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 October 2023 LibraryReads list includes:
Wildfire by Hannah Grace
Maple Hills students Russ Callaghan and Aurora Roberts cross paths at a party celebrating the end of the academic year, where a drinking game results in them having a passionate one-night stand. Never one to overstay her welcome (or expect much from a man), Aurora slips away before Russ even has the chance to ask for her full name.
Imagine their surprise when they bump into each other on the first day of the summer camp where they are both counselors, hoping to escape their complicated home lives by spending the summer working. Russ hopes if he gets far enough away from Maple Hills, he can avoid dealing with the repercussions of his father’s gambling addiction, while Aurora is tired of craving attention from everyone around her, and wants to go back to the last place she truly felt at home.
Russ knows breaking the camp’s strict “no staff fraternizing” rule will have him heading back to Maple Hills before the summer is over, but unfortunately for him, Aurora has never been very good at caring about the rules. Will the two learn to peacefully coexist? Or did their one night together start a fire they can’t put out?
Let Him In by William Friend
Alfie wakes one night to find his twin daughters at the foot of his bed, claiming there’s a shadowy figure in their bedroom. When no such thing can be found, he assumes the girls had a nightmare.
He isn’t surprised that they’re troubled. Grief has made its home at Hart House: nine months ago, the twins’ mother Pippa died unexpectedly, leaving Alfie to raise them alone. And now, when the girls mention a new imaginary friend, it seems like a harmless coping mechanism. But the situation quickly develops into something more insidious. The girls set an extra place for him at the table. They whisper to him. They say he’s going to take them away…
Alfie calls upon Julia—Pippa’s sister and a psychiatrist—to oust the malignant tenant from their lives. But as Alfie himself is haunted by visions and someone watches him at night, he begins to question the true character of the force that has poisoned his daughters’ minds, with dark and violent consequences.
Whatever this “friend” is, he doesn’t want to leave. Alfie will have to confront his own shameful secrets, the dark past of Hart House, and even the bounds of reality—or risk taking part in an unspeakable tragedy.
The Hurricane Wars by Thea Guanzon
All Talasyn has ever known is the Hurricane Wars. Growing up an orphan in a nation under siege by the ruthless Night Emperor, Talasyn has found her family among the soldiers who fight for freedom. But she is hiding a deadly secret: light magic courses through her veins, a blazing power believed to have been wiped out years ago that can cut through the Night Empire’s shadows.
Prince Alaric, the emperor’s only son and heir, has been forged into a weapon by his father. Tasked with obliterating any threats to the Night Empire’s rule with the strength of his armies and mighty Shadow magic, Alaric has never been bested. That is until he sees Talasyn burning brightly on the battlefield with the magic that killed his grandfather, turned his father into a monster, and ignited the Hurricane Wars. In a clash of light and dark, their powers merge and create a force the likes of which has never been seen.
Talasyn and Alaric both know this war can only end with them. But a greater threat is coming, and the strange new magic they can create together could be the only way to overcome it. Thrust into an uneasy alliance, they will confront the secrets at the heart of the war and find, in each other, a searing passion–one that could save their world…or destroy it.
The Leftover Woman by Jean Kwok
Jasmine Yang arrives in New York City from her rural Chinese village without money or family support, fleeing a controlling husband, on a desperate search for the daughter who was taken from her at birth–another female casualty of China’s controversial One Child Policy. But with her husband on her trail, the clock is ticking, and she’s forced to make increasingly desperate decisions if she ever hopes to be reunited with her daughter.
Meanwhile, publishing executive Rebecca Whitney seems to have it all: a prestigious family name and the wealth that comes with it, a high-powered career, a beautiful home, a handsome husband, and an adopted Chinese daughter she adores. She’s even hired a Chinese nanny to help her balance the demands of being a working wife and mother. But when an industry scandal threatens to jeopardize not only Rebecca’s job but her marriage, this perfect world begins to crumble and her role in her own family is called into question.
Better Hate Than Never by Chloe Liese
Katerina Wilmot and Christopher Petruchio shared backyards as kids, but as adults they won’t even share the same hemisphere. That is, until Kate makes a rare visit home, and their fiery animosity rekindles into a raging inferno.
Despite their friends’ and families’ pleas for peace, Christopher is unconvinced Kate would willingly douse the flames of their enmity. But when a drunken Kate confesses she’s only been hostile because she thought he hated her, Christopher vows to make peace with Kate once and for all. Tempting as it is to be swept away by her nemesis-turned-gentleman, Kate isn’t sure she can trust his charming good-guy act.
When Christopher’s persistence and Kate’s curiosity lead to an impassioned kiss, they realize “peace” is the last thing that will ever be possible between them. As desire gives way to deeper feelings, Kate and Christopher must decide if it’s truly better to hate than to never risk their hearts—or if they already gave them away long ago.
West Heart Kill by Dann McDorman
An isolated hunt club. A raging storm. Three corpses, discovered within four days. A cast of monied, scheming, unfaithful characters.
