With the end of the coronavirus pandemic in sight, it seems that we’ll soon return to get-togethers, cocktail parties, and other social engagements. And inevitably, the conversation will turn to what everyone did with all that time at home. While we can – and should – proudly admit to binge watching those dozen seasons of “Survivor,” we may also want to join others in mentioning a book or two that we enjoyed.
So if you’re hoping to become a bit more well-read, we recommend checking out the eight new books below. They’re sure to make for fascinating conversation, and who knows? They might help you become the smartest person in the room.
1. “2030: How Today’s Biggest Trends Will Collide and Reshape the Future of Everything” by Mauro F. Guillén
Wharton professor Mauro F. Guillén offers a groundbreaking analysis on the global trends shaping the future, including an analysis on how COVID-19 will amplify and accelerate each of these dramatic, often surprising changes.
2. “The Code Breaker: Jennifer Doudna, Gene Editing, and the Future of the Human Race” by Walter Isaacson
The bestselling author of “Leonardo da Vinci” and “Steve Jobs” returns with a gripping account of how Nobel Prize winner Jennifer Doudna and her colleagues launched a revolution that will allow us to cure diseases, fend off viruses, and have healthier babies.
3. “The Delusion of Crowds: Why People Go Mad in Groups” by William J. Bernstein
Financial theorist William J. Bernstein shares stories of mass hysteria that are as revealing about human nature as they are historically significant. He observes that if we can absorb the history and biology of mass delusion, we can recognize it more readily in our own time, and avoid its frequently dire impact.
4. “The Disordered Cosmos: A Journey into Dark Matter, Spacetime, and Dreams Deferred” by Chanda Prescod-Weinstein
One of the leading physicists of her generation, Dr. Chanda Prescod-Weinstein is also one of fewer than one hundred Black American women to earn a PhD from a department of physics. Her vision of the cosmos is vibrant, buoyantly nontraditional, and grounded in Black feminist traditions.
6. “Fundamentals: Ten Keys to Reality” by Frank Wilczek
Nobel laureate Frank Wilczek shares a simple yet profound exploration of reality based on the deep revelations of modern science. With an infectious sense of joy, Wilczek investigates the ideas that form our understanding of the universe, such as time, space, matter, energy, complexity, and complementarity.
7. “Mine!: How the Hidden Rules of Ownership Control Our Lives” by Michael Heller and James Salzman
A hidden set of rules governs who owns what, explaining everything from whether you can recline your airplane seat to why HBO lets you borrow a password illegally. And in this lively and entertaining guide, two acclaimed law professors reveal how things become “mine.”
8. “The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together” by Heather McGhee
One of today’s top experts on social and economic policy offers a powerful exploration of inequality and the lesson that generations of Americans have failed to learn: Racism has a cost for everyone – not just for people of color.
A version of this article was published by The Next Big Idea Club, which delivers key insights from all the best new books via the Next Big Idea App, website, and podcast. To hear the audio version of this post, narrated by the author, and to enjoy more Book Bites, download the Next Big Idea App today.
Politicians, environmentalists, and activists hail the idea of working less hours for the same pay as a means of creating healthier, happier workers who get more done. It may also be more environmentally friendly, as workers avoid driving into the office.
Implementing a four-day week is not simple, and there are some misconceptions around the concept. But more companies are trialing the concept amid wider conversations about hybrid and flexible working.
We put together a list of influential books on how the world might get to a four-day week:
“The 4 Day Week” by Andrew Barnes with Stephanie Jones
Andrew Barnes is the CEO of Perpetual Guardian, a firm that introduced a four-day workweek to its New Zealand office in 2018. Workers were each given one day off a week between Monday and Friday, rather than the same day, and the company saw hikes in happiness and productivity.
Barnes, who is also the co-founder of the 4 Day Week Global campaign, says that rather than simply being about giving workers the freedom to take a day off, success depends on communication.
“B*llshit Jobs” by David Graeber
The reason we don’t have a 15-hour workweek, as the economist John Maynard Keynes predicted, is because most white-collar work is still centered around dull, ultimately meaningless jobs that provide people with little value, according to Graeber.
Some describe it as a bit of a rant, but it provides an overview of the general question of why do we work, and more importantly what for?
Published in March 2020, just days before the US’s first COVID-19 death, Pang tackles the four-day week concept from a practical, business perspective by studying how different organizations have implemented it, and the benefits they unlocked.
Pang has said in the past, if you’re a business leader there are three ways of reducing working hours without cutting productivity: more concise meetings, periods of ‘focus time’ that enable workers to tackle their hardest tasks uninterrupted, and more careful use of technology.
“The Secret of the 4 Day Week” by Pernille Garde Abildgaard
Abildgaard is a workplace consultant and has studied how the four-day week has been implemented in a variety of work contexts, from the Danish IT company IIH Nordic, which was struggling to recruit staff, to care workers, and teachers.
Abildgaard also provides tips and tricks for how a person can reduce their own daily workload and improve their productivity.
“The Case for a Four Day Week” by Anna Coote, Aidan Harper, and Alfie Stirling
All three are current and past members of the New Economics Foundation, a British think tank focused on social mobility and environmental economics.
They discuss how a shorter working week among many things will benefit the lowest paid in society, help to fairly rebalance the distribution of caring responsibilities between men and women and even create more jobs.
Over the last year, many of us have felt the world spin out of control. The global pandemic has forced us to abandon familiar routines and adopt new habits for everything, from working to socializing.
But no matter what the pandemic puts us through, there’s one thing we can always control: ourselves. So if you’d like to invest some time and energy into personal growth, the seven books below are an excellent place to start.
1. “The Power of Ritual: Turning Everyday Activities into Soulful Practices” by Casper ter Kuile
In America and around the world, it’s no secret that many people are struggling to find fulfillment in traditional organized religion. But Harvard Divinity School Fellow Casper ter Kuile believes that whether you’re religious or not, you can design personal rituals for your life, rituals that add joy and meaning to everyday experiences.
2. “In Awe: Rediscover Your Childlike Wonder to Unleash Inspiration, Meaning, and Joy” by John O’Leary
With so much bad news showing up everywhere from TV to Twitter, we may find ourselves feeling burned out and jaded more often than we’d like. But internationally renowned speaker John O’Leary believes that we can adopt a different, healthier, more joyful mindset – if only we’re ready to try a new perspective.
3. “Think Like a Monk: Train Your Mind for Peace and Purpose Every Day” by Jay Shetty
When business and media influencer Jay Shetty encourages us to “think like a monk,” he’s not referencing something he read about, or researched for a doctorate degree. He’s talking about something he lived, as he spent years in India as a monk himself. This remarkable book lays bare the most ancient, most valuable wisdom he learned along the way.
4. “Bravey: Chasing Dreams, Befriending Pain, and Other Big Ideas” by Alexi Pappas
Olympic athlete, actress, and filmmaker Alexi Pappas may seem to have it all figured out. But when she was just four years old, her mother died by suicide – and over the years, she’s had to battle demons of her own. In this candid and moving memoir, Pappas shares what she’s learned about overcoming adversity and living the life you’ve always wanted.
5. “Being the Person Your Dog Thinks You Are: The Science of a Better You” by Jim Davies
Your dog thinks you’re probably the best person in the world. After all, enduring your absence for even half an hour seems to stress her out. So if you want to become every bit as kind, generous, and wise as she thinks you are, you’ll want to crack open this book by cognitive scientist Jim Davies.
6. “The Socrates Express: In Search of Life Lessons from Dead Philosophers” by Eric Weiner
Wondering about how to attain true happiness, or how to become a more ethical person, or what the meaning of life could be? If so, there’s no need to start answering those questions from scratch – in fact, history’s greatest minds have already done the heavy lifting. Let Eric Weiner be your guide through their greatest insights.
7. “Beginners: The Joy and Transformative Power of Lifelong Learning” by Tom Vanderbilt
When we’re kids, we constantly try new hobbies, sports, and activities. And although we’re not always successful, these forays help us become stronger, more well-rounded individuals. So why do we stop trying new things in adulthood? In “Beginners,” acclaimed journalist Tom Vanderbilt contends that you’re never too old to learn something new.
