Each week, Bookstr will be offering a look at some of the best novels in a particular genre for your continued reading list. Today, we’ll be recommending five recent crime/thrillers for your reading pleasure. Thrillers and crime novels often overlap, containing equal amounts of suspense, anxiety, anticipation, and shock. These novels will certainly set you on edge and leave you guessing until the very end.
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1. ‘The Boy’ by Tami Hoag
The Boy by Tami Hoag has quickly shot up the New York Times bestsellers list and it’s easy to see why. The premise of the novel is that a detective, Nick Fourcade, enters into a home in Louisiana to discover a young boy of seven murdered by an alleged intruder, yet his mother appears to be unhurt and there is no sign of forced entry. The waters are further muddled when the boy’s babysitter goes missing. All fingers begin to point to the mother as the murderer of her own child but Nick thinks there may be more to the case than meets the eye. With a premise like that, this is a must read that will keep you guessing until the very end.
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2. ‘The Drowning’ by J.p. Smith
The Drowning by J.P. Smith isn’t an easy read but it’s a great one. Alex Mason, a camp counselor, leaves a young boy in the middle of the lake to teach him a lesson but the boy vanishes. Alex doesn’t tell the truth, leaving the death to be forgotten, until twenty years later he begins receiving threatening notes from the boy, Joey Proctor. But Joey is dead. Or is he? With a strong prose, an excellent hook for its creepy plot, The Drowning is a book that’ll keep you guessing until the very end. Alex Mason is a multilayered protagonist, at once unsympathetic yet showing enough humanity for the audience to be on his side. Check this one out for sure.
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3. ‘My Lovely Wife’ by Samantha Downing
This one isn’t technically out yet, but it’s received excellent early reviews and features a wild as hell premise that’s impossible to ignore. My Lovely Wifeis about a married couple who engages in a new activity to keep their marriage alive. One catch: the activity in question is murder. The book is described as deliciously wicked, dark, and ‘completely crazy’ but in a good way! This one is suggested to just go in blind, so we won’t give in anything away, so pick this one up when it hits shelves March 26th.
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4. ‘The Stranger Diaries’ by Elly Griffiths
The Stranger Diaries by Elly Griffiths is a modern gothic fantasy, themed around literary killings. Clare Cassidy specializes in a course revolving around gothic writer R.M. Holland. But when a dead body turns up with a quote from Holland’s story, ‘The Stranger’, Elly Griffiths is drawn into a dark murder mystery, as more murders begin to pop up themed around Clare’s beloved book. To make matters worse, Clare receives a note in her personal diary, from the killer that says ‘Hello, Clare. You don’t know me.” This should be a must read for literature fans, especially since the killings are themed around literature!
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5. ‘The Reckoning’ by Yrsa Sigurdardottir
The second novel in the Children’s House series, a series of psychological thrillers that examines police procedurals in Scandinavia. This novel deals with series characters Huldar and Freyja, a detective and a child psychologist respectively. In the present time dismembered limbs begin popping all over town, while flashbacks deal with a young girl who went to use the phone at her friend’s house and didn’t return. The mystery gets quite dark, but leaves readers invested in seeing it through to the end, thanks to the author’s strong sense of characterization and excellent atmosphere. Its not an easy read but well worth the ride.
Will you be picking up any of these thrillers? Let us know in the comments!
As an English student and aspiring writer, I learned that school is for ‘literary’ fiction—and I learned that ‘literary’ is not synonymous with ‘good.’ The definition appeared to be based more upon what a book isn’t than what a book is. Literary fiction was rarely ever genre fiction. Literary fiction was rarely ever queer. Literary fiction was rarely about modern teenagers. When you replace the word ‘literary’ with the word ‘meaningful,’ none of these statements remain true. It’s time to reconsider which books will be most meaningful to high school students today—and why that emotional impact has academic value.
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YA has always been a groundbreaking genre. When S.E. Hinton‘s The Outsiders earned its publication in 1967, it was published as an adult book. It wasn’t one. Written by a teenager, the novel told a story far darker than any other featuring high-school-aged characters. Hinton’s protagonists were vandals, smokers, poor, and angry. These characters were not what parents and educators wanted teenagers to be—but they were who teenagers were.
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Today, YA books are increasingly diverse. Years of fun, superficial dystopias have given way to biting political novels, with Samira Ahmed‘s upcoming Internmentand Victoria Lee‘s upcoming The Fever Kingusing YA genre fiction to capture the realities of racism, bigotry, and immigration. As topics of LGBTQ+ rights, socioeconomic inequality, rape culture, discrimination, and violence permeate classrooms like never before, it’s more important than ever to consider the impact of a curriculum that reflects a students’ reality. Some YA novels have gained traction as literary classics: The Catcher in the Rye, Lord of the Flies, and The Book Thief. Yet rarely does anyone refer to these as YA books, as children’s books. ‘Literary’ is not synonymous with good—and YA is not synonymous with inconsequential.
