Best Alternate History Novels

When it comes to science fiction, sometimes the best subject matter isn’t just speculation on what might be coming in the future, but rather on what might have been. Alternate history is a subgenre that’s provided rich fodder for great sci-fi writers to go back to key junctures in time and simply imagine how the world would be different today if things had gone differently during some of history’s biggest turning points. Whether its something as simple as different types of technology being developed at different time periods, or something as Earth-shattering as the opposite side winning a World War, alternate history novels can not only provide vividly imaginative escapism, but can also provide incisive social or political commentary and tackle some heavy philosophical questions.

Man in the High CastleThe Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick

The name Philip K. Dick is virtually synonymous with science fiction, and one of his greatest achievements was the alternate history masterpiece The Man in the High Castle. This book asks the question of what the world might look like had the Axis Powers prevailed in World War II. Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan have cleaved the former United States in two. Now engaged in a Cold War as the uncontested superpowers of the world, Germany controls the East Coast and Japan the West Coast, and the two territories are separated from each other by a Rocky Mountain buffer zone. With Hitler succumbing to syphilis, Americans have a whole new set of dictators to worry about.  This electrifying book follows a loose collection of characters as they live under the iron fist of the various totalitarian overlords.



The Yiddish Policemen’s Union by Michael Chabon

An alternate version of World War II also plays a role in Michael Chabon’s critically acclaimed novel, though in a far different fashion. In this world, the fledgling state of Israel is destroyed shortly after its establishment in 1948. This followed a temporary establishment of Jewish refugees that was set up in Sitka, Alaska in 1941, during World War II. Set in the alternate present day, Sitka is now a thriving metropolis where the primary language is Yiddish. The book’s setting is based on the Slattery Report from 1940, which would have authorized the formation of European Jewish refugee settlement in the then-territory of Alaska if it would have won support and been authorized.


16321632 by Eric Flint

You likely won’t find a more elaborate alternate history project than Eric Flint’s 1632 book series. In this story, a small fictional town and its hillbilly inhabitants are transported through a rift in space-time from West Virginia in the year 2000 to Germany in the year 1631. Suddenly, these modern era townsfolk find themselves inexplicably thrust into the center of the Thirty Years’ War. Ultimately, this novel kicked off a series that would involve the collaboration of dozens of writers and hundreds of other contributors. The film is about more than just a disturbance in the space-time continuum, as the modern-day townsfolk have to deal with issues ranging from a language barrier to more social, political and class conflicts.



The Alteration by Kingsley Amis

The divergence point in Kingsley Amis’ alternate history novel took place at the Protestant Reformation. Namely, in this book, the Reformation never occurred. Unfortunately for 10-year-old Hubert Anvil, the “alteration” of the title also applies to the fact that, blessed with a remarkable singing voice, the even more powerful Pope has decreed that the child be subjected to castration rather than undergo the voice-changing ravages of puberty. This sets into motion a series of events that cross paths with alternate versions of well-known cultural and political figures. One other interesting aspect of this alternate world is that it refers to Philip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle. 

Best Monster Books

Monsters populate many of the first stories we’re told. As children, we may be afraid of what might be lurking under the bed or just outside our windows, but that doesn’t stop us for reveling in campfire stories, fairy tales, and storybooks where the antagonists often take the form of hideous creatures. We’re both drawn to and repulsed by monsters, and it’s the visceral reactions we often have to them that make monsters such great literary characters.
So it should come as no surprise that we’ve already touched upon quite a few of literature’s best monsters in previous lists. In our Best Books About Psychopaths list, we featured a number of fiction’s most frightening serial killers, but the monsters we’ll focus on here are all of the fantastical variety. Of course, our Best Horror Books list knocked a few other notables out of contention here, including the most famous monster of them all, Frankenstein (yes, yes, we know that was actually the name of the scientist, not the monster). Cthulhu also appeared there, but that didn’t keep another story by Lovecraft from this list. And Stephen King certainly has cooked up a fair share of monsters in his day, but we treated him to his very own list
That still leaves us with four of the more notable literary monsters to ever skulk across the page.  

