Our List Of Must Read Books: Fiction
Best fiction books to read right now

As I write this, it’s summertime, which for me means piling a bunch of beach books in a tote bag and sitting with my feet in the sand as I escape to the beaches of Rhode Island for the next few months. I’ve put together a bunch of my favorite books and asked our friends on The Good Stuff email list and our Clean Plate Club FB group to chime in. Do you have any other recommendations for me? Comment below or drop them in here and I’ll update.

This list is our Fiction series, and more are being added all the time (new additions are marked with a “*”). And our next list, Personal Growth Books, is up here. More to come 🙂

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty (Mystery/Drama)
If you’re looking for a beach read, and haven’t read Big Little Lies yet, go grab it now. These women … and their complicated friendships, betrayals and many, many secrets in a small coastal town make this a truly original story. I also give the television adaptation high marks, but only season 1. Liane is a wonderful storyteller – another favorite is What Alice Forgot. 

City on Fire by Don Winslow (Crime/Thriller)
Not my typical reading genre, but after learning I was an Irish-Italian from Rhode Island, my dentist insisted I read City on Fire, a novel about the Irish and Italian organized crime syndicates in RI. I became hooked and am now on book 3 of the trilogy. 

Cutting for Stone and The Covenant of Water (Historical Fiction) by Abraham Verghese 
Cutting for Stone is a generational novel that follows the lives of twin brothers, Marion and Shiva Stone, born in Ethiopia to an Indian nun and a British surgeon. The Covenant of Water similarly spans several generations and is set on South India’s Malabar coast. My recommendation is to listen to Oprah’s book club alongside The Covenant, and I’d recommend the audiobook version because Verghese’s voice is magical. Fun fact – Verghese is also a practicing physician so his medical knowledge is woven into both (long) books. Covenant of Water sat on my nightstand for a year before I tackled it, and I’m so glad I finally did. 

Daisy Jones and The Six and The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid (Contemporary Fiction) 
These are two perfect beach books! Daisy Jones is the story of a messy, tumultuous and talented rock band written in interview style. The characters are wonderful and you will not be able to stop thinking about Fleetwood Mac. Seven Husbands is a tale of a reclusive Hollywood starlet recounting her glamorous and scandalous life to a young journalist. Evelyn is such a character and I can’t wait to see who plays her (Netflix bought the rights). 

Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver (Literary Fiction)
This powerful reimagining of David Copperfield is set in the Appalachian Mountains as the opioid pandemic takes hold, exploring themes of poverty and resilience. This book has stayed with me long after reading it. 

Fourth Wing and Iron Flame by Rebecca Yarros (Fantasy) 
I stumbled on these books last summer after seeing a review on Tiktok and within weeks, you couldn’t get your hands on Fourth Wing. Think Harry Potter goes to college with a lot more steam 🔥. The books are a fantastical  journey into a world of magic, romance, and adventure. Perfect for fans of fantasy and epic storytelling.

*Hotel Nantucket by Elin Hildrebrand (Contemporary Fiction)
We cannot have a summer book list without including Elin! The Hotel Nantucket is a fun story about a renovated hotel and its eclectic staff, who navigate personal dramas while striving to restore the hotel’s reputation. With its charming setting and engaging characters, this novel weaves together themes of love, redemption, and the pursuit of second chances. And get ready, because Hildebrand’s next novel, Swan Song, comes out any day now. 

Hag-seed by Margaret Atwood (Literary Fiction/Retelling)
Angela’s book club loved this modern-day retelling of Shakespeare’s The Tempest set in a prison. My daughter is an aspiring actor and a Shakespeare nut so I just added this to my cart! (Bonus: the audio version is exceptional and available on Libby.)

Hello, Beautiful by Ann Napolitano (Contemporary Fiction)
I feel like this could be required reading for anyone with sisters. The audiobook is phenomenal, read by the amazing actor Moira Tierney. This is a book about love, and I love it. Great summer listen or read. 

Iona Iverson’s Rules for Commuting by Clare Pooley (Contemporary Fiction)
My dear friend Karla calls this book “delightfully quirky” – and for that reason alone – I’m in, because, I too, am delightfully quirky 😀. Rules for Commuting is heartwarming and humorous novel about the daily lives of a diverse group of commuters – New Yorkers, we are going to love this one. 

Lady Tan’s Circle of Women by Lisa See (Historical Fiction)
Set in 15th-century China, this novel delves into the lives of women in medicine, highlighting the strength and resilience of women in a male-dominated society (can I get an amen?). This was named one of Amazon’s best books of 2023 and I missed it, so thank you Mary! 

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng (Contemporary Fiction)
A thought-provoking novel about race, identity, and motherhood set in the seemingly perfect suburb of Shaker Heights. This is also a fabulous series brought to the screen by Reese Witherspoon’s company. 

Lessons In Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus (Historical Fiction)
Set in the 1960s, Lessons in Chemistry follows the life of Elizabeth Zott, a brilliant chemist who faces significant sexism in her field. I absolutely loved this as an audiobook and I think the narrator captured the story perfectly. Six-thirty is my favorite. And if you’ve only watched the series, go read the book. It’s 10x better. 

People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks (Historical Fiction) 
A rich, multilayered novel by Pulitzer Prize winning author Geraldine Brooks, People of the Book is inspired by a true story, tracing the journey of the Sarajevo Haggadah, the manuscript that contains the traditional text of the Passover Haggadah which accompanies the Passover Seder. Thank you Karla for this suggestion! 

