The Best Books of 2024 (So Far)


That’s right folks, we’re at the midway point of the year, which means it’s time to crown Book Riot’s Best Books of 2024 (so far)! Check out our favorite reads that were published between January 1st and June 30th of this year. We love them all and we hope you will too. Happy reading!

A Midnight Puzzle

by Gigi Pandian
Mystery/Thriller

I cannot get enough of Tempest Raj and her friends/family in the third book of the Secret Staircase Mystery series. Tempest Raj finds herself having to defend herself and her family once more from a client who claimed the family business nearly killed his wife and then from accusations that someone in her family killed that litigious client in a seemingly impossible crime. Plus, people claim Tempest’s mother’s vengeful spirit committed the crime. Tempest has to dig deep to find the solution to these threats.

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Clara Reads Proust

by Stéphane Carlier, transl. Polly Mackintosh
Fiction

Clara Reads Proust is a warm, tender, smart story about a young woman who is a little lost in life and begins to find her way thanks to a book—what’s not to love about that? She works at a slightly old-fashioned hairdresser in a small French town, and one day, a customer leaves behind a copy of the first volume of In Search of Lost Time, Marcel Proust’s epic classic series of novels. Intrigued—and almost despite herself— she begins to read until the book wends its way into her dreams and gives her the bravery to make hard choices. Clara Reads Proust is a slim novel with short chapters, perfect for the beach—a quick read that stays with you.

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Colton Gentry’s Third Act

by Jeff Zentner
romance

Jeff Zenter’s YA debut, The Serpent King, had me sobbing in public (compliment!), so I knew I was in for something special when I saw he was writing an adult romance. Zenter writes characters who grew up in oppressive, rural environments with such tenderness, and the stars of Colton Gentry’s Third Act are no exception. Country musician Colton Gentry has been thoroughly “cancelled” after expressing his deeply heartfelt opinions on guns to a crowd. Now, he’s resigned to being a nobody in his small Kentucky hometown. A reunion with Luann, his first love, changes everything. Did this book make me cry? Many times, and I am so thankful for it.

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Coming Home

by Brittney Griner with Michelle Burford
Nonfiction

When Brittney Griner was detained in Russia, I thought she was just unlucky. Anyone could forget medicine in their bag, so it was just a mistake, right? Wow, I was so very wrong.

BG takes you through all the obstacles — physical and emotional — that she and others close to her tackled to free her. She also articulates this against the legacy of racism and misogyny in America, doing the work of explaining why it wasn’t just about her or a simple mistake. I appreciate this book and respect her and her wife, Cherelle, for everything they’ve done to transform their suffering into something beneficial for others. A best read of 2024, no doubt.

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Diavola

by Jennifer Thorne
horror

This was exactly the book I needed to start the summer season. A superb horror tale for the poolside, Diavola has it all: a haunted Italian villa and the town that feeds it, family toxicity revved to perfectly-awkward-and-horrifying max, and embracing the darkness within us to get us out of the darkness. Anna Pace is a character you both cringe from and root for, with an ending that is as exhilarating as it is satisfying.

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Even If We’re Broken

by A.M. Weald
romance

There’s been a lot of focus lately on romantic comedies, but I’d argue not enough on romantic drama and the skill it takes to create a realistic happy ending for characters facing the kinds of challenges that can’t be explained away or brushed aside in the third act. Weald’s novel focuses on Ben and Kate, two archeologists and old friends who’ve lost touch but are coming back together for a summer dig. Between them, they’re dealing with anxiety, depression, chronic pain, and other issues, but the slow-burn story shows that struggles that are a part of someone’s life can also be a part of the life they build with someone they love.

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Four Squares

by Bobby Finger
Fiction

If I had gone into this book knowing it would cause me to confront my feelings about aging and loneliness so directly, I might have put it off for a bit. However, I’m so glad I went in clean and had a great experience with this touching, sweet book about a gay man finding a queer community again after his 60th birthday. Weaving together Artie’s experiences in 1992 and his life in 2022, Finger deftly guides us through all the feelings of hope, regret, loss, and joy that come with aging and leaving your comfort zone. It’s also a beautiful tribute to the queer community of New York City: past, present, and future.

