Set in 1920s San Francisco, The Bohemians is a dazzling novel about one of America’s most celebrated photographers, Dorothea Lange. (You definitely know her most famous photograph, “Migrant Mother,” as a defining image of the Great Depression.) The years Dorothea spends in San Francisco, and the people she meets (including Frida Kahlo and Ansel Adams), will awaken the grit, compassion, and daring that will become trademarks of her career.
The Great Believers
In 1985, Yale Tishman, the development director for an art gallery in Chicago, is about to pull off an amazing coup, bringing in an extraordinary collection of 1920s paintings as a gift to the gallery. Yet as his career begins to flourish, the carnage of the AIDS epidemic grows around him. One by one, his friends are dying and after his friend Nico’s funeral, the virus circles closer and closer to Yale himself. Soon the only person he has left is Fiona, Nico’s little sister.
Thirty years later, Fiona is in Paris tracking down her estranged daughter who disappeared into a cult. While staying with an old friend, a famous photographer who documented the Chicago crisis, she finds herself finally grappling with the devastating ways AIDS affected her life and her relationship with her daughter. The two intertwining stories take us through the heartbreak of the eighties and the chaos of the modern world, as both Yale and Fiona struggle to find goodness in the midst of disaster.
The Children's Blizzard
The morning of January 12, 1888, was unusually mild, following a punishing cold spell. It was warm enough for the homesteaders of the Dakota Territory to venture out again, and for their children to return to school without their heavy coats—leaving them unprepared when disaster struck. At the hour when most prairie schools were letting out for the day, a terrifying, fast-moving blizzard blew in without warning. Schoolteachers as young as sixteen were suddenly faced with life and death decisions: Keep the children inside, to risk freezing to death when fuel ran out, or send them home, praying they wouldn’t get lost in the storm?
Based on actual oral histories of survivors, this gripping novel follows the stories of Raina and Gerda Olsen, two sisters, both schoolteachers—one becomes a hero of the storm and the other finds herself ostracized in the aftermath. It’s also the story of Anette Pedersen, a servant girl whose miraculous survival serves as a turning point in her life and touches the heart of Gavin Woodson, a newspaperman seeking redemption. It was Woodson and others like him who wrote the embellished news stories that lured northern European immigrants across the sea to settle a pitiless land. Boosters needed them to settle territories into states, and they didn’t care what lies they told these families to get them there—or whose land it originally was.
At its heart, this is a story of courage, of children forced to grow up too soon, tied to the land because of their parents’ choices. It is a story of love taking root in the hard prairie ground, and of families being torn asunder by a ferocious storm that is little remembered today—because so many of its victims were immigrants to this country.
Karen M. McManus
Milly, Aubrey, and Jonah Story are cousins, but they barely know each other, and they’ve never even met their grandmother. Rich and reclusive, she disinherited their parents before they were born. So when they each receive a letter inviting them to work at her island resort for the summer, they’re surprised . . . and curious. Their parents are all clear on one point—not going is not an option. This could be the opportunity to get back into Grandmother’s good graces. But when the cousins arrive on the island, it’s immediately clear that she has different plans for them. And the longer they stay, the more they realize how mysterious—and dark—their family’s past is. Whatever pulled them apart years ago isn’t over—and this summer, the cousins will learn everything.
The Lions of Fifth Avenue
This dual narrative is set eighty years apart in 1913 and 1993; In early-twentieth-century NYC, Laura Lyons is content living with her family in an apartment in the New York Public Library—her husband is the superintendent of the grand building. But when she applies to Columbia Journalism School on a whim, her world is cracked wide open and she discovers the Heterodoxy Club—a radical, all-female group in which women are encouraged to loudly share their opinions on suffrage, birth control, and women’s rights. Soon, Laura finds herself questioning her traditional role as wife and mother. But when valuable books are stolen back at the library, threatening the home and institution she loves, she’s forced to confront her shifting priorities head on.
In 1993, Sadie Donovan struggles with the legacy of her grandmother, the famous essayist Laura Lyons, especially after she’s wrangled her dream job as a curator at the New York Public Library. But the job quickly becomes a nightmare when rare manuscripts, notes, and books for the exhibit Sadie’s running begin disappearing from the library’s famous Berg Collection. Determined to save both the exhibit and her career, the typically risk-averse Sadie teams up with a private security expert to uncover the culprit. However, things unexpectedly become personal when the investigation leads Sadie to some unwelcome truths about her own family heritage—truths that shed new light on the biggest tragedy in the library’s history.
Red at the Bone
As the book opens in 2001, it is the evening of sixteen-year-old Melody’s coming of age ceremony in her grandparents’ Brooklyn brownstone. Watched lovingly by her relatives and friends, making her entrance to the music of Prince, she wears a special custom-made dress. But the event is not without poignancy. Sixteen years earlier, that very dress was measured and sewn for a different wearer: Melody’s mother, for her own ceremony—a celebration that ultimately never took place. Unfurling the history of Melody’s parents and grandparents to show how they all arrived at this moment, Woodson considers not just their ambitions and successes but also the costs, the tolls they’ve paid for striving to overcome expectations and escape the pull of history. Red at the Bone examines the ways in which young people must so often make long-lasting decisions about their lives—even before they have begun to figure out who they are and what they want to be.
