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In Olga Dies Dreaming by Xochitl Gonzalez, the titular character, who’s a successful wedding planner, and her brother, Prieto, who’s a congressman, are both prominent members of their Puerto Rican community in Brooklyn, New York. The two were brought up by their grandmother after their mother, Blanca, deserted them to become a political activist. Their lives are turned upside down when Hurricane Maria hits Puerto Rico and an unexpected family reunion ensues. Gonzalez enriches this funny, stirring story with themes of loyalty, honesty and forgiveness, and reading groups will find plenty to talk about in her provocative novel.

Kimberly Duffy’s remarkable mother-daughter tale, The Weight of Air, is set in the intriguing world of turn-of-the-century circus performers. It’s 1911, and Mabel MacGinnis, known as Europe’s strongest woman, is a member of the Manzo Brothers Circus. After the death of her father, Mabel decides to find her mother, an aerialist named Isabella Moreau. When the two finally meet, Isabella must come to terms with herself, even as she and Mabel adjust to their roles as mother and daughter. Past and present collide in Duffy’s fascinating chronicle of circus life.

In Chibundu Onuzo’s Sankofa, Anna, a middle-aged woman living in London, decides to find her father, whom she has never met. Anna comes across his diaries among the possessions of her late mother and learns that he pursued politics, becoming president of a tiny West African country. After discovering that he is still alive, Anna sets out to find him in what turns about to be the quest of a lifetime. Filled with humor and compassion, Onuzo’s novel is a rich exploration of race, identity and the nature of family.

Set in Quebec, Joanna Goodman’s The Home for Unwanted Girls is a moving portrayal of family dynamics in the 1950s. When English-speaking Maggie Hughes falls for a French-speaking boy and becomes pregnant, her parents insist that she give up the child: a girl named Elodie. Although she comes of age in a miserable orphanage, Elodie’s spirit and intelligence blossom. Maggie eventually marries, and when she decides to locate Elodie, her life is changed forever. Discussion topics such as motherhood and the meaning of home make Goodman’s novel a great choice for book clubs.

These unforgettable novels explore the drama and devotion bound up with family ties.

Is the book always better than the movie or TV show? Better read these soon-to-be adaptations ASAP so you can decide.


Dear Edward

By Ann Napolitano

Streaming now

Led by acclaimed actors Connie Britton (“Nashville”) and Taylor Schilling (“Orange Is the New Black”), plus newcomer Colin O’Brien, this Apple TV+ adaptation of Napolitano’s searing 2020 novel is sure to have viewers delicately dabbing their cheeks with a Kleenex. The first episode dropped on February 3. Read our Q&A with Ann Napolitano.


Daisy Jones & the Six

By Taylor Jenkins Reid

Streaming, March 2023

This runaway 2019 bestseller about a 1970s rock star is making its way to Amazon Prime Video—starring Riley Keough, the granddaughter of the ultimate 1970s rock star (Elvis), as its titular heroine. Told in a documentary style, just like the novel, the 10-episode series also stars Sam Claflin, Camila Monroe, Suki Waterhouse and Nabiyah Be.


Straight Man

By Richard Russo

Streaming as “Lucky Hank,” March 2023

Beloved “Better Call Saul” star Bob Odenkirk plays the titular character in this AMC series adaptation of Pulitzer Prize-winner Richard Russo’s take on university life in the Pennsylvania Rust Belt. The first episode airs on March 19.


Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret

By Judy Blume

Theatrical release, April 2023

Blume’s 1970 coming-of-age story about an 11-year-old who moves from New York City to the New Jersey suburbs is a true classic, and it sounds like this film adaptation, which stars Abby Ryder Fortson as Margaret and Rachel McAdams (a literary adaptation veteran after starring in The Notebook and The Time-Traveler’s Wife) as her mother, Barbara, has the potential to become one too.


The Last Thing He Told Me

By Laura Dave

Streaming, April 2023

Produced by Reese Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine, this Apple TV+ production of Laura Dave’s gripping domestic thriller stars actor Jennifer Garner. Dave herself worked on the adaptation with her husband, Josh Singer, who boasts 2015 Best Picture winner Spotlight among his many film credits. The first two episodes will be released on April 14. Read our review of The Last Thing He Told Me.


City on Fire

By Garth Risk Hallberg

Streaming, May 2023

Hallberg’s atmospheric debut, set in the early 2000s, is coming to Apple TV+ as an eight-episode series on May 14. The cast includes Chase Sui Wonders, Wyatt Oleff, Jemima Kirke (“Girls”) and  Nico Tortorella (“Younger”) as NYU students who are drawn into a mysterious death. Read our interview with Garth Risk Hallberg.


