LibraryReads is the monthly nationwide library staff picks list for adult fiction and non-fiction. Rather than picking “the best” of anything, LibraryReads represents collective favorites—the books library staff across the U.S. loved reading and cannot wait to share. The December 2023 LibraryReads list includes:
Raiders of the Lost Heart by Jo Segura
Archaeologist Dr. Socorro “Corrie” Mejía has a bone to pick. Literally.
It’s been Corrie’s life goal to lead an expedition deep into the Mexican jungle in search of the long-lost remains of her ancestor, Chimalli, an ancient warrior of the Aztec empire. But when she is invited to join an all-expenses-paid dig to do just that, Corrie is sure it’s too good to be true…and she’s right.
As the world-renowned expert on Chimalli, by rights Corrie should be leading the expedition, not sharing the glory with her disgustingly handsome nemesis. But Dr. Ford Matthews has been finding new ways to best her since they were in grad school. Ford certainly isn’t thrilled either—with his life in shambles, the last thing he needs is a reminder of their rocky past.
But as the dig begins, it becomes clear they’ll need to work together when they realize a thief is lurking around their campsite, forcing the pair to keep their discoveries—and lingering attraction—under wraps. With money-hungry artifact smugglers, the Mexican authorities, and the lies between them closing in, there’s only one way this all ends—explosively.
The Couple in the Photo by Helen Cooper
Lucy and her husband, Adam, have been best friends with another couple, Cora and Scott for years. The four are practically family at this point–they vacation together, co-own a beach cottage, and their young children are inseparable. So Lucy is devastated when, while looking at a colleague’s photos of a trip to the Malives, she spots a picture of Scott, apparently on a luxurious holiday with another woman.
Lucy is determined to protect her best friend from her husband’s seeming infidelity, but when she learns that the woman in the photo has gone missing, she can’t help but fear that Scott was involved. As she searches for answers, she uncovers secrets about her friends and her own husband that could destroy the wonderful lives they have built…and she suspects that everybody around her knows much more about the missing woman than they are letting on. Is Lucy actually the one most in the dark? If so, what are the consequences of discovering the truth?
The Curse of Penryth Hall by Jess Armstrong
After the Great War, American heiress Ruby Vaughn made a life for herself running a rare bookstore alongside her octogenarian employer and house mate in Exeter. She’s always avoided dwelling on the past, even before the war, but it always has a way of finding her. When Ruby is forced to deliver a box of books to a folk healer living deep in the Cornish countryside, she is brought back to the one place she swore she’d never return. A more sensible soul would have delivered the package and left without rehashing old wounds. But no one has ever accused Ruby of being sensible. Thus begins her visit to Penryth Hall.
A foreboding fortress, Penryth Hall is home to Ruby’s once dearest friend, Tamsyn, and her husband, Sir Edward Chenowyth. It’s an unsettling place, and after a more unsettling evening, Ruby is eager to depart. But her plans change when Penryth’s bells ring for the first time in thirty years. Edward is dead; he met a gruesome end in the orchard, and with his death brings whispers of a returned curse. It also brings Ruan Kivell, the person whose books brought her to Cornwall, the one the locals call a Pellar, the man they believe can break the curse. Ruby doesn’t believe in curses—or Pellars—but this is Cornwall and to these villagers the curse is anything but lore, and they believe it will soon claim its next victim: Tamsyn.
The Fake Mate by Lana Ferguson
Mackenzie Carter has had some very bad dates lately. Model train experts, mansplainers, guys weirdly obsessed with her tail—she hasn’t had a successful date in months. Only a year out of residency, her grandmother’s obsession with Mackenzie finding the perfect mate to settle down with threatens to drive Mackenzie barking mad. Out of options, it feels like a small thing to tell her grandmother that she’s met someone. That is, until she blurts out the name of the first man she sees and the last man she would ever date: Noah Taylor, the big bad wolf of Denver General.