When private detective Adam McAnnis joins an old college friend for the Bicentennial weekend at the exclusive West Heart club in upstate New York, he finds himself among a set of not-entirely-friendly strangers. Then the body of one of the members is found at the lake’s edge; hours later, a major storm hits. By the time power is restored on Sunday, two more people will be dead…
A Holly Jolly Ever After by Julie Murphy and Sierra Simone
Kallum Liebermanis the funny one. As the arguably lesser of the three former members of the boy band INK, he enjoyed his fifteen minutes of fame and then moved home where he opened a regional pizza chain called Slice, Slice, Baby! He’s living his best dad bod life, hooking up with bridesmaids at all his friends’ weddings. But after an old one-off sex tape is leaked and quickly goes viral, Kallum decides he’s ready to step into the spotlight again, starring in a sexy Santa biopic for the Hope Channel.
Winnie Baker did everything right. She married her childhood sweetheart, avoided the downfalls of adolescent stardom, and transitioned into a stable adult acting career. Hell, she even waited until marriage to have sex. But after her perfect life falls apart, Winnie is ready to redefine herself—and what better way than a steamier-than-a-steaming-hot-mug-of-cider Christmas movie?
With decade old Hollywood history between them, Winnie and Kallum are both feeling hesitant about their new situation as costars…especially Winnie who can’t seem to fake on screen pleasure she’s never experienced in real life. She’s willing to do the pleasure research—for science and artistic authenticity, of course. And there’s no better research partner than her bridesmaid sex tape hall of fame costar, Kallum. But suddenly, Kallum’s teenage crush on Winnie is bubbling to the surface and Winnie might be catching feelings herself.
Let Us Descend by Jesmyn Ward
Annis, sold south by the white enslaver who fathered her, is the reader’s guide through this hellscape. As she struggles through the miles-long march, Annis turns inward, seeking comfort from memories of her mother and stories of her African warrior grandmother. Throughout, she opens herself to a world beyond this world, one teeming with of earth and water, of myth and history; spirits who nurture and give, and those who manipulate and take. While Ward leads readers through the descent, this, her fourth novel, is ultimately a story of rebirth and reclamation.
Midnight is the Darkest Hour by Ashley Winstead
In her small hometown, librarian Ruth Cornier has always felt like an outsider, even as her beloved father rains fire-and-brimstone warnings from the pulpit at Holy Fire Baptist.
Unfortunately for Ruth, the only things the townspeople fear more than the God and the Devil are the myths that haunt the area, like the story of the Low Man, a vampiric figure said to steal into sinners’ bedrooms and kill them on moonless nights. When a skull is found deep in the swamp next to mysterious carved symbols, Bottom Springs is thrown into uproar—and Ruth realizes only she and Everett, an old friend with a dark past, have the power to comb the town’s secret underbelly in search of true evil.
The Unmaking of June Farrow by Adrienne Young
In the small mountain town of Jasper, North Carolina, June Farrow is waiting for fate to find her. The Farrow women are known for their thriving flower farm—and the mysterious curse that has plagued their family line. The whole town remembers the madness that led to Susanna Farrow’s disappearance, leaving June to be raised by her grandmother and haunted by rumors.
It’s been a year since June started seeing and hearing things that weren’t there. Faint wind chimes, a voice calling her name, and a mysterious door appearing out of nowhere—the signs of what June always knew was coming. But June is determined to end the curse once and for all, even if she must sacrifice finding love and having a family of her own.
After her grandmother’s death, June discovers a series of cryptic clues regarding her mother’sdecades-old disappearance, except they only lead to more questions. But could the door she once assumed was a hallucination be the answer she’s been searching for? The next time it appears, June realizes she can touch it and walk past the threshold. And when she does, she embarks on a journey that will not only change both the past and the future, but also uncover the lingering mysteries of her small town and entangle her heart in an epic star-crossed love.
Straw Dogs of the Universe by Ye Chun
After her village is devastated by famine, 10-year-old Sixiang is sold to a human trafficker for a bag of rice and six silver coins. Her mother is reluctant to let her go, but the promise of a better life for her beloved daughter ultimately sways her. Arriving in America with the profits from her sale and a single photograph of Guifeng, her absent father, Sixiang journeys across an unfamiliar American landscape in the hopes of reuniting her family.
As she makes her way through an unforgiving new world, her father, a railroad worker in California, finds his attempts to build a life for himself both upended and defined by along-lost love and the seemingly inescapable violence of the American West. A generational saga ranging from the villages of China to the establishment of the transcontinental railroad and the anti-Chinese movement in California, Straw Dogs of the Universe considers the tenacity of family ties and the courage it takes to survive in acountry that rejects you, even as it relies upon your labor.
The Comfort of Crows: A Backyard Year by Margaret Renkl
As we move through the seasons—from a crow spied on New Year’s Day, its resourcefulness and sense of community setting a theme for the year, to the lingering bluebirds of December, revisiting the nest box they used in spring—what develops is a portrait of joy and joy in the ongoing pleasures of the natural world, and grief over winters that end too soon and songbirds that grow fewer and fewer. Along the way, we also glimpse the changing rhythms of a human life. Grown children, unexpectedly home during the pandemic, prepare to depart once more. Birdsong and night-blooming flowers evoke generations past. The city and the country where Renkl raised her family transform a little more with each passing day. And the natural world, now in visible flux, requires every ounce of hope and commitment from the author—and from us. For, as Renkl writes, “radiant things are bursting forth in the darkest places, in the smallest nooks and deepest cracks of the hidden world.”