The best book club books that will get the conversation (and wine) flowing

These book club books—from thrillers to romances, to thoughtful literary novels—will spark hours of discussion...

a collage image of eight of the books including in w&h's best book club books round-up
(Image credit: Amazon)

Book club books aren't ones that you simply read and then place back on your shelf. They are the books you can't stop thinking about—the books you thrust into the hands of your friends and family because you are absolutely desperate to talk about them with someone. The stories that capture our imaginations, leave us exploring new ideas, and open up interesting discussions.

The best book club books are ones that keep you up until the early hours. But they don't need to be literary works of art—some of the best romance books, or the best thriller books can make for fantastic book club reads too, allowing us to explore themes that relate to our own lives as well as challenging thoughts and opinions.

These novels, selected by our Books Editor Isabelle Broom, with contributions from the woman&home team, should provide plenty to discuss at your next book group meeting...

The best book club books to read and discuss in 2023

From the best historical fiction books to the best mystery books, and everything in between—the titles chosen below are packed with important talking points, mind-bending twists, laugh-out-loud observations and characters that will stay with you long after reading. 

Feel-good books

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Really Good, Actually by Monica Heisey 

This recommendation comes courtesy of our beauty editor Fiona McKim. “I absolutely inhaled this on holiday and it now belongs to an exclusive club of books that have genuinely made me laugh out loud – pretty surprising considering it's essentially a break-up novel,” she tells us. 

“It tells the story of a young divorcee (based on the true experience of the author's short-lived mid-20s marriage) it's sad in places, sometimes jaw-clenchingly cringe-inducing but mostly it's very, very funny and relatable. There's plenty to unpick and discuss around society's attitudes to women, relationships, and success, but it never feels remotely hard-going”

Read it because: It's an extremely raw and thought-provoking book that so many people can relate to and enjoy. It will definitely get you in your feels. 

A line we love: "In the movies when you got divorced you lay down on the floor, and then you got drunk, and then you picked yourself up by the sweater shawl and learned to love yourself again at a beach house rented from a charming and handsome older man whose first wife died, and although he clearly still loves her in a respectful way, he feels like he might be ready to move on."


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Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid

When it comes to novels set behind the velvet rope, there is a clear winner at the helm in Malibu Rising—especially if you are craving a story that not only offers fun and frivolity, but also depth, humor, and characters that are every bit as frustrating, loveable and contrite as members of your own family. Taylor Jenkins Reid delves out all this and more in her 2021 novel, which takes place over 24 hours at a Malibu house party thrown by four famous siblings—surfer and model Nina, surfer Jay, photographer Hud, and the youngest, Kit. A sexy, scandalous tour de force, with really relatable characters that are sure to spark discussion.

Read it because: The love story is heart-wrenching, and you’ll be completely transported to another era through the spellbinding backstory.

A line we love: “Nina Riva stood on the edge of the cliff she'd never wanted and looked out onto the water she wished was closer, and for the first time in her quiet life, screamed into the wind.”


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The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary 

A flatshare like no other. Two tenants, one bed. Tiffy Moore needs a cheap flat and fast after escaping a toxic living space and relationship. Leon Twomey works nights at the local hospital but could do with some extra cash. It’s a questionable situation but the two come to an agreement that Tiffy can occupy the flat on a night after work and Leon can have it all to himself through the day whilst Tiffy is out. It seems a pretty seamless plan on paper for a few months until obsessive exes, wrongly imprisoned brothers and the shocking fact they’re still yet to meet gets in the way. It turns out the two might share more than their very unique tenancy agreement. 

Read it because:  It’s a romance done right. O’Leary is known for her witty and fun characters and this book delivers on that. It’s the perfect leisurely read and you’ll be desperate to finish it in one sitting.

A line we love:  “My dad likes to say, ‘Life is never simple’. This is one of his favorite aphorisms. I actually think it’s incorrect. Life is often simple, but you don’t notice how simple it was until it gets incredibly complicated, like how you never feel grateful for being well until you’re ill, or how you never appreciate your tights drawer until you rip a pair and have no spares.”


