Help! My TBR List is Getting Out of Hand: 15 Book Recommendations by Shek

To hold a book in your hand is to hold a promise—of adventure, love, grief, healing, and sometimes, the deeper affectual yawning of the human psyche. Vicariously, we skirt around the logic of physics, teasing and taunting because the act of reading is never free of the mischief that eludes the principles of time and space. How do you suppose a person with their nose buried in the pages travels without moving their feet? Nestled in the cozy of their reading spot, to a reader, time “expands, then contracts, all in tune with the stirrings of the heart” and the ink itself becomes a passageway.

1. Shadows of Pecan Hollow by Caroline Frost

Paper Moon meets Badlands. It was 1970 when thirteen-year-old runaway Kit Walker was abducted by Manny Romero, a smooth-talking, low-level criminal, who first coddled her and then groomed her into his partner-in-crime. Twenty years after they meet, Kit has scraped together a life for herself and her daughter amongst the pecan trees and muddy creeks of the town of Pecan Hollow, far from Manny. But when he shows up at her doorstep a new man, fresh out of prison, Kit is forced to reckon with the shadows of her past, and her community is sent into a tailspin. 

2. The Beekeeper of Aleppo by Christy Lefteri

“When you belong to someone and they are gone, who are you?” (I just know this book is going to make me cry but we love it, don’t we? 😌) Nuri is a beekeeper and Afra, his wife, is an artist. Mornings, Nuri rises early to hear the call to prayer before driving to his hives in the countryside. They live a simple life, rich in family and friends, in the hills of the beautiful Syrian city of Aleppo—until the unthinkable happens. When all they love is destroyed by war, Nuri knows they have no choice except to leave their home. But escaping Syria will be no easy task: Afra has lost her sight, leaving Nuri to navigate her grief as well as a perilous journey through Turkey and Greece toward an uncertain future in Britain.

3. The School for Good Mothers by Jessamine Chan

Frida Liu is struggling. She doesn’t have a career worthy of her Chinese immigrant parents’ sacrifices. She can’t persuade her husband, Gust, to give up his wellness-obsessed younger mistress. Only with Harriet, their cherubic daughter, does Frida finally attain the perfection expected of her. Harriet may be all she has, but she is just enough. Until Frida has a very bad day. Faced with the possibility of losing Harriet, Frida must prove that a bad mother can be redeemed. That she can learn to be good.

4. The Swimmers by Julie Otsuka

The swimmers are unknown to one another except through their private routines (slow lane, medium lane, fast lane) and the solace each takes in their morning or afternoon laps. But when a crack appears at the bottom of the pool, they are cast out into an unforgiving world without comfort or relief. One of these swimmers is Alice, who is slowly losing her memory. For Alice, the pool was a final stand against the darkness of her encroaching dementia.

5. A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

Meet Ove. He’s a curmudgeon—the kind of man who points at people he dislikes as if they were burglars caught outside his bedroom window. He has staunch principles, strict routines, and a short fuse. People call him “the bitter neighbor from hell.” But as far as stories go, you and I both know Ove isn’t just the cranky old man that he is. (📣 Special shoutout to my best friend, Angela, whose book recos are the only things that rival my love for her.)

6. Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

No one’s ever told Eleanor that life should be better than fine. Meet Eleanor Oliphant: She struggles with appropriate social skills and tends to say exactly what she’s thinking. Nothing is missing in her carefully timetabled life of avoiding social interactions, where weekends are punctuated by frozen pizza, vodka, and phone chats with Mummy. But everything changes when Eleanor meets Raymond, the bumbling and deeply unhygienic IT guy from her office. When she and Raymond together save Sammy, the three become the kinds of friends who rescue one another from the lives of isolation they have each been living.

7. The Secret History by Donna Tartt

Under the influence of their charismatic classics professor, a group of clever, eccentric misfits at an elite New England college discover a way of thinking and living that is a world away from the humdrum existence of their contemporaries. But when they go beyond the boundaries of normal morality their lives are changed profoundly and forever, and they discover how hard it can be to truly live and how easy it is to kill.