A version of this article was published by The Next Big Idea Club, which delivers key insights from all the best new books via the Next Big Idea App, website, and podcast. To hear the audio version of this post, narrated by the author, and to enjoy more Book Bites, download the Next Big Idea App today.
The Next Big Idea Club is a subscription book club curated by Malcolm Gladwell, Susan Cain, Daniel Pink, and Adam Grant. Get smarter faster with the Next Big Idea app, which offers the key insights from the best new books every day, created and narrated by bestselling authors, ad-free episodes of our popular podcast, and live zoom conversations with leading thinkers.
Every July, Goodreads releases a list of the most popular books of the year so far.
This list includes the 24 most popular fiction and nonfiction books of the first half of 2021.
Goodreads is the world’s largest platform for readers to rate and review books. You can track the books you want to read, participate in challenges, and get personalized recommendations. Goodreads hosts its “Readers Choice Awards” annually, but halfway through the year, the platform also announces the most popular new books among its 125 million members.
The books on this list are both fiction and nonfiction, chosen for how often they’ve been added to readers’ “Want to Read” shelves. Goodreads eliminated any book below a 3.5-star rating, and each one had to be published in 2021 to be considered.
Whether you’re looking for a new release from an adored author or a timely nonfiction read, these books were the 24 most popular amongst Goodreads members in the first half of 2021.
The 24 most popular books of 2021 so far, according to Goodreads members:
“The Four Winds” by Kristin Hannah, available at Amazon and Bookshop, from $14.49
Kristin Hannah is known for her heartbreaking and exciting historical fiction novels. “The Four Winds” takes place in Texas in 1934 during the Great Depression and an insufferable drought. Elsa must make a choice to stay and fight for the success of her land, her home, and her community or take a chance and head to California in the hopes of a better life. This is a story of the search for the American Dream, one of a painful and shocking journey that is likely to pull tears from many readers.
“The Lost Apothecary” by Sarah Penner
“The Lost Apothecary” by Sarah Penner, available at Amazon and Bookshop, from $16.19
This is a historical fiction read that mixes fantasy and mystery to bring a female apothecary in 1700s London to life. The old apothecary dispenses poisons to help free women from those who have wronged them. In 1791, a young girl seeks the help of the apothecary women, spurring an intense string of events that reveals the secrets of many women the apothecary has helped. When a present-day woman discovers an old vial near the river, she begins to uncover the “apothecary murders,” twisting the fates and stories of women across centuries.
“The Push” by Ashley Audrain
“The Push” by Ashley Audrain, available at Amazon and Bookshop, from $11.36
“The Push” is a thriller that demands to be read in a single sitting. Blythe was determined to be the mother she never had — but struggles when her daughter starts to behave differently, possessing a vaguely sinister quality that no one else notices except Blythe. When Blythe’s son is born, she has the blissful motherly connection for which she always hoped, until the life she imagined changes in an instant.
“Klara and the Sun” by Kazuo Ishiguro
“Klara and the Sun” by Kazuo Ishiguro, available at Amazon and Bookshop, from $16.80
In 2017, Kazuo Ishiguro won the Nobel Prize in Literature — this is his first novel since the award. Set in the near future, “Klara and the Sun” explores the human condition through Klara, an Artificial Friend. Klara is AI, keenly observational and eerily understanding the depth of human emotion as she watches out the store window and waits for a customer to one day choose her. This book is sweet, gripping, and subtly beautiful, exploring connection, loss, and love in this speculative science fiction read.
“The Paris Library” by Janet Skeslien Charles
“The Paris Library” by Janet Skeslien Charles, available at Amazon and Bookshop, from $17.56
This historical fiction novel is based on the little-known but true story of World War II librarians at the American Library in Paris. It begins in 1939, where young librarian Odile faces the fear of losing her library as the Nazis invade her city. In 1983, Lily is a teenager in Montana whose school project leads her to interview her French neighbor, uncovering her mysterious past and the secret that may connect them. This is not a war novel, but a descriptive and deeply intriguing piece of historical fiction that will pull on the heartstrings of all book lovers.
“Malibu Rising” by Taylor Jenkins Reid
“Malibu Rising” by Taylor Jenkins Reid, available at Amazon and Bookshop, from $16.80
Taylor Jenkins Reid novels are known for being absolute page-turners, and “Malibu Rising” is no different. This book bounces between an epic, life-changing party over 24 hours and the family history of four famous siblings. Together, they’re a fascination to the world, children of the legendary rockstar Mick Riva. They’re all looking forward to their annual party for different reasons except Nina, recently abandoned by her husband and resentful of the spotlight. By morning, the house will be up in flames, but before that the party will become completely out of control and the secrets of the family will rise to the surface.
“The Rose Code” by Kate Quinn
“The Rose Code” by Kate Quinn, available at Amazon and Bookshop, from $13.49
In 1940, three very different women come together during the war to help break German military codes, creating deep bonds that are broken by the pressure of secrecy and the pain of loss through the war. Seven years later, the women are reunited at a royal wedding by a mysterious letter and must revisit a past of betrayal and heartbreak in order to crack one final code and stop an elusive enemy. This is a brilliant and riveting read, a bestseller with perfectly plotted narratives that has quickly become an undeniable 2021 favorite.
“People We Meet on Vacation” by Emily Henry
“People We Meet on Vacation” by Emily Henry, available at Amazon and Bookshop, $9.98
From the author of the 2020 hit “Beach Read” comes another summer favorite of two unlikely friends that vacation together every summer. Alex and Poppy couldn’t be more opposite: Alex, a quiet boy with hometown charm, and Poppy, a wanderlust-fueled wild child. After sharing a ride home in college, the two form a friendship, sharing a vacation together every summer for a decade, until two years ago when they ruined everything. Now, Poppy and Alex come together for one more trip to see if they can mend their friendship or if there’s really something more between them.
“Concrete Rose” by Angie Thomas
“Concrete Rose” by Angie Thomas, available at Amazon and Bookshop, from $12
“Concrete Rose” is the prequel to the super popular YA novel “The Hate U Give”. In this book, readers meet Maverick Carter: a 17-year-old high school student who deals with the gang his father once ruled. When Maverick learns he’s a father, he decides to “go straight” by no longer dealing drugs, working a part-time job, finishing high school, and being there for his son. Torn between loyalty and responsibility, this book is Maverick’s coming-of-age journey as he decides what it means to him to be a father and a man.
“One Last Stop” by Casey McQuiston
“One Last Stop” by Casey McQuiston, available at Amazon and Bookshop, $10.25
August believes the best way to move through life is alone. That is, until she meets Jane on the subway who offers her a simple solution to her bad day. August can’t stop thinking about Jane and luckily sees her every day — strangely on the exact same train, in the exact same car. Jane is from the 1970s, caught in a magical timeslip with little memory of her past. Determined to help, August sets out to rescue Jane from the subway to which she appears to be tethered. This book is a magical young adult queer romance featuring diverse characters, tons of romantic scenes, and a charming plotline that keeps readers yearning for more.
“Outlawed” by Anna North
“Outlawed” by Anna North, available at Amazon and Bookshop, from $17.95
This book is a fast-paced and dangerous story that’s piqued readers’ interest by breaking the mold of traditional Westerns with a queer, feminist Western girl gang. In 1984, Ana is a respected midwife who hasn’t been able to get pregnant after a year of marriage. With the fear of being hanged as a witch, Ana joins the Hole in the Wall Gang, a group determined to create a safe haven for outlawed women. When the gang devises a risky plan, Ana must decide if she’s willing to risk her life for the chance of a new future for them all.
“This Close To Okay” by Leesa Cross-Smith
“This Close To Okay” by Leesa Cross-Smith, available at Amazon and Bookshop, from $16.99
This story takes place over a single weekend after Tallie convinces a man named Emmett to step back from the edge of a bridge and join her for coffee. As a therapist, Tallie aims to create a safe space for Emmett though hesitant to admit it’s also her job. As Emmett begins to confide in Tallie, she releases her own heavy truths and challenges. This book is touching, the tale of two strangers meeting under wild circumstances and finding solace in each other.
“Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know” by Adam Grant
“Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know” by Adam Grant, available at Amazon and Bookshop, from $16.75
Adam Grant is an organizational psychologist who studies how people find motivation and meaning. In this book, Grant encourages people to not only learn from being wrong, but explore how it makes us feel. He examines why we’re uncomfortable “thinking again,” how we can develop greater introspection, and how we can teach others to think again in a way that is often more productive than getting everything right the first time. This book encourages readers to overcome overconfidence and embrace not knowing everything.
“How To Avoid A Climate Disaster: The Solutions We Have and the Breakthroughs We Need” by Bill Gates
“How To Avoid A Climate Disaster: The Solutions We Have and the Breakthroughs We Need” by Bill Gates, available at Amazon and Bookshop, from $15.99
Backed by ten years of research, Bill Gates uses this book to explain why and how we must work towards a goal of zero greenhouse gas emissions. Split into three main parts, Gates describes the environmental fate we currently face, the ways in which technology can function to help us reduce or eliminate our greenhouse gas emissions, and an accessible, well-defined plan by which all individuals, corporations, and governments can abide to reach this goal. This read is urgent and practical, an ambitious plan but one that is optimistic about the future of our environment.
“Between Two Kingdoms: A Memoir of a Life Interrupted” by Suleika Jaquad
“Between Two Kingdoms: A Memoir of a Life Interrupted” by Suleika Jaquad, available at Amazon and Bookshop, from $18.24
In a transformative story that grips readers from the first pages, we meet Suleika Jaquad in the summer after graduating from college with a world of opportunities ahead of her. After a swarm of strange itches, inescapable exhaustion, and a flurry of tests, Suleika is diagnosed with leukemia just before her 23rd birthday. After four years in a hospital bed, Suleika finally beats cancer to find a new set of challenges ahead of her: How to live rather than survive. Full of emotional truths, this is a story of heartbreak and triumph from a survivor with a chance to begin again.
“Broken (in the best possible way)” by Jenny Lawson
“Broken (in the best possible way)” by Jenny Lawson, available at Amazon and Bookshop, from $15.83
Jenny Lawson is a popular blogger known for her sarcasm and unique outlook on life. She’s been open about her struggles with depression and her mental health journey and, with this book, encourages readers to humanize and destigmatize mental health in her own notoriously hilarious ways. With a series of funny anecdotes, Jenny hopes readers feel less alone in their own experiences with depression and anxiety, especially in a time where more people are struggling with their mental health than ever before.
“Crying in H Mart: A Memoir” by Michelle Zauner
“Crying in H Mart: A Memoir” by Michelle Zauner, available at Amazon and Bookshop, from $16.17
Michelle Zauner explores growing up Korean American, feeling the high expectations of her mother, and bonding with her grandmother over late-night food in Seoul. As she grows into adulthood, she feels more and more distant from her Korean heritage — until her mother is diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer. Forced to reconnect with her identity, Zauner offers the truest look at her most difficult days, portraying every bit of grief and conflict mixed with stunning food descriptions.
“Four Hundred Souls: A Community History of African America, 1619-2019” edited by Ibram X. Kendi and Keisha N. Blain
“Four Hundred Souls: A Community History of African America, 1619-2019” edited by Ibram X. Kendi and Keisha N. Blain, available at Amazon and Bookshop, from $15.20
This is a chronological account of 400 years of previously silenced Black history in America. Curated by two historians, this book begins with the arrival of 20 enslaved Ndongo people in 1619 and continues to tell stories of slavery, segregation, and oppression over 80 chapters. There are also celebrations of African art and music, a life-changing collection that concludes with an essay from Alicia Garza on the Black Lives Matter movement.
“A Swim in a Pond in the Rain” by George Saunders
“A Swim in a Pond in the Rain” by George Saunders, available at Amazon and Bookshop, from $14.99
George Saunders teaches Russian short stories to MFA students at Syracuse University, focusing on what makes stories great, what fiction can tell us about ourselves, and the ways in which literature reflects our world today. This book is a version of his class, using Russian short stories across seven essays to demonstrate how relevant great writing still is. This book is highly accessible, abandoning complex literary concepts in the search for more straightforward answers, making it a perfect new publication for those who loved Stephen King’s “On Writing”.
“The Light of Days: The Untold Story of Women Resistance Fighters in Hitler’s Ghettos” by Judy Batalion
“The Light of Days: The Untold Story of Women Resistance Fighters in Hitler’s Ghettos” by Judy Batalion, available at Amazon and Bookshop, from $22.99
This is a nonfiction book that reads like a thrilling historical fiction novel, a previously forgotten story of Jewish women who became resistance fighters in World War II after watching the Nazi destruction of their communities and the murders of their family members. The author is the granddaughter of Polish Holocaust survivors, transporting readers to 1939 where Jewish women bribed German soldiers, paid off guards, hid revolvers, and bombed train lines to fight for the freedom of their people.
“The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together” by Heather McGhee
“The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together” by Heather McGhee, available at Amazon and Bookshop, from $17.98
Heather McGhee is an economist who explains how racism and white supremacy have negative social and economic effects on white people, too. She uses the concept of “zero-sum” (the idea that progress for some comes at the expense of others) to introduce her own new concept: The Solidarity Dividend, an idea that progress is felt amongst all when people come together across race and achieve what cannot be done alone. Heather uses historical examples and individual stories to explain how racism against minorities has had negative consequences for everyone, and to offer real solutions for a better future.
“Aftershocks: A Memoir” by Nadia Owusu
“Aftershocks: A Memoir” by Nadia Owusu, available at Amazon and Bookshop, from $16.89
“Aftershocks” is a memoir from a woman who was raised all around the world, struggling to understand all the pieces of herself. Nadia Owusu’s memoir is a beautifully written story about a complicated earthquake of a young life and understanding the aftershocks of trauma and vulnerability. When Owusu’s mother abandoned her at two years old and her father died when she was 13, she was raised by her stepmother, unable to shake the feelings of loneliness. Her story is a weave of memoir and generational history, a journey of understanding the compilation of experiences and cultures that comprise an identity.
“You’ll Never Believe What Happened to Lacey: Crazy Stories About Racism” by Amber Ruffin and Lacey Lamar
“You’ll Never Believe What Happened to Lacey: Crazy Stories About Racism” by Amber Ruffin and Lacey Lamar, available at Amazon and Bookshop, from $18.08
Amber Ruffin and Lacey Lamar are sisters who collaborated to create a compilation of what seem like absurdly unreal stories of racism, yet are all true and sometimes regular experiences for Black people. Told with hilarious sibling banter, the sisters swap stories of people mistaking them for Harriet Tubman, putting their whole hand in their hair, and their interaction with a racist donut store owner. Amber and Lacey shed light on these ridiculous moments of racism with which Black people can commiserate and others can learn from.
“Last Call: A True Story of Love, Lust, and Murder in Queer New York” by Elon Green
“Last Call: A True Story of Love, Lust, and Murder in Queer New York” by Elon Green, available at Amazon and Bookshop, from $23.99
This is a true crime book about the Last Call Killer, a serial killer who targeted gay men in New York in the 1980s and ’90s. Because of the high murder rates, the AIDS epidemic, and the sexuality of the victims, the Last Call Killer had been mostly forgotten despite the graphic and horrifying nature of the murders. This book traces the decades-long search for the murderer while also sharing the stories of the victims and the resilience of the gay community.
The Pulitzer Prize-winning author of “The Power Broker” and “The Years of Lyndon Johnson,” Robert A. Caro, is known for his meticulously researched, thoroughly reported biographies.
His voluminous works are celebrated, as is his dedication to his craft: Caro and his wife Ina have outright moved their residence multiple times in service of his books, so that they could experience the world as the subjects of his books might have. Collectively, they’ve spent tens of thousands of hours poring over documents, conducting interviews, and much more – all in the service of thoroughly, accurately portraying the lives of his books’ subjects.
