The Best Books of the Moment

The Best Books of the Moment

So many books, so little time… We, the digital booksellers of 24symbols, are set on helping you make the best of your time. This is why each week we present you a book that has caught our special attention. This may be a book that everybody is talking about, the debut novel from an author one should look out for or a hidden gem that we were lucky enough to bring to light. Check out the best books of the moment and find your next read. We made sure to include something for everyone’s taste:

The Club

Takis Würger

The debut novel of Germany’s rising literary star Takis Würger takes on fraternity rituals at Britain’s elite universities. THE CLUB starts like a fairy tale in which Hans grows up with loving parents in a German forest. However, it takes Würger only twenty pages to destroy the idyll and kill Hans’ parents to send him off to a lonely life at boarding school. His only relative is an aunt in England who has her own demons to deal with and is not apt to take Hans in but who offers to get him into Cambridge University if he helps her resolve a crime committed by one of their prestigious fraternities.

So Hans finds himself among the British elite with the mission to access their most inner circles. Being a journalist and member (or ex member?) of the Pitt Club portrayed in this novel, the author not only knows what he is talking about but also how to capture the reader’s attention. Fraternity clubs are known for their excesses and sadly the crimes committed in this novel may come as little surprise to most readers but Würger does a great job in crafting the plot and pulls you into the story from the very beginning. A real page-turner!

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Love and Other Moods

Crystal Z. Lee

A novel that takes us to the exotic buzz of Shanghai, the city where nights are not meant for sleeping. Please do read the prologue, despite the slightly annoying enumeration of just about everything that could be put in a list, it perfectly captures the vibe of this thrilling city. Shanghai is home to more than 200.000 expats, the ideal setting for Lee to delve into the problems of cultural differences, relationships, identity crises and the feeling of having no place to call home.

Naomi has just broken up with her fiancée and finds herself without a partner, job or apartment in Shanghai. Instead of going back to the States she stays and makes the city her own. Along with Naomi we get to know a handful of other interesting characters who are all trying to find their place in the never-resting megacity. But above all this novel is a declaration of love for Shanghai and a homage to those who have grown up in different cultures.

Those who have been to Shanghai will rejoice in memories and those who have not will long to go. As for most traveling is out of the question these times, this is as good as it can get…

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The Age of Skin

Dubravka Ugresic

Every now and then we cannot help but highlight a non-fiction book in this selection of the best books of the moment, especially if it is such a gem as this essay collection by Dubravka Ugresic. 

In seventeen essays written between 2014 and 2018, presented by  Open Letter in chronological order, Ugresic takes a critical stand on migration, exile and statelessness while she lashes out against the media, politics and economy alike. Her views are delivered in razor-sharp comments and sarcastic observations that from time to time may slap you in the face but also cause a hearty laughter. For example when she compares a poodle to “a vibrating dildo with silken white fur”.

Her train of thought speeds from one idea to the next, leaving the reader breathless; however, in the end all dots connect and one can only marvel at Ugresic’s lucid mind.

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Untraceable

Sergei Lebedev

Lebedev is one of Russia’s most celebrated writers and his works have been translated into multiple languages. This is his first thriller and fans of the genre might need to be warned that Lebedev is clearly more interested in analyzing evil, temptation and human character than creating a fast-paced plot.

Tension builds up slowly as we get to know the protagonists: On the one hand there is Kalitin, a former Soviet chemist who did research on lethal toxins and defected after the collapse of the Soviet Union. On the other hand there is Shershnev, a special forces agent who is sent to kill Kalitin after Russian generals come to believe that Kalitin is helping Western agents to investigate the killing of another Russian defector. A perfect book for readers who care for an intelligent plot and who are interested in the moral conflicts of the characters.

UK edition

US edition

Apartment

Teddy Wayne

A brilliant novel set in the 90s about two aspiring writers from very different backgrounds struggling to make their way in New York. Despite their differences they bond and our nameless narrator invites his newfound friend to move into his apartment. Insecure and “invisibly damaged” he finds himself surprisingly at ease with Billy. However, there is a sense of doom in the air as economic and social differences clearly outweigh the two guys’ bonding over common fears.

