56 books directly related to revenge 📚

All 56 revenge books as recommended by authors and experts. Updated weekly.

Point of Impact

By Stephen Hunter,

Book cover of Point of Impact

Why this book?

This first in a series of 12 novels about Vietnam Marine sniper veteran Bob Lee Swagger. The book focuses on time after his return home and is set up as the patsy in an assassination plot. To survive and bring revenge and justice, Swagger has to rely on all the skills and knowledge he learned as a sniper in Vietnam. Hunter is a combat veteran of the war and knows about what he writes. He is one of the finest novelists of his generation.

True Grit

By Charles Portis,

Book cover of True Grit

Why this book?

This is one of those classic books you remember for a long time after reading. Great characters and a great story. I especially enjoyed Mattie Ross and Rooster Cogburn’s interactions, and appreciated the young female protagonist.  Mattie is one of the bravest kids I’ve ever run across in literature. 

Best Served Cold

By Joe Abercrombie,

Book cover of Best Served Cold

Why this book?

The author is a heavy hitter in dark fantasy and the title says it all, Best Served Cold. Glancing at the title, I immediately thought of revenge and this story takes the cake. Joe takes you on an adventure that you wish would not end, cold-hearted characters willing to go to any length to fulfil his story and their personal agendas. His eye for detail leads you to feel as if you are walking with each of them on their journey. Don’t expect the expected because he has an imagination to conjure the most extraordinary villains and surprising heroes. Plots that don’t always have happy endings. The UK author translates his storyline into a brilliant narrative that will make you put his book on the shelf as it waits for the second. For once you have read a Joe Abercrombie book, you will want to read more.

Keystone (Crossbreed Series Book 1)

By Dannika Dark,

Book cover of Keystone (Crossbreed Series Book 1)

Why this book?

Dannika Dark’s Crossbreed is just one of her many spin-off series but has quickly become my favourite. The relationship between Raven and Christian is slow-burn, with the books mainly focusing on Keystone, an organisation they are both apart of. In the first book Keystone, there is very little romance other than hints and teases, but when they do get together further in the series it’s intense and full of passion while still remaining true to the storyline. I find with many series that once a couple gets together their individuality disappears, but with the Crossbreed series you find Raven is still the main protagonist, and Christian only adds to her character arc. Heat level: 3/5


By Roald Dahl, Quentin Blake (illustrator),

Book cover of Matilda

Why this book?

Matilda is a genius and a rebel. When her parents neglect her, she gets back at them with (seriously funny) pranks. 

At school, Matilda and the other children are bullied and terrorized by the headmistress. Matilda has a superpower. She can move physical objects without touching them. Her other superpower is her super brain. She combines them to drive away the evil headmistress.

Three reasons: 1. I like the idea of the brain being a superpower. 2. I’m partial to books with strong girls and Matilda is as strong as they come. 3. Sadly, child neglect happens. Child abuse happens. Matilda is an empowering book where children hit back at the adult villains in their lives.

Hunted by the Sky

By Tanaz Bhathena,

Book cover of Hunted by the Sky

Why this book?

Filled with magic, prophecy, and ancient goddesses, Hunted By the Sky transports you to a world where a girl with a star-shaped birthmark seeks revenge for the murder of her parents, and a boy who is willing to do anything to save his father will soon meet. In this beautiful novel, you will find thoughtful worldbuilding and fantastical mirrors to our own reality, exploring identity, class, and love. 

Great Expectations

By Charles Dickens,

Book cover of Great Expectations

Why this book?

I’ve already said how I want the characters in the stories I read to grab my attention, so much so that I want to learn how to write the great ones. In pursuit of my ambition, is there anyone as good as Dickens to learn from? There are so many Dickens described in his writing, but as I’m only allowed one of his to choose then it has to be—Magwitch. He was a gigantic monsters rising up from the mud in the graveyard that’s always smothered in a dank, cold mist and where the light from the lantern dances in the shadows of the gravestones.     

The Next Wife

By Kaira Rouda,

Book cover of The Next Wife

Why this book?

The grass is not always greener on the other side is the takeaway message from this novel. 

