Books to Read and Give This Year

With comfy clothes replacing cocktail attire this holiday season, we’ll have plenty of time to cozy up with a book and wrap up the latest bestsellers to put underneath the tree. The year’s hottest titles include a sequel to a Southern literature classic, a new romance by a blockbuster North Carolina author and a highly anticipated new book in the Twilight series.

Shop at Park Road Books or Main St. Books in Davidson (check with the stores to find out their current shopping policies and hours), or shop via the Amazon links below (book summaries pulled from Amazon.com).

Page Turning Fiction

The Wonder Boy of Whistle Stop, by Fannie Flagg (Random House)

The beloved Fried Green Tomatoes story continues with this new novel from Fannie Flagg.

“Bud Threadgoode grew up in the bustling little railroad town of Whistle Stop with his mother, Ruth, church-going and proper, and his Aunt Idgie, the fun-loving hell-raiser. Together they ran the town’s popular Whistle Stop Cafe, known far and wide for its fun and famous fried green tomatoes. And as Bud often said of his childhood to his daughter Ruthie, “How lucky can you get?”

But sadly, as the railroad yards shut down and Whistle Stop became a ghost town, nothing was left but boarded-up buildings and memories of a happier time.

Then one day, Bud decides to take one last trip, just to see what has become of his beloved Whistle Stop. In so doing, he discovers new friends, as well as surprises about Idgie’s life, about Ninny Threadgoode and other beloved Fannie Flagg characters, and about the town itself. He also sets off a series of events, both touching and inspiring, which change his life and the lives of his daughter and many others. Could these events all be just coincidences? Or something else? And can you really go home again?”

Anxious People by Fredrik Backman (Atria Books)

“Looking at real estate isn’t usually a life-or-death situation, but an apartment open house becomes just that when a failed bank robber bursts in and takes a group of strangers hostage. The captives include a recently retired couple who relentlessly hunt down fixer-uppers to avoid the painful truth that they can’t fix their own marriage. There’s a wealthy bank director who has been too busy to care about anyone else and a young couple who are about to have their first child but can’t seem to agree on anything, from where they want to live to how they met in the first place. Add to the mix an eighty-seven-year-old woman who has lived long enough not to be afraid of someone waving a gun in her face, a flustered but still-ready-to-make-a-deal real estate agent, and a mystery man who has locked himself in the apartment’s only bathroom, and you’ve got the worst group of hostages in the world.

Each of them carries a lifetime of grievances, hurts, secrets, and passions that are ready to boil over. None of them is entirely who they appear to be. And all of them—the bank robber included—desperately crave some sort of rescue. As the authorities and the media surround the premises these reluctant allies will reveal surprising truths about themselves and set in motion a chain of events so unexpected that even they can hardly explain what happens next.

Rich with Fredrik Backman’s “pitch-perfect dialogue and an unparalleled understanding of human nature” (Shelf Awareness), Anxious People is an ingeniously constructed story about the enduring power of friendship, forgiveness, and hope—the things that save us, even in the most anxious times.”

The Evening and the Morning (Kingsbridge Book 4), by Ken Follett (Viking)

“It is 997 CE, the end of the Dark Ages. England is facing attacks from the Welsh in the west and the Vikings in the east. Those in power bend justice according to their will, regardless of ordinary people and often in conflict with the king. Without a clear rule of law, chaos reigns.

In these turbulent times, three characters find their lives intertwined. A young boatbuilder’s life is turned upside down when the only home he’s ever known is raided by Vikings, forcing him and his family to move and start their lives anew in a small hamlet where he does not fit in. . . . A Norman noblewoman marries for love, following her husband across the sea to a new land, but the customs of her husband’s homeland are shockingly different, and as she begins to realize that everyone around her is engaged in a constant, brutal battle for power, it becomes clear that a single misstep could be catastrophic. . . . A monk dreams of transforming his humble abbey into a center of learning that will be admired throughout Europe. And each in turn comes into dangerous conflict with a clever and ruthless bishop who will do anything to increase his wealth and power.