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Funny Story

by Emily Henry
romance

Daphne’s fiance, Peter, tells her the morning after his bachelor party that he is leaving her for his childhood “best friend,” Petra because they have suddenly realized their feelings for each other. Daphne moves in with Petra’s (now ex)boyfriend, Miles, as a stopgap solution before she finds alternate accommodations. When Peter and Petra become engaged, Daphne has the brilliant idea that she and Miles should act as a couple just to get under their skin. Daphne and Miles each have issues of their own, and how they work around and with each other is so beautifully written that I shed tears as the book ended. Plus, it highlights the importance of new friendships and how someone like Daphne—or me—struggles despite knowing all of this. And trust me, even if you don’t identify with these parts, you will find something that will appeal to you. It’s kind of a funny story how that happens…

—Sonali Dabade

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Horror Movie

by Paul Tremblay
horror

Paul Tremblay’s horror novels are always on the top of my list in any given year, but Horror Movie might just be my favorite Paul Tremblay book of all time. It’s the story of a horror movie that never saw the light of day after terrible things happened on the set. Still, years later, the movie has built up a cult following and is being remade with a big Hollywood budget. At the center of the story is the unnamed narrator, who once played “The Thin Kid” in the original movie. As he returns to the world of the film for the remake, reality begins to blur. This novel was chilling, emotional, and so disturbing that it gave me nightmares.

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Icarus

by K. Ancrum
Young Adult

I don’t know how to be objective about this book. It’s one of those books that comes to you at a time when you really need to read it. It made me feel seen and helped me trace back instances of small, quiet love in my life. It’s a little bizarre, carefully tender, and quite gay. It follows a high school student who has housed too many secrets for far too many years. We watch him find trust and love in ways that were never present for him growing up. The author’s note reminded me that caring about the world and the people in it is a good thing—probably one of the best things we do for each other.

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James

by Percival Everett
Fiction

The narrator of James is Jim, the character from The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain. I love reading perspectives of characters who aren’t narrators in the originals. James starts with this retelling premise but brings so much more to it. James fights back against racist stereotypes, which ironically often means pretending to conform to them in front of slaveowners. James secretly learns to read and write, then teaches other enslaved people. I recognized many of Twain’s characters and events, but there were also lots of surprises that never would have happened in Twain’s original.

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Magical/Realism: Essays on Music, Memory, Fantasy, and Borders

by Vanessa Angelica Villareal
Nonfiction

I first added this book to my TBR thinking it was going to be straight “academic” examination of magical realism, and it was one of the best surprises of my recent reading life. Poet and artist Vanessa Angélica Villarreal felt called to Mexico when she became a mother, eager to reconnect with her ancestry. Unfortunately, her return from that journey was one marked by profound loss. This book is an exploration of the role of fantasy and magic both in our collective lives and in the author’s life story. She uses pop culture (The Neverending StoryGame of ThronesThe Witcher, and my forever fave, Selena) as well as personal anecdotes to ask: “What does the constant state of loss after colonization, enslavement, and dispossession do to the collective imagination?” What a beautiful blend of memoir and cultural criticism.

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Paige Not Found

by Jen Wilde
children’s

This is a fantastic middle grade novel centering a queer autistic tween who decides to take charge of her well-being. While reading her dad’s email, Paige discovers she’s part of an experiment. The Dot has been placed in several autistic children’s brains, tracking their vitals and releasing serotonin when kids are stressed. Paige was seven when The Dot was surgically placed inside her head, and she had no idea. The Dot is being sold to a social media company, and Paige is desperate to get it out. She contacts the other autistic kids in the study for help. This is such a powerful novel confronting stereotypes about autistic people head-on.

