When it comes to forcing her characters to make tough choices for themselves and the people around them, few people have quite the same power in their writing as Jodi Picoult.
Jodi Picoult is an author with many talents. Now, if you’re new to reading some of her works, and want to figure out where you should start, this list is going to do you the world of good!
Here, I’ve listed every book that she has released so far in her literary career, from her 30-year career as an active writer.
Songs Of The Humpback Whale (1992)
Where better to start with this amazing author’s career than at the beginning? Jane Jones has been sidelined in her marriage by her husband Oliver Jones.
In her anger, she takes their daughter, Rebecca, and goes on a cross-country trip, following a trail of letters from her estranged brother Joley to his Massachusetts farm, where a little decompression and self-discovery can be made.
- A phenomenal debut novel for this remarkable author.
- Plenty of relationships for readers to sink their teeth into.
- The plot jumping around from perspective to perspective can get a little confusing at times.
Harvesting The Heart (1993)
Damn. It didn’t take long for Picoult to get the ball rolling with her work! Harvesting the Heart follows the story of young Paige, who was abandoned by her mother at the tender age of 5.
Naturally, having a baby of her own brings up all sorts of unresolved feelings about her childhood and her absent mother. And pretty soon, Paige is left wondering if she can be the mother that she needs to be for a little one.
- Beautifully emotive, and tackles themes of abandonment, and how they can manifest as we grow older.
- Picoult paints these characters in wonderful detail.
- Some characters get tons of characterization, while some may feel a little flat in comparison.
Picture Perfect (1995)
A woman with amnesia is found wandering around a graveyard, so an LAPD officer takes her in. However, as the plot unfolds, it is revealed that this woman is none other than the renowned anthropologist, Cassie Barrett.
And what’s more, her incredibly charming (and hot, that’s important too) husband, Alex Rivers, has come from shooting a movie in Africa to help.
Bit by bit, Cassie starts to put parts of her memory back together, helping her uncover what exactly caused her to lose such precious memories.
- This is a real head-scratcher of a mystery to keep any reader guessing!
- A slow-burn story that builds both a heartwarming romance in the first part, then slow suspense and tension in the last half.
- Considering the controversial subject, some aspects that are written as romantic feel a little odd.
We’ve already seen that Jodi Picoult isn’t about to be pigeonholed into any one genre for long, given her already varied bibliography, even just 4 books in.
Small-town Massachusetts cop Cameron Macdonald has to make a tough arrest when his cousin comes to him confessing that he has mercy murdered his terminally ill wife.
What follows is a tense and tragic court trial that is equal parts split down the middle by a frayed marriage, between Cameron, aiding the prosecution against his cousin, and his wife Allie, seemingly smitten with the love and devotion that this man has for his wife, that he would fulfil her every wish, even mercy killing her at her request.
- A gripping question and court case keeps the audience wondering what comes next.
- A tough decision that leaves you reeling and on the edge of your seat!
- Despite how gripping the main court case of the book is, there are a lot of distractions that slow the pace down and stray from the core dilemma.
The Pact (1998)
Sounds like an ominous title, doesn’t it? Well, hold on to your seatbelt. The courtroom dramas have only just begun now! The Hartes and the Golds families have known each other for years, and seem to get along great.
Not just the parents, but their kids too, as the friendship between the now teenage kids Chris and Emily, turns into something more.
However, an emergency call from the hospital brings with it tragedy: Emily has been shot with a bullet to the head, and a bullet that Chris has taken from his father’s collection has been found in his dad’s cabinet. A bullet that Chris swears was meant for him.
- A beautiful mix of tragedy and romance in a single book.
- Every answer you find leads to more questions, in the best way possible!
- Some of the writing for the kids feels a little weird, especially the younger ones that talk like they’re 14 instead of younger than 10.
Keeping Faith (1999)
If it wasn’t already clear, Picoult has a knack for writing about the messier aspects of relationships that some authors shy away from.
That’s on full display here, when a messy divorce leaves a young seven-year-old, Faith can only find peace and solace in a new friend that she has made. A friend that her parents, Mariah and Colin, aren’t convinced is real…
- A tale of bitter divorces, and the fallout that results from them.
- The pain that these characters are going through feels… well, painfully real!
- An anticlimactic ending might leave some readers confused.