Thirty years ago, Ken Follett published his most popular novel, The Pillars of the Earth. Now, Follett’s masterful new prequel The Evening and the Morning takes us on an epic journey into a historical past rich with ambition and rivalry, death and birth, love and hate, that will end where The Pillars of the Earth begins.”

The Vanishing Half, by Brit Bennett (Riverhead Books)

“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. Many years later, one sister lives with her black daughter in the same southern town she once tried to escape. The other secretly passes for white, and her white husband knows nothing of her past. Still, even separated by so many miles and just as many lies, the fates of the twins remain intertwined. What will happen to the next generation, when their own daughters’ storylines intersect?

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 passingLooking well beyond issues of race, The Vanishing Half considers the lasting influence of the past as it shapes a person’s decisions, desires, and expectations, and explores some of the multiple reasons and realms in which people sometimes feel pulled to live as something other than their origins.

As with her New York Times-bestselling debut The Mothers, Brit Bennett offers an engrossing page-turner about family and relationships that is immersive and provocative, compassionate and wise.”

The Noel Letters (The Noel Collection), by Richard Paul Evans (Gallery Books)

“After nearly two decades, Noel Post, an editor for a major New York publishing house, returns to her childhood home in Salt Lake City to see her estranged, dying father. What she believed would be a brief visit turns into something more as she inherits the bookstore her father fought to keep alive. Reeling from loneliness, a recent divorce, and unanticipated upheavals in her world, Noel begins receiving letters from an anonymous source, each one containing thoughts and lessons about her life and her future. She begins to reacquaint herself with the bookstore and the people she left behind, and in doing so, starts to unravel the reality of her painful childhood and the truth about her family. As the holidays draw near, she receives a Christmastime revelation that changes not only how she sees the past but also how she views her future.”

Pretty Things, by Janelle Brown (Random House)

“Nina once bought into the idea that her fancy liberal arts degree would lead to a fulfilling career. When that dream crashed, she turned to stealing from rich kids in L.A. alongside her wily Irish boyfriend, Lachlan. Nina learned from the best: Her mother was the original con artist, hustling to give her daughter a decent childhood despite their wayward life. But when her mom gets sick, Nina puts everything on the line to help her, even if it means running her most audacious, dangerous scam yet.

Vanessa is a privileged young heiress who wanted to make her mark in the world. Instead she becomes an Instagram influencer—traveling the globe, receiving free clothes and products, and posing for pictures in exotic locales. But behind the covetable façade is a life marked by tragedy. After a broken engagement, Vanessa retreats to her family’s sprawling mountain estate, Stonehaven: a mansion of dark secrets not just from Vanessa’s past, but from that of a lost and troubled girl named Nina.

Nina’s, Vanessa’s, and Lachlan’s paths collide here, on the cold shores of Lake Tahoe, where their intertwined lives give way to a winter of aspiration and desire, duplicity and revenge.

This dazzling, twisty, mesmerizing novel showcases acclaimed author Janelle Brown at her best, as two brilliant, damaged women try to survive the greatest game of deceit and destruction they will ever play.”

Romance

The Return, by Nicholas Sparks (Grand Central Publishing)

“Trevor Benson never intended to move back to New Bern, North Carolina. But when a mortar blast outside the hospital where he worked sent him home from Afghanistan with devastating injuries, the dilapidated cabin he’d inherited from his grandfather seemed as good a place to regroup as any.

Tending to his grandfather’s beloved beehives, Trevor isn’t prepared to fall in love with a local . . . yet, from their very first encounter, Trevor feels a connection with deputy sheriff Natalie Masterson that he can’t ignore. But even as she seems to reciprocate his feelings, she remains frustratingly distant, making Trevor wonder what she’s hiding.

Further complicating his stay in New Bern is the presence of a sullen teenage girl, Callie, who lives in the trailer park down the road. Trevor hopes Callie can shed light on the mysterious circumstances of his grandfather’s death, but she offers few clues — until a crisis triggers a race to uncover the true nature of Callie’s past, one more intertwined with the elderly man’s passing than Trevor could ever have imagined.

In his quest to unravel Natalie and Callie’s secrets, Trevor will learn the true meaning of love and forgiveness . . . and that in life, to move forward, we must often return to the place where it all began.”

