Top Long-Running Series to Binge Read (If You Haven’t Already)

There’s nothing quite like delving into a novel when you know you can count on several more volumes to hold your attention. The idea of getting know a character – or characters – over the course of not only multiple novels, but multiple years makes for a unique reading experience. Picking up a new novel in a beloved series is like meeting up with some old friends – there’s a kind of well-worn familiarity that can’t be replicated. Luckily, if you too have the urge to dive into a long-running series, we have a few favorites to get you started.

Bones Never Lie (with bonus novella Swamp Bones) Book Cover PictureBones Never Lie
You likely know Temperance Brennan from the long running TV series, “Bones.” If that is your only exposure to the brilliant forensic anthropologist, do yourself a favor and pick up one of the novels that inspired the series. With eighteen novels and counting, Kathy Reichs has more than proven that she knows her way around a suspenseful plot.Add in an engaging cast of characters and one of the best protagonists in thrillers fiction and you’ve got a recipe for success.

The Cold Dish Book Cover PictureThe Cold Dish
Walt Longmire is one of my favorite fictional detectives; he’s a laconic and tortured cowboy with a stiff moral code and a weathered view of the world around him. Craig Johnson has carved out an interesting niche that combines classic Old West and cowboy tropes with hard-boiled noir. It’s an interesting combination that sets the Longmire Mystery series apart from the wealth of other crime fiction crowding the shelves.

Storm Front Book Cover PictureStorm Front
There’s been real boom in quality urban fantasy the last few years, but Jim Butcher’s wizard-turned-private-investigator will always be my go-to. With Harry Dresden, Butcher puts a fantastical spin on the classic hard-boiled detective mystery. Dresden finds himself caught up in all facets of murder and mayhem in his beloved Chicago — supernatural and otherwise — and his wisecracking, fly-by-the-seat-of-his-pants style has kept me entertained across fifteen novels as well as various short stories.

Her Royal Spyness Book Cover PictureHer Royal Spyness
Rhys Bowen’s A Royal Spyness Mystery series is one of my favorites and at twelve novels, there’s plenty to sink your teeth into. Set during the 1930s, the mysteries center around a Lady Georgiana, who is 34th in line for the English throne with a penchant for finding herself in inexplicable situations.

Killing Floor Book Cover PictureKilling Floor
Jack Reacher might just be the most badass, no-nonsense hero in suspense fiction at the moment and Lee Child’s lean and visceral thrillers are truly edge-of-your seat affairs. Reacher is an ex-military policeman turned drifter with a very particular and dangerous sort of skills. He makes his way around the country like a sort of modern-day knight, always finding someone in dire need of his help.

Pietr the Latvian Book Cover PicturePietr the Latvian
When it comes to long-running series, Georges Simenon’s Inspector Maigret is difficult to top. With seventy-five novels featuring the genius Parisian sleuth, there’s plenty of mystery to be enjoyed.Maigret is a dogged and occasionally misanthropic detective who navigates the underbelly of a Paris that seems to be set in a state of perpetual gloom. These tightly woven, densely plotted mysteries are well worth digging into.

The Bone Collector Book Cover PictureThe Bone Collector
Lincoln Rhymes is one of the more interesting characters in recent thriller fiction. He’s an extraordinary forensic scientist and criminologist who also happens to be a quadriplegic with control of only one finger. Rhymes makes his way through the often startling grisly crime scenes with a host of high tech gadgetry. His investigations always prove to be just the sort of high-wire suspense that all-night reading sessions require.

Y is for Yesterday Book Cover PictureY is for Yesterday
It’s hard to top Sue Grafton’s dogged ingenuity. The twenty-five novels in her Kinsey Milhone/Alphabet series are a master class in sustained suspense and clever plotting. Grafton created one of the all-time great literary detectives in Kinsey Milhone — a hard edged and resourceful private investigator who Grafton insisted on thrusting into ever more dangerous situations.

44 Scotland Street Book Cover Picture44 Scotland Street
You likely know the prolific Alexander McCall Smith for his bestselling No.1 Ladies Detective Agency series, and while we most definitely recommend that one as well, 44 Scotland Street is another long-running series that is well worth your time. Set in McCall Smith’s beloved Edinburgh, the series centers on the residents of 44 Scotland Streetand their assorted love triangles, mishaps, mysteries, and various goings-on. And i’s all told with McCall Smith’s characteristic warmth, wit, and keen perception.

