Fiction Favorites You Shouldn't Miss

It’s been a fabulous year for books, and it isn’t over yet. With so many great reads landing every week, it can be easy to miss out on what just might be your new favorite book. Below, find our picks for ten recent hardcover releases you don’t want to miss.

Somewhere Safe with Somebody Good, by Jan Karon
One of the great pleasures of reading is getting to know characters so real, you feel that they become friends, that you are part of their joys and sorrows, and that you’ll miss them at the novel’s end. Jan Karon has given readers that pleasure in her beloved series, which chronicles the lives of the residents of the sleepy town of Mitford, North Carolina, whose small triumphs and profound tragedies have played out across ten novels. This latest volume, the first in nine years, once again reunites readers with protagonist Father Tim, who has found love, married, and retired over the course of the series and now faces an uncertain future: who is he without the work that defined him?

Lila, by Marilynne Robinson
Lila, by Marilynne Robinson, is the fourth novel by the Pulitzer Prize-winning author, and her first since 2008. Set in a small town in 1950s Iowa, it tells the story of the title character, who escapes a hardscrabble childhood and wanders into the town of Gilead, where she enters into an unexpected romance with the local minister. Though it stands alone as a gentle masterpiece, you’ll also want to read its companion novels: Gilead, which tells the minister’s story, and Home, which focuses on the couple’s son. Taken as a whole, the trilogy is a graceful, transcendent work that illuminates the full spectrum of the lives of its characters. 

All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr
A moving coming-of-age story about two teenagers growing up on opposites sides of the World War II conflict, All the Light We Cannot See is an intimate epic, as concerned with the broad sweep of conflict as it is with the day-to-day lives of its young protagonists. Blinded at a young age, Marie-Laure has memorized the crooked maze of Paris with the help of a perfect scale model constructed by her father. Her life is irrevocably changed when the Germans invade the city and she is forced to flee to an isolated home on the coast. Hundreds of miles away in Germany, a young orphan named Werner discovers he has a talent for building and fixing radios, a skill that finally earns him the home he has always longed for, though the brutal confines of an elite academy for the Hitler Youth are hardly a substitute for a loving family. Long before Marie-Laure and Werner cross paths, you’ll be swept up by the scope and clarity of Doerr’s storytelling, and by his artful prose, which is beautiful even when its contents are dark. 

Big Little Lies, by Liane Moriarty
Already an accomplished author in her native Australia, Liane Moriarty broke onto the international stage in a big way with 2013’s captivating The Husband’s Secret, which explored the impossibility of really knowing even those closest to you. Her addictive follow-up, Big Little Lies, looks at the darker side of suburban life, following the intersecting stories of three mothers in a well-off suburban community. All of these women have told lies both big and little to cover up scandalous secrets that, if uncovered, could tear their lives apart. By equal turns shocking and funny, this is the kind of juicy drama you’ll find yourself reading in every spare moment until its final secrets have been revealed. 

The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt
Tartt won the Pulitizer Prize for The Goldfinch, which came as no surprise to devotees of her breakthrough debut, The Secret History. The author publishes so rarely (averaging 10 years between books) that you might want to draw out the experience of reading this coming-of-age story about a young boy who loses his mother in a terrible act of violence and spends the next several decades trying to escape the ghosts that haunt him—but its Dickensian plotting, colorful cast of characters, and lyrical beauty will make taking it slow into an impossibility.

Written in My Own Heart’s Blood, by Diana Gabaldon
The massive success of the Outlander TV series on Starz has only confirmed what longtime readers of Gabaldon’s historical fantasy romance novels already knew: that it is one of the most enthralling, funny, romantic, and thrilling series going. The saga has grown more popular with each book (Written in My Own Heart’s Blood is the eighth) as new fans pick up the story of a 20th-century woman mysteriously cast back in time. Encompassing the full sweep of history and packed with a wealth of detail (not to mention swoon-worthy romantic tension, a colorful cast of supporting characters, and visceral scenes of hardship and warfare), this is the series you need to get you through the long winter months.

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage, by Haruki Murakami
Three years after the mammoth success of 1Q84, the newest work from Japanese literary superstar Haruki Murakami has cemented his reputation as one of the defining writers of our time. Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage, which sold over a million copies the week it came out in Japan, is the story of a lonely soul trying to understand the chain of long-ago events that left him abandoned by his friends, alone and adrift. While Murakami is famously known for his mystical, metafictional, dreamlike narratives, this novel is straightforward in its situations and structure, and yet it preserves all of the magic we’ve come to expect from this accomplished storyteller. 

The Long Way Home, by Louise Penny
A master of the classical “whodunit” style, Louise Penny has won acclaim for her series of mysteries featuring Armand Gamache, head homicide inspector with the Sûreté du Québec and a quirky, brilliant crime-solving mind in the tradition of Hercule Poirot and Lord Peter Whimsey. Penny’s mysteries offer up an addictive blend of literary prose and classic mystery tropes, and Gamache’s latest case, involving an investigation into the disappearance of a once-famous artist who was desperate to stage a comeback, is one of her most beguiling and intriguing.

The Invention of Wings, by Sue Monk Kidd
From the author of The Secret Life of Bees comes a novel about two abolitionist sisters. In 1830s South Carolina, Sarah and Angelina Grimké defy their families, friends, and neighbors by speaking out against slavery, delivering fiery public speeches that draw thousands of spectators, and blanketing the region with pamphlets (one reaches Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin). The novel begins with the harrowing story of Sarah’s receipt of a young slave, Handful, as a “present” from her parents at age 11, and her rebellious decision to teach the girl to read. From there, the author jumps between the first-person narratives of Sarah and Handful, depicting (but not equating) each woman’s struggle to fight against the bonds that are holding them prisoner. Kidd’s writing is vivid and immediate, and her characters ring true—these are two women you won’t soon forget. 

The Book of Life, by Deborah Harkness
Deborah Harkness’s trilogy centers on a historian who discovers an ancient manuscript and uncovers witches, vampires, time travel, and a whole hidden world of monsters and mayhem. The Book of Life provides a thrilling ending to one of the most entertaining literary-fantasy crossovers in years. By the start of this novel, Diana Bishop has learned that the supernatural world is real and that she’s a part of it, fallen in love with a dashing, troubled vampiric scientist, traveled through time, and been marked for death on more than one occasion. A bewitching blend of history, magic, intrigue, and romance, the series is the perfect entry point into a whole new world of genre novels.

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