8. The Atlas Six by Olivie Blake

The Alexandrian Society, caretakers of lost knowledge from the greatest civilizations of antiquity, are the foremost secret society of magical academicians in the world. Those who earn a place among the Alexandrians will secure a life of wealth, power, and prestige beyond their wildest dreams, and each decade, only the six most uniquely talented magicians are selected to be considered for initiation. (I don’t know about you but at the mere suggestion of magic I am a goner. TAKE MY MONEY! 😤)

9. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami

I’ve had the pleasure of reading Murakami for the first time four months ago, which then led to me being angry at myself for taking so long to read Murakami (❗️❗️❗️) In a Tokyo suburb, a young man named Toru Okada searches for his wife’s missing cat—and then for his wife as well—in a netherworld beneath the city’s placid surface. As these searches intersect, he encounters a bizarre group of allies and antagonists. Gripping, prophetic, and suffused with comedy and menace, this is an astonishingly imaginative detective story, an account of a disintegrating marriage, and an excavation of the buried secrets from Japan’s forgotten campaign in Manchuria during World War II.

10. Black Swans: Stories by Eve Babitz

“I’m always amazed at how books find us at the time we need them, as if there’s some omniscient, benevolent librarian in the sky.” Babitz’s collection of nine stories look back on the 1980s and early 1990s—decades of dreams, drink, and glimpses of a changing world. Black Swans further celebrates the phenomenon of Eve Babitz, cementing her reputation as the voice of a generation.

11. The Things We Leave Unfinished by Rebecca Yarros

Told in alternating timelines, The Things We Leave Unfinished examines the risks we take for love, the scars too deep to heal, and the endings we can’t bring ourselves to see coming. Twenty-eight-year-old Georgia Stanton has to start over after she gave up almost everything in a brutal divorce―the New York house, the friends, and her pride.

12. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

One of the most important and enduring books of the twentieth century, Their Eyes Were Watching God brings to life a Southern love story with the wit and pathos found only in the writing of Zora Neale Hurston. Out of print for almost thirty years—due largely to initial audiences’ rejection of its strong black female protagonist—Hurston’s classic has since its 1978 reissue become perhaps the most widely read and highly acclaimed novel in the canon of African-American literature.

13. The Love of My Life by Rosie Walsh

From the New York Times bestselling author of Ghosted comes a love story wrapped in a mystery: an up-all-night page-turner with a dark secret at its core. Emma loves her husband Leo and their young daughter Ruby: she’d do anything for them. But almost everything she’s told them about herself is a lie. And she might just have got away with it, if it weren’t for her husband’s job. Leo is an obituary writer; Emma a well-known marine biologist. When she suffers a serious illness, Leo copes by doing what he knows best—researching and writing about his wife’s life. But as he starts to unravel the truth, he discovers the woman he loves doesn’t really exist.

14. No Exit by Taylor Adams

A brilliant, edgy thriller about four strangers, a blizzard, a kidnapped child, and a determined young woman desperate to unmask and outwit a vicious psychopath. A kidnapped little girl locked in a stranger’s van. No help for miles. What would you do? There is no cell phone reception, no telephone, and no way out. One of her fellow travelers is a kidnapper. But which one? Trapped in an increasingly dangerous situation, with a child’s life and her own on the line, Darby must find a way to break the girl out of the van and escape.

15. Alone With You in the Ether by Olivie Blake

Two people meet in the armory of the Art Institute by chance. Prior to their encounter, he is a doctoral student who manages his destructive thoughts with compulsive calculations about time travel; she is a bipolar counterfeit artist undergoing court-ordered psychotherapy. After their meeting, those things do not change. Everything else, however, is slightly different.

Find anything you liked? Or have read before? Start a conversation in the comment section. P.s. my already bursting list is very much open to more recommendations. 😉