Home Before Dark
In the latest thriller from New York Times bestseller Riley Sager, a woman returns to Baneberry Hall, the house made famous by her father’s bestselling horror memoir, House of Horrors. Is the place really haunted by evil forces, as her father claimed? Or are there more earthbound—and dangerous—secrets hidden within its walls? Alternating between Maggie’s uneasy homecoming and chapters from her father’s book, Home Before Dark is the story of a house with long-buried secrets and a woman’s quest to uncover them—even if the truth is far more terrifying than any haunting.
Caste (Oprah's Book Club)
From the Pulitzer Prize–winning, bestselling author of The Warmth of Other Suns, Caste examines the unspoken caste system that has shaped our country and shows how our lives today are still defined by a hierarchy of human divisions. It’s an eye-opening story of people and history, and a reexamination of America today.
The Vanishing Half
From the New York Times bestselling author of The Mothers, this stunning new novel centers around twin sisters who are inseparable as children, but ultimately choose to live in two very different worlds: one black and one white. It’s an engrossing page-turner that is both a riveting, emotional family story and a brilliant exploration of the American history of passing.
An instant New York Times bestseller, Beach Read is truly a breath of fresh air. It’s a charming, oh-so-swoony novel about two writers, Augustus and January, who don’t like each other—at all—but find themselves living next door to each other one summer. As they race to write a bestseller and spend more time together, they realize that their feelings are… complicated.
We decided to postpone our discussion of Beach Read by Emily Henry to July and instead read books that put the Black experience at their centers.
Abbe’s pick: The Inner Work of Racial Justice by Rhonda V. Magee.
Jess’s pick: Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson.
Emma’s pick: Hood Feminism by Mikki Kendall.
The Inner Work of Racial Justice
Rhonda V. Magee
Just Mercy (Movie Tie-In Edition)
All Adults Here
From the New York Times bestselling author of Modern Lovers and The Vacationers, All Adults Here is a warm, funny, and keenly perceptive novel about the life cycle of one family. It centers on Astrid, a mother to three adult children with families of their own. She reckons with her past and her parenting, and confronts the legacy of her mistakes. This book is filled with kindness, forgiveness, humor, and love.
Amanda Eyre Ward
What do you get when you combine a dysfunctional family with a Mediterranean cruise? The Jetsetters. When seventy-year-old Charlotte Perkins wins a getaway, she brings along her estranged children in hopes of reuniting them. What follows, as you can imagine, is a lot of family drama and adventure. In the vein of The Nest and The Vacationers, this book is a delicious novel about the courage it takes to reveal our true selves, the pleasures and perils of family, and how we navigate the seas of adulthood.
A #ReadWithJenna Book Club Pick and a highly-anticipated read of 2020, Dear Edward will pull at all of your heartstrings. It follows twelve-year-old Edward who is the sole survivor of a devastating plane crash that resulted in the death of his parents, his beloved older brother, and 183 other passengers. The story moves forward from this tragedy as Edward begins this new reality without his family. This dazzling novel will have you thinking about the meaning of life, the power of change, and what it takes to continue on when you’ve lost everything.
Such a Fun Age
A Reese Witherspoon Book Club pick and an instant New York Times bestseller, Such a Fun Age is a fascinating debut novel that centers around a young black babysitter named Emira, her well-intentioned employer, Alix, and a surprising connection that threatens to undo them both. A page-turner about race, class, and privilege set in modern-day Philadelphia, this book will evoke deep thoughts, questions, and emotions that’ll stick with you long after you finish reading.
The Starless Sea
We all know and love Erin Morgenstern’s debut novel, The Night Circus. Now, after eight years, she brings us another timeless love story set in a secret underground world filled with pirates, painters, lovers, liars, and ships that sail upon a starless sea. The fantasy-filled universe that Erin crafts in The Starless Sea is nothing short of breathtaking and will surely capture the minds and hearts of readers everywhere.
One Day in December
A former Reese Witherspoon Book Club pick and a New York Times bestseller, One Day in December is a moving romance novel filled with warmth, love, and second chances. It all begins when Laurie peers through her bus window and makes eye contact with a man—in that instant, she knows he’s the one. She also knows that she probably will never see him again. But, as fate would have it, Laurie does see the mysterious man again… at a Christmas party. The kicker? He’s dating her best friend. What follows is ten years of friendship, heartbreak, missed opportunities, and rekindled love. This book is an absolute delight and a perfect read for the holiday season.
The Water Dancer (Oprah's Book Club)
From the National Book Award–winning author of Between the World and Me, The Water Dancer is a gorgeous debut novel about Hiram Walker, a young man born into slavery. When his mother is sold away, Hiram loses everything—but is gifted with a mysterious power that saves his life more than once. As Hiram embarks on a journey to escape to freedom and help others, he sees the world and its issues in a new light. A timely blend of historical fiction and magical realism, this book is a classic in the making.