Which is why Caro’s latest book, “Working: Researching, Interviewing, Writing,” is so particularly fascinating.
In “Working,” for the first time ever, Caro details the fascinating process behind his process.
The book is tremendously useful if you’re at all interested in researching and writing non-fiction, but there’s one particularly useful piece of advice for anyone: “Interviews: silence is the weapon, silence and people’s need to fill it – as long as the person isn’t you, the interviewer,” Caro writes in a chapter titled “Tricks of the Trade.”
Caro likens his own interviewing process to those of fictional interviewers Inspector Maigret and George Smiley, at least in one distinct way: All three “have little devices they use to keep themselves from talking.” In the case of Maigret, Caro says, he cleans his pipe. And in the case of Smiley, he cleans his glasses.
Caro does something far more pedestrian: He writes reminders for himself to shut up.
“When I’m waiting for the person I’m interviewing to break a silence by giving me a piece of information I want, I write ‘SU’ (for Shut Up!) in my notebook,” Caro says. “If anyone were to ever look through my notebooks, he would find a lot of ‘SUs’ there.”
Whether you’re interviewing a subject or interviewing a job candidate, the same logic applies: Shut up! How that person responds to silence could speak volumes.
The pros and cons of Kindles are discussed at great lengths among bibliophiles. The conveniences of a light device and a vast digital library are great, but many readers prefer the physical feeling of reading an open book and turning its pages.
Amazon could meet readers somewhere in the middle with a future product.
Amazon released the first Kindle over a decade ago. The $399 device was thick and heavy with a physical keyboard – and sold out in under six hours. By 2010, e-readers were expected to kill off the sale of physical books, a shift quickly compared to the growing music streaming industry.
Today, print books are more popular than e-books, according to Statista, a recovery that many owe to the physicality of hardcovers that Kindles have yet to effectively replicate. By 2025, the global e-reader market is expected to shrink by $300 million.
“I’m a sucker for paperbacks,” Erika Semprem, a 23-year-old book influencer known as @theazereads told Insider. “But I do love that Kindles are more convenient. Instead of driving 25 minutes to the bookstore, I can purchase whatever book I’m in the mood for right away.”
Ten generations of Kindles later, Amazon says the latest Kindle Oasis “reads like real paper” with e-ink technology and fast page turns. As of 2019, over 90 million Americans own an e-reader, with the Kindle listed as the most widely-owned device.
If internal talks to make a foldable Kindle solidify, this could be the e-reader book lovers have been waiting for.
Most people in my life know me as that friend who’s always talking about her feelings. It’s true: I go to therapy, and I talk constantly to anyone who’ll listen about what I’m learning there; I use “I” statements; and I ask everyone, “How does that make you feel?”
The book offered me hands-on, research-backed interpersonal skills for building what the authors call “exceptional relationships,” which have six hallmarks: Both people can be more fully themselves, can be honest with each other, are willing to be vulnerable, can trust that self-disclosure will not be used against them, can deal with conflict productively, and will commit to each other’s growth and development.
I decided to test out some of the book’s lessons on one longstanding personal relationship and one new one – my best friend, and a person I recently started dating – to see what it would change.
I saw the fruits of my labor in less than a month. Here are some of the most valuable strategies I learned.
1. Stay on your side of the net
When my best friend recently told me about a summer trip she’d planned that didn’t include me, I immediately assumed it meant that she doesn’t like traveling with me. But I reeled in my melodrama and recalled one of the book’s lessons: Stay on your side of the net.
According to the authors, there are three realities in the interpersonal cycle: the other person’s intent, which only they know; their behavior, which is observable by both parties; and the impact of that behavior on you, which only you know. Imagine it as a tennis court, where there’s a net between intent and behavior. In assuming my friend’s motives, I was playing on her side of the court – over the net.
When you stay on your side of the net, you remain in your own reality and let the other person know you’re not judging their character or asking them to change their personality. This leaves room for them to hear what you have to say and tell you more about their intentions.
2. Express a ‘pinch’ before it becomes a ‘crunch’
Recently, I expressed to the guy I’ve been dating that something he did made me feel unappreciated. I told him it wasn’t a big deal, but that I wanted to talk about it while it was a “pinch” (a mild offense) so it wouldn’t become a “crunch” (a major conflict).
Before we chatted, I took Bradford and Robin’s advice of stating the intent of my feedback – to offer him more insight into how I operate and what I need from a partner, and kept the no-big-deal issue at hand from spiraling into something bigger.
3. Offer behaviorally specific feedback
Pointing out observable behaviors is crucial to good communication, as it allows the other person to share their motives.
If I tell my friend, “You don’t want to take a trip with me,” I’m setting the conversation up negatively. But if I say, “You’ve recently planned a bunch of trips but haven’t invited me on any,” I’m merely stating something observable, which allows for vulnerability where we can both talk about our needs and intentions.
4. Try the 15% Rule
Stepping 15% outside the “Zone of Comfort” means offering information about yourself that is slightly uncomfortable but not too risky, to see how the other person will respond.
With the guy I’m seeing, I disclosed some personal past experiences. I wasn’t stepping into the “Danger Zone” – where there’s a likelihood of him reacting negatively or me feeling like I’ve said too much too soon – but I was getting myself closer to the “Zone of Learning,” where I can gauge his reaction and decide if I feel safe sharing more.
Face the fear
The principles of “Connect” can be applied to any relationship, but I found I was just as nervous trying these tactics with my close friend as I was with a new romantic partner. After all, it’s human to fear that if someone really knew you, they’d reject you.
But I learned it’s entirely worth it. In less than a month, I experienced newfound closeness in both of these relationships. Maybe best of all, I improved how I communicate, and gave myself permission to evolve and be more fully myself.
Michelle Juergen is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer, editor, copywriter, copyeditor, and ghostwriter. She often overshares her feelings on Instagram to anyone willing to read her lengthy captions.
Beach reads used to be known as mindless, mass-market paperbacks with shirtless men on the cover that we’d throw in our bags, read for an hour, and never care about again. But now, beach reads are an escape, whether your toes are in the sand or not. They take us on vacation, into a new world away from our stresses.
My mark of a good beach read is one with a fully consuming story. Many of these books are ones I’ve read in a single day (or a single sitting), and every one of them pairs perfectly with a day off. Whether it’s a delightfully cheesy romantic comedy or harrowing nonfiction, every book on this list has the potential to whisk you away and make any day a vacation in the sun.
Of course I had to include this one. It’s about two polar-opposite writers staying in neighboring beach houses for the summer, one a romance writer and the other trying to write the next Great American Novel. Faced with writer’s block, they decide to swap topics and spend the summer teaching each other the ins and outs of writing their genres, all while competing to publish their own book first. With plenty of romance, scenes that might make you cry, and an interesting (and accurate) inside look at the process of writing a book, this is an easy one to read in the sun.
Irresistible beach read quality: The enemies-to-friends-to-lovers storyline.
A beach read that feels like a reality show
“One to Watch” by Kate Stayman-London, available at Amazon and Bookshop
Okay, I’ll admit it. I watch “The Bachelorette” every single week. If you love watching the show’s smart, strong leads who know exactly what they want and refuse to settle, then you will absolutely love this book. Bea is a plus-sized fashion blogger who gets asked to be on a “Bachelorette”-like reality show. She sees it as an opportunity to grow her brand and show that plus-size women deserve the spotlight, too. Between internet drama and conniving producers, this book is more entertaining than a reality show.
Irresistible beach read quality: The can’t-look-away drama.
A charming, sexy rom-com
“Take A Hint, Dani Brown” by Talia Hibbert, available at Amazon and Bookshop
First of all, every Talia Hibbert book belongs on this list. Her romances are known for their sensitivity and steam, but they’re also such enjoyable reads that any one of them is perfect for a relaxing beach day. Danika has no interest in a relationship but asks the universe for the perfect friend-with-benefits. So when a video of sexy security guard Zafir carrying Danika out of a building goes viral, they decide to fake a relationship to promote Zafir’s charity (and help Danika secretly seduce him behind the scenes). I loved Dani’s intelligence and the anti-toxic masculinity storyline around Zafir. Have you ever teared up because a book was so naturally inclusive that it felt like a breath of fresh air? You might once you grab this.