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Daisy Jones and The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

It’s the 70s and Daisy Jones and The Six are THE band to beat. Consistently topping the charts with their hit album Aurora, we follow the band along with their lovers, brothers and rivals as they go on their rocky journey to superstar status. Now a hit series on Amazon Prime, the story and its characters will transport you back to a time of wild partying, flared jeans and messy love affairs.

Read it because: The book’s interview format makes it a super fun read. Hearing first hand from the different characters allows you to experience the story from some very colorful perspectives. 

A line we love:  “You have to have one person in your life that you know would never do anything to steer you wrong. They may disagree with you. They could even break your heart, from time to time. But you have to have one person, at least, who you know will always tell you the truth.”


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Bad Choices by Lucy Vine

Lucy Vine’s knack for hilarity was introduced to us all in her number one bestselling Hot Mess and carried through to her subsequent releases, so it’s no surprise that her newest drop Bad Choices promises to leave us as breathless and blurry-eyed from laughter as its predecessors. One of the best book club books to read with your girlfriends, this one is all about the messy stories and nostalgic occasions of those ever-important codependent friendships we all had at some point in our youth.

Read it because: Not only is it hilarious, it’s also poignant in the most joyfully unpredictable way.

A line we love: “You have to feel your feelings, good and bad because otherwise you end up packing them in a box and pretending you’re fine. You tell yourself you’re in the right, that you deserve this, you’re owed this, instead of dealing with the truth.”


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Ghosts by Dolly Alderton 

Nina Dean is a successful 30-something food writer who owns a humble flat in central London, has a seemingly supportive group of friends, and a loving family. A perfect life you could argue. However, when the people around her begin to age in more ways than one – marriage, kids, Alzheimer's – Nina is forced to reevaluate her life. After three years of being happily single, she turns to online dating and unexpectedly falls in love with the first guy she meets, Max. But she quickly realizes that modern dating isn’t as easy as it seems...

Read it because:  It’s a truly genuine story that you will be able to relate to from start to finish. You’ll find yourself laughing and crying all at the same time as you get to know the characters like they’re your own friends and family. 

A line we love: “Maybe friendship is being the guardian of another person's hope. Leave it with me and I'll look after it for a while if it feels too heavy for now.”


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Happy Place by Emily Henry

Emily Henry’s books should be prescribed. Not only will they make you happy, but her latest may also make you fall in love with falling in love again. Meet Harriet and Wyn – the perfect couple, until they weren’t. They broke up six months ago but haven’t told their friends. They don’t want to ruin their week-long holiday to their happy place, so they’ll pretend to be together. How hard can it be? A humorous and deeply romantic story. Absolutely dreamy.

Read it because: It's Emily Henry. The book is the perfect mix of romance and comedy without sacrificing the plot quality and character depth. Truly dreamy and the perfect pool-side read. Plus, its realistic portrayal of growing up and ever-evolving relationships makes it ripe for discussion. 

A line we love: “Love means constantly saying you're sorry, and then doing better.”


The Hidden Beach by Karen Swan

The Hidden Beach by Karen Swan

Karen Swan transports us to the historic city of Stockholm and the beautiful Swedish coast in this epic tale, where Bell Everhurst is working as a nanny for Hanna and Max. Looking after three children, life is ticking along, until Bell receives a call to say Hanna’s first husband has woken up from his coma, sending shockwaves through the family. This story of forgiveness will soon have you swept along and dreaming of Sweden. One of the best book club books for those with wanderlust.

Read it because: It’s emotionally hard-hitting with characters you cannot help but fall in love with.

A line we love: “The room remained empty and still. Vacated. Long ago abandoned. To reach for otherwise was a futile exercise in hope over experience because if Life had taught him anything, it was that anything could happen. That fate was capricious and cruel. And no one could be trusted.”


The Sight Of You by Holly Miller

The Sight Of You by Holly Miller

This entrancing and beautifully written novel follows Joel and Callie, brought together, as if by fate. Only Joel doesn’t want to let anyone close. Haunted by dreams of what is going to happen to the people he loves, it’s no different when he meets Callie. He knows exactly how this ends. The question is, does he carry on living regardless? One of the most big-hearted of book club books that shows just how fragile life truly is, and a truly endearing story about love and loss.

