Here they are -- the books that left us breathless in the last 50 pages. Some are traditional thrillers, some whodunits and some roller-coaster novels.
By Daniel Woodrell 224 pages; Back Bay Books
The Premise: In this literary page-turner, Ree Dolly's meth-cooking dad has skipped bail. If he doesn't show up for his next court date, then 16-year-old Ree, her two younger brothers and her mentally ill mother will lose their house. The search to find him involves poking into secrets that dangerous, neighboring families in the Ozarks would rather keep hidden.
Why the Ending Is a Stunner: Woodrell simultaneously resolves this heart-pounding -- and heart-breaking -- story and leaves you wondering what will happen next. But the real hook? Ree's acts of courage that leave you astounded by what a young girl will risk to save her family.
Tell No One
By Harlan Coben 320 pages; Dell
The Premise: The thriller you might have missed. Good-guy doctor David Beck has been mourning his wife's murder for the past eight years. But what if she's still alive? The suspense encourages speed-reading, but the characters -- a drug dealer with a soft spot, a wisecracking lawyer, a kickass lesbian supermodel, a billionaire with a taste for revenge -- make you want to linger.
Why the Ending Is a Stunner: Nonstop twists leave you too dizzy to guess the denouement. But damn if Coben didn't drop a clue at the very beginning -- and you missed it.
By Banana Yoshimoto 192 pages
The Premise: A young artist named Chihiro is haunted by her mother's death. Ever so slowly, she falls in love with a mysterious scientist named Nakajima, who has an even deeper event to hide. Yoshimoto's spare, psychologically instense style has made her one of Japan's most celebrated authors.
Why the Ending Is a Stunner: Nakajima's buried secret will leave you in tears, yet the final pages are sweetly -- and believably -- uplifting. A word to the wise -- don't read the flap copy unless you want a spoiler.
Life of Pi
By Yann Martel 326 pages; Mariner Books
The Premise: An Indian man named "Pi" recalls the 227 days he spent adrift on the Pacific Ocean as a boy, following a shipwreck that killed his parents. The only other survivors in the lifeboat were a hyena, a zebra, an orangutan and a tiger named Richard Parker -- maybe.
Why the Ending Is a Stunner: The surprise comes with a philosophical afterburn, requiring us to think about how we endure tragedy, who we become in its wake and what we choose to believe.
The Story of Edgar Sawtelle
By David Wroblewsk i576 pages
The Premise: In this epic drama, Edgar Sawtelle is a mute dog breeder living on a Wisconsin farm. One night he finds his father dying in the barn; later, his father's ghost leads him to a clue about what happened. Edgar's quest to avenge the murder has increasingly deadly consequences.
Why the Ending Is a Stunner: The unforgettable conclusion of what Oprah calls one of "the great American novels” has echoes of Hamlet’s burn-the-house-down conclusion, but still manages a wholly original take.
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
By J.K. Rowling 652 pages; Scholastic Paperbacks
The Premise: For those who've forgotten, the sixth and penultimate book of J.K. Rowling's record-shattering series finds the evil Death Eaters menacing the Muggles and threatening to destroy the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Can Harry, Hermione and Ron outwit them?
Why the Ending Is a Stunner: No one was prepared to believe that the world's most beloved headmaster would really die -- nor could we guess who would kill him.Two years later, thousands of us stood in line for hours at our local bookstores waiting to grab the final installment the minute it went on sale.
No Country for Old Men
By Cormac McCarthy 309 pages; Vintage
The Premise: Llewelyn Moss stumbles onto a drug deal gone wrong near the Mexican border, steals the money and drugs and runs. A chase involving rival hitmen and a guilt-ridden sheriff ensues. As in his other novels, McCarthy marries a mesmerizing prose style to a profound exploration of good and evil.
Why the Ending Is a Stunner: There's room for interpretation. McCarthy's genius lies in taking you for a wild ride, and then making you think and rethink questions about violence and conscience, long after you’ve finished the book.
By Ian McEwan 351 pages; Anchor Books
The Premise: In 1935, while at home in her family's mansion in the English countryside, 13-year-old Briony misinterprets something she sees and makes a terrible accusation -- one that she will forever regret. The novel takes us through WWII and all the way into the 1990s, as Briony tries to make amends to the lovers she tore apart.
Why the Ending Is a Stunner: McEwan breaks your heart not once, but twice -- and leaves you wiser for it.
The Girl on the Train
By Paula Hawkins 336 pages; Riverhead Books
The Premise: Riding the train into London every morning, alcoholic Rachel—whose husband left her for another woman—gets a daily glimpse of a couple who appear to have the perfect life. But one morning, Rachel spots the woman kissing another man; and, not long after that, the woman disappears. Rachel goes to the police, but isn't taken seriously. Then she begins to doubt herself...
Why the Ending Is a Stunner: If you still don't know what happens, we won't wreck it -- but boy, are you in for a shock. Between this and Gone Girl, we’ve all begun to rely on unreliable narrators for our fictional thrills.
