PEOPLE’s Best Books to Read in May 2024: An Intimate Portrait of Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy and a New Novel From “Crazy Rich Asians ”Author

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See our picks for the best books of the month

PEOPLE
PEOPLE's picks for the best books of May 2024

An opulent account of the ultrarich, a delicious workplace quandary, and an offbeat road-trip tale — plus a new biography of Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy and memoir from Doobie Brother frontman Michael McDonald — here are PEOPLE's picks for the best books of May 2024.

'What a Fool Believes' by Michael McDonald

<p>Dey Street Books</p> 'What A Fool Believes' by Michael McDonald

Dey Street Books

'What A Fool Believes' by Michael McDonald

From his boyhood in Missouri to his struggles with addiction — as well as his legendary career in music — McDonald, with help from his co-author, actor Paul Reiser, chronicles his life, and the lessons he's learned, as a Grammy-winning solo artist and member of bands Steely Dan and the Doobie Brothers.

Related: Michael McDonald Is 'Grateful' for Lessons Learned After Wife's Breast Cancer Diagnosis: 'She Put Us First' (Exclusive)

'Once Upon a Time: The Captivating Life of Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy' by Elizabeth Beller

<p>Gallery Books</p> 'Once Upon a Time: The Captivating Life of Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy' by Elizabeth Beller

Gallery Books

'Once Upon a Time: The Captivating Life of Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy' by Elizabeth Beller

In a new biography, including interviews from family and friends, Elizabeth Beller gives a personal and in-depth look at the legacy of the late Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy, as well as her complicated relationship with John F. Kennedy Jr. and the truth behind some of the most infamous rumors about the couple.

Related: Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy and JFK Jr.: Inside Their Tempestuous Love Affair and Final Days: New Book (Exclusive)

'Lies and Weddings' by Kevin Kwan

<p>Doubleday</p> 'Lies and Weddings' by Kevin Kwan

Doubleday

'Lies and Weddings' by Kevin Kwan

The author of Crazy Rich Asians returns with an irresistible tale of eye-popping glamour and shocking deception. Thanks to delusional spending by his mother, Arabella, the legendary Gresham Trust is decimated, and the dashing, arty young Rufus Leung Gresham stands to inherit little more than a title. Will he marry rich, as Arabella wants, or follow his heart? This romantic romp circles the globe, hitting luxury locations and high comic notes in classic Kwan style. — Mary Pols

'I Hope This Finds You Well' by Natalie Sue

<p>William Morrow</p> 'I Hope This Finds You Well' by Natalie Sue

William Morrow

'I Hope This Finds You Well' by Natalie Sue

In this wickedly funny skewering of office culture, an IT glitch gives sad, lonely Jolene a peek at her coworkers’ messages just as layoffs loom. She strikes up a flirty rapport with Cliff in HR, but can Jolene trust him? This sparkling debut will have you snickering in the break room. — Andy Abrahams

'Real Life and Other Fictions' by Susan Coll

'Real Life and Other Fictions' by Susan Coll
'Real Life and Other Fictions' by Susan Coll

If you’re fascinated by unexplained phenomena, hop in a beat-up Audi with the kooky and supersmart Cassie Klein and her dog Luna for a voyage of discovery involving a giant moth, a West Virginia bridge collapse and a hot cryptozoologist. The droll Ms. Coll strikes again! — Marion Winik

'The Dead Don't Need Reminding' by Julian Randall

<p>Bold Type Books</p> 'The Dead Don't Need Reminding; by Julian Randall

Bold Type Books

'The Dead Don't Need Reminding; by Julian Randall

Weaving pop culture touchstones into a deeply personal account of mental illness, grief and family, this resonant memoir is deeply of-the-moment.

'Challenger: A True Story of Heroism and Disaster on the Edge of Space' by Adam Higginbotham

<p>Adam Higginbotham</p> 'Challenger: A True Story of Heroism and Disaster on the Edge of Space' by Adam Higginbotham

Adam Higginbotham

'Challenger: A True Story of Heroism and Disaster on the Edge of Space' by Adam Higginbotham

Not just for space lovers, this detailed account of the 1986 Challenger tragedy reads like a thriller. Perfect for those who remember that fateful day, or as an introduction for anyone who doesn't.

'Love is a Burning Thing' by Nina St. Pierre

<p>Dutton</p> 'Love is a Burning Thing' by Nina St. Pierre

Dutton

'Love is a Burning Thing' by Nina St. Pierre

This beautiful memoir about longing for normalcy while being buffeted by the whims of an unstable mother is perfect for fans of Mary Karr or stories about surviving difficult childhoods.