Irresistible beach read quality: The steamy romance.
An emotional yet adorable romance
“The Happy Ever After Playlist” by Abbi Jimenez, available at Amazon and Bookshop
This one starts out a little cheesy, but there’s something so endearing about it that got me hooked. Sloan lost her fiancé two years ago and is still struggling to get her life together when she finds a lost pup named Tucker whose owner, Jason, is on tour in Australia. The two exchange texts and calls, their connection growing as their meeting grows near. But being an international star, Jason might not have time for a relationship and Sloan could end up heartbroken again. This book is super dramatic and full of scandal, giving it all the summer romance vibes you need.
Irresistible beach read quality: A super cute dog — and a dog owner who’s not too bad looking, either.
The tale of an unexpected Hawaiian vacation
“The Unhoneymooners” by Christina Lauren, available at Amazon and Bookshop
Christina and Lauren (the co-authors) have written a bunch of fun rom-coms but this is my favorite because it’s absolutely hysterical. Olive (who thinks love is gross) and her sworn enemy Ethan put aside their mutual hatred for an all-expense-paid Hawaiian honeymoon after food poisoning hits everyone in her sister’s wedding besides them. When they run into her boss, the entire vacation revolves around pretending to be loving newlyweds. It’s adorable and fast-paced because of the constant (and hilarious) complications that arise.
Irresistible beach read quality: The witty banter.
The day I opened this book, I did absolutely nothing else besides getting to the bottom of what the heck was happening in these pages. Lowen is a budding writer, brought to the Crawford home to finish writing Verity’s book series after a car accident left her in a waking coma. While doing research in Verity’s library, Lowen finds an autobiographical manuscript with haunting admissions, so devastating that she chooses to keep them a secret. This is a rollercoaster of lies that will have you trying to guess the truth until the last page.
Irresistible beach read quality: The need to know the truth gets stronger with every lie.
“Gone Girl” is undoubtedly the most famous of Flynn’s novels but “Sharp Objects” is my favorite to recommend as a beach read. It’s a bit shorter — and so twisted that you have to finish it in a day. Camille is an investigative reporter returning to her small town to cover the murder of a young girl. She’s staying with her hypochondriac mother in her childhood bedroom and must unravel some psychological twists in order to uncover the story. This is an incredibly suspenseful thriller and you’ll need the sun to balance out all the dark secrets.
Irresistible beach read quality: A disturbing past that feels all too real.
Anna is spending the summer in the Hamptons on a nannying gig, in a community on edge after the New Year’s Eve disappearance of Zoe Spanos. Anna, who is constantly reminded of her resemblance to Zoe, begins to dig deeper into the unsolved case. Two months later, she finds herself charged with the manslaughter of a girl she’d never met. The book bounces between Anna’s confession and the summer as it unfolds, with an ending that will throw you for a loop — I really thought I had this one all figured out but the last 10 pages blew me away.
Irresistible beach read quality: The true-crime feel.
Blythe is determined to be the warm and loving mother she never had. She’s convinced that something is wrong with her daughter, even though her husband says she’s exhausted and just imagining things. When her second child is born, the connection between herself and her children is strong and beautiful, until their lives are forever changed. This is another one that demands to be read in one sitting as everything you’ve accepted is eventually overturned. The book’s short chapters have you turning the pages faster and faster as you navigate haunting memories, trauma, and the legacy of motherhood.
Irresistible beach read quality: The ending that will make you want to throw the book in the ocean.
Historical fiction beach reads
A page-turning exploration of one woman’s life
“The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo” by Taylor Jenkins Reid, available at Amazon and Bookshop
This was the first book I read in a single sitting and it’s one I recommend to everyone. Evelyn Hugo is an A-list Hollywood actress who is finally ready to tell her story, but only to one little-known journalist. In this book, we get to hear Evelyn’s story of rising to fame in the ’50s, leaving the business in the ’80s, and marrying seven husbands (all for different reasons) along the way. Taylor Jenkins Reid writes characters and stories that are so vivid, you can’t believe they’re not real. This book is fascinating and a little heartbreaking, and when everything comes together in the end, it might become your new favorite.
Irresistible beach read quality: The desire to know who the love of Evelyn’s life was.
Just when you think you’ve read every World War II story there is to tell, this book comes into your life. It’s about French women’s role in the war — from secret messengers across country lines to wives forced to house German soldiers as bombs drop around them. While 600 pages might warrant a week-long beach stay, I read this in two days and cried twice. It is so achingly beautiful and so hard to pull away.
Irresistible beach read quality: The constant action of women fighting to survive.
A historical tale set in Scotland
“The Skylark’s Secret” by Fiona Valpy, available at Amazon and Bookshop
In 1940, Flora embarks on a forbidden romance that brings even more tension into a home rocked by devastating changes in the community. Many years later, Flora’s daughter, Lexie, returns to the village with her own daughter to learn about her mother, their past, and the sacrifices made in her name. This multi-generational story is about war, love, and learning from and about our past. The family dynamics — and facing that which lays hidden behind them — make this book so beloved by many.
Irresistible beach read quality: The connection between the generations of women and their homeland.
A fictional account of a real, often-overlooked woman
Maggie O’Farrell’s magical writing elevates an already fascinating book into one that you’ll hold close long after the summer is over. It’s historical fiction, based on the little-known (but real) story of Agnes, found in the footnotes of “Hamlet.” In 1580s England, Agnes is a gifted healer, both feared and sought-after, who settles down with her husband and has three children. When her son, Hamnet, dies at age eleven, Agnes’ husband writes a play called “Hamlet.” You absolutely do not need to be a Shakespeare buff to love this story and appreciate its rightful place in history.
“With the Fire on High” by Elizabeth Acevedo, available at Amazon and Bookshop
The only place Emoni has to let go of her stress is the kitchen, making food that everyone agrees is unparalleled. With a dream to be a chef and an opportunity just out of reach, Emoni needs to find a way to balance her dreams and responsibilities. This one is about hardships: Young motherhood, the harshness of the world, and balancing everything you love. It’s a very character-driven novel, so prepare yourself to become emotionally invested in Emoni’s happiness and success. Elizabeth Acevedo might not be capable of writing anything that’s not incredible, as every book of hers I’ve read has blown me away.
Irresistible beach read quality: The food in this book will make you hungry in real life.
A queer enemies-to-lovers royal romance
“Red, White, and Royal Blue” by Casey McQuiston, available at Amazon and Bookshop
Alex Claremont-Diaz is the first son of the White House with a lifelong nemesis — Prince Henry of British royalty. When Alex confronts Henry at a royal wedding, the story is leaked to the tabloids and the best solution is a publicity stunt: a fake friendship between the two. As Henry and Alex begin to fall in love, the truth threatens to destroy the President’s reelection campaign and even the relations between Britain and America. I love a good queer romance but the added royal aspect, the snarky wit between the boys, and the fun development of the relationship make this a must-read for the summer.
Irresistible beach read quality: The heart-swelling romance.
A competitive and sweet first-love story
“Today Tonight Tomorrow” by Rachel Lynn Solomon, available at Amazon and Bookshop
For all four years of high school, Rowan and Neil hate each other, bitter rivals and complete opposites. When Neil is named valedictorian, Rowan finds one last chance to beat him in a scavenger hunt/ninja assassin game played by all seniors after graduation. The plot spans 24 hours, which keeps this book moving quickly. It’s easy to laugh and root for these two as their faux-hateful banter turns quickly to friendship despite years of sworn rivalry.
Irresistible beach read quality: The balance between pure fun and deeper feelings.
A truly adorable, romantic high school adventure
“To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” by Jenny Han, available at Amazon and Bookshop
Lara Jean does not tell boys that she has a crush on them. Instead, she writes each one a letter and hides them all under her bed. Somehow, these letters have been mailed and all her past crushes, big and small, are confronting her about them. It’s highly amusing because of the reappearance of every crush — from her sister’s ex-boyfriend to her first kiss many years ago. The story is very cute and light, so you can relax in the sun as Lara winds through sisterhood and her past loves towards a romance that leaves you smiling.
