For centuries, books have allowed readers to be whisked away to magical lands, romantic beaches, and historical events. Biographies take readers through time to a single, remarkable life memorialized in gripping, dramatic, or emotional stories. They give us the rare opportunity to understand our heroes – or even just someone we would never otherwise know.
To create this list, I chose biographies that were highly researched, entertainingly written, and offer a fully encompassing lens of a person whose story is important to know in 2021.
The 21 best biographies of all time:
The biography of a beloved Supreme Court Justice
“Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg” by Irin Carmon and Shana Knizhnik, available on Amazon and Bookshop from $16.25
Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a Supreme Court Justice and feminist icon who spent her life fighting for gender equality and civil rights in the legal system. This is an inspirational biography that follows her triumphs and struggles, dissents, and quotes, packaged with chapters titled after Notorious B.I.G. tracks — a nod to the many memes memorializing Ginsburg as an iconic dissident.
The startlingly true biography of a previously unknown woman
“The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” by Rebecca Skloot, available on Amazon and Bookshop from $8.06
Henrietta was a poor tobacco farmer, whose “immortal” cells have been used to develop the polio vaccine, study cancer, and even test the effects of an atomic bomb — despite being taken from her without her knowledge or consent. This biography traverses the unethical experiments on African Americans, the devastation of Henrietta Lacks’ family, and the multimillion-dollar industry launched by the cells of a woman who lies somewhere in an unmarked grave.
The poignant biography of an atomic bomb survivor
“A Song for Nagasaki: The Story of Takashi Nagai: Scientist, Convert, and Survivor of the Atomic Bomb” by Paul Glynn, available on Amazon and Bookshop from $16.51
Takashi Nagai was a survivor of the atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki in 1945. A renowned scientist and spiritual man, Nagai continued to live in his ruined city after the attack, suffering from leukemia while physically and spiritually helping his community heal. Takashi Nagai’s life was dedicated to selfless service and his story is a deeply moving one of suffering, forgiveness, and survival.
The highly researched biography of Malcolm X
“The Dead Are Arising: The Life of Malcolm X” by Les Payne and Tamara Payne, available on Amazon and Bookshop from $18.99
Written by the investigative journalist Les Payne and finished by his daughter after his passing, Malcolm X’s biography “The Dead are Arising” was written and researched over 30 years. This National Book Award and Pulitzer-winning biography uses vignettes to create an accurate, detailed, and gripping portrayal of the revolutionary minister and famous human rights activist.
The remarkable biography of an Indigenous war leader
“The Journey of Crazy Horse: A Lakota History” by Joseph M. Marshall III, available on Amazon and Bookshop from $14.99
Crazy Horse was a legendary Lakota war leader, most famous for his role in the Battle of the Little Bighorn where Indigenous people defeated Custer’s cavalry. A descendant of Crazy Horse’s community, Joseph M. Marshall III drew from research and oral traditions that have rarely been shared but offer a powerful and culturally rich story of this acclaimed Lakota hero.
The captivating biography about the cofounder of Apple
“Steve Jobs” by Walter Isaacson, available on Amazon and Bookshop from $16.75
Steve Jobs is a cofounder of Apple whose inventiveness reimagined technology and creativity in the 21st century. Water Issacson draws from 40 interviews with Steve Jobs, as well as interviews with over 100 of his family members and friends to create an encompassing and fascinating portrait of such an influential man.
The shocking biography of a woman committed to an insane asylum
“The Woman They Could Not Silence: One Woman, Her Incredible Fight for Freedom, and the Men Who Tried to Make Her Disappear” by Kate Moore, available on Amazon and Bookshop from $22.49
This biography is about Elizabeth Packard, a woman who was committed to an asylum in 1860 by her husband for being an outspoken woman and wife. Her story illuminates the conditions inside the hospital and the sinister ways of caretakers, an unfortunately true history that reflects the abuses suffered by many women of the time.
The defining biography of a formerly enslaved man
“Barracoon: The Story of the Last “Black Cargo” by Zora Neale Hurston, available on Amazon and Bookshop from $12.79
50 years after the Atlantic slave trade was outlawed in the United States, Cudjo Lewis was captured, enslaved, and transported to the US. In 1931, the author spent three months with Cudjo learning the details of his life beginning in Africa, crossing the Middle Passage, and his years enslaved before the Civil War. This biography offers a first-hand account of this unspoken piece of painful history.
The biography of a famous Mexican painter
“Frida: A Biography of Frida Kahlo” by Hayden Herrera, available on Amazon and Bookshop from $24.89
Filled with a wealth of her life experiences, this biography of Frida Kahlo conveys her intelligence, strength, and artistry in a cohesive timeline. The book spans her childhood during the Mexican Revolution, the terrible accident that changed her life, and her passionate relationships, all while intertwining her paintings and their histories through her story.
The exciting biography of Susan Sontag
“Sontag: Her Life and Work” by Benjamin Moser, available on Amazon and Bookshop from $20.24
Susan Sontag was a 20th-century writer, essayist, and cultural icon with a dark reputation. Drawing on hundreds of interviews, archived works, and photographs, this biography extends across Sontag’s entire life while reading like an emotional and exciting literary drama.
The biography that inspired a hit musical
“Alexander Hamilton” by Ron Chernow, available on Amazon and Bookshop from $11.04
The inspiration for the similarly titled Broadway musical, this comprehensive biography of Founding Father Alexander Hamilton aims to tell the story of his decisions, sacrifice, and patriotism that led to many political and economic effects we still see today. In this history, readers encounter Hamilton’s childhood friends, his highly public affair, and his dreams of American prosperity.
The award-winning biography of an artistically influential man
“The New Negro: The Life of Alain Locke” by Jeffrey C Stewart, available on Amazon and Bookshop from $25.71
Alain Locke was a writer, artist, and theorist who is known as a leader of the Harlem Renaissance. Outlining his personal and private life, Alain Locke’s biography is a blooming image of his art, his influences, and the far-reaching ways he promoted African American artistic and literary creations.
The remarkable biography of Ida B. Wells
“Ida: A Sword Among Lions” by Paula J. Giddings, available on Amazon and Bookshop from $15.99
This award-winning biography of Ida B. Wells is adored for its ability to celebrate Ida’s crusade of activism and simultaneously highlight the racially driven abuses legally suffered by Black women in America during her lifetime. Ida traveled the country, exposing and opposing lynchings by reporting on the horrific acts and telling the stories of victims’ communities and families.
The tumultuous biography that radiates queer hope
“The Mayor of Castro Street: The Life and Times of Harvey Milk” by Randy Shilts, available on Amazon and Bookshop from $11.80
Harvey Milk was the first openly gay elected official in California who was assassinated after 11 months in office. Harvey’s inspirational biography is set against the rise of LGBTQIA+ activism in the 1970s, telling not only Harvey Milk’s story but that of hope and perseverance in the queer community.
The biography of a determined young woman
“Obachan: A Young Girl’s Struggle for Freedom in Twentieth-Century Japan” by Tani Hanes, available on Amazon and Bookshop from $9.99
Written by her granddaughter, this biography of Mitsuko Hanamura is an amazing journey of an extraordinary and strong young woman. In 1929, Mitsuko was sent away to live with relatives at 13 and, at 15, forced into labor to help her family pay their debts. Determined to gain an education as well as her independence, Mitsuko’s story is inspirational and emotional as she perseveres against abuse.
The biography of an undocumented mother
“The Death and Life of Aida Hernandez: A Border Story” by Aaron Bobrow-Strain, available on Amazon and Bookshop from $18.40
Born in Mexico and growing up undocumented in Arizona, Aida Hernandez was a teen mother who dreamed of moving to New York. After being deported and separated from her child, Aida found herself back in Mexico, fighting to return to the United States and reunite with her son. This suspenseful biography follows Aida through immigration courts and detention centers on her determined journey that illuminates the flaws of the United States’ immigration and justice systems.
The astounding biography of an inspiring woman
“The Black Rose: The Dramatic Story of Madam C.J. Walker, America’s First Black Female Millionaire” by Tananarive Due, available on Amazon for $19
Madam C.J. Walker is most well-known as the first Black female millionaire, though she was also a philanthropist, entrepreneur, and born to former slaves in Louisiana. Researched and outlined by famous writer Alex Haley before his death, the book was written by author Tananarive Due, who brings Haley’s work to life in this fascinating biography of an outstanding American pioneer.
A biography of the long-buried memories of a Hiroshima survivor
“Surviving Hiroshima: A Young Woman’s Story” by Anthony Drago and Douglas Wellman, available on Amazon and Bookshop from $15.59
When Kaleria Palichikoff was a child, her family fled Russia for the safety of Japan until the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima when she was 22 years old. Struggling to survive in the wake of unimaginable devastation, Kaleria set out to help victims and treat the effects of radiation. As one of the few English-speaking survivors, Kaleria was interviewed extensively by the US Army and was finally able to make a new life for herself in America after the war.
A shocking biography of survival during World War II
“Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival” by Laura Hillenbrand, available on Amazon and Bookshop from $8.69
During World War II, Louis Zamperini was a lieutenant bombardier who crashed into the Pacific Ocean in 1943. Struggling to stay alive, Zamperini pulled himself to a life raft where he would face great trials of starvation, sharks, and enemy aircraft. This biography creates an image of Louis from boyhood to his military service and depicts a historical account of atrocities during World War II.
The comprehensive biography of an infamous leader
“Mao: The Unknown Story” by Jung Chang and Jon Halliday, available on Amazon and Bookshop from $15.39
Mao was a Chinese leader, a founder of the People’s Republic of China, and a nearly 30-year chairman of the Chinese Communist Party until his death in 1976. Known as a highly controversial figure who would stop at very little in his plight to rule the world, the author spent nearly 10 years painstakingly researching and uncovering the painful truths surrounding his political rule.
The emotional biography of a Syrian refugee
“A Hope More Powerful Than the Sea: One Refugee’s Incredible Story of Love, Loss, and Survival” by Melissa Fleming, available on Amazon and Bookshop from $15.33
When Syrian refugee Doaa met Bassem, they decided to flee Egypt for Europe, becoming two of thousands seeking refuge and making the dangerous journey across the Mediterranean. After four days at sea, their ship was attacked and sank, leaving Doaa struggling to survive with two small children clinging to her and only a small inflation device around her wrist. This is an emotional biography about Doaa’s strength and her dangerous and deadly journey towards freedom.
With a master’s degree in education and years of teaching under my belt, I’ve seen my fair share of notebooks.
Some students, school districts, and colleges have made the switch away from paper and gone completely digital. However, research has shown that students who write their notes down – as opposed to typing them – perform better on tests.
As a teacher, I’ve seen this firsthand. Students may not internalize their notes as well when they don’t write them out by hand. It’s also easier for them to get distracted when using a device – it’s almost impossible for them to ignore a notification.
You don’t need to splurge to get a good notebook for school, but there are some things to consider when shopping for this ubiquitous school supply. Andy Beauchamp, a second grade teacher in Minnesota, advises parents to wait until they hear from their child’s teacher before purchasing notebooks. Always keep in mind that different teachers may have different requirements.
To find the best notebooks, I conducted research, talked to current teachers, and tested 12 popular options, which were provided as editorial review samples by their manufacturers. My testing included writing, ripping out pages, spilling water on them, and more – which you can read about in the next slide.
After researching and selecting the top contenders for this guide, I received samples of each one on my short list and put them through the following testing criteria we designed for this guide:
Writing test: I wrote in each notebook with various writing utensils to make sure there was no bleeding through pages. None of the pages bled with typical pencils and pens. I did not test with markers, highlighters, or Sharpies.
Rip test: I tore pages out of each notebook to test how cleanly and easily they came out. Teachers often ask students to rip pages out to hand in, and many teachers don’t like when pages are uneven and have jagged edges.