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Praisesong for the Kitchen Ghosts: Stories and Recipes from Five Generations of Black Country Cooks

by Crystal Wilkinson
Nonfiction

Former Kentucky Poet Laureate and O. Henry Prize-winning writer Crystal Wilkinson’s culinary memoir takes us on a journey through her ancestry by way of her family’s recipes. Hot mustard greens, jam cake, chicken and noodles, chess pie—the number of delicious dishes abound. As she shares her memories around cooking these long-treasured foods, Wilkinson includes snapshots from her life alongside the recipes, giving readers glimpses into her family’s past. Praisesong for the Kitchen Ghosts is a culinary revelation, a love letter to generations of Black Kentucky cooks and the dishes they create to show love to one another.

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Road to Ruin

by Hana Lee
Fantasy

Sparkrider Jin-Lu runs deliveries from one city to another on her magebike, risking the dangerous storms of the wastes to do so. It’s a dangerous job, but she’s good at it, and she gets good money ferrying love letters between the prince of one kingdom and the princess of another (although she is in love with them both, which makes things complicated). Everything goes to hell when the princess needs Jin-Lu’s help to flee her city, and they’re all entangled in a plot to overthrow the current order of their world. I’m obsessed with this book, an electrifying debut with polyamorous rep, Mad Max-like action, and compelling protagonists.

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Running Close to the Wind

by Alexandra Rowland
Fantasy

Alexandra Rowland’s Ottoman-inspired fantasy novels have become favorites for me this year. In this book, funnier and much more sarcastic in tone than A Taste of Gold and Iron, a crew of pirates attempt to learn the secrets of traveling the serpent-infested seas after a former intelligence officer / current bard steals classified documents from the most powerful nation in the world. It’s a rollicking good time. Highlights include: the world’s most ridiculous (and sure to be polyamorous) love triangle, a pirate baking competition so contentious guards are required to protect each cake, and a narrator who is a little shit in the best way.

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Splinters

by Leslie Jamison
Nonfiction

In this memoir of early motherhood and divorce, the author examines why her marriage fell apart before her daughter turned one and how to chart a very different path forward than the one she imagined. It’s a story about how Jamison learned to balance the push and pull of being both an artist and a mother (but not a wife). It’s a story, more broadly, about self-romanization versus self-discovery. It felt like a strange book to become completely engrossed in when I was newly married and pregnant this winter. But from page one I was completely captivated by both the storytelling and the beautiful prose.

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The Book of Love

by Kelly Link
Fantasy

I’ll never tire of telling you that Kelly Link is the queen. So bow down, this year she gifted us her debut novel. It is a fantasy of epic proportions, an imaginative adventure full of magic, love, and sadness. It is the story of three no-longer-dead teens in Massachusetts helping their not-just-a-music-teacher carry out magical tasks and solve the mystery of their deaths. Link doesn’t pull any punches as we follow along as the trio looks to keep their second chances while dealing with the supernatural and the very real, complicated bonds of family and love. This isn’t just a novel, it’s a gorgeous feast for your occipital-temporal region.

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The Butcher of the Forest

by Premee Mohamed
Fantasyhorror

What the author does with this book is the proper way to write about fairies, which is to say, the fae are terrifying and demented and never to be trusted. All the locals know that anyone who goes into the north woods never comes back out. Except, one person has: Veris Thorn. Now the Tyrant is forcing Veris to go back into the woods for a task. She has one day to get in and out, or else the creatures of the forest will claim her and what the Tyrant has lost. If she doesn’t complete this task, the Tyrant will raze her entire village to the ground. This book had me so caught up while reading it that I had to repeatedly remind myself to breathe.

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The Other Side of Disappearing

by Kate Clayborn
Mystery/Thrillerromance

This genre-bending book combines romance and high-stakes emotional mystery. Jess Greene has spent her adult life caring for and protecting her younger sister, Teegan. When a viral podcast host and her handsome producer show up on Jess’s doorstep, she fears everything she worked so hard to protect is threatened. Teegan contacted the podcasters about a con man her mother may have run away with, starting a road trip to find the mother Jess never wanted to look for. Written with Clayborn’s typical meticulous thoughtfulness, you’ll have a hard time not falling for every character in this book.