Noah Taylor, interventional cardiologist and all around grump, has spent his entire life hiding what he is. With outdated stigmas surrounding unmated alphas that have people wondering if they still howl at the moon, Noah has been careful to keep his designation under wraps. It’s worked for years, until an anonymous tip has everything coming to light. Noah is left with two options: come clean to the board and risk his career—or find himself a mate. The chatty, overly friendly ER doctor asking him to be her fake boyfriend on the same day he’s called to meet the board has to be kismet, right?
Mackenzie will keep her grandmother off her back, and Noah will get a chance to prove he can continue to work without a real mate—a mutually beneficial business transaction, they both rationalize. But when the fake-mate act turns into a very real friends-with-benefits arrangement, lines start to blur, and they quickly realize love is a whole different kind of animal.
Familia by Lauren E. Rico
As the fact checker for a popular magazine, Gabby DiMarco believes in absolute, verifiable Truths—until they throw the facts of her own life into question. The genealogy test she took as research for an article has yielded a baffling result: Gabby has a sister—one who’s been desperately trying to find her. Except, as Gabby’s beloved parents would confirm if they were still alive, that’s impossible.
Isabella Ruiz can still picture the face of her baby sister, who disappeared from the streets of San Juan twenty-five years ago. Isabella, an artist, has fought hard for the stable home and loving marriage she has today—yet the longing to find Marianna has never left. At last, she’s found a match, and Gabby has agreed to come to Puerto Rico.
But Gabby, as defensive and cautious as Isabella is impulsive, offers no happy reunion. She insists there’s been a mistake. And Isabella realizes that even if this woman is her sister, she may not want to be.
On the Plus Side by Jenny L. Howe
Everly Winters is perfectly happy to navigate life like a good neutral paint color: appreciated but unnoticed. That’s why she’s still a receptionist instead of exploring a career in art, why she lurks but never posts on the forums for her favorite makeover show, On the Plus Side, and why she’s crushing so hard on her forever-unattainable co-worker. When no one notices you, they can’t reject you or insist you’re too much.
This plan is working perfectly until someone secretly nominates Everly for the next season of On the Plus Side. Overwhelmed by the show’s extremely extroverted hosts and how much time she’ll have to spend on screen, she finds comfort in a surprising friendship with the grumpy but kind cameraman, Logan. Soon Everly realizes that he’s someone she doesn’t mind being noticed by. In fact, she might even like it.
But when their growing connection is caught on camera, it sends the show’s ratings into a frenzy. Learning to embrace all of herself on national TV is hard enough; can Everly risk heartbreak with the whole world watching?
The Other Mothers by Katherine Faulkner
When a young nanny dies under mysterious circumstances near new mom Tash’s home, she is certain that this could be the story to relaunch her journalism career.
Meanwhile, she also needs to find a local playgroup for her son. Nearby is the gorgeous neighborhood filled with wealthy and friendly families, stunning houses, and lavish playdates. But when another young woman is found dead, it’s clear there’s much more to the community than meets the eye and the more Tash investigates, the more she’s led uncomfortably close to the mothers in her son’s playgroup.
Are these women really her friends? Or is there another, more dangerous reason why she has been accepted into their exclusive world? Who, exactly, is investigating who?
Rebecca, Not Becky by Christine Platt and Catherine Wigginton Greene
De’Andrea Whitman, her husband Malik, and their five-year-old daughter, Nina, are new to the upper-crust white suburb of Rolling Hills, Virginia—a move motivated by circumstance rather than choice. De’Andrea is heartbroken to leave her comfortable life in the Black oasis of Atlanta, and between her mother-in-law’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis, her daughter starting kindergarten, and the overwhelming whiteness of Rolling Hills, she finds herself struggling to adjust to her new community. To ease the transition, her therapist proposes a make a white girlfriend.