Typical student test: I threw them, stepped on them, tried to rip them by pulling on the cover, and tried to pull the coil off of notebooks that had one.
Water test: I spilled water on the cover of each notebook and let it sit for 15 minutes before assessing damage.
Cons: Some resistance when writing, may not be ideal for young students
In my experience as a teacher, the two main reasons notebooks get ruined are ripped covers and snagged wires. The college-ruled Five Star Advance Notebook takes care of both of these problems with a durable plastic cover and a fabric wire guard.
With room for three subjects and protective coverings, this notebook will last through an entire school year and even longer. In our tests, the cover protected the pages from water damage, and it was difficult to pull the wires out from under the fabric guard.
Its durability makes it ideal for saving notes from higher-level courses to refer back to later. The moveable dividers add versatility as well. Maybe one class only uses 50 pages while another uses 75 — you won’t waste pages like you would with a fixed divider. I found the pages ripped out cleanly and didn’t leave any jagged edges. A nice added feature is the pen/pencil holder.
When compared to some of our other picks, writing utensils didn’t glide quite as smoothly over the paper. However, this isn’t a big deal for the average student. The only age group this notebook might not be ideal for is lower-elementary school due to its size.
If for some reason this notebook doesn’t last, it also has Five Star’s one-year guarantee (misuse and abuse are not covered).
Pros: Pages are securely sewn in, the wide-ruled paper is ideal for perfecting handwriting, includes schedule and conversion chart
Cons: Cover is plain, can’t tear pages out
While I typically recommend notebooks with more durable covers, I like the Amazon Basics Composition Notebook specifically for elementary school kids because it has wide spacing between lines. This is ideal for writers who are still perfecting their technique. The sewn binding also prevents problems spiral notebooks can cause for young kids.
Beauchamp agrees that young children benefit from a sewn binding. “Spiral notebooks make practicing writing mechanics and using a full line challenging for students,” she said. “About halfway through the year, the spiral begins to come undone if not taken care of, and can be harmful to students as it is quite sharp. Composition notebooks eliminate those problems.”
In our tests, the cardboard cover tore easily, but there was no wire to pull loose. The cover held up well to the spill test; it showed water damage, but it didn’t seep through to the paper. Like most composition notebooks, there aren’t any perforations to tear pages out, so the edges ripped unevenly when I tried to pull them out. Ease of writing was average — slightly rough but what you’d expect from a notebook at this price point.
The notebook is available in solid or marbled covers in blue, yellow, green, red, and black. While these colors are nice, young kids might be disappointed that there aren’t fun designs.
A handy conversion chart and a space to write a schedule are included on the inside covers. The schedule space can help young kids learn to tell time and follow routines.
Pros: Durable, water-resistant cover; built-in pockets; colorful covers are easy to organize; loops on wires prevent snagging
Cons: Interior pockets aren’t very durable
As both a student and a teacher, the Five Star Wirebound 1 Subject was my favorite notebook. While some other notebooks quickly succumb to wear and tear as the year goes on, many Five Star notebooks look good as new even on the last day of school.
The durability of this notebook is largely due to its water-resistant cover. “Notebooks with stronger, thicker covers seem to survive the everyday wear and tear of being thrown in backpacks and lockers,” according to Alissa Martin, a high school teacher in Pennsylvania. “Often, buying a more expensive notebook will save money in the end because it won’t need to be replaced due to a cover falling apart or ripping, or the wiring coming apart.”
In our tests, the cover of this notebook did not rip and it protected the pages from spilled water. The edges of the wire loop back on itself to prevent snagging. There are also two interior pockets for storing handouts, worksheets, and loose paper. While I like this feature, the pockets are made of cardboard that is not very durable. The ink bleed-resistant paper has perforations, and the pages ripped out well in our testing. Out of all of our top picks, this was the roughest to write on but not unusual for this type of notebook.
A 100-page one-subject notebook is usually enough for one class. Teachers may request wide-or college-ruled paper. If they don’t give a preference, middle school students might prefer wide-ruled while high school students might gravitate toward a college-ruled notebook. Five Star offers both options. It also comes in many different colors, ideal for organizing classes by color.
The best for notebook for college
The Hamelin 1 Subject has 150 pages of college-ruled paper to accommodate notes-intensive courses, and it comes with access to a note management app.
Pros: Durable, works with Scribzee app to manage and send notes, includes organizational stickers, writing utensils glide smoothly on paper
Cons: Wire pulls out easily, cost adds up if you need to purchase multiple notebooks
Of all the notebooks I’ve used throughout my life — from elementary to grad school — the ones I’ve held onto the most are the ones from my undergrad years. That’s why the Hamelin 1 Spiral Subject notebook with its sturdy cover is our pick for the best college notebook. Not only will the notebook itself last, but electronic versions of your notes can last forever if you take advantage of the Scribzee app.
According to Meghan Huber, assistant professor in mechanical and industrial engineering at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, “Choosing the right notebook paper is critical, now more than ever, since most classes are taught online. Especially in STEM courses, students might be required to upload their homework and exam problems to show their work.”
This is where students will really appreciate the Scribzee app that serves as a companion to the notebook. Students can take pictures of their notes and turn them into PDFs, send them to other people, organize them into folders, and add additional content like images. Uploading homework and exam problems to send to professors is a breeze.
For further organization, the included peel-and-stick labels can be used to create dividers, label sections, and add bookmarks. Papers can be stored in one double-sided pocket in the front, which is somewhat flimsy card stock like that of the Five Star. The notebook comes in blue, red, white, black, purple, green, and yellow.
The thick cover protected the pages well in our water test. The paper was very smooth to write on, and the pages tore out easily. The only test this notebook didn’t do well on was the wire pull test — the spiral wire that binds the notebook pulled out very easily. Traditionally, this is more of a problem with middle and high school students who get the wire stuck on their lockers. However, the pros of this notebook outweigh that one con, especially for college students.
Pros: Paper lies flat, minimal smudging, bookmark and folder included, many size and color options
Cons: Pages aren’t perforated
Moleskine notebooks are known for their high quality and the brand has many loyal followers. This was my first time trying a Moleskine, and I was sold.
To determine the best school notebook for lefties, however, my left-handed husband helped me test and make the final decision. This notebook came out on top in his testing for two reasons. First, the paper lies flat, so it wasn’t uncomfortable and he didn’t have to waste half the page. Second, ink and pencil smudged the least out of all the notebooks we tested. After decades of having ink smudged all over his hands, my husband was thoroughly impressed.
These two factors, while great for lefties, aren’t the only reasons this is an excellent notebook. In our tests, the hardcover protected the pages from water, and pens and pencils glided smoothly over the paper. Additional features include a bookmark ribbon, an elastic closure, and a durable expandable folder inside the rear cover. Although the pages do not have perforations, they tore out the best of all the non-perforated notebooks we tested. They come out evenly as long as you take your time.
The Moleskine classic has a very sleek look, and it’s easy to customize: There are 10 color options, six sizes, four paper types, and two cover options (note that I did not test the softcover). Its durability and versatility make this a solid choice for left-handed notetakers.
Pros: Affordable, multiple color options, page perforations and binder holes
Cons: Coil can get snagged, cover rips easily
Is the Mead 1 Subject the best notebook out there? No. Can you beat $2 or less for a school notebook? Also no. This notebook almost always can be found for $2, too. It certainly has its drawbacks, but as a teacher, it was one of the most popular notebooks I saw in the classroom simply because you can’t beat the price.
It comes in a variety of colors for students to choose from and is a typical wire-bound notebook with a cardstock cover. The pages include perforations and three-ring holes, so students can rip them out for graded assignments or put them in a binder.
With such a low price comes some drawbacks, however. The cover is thin and was easily ripped in our tests. It also allowed water to seep through in our water test. The wire coil can get snagged easily, and I’ve seen this ruin Mead notebooks in my classroom.
The ease of writing is average, similar to the Amazon Basics Composition Notebook. The perforated pages tear out evenly, but if you don’t take your time, you might get the jagged edges that go around the wire.
There are certainly better notebook options out there, but the cost of school supplies can add up very quickly. If your budget is tight and you’re looking for ways to save, the Mead 1 Subject Spiral Notebook can do the job.
Mead Primary Composition Notebooks: This is a good option for very young kids. They use the red baseline ruled lines to help kids learn how to write. Because most kids would outgrow them by second grade, we went with a wide ruled composition notebook pick for elementary school instead.
Rocketbook Core: This is a unique eco-conscious notebook. Students can write on the reusable paper with FriXion pens, then use the Rocketbook app to store a digital copy of their notes and erase the page with a damp cloth. This technology worked well when I tried it, but it may not be the best option for students. For one, it’s not cheap for a notebook that might get destroyed or lost, and if students lose their FriXion pen, the notebook is useless. They also won’t be able to tear any pages out to hand to a teacher. It would be a better fit in classrooms with 1:1 technology than those without.
Black n Red Ruled Hardcover: This notebook had high-quality paper and the hardcover protected the pages very well. However, the cover was so hard and the binding so tight that it was difficult to get the notebook to lie flat.
Cambridge Professional: This was a nice notebook that I found to be similar to the Hamelin. The very thick paper made it difficult to rip off along the perforated line, however. Hamelin also edged this notebook out because of its compatibility with Scribzee.
Efficient note-takers successfully create a balance between trying to write down every word their teacher says and not writing enough. Here are a few note-taking tips:
Keep notes organized with dates, titles, and sections. “Different sections of a notebook can help students learn to organize, especially if it’s notes within one subject area,” according to Martin.
Having multiple notebooks can help keep students organized. “Keep a notebook for each class plus a catch-all notebook,” Huber said. “This additional notebook should be with the student at all times and can be used for anything from scratch paper to making a shopping list to a stand-in for that forgotten notebook.”
Try using highlighters or colored pens to color-code notes.
Use shorthand and abbreviations. This helps you write your notes quickly so you can spend more time listening. It also helps ensure you’ll be able to understand your notes later.
Underline or otherwise mark important or key notes.
The Booker Prize is a prestigious literary prize, chosen by a panel of multidisciplinary experts and awarded annually to the best novel written in English and published in Ireland or the UK.
But before the Booker Prize Foundation shares its shorter list of six frontrunners (September 14, 2021) or the winner (November 2), it publishes its longlist – the year’s 13 “Booker dozen” forerunners.
It also doubles as a reading list for those who’d rather let experts cherry-pick the most exceptional books of the year. In past years, the longlist has highlighted and rewarded different virtues of innovation, such as experimentation in form, work in unusual genres, and debut authors.
This year, panelist, historian, and Harvard professor Maya Jasanoff describes the common thread among all 13 best books as being particularly absorbing, artful, and human. Despite their geographical breadth, many texts show how people grapple with the past, examine intimate relationships under stress, and “meditate on ideas of freedom and obligation, or on what makes us human.”
In a year defined by its isolation and grief, Jasanoff says reading these stories which “have important things to say about the nature of community” amid lockdown created a powerful bond with the texts and a heightened sense of purpose among the judges. Below, you’ll find this year’s 2021 Booker Prize longlist. We hope you find at least one deeply engrossing book to disappear into:
Descriptions provided by Amazon and edited for length and clarity.
“A Passage North” begins with a message from out of the blue: A telephone call informing Krishan that his grandmother’s caretaker, Rani, has died under unexpected circumstances — found at the bottom of a well in her village in the north, her neck broken by the fall. The news arrives on the heels of an email from Anjum, an impassioned yet aloof activist Krishnan fell in love with years before while living in Delhi, stirring old memories and desires from a world he left behind.
As Krishan makes the long journey by train from Colombo into the war-torn Northern Province for Rani’s funeral, so begins an astonishing passage into the innermost reaches of a country. At once a powerful meditation on absence and longing, as well as an unsparing account of the legacy of Sri Lanka’s 30-year civil war, this procession to a pyre “at the end of the earth” lays bare the imprints of an island’s past, the unattainable distances between who we are and what we seek.