Silo

By Hugh Howey 

Streaming, May 2023

Science fiction writer Graham Yost and director Morten Tyldum have come together, alongside executive producer and actress Rebecca Ferguson, in the creation of the Apple TV+ series based on Hugh Howey’s initially self-published sensation, Silo. Set in a dystopian society living within a silo hundreds of miles underground, this television series will be sure to inspire questioning of the rules by which our lives are ordered. 


The Perfect Find

By Tia Williams 

Streaming, June 2023 

In this romantic comedy from the author of Seven Days in June, Jenna Jones finally is on the upside in her career in the beauty industry when she falls hard for her boss’ son. Now, she must decide if her clandestine romance is worth risking everything. Actors Keith Powers and Gabrielle Union will play the leads in the Netflix adaptation.


Harold and the Purple Crayon

By Crockett Johnson

Theatrical release, June 2023

Released back in 1955, this children’s picture book has inspired everything from computer games to romantic comedies. Harold and his crayon will continue to draw new audiences and create new beauty and life in a feature film starring acclaimed actors like Lil Rel Howery, Zooey Deschanel and Zachary Levi. 


Oppenheimer

By Kai Bird and Martin Sherwin 

Theatrical release, July 2023

Based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning book American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer, this movie details the life of Robert Oppenheimer, the “father of the atomic bomb.” Featuring big-name actors like Robert Downey, Jr., Matt Damon, Emily Blunt, Florence Pugh and Cillian Murphy, this should be a stirring watch. Read our review of American Prometheus.


Killers of the Flower Moon

By David Grann

Theatrical release, October 2023

Legendary director Martin Scorcese will be taking David Grann’s 2017 National Book Award finalist, which tells the true story of the shocking murders of members of the Osage Nation in Oklahoma in the 1920s, to the screen. Frequent Scorcese collaborators Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert de Niro star alongside Native actors Tantoo Cardinal, Lily Gladstone and Tatanka Means. Read our review of Killers of the Flower Moon.

Who doesn’t love seeing their favorite characters brought to life? Here are 11 book-to-screen adaptations you won’t want to miss.

The privileged, insular art world serves as the backdrop for a pair of engrossing whodunits from debut author Alex Kenna and veteran Jonathan Kellerman.

In Kenna’s What Meets the Eye, disgraced police officer Kate Myles, now a private investigator, tackles the death of painter Margot Starling. The police have deemed it a suicide, but Margot’s father is convinced she didn’t kill herself and enlists Kate to get to the truth.

At first reluctant to take on the case and disappoint her client (most deaths suspected to be suicides turn out to be just that), Kate is surprised when she unearths enoughevidence to suggest that foul play may have been involved after all. A litany of former lovers, jealous art students and conniving agents and art dealers lend further credence to her suspicions, leading Kate to believe that Margot was the target of individuals attempting to exploit her. But the more she digs, the more Kate realizes that Margot’s ego and pride, and not just her talent, may have created a number of potential suspects as well.

Kenna ensures that Kate is similarly complex, delving into how her addiction to painkillers led to the loss of a promising job with the police department, the dissolution of her marriage and the possible removal of custody of her daughter. The vivid portraits of both women, and the absorbing mystery that surrounds them, signal a master in the making. 

Kellerman is already an accomplished artist in the medium of mystery novels. Unnatural History, the 38th installment in the author’s Alex Delaware series, finds the psychologist lending his insights to longtime partner Detective Milo Sturgis as they work to solve the murder of well-to-do photographer Donny Klement. 

Donny had recently received media attention for a project titled “The Wishers,” which featured portraits of members of Los Angeles’ homeless community as the people they fantasized about being. Several critics, however, maintained that Donny was simply exploiting his subjects for his own benefit. Alex wonders if, having given people a taste of a different life and then discarding them, Donny sowed the seeds of his own destruction. But there are plenty of other suspects to go around. The wealthy son of an even wealthier father, Donny is surrounded by an eccentric family, any member of which may have had reason to kill him. 

In typical Kellerman fashion, the story is painted in clear, linear fashion, with nothing left abstract. As such, the book is easily accessible to new readers of the series, who will immediately understand what loyal fans have known for years—that they are in the confident hands of a real artist.

The privileged, insular art world serves as the backdrop for a pair of engrossing mysteries from debut author Alex Kenna and veteran writer Jonathan Kellerman.
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In many romance novels, love requires exposure: of one’s true desires and inner secrets, often of one’s most vulnerable self. In this month’s best romances, characters can only find happiness after first finding themselves—and sharing that truth with their partner.

