cover for Luster

Raven Leilani is a funny and original new voice in fiction. Her razor-sharp yet surprisingly tender debut is an essential novel about what it means to be young now. Edie is messing up her life, and no one seems to care. Then she meets Eric, who is white, middle-aged and comes with a wife who has sort-of-agreed to an open marriage and an adopted black daughter who doesn’t have a single person in her life who can show her how to do her hair. And as if life wasn’t hard enough, Edie finds herself falling head-first into Eric’s family.

The Christie Affair

By nina de gramont.

Book cover for The Christie Affair

In 1926, Agatha Christie disappeared for eleven days. Only one person knows the truth of her disappearance – her husband's mistress. The world of Agatha Christie is glamourous parties full of socialites, and country house weekends. But the world of Nan O'Dea is very different. A tough London upbringing followed by a life in Ireland marred by tragedy, Nan has fought her way back to England – with her sights set on Agatha. Despite their differences, the two women will become the most unlikely of allies. And during the mysterious eleven days that Agatha goes missing, they will unravel a dark secret that only Nan holds the key to . . .


By elaine hsieh chou.

Book cover for Disorientation

When twenty-nine-year-old Ingrid Yang finally completes her dissertation on canonical poet Xiao-Wen Chou she never wants to hear about 'Chinese-y' things ever again. Finding a strange note in the Chou archives, she thinks she has found a way out of the academic labyrinth. But Ingrid is accidentally in deep, and the note leads to a huge discovery, one which upsets her life and the lives of those around her. With two trusty friends Ingrid sets off on a rollercoaster of campus protests and drug hallucinations, leading her to confront her relationships with white men and institutions – and herself.

The Attic Child

By lola jaye.

Book cover for The Attic Child

It's 1907, and twelve-year-old Celestine is locked in the attic of a house by the sea. He has been forcibly removed from his home in Africa and is treated as a servant. He dreams of home and family, even as his mother's face, and his real name, begin to fade. Decades later a young orphan girl is banished to the same attic. Under the floorboards she finds mysterious artefacts, and on a wall there is a sentence etched in a language she does not recognise. What she does recognise though, is that she is not the first child to be held captive in the attic. This must-read novel is a tale of love, loss and family secrets that shines a light on the early Black British experience. 

The Dance Tree

By kiran millwood hargrave.

Book cover for The Dance Tree

It's 1518 in Strasbourg, and in the intense summer heat a solitary woman starts to dance in the main square. She dances for days without rest, and is joined by hundreds of other women. The city authorities declare a state of emergency, and bring in musicians to play the devil out of the dancing women. Meanwhile pregnant Lisbet, who lives at the edge of the city, is tending to the family's bees. The dancing plague intensifies, as Lisbet is drawn into a net of secret passions and deceptions. Inspired by true events, this is a compelling story of superstition, transformative change and women pushed to their limits.

The Exhibitionist

By charlotte mendelson.

Book cover for The Exhibitionist

Longlisted for the Women's Prize for Fiction 2022, in The Exhibitionist we meet the Hanrahan family. They are gathering for a momentous weekend as famous artist and notorious egoist Ray Hanrahan prepares for a new exhibition of his art. His three children will be there: beautiful Leah, sensitive Patrick, and insecure Jess. And what of Lucia, Ray’s steadfast and selfless wife? She is an artist, too, but has always had to put her roles as wife and mother first. But Lucia is hiding secrets of her own, and as the weekend unfolds and the exhibition approaches, she must finally make a choice. 

The Four Winds

By kristin hannah.

Book cover for The Four Winds

Delia Owens, author of Where the Crawdads Sing , called Kristin Hannah's novel ‘powerful and compelling.’ Elsa Martinelli finally has everything she had wished for – a family, a home and a livelihood on a farm on the Great Plains. But when drought threatens her family and community, Elsa must decide whether to stay and fight for the land she loves or flee to California in search of a better life. 

A Guide to Kristin Hannah's books

By sally hinchcliffe.

Book cover for Hare House

On a crisp autumn day a woman travels to London, having left her post at a London girls school in murky circumstances. She starts to explore the land around her cottage on the isolated Hare House estate, walking the moors and woodland. And she begins to hear unsettling stories, of witches, strange clay figures, and young men scared out of their wits. Having made friends with her landlord Grant and his sister Cass, doubts begin to descend. And when a snowfall traps the inhabitants of the house together, the tension escalates . . .