Wayne skillfully creates tension between the two and intersperses clues that in the end trigger an emotional tsunami with severe consequences. A truly spellbinding read which explores the universal fears of loneliness and failure and shows that while privilege is certainly a career booster, it does not entitle you to success.

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All That We Carried 

Erin Bartels

The forest has always been a place worshipped for its beauty and peace. Especially in today’s hectic everyday life, it has become a much sought-after retreat where one can find inner calmness among the whispers of the trees.

So it seems like a good idea that Melanie suggests a hike in order to reconnect with her sister Olivia. The two have hardly spoken since the fatal accident of their parents ten years ago. Alone in the wilderness Melanie hopes to address a few important topics. But the forest is not only a place of tranquility, it also bears many dangers. Faced with nature’s unpredictability, the different characters of the two sisters emerge even more and it looks like the hiking trip is turning into a disaster. Each interprets the different events in her own way and, how could it be otherwise, their perspectives clash completely.

Bartels uses these differences to raise many questions about life that will give you food for thought. It is a story about loss, belief and forgiveness with complex characters and a beautiful ending which leaves room for interpretation.

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Passenger 23

Sebastian Fitzek, translation by Jamie Bulloch

Known for diving deep into the cruelties of humankind, Sebastian Fitzek has penned yet another disturbing but superb thriller. The German author is a real phenomenon in his homeland, where all his thrillers have been bestsellers and several of his books (including Passenger 23) have been adapted to the screen.

Passenger 23 is a code that is used to refer to persons that go missing on cruise ships – whether by accident or suicide – and which implies that no real investigation follows because usually the body is never found. Police psychologist Martin Schwartz knows this just too well, both his wife and son went overboard on a cruise ship vacation and officials simply closed the case as murder-suicide. Five years later he is called to investigate a Passenger 23 incident on the same cruise ship his family disappeared from and this time he is determined to find out the truth. A truth that is hard to digest.

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The Way it Should Be

Christina Suzann Nelson

Life is a mess and the three protagonists of this book know it. Zara and Eve are twin sisters whose lives have separated but when Zara learns she has to take care of her sisters’ children, she jumps right in, even though se had no idea she was an aunt. Eve battles with addiction and is doing her best to free herself from the drugs. Luckily she is helped by Tiff, a woman who has lost her daughter to drug abuse and is now devoted to help others overcome their addiction.

Nelson talks about serious topics, not only drug addiction but also the difficulties of foster care, and does not shy away from portraying the shady sides of life. She does so in a realistic way and neither idealizes nor over-dramatizes her characters. Despite the dramatic themes of the novel, Nelson gives the read a warm and life-affirming message that will stay with you long after you have turned the last page.

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The Play’s the Thing

Jessica Barksdale Inclán

When thinking of romance, one cannot help but thinking of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. The play, as well as the playwright, have inspired countless lovers, songwriters and, of course, other authors. Jessica Barksdale Inclán offers us a very different take on Shakespeare and his work. The result is an absolutely delightful novel that will take you on an emotional rollercoaster, while traveling in time and place.

English professor and Shakespeare scholar Jessica Randall suddenly finds herself in the chambers of the one and only William Shakespeare. She is not the only one who is baffled, the poet is just as perplex and together they try to adapt to the situation while giving their best not to fall in love. The result is extremely funny and sexy at the same time, especially if you have a thing for Shakespeare 🙂

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An Arsène Lupin Omnibus

Maurice Leblanc

Discover the stories that inspired the Netflix series Lupin. No wonder that Assane Diop, protagonist of the successful streaming series, is fascinated by Leblanc’s Arsène Lupin. The charming gentleman thief has not only found his way into our digital bookshelves but also into our hearts with his utterly French sense of humor.

This collection compiles four of the many volumes that feature the charismatic Frenchman, including some of his encounters with a certain Holmlock Shears. Sounds familiar? Yes, Leblanc loved a little joke and introduced the beloved English consulting detective to his series. Shears arrives in Paris to give the French Chief-inspector Ganimard a hand. And rightly so, for Ganimard is hilariously incompetent and has no chance against Lupin, who constantly fools the police (and the reader).