A haunting fable of art, family, and fate from the author of the Outline trilogy.
A woman invites a famous artist to use her guesthouse in the remote coastal landscape where she lives with her family. Powerfully drawn to his paintings, she believes his vision might penetrate the mystery at the center of her life. But as a long, dry summer sets in, his provocative presence itself becomes an enigma ― and disrupts the calm of her secluded household.
“Second Place,” Rachel Cusk’s electrifying new novel, is a study of female fate and male privilege, the geometries of human relationships, and the moral questions that animate our lives. It reminds us of art’s capacity to uplift ― and to destroy.
“The Promise” charts the crash and burn of a white South African family living on a farm outside Pretoria. The Swarts are gathering for Ma’s funeral. The younger generation, Anton and Amor, detest everything the family stands for — not least the failed promise to the Black woman who has worked for them her whole life. After years of service, Salome was promised her own house, her own land… yet somehow, as each decade passes, that promise remains unfulfilled.
The narrator’s eye shifts and blinks: Moving fluidly between characters, flying into their dreams; deliciously lethal in its observation. And as the country moves from old deep divisions to its new so-called fairer society, the lost promise of more than just one family hovers behind the novel’s title.
In the waning days of the Civil War, brothers Prentiss and Landry — freed by the Emancipation Proclamation — seek refuge on the homestead of George Walker and his wife, Isabelle. The Walkers, wracked by the loss of their only son to the war, hire the brothers to work their farm, hoping through an unexpected friendship to stanch their grief. Prentiss and Landry, meanwhile, plan to save money for the journey north and a chance to reunite with their mother, who was sold away when they were boys.
Parallel to their story runs a forbidden romance between two Confederate soldiers. The young men, recently returned from the war to the town of Old Ox, hold their trysts in the woods. But when their secret is discovered, the resulting chaos, including a murder, unleashes convulsive repercussions on the entire community. In the aftermath of so much turmoil, it is Isabelle who emerges as an unlikely leader, proffering a healing vision for the land and for the newly free citizens of Old Ox.
With candor and sympathy, debut novelist Nathan Harris creates an unforgettable cast of characters, depicting Georgia in the violent crucible of Reconstruction. Equal parts beauty and terror, as gripping as it is moving, “The Sweetness of Water” is an epic whose grandeur locates humanity and love amid the most harrowing circumstances.
Here is the story of Klara, an Artificial Friend with outstanding observational qualities, who, from her place in the store, watches carefully the behavior of those who come in to browse and of those who pass on the street outside. She remains hopeful that a customer will soon choose her. “Klara and the Sun” is a thrilling book that offers a look at our changing world through the eyes of an unforgettable narrator and one that explores the fundamental question: What does it mean to love?
A young refugee washes up unconscious on the beach of a small island inhabited by no one but Samuel, an old lighthouse keeper. Unsettled, Samuel is soon swept up in memories of his former life on the mainland: A life that saw his country suffer, then fight for independence, only to fall to a cruel dictator; he recalls his own part in its history.
Clara’s sister is missing. Angry, rebellious Rose, had a row with their mother, stormed out of the house, and simply disappeared. Eight-year-old Clara, isolated by her distraught parents’ efforts to protect her from the truth, is grief-stricken and bewildered.
Liam Kane, newly divorced, newly unemployed, newly arrived in this small northern town, moves into the house next door, a house left to him by an old woman he can barely remember and gets a visit from the police within hours. It seems he’s suspected of a crime.
At the end of her life, Elizabeth Orchard is thinking about a crime, too — one committed 30 years ago that had tragic consequences for two families and, in particular, for one small child. She desperately wants to make amends before she dies.
Set in Northern Ontario in 1972, “A Town Called Solace” explores the relationships of these three people brought together by fate and the mistakes of the past. By turns gripping and darkly funny, it uncovers the layers of grief and remorse and love that connect us, but shows that sometimes a new life is possible.
“No One is Talking About This” by Patricia Lockwood
As this urgent, genre-defying book opens, a woman who has recently been elevated to prominence for her social media posts travels around the world to meet her adoring fans. She is overwhelmed by navigating the new language and etiquette of what she terms “the portal,” where she grapples with an unshakable conviction that a vast chorus of voices is now dictating her thoughts. When existential threats — from climate change and economic precariousness to the rise of an unnamed dictator and an epidemic of loneliness — begin to loom, she posts her way deeper into the portal’s void.
Suddenly, two texts from her mother pierce the fray: “Something has gone wrong,” and “How soon can you get here?” As real life and its stakes collide with the increasingly absurd antics of the portal, the woman confronts a world that seems to contain both an abundance of proof that there is goodness, empathy, and justice in the universe, and a deluge of evidence to the contrary.
Fragmentary and omniscient, incisive and sincere, “No One Is Talking About This” is at once a love letter to the endless scroll and a profound, modern meditation on love, language, and human connection from a singular voice in American literature.
Mahmood Mattan is a fixture in Cardiff’s Tiger Bay, 1952, which bustles with Somali and West Indian sailors, Maltese businessmen, and Jewish families. He is a father, chancer, some-time petty thief. He is many things, in fact, but he is not a murderer.
So when a shopkeeper is brutally killed, and all eyes fall on him, Mahmood isn’t too worried. It is true that he has been getting into trouble more often since his Welsh wife Laura left him. But Mahmood is secure in his innocence in a country where, he thinks, justice is served.
It is only in the run-up to the trial, as the prospect of freedom dwindles, that it will dawn on Mahmood that he is in a terrifying fight for his life — against conspiracy, prejudice, and the inhumanity of the state. And, under the shadow of the hangman’s noose, he begins to realize that the truth may not be enough to save him.
The astrobiologist Theo Byrne searches for life throughout the cosmos while single-handedly raising his unusual nine-year-old, Robin, following the death of his wife. Robin is a warm, kind boy who spends hours painting elaborate pictures of endangered animals. He’s also about to be expelled from third grade for smashing his friend in the face. As his son grows more troubled, Theo hopes to keep him off psychoactive drugs. He learns of an experimental neurofeedback treatment to bolster Robin’s emotional control, one that involves training the boy on the recorded patterns of his mother’s brain…
With its soaring descriptions of the natural world, its tantalizing vision of life beyond, and its account of a father and son’s ferocious love, “Bewilderment” marks Richard Powers’s most intimate and moving novel. At its heart lies the question: How can we tell our children the truth about this beautiful, imperiled planet?
Mehar, a young bride in rural 1929 Punjab, is trying to discover the identity of her new husband. Married to three brothers in a single ceremony, she and her now-sisters spend their days hard at work in the family’s “china room,” sequestered from contact with the men — except when their domineering mother-in-law, Mai, summons them to a darkened chamber at night. From beneath Mai’s veil, she studies the sounds of the men’s voices, the calluses on their fingers as she serves them tea. Soon she glimpses something that seems to confirm which of the brothers is her husband, and a series of events is set in motion that will put more than one life at risk. As the early stirrings of the Indian independence movement rise around her, Mehar must weigh her own desires against the reality — and danger — of her situation.
Partly inspired by award-winning author Sunjeev Sahota’s family history, “China Room” is at once a deft exploration of how systems of power circumscribe individual lives and a deeply moving portrait of the unconquerable human capacity to resist them. At once sweeping and intimate, lush and propulsive, it is a stunning achievement from a contemporary master.
After being rescued as infants from a sinking ocean liner in 1914, Marian and Jamie Graves are raised by their dissolute uncle in Missoula, Montana. There — after encountering a pair of barnstorming pilots passing through town in beat-up biplanes — Marian commences her lifelong love affair with flight. At 14, she drops out of school and finds an unexpected and dangerous patron in a wealthy bootlegger who provides a plane and subsidizes her lessons, an arrangement that will haunt her for the rest of her life, even as it allows her to fulfill her destiny: Circumnavigating the globe by flying over the North and South Poles.
A century later, Hadley Baxter is cast to play Marian in a film that centers on Marian’s disappearance in Antarctica. Vibrant, canny, disgusted with the claustrophobia of Hollywood, Hadley is eager to redefine herself after a romantic film franchise has imprisoned her in the grip of cult celebrity. Her immersion into the character of Marian unfolds, thrillingly, alongside Marian’s own story, as the two women’s fates — and their hunger for self-determination in vastly different geographies and times — collide. Epic and emotional, meticulously researched and gloriously told, “Great Circle” is a monumental work of art and a tremendous leap forward for the prodigiously gifted Maggie Shipstead.
Lunchtime on a Saturday, 1944: The Woolworths on Bexford High Street in South London receives a delivery of aluminum saucepans. A crowd gathers to see the first new metal in ages — after all, everything’s been melted down for the war effort. An instant later, the crowd is gone; incinerated. Among the shoppers were five young children.
Who were they? What futures did they lose? This brilliantly constructed novel, inspired by real events, lets an alternative reel of time run, imagining the lives of these five souls as they live through the extraordinary, unimaginable changes of the bustling immensity of twentieth-century London. Their intimate everyday dramas, as sons and daughters, spouses, parents, grandparents; as the separated, the remarried, the bereaved. Through decades of social, sexual, and technological transformation, as bus conductors and landlords, as swindlers and teachers, patients and inmates. Days of personal triumphs and disasters; of second chances and redemption.
Though no exact start date is known, modern book printing is over 1,000 years old. In 2010, Google Books estimated that nearly 130 million books had been published, with now over 2 million new books published each year. Such competition means only a few great reads have sold tens or hundreds of millions of copies, topping the charts as some of the bestselling books of all time.
Though there’s no one source that has consistently tracked book sales over the centuries, publishing websites (such as Publishers Weekly) are able to estimate the sales of older works and track the sale of new releases much more accurately. To assemble this list of the top bestsellers ever, we excluded religious texts (such as the Bible and Quran) and only included titles with reliable data from publishing companies, news articles, and official press releases.
The books on this list cover a wide variety of genres from self-help to horror, originally published in countries all around the world and translated into dozens of languages.
The top 50 bestselling books of all time:
1. “Don Quixote” by Miguel de Cervantes, available at Amazon and Bookshop, from $15.30
Copies sold: 500 million
The highest selling and most translated book of all time, “Don Quixote”, is also considered the first modern novel, published in two parts, one in 1605 and the other in 1615. Don Quixote decides to become a knight-errant after reading countless romantic tales. Along with his recruited squire, Sancho Panza, Don Quixote imagines a knightly story for himself, tempered by the wit of Sancho. Don Quixote is a tale of imaginative rhetoric and witty comedy, astoundingly relatable 400 years after its publication.
2. “A Tale of Two Cities” by Charles Dickens, available at Amazon and Bookshop, from $7.36
Copies sold: 200 million
In a story that famously begins “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” Dr. Manette has just spent 18 years as a political prisoner, finally released to be with his daughter, Lucie, in London. Set at the height of the Reign of Terror during the French Revolution, two very different men vie for Lucie’s heart in this dark story known for its masterful cast of characters, social commentary on the French Revolution, and violent dramatizations.
3. “The Fellowship of the Ring” by J.R.R. Tolkien, available at Amazon and Bookshop, from $10.09
Copies sold: 150 million
“The Fellowship of the Ring” is the first installment of the epic fantasy series “The Lord of the Rings.” When a powerful ring is entrusted to Frodo Baggins, he must begin the long journey across Middle-Earth to the Cracks of Doom to destroy the ring — the only way to defeat the Dark Lord who seeks to rule everything. This book begins the series with wizards, elves, dwarfs, and hobbits in a classic adventure tale of friendship and good versus evil.