Talk about schadenfreude dripping from page to page. 

While the new wife is very easy to despise, the ex-wife comports herself with dignity when she has every right to be angry and pop Xanax like candy.  

Here we have a genuflecting husband begging to return to the marriage he destroyed. He’s had his fun and now he’s pining for the woman, who he finally realizes is his true soul mate. 

Like all good mysteries, there’s an “I didn’t see that coming” moment which in my humble opinion made this book shine. Twists are not easy to devise. As a writer, you can accidentally give the game away by offering hints that readers sniff out a mile away. Readers are an instinctive bunch. That didn’t happen in this novel, therefore kudos to the author.

Nevernight (Book One of the Nevernight Chronicle)

By Jay Kristoff,

Book cover of Nevernight (Book One of the Nevernight Chronicle)

Why this book?

This is one trilogy you may not be ready for. I certainly wasn’t! But I’m so glad I read it. When I first read Nevernight, I was blown off my feet by the sheer madness of this story. Protagonist Mia Corvere doesn’t give an inch in her quest for revenge, and it is an endless riot of blood, sexy times, sucker-punch plot lines, and laughter. 

Get ready to fall for the characters, even the ones you want to slap, but don’t get too attached because no one is safe in Mr. Kristoff’s worlds… damn you Jay! 

What I love most about this series is how Jay explores the concept of what makes a family. Is it blood? Is it experiencing things that bond you forever? 

This entire series has earned itself a place of honour on my bookshelf. Fearless, mad, magnetic… just a few words to describe what you’re in for.

The Count of Monte Cristo

By Alexandre Dumas, Robin Buss (translator),

Book cover of The Count of Monte Cristo

Why this book?

The Count of Monte Cristo is the ultimate revenge book. Our hero, Edmond Dantes, is wrongfully thrown in prison for the rest of his life, and (spoiler alert) he beats the odds, and manages to escape. He then makes a completely new life for himself and exacts the most delicious revenge imaginable. I love a story where tremendous forces are working against the protagonist, and yet they continue to fight. You will be cheering for Edmond!

Again the Magic

By Lisa Kleypas,

Book cover of Again the Magic

Why this book?

If you’re a historical romance fan, you already know there’s something special about Lisa Kleypas’s writing, and this book is one of my favorites. Aline and McKenna are from vastly different worlds, and they’re so in love it hurts. The only way they can protect each other seems to be to push each other away, but the longing is always there, simmering beneath the surface. Magic, indeed.

The Stars My Destination

By Alfred Bester,

Book cover of The Stars My Destination

Why this book?

The Stars My Destination is, in my humble opinion, the absolute best stand-alone science fiction novel. Originally published as Tiger! Tiger! in 1956, this book – I don’t know why it has never been made into a movie?  is about the brute of a simple spaceman, Gully Foyle, who is completely transformed by the end of the book. You will follow Foyle and his lust for revenge from nobody to cunning calculating anti-hero wanted by everyone who is anyone, until his end revenge. Alfred Bester was another grandfather of sci-fi who writes in a traveling style catered to the common reader and because of this, I read every book he ever wrote. But I reread this book every few years.

The Lunatic, the Lover, and the Poet

By Myrlin A. Hermes,

Book cover of The Lunatic, the Lover, and the Poet

Why this book?

Hermes’ novel displays a different sort of playfulness, opening in Wittenberg with Horatio as narrator. It connects not only to Hamlet but also Shakespeare’s sonnets. Shakespeare is a character in the topsy-turvy fashion, not speaking directly. I loved the clever weaving of Shakespeare’s lines into the dialogue and the suspenseful, twisting plot. Hermes employs gender-bending differently than I do and touches on the authorship controversy, as I do not. Her identification of the dark lady and fair youth of the sonnets is unique. I appreciate her creativity and her way of incorporating quotations. In my work, there are speeches from plays and poems spoken aloud, as my protagonist is an actor, but in the 11th century they resemble natural speech. Moving forward and backward in time, this novel inspires flights of imagination.

Relentless: A Thriller

By Simon Kernick,

Book cover of Relentless: A Thriller

Why this book?