Truly, Madly, Deeply, by Karen Kingsbury (Atria Books) 

“When eighteen-year-old Tommy Baxter declares to his family that he wants to be a police officer after graduation, his mother, Reagan, won’t hear of it. After all, she’s still mourning the death of her own father on September 11 and she’s determined to keep her son safe from danger. But Tommy’s father, Luke, is proud of Tommy’s decision. He would make a kind and compassionate cop.

Meanwhile, Tommy is in love for the first time. His sweet relationship with Annalee Miller is almost too good to be true. Tommy begins seriously thinking about the far off day when he can ask her to marry him but she hasn’t been feeling well. Tests reveal the unthinkable.

While his girlfriend begins the fight of her life, Tommy is driven to learn more about the circumstances surrounding his birth and the grandfather he never knew. Secrets come to light that rock Tommy’s world, and he becomes determined to spend his future fighting crime and bringing peace to the streets. Or is this just his way to fight a battle he cannot win—the one facing Annalee?

Blending romance and family drama, Truly, Madly,Deeply shows us that, in the shadow of great loss, the only way to live with passion is truly, madly, deeply.”

Jingle All the Way, by Debbie Macomber (Ballantine Books) 

“Trapped in the middle of five siblings, Everly Lancaster always had big dreams. Now a top real-estate executive, Everly finds her work is her life, leaving no space for anything (or anyone) else. Sensing her stress, Everly’s boss insists she take December off. At first, a month away seems crazy—how will the company survive without her? But Everly’s mother convinces her otherwise. She deserves a vacation—plus, when she returns, she’ll have no excuse to skip family Christmas like she did last year.

But after her vengeful assistant books a guided cruise in the Amazon instead of the luxury beach vacation she expected, Everly is horrified to realize that she’s about to spend the next two weeks trapped—with no Wi-Fi!—in the rain forest. Not even Asher Adams, the ship’s charming naturalist, can convince Everly that the trip will be unforgettable. Slowly but surely, she realizes he is right: the sights are spectacular. And with each passing day, Everly’s relationship with Asher deepens, forcing her to take a long, hard look at her priorities.

Everly and Asher begin to see magic in the possibility of a life together. But as the cruise nears its end, and Everly’s family Christmas approaches, both must decide if love is worth the risk. A merry surprise may be in store in Debbie Macomber’s newest holiday delight.”

Suspense

A Time for Mercy, by John Grisham (Doubleday)

“Jake Brigance is back! The hero of A Time to Kill, one of the most popular novels of our time, returns in a courtroom drama that The New York Times says is “riveting” and “suspenseful.”

Clanton, Mississippi. 1990. Jake Brigance finds himself embroiled in a deeply divisive trial when the court appoints him attorney for Drew Gamble, a timid sixteen-year-old boy accused of murdering a local deputy. Many in Clanton want a swift trial and the death penalty, but Brigance digs in and discovers that there is more to the story than meets the eye. Jake’s fierce commitment to saving Drew from the gas chamber puts his career, his financial security, and the safety of his family on the line.

In what may be the most personal and accomplished legal thriller of John Grisham’s storied career, we deepen our acquaintance with the iconic Southern town of Clanton and the vivid cast of characters that so many readers know and cherish. The result is a richly rewarding novel that is both timely and timeless, full of wit, drama, and—most of all—heart.

Bursting with all the courthouse scheming, small-town intrigue, and stunning plot twists that have become the hallmarks of the master of the legal thriller, A Time for Mercy is John Grisham’s most powerful courtroom drama yet.

There is a time to kill and a time for justice. Now comes A Time for Mercy.”

Three Women Disappear, by James Patterson & Shan Serafin (Little, Brown and Company)

“A man is murdered in his home. Sarah, his personal chef. Anna, his wife. Serena, his maid, all had access. Now all three women are missing. 

Eyes are on Detective Sean Walsh, whose personal connection to the case is stronger than the leads to solve it. Neither the powerful bankroll behind the deceased, mob accountant Anthony Costello, nor Walsh’s vengeful superior officer can budge the investigation. Yet as Walsh continues to dig, he uncovers even more reasons the women have to stay hidden — from the law, and from each other.”