Behind the Scenes

Karelia Stetz-Waters pens a tender love story in Behind the Scenes. Director Ash Stewart is preparing to pitch a movie near and dear to her heart—a rom-com about two lonely women who fall in love—so she turns to successful business consultant Rose Josten for help polishing the proposal she’ll present to movie executives. While the entertainment industry is not Rose’s forte, she’s intrigued by the idea of the film as well as by the cool yet vulnerable Ash. The story unfolds at a leisurely pace that suits the cautious main characters; while Rose and Ash fall fast, they don’t trust that their attraction will result in anything real. Readers will cheer for these capable, talented and mature women, both of whom have fascinating careers and interesting hobbies. They just need to find the right person to help them fill the empty spaces and heal their wounds. Rose and Ash’s feelings for each other are never in doubt thanks to Stetz-Waters’ expertly written longing and lush love scenes. And a fairy tale-perfect happy ending guarantees smiles as the last page is turned.

Also in BookPage: Read our review of the Behind the Scenes audiobook.

Not Your Ex’s Hexes

After Rose Maxwell’s sister took over her role as witch leader-in-waiting, Rose is in need of some new life goals. An ill-advised horse-napping at the beginning of April Asher’s dashing and delightful paranormal romance Not Your Ex’s Hexes results in Rose sentenced to community service at an animal sanctuary under the close supervision of half-demon vet Damian Adams. All kinds of sparks fly between them, but he’s grumpy and she’s not interested in relationships. But a friends-with-benefits arrangement seems possible and maybe even sensible until they must face danger—and all the emerging emotions they’ve vowed not to feel. In fact, Damian is sure he can’t actually be feeling them, having been hexed as a teen, but all signs are pointing to the opposite. Asher’s second installment in the Supernatural Singles series is full of action and well-constructed characters. Heart-tugging animals and steamy love scenes make this otherworldly romance a charmer.

Do I Know You?

Emily Wibberley and Austin Siegemund-Broka have written an intriguing twist on the second-chance romance in Do I Know You? In honor of their fifth anniversary, Eliza and Graham Cutler head to a luxury resort in Northern California, hoping a vacation might revive their stalled marriage. Upon learning that there’s been a hotel mix-up and they have two rooms booked instead of one, Eliza impulsively proposes that they sleep separately. Moreover, she suggests they take on new personas so they can meet as strangers and possibly rediscover a spark between them. While hiking, eating and exercising together as their alter egos, Graham and Eliza each come to value new things about the other and recall what led to their original commitment. Readers will root for both characters in this mature and intimate examination of a relationship.

The Duke Gets Even

A happy ending seems impossible in Joanna Shupe’s The Duke Gets Even. Andrew Talbot, the Duke of Lockwood, is desperate to wed an heiress and fill his family’s coffers. But then his antagonistic relationship with free-spirited American Nellie Young transforms into a burning passion. The duke lost out on love in the previous installments of Shupe’s Fifth Avenue Rebels series, and it doesn’t seem like his luck will change: He needs to marry for money, and Nellie can’t imagine life as an English duchess. An affair with Andrew as he seeks the right bride will have to be enough, except, of course, it quickly isn’t. The appealing Nellie wants more for herself and other women of her time, and she’s not at all ashamed of her sexual appetites. Honorable Andrew feels the weight of his responsibilities, yet the fiery ardor he shares with Nellie—featured in feverish love scenes—turns his world upside down. Sensuous and sophisticated, The Duke Gets Even is a satisfying climax to a wonderful and romantic series.

Make a Wish

Romances between a single father and a nanny are a beloved genre staple, but author Helena Hunting explores the trope sans rose-colored glasses in Make a Wish. When she was 20 years old, Harley Spark worked as a nanny for newly widowed Gavin Rhodes. She fell in love with his baby daughter, Peyton, and perhaps with him, before Gavin and Peyton moved away. Seven years later, Gavin and Harley reconnect—and there is an obvious attraction between them. Their happily ever after appears inevitable, until grief, guilt and in-laws step in. Make a Wish chronicles Gavin and Harley’s authentic doubts and fears, with sizzling love scenes and sweet moments creating a sigh-worthy love story.

In this month’s best romances, characters can only find true love after first finding themselves.

The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois

I read the entirety of award-winning poet and novelist Honorée Fanonne Jeffers’ masterwork, all 816 pages of it, on the tiny screen of my phone during a trip throughout Washington. I can’t think of any other epic book that would be worth that kind of reading experience, but The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois is special. While driving across the state, I regularly came across attempts to recognize and honor the Indigenous peoples who once populated that land, gestures that I don’t often see in the South where I live. For this reason, the long gaze of Jeffers’ novel felt like the answer to a prayer. It tells the full history of an American family—whose heritage is African, Creek and Scottish—and their centurieslong connection to a bit of Georgia land, as revealed by the research of one descendant, Ailey. It made me wish that all American lands could have their chance to tell their full stories, all the way back to the beginning.