By Keith Rice, September 12, 2018, first appearing on Signature Reads

10 CROCKPOT COOKBOOKS TO UP YOUR SLOW COOKER GAME

All hail the mighty crockpot. Within this humble appliance bounties of chilis, soups, stews, and roasts slowly cook to feed batch cookers and kitchen newbies alike. You may have already seen our roundups of great books for the air frying and instant potting contingents, so if you’re looking for your next appliance-centered boost, look no further than these fantastic crockpot cookbooks.

10 crock pot cookbooks to up your slow cooker game. Make some delicious new recipes. book lists | cookbooks | cookbooks to read | slow cooker cookbooks | crockpot cookbooks | crock pot cookbooks

CROCK POT: 1001 BEST CROCK POT RECIPES OF ALL TIME BY EMMA KATIE

Crock Pot 1001 Best Crock Pot Recipes of All Time by Emma Katie coverLet’s start with this massive collection. Emma Katie’s work is the de facto epic of crockpot cookbooks, and in a just universe would be regarded similarly to the works of Shakespeare and Homer. Katie’s recipes are concise and no-nonsense, and several of them appear per page. Anything from appetizers, soups, and sides, all the way to the main course can be found here, and in spades.

 

THE NEW INDIAN SLOW COOKER BY NEELA PANIZ

The New Indian Slow Cooker by Neela Paniz coverPaniz admits in the introduction to this cookbook that she had some skepticism about how well one could make Indian food in a slow cooker. “The slow cooker would be a new route to a crucial destination,” she writes. “I didn’t know if it could be done.” Thankfully, she pulled it off, as this cookbook is a great resource for homemade Indian cuisine. As it turns out, chutneys, curries, and dals are all achievable using your crockpot.

 

THE SUPER EASY VEGAN SLOW COOKER COOKBOOK: 100 EASY, HEALTHY RECIPES THAT ARE READY WHEN YOU ARE BY TONI OKAMOTO

The Super Easy Vegan Slow Cooker by Toni Okamoto coverVegan food rules. Don’t trust anyone who tells you otherwise, even if you’re not vegan yourself. In this cookbook, Okamoto addresses two criticisms often lobbed at vegan eating: making vegan food is time consuming and expensive. Starting with vegan basics like how to perfectly cook beans, the book evolves to include more complex dishes. It is also a handy reference guide for smart choices at the grocery store and slow cooker care. The recipes it contains will certainly satisfy anyone who tries them, regardless of their meat-eating status.

 

THE MEAT LOVER’S SLOW COOKER COOKBOOK BY JENNIFER OLVERA

And now a counterpoint. If you’re a meat eater, this collection of slow cooker recipes is indispensable. Olvera’s tome has serious meat on its bones, offering instructions on many dishes, from stew to brisket. Whether you’re cooking beef, pork, lamb, poultry, or seafood, you’ll find something delicious here. (There’re even a few vegetable recipes!) Look, life is about balance, so I think this cookbook is a great companion to Okamoto’s vegan dishes.

 

THE FRENCH SLOW COOKER BY MICHELE SCICOLONE

The French Slow Cooker by Michele Scicolone coverScicolone’s The Italian Slow Cooker and The Mediterranean Slow Cooker are two of the best crockpot cookbooks, but The French Slow Cooker is my personal favorite. Despite French cuisine’s notoriously challenging reputation, here you will find simple and accessible ways to prepare many of the cuisine’s mainstays.

 

 

FIX-IT AND FORGET-IT BAKING WITH YOUR SLOW COOKER BY PHYLLIS GOOD

Fix-It and Forget-It Baking With Your Slow Cooker by Phyllis Good coverBaking purists may scoff at the idea of baking in a crockpot. But for those of us not quite up to Paul Hollywood standards in the kitchen, there’s something undeniable about the idea of baking cake this easily. Good’s series of crockpot cookbooks also includes diabetic friendly recipes and a five-ingredient collection.