While there’s no reason to remove books from high school curriculums, it’s time to make some room. These ten books serve as examples for what a school curriculum with more YA novels might look like:
1. Perks of Being a Wallflower
Stephen Chbosky‘s debut, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, is the classic YA bildungsroman, addressing topics of drugs, homosexuality, and sexual abuse before most YA books dared to venture into such territory. This year marks the book’s twenty-year anniversary, and, through its heartbreaking honesty, the novel continues to resonate with the next generation of teenagers.
The critically acclaimed debut novel from Stephen Chbosky, Perks follows observant “wallflower” Charlie as he charts a course through the strange world between adolescence and adulthood. First dates, family drama, and new friends. Sex, drugs, and The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Devastating loss, young love, and life on the fringes. Caught between trying to live his life and trying to run from it, Charlie must learn to navigate those wild and poignant roller-coaster days known as growing up.
2. The Hate U Give
High school reading lists are notoriously male… and notoriously white. Few books on high school reading lists take place in this century, which is a pretty big deal, given that it’s no longer the turn of the millennium. The twenty-first century has been around for nearly twenty years—and those twenty years have been violent. Angie Thomas‘ The Hate U Give, a timely contribution to the #BlackLivesMatter movement, addresses modern social issues in a way that outdated books (let’s say Heart of Darkness) can’t and don’t.
Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.
Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night?
But what Starr does—or does not—say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.
3. Looking for Alaska
John Green‘s Looking for Alaskatreats its audience as mature enough for existential questions. The novel depicts both the freedom and destruction inherent in coming of age—when you get the chance to grab the steering wheel of your own life, it comes with the chance to crash. Looking for Alaska is a complex portrait of youth: a time of discovery, love, and recklessness.
Before. Miles “Pudge” Halter is done with his safe life at home. His whole life has been one big non-event, and his obsession with famous last words has only made him crave “the Great Perhaps” even more (Francois Rabelais, poet). He heads off to the sometimes crazy and anything-but-boring world of Culver Creek Boarding School, and his life becomes the opposite of safe. Because down the hall is Alaska Young. The gorgeous, clever, funny, sexy, self-destructive, screwed up, and utterly fascinating Alaska Young. She is an event unto herself. She pulls Pudge into her world, launches him into the Great Perhaps, and steals his heart. Then. . . . After. Nothing is ever the same.
4. The Miseducation of Cameron Post
Emily M. Danforth‘s The Miseducation of Cameron Postis especially relevant in a world in which gender and sexuality are increasingly part of the conversation. For many high schoolers, growing up means realizing your feelings are not the ones you might have expected—and discovering what it means to live when your existence is so politicized.
When Cameron Post’s parents die suddenly in a car crash, her shocking first thought is relief. Relief they’ll never know that, hours earlier, she had been kissing a girl.
But that relief doesn’t last, and Cam is soon forced to move in with her conservative aunt Ruth and her well-intentioned but hopelessly old-fashioned grandmother. She knows that from this point on, her life will forever be different. Survival in Miles City, Montana, means blending in and leaving well enough alone (as her grandmother might say), and Cam becomes an expert at both.
Then Coley Taylor moves to town. Beautiful, pickup-driving Coley is a perfect cowgirl with the perfect boyfriend to match. She and Cam forge an unexpected and intense friendship–one that seems to leave room for something more to emerge. But just as that starts to seem like a real possibility, ultrareligious Aunt Ruth takes drastic action to “fix” her niece, bringing Cam face-to-face with the cost of denying her true self–even if she’s not exactly sure who that is.
5. The Poet X
Elizabeth Acevedo‘s National Book Award winning novel, The Poet X, is a diverse story of body acceptance, rape culture, gender roles, religion, abuse, and homophobia. The story describes the sort of personal development any school would be lucky to cultivate, as Acevedo’s protagonist becomes herself through the art of language. The Poet Xis a novel of creativity, passion, and the power that comes from both.
Xiomara Batista feels unheard and unable to hide in her Harlem neighborhood. Ever since her body grew into curves, she has learned to let her fists and her fierceness do the talking.
But Xiomara has plenty she wants to say, and she pours all her frustration and passion onto the pages of a leather notebook, reciting the words to herself like prayers—especially after she catches feelings for a boy in her bio class named Aman, who her family can never know about. With Mami’s determination to force her daughter to obey the laws of the church, Xiomara understands that her thoughts are best kept to herself.