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The Sins on Their Bones

by Laura R. Samotin
Fantasy

In a gut-punch of a queer Jewish folklore-inspired dark fantasy, former Tzar, Dimitri, may still have the queerest, deadliest, and loveliest friends, but ever since his husband, Alexey, came back from the dead and overthrew him, they’ve been in hiding. Dimitri’s spymaster, Vasily, hopes that by infiltrating the court, he can gather intelligence to take back the throne. But Alexey will summon any demon to build a great empire, and he won’t let a little thing like morality stop him. To counteract Alexey’s evil, Dimitri and Vasily must risk it all—even learning dark magic that could corrupt their souls—in an evocative series debut.

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Theophanies

by Sarah Ghazal Ali
poetry

Bursting with angels, unfurling, and awe, Ali’s marvelous debut, page after page, dazzles. Through a “Matrilineage” series, ghazals, litanies, and self-portraits, this book delves into dreams, family, faith, names, and womanhood. In January, I let the poems wash over me. For my second read, I looked up scriptural figures, words like ichor, and Leila Chatti’s “Confession” (mentioned in the “Notes”). Maybe next time I’ll star every appearance of feathers, adding to the marginalia of loved-on lines like these from “Aurat:” “Desire made a door of me / and I kept it ajar.” All of this to say: Theophanies belongs in hands, totes, and on nightstands.

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There’s Always This Year: On Basketball and Ascension

by Hanif Abdurraqib
Nonfiction

Abdurraqib uses basketball’s influence throughout his life as a vehicle to deeply explore every emotion (love, fear, passion…), society, community, family, friends, death…in the most beautiful, deeply insightful ways. It’s impossible for the book to not change you in some way, or burrow somewhere inside like a seed to later bloom. His beautiful brain and soul shine in all of his books—regardless of whether you think the topics are for you, do yourself the biggest favor and read them. Tip: read the audiobook first (his narration is chef’s kiss), then buy a print copy to mark all the exceptional lines.

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We Used to Live Here

by Marcus Kliewer
horrorMystery/Thriller

The story starts unassumingly enough. A young woman and her long-term partner purchase a house, intending to fix it up and flip it. One evening, the doorbell rings. It’s a man who allegedly grew up in the house, and he wants to show his family around. Eve lets them in…and soon finds it impossible to get rid of them. As the night goes on, a sense of creeping dread builds and things go slowly but wildly off the rails. Is Eve losing it? Overreacting? Slipping into an alternate dimension? Terrified as I was, I nevertheless made it to the end and still don’t know.

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Women! In! Peril!

by Jessie Ren Marshall
Science Fiction

From a college dance studio to a spaceship holding humanity’s last hope, these short stories star dynamic women in a variety of high-stakes situations. Playwright Jessie Ren Marshall’s characters are razor-sharp, and her stories about womanhood, queerness, and Asian American identity are darkly funny and thought-provoking. Set against speculative and real-world backdrops, this is one of those collections where every single story punched me right in the gut. And that cover is incredible! I can’t get enough of Women! In! Peril!

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You Should Be So Lucky

by Cat Sebastian
romance

After We Could Be So Good, I wasn’t sure how Cat Sebastian would manage to write another mid-century story that matched the wonder and beauty of Nick and Andy’s story. And then, we met Mark and Eddie. Set in the same universe as WCBSG, You Should Be So Lucky gives us another quiet story about two men who are searching for their best lives after a shocking change—for Mark, the death of a partner, and Eddie being traded to a team that hates him. They get thrown together in a surprising turn of events: artsy, bookish Mark is asked to write about sports, Eddie in particular. But they come to understand each other in a way nobody else does.

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