 

 

THE ASIAN SLOW COOKER BY KELLY KWOK

The Asian Slow Cooker by Kelly Kwok coverKelly Kwok, founder of Life Made Sweeter, endeavors to empower her readers to make quality dishes Asian themselves, forsaking the old pastime of ordering takeout. Whether it’s noodles, rice, beef, chicken, or soups, Kwok provides great crockpot recipes spanning Chinese, Korean, and Thai cuisines. Note that not every recipe in this book involves a slow cooker, though the ones that don’t are single-pot meals.

 

50 SIMPLE SOUPS FOR THE SLOW COOKER BY LYNN ALLEY

50 Simple Soups for the Slow Cooker by Lynn Alley coverIt’s okay that winter is pretty much over. Soup is always great. Find me sipping clam chowder at the height of summer. For any time of year, this is a great collection of soups you can batch cook in your crockpot. The enchilada soup is delicious, and there are no fewer than three different ways to prepare black bean. Dive in, and bring a ladle.

 

 

THE TEX-MEX SLOW COOKER BY VIANNEY RODRIGUEZ

Tex-Mex Slow Cooker by Vianney Rodriguez coverTex-Mex is a singular cuisine, and Vianney Rodriguez wants to help people make it as easily as possible. This collection puts the crockpot into high gear, churning out pico de gallo, mole, tequila-spiked queso, and more. Coupled with personal anecdotes from the author about some of the dishes, this is as engaging a read as it is a useful one.

 

 

SLOW COOKER REVOLUTION BY AMERICA’S TEST KITCHEN

Slow Cooker Revolution by America's Test Kitchen coverAmerica’s Test Kitchen is simply delightful. Whether it’s their public access TV show, YouTube channel, or oeuvre of cookbooks, ATK is entertaining and informative for aspiring kitchen savants. In Slow Cooker Revolution, they offer their contribution to the world of crockpot cookbooks. You may use it as a guide to everything from sauces to pork loin to marmalade.

 

 

It can’t be overstated: the crockpot is a beautiful invention. By simply dropping some ingredients into it and returning a few hours later, one has an entire culinary world they can access, with little to no advanced kitchen knowledge. All hail!

By , March 

Book-to-Movie Adaptations We Cannot Wait to See

Seeing favorite characters from literature on the big screen never gets old.

Book-to-Movie Adaptations

Image: @kathkarno via Twenty20

Every year a flurry of novels and books make their way to the big screen. While there’s always a degree of trepidation at the thought of a favorite story making the transition to Hollywood, we can’t deny that spark of excitement at the thought of seeing beloved characters come to life on the silver screen. So far, 2019 is shaping up to be brilliant year for adaptations with classic thrillers, quirky romances, and beloved coming-of-age tales making their way to the cinema. Here are several adaptations we’re looking forward to.

The cover of the book The Good ShepherdThe Good Shepherd
C. S. Forester
With a big screen adaptation titled Greyhound from writer and star Tom Hanks due to hit theaters May 8th, this is the perfect time to dive into C.S. Forester’s WWII-era naval thriller. Centering around a U.S. Naval commander’s desperate attempts to escort a convoy of supply ships through German submarine territory, The Good Shepherd is a classic naval warfare novel. And if you want an early peek at Tom Hanks’ writing chops, check out his stellar short story collection, Uncommon Type.

 

The cover of the book Sweetness in the BellySweetness in the Belly
Camilla Gibb
Raised in Morocco after the murder of her parents, Lilly begins teaching the Qur’an to children while on a pilgrimage in Ethiopia. Forced to flee the violence of the Ethiopian Civil War, Lilly enters England as a refugee and begins working to aid fellow immigrants and refugees in finding their families. However, a passionate affair with a young doctor in Ethiopia continues to haunt her. Look for a big screen adaptation of this masterpiece starring Dakota Fanning later this year.

 

The cover of the book Little WomenLittle Women
Louisa May Alcott
The latest star-studded adaptation of the Louisa May Alcott classic will arrive later this year. With Greta Gerwig at the helm and the likes of Meryl Streep, Saorise Ronan, and Emma Watson filling out the cast, it’s already generating plenty of buzz. If you’ve never read the beloved coming-of-age tale of four sisters set against the backdrop of nineteenth century New England–or simply need a refresher–there’s no better time than the present to make your way through it.

