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  • Writer's picturePatti Callahan Henry

AARP: 20 New Novels for Spring

Updated: Jan 24, 2022

Looking for a great novel? Here are some of our top picks to add to your spring reading list.

Thrillers, historical dramas and sweeping epics from top authors

by Caroline Leavitt and Christina Ianzito, AARP, March 3, 2021

Surviving Savannah by Patti Callahan

This absorbing historical novel by Callahan (author of Becoming Mrs. Lewis, among a stack of others) is based on a real-life event referred to as the “Titanic of the South": the 1838 sinking of the Pulaski, a luxury steamship, that killed many of Savannah's elite. The novel begins in modern times, with Savannah history professor Everly Winthrop drawn into the story while curating recently discovered artifacts for a museum collection. She reconstructs the experiences of two women from a family of 11 who were on the ship, one of whom, Augusta Longstreet, survived to tell her tale. The other, Augusta's niece Lilly Forsyth, was lost at sea with her young son. The author brings the characters to life in this moving and obviously deeply researched book. (March 9). Read More about Surviving Savannah. BERKLEY

Win by Harlan Coben

Mega-best-selling author Coben's latest entry in his Windsor ("Win") Horne Lockwood III series is predictably twisty — and we'd expect no less from the author of hot thrillers like Tell No One and Missing You. Wealthy, rule-breaking Win has the FBI on his speed dial, but he'd rather go rogue in solving a murder in a New York penthouse, where the body is found beside a Vermeer painting that had been stolen from Win's family. What's it doing there? And what might this crime have to do with the long-ago abduction of his cousin Patricia? He's on the case. And this time it's personal. (March 16) GRAND CENTRAL

Libertie by Kaitlyn Greenidge

This is a moving book by Kaitlyn Greenidge, a 2017 Whiting Award winner (for We Love You, Charlie Freeman). Greenidge bases her sophomore novel on the real-life story of Susan Smith McKinney Steward, the first Black female doctor in New York state, whose light skin opened opportunities. While Steward yearns for her daughter Libertie to don a stethoscope, too, Libertie's darker complexion makes her less accepted in society. Seeking a better future in Haiti, Libertie instead comes up against more discrimination from the men in charge, and must forge her own way to independence. (March 30) ALGONQUIN BOOKS

Of Women and Salt by Gabriela Garcia

A wonderful debut novel from Garcia — whose parents came to the U.S. from Cuba and Mexico — this story sweeps from 19th-century Cuba's cigar factories to modern-day Miami, tracking five generations of women. Carmen is a Cuban immigrant in Miami who struggles with her adult daughter, Jeanette, never revealing much about her own childhood and why she's estranged from her mother in Cuba. Jeanette decides to see her grandmother in Cuba, where she begins to learn about the family's painful past. Their story intersects with that of another mother and daughter who've attempted to migrate to the U.S. from Mexico, with harsh consequences. (March 30) FLATIRON

The Night Always Comes by Willy Vlautin

This is a fast and worthy read that you may end up devouring in a few sittings — it's that propulsive. Set mostly during two days and nights in Portland, Oregon, it's about a young woman emotionally and financially stretched to the brink. Lynette's living in a rental with her despondent mother and developmentally disabled brother, and desperate for the money to buy a home for the family. When she loses her mom's support for her homeownership dream, her frustration and despair set her off on a dangerous, lawless quest that grows wilder by the hour. You can't help but ache for Lynette, seemingly on a treadmill to nowhere. This is the sixth novel from Vlautin, who — fun fact — is also an accomplished musician (he was in the rock/alt-country band Richmond Fontaine). (April 6) HARPER

When a Stranger Comes to Town by the Mystery Writers of America

It's said that all great stories are either about a person going on a journey or a stranger coming to town. Hence the title of the Mystery Writers of America's new collection of 19 stories by the crème de la crème of mystery writers, including heavyweight scribes like Michael Connelly, Dean Koontz and Joe Hill. Edited by Michael Koryta (the best-selling author of 14 suspense novels), this anthology features enigmatic tales about, for instance, a newcomer in conflict with a busybody and a nurse coming to New York City to help COVID-19 patients and encountering a rape victim — with unexpected results — and is packed with enough secrets, sinister plots and mystery to entice any lover of the genre. (April 20) HANOVER SQUARE PRESS

Great Circle by Maggie Shipstead

This is a sweeping epic with brilliantly drawn characters by Shipstead — author of 2014's Astonish Me. The heroine, Marian Graves, is just a baby when she nearly drowns at sea with her twin brother, Jaimie, and her life is no less eventful while growing up as an aspiring pilot in Prohibition-era Montana, working as a bootlegger to squirrel money away for flying lessons. As an adult, she's a fiercely independent and eventually legendary pilot whose story is in the process of being captured on film in modern-day Los Angeles; the book jumps forward to the filming and the young actress who's playing her role. Don't miss this one. (May 4) KNOPF

Hour of the Witch by Chris Bohjalian

The best-selling Bohjalian has been translated into 35 languages, and three of his 21 books are now movies (including his recent twisty thriller The Flight Attendant, now on HBO Max). His latest book is about Mary Deerfield, a young Puritan woman in 1662 Boston who fights terrible marital abuse as her husband's second wife. She risks her very life in filing for divorce — a protest against domestic violence unheard of in 17th-century America. But Mary's brave choice has a price tag: Charged as a witch, she must now face trial. It's a probing page-turner about society's scapegoats and how elusive justice can be. (May 4) DOUBLEDAY