4. “Le Petit Prince” by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, available at Amazon and Bookshop, from $6
Copies sold: 140 million
“Le Petit Prince” (“The Little Prince”) is a beloved French children’s book that uses elements of fantasy to tell an emotional and reflective story of life’s greatest lessons. Translated into over 300 languages, readers around the world have met the little prince on his journey to find a safe place for his favorite flower. This story is for readers of any age to experience a simple and beautiful tale that has been cherished for almost 80 years.
5. “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” by J.K. Rowling, available at Amazon, from $6.98
Copies sold: 120 million
The first of the “Harry Potter” series, this book launches readers into a world of witches, wizards, and magical beasts. We’re introduced to Harry, a young orphaned boy living with his dreadful aunt and uncle. When he’s told he’s a wizard on his 11th birthday, Harry is whisked away to Hogwarts, a magical school where he makes friends, learns everything he can about magic, and begins to unveil the dark secrets surrounding his parents’ deaths. The entire “Harry Potter” series has sold about 500 million copies to date, with this first book selling the most copies of any installment in the series.
6. “Scouting for Boys” by Robert Baden-Powell, available at Amazon and Bookshop, from $12.90
Copies sold: 100 million
First published in 1908, this book was written as a handbook of practical advice and instruction on leadership for Boy Scout training. Robert Baden-Powell was a Lieutenant General in the British Army, the founder of the Boy Scouts and co-founder of the “Girl Guides,” later renamed Girl Scouts. Combined with autobiographical anecdotes and nearly 100 diagrams, this nostalgic book explains why the scouting movement began while refreshing readers on the basics of outdoors survival and instilling messages of confidence and morality.
7. “And Then There Were None” by Agatha Christie, available at Amazon and Bookshop, from $7.99
Copies sold: 100 million
“And Then There Were None” is a classic mystery story from 1939 where 10 strangers are slowly killed after being invited to a mysterious dinner at a millionaire’s mansion. In each room of the home, there is an eerie nursery rhyme hanging on the wall that outlines the death of 10 people. When the guests realize the murders are being carried out as described in the rhyme, they must find out who is orchestrating the scheme before no one is left alive.
8. “The Hobbit” by J.R.R. Tolkien, available at Amazon and Bookshop, from $ 14.37
Copies sold: 100 million
In this prequel to “The Fellowship of the Ring,” readers meet Bilbo Baggins, Gandalf, and Golem in an adventure tale that outlines the origin of the Ring. Bilbo Baggins is a hobbit who enjoys a simple and comfortable life — until he meets the great wizard Gandalf, who whisks him away on the quest of a lifetime. Originally written for Tolkien’s children, this high-fantasy story is fun and charming with imaginative and accessible writing, a staple for any fantasy-lover’s library.
9. “Dream of the Red Chamber” by Cáo Xuěqín, available at Amazon and Bookshop, from $18.29
Copies sold: 100 million
“Dream of the Red Chamber” is one of the Four Great Classic Novels of China, written in 1791 and well-known by nearly every Chinese reader for its depiction of traditional Chinese culture. Believed to be based on the author’s life and the women within it, this novel includes an extensive cast of over 400 characters whose experiences offer observations about Chinese society in the 18th century. It is considered one of the greatest and most momentous works of literature in the world.
10. “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” by C.S. Lewis, available at Amazon and Bookshop, from $7.64
Copies sold: 85 million
Though sequentially second in the “Chronicles of Narnia” series, this was the first book that introduced young readers to the mystical land beyond the wardrobe. Lucy is the first of her siblings to find the secret, icy world that lies in the back of a wardrobe. When she takes her brothers and sister there, they discover a land trapped in an eternal winter, enchanted by the evil White Witch. The siblings meet a lion named Aslan and begin a journey to free Narnia from the witch’s evil spell. The entire “Narnia” series has sold over 100 million copies, with this book being the most popular installment.
11. “She: A History of Adventure” by Henry Rider Haggard, available at Amazon and Bookshop, from $6.45
Copies sold: 83 million
When Leo Vincey opens a mysterious package from his father on his 25th birthday, he discovers a shard of pottery and a series of documents that suggest secrets about his family. As Leo and his wife travel to Africa, they meet the all-powerful “She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed,” a 2000-year-old immortal queen ruling a secret kingdom who may have an ancestral connection to Leo. Originally published in 1886, this is a tale of legends and myths that intertwined fantasy elements in a story of adventure. (Please note: This book contains racial and gender insensitivities that may make readers uncomfortable.)
12. “The Adventures of Pinocchio” by Carlo Collodi, available at Amazon and Bookshop, from $5.99
Copies sold: 80 million
“The Adventures of Pinocchio” is a classic Italian children’s book about a wooden puppet who dreams of becoming a human. Made by a woodcarver in a Tuscan village, Pinocchio is a mischievous puppet carved from a block of wood whose adventures unwittingly get him into trouble. He meets a magical fairy who tells him he will become a real boy if he can be good for a year. Though still caught in some of his naturally troublesome antics, Pinocchio tries his best to behave and do good deeds in this memorable treat of a classic tale.
13. “The Da Vinci Code” by Dan Brown, available at Amazon and Bookshop, from $7.49
Copies sold: 80 million
Even though this is the second book in the Robert Langdon series, it out-sold its predecessor (“Angels & Demons”) by over 40 million copies, capturing readers’ attention for the page-turning puzzle it presents. Robert Langdon, a master symbologist, is called when the Louvre’s museum curator is murdered and his body is found covered in mysterious symbols. This story is an epic labyrinth of clues and danger, offering an alternative religious history that is wildly entertaining and suspenseful.
14. “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets” by J.K. Rowling, available at Amazon and Bookshop, from $6.98
Copies sold: 77 million
This is the second book in the hugely popular “Harry Potter” series which takes readers into a magical world of witches and wizards that secretly coexists with our own. In this book, Harry is about to begin his second year at Hogwarts when he receives a cryptic warning that great danger awaits if he is to return to school. Desperate to escape his dreadful aunt and uncle, Harry returns to a school year marked by a self-obsessed new professor, a moaning spirit, and a strange voice in the walls that only Harry seems to hear. When a few students begin to mysteriously stiffen as if they’re made of stone, Harry looks for the culprit while trying to evade suspicion himself.
15. “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” by J.K. Rowling, available at Amazon and Bookshop, from $6.98
Copies sold: 65 million
In this sixth installment of the “Harry Potter” series, wizards and witches everywhere are fighting the rise of the darkest wizard in magical history: Voldemort. As Harry’s sixth year at Hogwarts continues, he spends much of his time occupied by the headmaster, learning the full history of the boy who became Voldemort, hoping the key to defeating him lies in the past. This book is the climax of the series where the tension builds and readers, now emotionally invested in the characters, suffer great losses alongside them.
16. “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” by J.K. Rowling, available at Amazon and Bookshop, from $9.98
Copies sold: 65 million
In this gripping and action-packed conclusion to the best-selling Harry Potter series, Harry faces more danger than all the other books combined as he searches for the answers that might defeat Voldemort once and for all. As the books progressively prepared readers for darkness and danger, this book concludes with messages of bravery, loyalty, and family in an epic, final story to satisfy those gripped by Harry’s journey since 1997.
17. “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” by J.K. Rowling, available at Amazon and Bookshop, from $6.92
Copies sold: 65 million
In the fourth book of the “Harry Potter” series, Harry is in his fourth year of magical training at Hogwarts. This time, there is a competition between two other rival schools called the Triwizard Tournament. When Harry’s name is mysteriously selected despite not being entered, he’s forced to compete in a contest of bravery, intelligence, and wizardry featuring golden eggs, an imposing maze, and deadly dragons.
18. “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” by J.K. Rowling, available at Amazon and Bookshop, from $6.98
Copies sold: 65 million
In Harry’s fifth year of school, Voldemort is slowly growing stronger and it seems neither Harry nor the magical government will be able to stop him. Despite these looming fears, Harry must continue his magical schooling. With the pressure of fifth year exams, he must also juggle a seemingly sweet Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, Ron’s new position on the Quidditch team, and a prophecy that may reveal Harry’s fate.
19. “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” by J.K. Rowling, available at Amazon and Bookshop, from $5.76
Copies sold: 65 million
In the third book of the “Harry Potter” series, readers are introduced to Sirius Black, a seemingly deranged convicted murderer whose recent escape from the highest security prison has made headlines everywhere. As Harry returns to his third year at Hogwarts, he finds even his professors fear the safety of the students as Sirius is on the loose, especially since it’s rumored that he’s coming for Harry himself.
20. “The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho, available at Amazon and Bookshop, from $8.89
Copies sold: 65 million
Written in only two weeks and originally published in Portuguese in 1988, “The Alchemist” was not an immediate bestseller. When the book’s first publisher dropped the title, Paulo Coelho brought it to a larger publishing house in Brazil who agreed to publish his book. Now having spent over 315 weeks on The New York Times Best Sellers list, “The Alchemist” is about a boy named Santiago who travels from his home in Spain in search of a treasure buried near the pyramids in Egypt.
21. “The Catcher in the Rye” by J.D. Salinger, available at Amazon and Bookshop, from $9.19
Copies sold: 65 million
“The Catcher in the Rye” is one of the most well-known coming-of-age stories. It’s the intimate and introspective tale of Holden Caulfield, a 16-year-old boy who has three days before he’s due to return home after the end of his fall semester of prep school. Holden is keenly aware of the beauty and pain in life, expressing perspectives that are both naive and mature beyond his years. It’s a classic of teenage angst and rebellion, appreciated by readers since 1951.
22. “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” by Eric Carle, available at Amazon and Bookshop, from $5.06
Copies sold: 55 million
“The Very Hungry Caterpillar” is a beloved children’s picture book, an interactive story that teaches young readers counting and the days of the week. It is about a caterpillar who was hatched out of a tiny egg on a Sunday eats his way through the week and the pages until he cocoons himself and emerges as a butterfly. It’s a simple yet endearing story, a classic story read to children around the world.
This book was initially published in 1946 as a resource for new and expecting parents. There are sections for first aid, feeding, and developmental milestones. While new editions have been regularly revised and released as pediatric research and care develops, you can also grab a copy of the second edition from 1957, which delivers some earlier perspectives and advice reflective of a 1960s household.
24. “Anne of Green Gables” by L.M. Montgomery, available at Amazon and Bookshop, from $7.35
Copies sold: 50 million
The Cuthberts lived on an old-fashioned farm on Prince Edward Island called Green Gables. Hoping to adopt a young boy to help with the chores, the family is surprised to meet 11-year-old Anne: An enthusiastic, red-headed girl sent to them by mistake. Before the Cuthberts can send her back, Anne manages to win their affections and stay with her new family. Anne is an imaginative and delightful character whose humor and charm have continued to soften readers’ hearts since 1908.
25. “Black Beauty” by Anna Sewell, available at Amazon and Bookshop, from $6.49
Copies sold: 50 million
Told from the perspective of the horse, “Black Beauty” is a memoir-style fictional classic about a colt’s search for a happy home after his first owners are forced to sell him. Despite the hardships he faces, Black Beauty has an unbreakable will to survive and a hope that he will once again find humans who offer kindness and compassion. This is a tender and morally driven novel that encourages empathy for others and care for animals. Through his story of setbacks and triumphs, Black Beauty teaches readers that goodness can prevail even in the darkest times.
26. “The Name of the Rose” by Umberto Eco, available at Amazon and Bookshop, from $14.49
Copies sold: 50 million
Set in Italy in 1327, “The Name of the Rose” is a historical fiction/murder mystery blend that readers love for its use of philosophy, theology, and symbolism. It is a complex but very readable novel about a monk named William who is brought to Italy to investigate a potential hearsay dispute. When seven strange deaths occur in mere days, William uses philosophical and theological teachings to solve the bizarre mystery. This is a novel that readers pick up over and over again, discovering a new hidden symbol or piece of wisdom with each read.