—Cat, Deputy Editor


Empire of Pain

It is rare that a book simultaneously checks the boxes of timely, important, in-depth and narratively gripping. But the 640 pages of journalist Patrick Radden Keefe’s Empire of Pain walk the line between an impressively researched tome and a page-turning, propulsive story. Keefe’s 2021 tour de force recounts the full, damning tale of the Sackler family, spanning three generations of this American dynasty and their dealings at Purdue Pharma, the pharmaceutical company that produces the opioid pain pill OxyContin. The Sacklers worked hard to keep their name from being associated with OxyContin, and Empire of Pain makes it clear why—from their invention of the concept of marketing prescription drugs, to their tactic of offering regional sales reps monetary incentives for getting more doctors to prescribe more of their drugs, to their outright lies about how their product would not lead to addiction. It is a harrowing story of one family’s catastrophic contributions to the opioid crisis, masterfully told by a top-notch writer.

—Christy, Associate Editor


The Priory of the Orange Tree

“You have fished in the waters of history and arranged some fractured pieces into a picture . . . but your determination to make it truth does not mean it is so,” declares Ead, one of the heroines of The Priory of the Orange Tree. Reading Samantha Shannon’s 848-page novel can feel like arranging fractured pieces into a complete picture, as it depicts the intersecting journeys of four narrators from different corners of an exquisitely detailed fantasy world. Ead, Tané, Niclays and Loth each have deeply held beliefs about the nature of good and evil, and a crisis that could annihilate humanity is bringing those beliefs into conflict. I will admit that I picked up the book for its Sapphic love story, and that’s a good reason to read it. The romance was tender and gorgeous, unfolding slowly enough to surprise me even though I was looking for it. However, when the casualties become devastating, what keeps you going is the thrill of connecting fragments of history and mythology from each storyline, knowing you will “see soon enough whose truth is correct.”

—Phoebe, Subscriptions


The Vanity Fair Diaries

There are many reasons that British journalist, writer and editor Tina Brown could land on one’s radar. She’s the founding editor-in-chief of The Daily Beast, the first female editor of The New Yorker and the author of two bestselling books on the royal family. But the achievement that cemented Brown’s reputation was her miraculous turnaround of Vanity Fair. Resurrected by Condé Nast in 1983, the new VF was floundering, so the 30-year-old Brown quickly engaged talent like Dominick Dunne, Gail Sheehy and Helmut Newton, and wooed advertisers like Calvin Klein and Ralph Lauren. Controversial stories grabbed headlines; so did provocative covers (who can forget the shot of a nude, pregnant Demi Moore?). Brown loves gossip and has a sharp wit, which means her behind-the-scenes stories of the 1980s NYC glitterati alone could carry 500 pages of memoir. But she’s also honest about the mistakes she’s made and the challenge of balancing a family and career. The Vanity Fair Diaries will leave you hoping Brown chronicled her time at the New Yorker too.

—Trisha, Publisher


The Invention of Hugo Cabret

The American Library Association’s Caldecott Medal is awarded each year to “the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children.” In 2008, it was won by this love letter to French inventor and film director George Mélies. To make a 544-page story short, it’s extraordinary, with 158 pencil drawings that will make you rethink everything you think you know about what picture books can be. The Invention of Hugo Cabret begins by inviting you to “picture yourself sitting in the darkness, like the beginning of a movie” and then captures your imagination via 21 wordless spreads. In many ways, Brian Selznick’s story is about small things that combine to form a creation greater than the sum of its parts, from a boy who lives in a train station and steals toys from the cantankerous owner of a toy booth to paragraphs filled with exquisitely yet economically observed details. Few picture books can be described as perfect, but this is one of them.

—Stephanie, Associate Editor

Correction, February 15, 2023: This article previously misspelled the name of Dominick Dunne.

February is the shortest month, but if you're looking for a long book to keep you company until March begins to roar, our editors have a few suggestions.
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The Bullet Garden

After writing a trio of books about ex-Marine sniper Bob Lee Swagger, author Stephen Hunter launched a second series featuring Bob Lee’s father, Earl Swagger, who is also a Marine and a Medal of Honor recipient to boot. It’s been 20 years since Hunter’s last installment in the senior Swagger series, but it comes roaring back this month with The Bullet Garden. The book serves as a prequel to the three Earl Swagger books that preceded it (Hot Springs, Pale Horse Coming and Havana), chronicling his adventures in France during the days immediately following D-Day. Swagger spearheads a secret mission to track down and kill German snipers who are systematically picking off Allied soldiers crossing the Normandy meadowlands (which the troops have nicknamed “bullet gardens”). A sniper himself, Swagger is a natural fit for the job at hand, but even his legendary skills will be sorely tested in this milieu. Fans of firearms history will find lots to like in The Bullet Garden, as will military strategy buffs, but there is truly something for everyone: a budding romance; layers of duplicity and intrigue; and an omnipresent sense of the importance of working together for a greater cause. 