Simon Kernick is a master at keeping the reader engaged. His books have an amazing pace, and you will 100% commit to the story. Relentless moves you seamlessly through an array of emotions, as you read. You feel desperately for the protagonist, willing him to escape his torment and tormentors. This book twists and turns and gallops you from the first page, right to the last. Prepare to feel exhausted!  

Dragon's Bait

By Vivian Vande Velde,

Book cover of Dragon's Bait

Why this book?

She’s a witch! Let’s stake her out for the dragon to eat. This happens to Alys. But she’s not a witch. Her village just didn’t like her. She wants revenge and when the dragon arrives, he becomes her ally. Here’s another twisted plot where the female is undervalued but the story helps Alys find what she thinks she wants. Part of what she finds along the way is a strength and loyalty she didn’t know she had. But she also discovers what she thought she wanted, isn’t really worth it in the end. 

Gentlemen and Players

By Joanne Harris,

Book cover of Gentlemen and Players

Why this book?

What school doesn’t have at least a couple of skeletons in the closet? The venerable St. Oswald’s is no different. What I love about this psychological thriller is that it pulls no punches about the dark side of boarding school. It explores my favorite literary themes: class warfare, family secrets, and identity, and masterfully unravels a complicated plot. The setting of St. Oswald’s, like all the best academic novels, functions as a looming, dangerous character in itself.


By Audrey Coulthurst,

Book cover of Inkmistress

Why this book?

Asra is a demigod with the gift of dictating the future by writing with her own blood. When her blood magic leads to the mortal girl she loves turning into a vengeful dragon, Asra must embark on a journey across the kingdom to stop her. A big-hearted protagonist grappling with her own power, complex cultural politics, two compelling love interests – who could ask for more? That so many of the primary romantic relationships in the story are same-sex is almost beside the point – except, of course, that queer characters rarely appear so matter-of-factly in epic fantasy. Inkmistress trades in deep, nuanced characters, moral complexity, and a story that often surprises in the best way, keeping the reader hooked until the incredibly satisfying conclusion.

Sharpe's Assassin: Richard Sharpe and the Occupation of Paris, 1815

By Bernard Cornwell,

Book cover of Sharpe's Assassin: Richard Sharpe and the Occupation of Paris, 1815

Why this book?

Bernard Cornwall’s series is an epic tale of a rifleman throughout the Napoleonic Wars. The action is loosely based on true events and grips me from start to finish. As with Reacher, he attempts to do the right thing and doesn’t mind bending the rules as he does it – so long as it helps to achieve the objective. This book seems to be the last in the series and puts Richard and Harper out to pasture as they deserve. Sharpe’s rise from the gutter is a constant reminder to keep trying and no matter where you come from, you have a chance to reach the top. His stubbornness is classic male behaviour and I’ve used some of that for my own character, Zenobia. 


By Alexandra Bracken,

Book cover of Lore

Why this book?

For one thing, this Greek mythology fantasy begins with our main character, Lore, beating up someone during an underground boxing match. How much more badass can you get? Throughout the standalone YA novel, Lore tries to navigate a deadly game of the Gods and the constant deceit of those closest to her. But she keeps going, no matter the sacrifices she must make. This is a great story about strength and putting others before yourself for the greater good.

The Wake

By Paul Kingsnorth,

Book cover of The Wake

Why this book?

This is a book written in its own language: one that is derived from Old English. It is written from the viewpoint of a Saxon native, a freeman, whose liberty is threatened by the outside world, invaders who respect no moral laws. Through this method, we enter the minds of the protagonist – Buccmaster of Hollandand a worldview is constructed in which the local is in a shifting balance with external sources of power. The book demonstrates how our thoughts and worldviews are realised by, and dependent upon, the language through which they are articulated. Without explicitly intending to do so, it also provides insight into much of the psychology behind Brexit.

Rapunzel's Revenge

By Shannon Hale, Dean Hale, Nathan Hale (illustrator)

Book cover of Rapunzel's Revenge

Why this book?