The Oxford Murders
By Guillermo Martinez 208 pages; Penguin Books
The Premise: In this brainy thriller by an Argentine math PhD, the narrator arrives at Oxford after graduating from the University of Buenos Aires. Soon, he and a well-known logician get caught up trying to solve a series of killings, following what appear to be mathematical clues. (Although the book was big in Argentina, Spain and the UK, American readers might've missed it.)
Why the Ending Is a Stunner: Not only are the killer and the motive a surprise, but there's also an entirely unwitting accomplice.
The Paying Guests
By Sarah Waters 576 pages; Riverhead Books
The Premise: In post–World War I London, Frances Wray and her mother are forced to rent out rooms in their home to make ends meet. Their tenants' arrival marks the end -- to say the least -- of the sedate life they once enjoyed.
Why The Ending Is a Stunner: This tale of forbidden sex that leads to murder closes on just the right satisfyingly sensual note.
A Storm of Swords
By George R.R. Martin 1008 pages; Bantam
The Premise: Shocker follows shocker in this third installment of George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series. (The HBO hit Game of Thrones, based on the books, is only the tip of the sword, so to speak.) All manner of treachery rocks the war-torn Seven Kingdoms -- but perhaps no scene is as jaw-dropping as the third book's infamous Red Wedding.
Why the Ending Is a Stunner: Martin leaves you craving the next installment...and the next, and the next. In fact, fans are frantic for him to finish the series.
In the Woods
By Tana French 464 pages; Penguin Books
The Premise: In Dublin, in 1984, three children disappear in the woods. Only one of them is found, and the blood-spattered boy can't remember what happened. But 20 years later, that boy -- who now calls himself by his middle name, Rob -- is a detective. When a murder takes place in those same woods, he and his partner, Cassie, are assigned to solve it...and Rob tries to get to the bottom of both mysteries.
Why the Ending Is a Stunner: The murderer in the present-day case is surprising, but there's more. French leaves us as haunted as Rob, who discovers that some truths, some memories and some kinds of grief are too deep to reach. You'll also yearn for a romantic redo between Rob and Cassie (sorry, we're not telling...).
Eleanor & Park
By Rainbow Rowell 336 pages; St. Martin's Griffin The Premise: Eleanor, the new girl at the high school, contends with abuse and poverty, while Park, who is half Korean, struggles to gain his dad's approval. This unlikely couple falls in love and is sadly torn apart. But then...
Why the Ending Is a Stunner: A postcard arrives, with three words written on it.
By David Nicholls 437 pages; Vintage
The Premise: This star-crossed love story captures the same day, July 15, through a series of years spanning 1988 to 2007. We see Emma and Dexter move out of their student days and on to false starts of adulthood, a hot-and-then-not career (Dexter), a crummy job followed by success (Emma) and, of course, romances with the wrong people. You think you know where this is headed, but you don't...
Why the Ending Is a Stunner: There's a sucker punch that seems like it must surely mark the finish. But in this novel, time, like memory, has a way of circling back.
By Walter Mosley 320 pages; Vintage
The Premise: In Mosley's most recent Easy Rawlins mystery (the first was Devil in a Blue Dress), the P.I. is hired to find the kidnapped daughter of a wealthy weapons manufacturer. The story unfolds in L.A. during the era of radical black nationalism and the Patty Hearst kidnapping -- and while the prime suspect is a black man, Easy is convinced he's innocent and fears that the police will kill him if they find him first.
Why the Ending Is a Stunner: This unputdownable story is filled with twists and turns, but the real shock to the system lies in Mosley's social commentary about an era that makes you think even harder about today's headlines.
Never Let Me Go
By Kazuo Ishiguro 288 pages; Vintage
The Premise: Kathy has loved Tommy since boarding school, but her best friend, Ruth, won him. There's nothing unusual in that setup—but it turns out that all three are clones, created for the sole purpose of having their organs harvested. Kathy becomes a "carer" for other clones going under the knife, which buys her time. Ruth dies on the table. Could Tommy and Kathy's rekindled love win him a deferral?
Why the Ending Is a Stunner: Their former headmistress makes a shattering admission. One that you either suspected (but couldn't believe would actually happen) or that you never saw coming -- which, in turn, reveals a little about how you see the world.
<a href="http://www.amazon.com/Mom-Me-Maya-Angelou/dp/1400066115/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1375398570&s=books&sr=1-1&tag=thehuffingtop-20" target="_blank"><strong>The memoir can teach anybody to forgive, let go of a tough past and get along with a hell-on-wheels parent (and we mean anybody.)</strong></a>
Maya Angelou's moving, honest portrait of her up and down relationship with Vivian Baxter -- the bold, smart, hard-drinking, pistol-toting woman who left Angelou with her grandmother for most of her childhood but reunited with her during her daughter's adolescence -- is full of wisdom, laughs and blockbuster sentences like, "there are times when no one is right and sometimes among family and children, no one can admit that there is no right, and that maybe at the same time there is no wrong," and, "She liberated me from a society that would have had me think of myself as the lower of the low. She liberated me to life."
-- Leigh Newman