Encore in Death

J.D. Robb’s Encore in Death is the (are you ready for this?) 56th entry in the wildly popular series featuring Eve Dallas, a police detective in 2060s New York City who, by my calculations, should be celebrating her first birthday just about now. Despite being set in a Blade Runner-esque future of androids, airboards (think hoverboards) and the much-appreciated automated chefs, Robb’s mysteries don’t need to rely on sci-fi trappings to engage the reader. They are straight-up classically constructed whodunits. And this case features a time-honored murder weapon: cyanide. Just as A-list actor Eliza Lane takes the stage for an impromptu song at her latest high society Manhattan party, there is a crash of glass, and Eliza’s husband, equally famous actor Brant Fitzhugh, collapses to the floor—dead, with the smell of bitter almonds emanating from his lips. The initial thinking is that Eliza was the intended victim, as Brant sipped from a poisoned cocktail he was holding for her, but as the investigation wears on, alternative possibilities present themselves. As all of the suspects have connections to the stage, there is no shortage of drama as the case unfolds. Robb is the pen name of legendary romance author Nora Roberts, and while that’s certainly evident in her descriptions of her male leads (“Those sea-green eyes still made her heart sigh, even after a decade . . .”), the suspense is also there in spades.

The Sanctuary

Of all the awful ways to die, being vertically bisected by an industrial saw like the murder victim in Katrine Engberg’s final Kørner and Werner mystery, The Sanctuary, must rank right up there at the top. The unidentified man’s left half turns up in a partially buried leather suitcase in a public park, and Copenhagen police detective Annette Werner is on the hunt for the killer. Clues lead to the remote island of Bornholm, an insular enclave where everyone knows everyone else’s secrets, but nobody seems disposed toward sharing any of that knowledge with the police. Subplots abound: a missing young man, possibly on the lam from the law, possibly the victim in the suitcase; a zealous preacher who roundly rejects the biblical teaching of turning the other cheek; a biographer whose scholarly visit to Bornholm to examine a deceased anthropologist’s letters is stirring up some old, long-quiet ghosts; a garbage bag full of money that nobody seems to be able (or willing) to account for. The identity of the culprit is an enormous surprise, but more surprising still is the emotional closure Engberg brings to long-running storylines, resulting in a very poignant moment for fans of the series in addition to a satisfying solution to the central mystery. 

The Twyford Code

Narrative conventions are cast to the four winds in Janice Hallett’s impressive second novel, The Twyford Code. The story consists of 200 fragmented voice transcriptions made by Steven “Smithy” Smith, a none-too-savvy mobile phone user who has only recently been released from prison in England. At loose ends, he decides to investigate the mysterious disappearance of his secondary school English teacher some 40 years back. Miss Iles (who often humorously appears in the transcriptions as “missiles”) had something of an obsession with the children’s books of one Edith Twyford, a character loosely based on real-life bestselling children’s author Enid Blyton. On a class field trip to Bournemouth to visit Twyford’s wartime home, “missiles” dropped off the map, never to be heard from again. As Smith’s belated investigation proceeds, he becomes increasingly obsessed with Twyford’s books as well, uncovering what may be hidden messages therein. State secrets, buried treasure, buried bodies? The clues are all there, but it will take a cannier puzzle-solving mind than mine to decipher them before Hallett is ready for the big reveal. The Twyford Code is easily one of the cleverest and most original mystery novels in recent memory, with an engaging main character, dialogue that grabs (and requires) your attention and more head-scratching suspense than any other three books combined.

A mystery told through voice transcriptions shouldn’t work, but The Twyford Code isn’t just this month’s best mystery—it’s one of the cleverest whodunits in recent memory.
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Tomiko Brown-Nagin pays tribute to a history maker in Civil Rights Queen: Constance Baker Motley and the Struggle for Equality. Born in Connecticut in 1921, Constance Baker Motley studied law at Columbia University and went on to serve as a federal judge, becoming the first Black woman to do so. She was instrumental in ending Jim Crow and in arguing Brown vs. Board of Education. Brown-Nagin’s richly detailed narrative chronicles Motley’s working-class background and her rise in law and politics. Book clubs will enjoy digging into complex topics such as gender, social justice and the nature of power.

The Woman They Could Not Silence: The Shocking Story of a Woman Who Dared to Fight Back by Kate Moore is a fascinating look at the life of Elizabeth Packard, who was wrongfully sent to an Illinois insane asylum by her husband in 1860. During her confinement in the asylum, where living conditions were appalling, Packard found other women who had been unfairly institutionalized. Determined to stand up for herself and her sister inmates, Packard advocated for their rights against all odds. Packard is an extraordinary figure, and Moore brings her to vivid life in this haunting book.