strange case of dr jekyll

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson

Stevenson’s classic tale of a doctor who discovers a way to transform himself so he may indulge his vices without fear of reprisal is such a staple of pop culture at large that “Jekyll and Hyde” has become a common term in modern society. While that term is often used to describe someone who seemingly has a “split personality” or can act very differently from one situation to the next, Stevenson’s Jekyll could actually physically transform into the ugly, nearly disfigured Hyde, who would than wreak havoc, even committing murder. Given how popular transformations have become in horror and sci-fi, Stevenson was way ahead of his time when he published this classic in 1886.


mountain sof madness

At the Mountains of Madness by H.P. Lovecraft

Though Cthulhu may be his most famous, Lovecraft conjured up many other monsters. In this horror novella, geologist William Dyer heads an expedition to Antarctica where, in a mountain range higher than the Himalayas, he discovers remnants of fourteen different ancient life forms that look completely alien to anything else on Earth. There’s also a lost civilization that was once built by Lovecraft staples, the Elder Things. These ancient creatures created shape-shifting beasts known as “Shoggoths” to help build their civilization. However, these black, oozing masses ultimately destroyed the Elder Things, and Dyer must flee for his life as the creatures are still alive in tunnels under the ruined city, living for eons off enormous blind penguins that were once bred to feed them.



Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice

Long before there were vampires that sparkled, there was Anne Rice. She developed her classic 1976 novel off a short story she’d written during the previous decade. She also used the recent death of her daughter as inspiration for the child vampire. In this book, a vampire named Louis de Pointe du Lac sits down with a journalist and recounts his 200-year life story. As a young man, and in the wake of his brother’s death, Louis chose to allow the vampire Lestat to make him undead. The two dwell together, with Louis feeding only on animals rather than to murder humans for food. Ultimately, he bends under his vampire nature and begins feeding on humans, including the young plague-infected girl Claudia, whom Lestat turns into a child-vampire to keep Louis from leaving. It’s her eventual death that leaves Louis exhausted with the rigors of immortality, and leads him to sit down for the interview.


ppzPride and Prejudice and Zombies
by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith

Much like Frankenstein’s monster, this book is a sewn-together creation. A mashup of Jane Austen’s classic novel and the kind of zombie fiction popular in the modern day, this book may be a parody but that doesn’t make it any less effective as a monster story. Grahame-Smith manages to follow the same plot as Pride and Prejudice, but places the setting in a version of Regency-era England that’s set in an alternate universe. In this parallel world, zombies shamble around the countryside. The stuffiness of that era’s affluent class is paired with the everyday threat of couriers being eaten or discussion of whether it’s too “un-ladylike” to carry a musket for protection.

Best Books About Psychopaths

Horror can take many forms. While ghosts and monsters can be frightening (whether or not they exist solely within one’s psyche), there’s few stories that can strike more fear in people than those about psychopathic murderers. A human being bereft of empathy and driven solely by sadistic impulse may just be the scariest of all monsters.

Books about psychopaths are so popular that many have already made their way into other “Best” lists on this site. You can’t have a list about fictional serial killers without including the frightening Dr. Hannibal Lecter, but The Silence of the Lambs, was already featured on our Best Thrillers list. The Killer Inside Me would also be a contender for this list if we hadn’t already included it in our selection for Best Crime Novels. There’s all sorts of crazy going on in The Talented Mr. Ripleybut we’ve already got that covered in Best Mystery Books. And American Psycho‘s Patrick Bateman (who may or may not have acted out the extreme violence that took place within his mind) already made it into our picks for Most Controversial Books.

But any list that includes masters of dark prose like Joyce Carol Oates and Cormac McCarthy has no shortage of twisted characters or murderous mayhem. You’d be hard-pressed to find four books about psychopaths as unnervingly spellbinding as these.


Zombie by Joyce Carol Oates

If you’re going to write a story from the perspective of a deranged serial killer, basing the material on cannibal Jeffrey Dahmer is a good place to start. Joyce Carol Oates did just that in her novel about a young man named Quentin P. who seeks out male victims in order to attempt to lobotomize them and re-wire their brains so they will be totally under his control. Told in a first-person narrative, the prose is written in a disturbing and blunt vernacular, often injecting all caps and other symbols to ramp up the mania. Reading the diary of a serial killer (even a fictional one) can be even more frightening then seeing their actions acted on the silver screen. Zombie is a ghastly and engrossing book, one that plumbs the depths of human depravity yet still is identifiably human.



