The Giver of Stars
Challenging the constraints of gender, family, and the hard realities of the American Depression, five women are tasked with delivering books around the countryside as part of Eleanor Roosevelt’s traveling library. Known as the Horseback Librarians of Kentucky, Alice, Izzy, Sonia, Beth, and their tough leader, Margery O’Hara (the defiant and independent daughter of bootleggers), discover a new sisterhood in this historical drama that gets to the heart of the power of books.
You Me Everything
Ten years ago, Jess broke up with her unreliable boyfriend, Adam, just after their son, William, was born. But having come to realize how much William needs his father, she takes him to the French countryside, where Adam (along with a new girlfriend) is running a hotel. Heart-wrenching, intimate, and romantic to boot, this book is about why family—and love—is worth the effort, no matter how many times we’re disappointed.
The Age of Miracles
Karen Thompson Walker
One morning, Julia, an ordinary girl in suburban California, wakes up to the extraordinary. The earth’s rotation has slowed, and it’s affecting everything from gravity and the tides to the behavior of animals. Facing a slowly unfolding apocalypse, Julia’s predictable life is tilted by fear and uncertainty in this coming-of-age story wrapped in a sci-fi premise that doesn’t at all read like sci-fi.
What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours
Imagine the reading equivalent of nesting dolls—tales within tales—and you’ll have some sense of what it’s like to read Oyeyemi’s short stories. You’ll meet a team of puppeteers and their fickle teenage love, a son grappling with questions of legacy in a labyrinthine hotel, and other seemingly regular folks, yet it’s all so weird and fantastical, each tale feels like one foot is in everyday life and the other is in wonderland.
Red at the Bone
We first meet 16-year-old Melody at her coming-of-age party in her grandparents’ Brooklyn brownstone, before going back 16 years to observe her teenage parents, who are from very different social classes. Melody was born at the intersection of privilege and poverty in this multigenerational tale, which shows how each of us must face and fight forces that are bigger than any one person yet an intimate part of our lives.
In this downstairs take on Pride and Prejudice, we find out what the servants were up to. Our heroine, Sarah, is a housemaid torn between two suitors as she strives to find true love. But the real treasure that Baker offers in this parallel tale is a peek into the era, from the hardship of servitude to the realities (think chamber pots and the pox) that even the rich had to endure.
The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry
When the past comes rushing back into his very boring present, retired Englishman Harold Fry ends up walking 600 miles to hand deliver a letter to an old friend in hospice who he believes will live as long as he walks. But this story isn’t really about a walk, of course—it’s about Harold’s chance to be reintroduced to himself and reflect on his past as he moves toward an unknown future.
All Things Consoled
In this touching memoir, Elizabeth Hay shares what happened when her parents went from being caregivers to care receivers. While her parents’ declines humanized them both and brought out deep compassion in Elizabeth, their vulnerability also reopened old wounds that had long been covered over. In reading All Things Consoled, we’re asked to engage with the most poignant stuff of family, sickness, old age, and death. But in return, Hay offers deep catharsis.
R. O. Kwon
When Phoebe and Will meet on an elite college campus, she’s privately suffering over the guilt of her mother’s death, and he’s trying to come to terms with the fundamentalism he ran away from at his previous Bible college. Both histories make them vulnerable targets when the founder of a secretive extremist cult tries to pull Phoebe into a dangerous plot.
Frankly in Love
High-schooler Frank Li calls himself a Limbo—stuck between his parents’ traditional Korean roots and his Southern California culture. This puts him in a hard place when he falls for a white American girl against his parents’ insistence that he date only Koreans. But the real story is how David tries to get his way while avoiding their disapproval, and the new challenges he’s forced to face because of it.
Someone Like You and That Summer
Two great books in one volume! Whether it’s 15-year-old Haven trying to adapt to the changes going on around her in That Summer, or best friends Haley and Scarlett, whose roles as alpha and beta friend swap after a devastating accident in Someone Like You, Sarah Dessen’s stories use love and loss as the backdrop for how resilient friendships are sometimes the only things that keep us going.
Say Say Say
When Ella is hired by Bryn, whose wife, Jill, needs care after a car accident, she could never have known how being immersed in their relationship would redefine her own. A story about compassion and empathy, Bryn’s dedication to the wife he still so fiercely loves causes Ella to re-assess how she wants to love and be loved.
The Most Fun We Ever Had
How is it that two people like Marilyn and David—still so madly in love after 40 years of marriage—could have raised such wildly different daughters with such long-held rivalries between them? Each going through her own personal unrest, Wendy, Violet, Liza, and Grace all fear they won’t find a love like their parents’—a fear that’s brought to the surface when an old and tender family secret is revealed.
There’s something in the way Jojo Moyes tells stories that uncovers the human heart like an archeological dig. Falling in love is not so much about falling as it is about slowly revealing trust and intimacy; finding connection through ourselves is the stuff of Moyes’ talent. Here are 13 books for Jojo Mayes fans—some about love, some about self-discovery, and all about the ways those two things coalesce.
Featured Image: Courtesy of MGM