 

The cover of the book The Knife of Never Letting GoThe Knife of Never Letting Go
Patrick Ness
The Knife of Never Letting Go is the first volume in Patrick Ness’s groundbreaking Chaos Walking series. Set in a dystopian future, the series follows a boy named Todd in world where a mysterious illness killed off all women, leaving only men behind. On the cusp of adulthood, Todd discovers a horrifying secret and is forced to flee only to discover a completely unexpected creature: a girl. How did she survive and what does the mean for the world Todd knows? Look for this feature length adaptation later this year.

 

The cover of the book All the Bright PlacesAll the Bright Places
Jennifer Niven
This New York Times bestseller is a perfect read for fans of John Green and Rainbow Rowell. The story centers around Theodore Finch, a death-obsessed teen, and Violet Markey, a grieving young woman who can’t escape her hometown fast enough. It’s an endearing love story of two broken teenagers finding hope and love while they also find themselves.

 

The cover of the book The Aftermath (Movie Tie-In Edition)The Aftermath 
Rhidian Brook
Set against the turmoil of post-War Germany, The Aftermath is a tense and emotional historical thriller. Rachael Morgan has plans to join her husband Lewis, a British colonel tasked with leading the rebuilding efforts in Hamburg. She is shocked to discover that they will be sharing a stately manor house with its former owners–an enigmatic German widower and his daughter. What follows is a complex tale of passion, betrayal, and grief. The adaptation starring Kiera Knightly, Jason Clarke, and Alexander Skarsgard will be coming on March 15th.

 

The cover of the book The IrishmanThe Irishman
Charles Brandt
Originally published as I Heard You Paint Houses, this true crime classic has been a long-time passion project for Martin Scorsese. With a cast that includes Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, and Joe Pesci, odds are it’ll be worth the wait. The Irishman is the story of infamous hitman Frank Sheeran, an enforcer for crime boss Russell Bufalino. With ties to the Mafias, the Teamsters, Jimmy Hoffa, and even the Nixon Adminstration, The Irishman is a must read for true crime fans.

 

The cover of the book The Sun Is Also a Star Movie Tie-in EditionThe Sun Is Also a Star 
Nicola Yoon
Given the success of Everything, Everything, it was only a matter of time before Nicola Yoon’s follow-up bestseller made its way to the big screen. This complex tale of first love follows Natasha and Daniel, two teens struggling under vastly different family pressures with no time for dreams, fate, or love. But when they stumble across each other on a crowded city street, everything changes. Look for The Sun is Also a Star in theaters on May 17th.

 

The cover of the book The Last Thing He WantedThe Last Thing He Wanted
Joan Didion
The Last Thing He Wanted is just another example of the brilliance of Joan Didion. This page-turning literary thriller follows Elena McMahon, a Washington Post reporter who walks off her assignment to cover the 1984 Presidential Campaign to care for her father. However, when she unexpectedly inherits her father’s role as a covert arms dealer for the U.S. government, she’s quickly swept up in a world of spies and ever-present danger. An adaptation starring Anne Hathaway and Ben Affleck is on the way later this year.

 

The cover of the book StargirlStargirl
Jerry Spinelli
Stargirl was an instant classic and an immediate bestseller when it arrived in 2000. The novel tells the story of ‘Stargirl’ Caraway, who arrives at Mica High School after years of homeschooling. While at first her quirks endear her to the student body, they quickly turn on her leaving her shunned and at a cross-roads–does she stay true to herself and conform to the society she’s found herself thrust into? This big screen adaptation will be premiering later this year.

BY , March 15, 2019, first appearing on Read It Forward

Announcing the 2019 Man Booker International Prize Longlist

Honoring the finest works of translated fiction from around the world, the Man Booker International Prize has announced its 2019 longlist. The prize is awarded every year to a single book, translated into English and published in the UK and Ireland. The £50,000 prize is split between the winning author and translator.

MB2018-50th-RGB-No-Year-Logo

The shortlist will be announced April 9th and the winner will be announced May 21st. Next year, the prize will be known as the International Booker Prize, as the sponsorship from the Man Group comes to an end and the prize’s new sponsor Crankstart begins funding.

Bettany Hughes, chair of the judging panel, commented on the list, stating that, ‘This was a year when writers plundered the archive, personal and political. That drive is represented in our longlist, but so too are surreal Chinese train journeys, absurdist approaches to war and suicide, and the traumas of spirit and flesh. We’re thrilled to share 13 books which enrich our idea of what fiction can do.”