Child of God by Cormac McCarthy

Cormac McCarthy describes his disturbingly isolated and horrifyingly deviant character Lester Ballard as “a child of God much like yourself perhaps.” McCarthy crafts a tale of a murderous loner gone feral, reduced to a shadow of man who stows away corpses in caves for his personal use. But he never makes Ballard a complete monster. Much like Zombie‘s Quentin P., there’s an identifiable humanity under a fearsome character otherwise bathed in grime and blood and the stink of death. James Franco’s recent film adaptation of this unsettling novel only focuses on the darkness and the ugliness, but McCarthy’s novel is a transcendent, albeit stomach-churning, take on the depths of human perversity.


clockwork orange

A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

Alex is a very troubled young man. Growing up in a slightly futuristic Britain, he and his “droogs” enjoy far too much of the old “ultraviolence.” Going around the urban landscape picking fights with rival gangs, breaking into residences, and assaulting random people, Alex has no empathy for those he hurts. Despite a team of state authorities intent on reforming him before it’s too late, Alex ultimately takes his ultraviolence too far and commits murder. This opens up an whole new can of worms when, from prison, he seeks out a controversial new treatment method to cure psychopaths of their violent behavior. Narrated by using an abrasive dialect that Anthony Burgess invented, A Clockwork Orange both shocks and hooks and the reader.



The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson

Though technically a non-fiction book, this list would not be complete without The Devil in the White City. Presented in a novelistic style, this book chronicles the murderous exploits of America’s first documented serial killer, H.H. Holmes. Operating roughly around the same time as Britain’s Jack the Ripper, Holmes lured many an unsuspecting victim back from the 1893 world’s fair in Chicago to his “murder castle.” Elaborately designed to both entrap his victims and conceal their bodies, Holmes’ murder castle is one of the more ghastly entries into American history and this book does a spellbinding job of laying the secretive serial killer’s heinous and intricately-planned spree bare. 

Best Time Travel Books

Time travel has been of primary interest to science-fiction fans for almost as long as sci-fi has existed. Sure, wars of the worlds or journeys to the center of the Earth are incredibly captivating science-fiction scenarios, but if the rules of physics as we know them could be bent in any imaginable way, who wouldn’t jump at the chance to travel through time? As modern inventions like electricity and powered transportation began to take hold, changing the technological landscape, writers’ imaginations began to run wild with fantastical stories of things that may have been impossible, but might not always be so.

So we’ve compiled a list of the Best Time Travel Books, though you’ll notice a few big titles are missing. Kurt Vonnegut’s magnum opus Slaughterhouse-Five, and its protagonist who has come “unstuck in time,” certainly deserves a place here, but we’ve already covered that book in our Best Novels list. And this list wouldn’t be complete without mention of Audrey Niffenegger’s best-selling The Time Traveler’s Wife, but that book was already touched upon in our list of Best Romance Novels. But that still leaves us with four titles that changed the way we think about that nature of time—books that deserve a few hours of yours.

timemachineThe Time Machine by H.G. Wells

Our modern fascination with the concept of time travel was jump-started in 1895 by the fantastic mind of H.G. Wells. An author who also gave us such classics as The War of the Worlds and The Island of Doctor MoreauH.G. Wells was the first to write about the use of a piloted vehicle in order to travel through time. “Time machine” is now a common term within science-fiction, and it was all thanks to Wells and his novella about an English inventor who comes to understand that time is simply a fourth dimension, and who is able to develop a means to transport himself into brave new worlds from other points in time.