Irresistible beach read quality: A light love story to make any beach day brighter.
A summer beach read set in picturesque Italy
“Love & Gelato” by Jenna Evans Welch, available at Amazon and Bookshop
After her mother passes away, Lina finds her mother’s old journal while spending the summer in Tuscany to get to know her father. Suddenly no longer focused on leaving, Lina begins to follow her mother’s writing through Italy’s streets and discover her secrets with the help of a charming local boy. It’s a summer story of family, first love, and discovery. My favorite quote is “People come to Italy for all sorts of reasons, but when they stay it’s for the same two things… love and gelato.”
Irresistible beach read quality: The adorable love story accompanying the uncovering of long-kept secrets.
Contemporary fiction beach reads
A novel of two very different journeys
“The Vanishing Half” by Brit Bennett, available at Amazon and Bookshop
The Vignes sisters ran away from their small, southern Black community at 16 and moved on to very different lives; one sister moving back home with her Black daughter; the other passing for white, marrying a white man — and telling him nothing of her past. When their daughters’ lives intersect years later, they begin to uncover the decisions and lies of their mothers. This book is about race, but also exploration, identity, desires, and how our past influences it all. There is so much about this book to love that I read it twice.
Irresistible beach read quality: The stark differences of two sisters with the same upbringing.
This is a coming-of-age story about the friendship between Bunny, a too-tall Olympic hopeful, and Michael, her closeted, home-schooled neighbor. Bunny is desperate to fit in and hide from her father’s alcoholism while Michael is trying to navigate his sexuality while meeting up with men on the internet, the two taking solace in each other’s company. With really intelligent writing that keeps you interested in the characters, it’s an unapologetic and unflinchingly honest telling of two teens seeking human connection.
Irresistible beach read quality: A tender look into the victories and downfalls of two misfits.
This book gets interesting from the first scene, where Emira, a young African-American woman, is accused of kidnapping Briar, the white child she babysits, while walking around the grocery store. Alix, the blogger mom of the child, tries to right the situation that quickly gets farther and farther out of control. Emira and Briar are hugely loveable characters that contrast heavily with the supposedly well-intentioned Alix, making this an entertaining read as well as a broader commentary on race, class, and influencer culture.
Irresistible beach read quality: How true-to-life the story feels.
A story of fighting for what you love
“Things You Save In A Fire” by Katherine Center, available at Amazon and Bookshop
Katherine Center is so good at writing hardships that leave you feeling hopeful. This one is about Cassie, one of the only female firefighters in her firehouse. With rundown facilities, no funding to fix them, and an environment that borders on toxic, the men aren’t thrilled to have a woman join the crew, even though she’s more competent than most of them. When the handsome new guy is the only one nice to her, Cassie has to constantly remind herself that she doesn’t date firefighters. Katherine Center writes stories that have you rooting for the main character with every part of your heart and soul, and this one is true to form.
Irresistible beach read quality: The protagonist’s complete badassery.
A classic-feeling beach read with secrets galore
“Winter In Paradise” by Elin Hilderbrand, available at Amazon and Bookshop
Elin Hilderbrand is basically the ultimate beach read writer, churning out smooth reads that end in cliffhangers. After the sudden, tragic death of her husband, Irene travels to St. John to investigate the unusual circumstances in which he died, stumbling upon the secrets of a man she may not have known as well as she thought. I loved this for a summer read because the characters are easy to understand, the drama keeps you interested, and there’s just enough romance to have me rooting for love.
Irresistible beach read quality: The tropical tourist destination setting.
Non-fiction beach reads
A historical crisis told in an intimate way
“The Splendid and The Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz” by Erik Larson, available at Amazon and Bookshop
This book is a highly researched history about Churchill’s actions and reactions in Britain during the WWII era. It follows him as well as his family and friends through the fear surrounding London as Hitler kills 45,000 Britains in a bombing campaign, having invaded Holland and Belgium on Churchill’s first day as Prime Minister. Erik Larson writes history like an unfolding drama, so you’ll find yourself learning and invested in the story.
Irresistible beach read quality: The diaries and formerly classified intelligence reports.
A true story about the mothers of our heroes
“The Three Mothers” by Anna Malaika Tubbs, available at Amazon and Bookshop
This is the story of the mothers who raised and shaped Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, and James Baldwin. Faced with Jim Crow-era racism, little has been previously said of the incredible women who taught these men the beliefs of justice and equality that would change the world. The book is filled with love and compassion, bringing the experience of Black women and mothers into the conversation while truly demonstrating their vital significance in the ongoing fight against oppression.
Irresistible beach read quality: The untold stories of three extraordinary women.
A fact-filled presentation of a frustrating bias
“Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men” by Caroline Criado Pérez, available at Amazon and Bookshop
In nearly every aspect of our society, women are systematically ignored. From the way crash test dummies, voice recognition software, and even medicinal dosing have been designed, the data that drives nearly every aspect of our lives revolves around men. This book can be a little appalling as the well-researched case studies shed light on an unconscious bias in our society that might start to feel more and more obvious as you learn more about it.
Irresistible beach read quality: The data to back up every claim.
A true story about women who glow
“The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America’s Shining Women” by Kate Moore, available at Amazon and Bookshop
As soon as I found out about this phenomenon of “The Radium Girls” I dove headfirst into this book. During the First World War, they were working in factories to get radium — a newly discovered magical drug — into the hands of the public. The girls were covered in radium, literally glowing from the chemical all over their bodies after leaving their coveted jobs. But when they began to fall ill, the factories ignored their claims that it could be from the radium. It’s the story of a fight for workers’ rights, one that saved so many lives because the women demanded to be heard. It’s also such a remarkable story that it’s easy to forget it’s true.
Irresistible beach read quality: The tension created from fighting for what’s right.
If you’re shopping for a book lover, Barnes & Noble offers gift cards that can be used both online and in store. You can purchase a card with a pre-set amount, or choose your own amount up to $2,000. After receiving a gift card, you can activate it by calling a toll-free number or go online to activate and use it instantly.
Once activated, using the gift card is easy, so knowing how to check your card’s balance is a must. Fortunately, Barnes & Noble has three different ways to check your balance.
How to check your Barnes & Noble gift card balance online
If you want to check your balance online, you can access your balance through the company’s website.
2. Hover your mouse over the Stationery & Gifts tab at the top and select Gift Cards in the drop-down menu.
3. Select Check Gift Card Balance in the center of the page.
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5. Click Check Balance. The amount will display below the button.
How to check your Barnes & Noble gift card balance by phone
Barnes & Noble also gives you the option to call their toll-free number to check your balance. Dialing 1-800-295-3029 will connect you to an operator who will ask you to enter “8” before entering your gift card number and the pound key. You’ll be instructed to enter your PIN before being told your card balance.
How to check your Barnes & Noble gift card balance in-store
You have the option to go into a Barnes & Noble store to check your balance. At the bottom-right corner of the Barnes & Noble website, there’s a search box to help you find the nearest store.
A Barnes & Noble associate at the help counter or register can help you check your balance; you just need your gift card to provide them with your card number and PIN.
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Thriller books are naturally enticing, fast-paced fiction reads with notorious plot twists.
The best thrillers offer plenty of suspense and mystery throughout the novel.
This list has a wide variety of popular books, including crime and psychological thrillers.
Known for their shocking twists and turns, thrillers have taken the book industry by storm over the last several years for one clear reason: They make reading really fun. Thrillers stand out as gripping stories in a world where so many things compete for our attention. They build up fast and grip us tightly as we navigate shadowy hallways and unsolved murders, eliciting an adrenaline rush just from turning the page.
