We could all use a good escape. Always, but especially right now. The beauty of books is that they allow you to leave your home and the life you know and enter one that’s completely new—without even moving from your bed. We love reading about places—familiar or completely new—and the people who inhabit them, along with their relationships and experiences and personal journeys.
Whether fiction or nonfiction, all of the books on this list will allow you to escape this world and enter another. We hope you lose yourself in one and find yourself again, more deeply and more profoundly, when you finish—only to do it all over again.
Girls of Summer
Lisa Hawley is perfectly satisfied living on her own. Having fully recovered from a brutal divorce nearly two decades earlier, she has successfully raised her kids, Juliet and Theo, seeing them off to college and beyond. As the owner of a popular boutique on Nantucket, she’s built a fulfilling life for herself. With her beloved house in desperate need of repair, Lisa calls on Mack Whitney, a friendly—and very handsome—local contractor and fellow single parent, to do the work. The two begin to grow close, and Lisa is stunned to realize that she might be willing to open up again after all. One life-changing summer on Nantucket brings about exhilarating revelations for a single mother and her two grown children in this sensational novel from New York Times bestselling author Nancy Thayer.
The House of Deep Water
River Bend, Michigan, is the kind of small town most can’t imagine leaving, but three women couldn’t wait to escape. When each must return–Linda Williams, never sure what she wants; her mother, Paula, always too sure; and Beth DeWitt, one of River Bend’s only black daughters, now a mother of two who’d planned to raise her own children anywhere else–their paths collide under Beth’s father’s roof. As one town struggles to contain all of their love affairs and secrets, a local scandal forces Beth to confront her own devastating past.
All the Way to the Tigers
In the tradition of Wild by Cheryl Strayed and Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert, Mary Morris turns a personal catastrophe into a rich, multilayered memoir full of personal growth, family history, and thrilling travel. In February 2008 a casual afternoon of ice skating derailed the trip of a lifetime for Mary Morris. She was on the verge of a well-earned sabbatical, but instead she endured three months in a wheelchair, two surgeries, and extensive rehabilitation. When she was well enough to walk again, she decided to take the trip of a lifetime to India in search of the world’s most elusive apex predator: the tiger.
The Party Upstairs
With a thriller’s narrative control, The Party Upstairs distills worlds of wisdom about families, great expectations, and the hidden violence of class into the gripping, darkly witty story of a single fateful day inside the Manhattan co-op Ruby calls home. Told from the alternating points of view of Ruby and her father, the novel builds from the spark of an early morning argument between them to the ultimate conflagration to which it leads by day’s end. By the time the ashes have cooled, the façade that masks the building’s power structure will have burned away, and no party will be left unscathed.
Juliet is failing to juggle motherhood and her stalled-out dissertation on confessional poetry when her husband, Michael, informs her that he wants to leave his job and buy a sailboat. With their two kids—Sybil, age seven, and George, age two—Juliet and Michael set off for Panama, where their forty-four foot sailboat awaits them. Sea Wife is told in gripping dual perspectives: Juliet’s first person narration, after the journey, as she struggles to come to terms with the life-changing events that unfolded at sea, and Michael’s captain’s log, which provides a riveting, slow-motion account of these same inexorable events, a dialogue that reveals the fault lines created by personal history and political divisions.
Honey and Venom
Considered an “industry legend” by The New York Times, Andrew Coté has one of the most intriguing, challenging, and unique jobs in New York City—maintaining millions of honey bees atop some of the city’s most iconic buildings. In this debut collection, Coté takes readers with him on his daily apiary adventures over the course of a year, in the city and across the globe. Here, among his many duties, he is called to capture swarms that have clustered on fire hydrants, air-conditioning units, or street-vendor umbrellas. Honey and Venom illuminates the obscure culture of New York City “beeks” and the biology of the bees themselves.