The Searcher, by Tana French (Viking)

“Cal Hooper thought a fixer-upper in a bucolic Irish village would be the perfect escape. After twenty-five years in the Chicago police force and a bruising divorce, he just wants to build a new life in a pretty spot with a good pub where nothing much happens. But when a local kid whose brother has gone missing arm-twists him into investigating, Cal uncovers layers of darkness beneath his picturesque retreat, and starts to realize that even small towns shelter dangerous secrets.

“One of the greatest crime novelists writing today” (Vox) weaves a masterful, atmospheric tale of suspense, asking how to tell right from wrong in a world where neither is simple, and what we stake on that decision.”

For Your (Inner) Teenager

Midnight Sun, by Stephanie Meyer (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers)

It’s here! #1 bestselling author Stephenie Meyer makes a triumphant return to the world of Twilight with this highly anticipated companion: the iconic love story of Bella and Edward told from the vampire’s point of view.

When Edward Cullen and Bella Swan met in Twilight, an iconic love story was born. But until now, fans have heard only Bella’s side of the story. At last, readers can experience Edward’s version in the long-awaited companion novel, Midnight Sun.

This unforgettable tale as told through Edward’s eyes takes on a new and decidedly dark twist. Meeting Bella is both the most unnerving and intriguing event he has experienced in all his years as a vampire. As we learn more fascinating details about Edward’s past and the complexity of his inner thoughts, we understand why this is the defining struggle of his life. How can he justify following his heart if it means leading Bella into danger?

In Midnight Sun, Stephenie Meyer transports us back to a world that has captivated millions of readers and brings us an epic novel about the profound pleasures and devastating consequences of immortal love.”

All This Time, by Mikki Daughtry (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers)

“Kyle and Kimberly have been the perfect couple all through high school, but when Kimberly breaks up with him on the night of their graduation party, Kyle’s entire world upends—literally. Their car crashes and when he awakes, he has a brain injury. Kimberly is dead. And no one in his life could possibly understand.

Until Marley. Marley is suffering from her own loss, a loss she thinks was her fault. And when their paths cross, Kyle sees in her all the unspoken things he’s feeling.

As Kyle and Marley work to heal each other’s wounds, their feelings for each other grow stronger. But Kyle can’t shake the sense that he’s headed for another crashing moment that will blow up his life as soon as he’s started to put it back together.

And he’s right.”

A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder, by Holly Jackson (Delacorte Press)

“Everyone in Fairview knows the story.

Pretty and popular high school senior Andie Bell was murdered by her boyfriend, Sal Singh, who then killed himself. It was all anyone could talk about. And five years later, Pip sees how the tragedy still haunts her town.

But she can’t shake the feeling that there was more to what happened that day. She knew Sal when she was a child, and he was always so kind to her. How could he possibly have been a killer?

Now a senior herself, Pip decides to reexamine the closed case for her final project, at first just to cast doubt on the original investigation. But soon she discovers a trail of dark secrets that might actually prove Sal innocent . . . and the line between past and present begins to blur. Someone in Fairview doesn’t want Pip digging around for answers, and now her own life might be in danger.

This is the story of an investigation turned obsession, full of twists and turns and with an ending you’ll never expect.”

Memoirs and Inspiration

Untamed, by Glennon Doyle (The Dial Press)

“This is how you find yourself.

There is a voice of longing inside each woman. We strive so mightily to be good: good partners, daughters, mothers, employees, and friends. We hope all this striving will make us feel alive. Instead, it leaves us feeling weary, stuck, overwhelmed, and underwhelmed. We look at our lives and wonder: Wasn’t it all supposed to be more beautiful than this? We quickly silence that question, telling ourselves to be grateful, hiding our discontent—even from ourselves.