When Rebecca Myland learns about her new neighbors, the Whitmans, she’s thrilled. As chair of the Parent Diversity Committee at her daughters’ school, she’s championed racial diversity in the community—and what could be better than a brand-new Black family? It’s serendipitous when her daughter, Isabella, and Nina become best friends on the first day of kindergarten. Now, Rebecca can put everything she’s learned about antiracism into practice—especially those oh-so-informative social media posts. And finally, the Parent Diversity Committee will have some… well, diversity. Following her therapist’s suggestion, De’Andrea reluctantly joins Rebecca’s committee. The painfully earnest white woman is so overly eager it makes De’Andrea wonder if Rebecca’s therapist told her to make a Black friend! But when Rolling Hill’s rising racial sentiments bring the two women together in common cause, they find it isn’t the only thing they have in common.
This Spells Love by Kate Robb
When Gemma Wilde gets dumped by her long-term boyfriend, she reacts the way any reasonable twenty-eight-year-old would: by getting drunk with her sister, kooky aunt, and best friend, Dax, and performing a love cleansing spell to forget all about her ex. Sure, it sounds a little crazy, but nothing else has worked, so why not try it? They follow the instructions, complete with an absolutely platonic kiss from Dax to seal the deal, and Gemma falls asleep in a margarita haze, thinking nothing of it.
But when she wakes up, she realizes that this silly spell has worked. Not only has she never dated her ex; her life looks completely different –and spoiler alert, the grass is not greener in the alternate reality. The worst part of all: Dax has no idea who she is.
To get back to her old life, Gemma must reverse the spell before the next full moon. That means she has one month to convince a now near-stranger, Dax, to become friends with her in order to get his kiss. But as Gemma carries out her plans, she finds herself falling for him, and begins to wonder whether she even wants to go back to the way things were.
The Vacation by John Marrs
For eight strangers in a Los Angeles backpacking hostel, even the other side of the world isn’t far enough. The craving for a new identity and the chance to start again is something they have in common. But the search for a fresh start isn’t as easy as they’d imagined.
And they soon discover that it doesn’t matter where you are or who you are – if you can’t lay the past to rest, coincidence, fate and deception have a way of catching up with you when you least expect it.
Bonus Pick: Perfect Little Lives by Amber and Danielle Brown
Simone’s mother was murdered when she was thirteen. When her father was convicted, everything changed. Overnight, Simone went from living in a wealthy white neighborhood to scraping by. Ten years later, Simone has given up on her dreams and lives a quiet life, writing book reviews and getting serious with her boyfriend. But with a true crime documentarian hounding her for a scoop and a surprise encounter with her childhood next-door neighbor, Hunter, the past seems set on haunting her. And after Hunter reveals that his father and her mother had a years-long affair, Simone is determined to find out who really killed her mother. Simone is convinced that all evidence points to Hunter’s father, a renowned judge who had everything to lose if his affair–and his nascent love child–came to light. Playing the game from all sides, Simone enlists Hunter’s help in her investigation into his family–whether he realizes it or not. But is she so desperate for closure that she’ll risk imploding her carefully rebuilt life?
Notable Nonfiction: Airplane Mode an Irreverent History of Travel by Shahnaz Habib
For Shahnaz Habib, an Indian Muslim woman, travel has always been a complicated pleasure. Yet, journeys at home and abroad have profoundly shaped her life. In this inquiring and surprising debut, Habib traces a history of travel from pilgrimages to empires to safaris, taking on colonialist modes of thinking about travel and asking who gets to travel and who gets to write about it.
Threaded through the book are inviting and playful analyses of obvious and not-so-obvious travel artifacts: passports, carousels, bougainvilleas, guidebooks, expressways, the idea of wanderlust. Together, they tell a subversive history of travel as a Euro-American mode of consumerism—but as any traveler knows, travel is more than that. As an immigrant whose loved ones live across continents, Habib takes a deeply curious and joyful look at a troubled and beloved activity.