The Paper Palace

By miranda cowley heller.

Book cover for The Paper Palace

In a picturesque Cape Cod setting, Elle Bishop starts her day with a swim near The Paper Palace, her family's vacation home as memories of a passionate secret encounter from the night before flood her mind. This defining moment sets off a chain of events that span twenty-four hours and fifty years, leading Elle to make a life-altering decision after a shocking betrayal. This page-turning summer read is both a No. 1 New York Times bestseller and a Reese Witherspoon Bookclub pick. 

How to Kill Your Family

By bella mackie.

Book cover for How to Kill Your Family

I have killed several people (some brutally, others calmly) and yet I currently languish in jail for a murder I did not commit. In prison, Grace Bernard reflects on her past actions with an unsettling mix of sadness and pride. Having taken the lives of several family members as revenge for her absentee millionaire father's callousness, Grace once reveled in her dark mission. With a calm ruthlessness, she executed her plan, leaving a chilling trail of death. However, fate now finds her behind bars, wondering if her twisted tale will ever be discovered – a story of vengeance, class, family, love, and murder.

The best fiction books of all time

By emma donoghue.

Book cover for Room

Shortlisted for both the Booker Prize and the Women’s Prize for fiction, Room is a unique novel, about survival and innocence. Jack lives with his Ma in Room, which has a locked door and a skylight, and measures 11 feet by 11 feet. He loves watching TV, and the cartoon characters he calls friends, but he knows that nothing he sees on screen is truly real – only him, Ma and the things in Room. Until the day Ma admits that there’s a world outside. Now also a major film, Room is the story of a mother and son, told in Jack's voice, whose love lets them survive the impossible. 

A complete guide to Emma Donoghue's books

A little life.

Book cover for A Little Life

Shortlisted for both the Booker Prize and the Women's Prize and now adapted into a West End play , A Little Life is undoubtedly one of the novels of the century. Hanya Yanagihara's flawless character development transports us into the lives of Jude, Willem, JB and Malcolm. We follow the central characters as they try to make their way in New York. Gradually, it is Jude and his unspeakable childhood that is revealed. By midlife he is both a terrifyingly talented litigator and an increasingly broken man, his mind and body scarred by trauma. The book follows Jude for decades, yet ultimately tells a story of love and friendship. 

The Miniaturist

Book cover for The Miniaturist

Beautiful, intoxicating and filled with heart-pounding suspense, Jessie Burton's historical novel set in Amsterdam is both a bestseller and a major BBC TV series. In 1686, Nella Oortman arrives at a lavish house to marry merchant trader Johannes Brandt. Instead of a warm welcome, she encounters his sharp-tongued sister, Marin. Johannes gifts her an intricate miniature replica of their home, to be furnished by a mysterious miniaturist whose creations eerily reflect reality. As Nella delves into the secrets of the Brandt household, she unveils escalating dangers. Is the miniaturist holding their fate?

Station Eleven

By emily st. john mandel.

Book cover for Station Eleven

On a snowy night in Toronto, renowned actor Arthur Leander dies on stage, coinciding with the arrival of a devastating virus in North America. Two decades later, Kirsten, a member of the Travelling Symphony, brings Shakespeare's words to life in the settlements that have emerged post-collapse. However, her newfound hope is jeopardized, prompting a critical question: in a world devoid of civilization, what is worth safeguarding? And to what lengths would one go to ensure its preservation? A dreamily atmospheric novel set in the eerie days of civilization's collapse, Emily St John Mandel's Station Eleven is also an HBO TV series. 

Emily St. John Mandel's books in order

Shuggie bain.

Book cover for Shuggie Bain

Douglas Stuart’s blistering, Booker Prize-winning debut is set in a poverty-stricken Glasgow in the early 1980s. Agnes Bain has always dreamed of greater things, but when her husband abandons her she finds herself trapped in a decimated mining town with her three children, and descends deeper and deeper into drink. Her son Shuggie tries to help Agnes long after her other children have fled, but he too must abandon her to save himself. But he believes that if he tries his hardest he can be like other boys and escape this hopeless place.