A_wrinkle_in_time_digest_2007A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

Who says science and religion don’t mix? Madeleine L’Engle’s Newbery Medal winning science fantasy novel A Wrinkle in Time combines her religious views on battles between good and evil with a time travel story for the ages. When high school-aged girl Meg Murry’s scientist father is held prisoner by evil entities from another planet, she teams up with her younger brother and friend to travel through time and space to rescue him. The book was so unlike anything of its era (it was released in 1962), that few publishers wanted to take a chance on it, and despite its subsequent popularity it has been frequently challenged. Yet A Wrinkle in Time remains a classic of young adult fiction, and sci-fi in general.



Einstein’s Dreams by Alan Lightman

Albert Einstein changed what we thought we knew about time and space. Imagine what the dreams of such a brilliant mind must have been like! Author Alan Lightman does just that in his 1992 novel. Each of his book’s 30 chapters explores one of a fictionalized Einstein’s dreams as he struggles with developing his theory of relativity. Each dream delves into a different concept of time, with some of them hinged in reality (such as relativity) and other consisting of wildly imaginative renderings by the author. The book is otherworldly and vivid and one of the more unique reads on the subject of time travel you’re likely to encounter.


Timequake(Vonnegut)Timequake by Kurt Vonnegut

Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five may forever be his most remembered time travel book, but his final novel, Timequake, did an equally fine job of both bending our concept of reality and in providing a semi-autobiographical account of the author’s life. Vonnegut uses the imagined phenomenon of a “timequake” to ruminate on determinism and craft a story about free will being a fantasy. In the book, the timequake thrusts the entire world back from the year 2001 to 1991, with everyone forced to act out the same actions over that 10 year period with no hope of deviation. The book focuses on the sadness experience by people who are forced to watch themselves repeat mistakes and relive the consequences of bad choices over and over again.

Best Crime Novels

People love lurid tales. Crime novels are chock full of bad behavior and intrigue, and they have, throughout the years, been both a best-selling genre and a rich resource for movie adaptations. Not only are crimes and misdemeanors interesting subject matter, but the criminals and innocents caught up in deceptive webs are often some of more the compelling characters you’ll find in print. When backs are pressed against walls, there’s no telling what may happen next.

Some heavy-hitters from the crime genre have already been covered in previous lists on the site, so we’ll leave them off here. We already touched upon The Maltese Falcon in our Best Mystery Novels list, and we featured Along Came a Spider and The Silence of the Lambs with our Best Thrillers. Meanwhile, Crime and Punishment is so good it made our list for Best Books of All Time. And while it seems wrong to have list of best crime novels that doesn’t include anything with Sherlock Holmes, the bulk of his detective work took place in short stories. And Agatha Christie’s work was already discussed in our coverage of the Best Selling Authors of All Time.

With that said, these four fascinating crime novels have earned their spots among the very best in the genre.

The-Big-SleepThe Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler

There’s few better settings for a gritty, hard-boiled crime novel than 1930s Los Angeles. That’s where Raymond Chandler’s dynamic gumshoe Philip Marlowe hangs his hat in The Big Sleep. Marlowe is no sleuthing genius; he’s grizzled and deeply flawed. But the very fact that he struggles to get by as a detective, and frequently turns to the comforts of strong drink, makes him all the more realistic and intriguing. Chandler’s book contains a notoriously complicated plot, one involving blackmail, millionaire generals, disappearances, murder, and beautiful women. As a quintessential crime novel, it’s no wonder this 1939 book has twice been adapted into a feature film.


postmanThe Postman Always Rings Twice by James M. Cain

When Frank, a young drifter, happens upon a small town California diner, his life takes an interesting turn. He’s instantly drawn to Cora, a femme fatale who runs the diner, and the two strike up a passionate affair. Cora is unhappily married to a much older man, and she ropes Frank into hatching a murder plot with her. The pair concoct a scheme to make Cora’s husband’s death look like an accidental fall in the bath tub, but things don’t go as planned. From there, they work together to finish the job, while staying one step ahead of the law as it begins to close in on them. The book was so popular that it was adapted into seven films, two plays, and an opera.