27. “Charlotte’s Web” by E.B. White, available at Amazon and Bookshop, from $5.47
Copies sold: 50 million
This is an equally heart-warming and heart-wrenching story about a spider, a pig, and a girl. After a young girl, Fern, saves the runt of the piglets, Wilbur, he makes friends with a spider named Charlotte who weaves words into her web to convince the humans that Wilbur is a special pig and shouldn’t be slaughtered. It’s a tale that teaches young readers the importance of friendship and living harmoniously with all living creatures.
28. “You Can Heal Your Life” by Louise L. Hay, available at Amazon and Bookshop, from $8.59
Copies sold: 50 million
“You Can Heal Your Life” is one of the top-selling self-help books of all time, aiming to empower readers to change their lives by changing the way they think. Louise L. Hay uses elements of psychology and spirituality to encourage the reconstruction of thoughts, attitudes, and language as a means of improving readers’ emotional, mental, and even physical health. This book has spurred some controversy, as the author has claimed that some illnesses are psychosomatic, such as migraines and AIDS.
29. “Lolita” by Vladimir Nabokov, available at Amazon and Bookshop, from $14.40
Copies sold: 50 million
“Lolita” is a highly controversial novel that was rejected by a series of American publishers for fear of obscenity charges. Ultimately published in France in 1955, “Lolita” has been banned in many countries, leading to greater publicity and interest by curious readers. The story is about a 37-year-old man named Humbert, who falls in love with Dolores Haze, a 12-year-old girl he’s privately nicknamed “Lolita.” In order to get closer to her, Humbert marries Lolita’s mother and pines for a love affair with the child. Humbert is an unreliable narrator whose perverted mind is written to shock and disturb readers. (Please note: This book contains sensitive subject matter including child sexual abuse and pedophilia.)
30. “In His Steps” By Charles M. Sheldon, available at Amazon and Bookshop, from $5.95
Copies sold: 50 million
“In His Steps” is a short story that coined the phrase “What would Jesus do?” It is a fictional story about four townspeople who are challenged to consider the messages of Jesus Christ before taking any action for an entire year. Originally published in 1896, this book uses anecdotes to which modern readers may find it difficult to relate, but the story has a strong message that encourages readers to live a life led by morality, empathy, and faith.
31. “The Hite Report” by Shere Hite, available at Amazon and Bookshop, from $16.51
Copies sold: 50 million
“The Hite Report” is the 600-page result of Shere Hite’s research about female sexuality. Originally published in 1976, Hite interviewed 100,000 women from ages 14-78 about their sexual experiences and shared her findings with the public. This book has a lot of statistics and uses real anecdotal experiences to answer intimate questions about the perceived myths of pleasure. It became an immediate international bestseller.
32. “The Eagle Has Landed” by Jack Higgins, available at Amazon and Bookshop, from $8.99
Copies sold: 50 million
This is an exhilarating historical fiction novel where Hitler orders Nazi paratroopers to kidnap Winston Churchill in order to halt the Allies. Exciting until the final page, readers flock to this World War II spy thriller for Jack Higgins’ adept characterization and development, ensuring the story sticks with them long after they’ve finished the book. It’s an inventive and gripping book with an original plot and a fascinating front of antiheroes.
33. “Heidi” by Johanna Spyri, available at Amazon and Bookshop, from $6.99
Copies sold: 50 million
Heidi is only five years old when she’s sent to live with her grandfather in the Swiss Alps. Though everyone seems to fear her grandfather, Heidi finds him fascinating and cherishes her days spent with him upon the mountains. Three years later, Heidi is collected from her home in the Alps to work for a wealthy family and help their daughter, Clara, who cannot walk. Though Heidi and Clara get along, the family’s housekeeper is a strict woman who puts more and more restrictions on Heidi, dampening her spirit and making her homesick for her mountain home and grandfather. This is an enchanting read that readers adore for Heidi’s friendly and happy spirit.
34. “The Mark of Zorro” by Johnston McCulley, available at Amazon and Bookshop, from $7
Copies sold: 50 million
Originally titled “The Curse of Capistrano”, this 1919 action-adventure story tells the legend of the masked outlaw Zorro, a hero swordsman dedicated to fighting crime. Zorro, a swashbuckling adventurer, is a likable and funny protagonist whose tale is reminiscent of Robin Hood. This novel is a light read, beloved by readers for the hero’s wit and his fiercely independent love interest.
35. “Watership Down” by Richard Adams, available at Amazon and Bookshop, from $13.89
Copies sold: 50 million
“Watership Down” is a classic tale of a group of rabbits who must flee their home in search of another and face a series of perils as they travel across the English countryside. This novel began as a series of stories the author would tell his daughters on long car rides, improvising as he went. Though the author insists there are no hidden allegories in this story, readers have found nearly countless messages, themes, and takeaways from this adorable band of rabbits.
36. “One Hundred Years of Solitude” by Gabriel García Márquez, available at Amazon and Bookshop, from $11.89
Copies sold: 47 million
Through the history of the Buendiá family, this masterful piece of literature uses magical realism to narrate the rise and fall of the mythical town of Macondo. This Nobel Prize winner was an important novel in the Latin American Boom, a literary movement in the 1960s and ’70s which changed the perception of Latin American literature and encouraged increased publication of Spanish American authors. It is a multi-generation story loved by readers for the author’s ability to capture all sides of humanity.
37. “The Tale of Peter Rabbit” by Beatrix Potter, available at Amazon and Bookshop, from $4.59
Copies sold: 45 million
This delightful picture book has been adored by young readers and nostalgically cherished since 1902. The first in a series of children’s books by Beatrix Potter, “The Tale of Peter Rabbit” is about a mischievous little rabbit who finds trouble in McGregor’s vegetable garden despite a warning from his mother. This is a simple and adorable story that teaches children the importance of listening to their parents.
38. “The Ginger Man” by J.P. Donleavy, available at Amazon and Bookshop, from $14.72
Copies sold: 45 million
Sebastian Dangerfield is a young American man attending Trinity College in Dublin who is known by readers for his drunken escapades, skewed morals, and the hilarity of his antics. Switching between the first and third perspectives, readers are able to understand Sebastian’s motivations and fears while finding amusement in the aftermath of his anarchy. This book was originally banned in Ireland and America for obscenity as it contains some sexually explicit content.
39. “Jonathan Livingston Seagull” by Richard Bach, available at Amazon and Bookshop, from $13.49
Copies sold: 40 million
In the 1960s, Richard Bach published a series of short stories which later became this fantasy novella about a seagull discovering the freedom of flying. Told from the seagull’s perspective, flying is the ultimate metaphor in this story, inspiring readers to follow their dreams and believe in themselves even if it seems no one else does. This tale is a simple one with a strong message that leaves readers feeling encouraged and hopeful.
40. “A Message to Garcia” by Elbert Hubbard, available at Amazon and Bookshop, from $2.50
Copies sold: 40 million
“A Message to Garcia” is a motivational essay that uses a fictional military tale to instill lessons of integrity and positivity in aspiring leaders. When 1LT Andrew Rowan must deliver a message from President McKinley to General García, he finds the will within himself to accomplish the dangerous task with no objections or complaints. The message is often still used in business settings as an inspirational story to workers, referenced to encourage people to look for opportunities to lead and achieve greatness.
41. “Cosmos” by Carl Sagan, available at Amazon and Bookshop, from $16.56
Copies sold: 40 million
In this nonfiction astronomy book, Carl Sagan outlines 14 billion years of cosmic evolution that led to the creation of life on Earth as we know it. Dubbed one of the 88 books that shaped America by the Library of Congress, the book’s 13 highly illustrated chapters explain immense concepts of chemistry, biology, astronomy, and anthropology in a palatable and mesmerizing way. “Cosmos” is based on Carl Sagan’s 13-part television series from 1980.
42. “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee, available at Amazon and Bookshop, from $7.19
Copies sold: 40 million
This distinguished classic won a Pulitzer Prize in 1961, a historical fiction novel set in 1933 Alabama where an innocent Black man is on trial for a horrible crime he didn’t commit. The story follows Scout, a young girl who struggles to understand blind, racial hatred as her father defends the man against a town determined to believe he’s guilty. This is a dramatic and deeply moving story where Scout’s innocence starkly contrasts the deep-seated racial prejudices of a Southern small town.
43. “Flowers in the Attic” by V.C. Andrews, available at Amazon and Bookshop, from $14.49
Copies sold: 40 million
Cathy and her three siblings live a normal and nearly perfect life until their father is devastatingly killed in a car accident, leaving their mother, Corinne, with little means of supporting the children. Desperate for financial security, Corinne hatches a plan to win back the affections and inheritance of her dying, millionaire father who disowned her when she married her husband against his wishes. Since her father doesn’t know of the children, Corinne decides she must hide them in the attic, promising it will only be for a few days. Told from 12-year-old Cathy’s perspective, this gothic horror is full of twists and terror, beloved as a dramatic cult classic.
44. “Angels & Demons” by Dan Brown, available at Amazon and Bookshop, from $11.61
Copies sold: 39 million
In the first novel that spurred ” The Da Vinci Code” franchise, symbologist Robert Langdon is called to investigate the origin of a strange symbol left on the chest of a murdered physicist. He soon discovers this mysterious symbol could mean the resurgence of a powerful, underground brotherhood known as the Illuminati. Robert Langdon must race against the clock to unravel this explosive mystery as the centuries-old secret organization appears to be targeting their most hated enemy — the Catholic church.
45. “How the Steel was Tempered” by Nikolai Ostrovsky, available at Amazon and Bookshop, from $13.50
Copies sold: 36 million
“How the Steel was Tempered” is a fictional autobiography that falls into a fiction subgenre dubbed “socialist realism.” First published in 1932, this classic of Russian literature follows Pavel Korchagin, a man who fights for Bolsheviks in the Civil War and struggles to recover from his injuries after the war, ultimately becoming as strong as steel. Pavel’s story begins when he is only 12 and takes place both on and off the battlefield.
46. “Your Erroneous Zones” by Wayne W. Dyer, available at Amazon and Bookshop, from $12.91
Copies sold: 35 million
This self-help book skyrocketed as a bestseller as it encouraged readers to challenge their self-destructive behaviors or “erroneous zones” and reach greater happiness. It is an inspirational, step-by-step guide to help recognize and change patterns of negative thinking that may trap us within feelings of fear, anxiety, or self-deprecation. Wayne W. Dyer uses a gentle narrative and plenty of examples to demonstrate how freedom from negative thinking can improve self-image, lessen anger, and relieve guilt.
47. “The Diary of a Young Girl” by Anne Frank, available at Amazon and Bookshop, from $4.29
Copies sold: 35 million
Anne Frank was a 13-year-old Jewish girl from Amsterdam whose family fled their home in Holland during the Nazi occupation. Fearing for their lives, Anne’s family lived hidden in a secret annex of an office building, confined in a tight space with little food and a great fear of discovery. This is a nonfiction account, a collection of diary entries of Anne’s years as a teen girl in hiding. Her writing reveals the boredom and interests of any teenage girl with keen observations and an emotional understanding of the dangers in the world around her.
48. “Kane and Abel” by Jeffrey Archer, available at Amazon and Bookshop, from $9.19
Copies sold: 33 million
Kane and Abel are two completely different strangers, born on the same day on opposite sides of the world yet bound by one destiny. As adults, both men are ruthless in their pursuit of success, locked in a hate-fueled struggle to build an empire. Told over 60 years and three generations, “Kane and Abel” is a dramatic, thrilling, and impactful story about two men driven by vengeance with a memorable and deeply satisfying conclusion.