A Thousand Ships

Book cover for A Thousand Ships

While the names Odysseus, Achilles and Agamemnon are synonymous with epic tales of battle and bravery, the women of Homer’s epics have largely been sidelined, if not entirely forgotten. From Helen to Penelope, Natalie Haynes gives a voice to the women, girls and goddesses who have been silenced for so long in this retelling of the story of the Trojan War from an all-female perspective. Shortlisted for the Women's Prize for Fiction, A Thousand Ships is a historical must read and a feminist masterpiece . 

The Shape of Water

By andrea camilleri.

Book cover for The Shape of Water

The Shape of Water  is the first in Andrea Camilleri's wry, brilliantly compelling Sicilian crime series, featuring Inspector Montalbano. When two employees of the Splendour Refuse Collection Company discover the body of engineer Silvio Luparello, one of the local movers and shakers, apparently deceased  in flagrante  at the Pasture, the coroner's verdict is death from natural causes. But Inspector Salvo Montalbano, as honest as he is streetwise and as scathing to fools and villains as he is compassionate to their victims, is not ready to close the case – even though he's being pressured by Vigàta's police chief, judge, and bishop.

All the books in Andrea Camilleri's Inspector Montalbano series

Normal people, by sally rooney.

Book cover for Normal People

Normal People has sold over one million copies and been adapted into a hit TV series. The story follows Connell and Marianne who, despite being from different worlds, form an unspoken connection at school which then follows them to Trinity College. Marianne and Connell circle one another, straying toward other people and possibilities but always magnetically drawn back together. Then, as she veers into self-destruction and he begins to search for meaning elsewhere, each must confront how far they are willing to go to save the other. Sally Rooney's characteristically subtle yet intense prose marks her as one of the best writers of our times. 

Nineteen Eighty-Four

By george orwell.

Book cover for Nineteen Eighty-Four

One of the most influential fiction books of all time, 1984 is George Orwell's terrifying vision of a totalitarian future in which everything and everyone is slave to a tyrannical regime led by The Party. The novel has a fascinating history, from the phenomenon it became on publication to the impact it has had on the English language.

The Handmaid's Tale

By margaret atwood.

Book cover for The Handmaid's Tale

This novel has become a cultural byword for all things dystopian. The book is set in the fictional Republic of Gilead, a religious totalitarian state in what was formerly known as the United States. In an age of declining birth rates, Offred, along with her fellow Handmaids, are valued only if their ovaries are viable. Yet even a repressive state cannot eradicate hope and desire. Funny, unexpected, horrifying, and altogether convincing,  The Handmaid's Tale  is at once scathing satire, dire warning, and tour de force.

The Great Gatsby

By f. scott fitzgerald.

Book cover for The Great Gatsby

Evoking the glitz, glamour and the dark side of 1920s,  The Great Gatsby  is a cynical look at the limits of the American Dream and a must read for all fans of fiction. Gatsby lives mysteriously in a luxurious Long Island mansion, playing lavish host to hundreds of people. And yet no one seems to know him or how he became so rich. He is rumoured to be everything from a German spy to a war hero. People clamour for invitations to his wild parties. But Jay Gatsby doesn't heed them. He cares for one person alone – Daisy Buchanan, the woman he has waited for all his life. Little does he know that his infatuation will lead to tragedy and end in murder.

Classic books to read at least once in your lifetime

By gillian flynn.

Book cover for Gone Girl

This twisty psychological thriller became a phenomenon when it was published, selling over twenty million copies worldwide and being adapted into a hit film starring Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike. When Nick Dunne wakes up on the morning of his fifth wedding anniversary to find his wife missing, he quickly becomes the police’s chief suspect. Amy’s friends reveal she was afraid of him, there are strange searches on his computer and persistent calls to his mobile phone, but Ben swears he knows nothing about any of this. So what really happened to Amy Dunne? 

Girl, Woman, Other

By bernardine evaristo.

Book cover for Girl, Woman, Other

This 2019 Booker Prize winner follows twelve characters on their personal journeys over the last one hundred years. From Newcastle to Cornwall and the beginning of the twentieth century to the modern day, each of them is searching for something. These wonderful interwoven stories address issues of race, identity and womanhood. Joyfully polyphonic and vibrantly contemporary, this is a gloriously new kind of history, a novel of our times: celebratory, ever-dynamic and utterly irresistible.

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