This year’s list is dominated by books from small presses. There are also more women than men nominated this year, with the notable return of Olga Tokarczuk who won the award last year—the first Polish writer to win the award—for her novel Flights, translated by Jennifer Croft. This year her book Drive Your Plow Over The Bones Of The Dead, translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones, has been nominated.

2019 Man Booker International Prize Longlist

Celestial Bodies by Jokha Alharthi (Arabic / Omani),  translated by Marilyn Booth (Sandstone Press Ltd)

Love In The New Millennium by Can Xue (Chinese / Chinese), translated by Annelise Finegan Wasmoen (Yale University Press)

The Years by Annie Ernaux (French / French), translated by Alison L. Strayer (Fitzcarraldo Editions)

At Dusk by Hwang Sok-yong (Korean / Korean), translated by Sora Kim-Russell (Scribe, UK)

Jokes For The Gunmen by Mazen Maarouf (Arabic / Icelandic and Palestinian), translated by Jonathan Wright (Granta, Portobello Books)

Four Soldiers by Hubert Mingarelli (French / French), translated by Sam Taylor (Granta, Portobello Books)

The Pine Islands by Marion Poschmann (German / German), translated by Jen Calleja (Profile Books, Serpent’s Tail)

Mouthful Of Birds by Samanta Schweblin (Spanish / Argentine and Italian), translated by Megan McDowell (Oneworld)

The Faculty Of Dreams by Sara Stridsberg (Swedish / Swedish), translated by Deborah Bragan-Turner (Quercus, MacLehose Press)

Drive Your Plow Over The Bones Of The Dead by Olga Tokarczuk (Polish / Polish), translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones (Fitzcarraldo Editions)

The Shape of the Ruins by Juan Gabriel Vásquez (Spanish / Colombian), translated by Anne McLean (Quercus, MacLehose Press)

The Death Of Murat Idrissi by Tommy Wieringa (Dutch / Dutch), translated by Sam Garrett (Scribe, UK)

The Remainder by Alia Trabucco Zeran (Spanish / Chilean and Italian), translated by Sophie Hughes (And Other Stories)

By , March 

15 CELEBRITY BOOK CLUBS AND BOOKISH CELEBRITIES TO FOLLOW IN 2019

If you’re struggling to decide what to read next, or can’t join an actual book club, celebrity book clubs just might be what you’re looking for. And they’re growing in popularity. Once this was a field dominated by Oprah (the queen of celebrity book clubs), but more and more famous people are interested in telling us what to read.

Some celebrities have official book clubs you can participate in through Goodreads or Facebook, and some just post what they’re reading on Instagram. Either way, celebrity book clubs are a great source of inspiration for what to read next. I’ve rounded up some of the best actual celebrity book clubs plus bookish celebrities to follow on social.

Great bookish celebrities and celebrity book clubs to follow in 2019. book clubs | bookish celebrities | celebrities who love booksActual Celebrity Book Clubs

Oprah

The original celebrity book club! Oprah’s Book Club was originally a segment on her talk show where she’d pick a book and discuss it with her audience. Oprah’s seal of approval helped many of these books become bestsellers. But after a few controversies (the infamous James Frey incidentJonathan Franzen being annoyed that Oprah was getting women to read his books), Oprah switched to reading a lot of classic novels. I guess dead authors can’t be annoying. These days, Oprah’s Book Club has moved online. Her most recent pick is Michelle Obama’s Becoming.

(By the way, don’t listen to Franzen—Oprah has great taste!)

Reese Witherspoon

Elevating female voices is the stated goal of Reese’s Book Club x Hello Sunshine. Witherspoon announces a new pick each month and you can participate in the discussion on Facebook and Instagram, or just read along at home. Her latest pick is The Proposal by Jasmine Guillory.

Emma Watson

Emma Watson’s feminist book club, Our Shared Shelf, has an active presence on Goodreads. Participants can discuss their reading with one another and take part in all kinds of bookish discussions. This winter, they’re reading The Things I Would Tell You: British Muslim Women Write, edited by Sabrina Mahfouz. Watson’s club seems to make a real effort to be intersectional, which is great to see.