Almost half the books in my personal library are thrillers. I love the “can’t-put-it-down” feeling of a tense plotline and a twist that makes me want to throw a book at a wall (that’s a good thing – I swear!). I’ve read the vast majority of the books on this list and added the rest based on the rave reviews from other thriller book nerds. Whether it’s a deeply psychological thriller narrative, a fast-paced YA mystery novel, or a crime thriller too scary to read at night, there’s a book on this list for every thriller lover.
A psychological thriller with an electrifying twist
“Before She Knew Him” by Peter Swanson, available at Amazon and Bookshop
Speaking of throwing books against a wall, this was the first book I ever chucked when the plot twist was revealed — one that I didn’t even know was a possibility until I reached the climax. Henrietta has finally found some stability between her bipolar medication and her new home with her husband. When they go to the neighbor’s house for dinner, Henrietta notices a unique trophy that definitely belonged to someone who was killed two years ago. Torn between the comfort of her new life and her weakness to find the answer to this unsolved case, Henrietta quickly unravels far more than she bargained for.
Thrill factor: A plot twist that will have you rethinking the entire book.
A thriller with multiple truths
“The Silent Patient” by Alex Michaelides, available at Amazon and Bookshop
There are four stories here: The one the jury decided, his, hers, and — completely separate — the truth. I love books with “solved” murders that push us to read on to uncover the real truth. One night, Alicia’s husband returns home late from his job. She shoots him five times in the face and never speaks again. Confined to a psychiatric ward, Theo — a criminal psychotherapist — is determined to get Alicia to talk and uncover why she murdered her husband. Digging into Alicia’s past reveals that there are many things that can drive us to do the unthinkable.
Thrill factor: Being sure of the truth just before new information is revealed.
This one was particularly enticing and dark, the secrets running far deeper and with more complexity than I expected. It’s been 10 years since Laurel’s then-15-year-old daughter, Ellie, disappeared — and Laurel has never given up hope of finding her. Laurel is swept up in a romance with her new boyfriend and finds herself meeting his nine-year-old daughter, who looks exactly like Ellie did at that age. This is a tightly wound ball of thriller chaos that is so much fun to unravel as you read.
Thrill factor: A plot that catches you completely off guard.
A deeply psychological thriller
“Behind Her Eyes” by Sarah Pinborough, available at Amazon and Bookshop
On Monday morning, Louise discovers her (very married) boss is the same man with whom she shared an amazing kiss at a bar just days ago. Though assuring her it will never happen again, David can’t keep his eyes off Louise. What ensues is a complex yet comprehensible web of manipulation and a twist that had me nearly yelling “WHAT?!” by the end.
Thrill factor: A baffling realization hiding in the final pages.
Blythe is fully committed to being the warm, nurturing mother she never had, but she’s convinced that something is wrong with her new baby — she doesn’t behave as other children do. As her husband dismisses her fears, she begins to question her sanity. When her second child is born, the familial connections are undeniable…until a devastating event has Blythe (and the reader) questioning everything. Best described as a tour de force, this is an extremely fast-paced thriller that’s easy to devour in a day.
Thrill factor: A whiplash-y plot that launches you straight into the story.
An unsettling marital thriller
“Behind Closed Doors” by B. A. Paris, available at Amazon and Bookshop
Jack and Grace are the epitome of true love, radiating elegance, wealth, and charm, all while never being apart…ever. It’s hard to get to know the mysterious Grace because she can’t meet for coffee, she never answers her phone, and one of the bedroom windows seems to have bars on it. This is one that masterfully incites panic into a reader, worrying about the characters and desperately needing to know what happens.
Thrill factor: The graphic descriptions in the already chilling scenes.
This is a guilty pleasure of a thriller: fast, dramatic, and satisfying. Kate had a picture-perfect life with her husband and daughter — until her husband left for a woman half his age. Tish is gorgeous, luxurious, and only a little suspicious of her new husband’s previous infidelity. She plans a romantic getaway to fend Kate off, but love and revenge are powerful weapons that tear plans apart.
Thrill factor: The dark humor that ramps up the intensity.
A psychological thriller that will leave you speechless
With an unreliable narrator and more lies than you can count, this thriller is perfectly constructed and the plot is a baffling rollercoaster. When Amber wakes up from a coma, she can’t remember what happened, but she suspects her husband has something to do with it. This book alternates between the present, the week before her accident, and Amber’s childhood diaries to help us piece together a brilliant psychological twist.
Thrill factor: The subtle inflections the narrator assigns to each character.
A dark yet elegant crime thriller
“Behind the Red Door” by Megan Collins, available at Amazon and Bookshop
Megan Collins became well-known for her debut thriller “The Winter Sister,” but I’m here to proclaim that “Behind the Red Door” is the one that should really be in the spotlight. I have never read a thriller that featured characters with such complexity or one where I said “oh NO” out loud so many times. When Fern hears the news that a woman named Astrid has gone missing, she’s sure she knows her. Fern’s husband is sure that it must be from Astrid’s infamous kidnapping 20 years prior, which happened just outside Fern’s childhood town but of which she has no memory. When Astrid starts appearing in Fern’s nightmares, Fern grapples to understand if it’s a dream or a memory with the help of her psychologist father.
Thrill factor: The main character’s unreliable memory.
If you have yet to be pulled into the Netflix adaptation, resist and pick up the book first! This is the creepiest yet most believable stalker thriller, packed with so many insane developments that you think it can’t get any wilder…until it does. Told from Joe’s perspective, the book depicts his rapidly growing obsession over a woman he meets in a bookstore, one that morphs and twists as Joe stops at nothing to make himself the center of her world. Joe is the most messed up fictional character I’ve ever encountered, making this book a fabulously creepy thriller to grab.
This thriller gripped me so much that I read the second half all in one shot and finished at 3:30 a.m. It’s about a serial killer and abductor who whispers to children to lure them away from safety. The Whisper Man has been locked away for 20 years, but the patterns of his crimes are emerging once again. The book also threw in a couple of mini-twists at the end that made reading until the very last page exciting.
Thrill factor: Wanting so badly to protect the characters.
An alluring marital thriller
“My Lovely Wife” by Samantha Downing, available at Amazon and Bookshop
In this creepy thriller where we never learn the narrator’s name, a married couple does everything married couples are “supposed” to do: Settle down, buy a house, have a kid, and grow horribly bored with their lives. With the thrills building up in nearly every scene, the secret ingredient that keeps their marriage alive is getting away with murder.
Thrill factor: The layers upon layers of secrets behind every character.
Rachel’s true-crime podcast gained notoriety after it helped set an innocent man free. When a note begging for help is left on Rachel’s windshield, it launches an investigation into the past and present, exploring a town disrupted by a rape trial and a drowning accident from 25 years ago. This is an especially perfect thriller for true crime lovers — it swirls you quickly into the center of this plot and keeps you strapped in for the ride.
Thrill factor: The two separate (yet intertwined) mysteries
This heartbreaking story about familial tragedy is as deep as it is twisty. Matt returns home after a night of partying to be informed that nearly his entire family was killed by a gas leak in their hotel in Mexico. Though it seems like an accident, one FBI agent believes otherwise, but won’t disclose why. The deaths make national headlines because this isn’t the first time Matt’s family has been thrust into the spotlight: his brother is currently in prison for the murder of his high school girlfriend — a murder the public believes he didn’t commit. When Matt returns home to bury his family, the connections between his brother’s case and his family’s accident begin to emerge.
Thrill factor: That “look over your shoulder” feeling.
A domestic legal thriller
“A Good Marriage” by Kimberly McCreight, available at Amazon and Bookshop
This domestic thriller is just as emotional and insightful as it is surprising and exhilarating. Lizzie spends long hours working at her law firm after her marriage slowly crumbled apart. When she gets a call from Zach, her old friend who’s currently being held on suspicion of killing his wife, Lizzie knows she has to drop everything and help him. As she begins to piece together what happened to Zach’s wife, she finds that maybe their idyllic marriage wasn’t so great after all.
Thrill Factor: The marital drama and endless secrets.
An indisputable thriller staple, this is a great one to pick up if you’re just getting into the genre because it will introduce you to some of the nuances of thrillers on which many others are based. In this book, Amy goes missing on her and Nick’s fifth wedding anniversary. Dealing with the town breathing down his neck and haunting diary entries from his wife, Nick begins to spin a web of lies around his wife’s disappearance.