Table for Two by Amor Towles (Short Stories) 
Short stories anyone? My dear friend Mary is digging into Table for Two, a highly recommended compilation of six stories based in New York City and a novella set in Golden Age Hollywood. Amor Towles is known for rich storytelling and character development. I also loved A Gentleman In Moscow by this same author. 

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho (Fantasy/Adventure)
Have you read The Alchemist yet? Our book club had mixed reviews but Lisa & I love this timeless tale of adventure and self-discovery. Follows young shepherd Santiago’s journey, illustrating the power of following dreams. You’ll find nuggets of wisdom on every page. 

*The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (Historical Fiction)
This powerful story is set in Nazi Germany, narrated by Death, and follows a young girl named Liesel Meminger who finds solace in stealing books and sharing them with her neighbors and the Jewish man hiding in her basement. The novel explores themes of loss, love, and the power of words amidst the horrors of World War II. Thank you Stacey for reminding me of this absolute treasure. 

*The Frozen River by Ariel Lawhon (Historical Fiction)
This historical fiction novel centers on real life midwife Martha Ballard set in the early 19th century Maine, blending her diary entries with a gripping murder mystery. The story highlights Martha’s resilience and significant yet often unrecognized contributions to her community amidst the challenges of frontier life. Thanks to Amy (and her mom Jeanie) for this reco. 

The Great Alone and The Women by Kristin Hannah (Historical Fiction)
Thanks to Lisa and Mary for these recommendations. The Great Alone follows the Allbright family’s move to the remote Alaskan wilderness in the 1970s, seeking a fresh start after Ernt, a Vietnam War veteran, returns home with PTSD.  The Women, one of the hottest books to read as I write this, focuses on women’s experiences during the Vietnam War. Meticulously researched, offering a compelling read with historical accuracy and emotional depth.

The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne (Historical Fiction)
This is one of my favorite all time books, I absolutely fell in love with the characters of this beautiful, generational story, especially Cyril Avery, a gay man in repressive Irish society. Emotionally charged and beautifully written.

The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store by James McBride (Historical Fiction)
I read the first sentence of the review on Amazon and I’m in: “In 1972, when workers in Pottstown, Pennsylvania, were digging the foundations for a new development, the last thing they expected to find was a skeleton at the bottom of a well.” Themes of love, resilience, and the complexities of race and religion. Plus Karla (thank you for the rec) says it has a very satisfying ending.  

The Housemaid by Freida McFadden (Psychological Thriller)
When my friend Lisa, who is an avid reader, suggested “anything by Freida McFadden”, I found myself a little embarrassed that I’ve read nothing by her. After browsing through the two dozen books she’s written, I am going to suggest we start with The Housemaid, part 1 of a 3 party psychological thriller series. 

The Medicine Woman of Galveston and The Second Life of Mireille West by Amanda Skenandore (Historical Fiction) 
The Medicine Woman follows Dr. Tucia Hatherley, a not-practicing female doctor who joins a traveling medicine show to support her disabled son, during the 1900 Galveston, Texas hurricane. The Second Life is based on a true story of America’s only Leper colony (who knew?) and the story of silent film star Mirielle West when she’s forced to quarantine there in the 1920s. Thank you to Stephanie for these great suggestions! If you like Krisitn Hannah, you’ll also be a fan of Amanda Skenadore. 

*The Midnight Library by Matt Haig (Fantasy Fiction)
For my friends who think about parallel timelines 🤓, The Midnight Library is a thought-provoking novel about a woman named Nora Seed who, after a failed suicide attempt, finds herself in a magical library where each book represents a different life she could have lived. Through these alternate realities, she explores themes of regret, choice, and the search for a fulfilling life.

The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides (Psychological Thriller)
Short description: A woman named Alice shoots her husband five times in the face and then never speaks another word, and a criminal psychotherapist is determine to figure out why. Entertainment Weekly calls this “An unforgettable―and Hollywood-bound―new thriller… A mix of Hitchcockian suspense, Agatha Christie plotting, and Greek tragedy.” Thanks Carla for this reco, I just read it and could not put it down. The ending threw me for a loop. 

The Traveler’s Gift by Andy Andrews (Inspirational Fiction)
Facing personal and financial hardship, a former executive named David gets into an accident and ends up on a journey where he learns to transform his mindset, discovering that success is shaped by our attitude and decisions we make. Janet recommended this inspiring novel and I can’t wait to read it. 

The Tree Doctor by Marie Matsuki Mockett (Literary Fiction)
When an unnamed narrator returns to Carmel, California, to care for her ailing mother, she becomes obsessed with her mother’s garden and a dormant cherry tree. Isolated from her family in Hong Kong, she begins an affair with an arborist and she finds parallels between her mother’s illness and the natural cycles of life and death. Amanda says this is a quick, fun read, but warns us that it’s steamy, so buckle up. 

*The Perfect Marriage by Jeneva Rose (Psychological Thriller)
Who’s ready for a gripping psychological thriller? The Perfect Marriage follows the story of  Sarah Morgan, a defense attorney, who must defend her husband Adam when he is accused of murdering his mistress. With its intense courtroom drama and unexpected twists, this novel keeps readers on the edge of their seats, exploring themes of trust and betrayal in relationships. Dianna said this one will keep you on the edge of your seat!

Verity by Colleen Hoover (Psychological Thriller)
Colleen’s books make for a fun, easy read, but I read Verity in literally one plane ride, and my friend Annabelle, unbeknownst to me, did the same thing a few rows back. This book is steamy, easy to read and will keep you on the edge of your seat. I’m not going to ruin it by giving you any more details.

P.S. I tried to put all of the books into an Amazon List. Click here and let me know if it works 🫶.

Love,

Tracey

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