For many years, Glennon Doyle denied her own discontent. Then, while speaking at a conference, she looked at a woman across the room and fell instantly in love. Three words flooded her mind: There She Is. At first, Glennon assumed these words came to her from on high. But she soon realized they had come to her from within. This was her own voice—the one she had buried beneath decades of numbing addictions, cultural conditioning, and institutional allegiances. This was the voice of the girl she had been before the world told her who to be. Glennon decided to quit abandoning herself and to instead abandon the world’s expectations of her. She quit being good so she could be free. She quit pleasing and started living.

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. And it is the story of how each of us can begin to trust ourselves enough to set boundaries, make peace with our bodies, honor our anger and heartbreak, and unleash our truest, wildest instincts so that we become women who can finally look at ourselves and say: There She Is.

Untamed shows us how to be brave. As Glennon insists: The braver we are, the luckier we get.”

A Promised Land, by Barack Obama (Crown)

“A riveting, deeply personal account of history in the making—from the president who inspired us to believe in the power of democracy
 
In the stirring, highly anticipated first volume of his presidential memoirs, Barack Obama tells the story of his improbable odyssey from young man searching for his identity to leader of the free world, describing in strikingly personal detail both his political education and the landmark moments of the first term of his historic presidency—a time of dramatic transformation and turmoil.

Obama takes readers on a compelling journey from his earliest political aspirations to the pivotal Iowa caucus victory that demonstrated the power of grassroots activism to the watershed night of November 4, 2008, when he was elected 44th president of the United States, becoming the first African American to hold the nation’s highest office.

Reflecting on the presidency, he offers a unique and thoughtful exploration of both the awesome reach and the limits of presidential power, as well as singular insights into the dynamics of U.S. partisan politics and international diplomacy. Obama brings readers inside the Oval Office and the White House Situation Room, and to Moscow, Cairo, Beijing, and points beyond. We are privy to his thoughts as he assembles his cabinet, wrestles with a global financial crisis, takes the measure of Vladimir Putin, overcomes seemingly insurmountable odds to secure passage of the Affordable Care Act, clashes with generals about U.S. strategy in Afghanistan, tackles Wall Street reform, responds to the devastating Deepwater Horizon blowout, and authorizes Operation Neptune’s Spear, which leads to the death of Osama bin Laden.

A Promised Land is extraordinarily intimate and introspective—the story of one man’s bet with history, the faith of a community organizer tested on the world stage. Obama is candid about the balancing act of running for office as a Black American, bearing the expectations of a generation buoyed by messages of “hope and change,” and meeting the moral challenges of high-stakes decision-making. He is frank about the forces that opposed him at home and abroad, open about how living in the White House affected his wife and daughters, and unafraid to reveal self-doubt and disappointment. Yet he never wavers from his belief that inside the great, ongoing American experiment, progress is always possible.

This beautifully written and powerful book captures Barack Obama’s conviction that democracy is not a gift from on high but something founded on empathy and common understanding and built together, day by day.”

Everything Beautiful in Its Time: Seasons of Love and Loss, by Jenna Bush Hager (William Morrow)

“Jenna Bush Hager, the former first daughter and granddaughter, #1 New York Times bestselling author, and coanchor of the Today show, shares moving, funny stories about her beloved grandparents and the wisdom they passed on that has shaped her life.

To the world, George and Barbara Bush were America’s powerful president and influ­ential first lady. To Jenna Bush Hager, they were her beloved Gampy and Ganny, who taught her about respect, humility, kindness, and living a life of passion and meaning—timeless lessons that continue to guide her.

In Midland, Texas, Jenna’s maternal grandparents, Harold and Jenna Welch—Pa and Grammee—a home builder and homemaker, lived a quieter life outside the national spotlight. Yet their influence was no less indelible to their granddaughter. Throughout Jenna’s childhood and adolescence, the Welches taught her the name of every star in the sky, the way a dove uses her voice—teaching her to appreciate the beauty in the smallest things.

Now the mother of three young children, Jenna pays homage to her grandparents in this collection of heartwarming, intimate personal essays. Filled with love, laughter, and unforgettable stories, Everything Beautiful in Its Time captures the joyous and bittersweet nature of life itself. Jenna reflects on the single year in which she and her family lost Barbara and George H. W. Bush, and Jenna Welch. With the light, self-deprecating charm of the bestselling Sisters First—cowritten with her twin sister, Barbara—Jenna reveals how they navigated this difficult period with grace, faith, and nostalgic humor, uplifted by their grandparents’ sage advice and incomparable spirits.