49. “The Kite Runner” by Khaled Hosseini, available at Amazon and Bookshop, from $10.50
Copies sold: 31.5 million
“The Kite Runner” is a heartbreaking historical fiction story set in Afghanistan during the rise of the Taliban. Amir and Hassan are unlikely friends who spend their days flying kites to ignore the tension and hardships building around them. When something terrible happens to Hassan and Amir fails to stop it, he spends much of his life seeking redemption for his betrayal. This is a touching and powerful story that focuses on themes of familial love and the power of friendship.
50. “Sophie’s World” by Jostein Gaarder, available at Amazon and Bookshop, from $12.99
Copies sold: 30 million
This novel explores great philosophical concepts through the thought-provoking journey of Sophie Amundsen, a 14-year-old girl who finds two notes in her mailbox that read “Who are you?” and “Where does the world come from?” Stumped and immediately curious for answers, Sophie begins to unravel complicated philosophical ideas as she corresponds with a mysterious penpal. This is a profoundly thoughtful young adult novel for readers of all ages.
They’re led by companies like Google, Facebook, and IBM, and can help you get an entry-level job.
Right now, Coursera is offering 25% off 5 of its certificate programs through August 31.
If you’re interested in a fast-growing career that pays well and boasts high job satisfaction, you don’t necessarily need to go to grad school to switch paths. Online learning platforms like Coursera offer a number of professional certificate programs led by well-known companies, with the aim of teaching you the in-demand skills that could land you an entry-level job in a growing field like data science or cybersecurity. Once completed, you’ll get a certificate to share on your resume and LinkedIn profile for potential employers to see.
One big benefit of pursuing a Coursera professional certificate is that it’s self-paced and fully remote, offering full flexibility. You pay a monthly fee for as long as you take the course, so the faster you finish, the more money you save.
To help offset some of the costs, Coursera is offering 25% off the first month of some of its professional certificates through August 31. So, if a program is $39 per month, you could save $9.75 on the first month.
Here are the 5 Coursera professional certificates on sale right now
Facebook Social Media Marketing Professional Certificate
Cost: $39 per month (first month $29.25 with discount)
Approximate length: 11 months
For anyone interested in data science or machine learning, this course teaches you core data science skills, programming languages like Python & SQL, data analysis and visualization, and how to build machine learning models. No degree or prior experience are required.
Cost: $49 per month (first month $36.75 with discount)
Approximate length: 8 months
Learn about the modern threats to cybersecurity today using real case studies, and gain an understanding of data protection, endpoint protection, SIEM, and systems and network fundamentals. No degree or prior experience are required.
Cost: $39 per month (first month $29.25 with discount)
Approximate length: 11 months
Learn the basics of data analysis and gain working knowledge in Excel, Python, SQL, data libraries, and IBM Cognos Analytics to jumpstart your data analyst career. No degree or prior experience are required.
Cost: $39 per month (first month $29.25 with discount)
Approximate length: 6 months
To kickstart your new career in artificial intelligence, this course teaches you how to code in Python, build a chatbot, and explore machine learning and computer vision using AI-powered solutions like IBM Watson. No degree or prior experience required.
Of those many online resources, Skillshare is one of the most popular. It has over 27,000 video courses taught by experts in the field, including high-profile names like bestselling author Roxane Gay.
How does Skillshare work?
Like ClassPass for e-learning, a Skillshare membership gives you unlimited access to thousands of expert-led online courses across disciplines like design, illustration, business, technology, photo, and writing, whether your objective is advancing your career or learning new hobbies.
Classes are comprised of short, digestible lessons and a hands-on project, which you can share with your class to get feedback from peers or collaborate with the community.
And, as part of its mission to make learning accessible, you can get 50% off a Skillshare Membership with a valid .edu email address.
Is Skillshare worth it?
If you’re looking for other options, there are a handful of other great e-learning platforms, like edX, Coursera, and MasterClass. You can take single courses for free on edX and Coursera (or pay per course for certificates of completion). The advantage of getting a professional certificate is that employers can see it on your resume or LinkedIn profile – something Skillshare doesn’t currently offer.
If you want unlimited courses, MasterClass only has an unlimited membership ($180 per year, or $15 per month), and Coursera has an unlimited option called Coursera Plus ($399 per year or $59 monthly).
All in all, Skillshare is a good tool for professionals looking for an affordable way to sharpen skills as well as lifelong learners who want variety, expertise, and flexibility. You can take multiple classes across thousands of disciplines for $32 per month or $168 annually ($13.99 per month).
As a high school junior and writer, I’ve been obsessed with books since I was coordinated enough to hold one. Beyond reading for fun, books also helped me spark my creativity, expand my vocabulary, and understand my identity. Having experienced the power of reading firsthand, I always actively encourage children and teens to read for pleasure. So when I’m asked about the best way to foster a love for books, I point to the young adult section.
Because YA books are tailored towards a younger audience, they’re a great stepping stone to the vibrant world of literature. Stories about first loves, dystopian overlords, and wizardly duels aren’t purely a form of escapism: They’re also catalysts for young adults to see and feel the world through a unique lens and empathize with the characters, no matter how different they may be. And by dealing with the themes that teenagers experience – relationships, exploration, growing up, fitting in – YA gives young adults the tools to bravely navigate their own worlds.
Endlessly fascinating, “Ready Player One” is one of the best science fiction novels I’ve ever read — I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough. In the year 2044, the world is on the verge of collapse and humans rely on the cyber utopia known as the OASIS to escape reality. When James Halliday, OASIS’s eccentric creator, dies, he leaves his massive $240 billion fortune to the first person who can find the virtual Easter egg stashed somewhere in the OASIS. Pitted against “gunters” — egg hunters — and corporate-sponsored “sixers,” Wade Watts races to unravel Halliday’s mystery in an elaborate treasure hunt filled to the brim with pop culture references, vintage video games, and ’80s nostalgia.
“Before I Fall” is vulnerable and achingly emotional, and it touched me in a way that no book ever has. 17-year-old Samantha Kingston is selfish, egotistical, and cruel. Along with her popular clique of friends, she cheats, gossips, lies, and ruthlessly bullies Juliet Sykes, a social outcast at their high school. But when Sam dies in a fatal car crash on February 12, she finds herself alive and breathing the next morning, reliving the last day of her life over and over again. As Sam tries to figure out what went wrong, she’s left to grapple with the weight of her actions and the impact of how she treated those around her.
With vengeful and morally grey anti-heroes and a cinematically dark plot, “The Young Elites” is my go-to fantasy series. After the “blood fever” razes her nation, Adelina Amouteru’s dark hair turns silver and a scar runs through where her left eye once was. Because of her strange markings, she is known as a malfetto, a cursed abomination, and treated as a second-class citizen. But malfettos have more than just markings: They’re gifted with superhuman abilities and known as the Young Elites.
When Theodore Finch and Violet Markey meet on a ledge six stories above the ground, both plan to end their lives. After one saves the other, Finch and Violet are assigned a school project to explore the natural wonders of Indiana — but as Violet learns from Finch to find beauty in life, Finch’s life begins to lose its meaning. “All the Bright Places” touches on topics like PTSD, depression, and suicide, and although I rarely cry from books, Finch and Violet’s story broke my heart cleanly in two.
Ruta Sepetys has a gift for researching and writing about the hidden parts of history with strength, emotion, and humanity, and “Salt to the Sea” is no different. In 1945 East Prussia, four characters desperately flee war-torn Europe: Joana, a Lithuanian nurse; Florian, a Prussian soldier and restoration artist; Emilia, a teenage orphan from Poland; and Alfred, a Nazi. Their target is the Wilhelm Gustloff, a ship that promises the refugees safety and salvation, but they all have secrets to hide — and enemies to lose.
When Anna Oliphant finds herself enrolled at a boarding school in Paris, she feels like she’s left everything behind — but when she meets Etienne St. Clair, a beautiful, charming personification of Paris, the two inevitably fall in love. “Anna and the French Kiss” set the bar high for the romance genre: It’s an adorable, giddy, swoony read that pulls every cliché but still manages to feel relatable and authentic.
In Ketterdam, a crowded international trade hub, 17-year-old criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker is made an offer he can’t refuse: 30 million kruge to capture Bo Yul-Bayer, a chemist who created a drug that can amplify the powers of Grisha, humans born with magical abilities. Thrilling, larger-than-life, and “Oceans 11”-esque, “Six of Crows” is one of my favorite high fantasy series. I loved the characters, I loved the heist, and I loved the Grishaverse.
Pepper and Jack are polar opposites: Pepper is a perfectionist and captain of the swim team, while Jack is the school’s resident class clown. When fast-food chain Big League Burger announces their new line of grilled cheese sandwiches, Jack is shocked to find that the name — and the ingredients — are a carbon copy of his grandmother’s recipe that she’s served at their New York deli for years. When Jack turns to Twitter to vent, he has no idea that Pepper runs Big League Burger’s account — and that their tussle will spiral into an all-out viral Twitter war. “Tweet Cute” felt like watching an adorable, witty rom-com, and it was the perfect book to curl up with at the end of the day.
Although it’s not strictly a young adult book, Trevor Noah’s humorous but candid slant to tackling heavy subjects makes his writing approachable enough to fit into the genre. Born to a white Swiss father and a Black Xhosa mother in a time when interracial marriage was strictly illegal, Noah’s memoir is about growing up in the aftermath of apartheid. “Born a Crime” was one of the most educational books I’ve had the pleasure of reading. It changed the way that I think about injustice, poverty, and the impact of apartheid.
For many readers (myself included), learning about history can be a daunting task. But while many history books are crammed with dense details, historical fiction novels transport readers into riveting stories set in the past. Using real or fictional characters to capture the magnitude and atmosphere of a momentous time, historical fiction offers readers the chance to learn more about true events in an exciting way.
The best historical fiction books are well-researched and accurately reflect the cultural norms of the time, allowing the author to create a plot and characters that could have very well been real. Some books take major historical events such as World War II to offer emotional stories that dive far deeper than a textbook, while others examine events that have been forgotten by many over time.
Whether you’re interested in learning more about unsung wartime heroes or the devastating effects of slavery, historical fiction books can offer readers a gripping gateway to the past.
The 20 best historical fiction books of all time:
A historical fiction book about women’s bravery during World War II
“The Nightingale” by Kristin Hannah, available at Amazon and Bookshop, from $8.18
“The Nightingale” takes place in France and begins just before the Nazi invasion in 1939. It’s the story of unbreakable resolve and an untold perspective of World War II, following two sisters as one trying to keep her daughter safe as a German captain claims her home, while the other risks her life by joining the resistance. Despite being over 400 pages, it’s a fast read that brought me to tears on more than one occasion and is my personal favorite historical fiction book.
A historical fiction story of love and redemption
“The Color Purple” by Alice Walker, available at Amazon and Bookshop, from $14.99
The winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award, this historical fiction book is about Celie and Nettie, two sisters who were separated as girls yet connect through letters spanning 20 years. This book brings to light the extent of abuse women of color have often faced and been expected to quietly endure — a devastating and emotional read about the resiliency of the human spirit and the persistent bond of sisterhood.
A historical fiction read about love and relationships between women
“Snow Flower and the Secret Fan” by Lisa See, available at Amazon and Bookshop, from $13.19
With flowing prose that easily transports readers to 19th century China, Lisa See shows how the power of friendship can help us endure life’s greatest challenges. Lily and Snow Flower were paired as emotional matches when they were seven years old, communicating with each other in “nu shu” or women’s writing, a secret code women used to communicate despite seclusion. Through the years, Lily and Snow Flower share their hopes, dreams, and accomplishments through messages sent on fans, outlining the agony of foot-binding, the joys of motherhood, and their thoughts on their arranged marriages.