In this graphic novel adventure (followed by the equally compelling Calamity Jack), the twist is that the story of Rapunzel is set in a magical fantasy version of the Wild West. Yes, you read that right: Fairy Tale + Wild West + High Fantasy. Oh, and humor too. With incredible and satisfyingly dense world-building, all of Hale’s work seamlessly combines to create a complex and believable landscape, unlike anything I’ve seen. The story is gripping, since Rapunzel must basically save the world from magical destruction with her wits, weaponized braids, and her new buddy Jack, the lovable rascal of beanstalk fame.

Ancillary Justice

By Ann Leckie,

Book cover of Ancillary Justice

Why this book?

Even though I’m not much of a tea drinker, I wanted to become one as I read this book (and its two sequels, Ancillary Sword and Ancillary Mercy). The attention to detail in both the preparation and consumption of the tea in these books—and what those actions say about the characters who perform them—is fascinating and revealing. As more of a coffee fiend myself, it makes me want to pay such careful attention to coffee in a book of my own…hmm…

King Rat

By China Miéville,

Book cover of King Rat

Why this book?

China Mievelle’s first work, a retelling of the story of the Pied Piper from the point of view of those that he commands, is a dark and gruesome story that gripped me from the first page. Difficult family relations, grim mysteries, and an ancient fable brought into the modern worldthis book has it all! 

The Fifty Year Sword

By Mark Z. Danielewski,

Book cover of The Fifty Year Sword

Why this book?

Danielewski is as much an artist as he is a storyteller. The Fifty Year Sword is a work of literal—and literary—art. The story is brief, haunting, and beautifully told. The book is a labor of love beyond words on the page. The art accents the story, propelling it forward and assisting the tension that grows as the unread pages dwindle. It is neither grotesque, nor leave-the-lights-on scary, but it is fantastically memorable and shocking, making it a wonderful introduction to the fun-filled intensity the genre offers. For all its simplicity, it’s an unforgettable read, worth picking up for repeat visits to admire the way story and art meld into this single binding. It’s an every-October treat for me that sets the mood for Spooky Season.

Felix Ever After

By Kacen Callender,

Book cover of Felix Ever After

Why this book?

I love how real this book is. Felix makes big, messy mistakes—the kind most authors are reluctant to write for fear that readers will find their character unlikable. But the truism about how we learn the biggest lessons from the biggest screw-ups is brilliantly illustrated here. This is why we read books: They teach life lessons by example so we don’t have to learn them the hard way ourselves. The trans boy rep is spot-on, and I adored how Felix’s complicated relationship with multiple identities is presented with depth, sensitivity, grace, and good humor. A gorgeous, thought-provoking, and inspiring YA novel about finding yourself and loving who you find.

Only Killers and Thieves

By Paul Howarth,

Book cover of Only Killers and Thieves

Why this book?

In interviews, Paul Howarth has discussed the ways in which colonial Australia was essentially a second Wild West, albeit one scarcely explored in fiction. Only Killers and Thieves leans into that understanding and in doing so creates a vivid, blood-soaked, Biblical saga about revenge, redemption, and the lies upon which nations are built, full of unforgettable characters and passages of writing that will make your breath catch. That it is followed by an even better sequel is the icing on a magnificent cake.


By C.J. Skuse,

Book cover of Sweetpea

Why this book?

I should perhaps be concerned about how much I liked the main character in C.J.Skuse’s Sweetpea given that she’s a murdering psychopath. She’s very normal on the surface but, oh the things she does to men who follow women on dark canal paths… I’m sure we’ve all had little fantasies about doing the same (I hope it’s not just me). She’s rude, funny, and extremely violent!

Six of Crows

By Leigh Bardugo,

Book cover of Six of Crows

Why this book?

I fought between the Kaz Brekker/Inej romance and the Mal/Alina romance of the previous series in the Grishaverse that Leigh Bardugo created. Both are lovely and full of sacrifice, but when it comes down to it, I just plain loved Kaz better. He is dark and tragic and full of complexities and Inej comes to a point where she realizes she has to let go of what she feels for Kaz in order to live fully. Their romance is one that reminds me that love can follow you no matter where you go, even if it means stepping away from the person that love is centered around. 