Perfect for all fans of detective stories who like a little laugh and of course for fans of the Netflix series who want to learn a little more about Lupin. With an introduction by Sherlock Holmes expert David Stuart Davies.

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Through the Waters and the Wild

Greg Fields

We have been anticipating Greg Fields’ follow-up novel to his much acclaimed ARC OF THE COMET. Once again, we meet Conor Finnegan, this time in his early forties, while he is facing a crisis. Conor thought he had it all figured out but it seems life had other plans for him. Neither his personal life nor his career fulfils him and he feels the increasing need to give meaning to his existence.

The novel explores existential matters such as the passing of time, being true to oneself, while living up to the expectations of others, dealing with past mistakes, etc. As he is searching for the purpose of life, Conor finds council in the letters of his grandfather. Those letters, as well as Conor’s own thoughts, almost overflow with highly accurate observations on life’s dynamics. It is a journey full of surprises, sometimes good, sometimes bad, and it is up to us to deal with these ups and downs. Conor’s story reminds us how easy it is to lose track of what really matters and that it is never too late to turn things around.

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Into the Woods

David Mark

If you are looking for a chilling, slightly supernatural thriller, this one is for you! David Mark excels at creating unusual plots and INTO THE WOODS is no exception.

Our protagonist Rowan is a writer in distress as the deadline for his second true crime novel is approaching and he has not produced a single page. But not only the page is blank, his mind is too, because he has not a clue what he could possibly write about. Seeking for inspiration in his sister’s remote lake house, he comes across a local disappearance case 30 years ago. Three girls went into the woods with a stranger but only two came out. The remaining girls did not remember what happened and the case was closed and buried in the town’s collective memory. Rowan starts investigating and digs out horrors that threaten his own safety.

This is the first novel of a trilogy and as such Mark takes his time to introduce a wide range of absolutely loveable characters. But don’t be fooled, even though the story is slow at first, it is intense and will glue you to the pages throughout the whole book! We cannot wait for the next part of the series and hope that Mark will not suffer the same writer’s block as his protagonist…

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The Girls in Blue

Fenella J. Miller

Historical fiction at its best! With dozens of books published, Miller is known for her excellent research and courageous protagonists. Jane is eighteen years old when the news break that the war has started. She takes her chances and escapes her violent father to join the fight, more specifically the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force. This unique setting sets this book apart, as it allows Miller to introduce many interesting bits and pieces about women in WWII. Get ready to find out everything there is to know about the WAAF.

It is a very emotional read that will surely make you laugh and cry. Jane struggles to fight not only for her country but also for herself. She finds friends and love but is reluctant to give in to her feelings. Luckily Oscar is so smitten with her that he is determined to win her over at all costs. His resolution only grows when he learns about her troubled past. A terrific book that will hopefully be the start of a new WWII saga.

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One Night Two Souls Went Walking

Ellen Cooney

What is a soul? The nameless protagonist of Ellen Cooney’s latest novel is a chaplain and seeks for answers where maybe there are none. We accompany her on a nightshift that brings her to the side of many different patients. Some young, some old, some with severe health issues, others on their way to leave the hospital.

It is a beautifully quiet and uplifting novel that collects the experiences and attitudes of people in near-death situations. The protagonist is spiritual and at the same time down-to-earth, with a special gift to find the right words at the right time. She gives hope where there is very little left and concentrates on the important things of life. While this could easily turn sentimental, the protagonist is by no means a know-it-all who does everything right. Instead, she takes a pragmatic approach to her job and is not afraid of telling a little lie. A very special read that comes timely, as we can all use a big portion of hope!

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This Is Happiness

Niall Williams

Niall Williams is an exquisite storyteller who takes such great care in describing places and people that you feel as if you were right there with them.

Our protagonist Noel is a man in his 70s who remembers his youth when he returned to his grandparents’ village to recover from a crisis of faith (no small matter for an aspiring priest) and ends up making his first romantic experiences and finding true friendship. What makes this coming-of-age story so special is that it is told from the perspective of the aged Noel. His tender memories and reflections about time are poetic to say the least and make this book a perfect choice for the upcoming holidays!