'Coming Home' by Brittney Griner

<p>courtesy</p> 'Coming Home' by Brittney Griner

courtesy

'Coming Home' by Brittney Griner

The world was watching when WNBA star Brittney Griner was taken into Russian custody on drug-related charges in 2022. In her highly-anticipated memoir, the athlete is speaking out about her wrongful detainment in a Russian penal colony — and her journey back home. A moving story of resilience.

'Shanghailanders' by Juli Min

<p>courtesy</p> 'Shanghailanders' by Juli Min

courtesy

'Shanghailanders' by Juli Min

This expansive novel follows the Yang family from 2040 back to 2014 and across three continents. We come to know wealthy Shanghai real estate investor Leo Yang, his posh Japanese-French wife, Eko, and their children Yumi, Yoko and Kiko as they deal with a climate disaster, quibbles that come to feel monumental and much more. This gorgeous, resonant novel feels like a peek into the future—and also very much about the present moment.

'This Strange Eventful History' by Claire Messud

<p>courtesy</p> 'This Strange Eventful History' by Claire Messud

courtesy

'This Strange Eventful History' by Claire Messud

Based on Messud’s own family’s journey, this sprawling saga reaches from 1940s French Algeria to modern-day Connecticut, illuminating the toll of war, displacement and one shocking secret on successive generations of a clan buffeted by history. Evocative and eye-opening. — Kim Hubbard

'Blue Ruin' by Hari Kunzru

<p>courtesy</p> 'Blue Ruin' by Hari Kunzru

courtesy

'Blue Ruin' by Hari Kunzru

Once a rising art star in his native England, Jay lives on the margins in America, barely scraping by. He’s delivering groceries to a mysterious compound when he encounters his lost love Alice. Drama simmers in this COVID-era story about romantic betrayals, class and the power of art.  — Mary Pols

'The Red Grove' by Tess Fontaine

<p>courtesy</p> 'The Red Grove' by Tessa Fontaine

courtesy

'The Red Grove' by Tessa Fontaine

The Red Grove is an insular community where women can’t be harmed. But when one vanishes, it calls into question that very premise in this devastating literary thriller.

Related: 'This World Doesn't Exist. We Don't Live There.' New Book Imagines a World Without Male Violence (Exclusive)

'Very Bad Company' by Emma Rosenblum

<p>courtesy</p> 'Very Bad Company' by Emma Rosenblum

courtesy

'Very Bad Company' by Emma Rosenblum

When an employee goes AWOL from a start-up’s ritzy Miami retreat, it could ruin everything. But money talks, even if people don’t, in this fun page-turning corporate suspense.

'The Return of Ellie Black' by Emiko Jean

<p>courtesy</p> 'The Return of Ellie Black' by Emiko Jean

courtesy

'The Return of Ellie Black' by Emiko Jean

When a girl who’s been missing for two years turns up, a local detective is determined to find whodunit. Worth reading for the jaw-dropping twist alone.

'Bits and Pieces' by Whoopi Goldberg

'Bits and Pieces' by Whoopi Goldberg
'Bits and Pieces' by Whoopi Goldberg

The View cohost is opening up about the influence of her late mother and brother, Emma and Clyde. From coming of age in New York City's housing projects to witnessing her mother's mental breakdown when she was a child, Goldberg looks back on the experiences that impacted her in this moving tribute to family.

Related: Whoopi Goldberg Says Writing a Book About Her Dead Brother and Mom ‘Was Like Losing Them Again’ (Exclusive)

'My Mama, Cass' by Owen Elliot-Kugell

'My Mama, Cass' by Owen Elliot-Kugell
'My Mama, Cass' by Owen Elliot-Kugell

Owen Elliot-Kugell was only seven years old when her mother, Mamas & the Papas singer Cass Elliot, tragically died at age 32 in 1972. In a touching new memoir, the author is reflecting on her mother's life and legacy as only her child could.

“She’s been gone 50 years but I feel closer to her than ever," Elliot-Kugell tells PEOPLE.

Related: Here's How the Mamas & the Papas Got Their Unique Name and Cass Elliot Got Her Moniker (Exclusive)

'How to Read a Book' by Monica Wood

'How to Read a Book' by Monica Wood
'How to Read a Book' by Monica Wood

There isn’t a false note in this subtly brilliant novel about forgiveness. Drunk-driving at 19, Violet Powell killed a woman. She leaves prison at 22, nearly paralyzed by guilt but determined to start fresh in Portland, Maine. There she reconnects with Harriet Larson, the retired English teacher who runs the prison’s book club, and forms an unlikely friendship with the widower of her victim, who harbors his own guilt. An utter gem; funny, sweet and moving. — Mary Pols

'The Ministry of Time' by Kaliane Bradley

'The Ministry of Time' by Kaliane Bradley
'The Ministry of Time' by Kaliane Bradley

This spy thriller-meets-romance sees a civil servant assigned to help a time traveler from 1847 adjust to the modern world. But as they grow closer, he gets suspicious about the program that brought them together. A page-turning revelation.

