The best books set on an intriguing island or coastline

Why am I passionate about this?

A native of New York’s Long Island, I’ve always been obsessed with the shoreline. My best early memories are of traveling with my family to the eastern edge of Long Island for our two-week summer vacation. My parents didn’t earn a lot of money, and we didn’t vacation often, so those two weeks in August were heavenly. As an adult, I gravitate to coastlines and islands. I’ve always been a fan of books with a strong sense of place, especially when that place is the shore. And I loved setting my current book on an island in the Mediterranean, delving into the qualities and characteristics that make a coastline so evocative and so appealing. 

I wrote...

Secrets of the Italian Island

By Barbara Josselsohn,

Book cover of Secrets of the Italian Island

What is my book about?

Broken by the loss of her grandmother Annalisa, who raised her alone, Mia is shocked when she finds an old letter sent from Italy in her belongings. Annalisa never told Mia about the castle on Isola di Parissi where she spent one summer. Or that she was accused of something terrible in the darkest days of World War Two…

Arriving on the island, Mia is devastated to find it closed to visitors. Desperate to find out what her grandmother was hiding, she finds local guide Leo, who promises to help her. As they explore, Mia begins to fall in love with Leo and the country. Mia soon realizes that the accusation against Annalisa might be true, and that Leo has his own reasons for wanting to dig up her family’s past.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Seven Sisters

Barbara Josselsohn Why did I love this book?

Lucinda Riley had me before I even opened this book, as I loved the concept: Maia and her sisters, each adopted separately as babies by their enigmatic billionaire father, return upon his death to their childhood home: a castle on the coast of Switzerland’s Lake Geneva.

There, they discover that their father left clues about each sister’s origins. Maia, the eldest, an introverted beauty in her early thirties, learns that her roots are in Brazil, so she sets out to discover more.

I love this novel for its exotic locations, complicated mysteries, star-crossed lovers, and main character who finds her true self by searching her past.

The book is chock full of romance, passion, and history – my favorite ingredients! No surprise, I’m making my way through the whole eight-book series!

By Lucinda Riley,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Seven Sisters as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Seven Sisters is a sweeping epic tale of love and loss by the international number one bestseller Lucinda Riley.

Maia D'Apliese and her five sisters gather together at their childhood home - a fabulous, secluded castle situated on the shores of Lake Geneva - having been told that their beloved adoptive father, the elusive billionaire they call Pa Salt, has died.

Each of them is handed a tantalising clue to their true heritage - a clue which takes Maia across the world to a crumbling mansion in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil . . .

Eighty years earlier, in…

Book cover of The Island

Barbara Josselsohn Why did I love this book?

Have your tissues ready!

Alexis, a present-day heroine, travels to her mother’s childhood home in Greece, intent upon learning the family’s hidden story. Arriving there, she spies the island of Spinalonga, once an actual leper colony. Hislop then switches time periods, taking the reader to the mid-twentieth century, when leprosy and war tore families apart.

I found Hislop’s writing gentle yet wrenching, and I was heartbroken by scenes between mothers and children who had to separate forever due to illness. But I was moved, too, by the strength, resilience, and capacity for love shown by many of the characters.

I enjoy novels that are based on history, with protagonists who are tested to their very limits. I won’t soon forget this book, and I bet you won’t either!

By Victoria Hislop,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Island as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An atmospheric, vibrant and moving first novel from an exciting new author. On the brink of a life-changing decision, Alexis Fielding longs to find out about her mother's past. But Sofia has never spoken of it. All she admits to is growing up in a small Cretan village before moving to London. When Alexis decides to visit Crete, however, Sofia gives her daughter a letter to take to an old friend, and promises that through her she will learn more. Arriving in Plaka, Alexis is astonished to see that it lies a stone's throw from the tiny, deserted island of…

Book cover of The Last Book Party

Barbara Josselsohn Why did I love this book?

Who doesn’t love a good coming-of-age story—especially one set on the beautiful, summery, and storied beaches of Cape Cod?

It’s the type of location I find irresistible. Set in the 1980s, the book centers on a young, aspiring novelist named Eve who crosses path with a literary power couple at their Cape Cod home. She lands a job as a research assistant, falls in love with their intriguing son, and scores an invitation to their famous book party.

This novel made me nostalgic for the time I was Eve’s age, full of dreams and waiting for the world to open its arms to me! So atmospheric and evocative!

I was transported back to a time that I don’t often think about, a time that was magical while it lasted. I didn’t want the book to end!