So when she is invited to join her school’s slam poetry club, she doesn’t know how she could ever attend without her mami finding out, much less speak her words out loud. But still, she can’t stop thinking about performing her poems.
Because in the face of a world that may not want to hear her, Xiomara refuses to be silent.
6. It’s Kind of a Funny Story
Ned Vizzini‘s It’s Kind of a Funny Story is a candid yet earnest depiction of mental illness, going beyond more superficial depictions of depression to actually show its protagonist on a psychiatric ward. Though the novel explores the full weight of mental illness, it also shares the less visible parts of depression: the hope and desire for happiness that comes just after hitting bottom. In a time of increased depression and overworked students, this novel addresses a reality that many older classics may not.
Ambitious New York City teenager Craig Gilner is determined to succeed at life – which means getting into the right high school to get into the right job. But once Craig aces his way into Manhattan’s Executive Pre-Professional High School, the pressure becomes unbearable. He stops eating and sleeping until, one night, he nearly kills himself.
Craig’s suicidal episode gets him checked into a mental hospital, where his new neighbors include a transsexual sex addict, a girl who has scarred her own face with scissors, and the self-elected President Armelio. There, Craig is finally able to confront the sources of his anxiety.
Ned Vizzini, who himself spent time in a psychiatric hospital, has created a remarkably moving tale about the sometimes unexpected road to happiness.
7. Beneath a Meth Moon
Though schools and parents continue to censor drug-related content, addiction is a reality for many students—regardless of whether the addiction is a parent’s, a friend’s, or their own. Especially over the past decade, natural disasters have also increased in frequency; often, these communities struggle to recover both physically and psychologically. So do the people in them. Jacqueline Woodson‘s novel, Beneath a Meth Moon, addresses these issues.
Laurel Daneau has moved on to a new life, in a new town, but inside she’s still reeling from the loss of her beloved mother and grandmother after Hurricane Katrina washed away their home. Laurel’s new life is going well, with a new best friend, a place on the cheerleading squad and T-Boom, co-captain of the basketball team, for a boyfriend. Yet Laurel is haunted by voices and memories from her past.
When T-Boom introduces Laurel to meth, she immediately falls under its spell, loving the way it erases, even if only briefly, her past. But as she becomes alienated from her friends and family, she becomes a shell of her former self, and longs to be whole again. With help from an artist named Moses and her friend Kaylee, she’s able to begin to rewrite her story and start to move on from her addiction.
8. Eleanor & Park
Rainbow Rowell‘s stunning Eleanor & Park depicts an interracial relationship, a troubled home life, and a town too small to hide the secrets and prejudices that live inside it. This sounds like a love story, and it is one. But romantic love for someone else isn’t the only kind of love there is.
Eleanor… Red hair, wrong clothes. Standing behind him until he turns his head. Lying beside him until he wakes up. Making everyone else seem drabber and flatter and never good enough…Eleanor.
Park… He knows she’ll love a song before he plays it for her. He laughs at her jokes before she ever gets to the punch line. There’s a place on his chest, just below his throat, that makes her want to keep promises…Park.
Set over the course of one school year, this is the story of two star-crossed sixteen-year-olds—smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try.
Laurie Halse Anderson‘s classic Speakaddresses a topic that we as a society have waited years to address openly: rape. Anderson wrote on this issue in 1999, well before the #MeToo movement that, even in a time period of increased awareness, has proven divisive and controversial.
The first ten lies they tell you in high school.
“Speak up for yourself–we want to know what you have to say.”
From the first moment of her freshman year at Merryweather High, Melinda knows this is a big fat lie, part of the nonsense of high school. She is friendless, outcast, because she busted an end-of-summer party by calling the cops, so now nobody will talk to her, let alone listen to her. As time passes, she becomes increasingly isolated and practically stops talking altogether. Only her art class offers any solace, and it is through her work on an art project that she is finally able to face what really happened at that terrible party: she was raped by an upperclassman, a guy who still attends Merryweather and is still a threat to her. Her healing process has just begun when she has another violent encounter with him. But this time Melinda fights back, refuses to be silent, and thereby achieves a measure of vindication.
10. Aristotle & Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe
There isn’t enough LGBTQ+ literature on high school reading lists. There aren’t enough authors of color on high school reading lists—and, unlike in life, there are almost no queer PoC in the high school curriculum. (Unless their school is phenomenal enough not to have banned Alice Walker‘s The Color Purple, students who share these characters’ experience have almost no material in the English curriculum representing their experiences.) Benjamin Alire Sáenz tells such a story in his novel Aristotle & Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe—and he tells it devastatingly well.
