Welcome back to the Nerdist Reading List. Each month I’ll curate book recommendations that delight, charm, and terrify me. Basically, this is the place to find the best fantasy, sci-fi, horror, and romance books and comics to add to your books to read pile. To make things easier, each month will include a selection of already released books you can grab instantly and other new books you’ll definitely want to pre-order or add to your library holds. This month we’re diving into our recommendations with reimagined highly-anticipated sequels, fantasy game changers, radical romances, and a whole lot more.
Fantasy and Sci-fi Books to Read
Publishers are always looking for the next big thing. And if there’s any justice then it’ll be Clayton’s stunning middle grade debut, The Marvellers. This is the kind of magic school tale we’ve all been waiting for and will sweep up fantasy readers of all ages in its pages. Ella Durand is the first conjuror to attend the Arcanum Training Institute. Set high in the clouds, the magical academy is home to Marvellers from around the world who train in their local specialities. But being the first isn’t easy, and soon Ella comes up against suspicions, conspiracies, and a dangerous criminal. Inclusive, fantastical, and utterly gripping, this is a true delight of a read.
Bravely by Maggie Stiefvater – May 3
Bestselling fantasy icon Stiefvater turns her eye to Merida from Brave in this new Disney novel. The book continues the story of the Princess of DunBroch, several years after the conclusion of the Pixar movie. Though she loves her life and her family, she resents the mundanity of their day-to-day life and longs for more. It’s a wish that comes true in a terrifying way when an ancient deity appears ready to destroy DunBroch. Her only chance to save her family is to convince them to change and she has just a year to do it. Soon she embarks on three epic quests to inspire her family. Will she lose sight of who she is in the process?
The Merciless Ones by Namina Forna – May 31
One of our favorite fantasy series in recent years is back. The Gilded Ones introduced readers to Deka, a young woman who is revealed to be a “demon” on her 16th birthday. She barely survives the torture that follows before being enlisted into the an army known as the alaki. In that twisty first novel, Namina Forna took readers on a ride through a West African-inspired landscape. After a shocking reveal—go read the book; no spoilers here!—the sequel finds Deka in a quickly changing world that her powers could either save or destroy. She’ll have to work out which it’s going to be fast, as there’s a dangerous power rising that needs to be stopped. But can she do what she must?
Romance Books to Read
By the Book by Jasmine Guillory – May 3
Jasmine Guillory has been charming readers with her radical romance novels since her debut The Wedding Date. Now she’s turning her hand to one of the most beloved Disney movies of all time, Beauty and the Beast. By the Book brings the action to the modern day where Izzy, a young Black woman in publishing, is struggling to find her way. Enter Beau, a beastly author who hasn’t delivered his manuscript. Izzy jumps at the chance to impress her boss by heading to his Santa Barbara home in order to secure the finished book. While they clash at first, soon the pair realize there may be something there that wasn’t there before…
Adriana Herrara delivers a career best novel with this ravishing historical romance. Luz Alana has always known what she wants: to take over the family rum business. But when her father dies she’s suddenly thrust into a new life. She must take care of her beloved sister, move to Edinburgh, and expand the reach of Caña Brava rum. Heading to Paris with her charge and best friends for the Exposition Universelle, she expects everything but love. But, when she keeps bumping into a sexy Scottish whiskey maker, that begins to change. Especially when he makes her an offer she can’t refuse that’ll help them both get what they need… and want. Truly delightful stuff.
Horror and Thrillers to Read
And Then I Woke Up by Malcolm Devlin – Available Now
It’s hard to talk about Malcolm Devlin’s heartbreaking horror novella without spoiling its biggest secrets, so let’s just go for the basics. Set in a world where a terrifying plague has turned most of the population into monsters, roving human survivors hunt them in packs. But the real plague might be something completely different. As one of the cured, Spence lives in a facility trying his best to come to terms with the horrors he committed whilst infected. A breakout attempt and journey to help a friend mean he has to face his demons one way or another. Devlin’s startling tale does what the most powerful horror can do: tell a story about our real world and its nightmares like propaganda and the ever-changing meaning of the “truth.”
Hollow Fires by Samira Ahmed – May 10
Another book dealing with false narratives and so-called alternative facts is this searing YA novel. Bestselling author Ahmed introduces readers to Safiya Mirza, who wants nothing more than to become a journalist. She knows that means she’s got to find the facts and not let personal feelings get in her way. But then she finds the body of a murdered boy. His name is Jawad Ali. He was only 14 when he built a jetpack that a teacher mistook for a bomb. Arrested and labeled a terrorist, Jawad is now dead. Utilizing multiple narrative formats, we follow Safiya as she determinedly finds out the truth of what happened to Jawad. But she’s not alone. His voice joins her on her journey to tell the whole story of his life and death.
The Counselors by Jessica Goodman – May 31
If you’re a fan of Friday the 13th or the many, many summer camp-set slashers that came in its wake, then you can’t miss The Counselors. Goodman’s latest YA thriller takes place at an elite sleepaway camp. Local camper Goldie can’t wait for her best friends to arrive. It’s the last summer before college and she’s got a terrible secret she has to tell them. But when someone turns up dead by the lake, Goldie realizes their death wasn’t an accident and she’s not the only one keeping secrets. This twisty and terrifying tale is perfect for fans of Fear Street, and anyone who loves a thrilling campfire story that’ll keep you guessing deep into the night. Sure to become one of your favorite books to read on a chilly night.
Comics, Manga, Graphic Novels to Read
Steenz Stewart is nothing short of a trailblazer. After all, they aren’t called The President of Comics for nothing. This May we’re getting treated with a collection of their groundbreaking time on the comic strip Heart of the City. Taking on the iconic strip, Stewart became the second non-binary creator to ever helm a nationally sydnicated title, after another of our faves Bianca Xunise a month before. If you’ve yet to check out Steenz’s delightful take, it follows the titular Heart as they make their way through middle school and all of its trials and tribulations. These lovely strips are some of the most fun and engaging cartoons being made and now you can own them in book form!
Apple Crush by Lucy Knisley – May 3
With Stepping Stones, Knisley introduced us to Jen, a young girl whose life was uprooted when she had to move to Peapod Farm. Now that she’s settled in, Jen feels like she might have a handle on her new life. But when she starts school alongside her stepsisters, that’s all turned upside down. Knisley once again brings her charming cartooning to this coming of age tale. Taking the reader back to the strangest, most terrible, and most exciting days of our lives when we were embarking on who we most wanted to be is no easy feat. But Knisley does it with aplomb and makes sure this tale of growing up, fitting in, and finding your own sparkles.
The Third Person by Emma Grove – May 3
Drawn & Quarterly has been making regular appearances on our books to read list, and The Third Person is a great example of why. This 900 page exploration of self, therapy, trauma, and identity is truly like nothing else. Emma Grove’s simple, stripped back cartooning makes her dense story accessible. The book retells her experiences in therapy where she’s seeking out approval for hormone replacement therapy. But her therapist has other concerns. See, Emma’s turned up to therapy sessions as two other people. And when asked about her childhood, things suddenly come to light. With this searing autobiographical work, Grove marks herself as a talent to watch, creating a truly moving, powerful, and vulnerable piece of cartooning.