Dorothy Wickenden’s The Agitators: Three Friends Who Fought for Abolition and Women’s Rights focuses on a trio of formidable women from the 19th century—Harriet Tubman, Frances A. Seward and Martha Coffin Wright—each of whom worked to further the causes of freedom and equality at a critical time in America. Wickenden documents the lives of these groundbreaking women, showing how their controversial work impacted their personal relationships and social standing. Themes of loyalty, family and feminism will inspire rewarding dialogue among readers.

In The Correspondents: Six Women Writers on the Front Lines of World War II, Judith Mackrell spotlights a roster of unforgettable journalists who forged their own paths as war reporters despite red tape, gender-based prejudice and the hardships of international conflict. Mackrell tells the personal stories of Martha Gellhorn, Clare Hollingworth, Lee Miller, Sigrid Schultz, Helen Kirkpatrick and Virginia Cowles while exploring their remarkable contributions to history. Thoroughly researched and briskly written, Mackrell’s salute to a group of intrepid writers captures the spirit of an era.

Celebrate Women’s History Month with your reading group by picking up a book that honors overlooked female trailblazers.
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To continue in the face of doubt and despair, three women draw on their Christian faith in these immersive historical novels.

Code Name Edelweiss 

Stephanie Landsem’s transfixing Code Name Edelweiss is peppered with rich descriptions of Los Angeles in 1933. Amid widespread unemployment and poverty, few people in LA are fully aware of the growing threat of Nazism following the appointment of Adolf Hitler as chancellor of Germany. Like many, Liesl Weiss is preoccupied with her own troubles; she has just lost her job but must take care of her children, brother and mother. 

Jewish lawyer Leon Lewis is concerned about the growing threat of the Nazis and believes they plan to infiltrate the Hollywood film industry. To stop them, he is enlisting spies for a dangerous mission. Liesl finds Leon’s fears absurd, but she needs the cash, so she signs on as a spy. The more information she uncovers, the more alarmed she becomes, and she soon realizes she cannot remain neutral and must choose a side. 

From its suspenseful start to its exciting ending, Code Name Edelweiss commands attention. Landsem sustains tension throughout as Leon’s team works to outpace the Nazis. Liesl, along with the elusive Agent Thirteen, spies on members of the German American community, hoping to find clues and deter the Nazis’ plans. The central characters all have fascinating backstories, though Liesl is crafted particularly well. She is sensible and dependable, and her lovely friendships add depth to the story. The novel is also enlivened by a subtle yet vital strand of romance.

The Metropolitan Affair 

Award-winning and bestselling author Jocelyn Green kicks off her new series with a captivating, multilayered mystery in The Metropolitan Affair, set in New York City at the height of American Egyptomania. 

In 1925, Americans’ demand for forged Egyptian art reaches a fever pitch after the discovery of King Tutankhamen’s tomb and the Egyptian government’s subsequent efforts to block the exportations of antiquities. Detective Joe Caravello believes that investigating the forgeries will lead him to criminals responsible for other crimes, so he enlists the help of his longtime friend Dr. Lauren Westlake, the assistant curator of Egyptology for the Metropolitan Museum of Art. 

Lauren’s previously absent father has recently returned to her life, and she struggles to connect with him. Even though he offers her a chance to join him on an expedition to Egypt, the past cannot be undone. She wonders, though, whether there is still a chance for their relationship in the future. 

The Metropolitan Affair offers a full sense of its main characters, including their inner struggles and processes of personal growth. Lauren and Joe are dynamic and realistic, and secondary characters are also well defined. The mystery itself is gripping, with exciting clues and shocking revelations, and the plot maintains a great balance between the investigation and Joe and Lauren’s relationship. 

This is an uplifting story of faith with many intriguing twists and ever-raising stakes, all leading to an unexpected conclusion. 

The Maid of Ballymacool 

Jennifer Deibel (A Dance in Donegal, The Lady of Galway Manor) has done it again with The Maid of Ballymacool, a hopeful historical romance novel about unrelenting faith and new beginnings with just a pinch of mystery, set in Donegal, Ireland, in the 1930s.

For as long as Brianna Kelly can remember, Ballymacool House and Boarding School for Girls has been her home. She has labored there since she was a child, though she’s never been able to meet Mistress Magee’s unending demands. But Brianna believes that there is more for her beyond the tight confines of the boarding house.

The plot takes an interesting turn when a young man named Michael Wray arrives to keep an eye on his cousin, another Ballymacool boarder. A friendship develops between Michael and Brianna, and he becomes her much-needed ally against the vicious Mistress Magee. But despite their connection, a future together is untenable, since Brianna knows Michael will soon return to his high-society life. 

When Brianna finds a piece of silver in the nearby woods, a suspenseful mystery ensues, building to a rewarding ending as long-held secrets come to light and Brianna gets a bright new start.  

