What’s that? You’ve cried your eyes sandpaper dry and rent all your garments reading John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars then watching the movie and then reading it again and filling a bathtub with your tears, and you’re still looking for a book that will give you all the feels? Try Side Effects May Vary, by Julie Murphy. It doesn’t reproduce the exact cocktail of love, angst, and bittersweet parting of Green’s beloved book, but it’s a worthy readalike: a 16-year-old girl discovers she’s dying and creates a bucket list of revenge, enlisting her lovesick friendzoned pal to help her carry it out, but is thrown for a loop (and forced to reevaluate her unexpectedly continuing life) when her cancer goes into remission.
If Charlaine Harris is the queen of urban fantasy, then Jim Butcher is king: his mega-popular Dresden Files series just hit the top spot on the best-seller lists again with book 15, Skin Game. If you’re all caught up on the adventures of that supernatural detective from Chicago, take a look at Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid Chronicles, starting with Hounded. The series is a fast-moving blend of fantasy tropes and Irish folklore starring Atticus O’Sullivan, a 2,000-year-old druid living on the down low as a bookshop owner (swoon!) and occasionally running afoul of one grumpy deity or another.
With Mr. Mercedes, Stephen King ramps down his penchant for the supernatural to focus on a more mundane evil, resulting in a detective novel that is all the more terrifying for the plausible banality of the murderous fiend at its center. If you’re looking for another great read that takes you much too far inside the mind of a killer, The Shining Girls, by Lauren Beukes, should fit the bill; King himself praised it for its clever prose and spunky heroine in The Times U.K., and not just because he hoped it would increase accidental sales of The Shining.
China Dolls, by Lisa See, takes readers behind the curtain at Forbidden City, an all-Chinese cabaret operating in San Francisco in the 1930s, and tells the story of three of its desirable dancing girls, each with her own troubled, fascinating history. Though at its core a much bleaker story of murder and revenge, Frog Music, by Emma Donoghue, offers a similarly engrossing journey into the past, with another strong female character at its center—Blanche Buenon, a French burlesque dancer determined to bring her friend’s killers to justice.
In the brief Congratulations, By the Way: Some Thoughts on Kindness, award-winning author George Saunders offers a few reflections on how living a better life means living a kinder life. His remarks, originally delivered in a graduation address at Syracuse University, were published in the New York Times and went viral. If you’re looking for more nuggets of wisdom from some great speakers for the recent grad in your life, Here We Stand: 600 Inspiring Messages from the World’s Best Commencement Addresses has you covered, with speeches by everyone from J.K. Rowling to Dr. Ruth.