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People of Abandoned Character

Clare Whitfield

What would you do if you thought the man you just married might be Jack the Ripper? What started out as a passionate love affair, soon turns into a true nightmare. Thomas, in the beginning quite the charming surgeon from a wealthy family, abuses Susannah physically and emotionally. He also disappears for days, only to return home with scratches on his face or blood-stained clothes. When Susannah realizes that his worrisome appearances coincide with the dates of the so-called Whitechapel murders, she fears that Thomas might be the man everybody is looking for. Or is her imagination running wild?

Clare Whitfield has delivered an astonishing debut novel that captures the atmosphere of London in the late 1880s with a modern and entertaining narrative voice. Susannah is a strong and very likeable character even though we cannot be sure how much of her account is influenced by the opium drops she takes to dull her senses. Prepare yourself for many surprising twists and turns that keep the reading pace fluid until the very end.

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Dark Days

D.W. Saur

Submerge yourself into the world of Sori, the complex fantasyland of D.W. Saur’s latest novel DARK DAYS. Sori is inhabited by several sects who live more or less peacefully together. However, as the title suggests, dark times lie ahead, as there is a secret plan to create war among the different sects. Maya, the strong-minded heroine of the novel, is the chosen one – “the one” to avoid war. As the story unfolds, she discovers that she has incredible powers.

Saur does a great job describing Sori, its inhabitants and their rituals in this novel. He creates an original world full of action and imagination. As Maya sets out to protect her land, she faces difficult choices and it is a real joy to watch her grow both in strength and wisdom. This is a powerful start to what promises to be an addictive new fantasy series. We are looking forward to reading more about Maya and Sori.

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Sooner or Later Everything Falls Into the Sea

Sarah Pinsker

Sarah Pinsker has bedazzled critics and readers alike with her dreamlike fiction that merges art and science. No wonder that she has become one of the most acclaimed science fiction writers of our times. She has been a finalist for the prestigious Hugo Award and has won the Sturgeon and Nebula Award. With over 50 short stories published, this collection has been long due and there is not a single chapter we would want to miss. 

The stories gathered in this volume take you on a wild journey to the past, the future and alienated versions of the present. They all share a weird, sometimes eerie, atmosphere and very relatable characters. Pinsker creates protagonists that one can easily identify with, even though the situations she describes are far from usual (yet always within the imaginable which makes them even more disturbing). Just take OUR LADY OF THE OPEN ROAD from 2015. The story envisions a grim social distancing scenario where musicians no longer give live concerts due to a pandemic and terrorists threats… Sounds familiar? You better start reading to see what else can be expected in the future!

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Love Me Like You Do 

Aimee Brown

A wonderful feel-good romance to forget the pains of the real world for a moment. Meet runaway bride Parker and Liam, a charming Southerner who has a broken heart of his own. Not much unlike WHEN HARRY MET SALLY, the two keep bumping into each other (in a much smaller time span). Parker has sworn to keep romance out of her life but it is not as easy as she thinks. As Parker and Liam take turns in telling the story, we get to know and love them both, hoping for them to make the right decisions while they are trying to heal and move on. 

If you love the exhilaration that lies in every beginning of a love story, the tension of what will come next, while secretly knowing that those two are just MFEO, this book is for you. And if you do not know what MFEO means, that is just one more reason to start reading LOVE ME LIKE YOU DO!

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Demise

John M. Del Vecchio

In his latest novel, New York Times bestselling author of THE 13th VALLEY surprises with a deeply emotional novel about the dangers of division and polarization of society but also about the importance of family, trust and friendship.

DEMISE is the story of John Pazunio, a man about to turn fifty who, in the time span of roughly 100 days, loses control of his seemingly perfect suburban life. Parallel to his personal downfall, we witness the decline of his neighborhood, as it is shaken by the economic consequences of a big corporate buyout, as well as the emotional aftermath of a horrific accident that killed several teenagers. The dramatic events in John’s and his friends’ lives alternate with John’s childhood memories and his “last thoughts” which hint at his imminent suicide. Del Vecchio does a great job capturing John’s different selves, from little Johnny-Panni, to grown up John and, ultimately, his suicidal self. 