Read it because: It is surprising, smart, emotional, and heart-breaking.

A line we love: “Really, I remind myself, we hardly know each other – just well enough for smiles and passing remarks, like stars from companion galaxies exchanging winks across swathes of limitless sky.”


The Authenticity Project by Clare Pooley

The Authenticity Project by Clare Pooley

Lauded as one of the best feel-good novels of the last few years, Pooley quickly introduces us to a group of intriguing characters—none of them quite what they seem. Stricken with guilt about his past, flamboyant artist Julian Jessop wants to share his truth. But from the moment he writes it in a notebook and leaves it for someone to find, he couldn’t have imagined the impact it will have. This heartfelt and joyous read shows what it means to embrace who we really are.

Read it because: Of its quirky characters, the central message of hope, and because it may just make you gaze inward at your own life and find ways to make it more fulfilling.

A line we love: “You have such energy. You're like the sun. When you're interested in someone, you turn your rays towards them, and they luxuriate in your warmth. But then you turn somewhere else, leaving them in the shadow, and they spend all their energy trying to recreate the memory of your light.”


Saving Missy by Beth Morrey

Saving Missy by Beth Morrey

In what’s been described as a ‘coming of old’ story, we meet prickly Millicent (Missy). Grieving for her husband, with a son living in Australia and a daughter she hasn’t spoken to for a year, she is lonely. That is until she meets two very different women who help her realise it doesn’t have to be that way. Featuring a cast of flawed but lovable characters, this is a story of friendship and having a second chance at life. This is one of the book club books to savour for days to come after you've finished it.

Read it because: Missy will win you over, page by sensitively crafted page.

A line we love: “Love was just love, that was all. Flawed, uneven, complicated, overlapping, but still essential.”


Crime/thriller books

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Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

This recommendation comes from shopping writer and bookworm Hannah Holway. “As with Ng’s second novel, Little Fires Everywhere, Everything I Never Told You follows an ensemble of characters and explores various differing perspectives of the same tragic incident. Touching on themes of generational trauma, racism, loneliness and the weight of our parents’ expectations, Ng’s debut is a heartbreaking family portrait disguised as a thriller.”

Read it because: It's an extremely powerful story that brings to light some very important issues and discussions. Exploring dark and thrilling themes throughout, Ng's enticingly real characters will keep you drawn in until the very end.  

A line we love: “That long-ago day, sitting in this very spot on the dock, she had already begun to feel it: how hard it would be to inherit their parents’ dreams. How suffocating to be so loved.”


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Magpie by Elizabeth Day

Marisa has only known Jake for a few months, but when he asks her to move in and start trying for a baby, it feels right. In Jake, she's found someone who will love and look after her the way she needs, and for a while, everything is perfect. But when lodger Kate arrives, Marisa is unnerved by how comfortable she seems in the house, how intimately she covets Jake and how interested she is in their baby. Just what is this stranger's story? Intelligent, twisty, and delicate in its handling of sensitive themes, Magpie is the thinking woman's thriller.

Read it because: It is oozing with foreboding and menace but has an ending far more hopeful than many psychological thrillers.

A line we love: She knew Jake disliked overt displays of affection because he found them insincere. After Marissa’s childhood experiences, where affection was supplied by her mother like heavy artillery in a battle with no clear end, she was relieved by Jake’s undemonstrative nature.”


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The Survivors by Jane Harper

 When Kieran returns home to the small town of Evelyn Bay on the Tasmania coast, he does so purely to help his parents pack up their house. He hasn't been back to the place in years, ever since the tragic events that saw three teenagers lose their lives at sea, yet Kieran has never been able to forget what happened, and neither, as it soon transpires, has anyone else. When the body of a young woman then washes up on the shore, it sparks an investigation that uncovers more than anyone could have predicted. A brooding and darkly atmospheric mystery.

Read it because: The descriptive passages are so exquisite that you will feel as if you’re watching a movie play out in your head.

