1. The Mirror & the Light by Hilary Mantel
This long-awaited and utterly riveting conclusion to Hilary Mantel’s Booker Prize-winning trilogy about Thomas Cromwell, King Henry VIII’s ruthless lawyer, finds Cromwell at the height of his power and influence at court – and therefore ripe for a fall. Click here for a full review.
2. The Night Watchman by Louise Erdrich
Louise Erdrich’s novel follows night watchman Thomas Wazhushk as he leads his Chippewa tribe to defeat the passage of a 1953 Senate bill that would end treaties with Indian nations, depriving them of their land. Erdrich’s blend of pathos, earthy humor, and reverence for nature makes this a captivating read. Click here for a full review.
3. The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin
Every city has a beating heart – New York has six. The multiracial avatars of New York’s boroughs have to fend off the infiltration of an alien intelligence. N.K. Jemisin’s fantasy novel doesn’t waste time on explanations or pleasantries – it’s an unapologetic examination of modern race relations. Click here for a full review.
4. The Other Bennet Sister by Janice Hadlow
Readers needn’t be fans of “Pride and Prejudice” to enjoy this debut novel in which Mary, the middle sister in the Jane Austen classic, steps out of the shadows. It’s a historical novel told for contemporary times.
5. Separation Anxiety by Laura Zigman
While Marie Kondo-ing her basement, Judy Vogel, a failing children’s writer in a failing marriage, finds one thing that sparks joy: stuffing her sheltie in her son’s old baby sling and wearing her dog. Readers won’t think, “Wow, this mom has lost it,” but rather, “What a great idea. My pooch loves to snuggle.” That’s Laura Zigman’s comic genius, that she can take the stuff of mid-life misery and make it not just relatable but downright funny.
6. Code Name Hélène by Ariel Lawhon
Australian expatriate Nancy Wake was a courageous spy and a revered leader in the French Resistance during World War II. She was known by the Gestapo as the elusive White Mouse. Ariel Lawhon’s historical novel, based on the real-life Wake, celebrates her astonishing bravery.
7. The Henna Artist by Alka Joshi
Alka Joshi’s culturally rich debut novel sweeps you back to 1950s post-independence India. Henna artist and herbal healer Lakshmi Shastri is determined to get ahead, but her past might trip her up. Vibrant characters, evocative imagery, and sumptuous prose create a satisfying, unforgettable tale.
8. Writers & Lovers by Lily King
Lily King’s novel follows Casey, a 30-something writer working on her novel while also putting in hours as a waitress. The book captures how taking that last step into adulthood – juggling relationships, expectations, student debt – can seem even harder while holding onto a flame of creative energy that the workaday world tries to extinguish.
9. Hammer to Fall by John Lawton
In this third Joe Wilderness spy thriller, John Lawton’s MI6 protagonist is on the move from Germany to Finland. Not your typical James Bond-style spy, Wilderness’ postings get more interesting by the minute. He ends up in Czechoslovakia just before the Soviets send in tanks to quash the 1968 Prague Spring uprising. Lawton is a master of the genre, and his writing is not only historically accurate, but also rich, ribald, cynical, informed, inventive, and hilarious.
10. Pharma by Gerald Posner
Built on years of research and interviews with key players, “Pharma” lays bare the greed, hypocrisy, and systematic deceptions of the pharmaceutical industry. In writing that’s both highly technical and intensely gripping, Posner describes a growing malignancy affecting health care.