Emma Roberts

Emma Roberts and Karah Preiss run Belletrist, a book club that also highlights independent bookstores (which is super cool). Before launching the club, Roberts got her start in the book influencing game by posting her latest reads on Instagram. Their January 2019 pick was The Dreamers by Karen Walker Thompson, the latest in a list of (I think) smart picks that showcase compelling nonfiction and buzzy fiction by women.

Sarah Jessica Parker

SJP has her own imprint with Hogarth Press, where she publishes titles that reflect her interests as a reader. She has also partnered with the American Library Association’s Book Club Central to create SJP’s Picks. The most recent SJP pick is Heartland by Sarah Smarsh.

Andrew Luck

NFL star Andrew Luck’s book club offers picks for either “Rookies” (for kids) and “Veterans” (for older readers)—adorable! This month’s choices are Kelly Barnhill’s The Girl Who Drank the Moon and James S.A. Corey’s Leviathan Wakes.

Florence Welch

This is my personal favorite celebrity book club because I want to grow up to be Florence Welch. Yes, the woman behind Florence and the Machine has her own book club! It seems to have grown organically from Florence’s personal love of reading, so it’s less slickly curated than some of the other ones on this list but is not run by Florence herself (though the books are recommended by her). New recommendations are posted to Facebook and Instagram, where anyone can read along and chime in with their thoughts. The most recent picks are two poetry collections by Hera Lindsay Bird called Hera Lindsay Bird and Pamper Me to Hell & Back.

Jimmy Fallon

In June 2018, Fallon launched a Tonight Show summer book club. We’ll see if it happens again this summer, but the first pick was pretty great: Tomi Adeyemi’s Children of Blood and Bone.

Felicia Day

Actor and writer Felicia Day, along with Veronica Belmont, Kiala Kazebee and Bonnie Burton, runs the book club Vaginal Fantasy to discuss “romance genre books with strong female lead characters.” I’m here for a romance book club! You can join in the discussion on Goodreads, where they are currently reading Bittenby Kelley Armstrong.

Sarah Michelle Gellar

Everyone’s favorite vampire slayer posts her reads on Facebook and Twitter, usually using the hashtag #SMGbookclub. This book club isn’t as formal as the others here—it seems to be a way for SMG to share what she’s reading with her followers.

Bookish Celebrities

Unfortunately, the world of official celebrity book clubs is pretty white so far. But there are plenty of celebrities of color who share what they’re reading on social, so you can create your own book club by doing a read-along. Here they are!

Shonda Rhimes

We know Rhimes has excellent taste in books because she optioned Julia Quinn’s Bridgerton series, which is currently in development (hurry, please?), among a few other literary adaptations she’s producing for Netflix. Rhimes has also expanded into online content with the Shondaland website, which has great books coverage. And she’s also been known to share what she’s reading on Instagram.

Mindy Kaling

Kaling has written two books herself, so we know she likes books…and she often shares her picks on Instagram.

Roxane Gay

Gay is one of our foremost cultural critics and essayists, in addition to being a kickass fiction writer, so you can trust her opinions. She periodically posts lists of recommended books on Medium or her Tumblr, and you can also follow her onGoodreads, where she writes detailed and thoughtful reviews of what she’s reading.

Barack Obama

Ah, remember when we could be confident that the president could read? Obama used to share his yearly book picks during his presidency and has continued the tradition now that he’s no longer in the White House. Follow him on Facebook to see the lists. (And check out Book Riot’s guide to reading like Barack!)

Michelle Obama

Like her husband, Michelle Obama is a reader (and now an author). She’s been known to recommend books in interviewsBook Riot has a list of a few of her past recommendations.

By , February 

10 ENGAGING NOVELS ABOUT WORLD WAR II

I have put together a list of ten engaging fictional books about World War II. These books focus more on the civilians of the war, rather than the soldiers themselves (with some very notable exceptions). This list ranges from YA to adult fiction and even journeys through the world from U.S., Western Europe, and even China. Enjoy!

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

There aren’t many books that had me bawling on a bus. This one about a little girl named Liesel who is evacuated to a small German town during WWII. She deals with the horror of the time by stealing books, first a gravedigger’s book, then others. It’s an astonishing book about friendship and resistance in the littlest of ways. The movie was okay—Geoffrey Rush is awesome but the book is definitely better.