A line we love: “The sea swelled again, and this time the drag of the undertow was strong enough that he took a step toward her. She didn’t notice. Her face was tilted down, the silver chain of her necklace glinting against her collarbone as she leaned forward to examine something in the water.”


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Kim Stone series by Angela Marsons

If you're looking for a stream of gripping book club books to carry your group through a good number of meets, then the Angela Marsons’ Kim Stone series is well worth your attention. Following the savvy but haunted Detective Inspector Kim Stone and her team as they endeavor to catch a different enigmatic serial killer in each installment, the series will leave you desperate to know what happens next at every corner, with multiple story arcs in each book and group of characters who you’ll end up feeling like you’ve known for a lifetime. If you’re a fan of Line of Duty, this one is definitely for you.

Read it because: Kim Stone is an engaging, multi-faceted lead character, and the entire series is smart and enthralling.

A line we love: “The innocence of the life taken was known to them all, but the pact had been made, and the secrets would be buried.”


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What You Did by Claire McGowan

When a group of university friends gets together after 20 years, friendships and relationships start to unravel after one of them is found bleeding and traumatized after claiming to have been assaulted by someone else in the house. Dark memories are brought to the surface for our protagonist as she is left questioning some of the supposedly best years of her life—and a hoard of twists and turns makes for a riveting group discussion that will make you forget all about your mandatory book club glass of wine.

Read it because: It’s pacey, tense, and will keep you guessing right to the end.

A line we love: “But still, the thing that was between them, it did not go away, it did not die, it just kept getting hungrier and hungrier, and sometimes the sheer power of it, of knowing she would do anything for it, hit her like a wave. It was wrong. But sometimes that didn’t matter.”


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The Perfect Wife by JP Delaney

Packed full of domestic suspense, The Perfect Wife explores the idea of perfection in a person and in a relationship through the lens of science, technology and resurrection. It begins as protagonist Abbie awakes to find that she doesn’t quite remember exactly who she is. Her husband—a tech expert and Silicon Valley legend—tells her she is an artist, surfer and loving wife and mother. But she is also something else entirely. After a horrible accident stole her life from her five years ago, her husband brought her back thanks to a technological breakthrough. As Abbie gets to know her new self and her new world, she is suspicious that her husband may not be all that he seems either.

Read it because: It’s a wholly original idea executed perfectly.

A line we love: “In the future, living forever will become as simple as making an upload.”


Liar by Lesley Pearse

Liar by Lesley Pearse

Set in 1970s London, Pearse’s latest dark tale follows Amelia White, whose ambitions to become a reporter might just become reality when she discovers a murdered woman’s body. Determined to report the truth amid a media frenzy, more bodies begin to pile up, pushing her to the absolute limit. One of the most thrilling book club books on our list, and one that you'll definitely want to make sure you've ready before the next meeting to avoid spoilers!

Read it because: The backdrop of early-1970s London is captured brilliantly, and the mystery is weaved flawlessly throughout.

A line we love: “I saw the boots and thought someone had dumped them – I never expected they would be attached to legs.”


The Curator by M. W. Craven

The Curator by M. W. Craven

Christmas may be the time for loving and giving, but when a sadistic serial killer begins displaying body parts across Cumbria, things get a whole lot darker. The National Crime Agency’s Washington Poe and Tilly Bradshaw now face a case that is as disturbing as it is difficult to unravel. Jaw-droppingly shocking and intense, there’s no escaping this novel’s tense narrative and tightly woven mystery.

Read it because: The twists are outrageously good, the plot fiendishly complex, and Poe a truly brilliant character.

A line we love: “Poe stood still and tried to untangle his mind. None of it felt right, some of the evidence contradicted other evidence – it was like trying to solve a Rubik's Cube that fought back.”


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The New Girl by Harriet Walker

Walker’s gripping thriller is against the backdrop of the— crazy, but arguably realistic—fashion industry. One of the more psychological book club books, this narrative explores friendship, motherhood, grief and betrayal, meaning it'll likely spawn all sorts of brilliant conversations. This has already been optioned as a film too, so you can just imagine how brilliant it is with someone willing to take it to Hollywood.