A multi-generational historical fiction story of a Korean family’s migration to Japan
“Pachinko” by Min Jin Lee, available at Amazon and Bookshop, from $14.99
This National Book Award finalist takes place in the early 1900s Korea where readers meet Sunja, a teenage girl who falls in love with a wealthy stranger who promises her the world. When she discovers that he’s married and she’s pregnant, Sunja must instead accept a proposal from a minister on his way to Japan, rejecting the powerful father of her son in the process. This read contains a lot of fascinating history and follows four generations of a Korean family through Japanese colonization, war, and the divide of North and South Korea.
An intertwining historical fiction tale of twin sisters
“The Vanishing Half” by Brit Bennett, available at Amazon and Bookshop, from $18.65
“The Vanishing Half” is a historical fiction novel about twin sisters who grew up to live very different lives. At 16, the Vignes twins run away together from their small, Black town to later separate and become starkly different women whose fates still manage to intersect through their children. Years later, one sister once again lives in their hometown with her daughter, while the other lives with her white husband, quietly passing as a white woman. Told from the 1950s to the 1990s, this is a generational story of identity, community, and family that was widely considered one of the best books of 2020.
A Holocaust historical fiction novel with an original narrator
“The Book Thief” by Markus Zusak available at Amazon and Bookshop, from $6.99
Set in 1939 Nazi Germany, Liesel is a foster girl living outside of Munich who begins to steal books after finding “The Gravedigger’s Handbook” partially buried by her brother’s grave. As she falls in love with reading, the country around her descends deeper into war. When her foster family hides a Jewish man in their basement, Liesel’s understanding of the death and danger surrounding her grows as her exterior world shrinks. Narrated by Death, this is an intense and emotional World War II story as Liesel steals books from wherever she can — including Nazi book burnings.
An award-winning historical fiction classic
“Beloved” by Toni Morrison, available at Amazon and Bookshop, from $9.31
Winner of the 1988 Pulitzer Prize, Toni Morrison’s “Beloved” is a devastating and unflinching story of slavery and survival. Sethe was born a slave and escaped to Ohio. Yet, 18 years later, she’s still tormented by her memories of the farm and the ones she left behind. Now, her home is haunted by the ghost of her baby, whose tombstone is engraved with only “Beloved.” This story is an emotional and brutal tale of the complex legacy of slavery.
A heartbreaking historical fiction book about friendship
“The Kite Runner” by Khaled Hosseini, available at Amazon and Bookshop, from $10.50
Set in Afghanistan from 1963-2001, this book tells the story of Amir, a wealthy young boy, and his best friend Hassan, the son of his father’s servant. Like brothers, the boys spend their days flying kites to escape the difficulties of their lives, until a devastating act changes their relationship forever. This is a moving tale of friendship, guilt, and redemption that follows the real-world histories of military intervention and the rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan while keeping the relationships between Amir, his father, and Hassan in the foreground.
A historical fiction story that’s part coming-of-age and part murder mystery
“Where The Crawdads Sing” by Delia Owens, available at Amazon and Bookshop, from $9.98
In this coming-of-age story driven by the mystery of a possible murder, Kya Clark is a young woman with only one day of schooling who’s been surviving alone in the marsh since she was seven, earning herself the nickname “Marsh Girl.” When a popular boy is found dead, Kya is an immediate suspect. This novel shows both the beauty of the natural world and the violence of pain, shifting between Kya’s resilient life on the marsh and the tantalizing murder mystery.
A lyrical, Indigenous historical fiction novel
“Where the Dead Sit Talking” by Brandon Hobson, available at Amazon and Bookshop, from $13.69
“Where the Dead Sit Talking” is an emotional and authentic coming-of-age story featuring Sequoyah, who is placed in foster care after his single mother is jailed on drug charges. Set in 1980s Oklahoma, Sequoyah is a 15-year-old Cherokee boy and a survivor of childhood trauma and abuse. He quickly bonds with another Indigenous foster girl named Rosemary, sharing their past pains and precarious present in this award-winning, profound novel of suffering and strength.
A historical fiction novel about an empowered henna artist
“The Henna Artist” by Alka Joshiavailable at Amazon and Bookshop, from $13.98
“The Henna Artist” is an immersive read that tells the stories of many women in Jaipur in the 1950s. At only 17, Lakshmi is the most highly sought-after henna artist in Jaipur, having recently escaped her abusive marriage. While creating beautiful henna for her wealthy clients, she becomes a confidant to many women, offering wise advice while avoiding gossip. One day, Lakshmi is confronted by her husband, who brings her a young sister she didn’t know she had. With her secure and independent life in jeopardy, Lakshmi must care for her teenage sister on her journey to a life she never knew she wanted.
A queer historical fiction book set in Uruguay
“Cantoras” by Caroline De Robertis, available at Amazon and Bookshop, from $15.29
In 1977, Uruguay was ruled by an authoritarian military dictatorship under which homosexuality was not just a crime, but punishable by unspeakable means. Despite the dangers, five cantoras (women who sing) find each other through a friendship that blooms to love, family, and freedom. This novel is a passionate celebration of the safety and sanctuary of found families that begins with a trip to an isolated cape.
A familial historical fiction book that spans centuries
“Homegoing” by Yaa Ghasi, available at Amazon and Bookshop, from $8.82
“Homegoing” is a multi-generational story that spans 300 years and is beloved by readers for the unforgettable forces that shape families on opposite sides of the world. In 18th century Ghana, two half-sisters are born in different villages, each unaware of the other’s existence. One is married off into wealth, while the other is imprisoned in the dungeons of her sister’s castle, soon sold into the slave trade and raised in American slavery. This tale of legacy follows the descendents of each sister through centuries of colonization, migration, and war.
A historical fiction story about spiritual growth
“The Samurai’s Garden” by Gail Tsukiyama, available at Amazon and Bookshop, from $10.19
This historical fiction book is about the emotional and spiritual journey of a young Chinese painter named Stephen, set amongst the backdrop of the Japanese invasion of China in the late 1930s. When Stephen is sent to his family’s coastal home to recover from tuberculosis, he meets four new people, including Matsu — a samurai of the soul who’s dedicated himself to living a generous and nurturing life and helps Stephen gain physical, mental, and spiritual strength as the novel progresses.
A heart-racing historical fiction story about escaping slavery
“The Underground Railroad” by Colson Whitehead, available at Amazon and Bookshop, from $10.25
Cora is an enslaved young girl in Georgia, an outcast who knows she must escape before she reaches womanhood and faces even greater horrors. When Cora and her new friend decide to flee through the Underground Railroad, they soon find they’re being hunted. The pair travels from state to state, risking their lives for the chance of freedom. Colson Whitehead’s ability to instill in readers the terror that Cora feelsis astounding, making it no surprise this extraordinary title won the National Book Award in 2016 and the Pulitzer Prize in 2017.
A historical fiction novel that follows a family over 200 years
“The House of the Spirits” by Isabel Allendeavailable at Amazon and Bookshop, from $12.79
Spanning three generations of a family in Chile, “The House of the Spirits” incorporates magical realism into an epic narrative that weaves joy, love, and fate through a history of rich culture and political unrest. Beginning just after World War I, this novel follows the women of the Trueba family whose gifts, triumphs, and tragedies are reflected in each generation of beautiful and meticulously crafted characters.
An engrossing historical fiction journey in 12th century England
“The Pillars of the Earth” by Ken Follett, available at Amazon and Bookshop, from $7
Ken Follett is most well-known as a bestselling thriller writer, so it’s no surprise this hugely popular historical fiction novel has all the suspense, passion, and intricacies for which he’s revered. Set in 12th century England, this medieval story of morality, betrayal, and love is about a monk who is driven to build a Gothic cathedral so great it will dawn a new age. Told with vivid detail, “The Pillars of the Earth” brings an incredible cast of characters and their hardships to life.
A historical fiction novel interwoven with magical realism
“The Night Tiger” by Yangsze Choo, available at Amazon and Bookshop, from $13.59
“The Night Tiger” is a historical fiction read that incorporates elements of magical realism, ancient superstition, and mystery to create a lush and exhilarating coming-of-age story set in 1930s Malaysia. Rin is a young Chinese houseboy and Ji Lin is an apprentice dressmaker, their paths unlikely to cross until their journeys intertwine over a severed finger. Rin has 49 days to reunite his master’s missing finger with his body, lest his soul roam the earth. One night, Ji Lin’s dance partner leaves her a severed finger. Convinced it’s bad luck, she sets out to return it to its owner.
A historical fiction retelling of Indigenous heroes
“A Novel About the Navajo Marines of World War Two” by Joseph Bruchac, available at Amazon and Bookshop, from $6.73
The Navajo Code Talkers were an instrumental group of native men who used their language to code messages during World War II, saving countless American lives. In this fictionalized retelling, Ned Begay is a teenage Navajo boy who becomes a code talker through rigorous Marine Corps training, fighting through some of the war’s most brutal battles. While the novel highlights the discrimination the Navajo men faced, the story is also celebration of Navajo culture and the code talker heroes of World War II.
A historical fiction read that begins in a remote village in China
“The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane” by Lisa See, available at Amazon and Bookshop, from $12.91
Li-yan is raised in a remote mountain village where the lives of those in the community revolve around tradition, ritual, and tea farming. When a stranger arrives in the first automobile the villagers have ever seen, it dawns a modern awakening for the community and some begin to reject its customs and traditions. When Li-yan has a child out of wedlock, she brings the baby to an orphanage and leaves her village in search of an education and city life while her daughter is raised in California by her adoptive parents in this story of heritage, familial bonds, and sacrifice.
An emotionally trying historical fiction book
“The Darkest Child” by Delores Phillips, available at Amazon and Bookshop, from $10.99
Set in 1958 Georgia, Tangy Mae is 13 years old and one of 10 children, the darkest-skinned of her siblings and dubbed the ugliest by her light-skinned mother. The siblings all suffer horrific emotional and physical abuse by their mother, so when Tangy Mae is offered a spot in a nearby high school looking to assemble its first integrated class, she knows how life-changing yet impossible escaping her mother may prove to be.
A lyrical historical fiction book
“The Water Dancer” by Ta-Nehisi Coates, available at Amazon and Bookshop, from $12.31
“The Water Dancer” is a historical fiction novel that combines elements of magical realism in an engaging and moving story of memory, family, and slavery. Hiram Walker is the enslaved Black son of a plantation owner who has the ability to remember everything except his mother, taken and sold by his father when Hiram was only nine. After Hiram has a near-death experience, he decides he must escape the plantation and rescue his family in this dramatic and heart-racing journey.
A devastating historical fiction read
“The Boy in the Striped Pajamas” by John Boyne, available at Amazon and Bookshop, from $5
When Bruno comes home from school one day, he discovers that his father received a promotion and the family must move far away. In the new house, there’s no one with whom Bruno can play so he decides to explore, discovering a tall fence that stretches forever and separates him from the people on the other side. This book focuses on Bruno’s perspective so the readers’ understanding of the Holocaust’s events develops alongside the main character.
A vibrant historical fiction story set during the Civil War
“Gone with the Wind” by Margaret Mitchell, available at Amazon and Bookshop, from $3.95
This classic historical fiction novel was originally published in 1936 but is set in Georgia in 1861 during the Civil War. The story focuses on Scarlett O’Hara, the spoiled daughter of a wealthy plantation owner whose life is forever changed by the Civil War. This is an intense book that captures the depth of transformation during the war, known for the manipulative and selfish ways of the unlikeable main character. “Gone with the Wind” won a Pulitzer Prize in 1937 and is widely considered a great American novel.
While many readers prefer new releases, classic books are notable works of literature that withstand stand time, memorable for their beautiful prose, complex characters, or ability to capture life at the time they were written. Our definition of a “classic” shifts every decade or so, not only as great books age into classic status, but also as our understanding of humanity shifts.
All of the books on this list were published before 1987, though most are much older, dating back as late as the 11th century. In order to still be cherished, classic novels must have themes or messages that resonate with today’s readers and each book on this list was chosen because it is still a revered piece of literature – many of them remain at the top of Goodreads’ “Most Read Classics” list.