Drama City

By George P. Pelecanos,

Book cover of Drama City

Why this book?

Washington, D.C. is the author’s turf and he knows the district with GPS certainty. Lorenzo Brown, an African-American ex-con with a moral code, is redeemed by his love for animals. His post-release job is with an animal rescue organization. The novel’s conflict is basic as Brown is faced with environmental forces that attempt to lure him back to the criminal life, even as he struggles to resist them. Adding superbly to the flow of the story is Pelecanos’s mastery of street argot, his love of music and cars serving as a backdrop.

Hook's Revenge

By Heidi Schulz, John Hendrix (illustrator),

Book cover of Hook's Revenge

Why this book?

Okay, I cheated with this one. It’s a Middle-Grade book and not a Young Adult book. But it’s a list about pirates! You should’ve expected a little bit of cheating going on. And I had to include this one because of the voice. It’s told by a narrator who’s as off-putting as he is entertaining. And if that’s not enough, it follows Captain Hook’s daughter on her quest for revenge against Peter Pan. You’ll be hooked right away…get it? Get it??? Hahaha! I’ll be over here laughing at my own jokes (and you should go add these books to your to-be-read piles!)

Poison (The Poisoner Mysteries #1)

By Sara Poole,

Book cover of Poison (The Poisoner Mysteries #1)

Why this book?

I read this trilogy out of order but I’ll go ahead and recommend the first book. I found these on my hunt for things to do with the Borgias, and this is an absolutely brilliant set of books for it. Centered on a smart, strong woman in late 15th century Rome, it shows us a side usually left to male characters as she is embroiled in politics, plotting, and murder at the behest of the Borgias during the Papacy of Alexander VI. For anyone who loves to see every possible angle to a period of history, this is certainly one to add to their list. The only sad note is the series is, and seems likely to remain, incomplete, without a satisfactory resolution.

These Old Shades

By Georgette Heyer,

Book cover of These Old Shades

Why this book?

Who doesn’t love a good “nobility-in-disguise” story? They are especially pleasing when a big dose of romance and justice for a mistreated young woman are thrown in. Due to its lovable characters and fun plot twists, These Old Shades is arguably the novel that propelled Georgette Heyer to fame as a premiere Regency Romance author.

Hag-Seed: William Shakespeare's the Tempest Retold: A Novel

By Margaret Atwood,

Book cover of Hag-Seed: William Shakespeare's the Tempest Retold: A Novel

Why this book?

The chronology of my Shakespeare-era novels hasn’t reached The Tempest, but I love how this novel features a production of the play—in a prison. The relation of the inmates to their roles and the protagonist’s personal crisis give Prospero and his island new life in a setting also set apart from society. I enjoyed how the characters come to realizations about Shakespeare’s play as they rehearse, the goal of my own novels from a different angle. Many spinoffs from Shakespeare use his plot devices, but Atwood relies on The Tempest for her plot. Each ‘best’ novel here reveals new visions to the reader and gains plot and suspense from the links to Shakespeare. Though my goals aren’t identical to these authors', their works offer inspiration.

The Captain of All Pleasures

By Kresley Cole,

Book cover of The Captain of All Pleasures

Why this book?

One of my all-time favorite stories set on the high seas with a daring sea captain and a worthy heroine. The story involves two competing shipping companies in 19th century England, and two captains (the English Earl, Captain Sutherland, and the American, Captain Lassiter). Each must win the Great Race from London to Sydney to survive.

When Lassiter is imprisoned, his daughter, Nicole, who has been raised at sea decides to enter the race for him. Nicole is attracted to the handsome Sutherland, who when he first encounters her in a dockside bar, thinks she's a whore. Circumstances make them enemies. When sabotage of her ship forces her to join him on his ship, her spirit and his wall of stone collide. The result? A fast-paced story that grabs you.

The Wicked Deep

By Shea Ernshaw,

Book cover of The Wicked Deep

Why this book?

The sense of place is so strong in this book! Not only does it take place in an isolated town by the sea, it’s a cursed town as well. When a mysterious boy arrives, the reclusive townspeople begin to turn against each other as tensions rise. The book is full of eerie atmosphere, and you’ll really feel as if you’re swept off to the windswept town full of history, lore, and curses.

Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption

By Stephen King,

Book cover of Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption

Why this book?

Screen goddess Rita Hayworth, who bewitched ‘40s and ‘50s moviegoers, isn't an actual character in Stephen King’s 1982 novella or in its acclaimed 1994 movie version. But Hayworth’s fatal allure becomes palpable in King’s depiction of the erotic desires she incites in prison inmates while watching her classic thriller Gilda, leading condemned man Andy Dufresne to hang a poster pinup of Hayworth in a strategic spot in his cell. These events offer beacons of hope and possible freedom to Dufresne, who insists he’s innocent of murdering his wife and her lover. Fans of the movie know that, to mark the passage of decades, Hayworth’s pinup poster gets supplanted by Marilyn Monroe’s, then Raquel Welch’s. But in King's gripping, emotionally punchy novella, the siren call of Hayworth’s seductive aura reigns supreme.

The Son

By Jo Nesbo,

Book cover of The Son

Why this book?

This novel, translated from Norwegian, features a protagonist who is like a junkie-Christ, and an antagonist who makes Satan look like a kind old man. The atmosphere is as dark as I imagine an Oslo winter would be; the story, full of fascinating characters who propel the plot through twists and turns that kept me guessing and gasping. In one of the first, the junkie-Christ discovers that his father, a once-revered police officer, did not commit suicide as everyone believes, but was murdered. When junkie-Christ kicks heroin, snuffs his nimbus of sweetness and light, and sets out to avenge his father, the book, for me, was un-put-downable.

Seven Blades in Black

By Sam Sykes,

Book cover of Seven Blades in Black

Why this book?

The book is filled to the brim with powerful descriptions and enough sass to fill an ocean. You’ll fall in love with Sal, even though she’s rough around the edges and has revenge pulsing in her veins. Each page has lines that make you stop and sit with them in order for them to sink in, and when they do, they follow you around for days. Sykes brings Sal and her world alive with vivid writing that is just *chef’s kiss*. It holds its own against Game of Thrones, the works of Sanderson, and Robert Jordan. If you like morally gray characters and gritty fantasy, this is the book for you. 

The Walking Drum

By Louis L'Amour,

Book cover of The Walking Drum

Why this book?

Louis L’Amour is the only western writer I will read. The Walking Drum is one of my top five. It has taught me a lot of history, of cultures besides my own and of my ancestors, and inspired a lot of scenes in my own writing. His book cultivated this desire to know more, read more, and to fall deep into the story. And led to my search for books that were similar.

The Monster of Elendhaven

By Jennifer Giesbrecht,

Book cover of The Monster of Elendhaven

Why this book?

This book is just fun, but it’s also a weird kind of fun. Short and to the point, it follows two monstrous men as they wreak deadly havoc on a dark little town. It leans heavily on the media’s history of queer-coding villains in stories and allows the characters to be unapologetically evil. Readers who enjoy this book will find themselves thinking the pair are strangely cute together, all the while trying to remember that they’re very dangerous. It’s great as an audiobook and makes the perfect palate cleaners between longer books. 

Here Goes Nothing

By Steve Toltz,

Book cover of Here Goes Nothing

Why this book?

Not only did I laugh all the way through this rollicking novel, but I felt as if author Steve Toltz is a brother writer from a cousin muse to my own.

Angus Mooney, the protagonist, is a thief, a romantic, and a philosopher who is dedicated to the easier path of not learning or understanding anything. And, not a spoiler, he dies.

If you console yourself that a better life awaits you in heaven, or if you're resigned to life being painful, but after all, it's only temporary, and once it's over, it'll be over, think again.

In this shockingly inventive, wildly funny epic about one man's life, death, and beyond, you may have some epiphanies about existence in general and how you want to spend or squander your time.

Remember Me

By Christopher Pike,

Book cover of Remember Me

Why this book?