With rich language and historical detail, Deibel brilliantly emphasizes the story’s central themes of love, faith and redemption as her characters surmount formidable challenges. Although heartbreaking at times, The Maid of Ballymacool is inspiring and encouraging, and Brianna’s journey is one of hope and strength.

In inspiring historical novels from Stephanie Landsem, Jocelyn Green and Jennifer Deibel, early 20th-century women find the strength to face any fear.

The femme fatale is beautiful, desirable and, above all, a survivor. While she was often villainized for that last trait in her film noir heyday, these modern takes on the figure celebrate the ferocious resilience at her core. 

Stone Cold Fox

The wily narrator and antiheroine of Rachel Koller Croft’s Stone Cold Fox introduces herself as Bea—but that wasn’t the name she was born with. As a child, Bea changed her name as she moved from place to place and her mother moved from husband to husband, teaching little Bea the ways to ensnare both the right men and the money and privilege that come with them. Bea’s mother may be out of the picture now, but Bea still seeks to one-up her in every way possible. Thanks to faked credentials, Bea is a high-powered advertising executive who recently became engaged to a former client, the dull but old money wealthy Collin Case. It’s a union Bea knows will set her up for life. But when Collin’s loyal best friend, Gale Wallace-Leicester, and his flirtatious old pal Dave Bradford arrive on the scene, Bea fears that her web of lies and her greedy motivations will come to light. 

Alternating between Bea’s precarious present and her checkered past as the young and vulnerable tag-along to a truly wicked woman, screenwriter Koller Croft’s stellar debut novel is a meticulously crafted thriller that will keep the reader wondering whether Bea’s actions are horrendous or aspirational. 

A Small Affair

Vera, the results-driven narrator of Flora Collins’ A Small Affair, has a similarly aspirational lifestyle. She has a lucrative position at an up-and-coming fashion label, an enviable Instagram feed full of striking photos and unique style, a fun and supportive roommate/best friend and, most recently, an exciting older lover named Tom, a tech guru with a mouthwatering Brooklyn brownstone and wild prowess in bed. But after Vera breaks off the relationship, Tom’s body is found alongside that of his pregnant wife, Odilie, and Vera is named in a note as the cause of the murder-suicide. The story goes viral, and Vera loses it all, with no choice but to slink off to the upstate abode of her controlling hippie mother. One depression-filled year later, Vera seeks to clear her reputation and regain her position as a Manhattan scene queen. Could the late Odilie’s Instagram be the key to solving the mystery of her and Tom’s deaths? 

Vera is a fascinating contemporary femme fatale who will stop at nothing to claw her way back to the top, even if it means faking a friendship with Page, Odilie’s naive younger sister who may have secret ambitions of her own, and deep diving into Tom’s sordid life, which is full of grisly secrets that only money can protect. Collins’ second novel (after 2021’s Nanny Dearest) rotates among the perspectives of Vera, Tom and Odilie, a trifecta of complicated personalities desperate to make it in the cutthroat city that never sleeps. The result is a twisted tale of multiple femmes fatales who will use everything they’ve got to get what they want.

Two thrillers celebrate the ferocious resilience of an iconic female archetype.
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The Philosophy of Modern Song

In The Philosophy of Modern Song (6.5 hours), celebrated singer-songwriter Bob Dylan once again proves he’s a masterful storyteller. In these essays, Dylan provides rich, detailed commentary on 66 songs by other artists, including insight into the songwriting process and the backstories of the writers, musicians and performers involved. The audiobook is performed by Dylan, along with an all-star cast: Jeff Bridges, Steve Buscemi, John Goodman, Oscar Isaac, Helen Mirren, Rita Moreno, Sissy Spacek, Alfre Woodard, Jeffrey Wright and Renée Zellweger. Numerous performers appear per chapter, each adding a unique resonance to the narrative with a powerful, lyrical effect. This is a gorgeous tribute to songs, their creators and the music of life itself.

Playing Under the Piano

While Hugh Bonneville’s musical interests mostly involved playing under a piano as a child, his performance in this entertaining memoir will be music to your ears. Blending animated self-deprecating humor, earnestness and charm, Bonneville recounts humbling experiences of being an actor, as well as tasty morsels of celebrity insights. Perhaps most famous for his roles as the Earl of Grantham on “Downton Abbey” and Paddington Bear’s hapless friend Henry Brown, Bonneville lends a spectrum of voices and tones to his stories, infusing them with warmth, tenderness or grand amusement. A witty and delightful listening experience, Playing Under the Piano: From Downton to Darkest Peru (10 hours) hits all the right notes.

Read our review of the print edition of Playing Under the Piano.