Even though the book deals with personal and societal traumas that are frankly frightening (even more so because they are very real and present in today’s society), it is an uplifting read.

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Vampires of Portlandia

Jason Tanamor

This is not the typical Vampire story you may have in mind… Inspired by Filipino aswang lore, Jason Tanamor presents a fresh take on vampire fiction. Aswang refers to all kind of shapeshifting evil spirits, including vampires, werebeasts, witches, etc. But you will find that the aswang vampires are quite different from their Western cousins. Marcella Leones, head of an aswang vampire clan, has moved with her family from the Philippines to Portland. She instructs her family to blend in as well as they can but after her death, the orders are broken. Suddenly Portland’s murder rates increase dramatically and Marcella’s grandson Percival vows to find out what is going on.

Not only does this novel give fantastic (by all means) insight into Filipino mythology but also offers a close look on immigration and assimilation. If you are interested in vampires or folklore or if you are simply looking for an entertaining and original read, this book is for you!

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The Psychology of Money

Morgan Housel

It is not often that a non-fiction book finds its way into our list of the Best Books of the Moment. Yet this one is a jewel that we simply cannot ignore! THE PSYCHOLOGY OF MONEY offers a clear vision of capitalism, giving us a sight behind the curtains of Wall Street. Housel intersperses his findings with anecdotes of the usual suspects (Rockefeller, Warren Buffett, Bill Gates) but also of less known people such as janitor Ronald Read or those who could have done great if life hadn’t had other plans for them. These insertions make the book an entertaining read that will teach and delight you, even if you tend to skip the financial section of your newspaper.

You can read the twenty chapters about wealth, greed and happiness consecutively or individually. Especially interesting is Housel’s personal approach to building wealth. It is worth pointing out that he does not reduce wealth to financial wealth. The final chapter also stands out as it explains how the American consumers got to where they are today.

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All the Right Mistakes

Laura Jamison

This is the story about five women in their early forties who managed to stay friends since college. All of them are mothers and each has found her own way of juggling motherhood and work. When Heather, the most successful of the five in her career, publishes a book that analyses the key life “mistakes” of her friends, the friendship is at risk and the women start questioning their choices.

As the title suggests, this book considers mistakes not as something generally bad. Instead it argues that mistakes are necessary to find out who we are. How do we deal with the obstacles that we are faced with? There is no perfect plan to architect your life, no straight road to success. We get to know four different approaches to motherhood and work-life balance. Even though the author tends to explain too much, this is a great take on the different ways life can work out for you.

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High as the Waters Rise 

Anja Kampmann translation by Anne Posten

This astonishing debut novel by young German poet Anja Kampmann was one of the most celebrated novels in Germany after its publication in 2018. It is longlisted for the National Book Award for translated literature 2020.

HIGH AS THE WATERS RISE is a modern odyssey of an oil rig worker who has lost his friend to the sea at a work accident. It is a journey back to the roots, his friend’s as well as his own, only to discover that twelve years of moving from one oil platform to another has estranged him from the settled lives of the people he cares about. Kampmann picks up this alienation in beautiful images that will stick with you long after finishing the novel. Just as remarkable as the metaphorical language are the bits and pieces that are kept in the dark, thus emphasizing the man’s isolation, loss and sorrow.

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Every day we receive thousands of new books and we carefully select the ones that we believe will interest you most. Our recipe? A great book should give food for thought, it should move, educate and fascinate the reader. A book is a door to another world, and it is while reading how we discover different perspectives and widen our horizon. A book can change a person but be no fool, because just as Edmund Wilson said, “no two persons ever read the same book.” That is another beauty of books. There is always room for interpretation, imagination and discussion. That is why we invite you to comment the books you read, recommend them to your friends and discuss them with fellow digital readers on 24symbols.

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If you are looking for books that have been previously presented in this article, have a look at our digital bookshelf 24symbols RECOMMENDS.