I’ve read this book more times than I can count. A girl has to solve her own murder from beyond the grave with a cute dead boy who was her friend before he passed away? Sign me up! Though I don’t write paranormal, I’ve always had a fascination with “the other side”, and this book more than delivers a big dose of murderous intrigue and belly-dipping romance. And it has a real ghost story behind it! Christopher Pike is quoted as saying that when he wrote the book’s final words, “I just want to be remembered”, he felt a hand on his shoulder and a voice said, “I’ll see you later.” He realized the story had poured out of him, without pre-plotting, like it had been dictated to him. Plus, it was the first story he’d ever written in first person. Is this story really from beyond the grave? We’ll never know…

The Tea Rose

By Jennifer Donnelly,

Book cover of The Tea Rose

Why this book?

This is a wonderfully romantic saga focusing on a young woman in the East End of London in the late 1800s, and how she works her way up to run her own business empire, facing tragedy and treachery along the way. Set alongside the Jack the Ripper murders, it has plenty of intrigue and mystery, as well as romance, perfect for fans of Downton Abbey or The Gilded Age. A true saga of the kind that was popular in the 1980s—a big, glitzy, wonderful, passionate book!

To Kill a Kingdom

By Alexandra Christo,

Book cover of To Kill a Kingdom

Why this book?

When Lira is banished by her mother, she will do anything to win back her mother’s favor, including killing Elian. She doesn’t expect them to become reluctant allies and friends, nor does she expect to fall in love with him against the backdrop of a story with high stakes, lush world-building, and action-packed sea adventures. With a siren princess and a human pirate prince who wishes to slay her, this book brings forth a forbidden romance that is bound to break your heart. 

Sister Dear

By Hannah Mary McKinnon,

Book cover of Sister Dear

Why this book?

If you happen to like the type of books that end with a gut punch, then you are going to love Sister Dear. This had an ending that I didn’t see coming, which is probably why I love it so much. I have a few authors on my ‘must read’ list and this one holds the title for #1 because of her endings. Warning: you start reading the book thinking you know where it’s headed, but trust me when I say you don’t!

A Time to Kill

By John Grisham,

Book cover of A Time to Kill

Why this book?

White supremacy. Is this genre literature or a witty comment on racism? You can guess the answer. It's both. Grisham puts a lawyer at the center of this story about the murder of a Black girl and her father, who avenges her death. What follows is not just a courtroom drama but the chaos and tragedy of a small town in the American South that is far from having thrown off the shackles of the American slave trade. When I picked up A Time to Kill, I was looking for a suspenseful story, but I got so much more. For example, insight into white privilege. What more could you ask for?

They All Fall Down: A Thriller

By Rachel Howzell Hall,

Book cover of They All Fall Down: A Thriller

Why this book?

I’ve always been a sucker for books that make glamour and glitz appear sinister, and this book is jam-packed with that. Set on a remote island in a gorgeous mansion with dream vacation vibes, this book quickly turns all that on its head. It’s a delightfully evil book filled with despicable characters, and you’ll enjoy watching them…all fall down. 

The Girl from the Well

By Rin Chupeco,

Book cover of The Girl from the Well

Why this book?

Based on the chilling Japanese legend of Okiku, TGFTW is told from the perspective of a vengeful ghost who kills those who have hurt or killed children—like the man who threw her body down a well three hundred years before. And when a strange boy bearing stranger tattoos moves into the neighborhood and she is unable to protect him, she begins to wonder if she is losing her touch. And then something else moves into town. Something darker. This book had a dose of everything I like: eerie doll rituals, vengeful females, Shinto exorcisms, and travel to Aomori, Japan. 

Magpie Speaks: A Navajo Nation Mystery

By R. Allen Chappell,

Book cover of Magpie Speaks: A Navajo Nation Mystery

Why this book?

R. Allen Chappell’s novel resonates with me from the reality of his depiction of life among the Navajo, reflecting his personal familiarity with the people. His protagonists portray diverse, very human characters with all their inherent weaknesses and strengths, tested by the hard life on the Rez. In Magpie Speaks, Charlie Yazzie’s unflappably grounded outlook balances Paul T’Sosi ’s immersive belief in the old ways, a traditional way of thinking that permits the existence of witches who can cause him harm with their supernatural powers. His depiction of Harley Ponyboy, a sometime drunk (“just because I’m drinking now doesn’t make me a drunk”) is both sympathetic and alarming to me. Chappell’s characters are real.