 

Catch 22 by Joseph Heller

What other book captures the absurdity of war so well? For those of you who haven’t had the pleasure of reading it, the book tells the tale of a group of soldiers in WWII, focusing on Captain John Yossarian. But there’s the famous Major Major Major as well. Biting and sardonic, it’s a WWII novel unlike any other.

 

The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje

Most people know of the book from the movie, but it is well-written and worth checking out. The writing is top-notch while the story hurts. It is the story of four people who come together in an Italian villa in WWII: a Canadian nurse, a Canadian thief, a Sikh British army sapper, and the famous unknown patient. A love story in the chaos of war.

 

Mother Night by Kurt Vonnegut

Some people might wonder why I elected to choose a lesser known Vonnegut book in lieu of a more famous one. And that’s because Mother Night is the better book. It is the story of Howard W. Campbell Jr, an American who ends up being a Nazi propagandist in WWII. He’s managed to escape his fate and is living in the U.S. until forces beyond his control pull him out of hiding. A real tour de force.

 

Time’s Arrow by Martin Amis

This classic work by the master Martin Amis is one of the more unusual books you’ll read. It’s the life of a doctor with a dark past leading into the Holocaust but told completely backwards. Well, the dialog quickly becomes legible. But it’s a fascinating piece of fiction that hits you upside of the head.

 

Blackout by Connie Willis

Connie Willis has written several sci-fi/fantasy novels with the basic premise that humans discovered time travel but only historians use it to study the past. There are rules—the system won’t let you change events and can push you forward or backward in time from your intended drop zone. Blackout and its sequel All Cleartake place in the Blitz. A group of historians go back in time to understand the era better but find themselves stuck in London amidst the carnage.

 

When We Were Orphans by Kazuo Ishiguro

While the other books on this list follow the war in the Western front, this one takes place in Shanghai. Christopher Banks is born and raised in Shanghai but when his parents mysteriously disappear, he is sent to England. He returns to China 20 years later as a detective and tries to uncover the fate of his parents…as the Japanese take the city.

 

Five Quarters of the Orange by Joanne Harris

This tale focuses largely on the childhood of Framboise Dartigen in occupied France. Told as an old woman, Framboise has returned to the small town where she grew up under a pseudonym due to the hatred for her mother. She recounts her problematic relationship with her mother as a little girl and the terrible decisions she made that she carries. I am particularly fond of books that tackle the issue of collaboration.

 

When the Emperor was Divine by Julie Otsuka

Told from five different points of view, this story explores the lives of Japanese Americans forced into internment camps during WWII. Sadly, a story that needs to be repeated and remembered before we make more mistakes today.

 

All the Light We Cannot See by  Anthony Doerr

This 2015 Pulitzer Prize–winning book is about a blind French girl and a German boy in occupied France. Marie-Laurie and her father flee Paris from the Nazis and end up in Saint-Malo while Werner Pfennig discovers a radio and learns the news happening around him and his sister. He learns how to fix and create radios himself. Beautifully written, it’s well worth checking out.

By , September 

BOOKS WITH STRONG FEMALE CHARACTERS OVER 50

I have just celebrated my 50th birthday. I know many women would not find this to be a happy development. We have all heard “Never ask a woman her age,” as if the natural aging process is something to hide or fear. But I don’t feel that way at all. While there are definitely some adjustments to be made as middle age disappears in the rearview mirror—health issues, empty nest, menopause, retirement—I am finding a lot of freedom and excitement in my life at this age. I worry less about what other people think of me, am more confident in my own opinions, enjoy more time to invest in friendships, and continue to discover new passions and pursuits.

Society and the publishing industry are not so comfortable with aging women. Older women are often dismissed, seen as less vital, and pushed to go to great lengths to preserve their youth. And books with strong female characters over 50 are less than plentiful. But I have been enjoying some wonderful books lately about older women having a great second act in life. These are stories about women in their 50s, 60s, 70s, and 80s who are finding freedom, power, and joy as they age with grace and courage in a variety of circumstances. They are reinventing careers, finding hidden strengths, embarking on new love, and embracing change. Enjoy! And be sure to post your favorite books about amazing older women in the comments.

