December’s Top Picks in Fiction

There’s no escape quite like a great book, and December’s best releases offer all kinds. Take a road trip through 16th-century Europe with two wayward relic hunters, tour the mid-twentieth century with a bon vivant hero who always seems to be in the right place at the right time, and lose yourself in the retold love story between two of Shakespeare’s most beloved characters. These are the new books we’re immersing ourselves in right now.

Ashley Bell, by Dean Koontz
When indomitable Bibi Blair defies medical opinion to survive a fatal illness, a mystical stranger convinces her she was cured in order to fulfill a purpose: saving the life of a woman named Ashley Bell. As Bibi sets off on a journey to find Bell, a psychic bond springs up between her and her distant beloved, Paxton, and she faces a terrifying web of threats both spiritual and physical in her dizzying pursuit. A metaphysically oversized thriller full of indelible images and an intriguing cast.

Precious Gifts, by Danielle Steel
The four children of a charismatic, changeable, and ultimately absent father are left to grapple with strange, life-changing bequests following his death. Through his unexpected gifts, the deceased reveals an awareness of his feckless son’s and fiercely independent daughters’ inner lives and struggles—as well as that of his ex-wife, Véronique—leading all five on sometimes painful journeys of self-discovery.

The Hunting Trip, by William E. Butterworth
Philip Wallingford Williams III is a prep school dropout embarking on a larger-than-life story in a post World War–II world. He forges his way into the army, climbing the ranks to a CIA position outing spies, and meets a platoon’s worth of colorful characters along the way—including the icy Austrian ballerina who becomes his bride. His story picks up again in the small Mississippi town where he’s settled down (sort of) and become a novelist specializing in dishy roman à clefs. It’s all leading up to a hunting trip he’ll take to Scotland in 1975, where he’ll experience the only thing he hasn’t yet: true love.

The Relic Master, by Christopher Buckley
Buckley creates a vivid portrait of early 16th-century Europe, from the Vatican to the taverns, in this hilarious story of relic hunter Dismas, his insatiable patrons, and his best friend, the artist Albrecht Dürer. Driven by the hunger for glory of the men who pay for his dubious acquisitions, Dismas finds himself attempting to pass off a fake shroud. When the ruse is uncovered, he and Dürer are forced to hit the road in pursuit of the real deal, picking up unlikely traveling companions along the way—and facing unexpected rivals in their quest.

Beatrice and Benedick, by Marina Fiorato
At the start of Shakespeare’s beloved comedy Much Ado About Nothing, Beatrice and Benedick are sworn enemies, engaging in a battle of wits and words to tear each other down…then falling in love with the aid of friends who sense the attraction boiling beneath the animosity. Fiorato richly imagines the circumstances surrounding their romance, one of love at first banter, complicated by misunderstanding, distance, and an unwanted arranged marriage. The two well-spoken lovers trade narration in a story drenched in gorgeous Renaissance detail.

Médicis Daughter, by Sophie Perinot
A 16th-century princess, daughter to the sharp-tongued Catherine de Médicis, finds herself facing intrigue and impossible love after she’s promised in marriage to a dangerous man with whom her family wants to forge a peace. Margot was raised in a dangerous royal court, and knows the dangers of trying to please people with two faces. Her story is woven together with the run-up to and bloody events of the St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre, which forces her to make an impossible choice.

Like Family, by Paolo Giordano
After joining the household of a young couple during the wife’s fraught pregnancy, housekeeper and nanny Mrs. A quickly becomes a member of the family. She’s there when the baby was born, when he took his first steps, and when he went off to his first day of school. But after eight years together, terminal illness forces her retirement. In this slender, melancholy novel, the family rallies around then finally loses her. In Giordano’s hands, and even in the face of their loving care, the essential loneliness of the human condition shines through.

The Age of Reinvention, by Karine Tuil
Sam Tahir’s picture-perfect life—high-flying Manhattan legal career, beautiful family—is built on a lie. Born Samir Tahar to an impoverished Tunisian Muslim family in Paris, he used the name and backstory of a North African Jewish friend turned romantic rival, Samuel Baron, to start his life in Manhattan. But soon after the woman who tore the two friends apart re-enters his life, the cracks being to show, and Sam’s carefully built existence starts to fall apart around him.

Time and Time Again, by Ben Elton
Hugh Stanton is a former soldier facing down the singular loneliness of the time traveler, living in the year 1914, long before his loved ones have been born, and stricken with foreknowledge of the advancing horrors of the 20th century. Knowing that World War I will begin with an assassin’s bullet, he sets out to stop it. But will his intervention help humanity, or destroy it?

The Baker’s Tale, by Thomas Hauser
In the Victorian England of workhouses and extreme poverty immortalized in the work of Charles Dickens, Ruby Sprigg is an orphan saved from destitution by the kindness of benefactors. Consciously Dickensian not just in its setting but in its arc and language, Ruby’s story follows her from love to heartbreak to reunion, investigating class issues and industrialization along the way.

Shop the Bookstore >

Follow BNReads