'The Lady Waiting' by Magdalena Zyzak

'The Lady Waiting' by Magdalena Zyzak
'The Lady Waiting' by Magdalena Zyzak

When a Polish transplant finds a disheveled woman in a ball gown wandering down the L.A. freeway, it sets off a breakneck romp of a novel with a stolen Vermeer, a tangled love triangle, a half-baked heist and enough depraved opulence to make Gatsby gasp.

'Walk With Me: Hamptons' by Susan Kaufman

'Walk With Me: Hamptons' by Susan Kaufman
'Walk With Me: Hamptons' by Susan Kaufman

If you can’t summer on Long Island, this lovely book lets you live vicariously among its cozy cottages, lush gardens, roadside farm stands and beautiful beaches.

'Chop Fry Watch Learn' by Michelle T. King

'Chop Fry Watch Learn' by Michelle T. King
'Chop Fry Watch Learn' by Michelle T. King

Exploring the author’s love of Chinese cuisine and the story of Fu Pei-mei, China’s answer to Julia Child, this delicious book is a must-read for cooks and food lovers.

'Long Island' by Colm Tóibín

'Long Island' by Colm Tóibín
'Long Island' by Colm Tóibín

Almost two decades after his seminal Brooklyn, Tóibín revisits Eilis Lacey, a complicated Irish wife and mother with a hard choice to make. A stunning novel about love, loneliness and loss.

'I Curse You with Joy' by Tiffany Haddish

<p>Diversion Books</p> 'I Curse You with Joy' by Tiffany Haddish

Diversion Books

'I Curse You with Joy' by Tiffany Haddish

In the follow-up to her 2017 bestseller The Last Black Unicorn, Haddish returns with a new collection of insightful, reflective essays, writing on topics like the lasting effect of childhood trauma and comedy mentorship from Bob Saget.

“I’ve learned to take tomatoes being thrown at me and turn them into tomato sauce,” the actress tells PEOPLE. “And I’m going to make some spaghetti.”

Related: Tiffany Haddish Defends Her X-Rated Comedy in New Memoir: ‘I’m Not Clair Huxtable’ (Exclusive)

''You Never Know' by Tom Selleck

<p>Dey Street Books</p> 'You Never Know' by Tom Selleck

Dey Street Books

'You Never Know' by Tom Selleck

The Emmy Award-winning actor is looking back on his "lucky life" and career, from his days on Magnum, P.I. to his role as a family man.

“I don’t have the hooks that a lot of people do,” Selleck tells PEOPLE. “I didn’t rehabilitate myself or have this tragic life. I had my own share of certainly ups and downs, but I’ve been very fortunate.”

Related: Tom Selleck Recalls ‘Complicated’ Dilemma That Led to Passing on Indiana Jones Role (Exclusive)

'By the Time You Read This: The Space between Cheslie's Smile and Mental Illness' by April Simpkins and Cheslie Kryst

<p>Forefront Books</p> 'By the Time You Read This: The Space between Cheslie's Smile and Mental Illness' by April Simpkins and Cheslie Kryst

Forefront Books

'By the Time You Read This: The Space between Cheslie's Smile and Mental Illness' by April Simpkins and Cheslie Kryst

When Extra correspondent and 2019 Miss USA Cheslie Kryst died by suicide in 2022, her mother, April Simpkins, thought that "my body is just going to shut down." Now, Simpkins has fulfilled her daughter's wish of finishing and publishing her memoir.

"I know there were people who were shocked and did not understand," Simpkins tells PEOPLE. "But when I got to a point that I could process the things that she was saying, I understood the place where she was."

Related: Miss USA 2019 Cheslie Kryst's New Memoir Reveals Private Agony Before Her Suicide at Age 30 (Exclusive Excerpt)

'Daughters of Shandong' by Eve J. Chung

<p>Berkley</p> 'Daughters of Shandong' by Eve J. Chung

Berkley

'Daughters of Shandong' by Eve J. Chung

Throw open the doors of your heart for the lionhearted girls of Chung’s gripping debut, based on her own family’s history. Along with their mother, Hai, Di and baby Lan are left behind when their wealthy family flees the Communists: As females, they are that worthless. Finding no landowner at home, the cadres drag Hai to a denunciation rally she barely survives. But these women just keep overcoming the odds—they are heroines for the ages. — Marion Winik

'Reunion' by Elise Juska

<p>Harper</p> 'Reunion' by Elise Juska

Harper

'Reunion' by Elise Juska

A quaint Maine college lures three friends out of pandemic sequestration for their 25th reunion, spurring an intense reevaluation of their lives. A pitch-perfect depiction of New England campus culture, COVID-era child-rearing and how the complexities of adulthood accumulate.  — Claire Martin

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