A Master of Djinn

By P. Djèlí Clark,

Book cover of A Master of Djinn

Why this book?

This alternate universe set in Cairo had everything I was looking for at the time—a fast-paced reimagining of Middle Eastern history and folklore with a compelling female protagonist. But above all, it’s fun. The story starts strong and maintains an exciting, gripping pace throughout as Agent Fatma investigates the murder of a secret brotherhood in a world populated by magical beings. It’s such a fascinating and richly developed universe that I immediately wanted another book set in this world after turning the final page. And luckily, there are more!

Razorblade Tears

By S.A. Cosby,

Book cover of Razorblade Tears

Why this book?

In small-town Virginia, the Black owner of a successful landscaping business and a white alcoholic ne’er-do-well who lives in a broken-down trailer might seem to have little in common, but they do. Their gay sons married each other and were murdered. Now both dads regret how they hadn’t accepted their sons’ choices. They form an uneasy alliance to track down the killers. They want more than revenge. They want redemption. And justice. The narrator of the audio version (Adam Lazarre-White) is absolutely brilliant. I especially liked how Cosby doesn’t shy away from fundamental, painful issues in American society and treats them with intelligence and compassion. I felt like a better person for reading it.

Magic, Lies, and Deadly Pies

By Misha Popp,

Book cover of Magic, Lies, and Deadly Pies

Why this book?

As a recent debut, I wanted to include another wonderful new writer venturing into mixed genres. Misha Popp’s heroine pie-baker even wears flirty vintage dresses as she harnesses her family magic to off abusive men through deadly pies. I rooted for Daisy throughout, partly because she’s an avenger with a conscience, and because she’s always felt she had to maintain distance to hide her secret. How sweet to watch her grudgingly open up to friendship and romance, realizing they add a special spice to life. The well-drawn, diverse, likable characters pursue intriguing plot directions, supported by witty dialogue. And the pie descriptions are downright mouth-watering. No surprise, Popp is a masterful baker in her own right. 

The Tide Between Us

By Olive Collins,

Book cover of The Tide Between Us

Why this book?

The Tide Between Us is similarly typical of many Cornish novels which involve travel to the West Indies. The maritime links between those areas were extremely strong at those times. It therefore relates to the Transatlantic factor in my own novels which involves the West Indies and the slave trade.   

Jane Doe

By Victoria Helen Stone,

Book cover of Jane Doe

Why this book?

If you enjoyed Gone Girl, I’m guessing you have a soft spot for a well-written sociopath. Jane Doe will be right up your street and then some. Jane is the kind of sociopath you can’t help but love. She’s funny, she’s misanthropic and she doesn’t care about what anyone else thinks. But best of all, Jane is on a revenge mission and despite every horrible thing she does, you’ll still love her.

Long Way Down

By Jason Reynolds,

Book cover of Long Way Down

Why this book?

The reason I’m recommending the graphic version of this story is that, as a teacher of students with dyslexia, I believe it is critical to validate storytelling in all its forms. Visual stories remove barriers and make reading more equitable.

Long Way Down opens with, Will, finding his brother, Shawn, shot dead. Shawn had ventured into a rival gang’s territory in order to buy his mother’s eczema cream. Will rushes home, grabs his brother’s gun, and heads to the elevator. Shawn is following the three rules of his hood: do not cry, do not snitch, take revenge when a loved one is killed. However, his elevator ride takes an unexpected turn when it stops on each floor to let in ghosts of people who died due to gun violence.

Die Trying

By Lee Child,

Book cover of Die Trying

Why this book?

I am now swept up with the Jack Reacher character and continue to read every book the Englishman wrote. I was born and partially raised in Chicago. I dug in here when Reacher and a woman are kidnapped off a Chicago street. The two unfortunates were destined for what we now call “human trafficking.” Yes, sale for ransom. Reacher is beyond resourceful in penalizing the bad guys.