Godfather-Novel-CoverThe Godfather by Mario Puzo

Most of us have seen Francis Ford Coppola’s seminal mafia movie derived from Puzo’s novel, but the book itself remains a must-read to this day. In Puzo’s story, fictional New York mafia family the Corleones wage mob war with five other prominent families. When Corleone patriarch Don Vito Corleone is shot by rivals, his two sons, Santino and Michael, must take over the day-to-day of the family business. When more violence breaks out against the Corleone family, the mafia tensions in NYC escalate to the point of a full-on mob war. In addition to Coppola’s original adaptation, there were two sequel films based on Puzo’s work (though only one of them was good idea).


the-killer-inside-meThe Killer Inside Me by Jim Thompson

Pubished in 1952, The Killer Inside Me has been described by an anthology as “one of the most blistering and uncompromising crime novels ever written.” The book is told from the perspective of Lou Ford, a small-town police officer who is hiding a ink black secret. His predilection for sadistic sexual acts, and a tendency toward antisocial personality traits in general, are relatively kept in check until he begins a sadomasochistic interaction with a prostitute. This unlocks a darkness within him that he’s kept secret, and he’s soon compelled to violence in order to cover up past evils. As pressure mounts, he begins to crack, making for one of the best crime novels you’ll ever read. It’s twice been adapted for the silver screen.


Best Selling Authors of All Time

It’s one thing to write a best-selling novel that makes you the star of a given moment in time, and it’s quite another to routinely churn out book after popular book that captures readers’ collective imagination. Volume certainly plays a factor in our list below. The lowest number of books by a writer on this Best Selling Authors of All Time list is 23, and two others topped 100 for their careers (one exceeding it by a huge margin).

While J.K. Rowling is closing in on the Top 10 all time, the fact that she’s only penned 11 books (wildly popular as the Harry Potter series has become) is for the moment holding her back, though at under 50 years old, she will likely one day climb to near the top. Dr. Seuss managed 44 books during his career, and it landed him within the Top 10, but he doesn’t quite make this list. And since we’re restricting this list to actual books, rather than plays, we’ll rule out the actual all time leader, William Shakespeare. The Bard’s plays and poetry have sold a estimated 4 billion copies worldwide, though he’s had many, many years to do so.

With Shakespeare a given, our list focuses on the other four Best Selling Authors of All Time. The results may surprise you.

agatha christie

Agatha Christie

Dame Agatha Christie was a whodunit queen whose name became synonymous with murder mystery throughout the 20th century. Christie wrote 85 books during her lifetime, and they’ve sold somewhere in the ballpark of 4 billion copies. Among her output is the popular Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot series. She is officially recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records as the all-time best-selling novelist, and trails only Shakespeare and the Bible in total sales. Many of her stories were adapted into films, TV series, and even video games.


barbara carltandBarbara Cartland

Romance novel maven Dame Barbara Cartland makes this list thanks to an uncommonly prolific career. Cartland, who also published under the name Barbara McCorquodale, published 723 novels during her 98-year lifetime. With all her novels featuring portrait-style artwork, Cartland specialized in 18th-century Victorian-era romance stories. Through her impressively vast body of work, she’s managed to rise to #2 on this list by selling in the neighborhood of 1 billion copies of her books.


danielle steelDanielle Steel

Romance clearly sells, as contemporary hot-n-steamy novelist Danielle Steel’s 120 romance novels have sold an estimated 800 million copies. Every single one of her novels has risen to the status of a best-seller and she’s managed to write several books each year since the mid-’70s. While she’s most well known for her romance novels, she’s also penned two children’s book series and a few books of non-fiction.


harold_robbinsHarold Robbins

Harold Robbins managed to make this list in fourth place with only 23 books published during his lifetime, though, since his death, several others have been written by ghostwriters under his name (and based on his notes and incomplete manuscripts). His first novel, Never Love a Stranger (1948), was met with controversy due to its sexual content. He went on to focus mainly on adventure-related novels, always with a healthy dose of intrigue, and his prosperous career led to his books selling upwards of 750 million copies.

Best Books of 2013

With another year in the books, it’s time to assess just how good of a year it was for books. We’ve already weighed in on the Top Selling Books of 2013. Those trended more towards the inspirational, fantasy, or political titles. There was plenty of room for whimsy and magic in the upper echelon of books from 2013, and a pinch of horror too. Doctor Sleep, Stephen King’s sequel to The Shininginspired our Best Stephen King Books list, and made a few shortlists for best books of the year as well, but didn’t quite make the cut here.