The Nickel Boys
In this brave, eye-opening novel from the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Underground Railroad, Colson Whitehead brilliantly dramatizes another strand of American history through the story of two boys sentenced to a hellish reform school in Jim Crow-era Florida. Based on the true story of a reform school that operated for one hundred and eleven years and warped the lives of thousands of children, The Nickel Boys is a devastating, driven narrative that showcases a great American novelist writing at the height of his powers.
The Bluest Eye
The first of many masterpieces by Toni Morrison, The Bluest Eye follows a young black girl named Pecola Breedlove who, due to the ridicule from those around her, wishes to have blonde hair and blue eyes—traits that she believes to be signs of beauty. As her dream grows more intense, her life crumbles. A powerful examination of our obsession with beauty and conformity, this novel questions everything from race, to class, to gender.
Long-listed for the Man Book Prize and a New York Times bestseller, Normal People is a stunning novel about love and attraction that doesn’t die. It centers on an indelible connection that grows between two teenagers and follows them throughout their lives. It’s a literary page-turner that’ll hook you from the very first chapter and it’s coming to Hulu in 2020, which we couldn’t be more excited about.
City of Girls
From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Eat Pray Love, City of Girls brings readers a unique love story set in New York City during the 1940s. Told from the perspective of an older woman as she looks back on her youth with both pleasure and regret (but mostly pleasure), this book reminds us all that you don’t have to be a good girl to be a good person.
Tara Westover grew up isolated in a survivalist family in the mountains of Idaho. As a child, she received no education, no medical attention, and was raised to believe that the government was evil and the world would end soon. At the age of sixteen, she decided to seek education and carve out a better future for herself—one that, unfortunately, would not involve her family. Little did Tara know, she would go on to Harvard and later receive a PH.d. from Cambridge University. This bestselling true story is one that will stick with you long after you put it down.
Next Year in Havana
After the death of her beloved grandmother, Marisol Ferrera, a Cuban-American woman, travels to Havana to discover the roots of her identity. When her family history comes to light and Marisol finds herself attracted to a man with many secrets, she’ll need the lessons of her grandmother’s past to help her understand the true meaning of courage.
Helen Oyeyemi is a masterful writer who is known for creating imaginative stories with magical elements. Gingerbread is a delightful tale about Harriet and Perdita Lee—a mother-daughter duo who appear normal, but carry a special secret. They’ve been making a delicious gingerbread for generations and although Londoners could take it or leave it, the people of Druhástrana can’t get enough. Harriet’s mysterious childhood friend, Gretel, a Druhástrana native, is perhaps the biggest fan of the gingerbread. The catch? Many believe Druhástrana doesn’t even exist. And Gretel seems to play a large role in Harriet and Perdita’s lives … larger than anyone realizes.
Where the Crawdads Sing
Where the Crawdads Sing is set in a small, quiet town in North Carolina where rumors about Kya Clark, aka the “Marsh Girl,” are floating around. Kya grew up isolated in the marsh that she calls home and spent the majority of her life alone. Two men eventually enter her life and everything changes. She’s finally introduced to desire and affection for the first time. But when one of these men is found dead, it’s Kya who’s accused of his murder–no one knows Kya well enough to believe otherwise. This is a gorgeous coming-of-age tale about love, tragedy, and the secrets we hold onto and keep to ourselves.
Kindred is a classic science fiction read by the renowned Octavia E. Butler. It centers on Dana, a young black woman living in California in 1976. While celebrating her twenty-sixth birthday with her new husband in her home, she’s abruptly transported back in time to a pre-civil war plantation in the South. She has no idea how or why she’s been plunged back in time, but she does recognize, almost immediately, that she’s not safe. From this point on, Dana is repeatedly drawn back to the past and each stay becomes longer and more dangerous than ever before.
If Beale Street Could Talk (Movie Tie-In)
January’s book club pick is a compelling novel by James Baldwin about love and injustice in America. The novel is told from the perspective of Tish, a nineteen-year-old girl who is in love with a young sculptor named Fonny—the father of her unborn child. Tish and Fonny plan to get married, but when Fonny is falsely accused of a terrible crime and imprisoned, everything changes. Their families set out to clear his name, and as they face an uncertain future, the young lovers experience affection, despair, and most importantly, hope. Now a major motion picture, If Beale Street Could Talk is one you won’t want to miss.
This year, make a goal to read more fiction and nonfiction by authors of diverse backgrounds! The Read it Forward Book Club is a place for readers to discuss, analyze, and rave about books that showcase voices of all kinds.
Every month, we’ll ask you to vote on three different choices—ranging from novels to memoirs to timely nonfiction—then we’ll select that month’s read. Our book club will cover both classic and contemporary reads with the hope of sparking important conversations about the past, present, and future. Over the course of the year, we know there will be something special that will appeal to every type of reader.
For updates on everything to do with the Read It Forward Book Club and to vote for our Book Club picks, be sure to join the Read it Forward Facebook group.