Latitudes of Longing
A spellbinding work of literature, Latitudes of Longing follows the interconnected lives of characters searching for true intimacy. The novel sweeps across India, from an island, to a valley, a city, and a snow desert, to tell a love story of epic proportions. We follow a scientist who studies trees and a clairvoyant who speaks to them; a geologist working to end futile wars over a glacier; octogenarian lovers; a mother struggling to free her revolutionary son; a yeti who seeks human companionship; a turtle who transforms first into a boat and then a woman; and the ghost of an evaporated ocean as restless as the continents.
In the present, Sacha knows the world’s in trouble. Her brother Robert just is trouble. Their mother and father are having trouble. Meanwhile, the world’s in meltdown—and the real meltdown hasn’t even started yet. In the past, a lovely summer. A different brother and sister know they’re living on borrowed time. This is a story about people on the brink of change. They’re family, but they think they’re strangers. So: Where does family begin? And what do people who think they’ve got nothing in common have in common?
Our Lady of Perpetual Hunger
Our Lady of Perpetual Hunger is noted chef Lisa Donovan’s searing, beautiful, and searching chronicle of reclaiming her own story and the narrative of the women who came before her. Her family’s matriarchs found strength and passion through food, and they inspired Donovan’s accomplished career. Donovan’s love language is hospitality, and she wants to welcome everyone to the table of good food and fairness.
Love After Love
After Betty Ramdin’s husband dies, she invites a colleague, Mr. Chetan, to move in with her and her son, Solo. Over time, the three become a family, loving each other deeply and depending upon one another. Then, one fateful night, Solo overhears Betty confiding in Mr. Chetan and learns a secret that plunges him into torment. In vibrant, addictive Trinidadian prose, Love After Love questions who and how we love, the obligations of family, and the consequences of choices made in desperation.
Always the Last to Know
The Frosts are a typical American family. Barb and John, married almost fifty years, are testy and bored with each other…who could blame them after all this time? At least they have their daughters–Barb’s favorite, the perfect, brilliant Juliet; and John’s darling, the free-spirited Sadie. The girls themselves couldn’t be more different, but at least they got along, more or less. It was fine. It was enough. Until the day John had a stroke, and their house of cards came tumbling down. Filled with hilarious honesty and heartwarming moments, this book is a new novel of heartbreaking truths and hilarious honesty about what family really means.
The Marriage Game
After her life falls apart, recruitment consultant Layla Patel returns home to her family in San Francisco. But in the eyes of her father, who runs a Michelin-starred restaurant, she can do no wrong. With the best intentions in mind, he offers her the office upstairs to start her new business. When Sam Mehta, the CEO of a corporate downsizing company, is looking for a new office space, he’s forced to share with Layla, her crazy family, and a parade of hopeful suitors, all of whom threaten to disrupt his carefully ordered life. As they face off in close quarters, the sarcasm and sparks fly. But when the battle for the office becomes a battle of the heart, Sam and Layla have to decide if this is love or just a game.
In the summer of 1977, Victoria Leonard’s world changes forever when Caitlin Somers chooses her as a friend. Dazzling, reckless Caitlin welcomes Vix into the heart of her sprawling, eccentric family, opening doors to a world of unimaginable privilege, sweeping her away to vacations on Martha’s Vineyard, an enchanting place where the two friends become “summer sisters.” Now, years later, Vix is working in New York City. Caitlin is getting married on the Vineyard. And the early magic of their long, complicated friendship has faded. But Caitlin begs Vix to come to her wedding, to be her maid of honor. And Vix knows that she will go—because she wants to understand what happened during that last shattering summer. And, after all these years, she needs to know why her best friend—her summer sister—still has the power to break her heart.
The Vanishing Half
The Vignes twin sisters will always be identical. But after growing up together in a small, southern black community and running away at age sixteen, it’s not just the shape of their daily lives that is different as adults, it’s everything: their families, their communities, their racial identities. Weaving together multiple strands and generations of this family, from the Deep South to California, from the 1950s to the 1990s, Brit Bennett produces a story that is at once a riveting, emotional family story and a brilliant exploration of the American history of passing.