Whether you’re looking for an intense Great Depression story or one of the first novels ever published, this list of can’t-miss classic books has a read you’ll love.
22 classic books to read in your lifetime:
A Pulitzer Prize-winning classic book
“Beloved” by Toni Morrison, available at Amazon and Bookshop, from $9.31
In 1988, Toni Morrison won the Pulitzer Prize for her 1987 novel “Beloved,” chosen as “a work of assured, immense distinction, destined to become an American classic.” The book follows Sethe, a woman who was born a slave and escaped to Ohio, haunted by her early memories and the ghost of her unnamed baby, whose grave is only marked “Beloved.” This is a deeply emotional and profoundly moving story about the resilience of the human spirit, psychological wounds, and hope despite the pain of our pasts.
A classic novel about four sisters set during the Civil War
“Little Women” by Louisa May Alcott by Amazon and Bookshop, from $13.79
“Little Women” was first published in 1869 and is based on Louisa May Alcott’s early life with her own family. It follows four sisters — Jo, Beth, Meg, and Amy — who are trying to survive in New England during the Civil War. Depending on only each other while their father fights in the war and their mother struggles to support them, the girls can think of little else but their father’s safety in this story of love, sisterhood, war, and identity. Readers love this novel for its beauty and simplicity, for the timeless life lessons, and the captivating individualism of each sister.
A classic story of teenage angst and rebellion
“Catcher in the Rye” by J.D. Salinger, available at Amazon and Bookshop, from $9.19
This classic was published in 1951 and garnered significant attention in the ’50s and ’60s for its use of profanity and sexual language. This story of teenage angst takes place over three days, following 16-year-old Holden Caulfield between the conclusion of his school term in Pennsylvania and his return home to Manhattan. Holden is regularly admired as a complex character with both a childish and adult-like voice, on the cusp of adulthood though far from emotionally prepared. Though told from Holden’s perspective, J.D. Salinger manages an emotional undercurrent to the story that allows readers to understand the boy’s psyche deeper than even he himself can.
A classic, award-winning feminist staple
“The Color Purple” by Alice Walker, available at Amazon and Bookshop, from $14.99
“The Color Purple” won both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award in 1983, chosen for the latter because it is “rich with passion, pain, inspiration, and an indomitable love of life.” This story is about sisters Celie and Nettie who were separated at birth and reconnected through letters. This book is known and still revered for its heartbreakingly honest truths, one of the first novels to shed light on the domestic and sexual abuse suffered by Black women, and a vulnerable story of redemption and bravery.
A swoon-worthy classic romance
“Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen, available at Amazon and Bookshop, from $6.26
In a whirlwind romance novel starring Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy, “Pride and Prejudice” is a funny and flirty high society love story. Elizabeth is an independent and headstrong woman juxtaposed to Mr. Darcy’s arrogant and conceited ways. Though neither character is particularly fond of the other in the beginning, their romance evolves from a budding friendship built on snide remarks and witty banter, culminating to an iconic love story that tackles big themes of class, marriage, and first impressions that’s been cherished since its debut in 1813.
A 1957 classic novel about Japanese internment camps
During World War II, “no-no boys” were young men who answered “no” twice on a military questionnaire which asked if they would serve in the armed forces and pledge loyalty to the United States. This novel is about a fictional man named Ichiro who spent two years in an internment camp and another two years in prison after becoming a “no-no boy,” an important memorialization of the long withstanding suffering of Asian people in America.
In this 1949 novel that predicted a dystopian future, political satirist George Orwell introduced the concept of “Big Brother,” the idea of an all-seeing government that aims to control not only the narrative of the public, but of individuals. Winston Smith works for the Ministry of Truth, rewriting histories with lies that fit Big Brother’s agenda. This story is imaginative and powerful, a startlingly frightening world through which readers continue to find lasting messages as our idea of privacy shifts with the growth of technology.
A classic fictional memoir about a biracial man
“The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man” by James Weldon Johnson, available at Amazon and Bookshop, from $5.99
This is a fictional memoir which was originally published anonymously in 1912, a portrait of Blackness in America during the time. The narrator is an unnamed man, a biracial jazz musician who closets his African-American identity and allows himself to “pass” as a white man after witnessing a horrific act of racism. This classic stands as a testament to the complexities of race in America at the turn of the century, an extraordinary novel that influenced and inspired writers during the Harlem Renaissance.
A masterpiece of classic literature
“To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee, available at Amazon and Bookshop, from $7.19
Considered one of the great American classics, “To Kill a Mockingbird” takes place during a time of turbulent prejudice and racism in the American South. Through the perspective of a young girl, Scout, the story is part coming-of-age and part courtroom fiction as Scout’s father defends an innocent Black man accused of a terrible crime. This book is heart-wrenching, both a struggle against blind hatred and the growing understanding of morality in the growth towards conscious adulthood.
A gothic, romantic classic
“Jane Eyre” by Charlotte Brontё, available at Amazon and Bookshop, from $8.28
Jane is an orphaned young woman who, after finishing school, is offered a governess position at Thornfield Hall, where she meets and begins to fall in love with the mysterious and brooding Mr. Rochester. When the two decide to get married, secrets from Mr. Rochester’s past are quickly revealed and Jane risks heartbreak once again. This novel is gothic and romantic, but readers still love this vivid 1846 classic today for Jane’s strong, intelligent, and independent character.
A 1937 classic book of love and identity
“Their Eyes Were Watching God” by Zora Neale Hurston, available at Amazon and Bookshop, from $7.30
This book is about Janie Crawford, an African-American woman who recounts her life as she searches for her identity through the stories of her past. “Their Eyes Were Watching God” was out of print for nearly 30 years until 1978, initially rejected by readers for its strong Black female protagonist. In Janie’s search to be defined as something other than property, this novel is an impressive story of one woman’s love for her husbands, her life, and her destiny despite trials and abuses that would otherwise crush a spirit.
A foundational classic
“The Dream of the Red Chamber” by Cáo Xuěqín, available at Amazon and Bookshop, from $11.95
One of the Four Great Classical Novels of Chinese literature, “The Dream of the Red Chamber” was finally published in 1791 when Gao E and Cheng Weiyun collected the manuscripts and finished the novel. It is a captivating family story of the rise and fall of a wealthy and significant house as well as the romantic plot of a young heir and his love interests. This novel weaves entertaining scenes with elegant descriptions in a story that is as insightful and psychological as it is riveting and enchanting.
A 19th century classic horror novel
“Dracula” by Bram Stoker, available at Amazon and Bookshop, from $8.80
“Dracula” is a gothic horror novel far more evil and complex than the vampire stories of modern literature. Written as a series of letters, newspaper articles, and diary entries, the story follows Count Dracula as he moves from Transylvania to England on a mission to spread the undead curse as a group of civilians hunt him. This novel swirls with horror and gothic themes but also portrays messages about Victorian-era fears surrounding sexuality and disease.
A classic story of one Indian man’s journey to holiness
Raju has just been released from prison and finds refuge in an abandoned temple. When a man comes to the temple seeking advice, Raju is mistaken for a holy man and decides to fake his new role. Soon, word of Raju’s holiness spreads. When a drought hits, it seems as though God himself is testing Raju’s newfound role. The author uses a simple writing style to convey the complex issues in this novel, a classic fiction tale with an ambiguous ending.
A classic novel about the Dust Bowl migration
“Grapes of Wrath” by John Steinbeck, available at Amazon and Bookshop, from $12.29
A tale of the Dust Bowl migration during the Great Depression, this 1939 classic won the Pulitzer Prize in 1940. “Grapes of Wrath” features the Joad family as they leave their family farm in Oklahoma to travel towards a promise of greater opportunity in California. Many families, including the Joads, were driven from their farms due to nearly hopeless economic and agricultural prospects, and this novel is a fictional yet historically accurate epic chronicle of the pain felt by powerless families during the Great Depression.
An important classic book by an adored poet
“Not Without Laughter” by Langston Hughes, available at Amazon and Bookshop, from $14.49
Langston Hughes was best known as a poet and social activist during the Harlem Renaissance, remembered for portraying the honest hardships and triumphs of Black life. “Not Without Laughter” is a story of racial division, one of Sandy’s, the protagonist, coming-of-age post-slavery. Langston Hughes addresses poverty and racism with an air of hope for the future while understanding the generational hardships of the past. Readers meet Sandy’s family, learning their histories and dreams in a novel that radiates with the beauty of Hughes’ poetry.
A young adult allegorical classic
“Lord of the Flies” by William Golding, available at Amazon and Bookshop, from $5.99
Noted still today as a tale of morality, “Lord of the Flies” is a young adult novel from 1954 about a group of British boys who are stranded on an island after a mysterious plane crash. Though they initially celebrate the lack of adult supervision, the boys soon attempt to govern themselves, any small established order quickly deteriorating in the face of evil. While superficially a thrilling adventure story, this novel is one of great contrasting themes: individualism vs. societal mentalities, morality vs. immorality, and selfishness vs. selflessness.
A thoughtful classic novel with a nameless narrator
“Invisible Man” by Ralph Ellison, available at Amazon and Bookshop, from $10.31
Led by a nameless protagonist, this book addresses complex racial issues within nationalism, societal expectations, and individualism. The narrator feels like an invisible man because he struggles to secure an identity where his thoughts, opinions, and desires aren’t subject to judgment. Though initially published anonymously, “Invisible Man” won the National Book Award in 1953, making Ralph Ellison the first Black man to be awarded the prestige. This is a touching story about the uncertainty of identity for many Black people in the 1900s.
A 1937 Steinbeck classic
“Of Mice and Men” by John Steinbeck, available at Amazon and Bookshop, from $8.18
George and Lennie share an unlikely friendship but the same dream: To own a home and land of their own. While working as laborers in California fields, the men are hired on a farm with a chance at their dream until a terrible accident changes their friendship and their future. This book is an exciting roller coaster of emotion, boasting tense moments evoking fear and heartbreak for characters readers can’t help but want to protect. With a heartbreaking ending, this Great Depression-era classic is one loved for the brilliant simplicity and cruelty within the pages.
A classic publication about World War II
“Catch-22” by Joseph Heller, available at Amazon and Bookshop, from $12.22
“Catch-22” is a World War II novel remembered for its humor despite danger, destruction, and insanity. This classic is about Yossarian, a pilot in Italy during World War II whose biggest concern isn’t his enemy, but the continued expectation to complete dangerous missions. Itching for an out, Yossarian knows his request will be in violation of Catch-22, where men are considered mad if they continue to fly perilous combat missions, but sane and ineligible for relief if they request resignation. With the author’s personal experience as a bombardier, this novel is a perfect depiction of the chaotic, traumatic, and taxing aspects of war.
An ancient classic novel that brings Japanese culture to life
“The Tale of Genji” by Murasaki Shikibu, available at Amazon and Bookshop, from $15.64
Known as one of the world’s first novels, “The Tale of Genji” dates back approximately to the year 1001 and is hailed as a hallmark of classic Japanese literature. This book is a portrait of medieval Japanese culture, following the romantic courts of the prince Genji and his search for the meaning of life. Over 1,000 pages long, the lush descriptions and intermittent poetry hold this classic as an esteemed masterpiece.
A startling dystopian classic
“Brave New World” by Aldous Huxley, available at Amazon and Bookshop, from $11.55
In “Brave New World”, author Aldous Huxley imagines a dystopian society that may appear utopian with remarkable advancements in genetics, pharmaceuticals, and technology. In this imagined World State, humans are artificially produced and sorted into predetermined classes, tasked to serve a ruling order and challenged only by Bernard Marx, an outsider who values individuality despite his status as an outcast. This novel continues to terrify readers with the realities it mirrors, eerily relevant despite its original publication in 1932.
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.