Read it because: It’s a lot of fun being taken behind the velvet rope of the fashion/showbiz world, and the characters and their struggles are relatable.

A line we love: “I laughed at my extra passenger when I thought about how impossible it was to smuggle in a plus one at these events – especially one who was so intent on discovering and demolishing whatever amuse-bouche happened to be offered on silver platters by waiters who looked like they’d been hewn from marble.”


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The Prisoner by BA Paris 

When two men violently kidnap Amelie in the middle of the night, holding her hostage, she tries everything in her power to escape from the pitch-black prison. Switching between present day and the weeks leading up to the kidnapping, it becomes clear that although Amelie may have been vulnerable in the past, everything she’s learnt from those days may be the key to helping her escape. But can brains really overpower brawn? Chilling, intense and frightening in places, you’ll be left wondering what is real and what isn’t. 

Paperback edition releasing 24th January 2024

Read it because: A well-crafted bestseller that will have you rooting for its main character from the very beginning. The book will keep you on your toes with its gripping past and present timeline. 

A line we love: “We aren’t remembered for long after our deaths, only by those who carry us in their hearts.”


Lullaby by Leila Slimani

Lullaby by Leila Slimani

Compelling from the menacing opening line, Lullaby is guaranteed to elicit a strong reaction from all readers, but given the fact that it’s about a nanny who murders the children in her care, it’s not one for the fainthearted. There are, however, heaps of talking points around class, race, and family, so it ticks both the thinking and feeling boxes, which is what makes it one of the best book club books. Plus, it's also been made into a movie (making it one of the best book-to-movie adaptions on our list), so you can even discuss the book in two formats if you wanted to. 

Read it because: The quiet menace will raise goosebumps on your skin, and the ending will leave you reeling for days.

A line we love: “And that was when she heard it. Most people live their whole lives without ever hearing a scream like that. It is the kind of scream heard during war, in the trenches, in other worlds, on other continents. It is not a scream from here.”


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Death of a Bookseller by Alice Slater

While they both love literature, booksellers Laura and Roach couldn’t be more different. Roach is fascinated by the dark mind behind true crimes, while Laura prefers to remember the innocent victims’ stories. As Roach becomes more obsessed with Laura’s past, desperate to know more about the secret she’s keeping, are her murder fantasies about to become a reality? Fast-paced with a great finale, it begs the question: how well do you know your colleagues? You spend all day with them, and may socialize, but that doesn’t mean you have to like them. Or trust them. 

Read it because: It's a true rollercoaster of a crime thriller from cover to cover. The novel has been hailed as 'a dark masterpiece' that delivers on its promise of creepy twists and dark turns.  

A line we love: "She's the devil, I thought, taking one last glance at the oozing shards of snail shell." 


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The Fall by Gilly Macmillan 

Winning the lottery was supposed to be a fresh start but it turned out to be the beginning of the end for childhood sweethearts Tom and Nicole. Before long, Tom is found dead in the pool in their state-of-the-art home on the Lancaut Peninsula. In this remote area, Nicole, the couple in the manor house next door and their housekeeper all become suspects. Telling the story of Tom’s last day interwoven with the suspects’ perspectives, layers of detail are peeled back to present a brilliantly crafted portrait of their true selves. 

Read it because: It's teeming with psychological suspense. A well-written mystery that will not only keep you guessing but keep you reading too. 

A line we love: "She's about to step inside and resume her search for Tom when she sees him. He's directly below her, in the swimming pool, floating, face down and motionless."


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Truly, Darkly, Deeply by Victoria Selman

When Matty comes into her mother’s life, Sophie is happy. He might be mysterious at times, but Matty is the nearest thing she’s ever had to a father. But when multiple women, who closely resemble Sophie’s mum, are murdered in their neighborhood, Sophie becomes scared. Matty reassures her that she’ll always be OK, but how does he know? Two decades on and the pair meet again, as Sophie finds out whether Matty was guilty of the crimes. Are Sophie and her mum really innocent if they suspected him but never did anything?

Read it because:  This story will keep you captivated and absorbed right to the very end. Its thrilling murder plot is filled with emotional twists and turns. 

