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NPR staffers share their favorite fiction of 2024 so far

AYESHA RASCOE, HOST:

Looking for a great book to take to the beach or on that long flight, or maybe just something to read for 15 minutes before bed? Well, look no further. Books We Love, NPR's list of best reads, has got you covered. We asked some of our colleagues to share their fiction favorites from 2024 so far.

(SOUNDBITE OF PATRICK DOYLE'S "A PARTICULAR SUM (INSTRUMENTAL)")

LAUREN MIGAKI, BYLINE: Hi. I'm Lauren Migaki. I'm a senior producer for the education desk, and I'm recommending "Sex, Lies And Sensibility" by Nikki Payne. Set in the heart of Vacationland, Nora Dash and Ennis Freeman, who goes by Bear, are both fighting uphill battles. After her dad dies, Nora inherits some serious family drama and a rundown cottage in Maine. Now, Nora and her sister have just months to turn the place into a successful resort. Meanwhile, Bear's struggling with his own business of guiding visitors through his native Abenaki land. The tours take him through Nora's backyard and the two team up. Their chemistry is off the charts as they spend hours working and finding stress relief and long runs through the main woods. But they're both keeping secrets, and they've let that shame work its way through their lives like an invasive species. The two will have to figure out how to move forward once those secrets finally spill out.

(SOUNDBITE OF PATRICK DOYLE'S "A PARTICULAR SUM (INSTRUMENTAL)")

ELISSA NADWORNY, BYLINE: I'm Elissa Nadworny. I'm a correspondent at NPR, and I read the book "Memory Piece" by Lisa Ko. It's kind of dark and take some twists and turns. It's got a little, like, catastrophe and end of the world vibes. But also, it's a coming-of-age story about three friends and what friendship is and how that evolves and how they grow up and figure out how they feel about art and technology and performance. The book talks about this idea of art in this very dark and kind of weird and gross way, and I really liked that.

(SOUNDBITE OF EXPLOSIONS IN THE SKY'S "PALLID BATS")

BECK HARLAN, BYLINE: I'm Beck Harlan, the visuals editor for Life Kit, and I'm recommending "Come And Get It" by Kiley Reid. I couldn't put this book down, even though I wasn't really sure where it was going or what was happening, really, until this jaw-dropping climax. And it's not even so much about the plot. It's really about the characters and their relationship with money, what they do to get money, how it motivates them, how it gets them into certain situations, and for some out of certain situations, and how that all intersects with race and power, class, sexuality, privilege. The story is told through multiple perspectives and it's set at the University of Arkansas, and as a Southerner myself, and a graduate of a Southern University. I just found myself nodding along to Reid's depictions of contemporary Southern culture. I found them to be so on the nose and really refreshing.

HAFSA FATHIMA, BYLINE: I'm Hafsa Fathima, and I'm an assistant producer at Pop Culture Happy Hour. I'm also a huge fan of anything Leigh Bardugo writes, and I fell in love with her latest book, "The Familiar." Set in the Spanish Golden Age, it's about a kitchen mad named Luzia, who was forced to hide her magic and her Jewish heritage. But when her employer discovers her magic, she's entered into a competition to find King Philip a holy champion. She's also trained by a mysterious creature named Santangel. I love the magic and worldbuilding in this book, and it's gorgeously written. Like all of Bardugo's work, it'll stay on your mind long after you're done.

(SOUNDBITE OF HESPERION'S "LA SPAGNA (XV SEGLE)")

CHRISTINA CALA, BYLINE: Hello. My name is Christina Cala, and I'm the senior producer of Code Switch. And the book I'd like to recommend to you today is called "The Ministry Of Time." It's by Kaliane Bradley. It is a story that is a time-traveling romance, that is also a bit of a mystery and a bit of a thriller. The book follows an unnamed narrator who is assigned to shepherd a time-traveler, who is an arctic explorer named Graham Gore, and he's pulled out of his time, and she is assigned to help him figure out how to navigate the present. You know, it's a story about facing history in reality, in flesh and blood, and also facing the present and the future. I think the moment you'll put it down, you'll be eager to read it again and explore different facets of the story.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHER MARSH'S "GIVE ME EVERYTHING (STRIPPED DOWN)")

RASCOE: Those recommendations, again, were "The Ministry Of Time," "The Familiar," "Come And Get It," "Memory Piece," and "Sex, Lies And Sensibility." For the full list of books we love so far this year, visit npr.org/summerbaooks.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHER MARSH'S "GIVE ME EVERYTHING (STRIPPED DOWN)") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Lauren Migaki is a senior producer with NPR's education desk. She helps tell stories about teacher strikes, college access and a new high school for young men in Washington D.C. She also produces and hosts NPR's podcast about the Student Podcast Challenge.
Elissa Nadworny reports on all things college for NPR, following big stories like unprecedented enrollment declines, college affordability, the student debt crisis and workforce training. During the 2020-2021 academic year, she traveled to dozens of campuses to document what it was like to reopen during the coronavirus pandemic. Her work has won several awards including a 2020 Gracie Award for a story about student parents in college, a 2018 James Beard Award for a story about the Chinese-American population in the Mississippi Delta and a 2017 Edward R. Murrow Award for excellence in innovation.
Rebecca Harlan
Christina Cala