Surrender

In this collection of 40 essays, each titled after one of Bono’s songs and introduced by an audio clip, the singer-songwriter and humanitarian activist provides a sumptuous selection of stories that charts his journey from growing up in the tumultuous north side of Dublin in the 1970s, to becoming the frontman of the celebrated rock band U2. His Irish accented voice is gentle but has a bit of an edge, and he reveals a wisdom that can be traced back to his childhood spent listening to the music of David Bowie and Bob Dylan. Filled with enlightening details about the people and experiences that inspired him, Surrender (20.5 hours) is a candid, moving expression of how music can touch your life and make you realize what’s important.


This article has been updated to correct information regarding the songs Bob Dylan writes about in The Philosophy of Modern Song.

Music is “a thing with which to make memories,” writes Bob Dylan. These three memoirs each play to their own tunes that will, hopefully, spark a memory for you.

Leta McCollough Seletzky, author of The Kneeling Man

Leta McCollough Seletzky author photo

Counterpoint | April 4

In the famous photograph of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., one man is kneeling down beside King on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel, trying to staunch the blood from the fatal head wound. This kneeling man, Leta McCollough Seletzky’s father, was a member of the activist group the Invaders, but he was also an undercover Memphis police officer reporting on the activities of this group. 

Seletzky is a former litigator turned essayist and a National Endowment for the Arts 2022 Creative Writing Fellow, and in The Kneeling Man: My Father’s Life as a Black Spy Who Witnessed the Assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., she reveals the story of her father, who went on to work at the CIA, and reflects upon the full weight of these revelations.


Alejandro Varela, author of The People Who Report More Stress

Alejandro Varela author photo

Astra House | April 4

Last year, Alejandro Varela published his first novel, The Town of Babylon, and it became a finalist for the National Book Award for Fiction. Varela is following up his hot-out-of-the-gate success with an overlapping story collection centering on the intersecting lives of a group of mostly queer and Latinx New York City residents. The stories explore many of the same themes as Varela’s novel—systemic racism, gentrification and economic injustice—and since his graduate studies were in public health, he brings deep insight to these topics and balances them with crisp humor and a lot of heart.


Emily Tesh, author of Some Desperate Glory

Emily Tesh author photo

Tordotcom | April 11

Emily Tesh won acclaim and a devoted readership with her Greenhollow duology of novellas, the first of which, Silver in the Wood, won a World Fantasy Award. The Greenhollow duology was a romantic take on age-old English folklore, but for her first novel, Tesh switches gears to science fiction and heads into darker moral territory. Set in a future where Earth has been destroyed by aliens, Some Desperate Glory follows Kyr, a young girl growing up in an isolated, militaristic community, where she is being trained to avenge the planet. She soon discovers that the rest of the universe is far more complex than she imagined and that she has a lot further to go to become the hero she wants to be.


Sarah Cypher, author of The Skin and Its Girl

Sarah Cypher author photo

Ballantine | April 25

After two decades as a freelance book editor, Sarah Cypher is making her fiction debut with a novel that draws from her own Lebanese American family’s history, which can be traced back to the incredible Kanaan Olive Soap factory in Nablus, Palestine. On the day of the factory’s (actual) destruction, a Palestinian American girl named Betty is born with bright blue skin in The Skin and Its Girl; as an adult, Betty begins to read the journals kept by the family matriarch, which reveal her aunt’s choice to hide her sexuality during the family’s immigration to the U.S., a discovery that helps Betty follow her own heart.


Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah, author of Chain-Gang All-Stars

Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah author photo

Pantheon | May 2

It’s pretty incredible when a short story collection becomes an instant New York Times bestseller, and doubly so when it’s a debut, as in the case of Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah’s devastating and nightmarish Friday Black (2018). With his highly anticipated first novel, Adjei-Brenyah continues in the realm of brutal, dystopian surrealism with one of the most audacious premises of the year: Reality television meets America’s for-profit prison system in this story of two female gladiators, Loretta Thurwar and Hamara “Hurricane Staxxx” Stacker, who fight for their freedom from a private prison reality entertainment system.


Jamie Loftus, author of Raw Dog

Jamie Loftus author photo

Forge | May 23

Jamie Loftus is best known as a comedian, TV writer and podcaster, including co-hosting “The Bechdel Cast” with screenwriter Caitlin Durante on the HowStuffWorks network. Loftus’ debut book, Raw Dog: The Naked Truth About Hot Dogs, is part memoir and part social critique that recounts her cross-country road trip in the summer of 2021 to investigate that backyard barbecue staple, the illustrious hot dog. Along the way, Loftus delves into all the ways hot dogs embody issues of class and culture in the United States, illuminating the complex history of this quintessential American food with her signature mix of intellect and unhinged humor.


Photo of Seletzky by Gretchen Adams. Photo of Varela by Allison Michael Orenstein. Photo of Tesh by Nicola Sanders Photography. Photo of Adjei-Brenyah by Alex M. Philip. Photo of Loftus by Andrew Max Levy.

These up-and-coming authors are going places, and we will be hot on their heels.

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