Aristotle is an angry teen with a brother in prison. Dante is a know-it-all who has an unusual way of looking at the world. When the two meet at the swimming pool, they seem to have nothing in common. But as the loners start spending time together, they discover that they share a special friendship—the kind that changes lives and lasts a lifetime. And it is through this friendship that Ari and Dante will learn the most important truths about themselves and the kind of people they want to be.
Over the years since, I’ve often drawn inspiration from Africa’s extraordinary literary tradition. As I prepare for this trip, I wanted to share a list of books that I’d recommend for summer reading, including some from a number of Africa’s best writers and thinkers – each of whom illuminate our world in powerful and unique ways.
The following six books are recommended and introduced by Obama. I directly quote Obama’s simple but beautiful words here:
A true classic of world literature, this novel paints a picture of traditional society wrestling with the arrival of foreign influence, from Christian missionaries to British colonialism. A masterpiece that has inspired generations of writers in Nigeria, across Africa, and around the world.
Mandela’s life was one of the epic stories of the 20th century. This definitive memoir traces the arc of his life from a small village, to his years as a revolutionary, to his long imprisonment, and ultimately his ascension to unifying President, leader, and global icon. Essential reading for anyone who wants to understand history – and then go out and change it.
From one of the world’s great contemporary writers comes the story of two Nigerians making their way in the U.S. and the UK, raising universal questions of race and belonging, the overseas experience for the African diaspora, and the search for identity and a home.
It’s true, Ben does not have African blood running through his veins. But few others so closely see the world through my eyes like he can. Ben’s one of the few who’ve been with me since that first presidential campaign. His memoir is one of the smartest reflections I’ve seen as to how we approached foreign policy, and one of the most compelling stories I’ve seen about what it’s actually like to serve the American people for eight years in the White House.
Bill Gates released his summer reading list earlier this morning on his blog, Gate Note, and his picks surely won’t disappoint. The billionaire bookworm has been publishing book reviews and reading lists on his blog for the past few years, bringing light to some fantastic but unknown reads.
With his most recent list, he wanted to push readers to look at how to make the world a better place and to ask complex questions like “why do bad things happen to good people?” and “what makes a genius tick?”. With books like Origin Story: A Big Historyof Everythingand Lincoln in the Bardo, it’s almost impossible not to ask those sorts of questions.
Alongside his summer reading list, Gates published a video detailing his picks and there are puppies. Repeat, there are puppies. Puppies dressed up as Abraham Lincoln, puppies in dog-sized hospital gowns, puppies roaming about the moon’s surface, and even a pup among some of Leonardo da Vinci’s greatest artistic works and inventions.
The great balancing act: being polynarritivus. Yes, that is a made up word, but if Dr. Seuss and Shakespeare have taught me anything, it’s that you can make words. They might catch on. It means reading more than one book at a time, and the antonym is another made up word: mononarritivus.
While many start by cherishing one book at a time, there are several advantages of switching to multiple stories at a time. Making the change from mononarritivus to polynarritivus can be scary. You may worry you’ll forget which story is which, or that you won’t finish them.
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The benefits outweigh the negatives, though! You’d be surprised how easy it is to keep track of separate books. Plus, reading multiple books at once can actually help you finish faster. If you don’t like a book, you have a backup. If you can’t remember a story, re-read it.
On her blog, Rachel Ann Hanley says the amount of reading she does has tripled since switching from reading one book to reading many. If you get bored of the narrative in a book, it can be a chore to start to read it for the goal of finishing it. When you read multiple books, you can choose which book to read and avoid more of the slumps of uninspiring narratives.
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But what if I never finish that book because I can read other books that are more interesting? Well, if you are having a hard time finishing it, do you really want to read that book? You can push yourself to read through it, but that problem is still there and even more present if you choose to read only one book at a time.
When reading multiple books at once, you never have to sacrifice. You can read multiple genres, different authors, and different styles of prose. This way you can also balance reading for work and reading for pleasure. Students who have to write an essay on “The Great Gatsby” can also read “Infinite Jest” if they want. They can probably even finish several novels throughout reading “Infinite Jest” if they commit to it.
On the opposite side of that, if you have a HUGE craving for a story, but no narrative seems to satisfy it, you can read multiple books of the same type to subside that hunger. You can read ALL Harry Potters at once, you crazy kid.
Besides speeding through TBR piles and having a variety of life, you also get to make connections across books that you might not have otherwise. How does “2001: A Space Odyssey” relate to “Looking for Alaska?”
If this isn’t for you, that’s okay. Stick to what works, and read one book at a time. However, if you haven’t tried multiple stories at once, maybe it can fix some of your struggles as a reader. Many people who have made the switch love its benefits like Laura Sackton who was scared of the change at first.