Summer on the Bluffs by Sunny Hostin

The View cohost, an Emmy award-winning journalist, has written her first novel about a dramatic, romantic season on Martha's Vineyard. It's an entertaining beach read set in Oak Bluffs, a real-life affluent black beach community on Martha's Vineyard (where Barack and Michelle vacation) during one life-altering summer. Afro-Latina lawyer Perry Soto is at her godmother Ama's beloved home for a relaxing, sunny break. When Ama announces she's giving up the house to go live with her lover in France, Perry and fellow godchildren Olivia and Billie realize how much this vacation home means to them, but each has secrets they don't want Ama to know (turns out she has her own secrets, too). (May 4) WILLIAM MORROW

Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir

Weir, the author of The Martian (made into the 2015 film starring Matt Damon), is back with an out-of-this-world tale melding fascinating science facts onto mind-bending fiction that — no surprise — is already being turned into a film (Ryan Gosling will star). The future is here, our Earth and our humanity are both at stake, and there is only one man who can save them: astronaut Ryland Grace. Unfortunately, he's alone on a tiny spaceship, with the rest of the crew dead, and no memory of who he is or what his mission was. Could an unexpected ally — who just might be an alien — help save our world from extinction and help Ryland remember? (May 4) BALLANTINE

The Secrets of Happiness by Joan Silber

The latest from Silber, a National Book Award winner for her 2017 novel Improvement, features six interlocking narrators from Greenwich Village to Bangkok, as they struggle to find the answer to a central question: What do we need to be happy? They include gay New York attorney Ethan, who discovers that his father has kept a secret second family with a Thai wife, a revelation with far-reaching repercussions. As Ethan connects to his two half brothers, he ends up in a complicated love triangle, while his American mother has to reckon with compromises from her past. Slowly and carefully, this disparate group of characters manages to connect, and each comes closer to understanding what some of those secrets to happiness might be. (May 4) COUNTERPOINT

Legacy by Nora Roberts

The blockbuster author offers a new standalone novel featuring her signature stellar mix of romance and suspense, with a strong female heroine and a mystery guaranteed to keep you guessing. It doesn't go well when Adrian meets her dad for the first time at age 7; he tries to kill her, but she's saved by her mother, Lina. Years later, the adult Adrian thinks she's put the past behind her, ambitiously expanding her successful yoga business and becoming increasingly high-profile, while Lina has become a multimillionaire with her own fitness brand. But when Adrian starts getting creepy, rhyming death threats — dismissed by her mother — both her new relationship with an old flame and her burgeoning empire get dangerously derailed. Can she find the killer before it's too late? (May 25) ST MARTINS PRESS

Also of Note

Paradise, Nevada by Dario Diofebi

An absorbing insider's look at the professional gamblers and casino workers in Las Vegas, living decidedly unglamorous lives, with drama that builds to an explosive end. The author, from Italy, played professional poker, which may be why his characters (including a young Italian pro player) ring true. (April 6)

The Devil's Hand by Jack Carr

The fourth book in Carr's Terminal List series is another intense international thriller featuring former Navy SEAL James Reece. He's now on a long-planned CIA mission related to the 9/11 attacks, facing down the threat of a potentially disastrous bioweapons attack. (April 13)

A Gambling Man by David Baldacci

The continuation of the blockbuster author's popular series that began with One Good Deed, centered on World War II veteran Aloysius Archer, the story, set in 1949, follows Archer as he heads cross-country for a job in California; then a detour in Reno sets him on a dangerous road. (April 15)

The Woman With the Blue Star by Pam Jenoff

The author of The Orphan's Tale writes about a young woman in the Krakow Ghetto who's forced to hide from the Nazis with her parents in the sewers beneath the city. She meets a wealthy Polish girl, and their bond is challenged as the threat grows. (May 4)

Things We Lost to the Water by Eric Nguyen

Nguyen's debut novel tells the story of an immigrant Vietnamese family — a woman and her two sons, whose father remains in Vietnam — who settle in New Orleans in the late 1970s and their challenges as their separation solidifies and disaster strikes the city. (May 4)

The Plot by Jean Hanff Korelitz

A true page-turner by the author of 2014's You Should Have Known (called The Undoing in the recent HBO version starring Nicole Kidman), the novel focuses on a writing professor, Jacob Bonner, who has a student with a fantastic story idea; after the student dies, Jake makes it his own, with serious consequences. (May 11)

While Justice Sleeps by Stacey Abrams

You know her as the Georgia politician influential in the 2020 election, but many of her fans know her as Selena Montgomery, author of romantic suspense fiction. This is her latest novel — her first without a pen name — a legal thriller about a Supreme Court law clerk who gets caught up in a web of intrigue. (May 11)

The Rock Eaters by Brenda Peynado

Peynado's debut short story collection includes wildly imaginative plots, magical realism and colorful characters. She touches on political issues and much stranger things — such as a kite maker who has complicated feelings toward dragonfly-like aliens. (May 11)


About the Authors

Caroline Leavitt is the author of 12 novels, most recently 2020's With or Without You. She's also cofounder of the book-lovers’ website A Mighty Blaze and writes a regular column, “Runs in the Family,” for Psychology Today.

Christina Ianzito is a Washington, D.C.-based journalist who joined AARP in 2010. She’s the travel and books editor for and AARP The Magazine, and also edits and writes health, entertainment and other stories for She received a 2020 Lowell Thomas Award for travel writing.

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