A line we love: “Matty was more of a dad to me than Jame Brennan ever was. Jame, no ‘s’. An affectation to make him sound special. I laughed when I watched Silence of the Lambs. My father had the same name as Buffalo Bill. Jame Gumb. What is it about me and serial killers?”


Literary books

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My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell

Another pick from Hannah who describes it as “A sometimes difficult read but an undoubtedly thought-provoking one, Russell’s provocative debut tells the story of an inappropriate ‘relationship’ from the perspective of the woman at the heart of it, looking back on the events that have shaped her life’s trajectory ever since. While it can be uncomfortable to read, the narrative warrants endless discussion." 

Read it because: A shocking book that deals with some of the most complex issues seen in today's society, Russell does not shy away from exploring difficult but important subjects and themes.

A line we love: “I wonder how much victimhood they’d be willing to grant a girl like me.”


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An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

A dive into the issues of prejudice, racism and injustice in the US told through the lens of a young couple’s loving but turbulent relationship, as Roy is sent away for 12 years for a crime that his wife Celestial knows that he didn’t commit. There’s much to discuss in this gripping read, not just the societal concerns but the nuances of couple relationships, not to mention the blockers that can arise among friendships. There are also interesting literary devices used throughout, with different points of view translated through diverse media.

Read it because: It is a thought-provoking, challenging, and utterly captivating novel that chooses truth over comfort, making it authentic and uncompromisingly human.

A line we love: “But this is what loss has taught me of love. Our house isn't simply empty, our home has been emptied. Love makes a place in your life; it makes a place for itself in your bed. Invisibly, it makes a place in your body, rerouting all your blood vessels, throbbing right alongside your heart. When it's gone, nothing is whole again.”


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Blue Ticket by Sophie Mackintosh

Blue Ticket imagines a world in which women are given a ticket on the day of their first period, informing them whether they will become a mother or not. A white ticket grants you, children, while the blue ticket offers freedom from choice. But, as the protagonist, Calla is about to discover, things can go horribly wrong if the wrong ticket is issued. Delving into themes of motherhood, female instincts, and the balance of power between men and women, it boldly challenges the reader to face an unsettling what-if, making it one of the best feminist books on our list.

Read it because: While it requires attention, the rewards are mesmerizing.

A line we love: “I was not fragile, I was not protectable, I was dark wind and dust blowing across a landscape, and there was nothing anybody could do for me.” 


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Sorrow And Bliss by Meg Mason

When a book is recommended by almost every person you encounter, you can be confident that something extremely special is in store—and this is very much the case with the achingly poignant, painfully human, and darkly humorous Sorrow And Bliss. When we join Martha at the start of the novel, she is at her 40th birthday party with her husband Patrick and is very much not okay. The reasons why become apparent as we travel with Martha back to childhood, meet her eccentric British family and witness her myriad of struggles as she grapples with mental illness. An exquisite modern classic.

Read it because: As a novel, it is as sublime and  as near-perfect as they come.

A line we love: “At night I read until I fell asleep and wherever I was, every time somebody in a book wanted something, I wrote down what it was. Once I had finished them all, I had so many torn-off bits of paper, collected in a jar on Ingrid's dresser. But they all said, a person, a family, a home, money, to not be alone. That is all anybody wants.”


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The Paper Palace by Miranda Cowley Heller

Penned by the former Head of Drama Series at HBO, captivating debut The Paper Palace has the caliber of unforgettability that publishers dream about. Opening with 50-year-old mother-of-three Elle awakening at the Cape Cod house where she spends all her summers, the narrative then takes us on a journey not just back to the events of the previous evening—when Elle had sex with Jonas on the lawn while their respective partners chatted away indoors—but to the mid-50s when they initially met. Elle has a choice to make about her future happiness, but first, she must revisit the past.

Read it because: The prose is luminous, the plot thought-provoking, and surprises are sprinkled like seasoning throughout.

A line we love: “Every single time I see the ocean, even if I’ve been there in the morning, it feels like a new miracle – its power, its blueness always just as overwhelming. Like falling in love.”