Midway through the year we touched upon some of the Best Books of 2013 (So Far), including new work by David Sedaris, a retrospective on the life and art of Sylvia Plath, and a scathing look into the history and current day operation of Scientology. We won’t revisit those titles here, but don’t overlook them in your search for the very best books to come out in the past year.

Below you’ll find the cream of the 2013 crop, books that enchanted, surprised, educated and inspired us—books that, once opened, simply refuse to let you put them down.

Neil Gaiman - The Ocean At The End Of The Lane (US)The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

British author Neil Gaiman is truly prolific, covering huge swaths of magical ground in short stories, young adult novels and general fiction. Gaiman returns with a novel that’ll captivate the young and old alike. The Ocean at the End of the Lane addresses the disconnect between childhood and adulthood in one of the more metaphysical ways possible, as an adult returns to his childhood hometown and begins remembering his long-ago otherworldly encounter with the Hempstock family, namely a girl his age named Lettie who helps him overcome a malevolent force that’s overtaken his family. His revisiting of magic that he has long forgotten serves as an apt metaphor for growing into adulthood.


and the mountains echoed

And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini

Author of the moving 2003 novel The Kite RunnerKhaled Hosseini returned in 2013 with his third novel, an epic narrative about the bond between a young Afghan boy and his even younger sister, who their father decided to sell to a childless couple in Kabul. Despite this heartrending central focus, And the Mountains Echoed is much broader in scope than Hosseini’s prior novels, told in nine chapters that almost function as a collection of short stories, each from the perspective of a different character. When all the narratives are tied together, the result is perhaps Hosseini’s finest work, and easily one of the best books of 2013.



The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith

J.K. Rowling’s first stab at post-Harry Potter general fiction, The Casual Vacancy, was met with a lukewarm reception. Perhaps it was too anticipated. Rowling avoided that pitfall with her second post-Potter book, The Cuckoo’s Calling, which is published under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith. This crime fiction novel is different than anything Rowling has done before, so much so that the pseudonym caused at least one publisher to unknowingly reject a book written by one of the all-time best selling authors. But this gripping crime novel that hinges on the investigation of a suspicious death that’s been labeled as suicide stands on its own and makes for one of the thrill rides of the year.



The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

Fans of Donna Tartt’s work had to wait 11 years for her third novel to drop, and that’s after it was originally slated for release in 2008 yet took another 5 years to reach store shelves. It was worth the wait. The Goldfinch focuses on of a 12-year-old boy named Theo who survives a terrorist bombing in a New York art museum that claims the life of his mother. This sparks a chain of events that will influence the rest of his life as the book moves through time as Theo overcomes hardships, moves across the country, and grows into a man who both achieves great successes and is wracked by guilt.

Top Selling Books of 2013

Best seller rarely means best book, and once again that’s more or less true for the top selling books of 2013. Best sellers tend to be more commodity than art, but that doesn’t necessarily make them any less entertaining. That’s why or Top Selling Books of 2013 are filled with titles that are provocative, inspirational, or just good, clean fun.

While the titles listed below are the true best sellers according to Nielsen Bookscan, there were a few other top finishers that are worthy of note and that have already been covered elsewhere in our lists. Due to the flashy, Leonardo DiCaprio-acted adaptation of The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic novel of the same name made the Top 20, and also appeared on our Best Novels of All Time list. Meanwhile, Doctor SleepStephen King’s sequel to The Shininggot a shout out on our Best Stephen King Books list. And as the main title in a series that just won’t go away, Fifty Shades of Grey squeaked into the Top 20, after having already topped our Top Selling Books of 2012 list. 

But enough with the runners-up. Below you’ll find the 5 Bestsellers of 2013, in all their children’s book, fantasy, and religious-tinged glory.


Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Hard Luck by Jeff Kinney

Once again, wimpy kid Greg Heffley finds himself stuck in the middle of a streak of bad luck in Jeff Kinney’s 8th installment in this children’s book series. This book centers around Greg’s falling out with chum Rowley over (what else) a girl. As Abigail begins to take up all Rowley’s time, Greg grows increasingly jealous. Greg’s also stuck with a tumultuous situation at home when his Mom’s sisters come to visit and, all in all, he’s forced to continue to deal with the trials and tribulations of growing up and every frustration that coming of age brings.