Great books with strong female characters over the age of 50. book lists | older characters | books with older characters | strong female characters

STILL LIFE WITH BREAD CRUMBS BY ANNA QUINDLEN

Rebecca Winter has spent years living in New York City as a successful and well-known photographer. But her career has passed its peak, and her funds are dwindling as she helps support her adult son and her aging mother. She decides to rent out her apartment in the city and move to a cottage in a small town. There she finds an entirely new life, full of strange experiences and interesting people, including Jim, a much younger local roofer. Quindlen imbues this charming, feel-good story with her trademark wit and thoughtful observations on aging, creativity, and identity.

BRING ON THE BLESSINGS BY BEVERLY JENKINS

Two days after their 30th wedding anniversary, and right before her 52nd birthday, Bernadine Brown catches her husband cheating with his secretary. After the divorce, she walks away with a few vacation homes, a $275 million settlement, and a longing to resurrect her career in social work. Henry Adams, Kansas, is one of the last surviving townships founded by freed slaves after the Civil War. When Bernadine hears it is failing and up for sale, she buys it. With the mayor’s help, she sets out to get the town back on its feet, create a place for foster children to join the community, and preserve the town’s unique history.

I ALMOST FORGOT ABOUT YOU BY TERRY MCMILLAN

McMillan has always been skilled at creating relatable female characters who are grappling with real-life problems and searching for fulfillment. If you loved Waiting to Exhale and How Stella Got Her Groove Back, you watched McMillan’s characters walk through their 30s and 40s. But in her most recent book, McMillan’s main character has aged along with you and is starting down the post-middle-age path. This book follows Dr. Georgia Young as she closes in on her 55th birthday. Her kids are grown, her career is a success, and she is single after a divorce. But Georgia feels stuck, like it is time for change. So she embarks on a new season by quitting her job, moving house, and opening herself up again for the possibility of love.

THE WRITING CLASS AND AMY FALLS DOWN BY JINCY WILLETT

Author Amy Gallup enjoyed a celebrated debut when she was published at 22, but was never again able to replicate her early success. Now, over 35 years later, she is a reclusive widow living with a moody basset hound and teaching a weekly writing class at a local university. But when one of her students is murdered, Amy is forced out of her insular existence to help track down the killer. In a follow-up book, Amy Falls Down, she is suddenly thrust back into the spotlight following a freak accident, with various situations conspiring to push her fully back into public life again. Willett’s incisive prose makes these books such a treat. The clever characters and deliciously snarky humor are elevated by unexpected moments of keen insight and reflection. Each book works as a standalone, but together they create an especially transformative arc about an older woman finding joy in life again.

 

OUR SOULS AT NIGHT BY KENT HARUF

This is such a lovely, quiet book. Louis and Addie are in their 70s and live in the small town of Holt, Colorado. They have known each other for years, but not well. Both are lonely, their spouses having died years earlier, until one night, when Addie decides to pay Louis a visit. The two begin an unconventional friendship, surprised by the gift of companionship and comfort in their later years. Their children and fellow townsfolk challenge a relationship they don’t understand. It is a brief story, told in Haruf’s simple yet affecting style, that will stick with you long after you turn the last page.

LIKE A MULE BRINGING ICE CREAM TO THE SUN BY SARAH LADIPO MANYIKA

Morayo Da Silva is preparing to celebrate her 75th birthday. She has bought a gorgeous new pair of shoes and is contemplating the best spot for her new tattoo. She lives alone in a cluttered, cozy apartment filled with beloved books and memories of a well-lived, well-traveled life. She wanders through her day, recalling old lovers, indulging current desires, and remembering her days as an English professor. When a sudden fall sends her to the hospital, she must confront the reality of aging and the constraints that come with it, but she is determined to enjoy life every moment as long as she can.

TWO OLD WOMEN: AN ALASKAN LEGEND OF BETRAYAL, COURAGE AND SURVIVAL BY VELMA WALLIS

Wallis recounts an ancient Athabascan Indian legend that was passed down through generations to her mother, who then passed it down to her. The legend tells of two elderly women, Ch’idzigyaak and Sa’, who are abandoned by their tribe due to a devastating famine. Stunned and freezing, but full of determination, Sa’ turns to the other woman and says, “They think that we are too old and useless. They forget that we, too, have earned the right to live! So I say if we are going to die, my friend, let us die trying, not sitting.” What follows is a moving story of burgeoning friendship and remarkable resilience as the two women survive the harsh year ahead.

By , September