In this moving book, Jenna remembers the past, cherishes the present, and prepares for the future—providing a wealth of anecdotes and lessons for her own children and all of us. Poignant and humorous, intimate and sincere, Everything Beautiful in Its Time is a warm and wonderful celebration of the enduring power of family and an exploration of the things that truly matter most.

“As long as I’m alive, my grandparents will not be forgotten. . . . I hear their voices in the letters they sent me and in my memories. They offer comfort, support, and guidance, and I will listen to them always.” ”

The Best of Me, by David Sedaris (Little, Brown and Company)

“David Sedaris’s best stories and essays, spanning his remarkable career—as selected by the author himself, and including a new essay

For more than twenty-five years, David Sedaris has been carving out a unique literary space, virtually creating his own genre. A Sedaris story may seem confessional, but is also highly attuned to the world outside. It opens our eyes to what is at absurd and moving about our daily existence. And it is almost impossible to read without laughing.

Now, for the first time collected in one volume, the author brings us his funniest and most memorable work. In these stories, Sedaris shops for rare taxidermy, hitchhikes with a lady quadriplegic, and spits a lozenge into a fellow traveler’s lap. He drowns a mouse in a bucket, struggles to say “give it to me” in five languages, and hand-feeds a carnivorous bird.

But if all you expect to find in Sedaris’s work is the deft and sharply observed comedy for which he became renowned, you may be surprised to discover that his words bring more warmth than mockery, more fellow-feeling than derision. Nowhere is this clearer than in his writing about his loved ones. In these pages, Sedaris explores falling in love and staying together, recognizing his own aging not in the mirror but in the faces of his siblings, losing one parent and coming to terms—at long last—with the other.

Taken together, the stories in TheBest of Me reveal the wonder and delight Sedaris takes in the surprises life brings him. No experience, he sees, is quite as he expected—it’s often harder, more fraught, and certainly weirder—but sometimes it is also much richer and more wonderful.

Full of joy, generosity, and the incisive humor that has led David Sedaris to be called “the funniest man alive” (Time Out New York), The Best of Me spans a career spent watching and learning and laughing—quite often at himself—and invites readers deep into the world of one of the most brilliant and original writers of our time.”

The Meaning of Mariah Carey, by Mariah Carey (Andy Cohen Books)

“The global icon, award-winning singer, songwriter, producer, actress, mother, daughter, sister, storyteller, and artist finally tells the unfiltered story of her life in The Meaning of Mariah Carey

It took me a lifetime to have the courage and the clarity to write my memoir. I want to tell the story of the moments – the ups and downs, the triumphs and traumas, the debacles and the dreams, that contributed to the person I am today. Though there have been countless stories about me throughout my career and very public personal life, it’s been impossible to communicate the complexities and depths of my experience in any single magazine article or a ten-minute television interview. And even then, my words were filtered through someone else’s lens, largely satisfying someone else’s assignment to define me.

This book is composed of my memories, my mishaps, my struggles, my survival and my songs. Unfiltered. I went deep into my childhood and gave the scared little girl inside of me a big voice. I let the abandoned and ambitious adolescent have her say, and the betrayed and triumphant woman I became tell her side.

Writing this memoir was incredibly hard, humbling and healing. My sincere hope is that you are moved to a new understanding, not only about me, but also about the resilience of the human spirit.

Love,
Mariah”

#SPONSORED. ARTICLES ON SCOOP ARE SPONSORED BY THE BUSINESSES MENTIONED AND/OR OUR ADVERTISERS. FOR MORE INFO ON OUR POLICIES CLICK HERE.

Avatar
Ashley Kaufman
I'm happiest sipping coffee or wine and love exploring new places with family and friends, I graduated from Davidson College and now work as a PR consultant and copywriter. I write about Southern travel on my blog: http://pointssouth.wordpress.com/

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

LATEST FROM ORTHOCAROLINA