Soulful and uproarious, forceful and tender, Untamed is both an intimate memoir and a galvanizing wake-up call. It is the story of how one woman learned that a responsible mother is not one who slowly dies for her children, but one who shows them how to fully live. It is the story of navigating divorce, forming a new blended family, and discovering that the brokenness or wholeness of a family depends not on its structure but on each member’s ability to bring her full self to the table. Untamed shows us how to be brave. As Glennon insists: The braver we are, the luckier we get.
All Adults Here
In All Adults Here, Emma Straub’s unique alchemy of wisdom, humor, and insight come together in a deeply satisfying story about adult siblings, aging parents, high school boyfriends, middle school mean girls, the lifelong effects of birth order, and all the other things that follow us into adulthood, whether we like them to or not.
You Think It, I’ll Say It
Curtis Sittenfeld has established a reputation as a sharp chronicler of the modern age who humanizes her subjects even as she skewers them. Now, with this first collection of short fiction, her “astonishing gift for creating characters that take up residence in readers’ heads” is showcased like never before. Throughout the ten stories in You Think It, I’ll Say It, Sittenfeld upends assumptions about class, relationships, and gender roles in a nation that feels both adrift and viscerally divided.
In her thrilling new book, Lauren Groff brings the reader into a physical world that is at once domestic and wild—a place where the hazards of the natural world lie waiting to pounce, yet the greatest threats and mysteries are still of an emotional, psychological nature. A family retreat can be derailed by a prowling panther, or by a sexual secret. Among those navigating this place are a resourceful pair of abandoned sisters; a lonely boy, grown up; a restless, childless couple, a searching, homeless woman; and an unforgettable, recurring character—a steely and conflicted wife and mother.
What Alice Forgot
Alice Love is twenty-nine, crazy about her husband, and pregnant with her first child. So imagine Alice’s surprise when she comes to on the floor of a gym (a gym! She HATES the gym) and is whisked off to the hospital where she discovers the honeymoon is truly over—she’s getting divorced, she has three kids, and she’s actually 39 years old. Alice must reconstruct the events of a lost decade, and find out whether it’s possible to reconstruct her life at the same time. She has to figure out why her sister hardly talks to her, and how is it that she’s become one of those super skinny moms with really expensive clothes. Ultimately, Alice must discover whether forgetting is a blessing or a curse, and whether it’s possible to start over…
The Light We Lost
Lucy and Gabe meet as seniors at Columbia University on a day that changes both of their lives forever. Together, they decide they want their lives to mean something, to matter. When they meet again a year later, it seems fated–perhaps they’ll find life’s meaning in each other. But then Gabe becomes a photojournalist assigned to the Middle East and Lucy pursues a career in New York. What follows is a thirteen-year journey of dreams, desires, jealousies, betrayals, and, ultimately, of love. Was it fate that brought them together? Is it choice that has kept them away? Their journey takes Lucy and Gabe continents apart, but never out of each other’s hearts.
Happy and You Know It
Filled with humor and shocking twists, Happy and You Know It is a brilliant take on motherhood—exposing it as yet another way for society to pass judgment on women—while also exploring the baffling magnetism of curated social-media lives that are designed to make us feel unworthy. But, ultimately, this dazzling novel celebrates the unlikely bonds that form, and the power that can be unlocked, when a group of very different women is thrown together when each is at her most vulnerable.
Last Tang Standing
At thirty-three, Andrea Tang is living the dream: She has a successful career as a lawyer, a posh condo, and a clutch of fun-loving friends who are always in the know about Singapore’s hottest clubs. All she has to do is make law partner, and her life will be perfect. And if she’s about to become the lone unmarried member of her generation in the Tang clan—a disappointment her meddling Chinese-Malaysian family won’t let her forget—well, she doesn’t need a man to complete her. Yet when a chance encounter with charming, wealthy entrepreneur Eric Deng offers her a glimpse of an exciting, limitless future, Andrea decides to give Mr. Right-for-her-family a chance.