Thrill factor: Carefully sculpted plot twists.
A full-throttle, high suspenseful mystery thriller
I ignored my family during the holidays because of this book, and I’m not sorry about it! While driving home through Colorado, Darby is caught in a blizzard and forced to wait the storm out at a highway rest stop, stranded with four strangers. When she goes to her car to try and get a signal, she notices a child locked in a cage in the back of a van. Far from police help, Darby must figure out which person is the kidnapper and get the child and herself to safety. This was the tensest I have ever felt reading a book.
Thrill factor: The high-speed action scenes.
A thriller of multiple marriages (and multiple truths)
“Too Good To Be True” by Carola Lovering, available at Amazon and Bookshop
With three points of view (and none of them entirely reliable), “Too Good To Be True” is a thriller about two marriages and the secrets that can uproot well-laid plans. Skye is overjoyed to be engaged to Burke, her seemingly perfect boyfriend who, in a series of letters to his therapist, reveals that he’s married and deviously manipulating Skye. The third perspective is of Heather, Burke’s ex from 30 years ago. It’s a twist-filled read that will leave you wondering how well you know those closest to you.
Thrill factor: The feeling of an emotional car crash waiting to happen.
A book with a jaw-dropping reveal
“The Wife Between Us” by Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen, available at Amazon and Bookshop
This is a thriller that thrives on your assumptions. It lets you assume that you’re reading the story of a jealous woman, obsessed with her ex-husband’s new wife, just to turn everything on its head halfway through this impeccably constructed book. Even when you know something is coming, the twists in this tangled love triangle are utterly shocking.
Thrill factor: Questioning our own assumptions.
A thriller almost too wild to believe
“When No One Is Watching” by Alyssa Cole, available at Amazon and Bookshop
Sydney is tired of the gentrification of her Brooklyn neighborhood, the homes changing and her neighbors moving faster than she can keep up. She decides to start a deep-dive into the neighborhood’s history with her neighbor Theo, but what they uncover instills paranoia and fear as what they once thought were conspiracies are slowly revealed to hold hidden truths. This one is a wild ride with a pile of twists that happen all at once.
Thrill factor: The conspiracy theories that might actually be true.
When you open this book, make sure you have no plans for the rest of the day — the first 20 pages or so ease you into the story and the rest of the book is a dead sprint to the end. Little-known writer Lowen has been hired to finish Verity’s well-loved book series after a car accident left her in a waking coma. While looking for outlines or notes in Verity’s office, Lowen discovers a horrifying autobiographical manuscript that depicts Verity’s darkest secrets, kept from her husband and children. This thriller is one gripping scene of action after another, barrelling towards an ending that will have you shoving this book into your friends’ hands so they can experience the wild ride for themselves.
Thrill factor: The inability to choose which lie to believe.
This book is unassumingly murderous, exciting, and fun. Anya is a fashion editor with an envious wardrobe, a flawless social media presence, a soaring career, and a stack of bodies of those who almost got in her way. When Anya’s desire to be friends with Sarah, her coworker, turns into an obsession, the intrigue may turn fatal. There is an unreasonably large amount of murder in this story, which is exactly what kept me interested.
Thrill factor: Anya’s conniving ability to get away with murder.
A suspenseful mystery of a missing woman
“I Am Watching You” by Teresa Driscoll, available at Amazon and Bookshop
Ella nearly intervenes when she sees two recently released convicts flirting with two young women, Anna and Sarah. After Ella decides to mind her business, Anna goes missing — and Ella is still riddled with guilt one year later. But now someone is sending Ella threatening letters, and the gaps in Sarah’s account of that night grow wider as Ella realizes someone knows where Anna might be. This is one where the intense plot twist threw so many readers for a loop and settled with a satisfying resolution.
Thrill factor: The psychological distress of the protagonist.
I was not in the least surprised to learn that Kit Frick is also a poet. This book is teenage heartbreak mixed in a swirl of emotional prose and confounding thrills. Told between then and now, Ellory returns to her senior year of high school riddled with guilt, anxiety, and loss. As you read, you’ll sort through the lies to find the truth to Ellory’s pain. The whole book leads up to discovering the event that tore apart the main character’s world, so you always have the feeling that something is coming… but you never know what might be around the corner.
Thrill factor: A potentially unreliable narrator.
A compulsively readable YA thriller
“Lies You Never Told Me” by Jennifer Donaldson, available at Amazon and Bookshop
This is another book that I finished in one sitting, the two seemingly unrelated storylines leading to a climax so shocking, I’m not sure I even blinked until I finished the book. It follows Gabe and Elyse, complete strangers with similar secrets. They each fall for the wrong person and make one bad choice that spins their lives out of control. When you have no clue what you’re looking for, a thriller’s twist can hit you like a brick wall (in a good way!) and that’s exactly what this book did to me.
Thrill factor: Two different tales with unsettling similarities.
Fans of “Riverdale” and high school thriller will undoubtedly devour this YA novel. The cheer squad at Sunnybrook High was disbanded after the death of five cheerleaders, all unrelated but close together. Five years after the deaths, the community is finally ready to move forward — except for Monica, who just discovered letters and an old cell phone in her stepdad’s desk. I accidentally read most of it in one sitting just because the story flows so smoothly.
Thrill factor: The flashback snippets providing little clues.
An investigative YA thriller
“A Good Girl’s Guide To Murder” by Holly Jackson, available at Amazon and Bookshop
In this YA thriller favorite, the case is already closed. Sal Singh murdered Andie Bell five years ago. Everyone knows he did it — except Pippa, who chooses to investigate the murder for her senior year project. As she begins to uncover long-buried secrets, there might be some who need the truth to stay buried lurking in the shadows. If you love true crime, murder mysteries, and unstoppable young women, this is the perfect easy-read thriller to grab.
Thrill factor: The feeling of investigating alongside the protagonist.
A thriller version of “The Breakfast Club”
“One of Us is Lying” by Karen M. McManus, available at Amazon and Bookshop
This YA thriller uses spectacular character development and dramatic, unreliable rumors to create a whodunnit thriller that will keep you guessing until the very end. On Monday’s detention, five students walk in and one never walks out. Simon, now dead, planned to post high-profile secrets about the others the next day, making the other four students murder suspects in the ensuing investigation. There’s a lot of depth to this book besides the thrill ride, which makes it even more satisfying to read.
Thrill factor: The equal probability of every suspect’s guilt.
Riley Sager has published four great thrillers so far but this one’s my favorite. In this spooky and paranormal haunted house thriller, Maggie returns to restore the recently inherited home that made her family famous. Her father wrote a non-fiction bestseller based on their family’s three-week stay in the home before they were forced to flee in the night. Not only was Maggie too young to remember what happened; she doesn’t believe any of it is true. I genuinely had a great time reading this thriller — it was so much fun to feel the fear and expose the truths of this house alongside Maggie.
Thrill factor: Skepticism and doubt mixed with a foggy memory.
Ruth Ware is another notorious thriller writer and this is my favorite of her books so far — and was actually too scared to read it alone at night. It takes place in a technologically advanced home in the Scottish Highlands, where Rowan is hired as a live-in nanny and earns an outrageous salary. Told in the form of a letter from Rowan to her lawyer, she recounts the events from her arrival at the home to the death of one of the children. This story is so immersive and scary that I had to remind myself more than once that it’s just a book.
Thrill factor: Technology’s role in generating unease.
The tale of a spooky motel
“The Sun Down Motel” by Simone St. James, available at Amazon and Bookshop
This book is filled with so many vivid and borderline violent scenes that build tension throughout the story. Viv works at a 1982 roadside motel to pay for her move to New York City. As the secrets of the motel and its guests begin to reveal themselves, the nights seem to grow darker and darker. Once I finished this book, I felt like I could exhale for the first time in days — I was so satisfied with the resolution.
Thrill factor: Realizing that the deeper the shadows, the more secrets that can hide within.