Inferno by Dan Brown

If you though that The Da Vinci Code author Dan Brown was done with his Robert Langdon series (that also includes Angels and Demons and The Lost Symbol) than you apparently weren’t accurately deciphering the ancient biblical codes on the cryptex. This time around, Langdon starts his secret society-infused journey with the notable handicap of amnesia caused by a head wound that finds him awakening in a hospital bed. Brown has developed a mystery thriller formula that taps into our desire for intrigue while weaving in religious symbology that captures the imagination of many a Western reader.


killing_jesusKilling Jesus by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard

There are few public figures both loved and loathed like Bill O’Reilly. The FOX News host has made a history of provocative political statements, and has led the charge on the so-called War on Christmas. His next installment in his Killing series (after Killing Lincoln and Killing Kennedy) sold a boat load of copies while filtering the life and death of Jesus of Nazareth through his own socially conservative prism. As you can see with this title and several others on the list, books about Christianity sell quite well.




Proof of Heaven by Dr. Eben Alexander

Dr. Eben Alexander’s book about his own out of body experience when he was in a coma has made the bestseller list primarily due to the fact that he is a neurosurgeon and therefore has unique insight into both the brain’s functioning and his own purported otherwordly experience. Alexander came under some scrutiny in an Esquire exposé that questioned many of his factual assertions in this book as well as his professional ethics, however the tale of his perceived journey outside of his body and into the heavenly realms struck a cord with book buyers en masse.



The House of Hades by Rick Riordan

Percy Jackson may not be quite as much of a household name as Harry Potter, but he’s not far off. One of the protagonists in this, the fourth Heroes of Olympus book by Rick Riordan, Percy finds himself alongside Annabeth in a pit that leads straight to the Underworld. The seven demigods must put aside their differences and find a way to seal the Doors of Death, though doing so may prevent Percy and Annabeth from escaping. This fantasy series has yet to achieve the cinematic success of some of its contemporaries, but with book sales like this who knows how close to sun he can fly.

Best Christmas Books

Where would Christmas be without books? Not only has the written word been responsible for relaying the Nativity story through religious texts as well as passing down folklore about old St. Nick and other traditions, but some of the most charming modern Christmas stories are routinely read aloud at family gatherings or otherwise consumed through their many adaptations to the silver screen. But whether it be books, movies, music, or other forms of holiday entertainment, the festive Christmas genre can  also fall prey to over-saturation, and not every book with a jolly old elf, baby Jesus or illuminated reindeer nose on the cover is automatically worth your Yuletide cheer.

But we’ve cobbled together a list of the best of the bunch. Some of these titles weren’t far off from making the Best Children’s Books list, and though it’s not explicitly Christmas, all that snow in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory feels festive, but that title already appeared on our Best Roald Dahl Books list. But when it comes to these Best Christmas Books, we’re making a list and checking it twice, ensuring that these are the best holiday reads ever to come to town.

Night_before_christmasSGThe Night Before Christmas by Clement Clarke Moore

Twas the most obvious pick on this list. Christmas just isn’t Christmas without at least a passing reference to Moore’s classic rhyming story of a close encounter of the jolly kind. But your wondering eyes aren’t the only thing that will be dazzled by this book, which has been drawn by a plethora of illustrators. The Night Before Christmas is best heard read aloud, whether it’s a parent or grandparent, or your own voice passing on the tradition to your own children, nestled all snug in their beds.


A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickenschristmascarol

Ghosts are usually reserved for that more ghoulish holiday two months prior, but Charles Dickens masterfully made the Christmas spirit into literal apparitions in his classic A Classic Carol. Much like another curmudgeon who appears later in this list, the miserly Scrooge ended up becoming synonymous with greed, yet thankfully for him it wasn’t too late. After he’s visited by three spirits (four if you count his old business partner Jacob Marley, the most frightening of the bunch), old Scrooge sees the error of his ways learns to love his fellow humans. God bless us, every one, indeed.