By Karen Dukess,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Last Book Party as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

*A July 2019 Indie Next List Great Read*
*One of Parade's Most Anticipated Books of Summer 2019*
*An O Magazine Best Beach Read of 2019*
*A New York Post Best Beach Read of 2019*

“The Last Book Party is a delight. Reading this story of a young woman trying to find herself while surrounded by the bohemian literary scene during a summer on the Cape in the late '80s, I found myself nodding along in so many moments and dreading the last page. Karen Dukess has rendered a wonderful world to spend time in.”
―Taylor Jenkins Reid, New York Times…

Book cover of Alternate Side

Barbara Josselsohn Why did I love this book?

Full disclosure—I’m a former New Yorker who adores the Big Apple.

So how could I not include a book set on the vibrant, unpredictable island of Manhattan? Anna Quindlen has long been one of my go-to writers, and this is my favorite of her novels – sophisticated, subtle, and thought-provoking.

It revolves around a series of characters—some earnest, some quirky, but all flawed—who live in an apartment building rocked by a disturbing act of violence. I love this book because of all the questions it raises about family, loyalty, and community—and I love the way the building becomes a kind of island itself.

To me, Quindlen is a top-notch chronicler of contemporary motherhood, marriage, and family—and with this story, she is at her best.

By Anna Quindlen,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Alternate Side as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

For fans of Elizabeth Strout and Anne Tyler comes a brilliantly provocative novel from the Richard and Judy Book Club and Number One bestselling author Anna Quindlen.

'Mesmerizing. Quindlen makes her characters so richly alive, so believable, that it's impossible not to feel every doubt and dream they harbour . . . Overwhelmingly moving' New York Times

Anna Quindlen follows her highly-praised novel Miller's Valley - 'reads like a companion to Elizabeth Strout's Olive Kitteridge', Elisabeth Egan - with a captivating novel about money, class and self-discovery set in the heart of New York where the tensions in a tight-knit…

Book cover of Beautiful Ruins

Barbara Josselsohn Why did I love this book?

A friend of mine recommended this book before it became well-known—and the moment I saw the cover, I knew I had to own it!

Turquoise-blue water, a jagged Italian coastline, pastel-colored buildings set against a cliff, and oh—that typeface that screams late 1950s/early 1960s! Such enticing visuals! Of course, with such a setup, I might have been expecting too much—but the story didn’t disappoint me.

Its initial chapters are set in a small, down-on-its-luck hotel in a remote Italian village where a young starlet with a compelling secret comes to stay. Spanning time periods and continents, the novel has an epic feel.

But it’s that romantic setting that has stayed with me forever and fueled my ongoing love of the Italian coast! 

By Jess Walter,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked Beautiful Ruins as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The #1 New York Times bestseller—Jess Walter’s “absolute masterpiece” (Richard Russo, Pulitzer Prize-winning author): the story of an almost-love affair that begins on the Italian coast in 1962 and resurfaces fifty years later in contemporary Hollywood.

The acclaimed, award-winning author of the national bestseller The Financial Lives of the Poets returns with his funniest, most romantic, and most purely enjoyable novel yet. Hailed by critics and loved by readers of literary and historical fiction, Beautiful Ruins is the story of an almost-love affair that begins on the Italian coast in 1962...and is rekindled in Hollywood fifty years later. 

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A Sparrow Falls

By Vicki Olsen,

Book cover of A Sparrow Falls

Vicki Olsen Author Of A Sparrow Falls

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Air Force brat World War 2 junkie Gallivanter Beret-wearing Francophile Book hoarder

Vicki's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

In this book set against the backdrop of a changing America, Sarah must find the courage to confront the ghosts of her past and come to terms with her future. Sarah, a young woman from the rural town of Tolerance, Arkansas, has endured an impoverished and painful childhood.

But now, as the innocence of the 1950s transforms into the turbulent 1960s, Sarah must find the strength to overcome her traumas, forgive those who have wronged her, and discover her true self. With its moving and often disturbing narrative, A Sparrow Falls is an evocative account of a young woman's journey…

A Sparrow Falls

By Vicki Olsen,

What is this book about?

A moving, sometimes disturbing, beautifully written book...Amazon Customer Review
Set in Arkansas as the innocence of the 1950s morphs into the turbulent ‘60s, A Sparrow Falls is an evocative account of a young woman emerging from an impoverished and traumatic childhood as she finds the inner strength to overcome her past. Te ghosts of the past and come to terms with her future is in the strength to forgive those who have wronged her?
Content Advisory: This book is intended for mature audiences and contains child sexual abuse and disturbing imagery.

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