Scholastic-Nutcrack-Book-CoverThe Nutcracker and the Mouse King by E.T.A. Hoffman

You may be less familiar with its full title and more familiar with both its wooden holiday decorations or the ballet that was inspired by E.T.A. Hoffman’s original story, but Christmas simply wouldn’t be the same without The Nutcracker. The creatures are definitely stirring in this Christmas Eve house, and it’s not just a mouse. A whimsical battle between mice and dolls, The Nutcracker is simply too wonderful and unique to be missed.



How the Grinch Stole Christmas! by Dr. Seuss

Perhaps the best loved of all of Dr. Seuss’ innovatively worded picture books, the tale of how that titular green fuzzball ended up pillaging the town of Whoville of all their Christmas decorations only to have his minuscule heart grow three sizes is an enduring holiday classic. Dr. Seuss had such an infectious knack for inventing words and utilizing catchy wordplay that this book simply begs to be read out loud to the wee ones when they’re gathered around their Christmas stockings as chestnuts roast on the open fire. Pass the Who pudding and Roast Beast.



Best Romance Novels

Romance novels often get a bad rap. While there’s plenty of trash fiction out there aimed at appealing to the readers’ more prurient desires rather than their literary enlightenment (just take a look at the sales figures for the Fifty Shades of Grey series), romance and literary value are anything but mutually exclusive. After all, love is one of the most profound of human emotions, and romantic love is one of the most whimsical and volatile. As the saying goes, all’s fair in love and war, making fictional romance one of the genres most rife for tension, conflict, climax, and satisfying resolution.

There’s a handful of best romance novel contenders that you won’t find on this list because we’ve already featured them elsewhere. William Goldman’s dynamic novel The Princess Bride could easily make it to elite status in many genres, and it’s certainly one of the best romance novels, but it’s already been featured on our Best Fantasy Novels list. Meanwhile, the social convention-challenging Annie on my Mind is romantically-charged, it appeared on our list of the Most Controversial Books. And while it’s not one of the best, but rather one of the more popular, the previously mentioned Fifty Shades trilogy was a Top Selling Book of 2012. But below you’ll find four of the truly best romance novels ever written.


Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

Unlike many contemporary trashy romance novels that tend to contain elements of misogyny or at least stereotype, Charlotte Brontë’s classic Jane Eyre follows its strong-willed eponymous protagonist as she empowers herself from her challenging early years, comes of age and dedicates herself to her profession and personal principles, and ultimately falls in love with the gruff and aloof Mr. Rochester, who carries with him a dark secret. The pair overcome physical and emotional obstacles to eventually find their way back to each other in this all-time great.




The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

The science fiction convention of time travel is used as a metaphor for the challenges of romantic relationships in Audrey Niffenegger’s dazzling debut novel. As a man struggles with a genetic disorder that forces him to travel through time unpredictably (and to often find himself in perilous situations), the book focuses on the love affair he enjoys with a wife whom he knows from many different eras. Dealing with issues of love, loss and the concept of free will, The Time Traveler’s Wife makes for a transcendent tale of timeless love.



gone with the wind Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

Amazingly, the all-time classic Gone with the Wind was the only novel Margaret Mitchell published during her lifetime. While the tumultuous love/hate relationship between the difficult Scarlett O’Hara and the roguish Rhett Butler constitute the crux of the book, Scarlett engages in many romances, being widowed twice before she eventually enters a volatile relationship with the hot-tempered and alcohol-swilling Rhett. A tale of wartime passion, jealousy, and violent love, Gone with the Wind continues to endure as one of the best romance books ever.




Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

Written as part of National Novel Writing Month, Sara Gruen’s Water for Elephants is a historical novel that tells the story of a lasting love that overcomes abusive circus folk. When former veterinary student Jacob learns of his parents’ tragic death in a car accident he drops out of school and joins the circus, meeting the love of his life, Marlena, who is married to a violent brute and head trainer who abuses the animals as well as his employees. Jacob and Marlena overcome threats and violence to pursue their love and achieve the happiness together that they both deserve.