Plain Truth (2000)
Picoult isn’t afraid of tackling the tough topic in her books. We’ve already been emotionally punched in the gut 6 times, and she doesn’t show any signs of slowing down!
When an infant baby’s body is found in an Amish barn, questions and accusations start flying around Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Especially at one 18-year-old and unmarried Amish woman, Katie Fisher.
Intrigued by the set of circumstances, disgruntled metropolitan-based attorney Ellie Hathaway defended Katie’s case, with her urban and city-wise career and judicial knowledge clashing headlong with a virtually completely different justice system.
And we haven’t even mentioned Ellie’s old flame that comes back into her life in the middle of this chaos…
- Who doesn’t love a tall tale where worlds collide?
- Jodi Picoult doesn’t shy away from discussing issues around mental illness, miracles, and, of course, faith.
- The end reveal might not be satisfying for some readers.
Salem Falls (2001)
After 8 months in prison after an incident with a young girl student, former teacher Jack St. Bride tries to rebuild his life away from the accusations. However, the truth isn’t so easily buried…
- Accusations and rumors fly in this gripping tale.
- A deep dive into how accusations and witch-hunts can ruin more than one life.
- Outside of a chaotic inciting incident, readers might find parts of this book boring.
Perfect Match (2002)
Nina Frost is an incredible assistant district attorney that brings child molesters to justice. Doing everything by the book, keeping as many loopholes closed for the system to work.
However, when that gnarly work comes in the form of her 5-year-old abused son, her faith in that system is shattered like glass.
- A phenomenal look at finding justice within the system, warts and all.
- It’s very easy to root for Nina as the main character.
- Major content warning for this one. It’s a very understandably tough subject to talk about for some.
Second Glance (2003)
With an ancient burial site under a major estate and a suicidal drifter as a main character, there is a lot to unpack in this tale of haunting memories (and maybe even actual hauntings!)
- A tale of love and troubling memories, masterfully woven together.
- A very quick read. You’ll struggle to put it down!
- The plot and characters can be a little hard to track at times.
My Sister’s Keeper (2004)
Oh wait, but the heartbreak doesn’t stop thee! There’s more. Anna has always felt that she was a second priority under her sister.
So, when her parents try to get her to donate her bone marrow against her wishes for her sister’s leukemia, she makes a decision that could tear the family apart.
- This is a tragic tale where you can see where every character is coming from morally.
- A devastating emotional rollercoaster.
- Some of the child characters act and talk much older than you’d expect, and it’s hard to tell whether that was intentional.
Vanishing Acts (2005)
No, it’s not a circus magic trick. Instead, it is a revelation that our protagonist, Delia Hopkins, wife, and mother, discovers about her past. And, more importantly, how it changes everything in her life!
- A heartbreaking and tense story about how our entire lives can be changed by one detail.
- One question leads to another and keeps you asking.
- Picoult has very much found her rhythm by this point. If you’re not into her style of writing, this changes little.
The Tenth Circle (2006)
Young love quickly turns into heartbreak and destroyed innocence, as 14-year-old Trixie Stone sees her mild-mannered father, and his tumultuous past put him on the warpath.
- A tragic exploration of the loss of innocence.
- Trixie’s new understanding of her father is a moment many children go through. Only here, that also brings with it fear.
- Considering the very real subject, the soap-opera feel leaves it feeling a little strange.
Nineteen Minutes (2007)
The small town of Sterling’s quiet existence is shaken to its core after a school shooting takes place. As the investigation is underway, families are broken and friendships are shattered, for everyone involved and more.
- A very real topic, and a ton of emotional baggage for every character to work through.
- Given the sensitive subject, this might not be a book for everyone.
Change Of Heart (2008)
Can a sea and a lifetime of regret, anger, and spite, be overcome? For the sake of the characters in this amazing story, they may not have a choice in the matter…
- Picoult, as always, has mastered the emotional gut punches in her writing, and that’s clear to see here!
- Plenty of character growth from everyone in this book!
- The first half of the book is front-loaded with a lot of details that can be easily overlooked.
Handle With Care (2009)
Willow is a child with serious Osteogenesis imperfecta but is a bright spark in Charlotte and Sean’s lives. However, when Charlotte realizes something from early in her pregnancy with Willow, she starts asking herself a lot of what-if questions. And very few are good…
- A book that leaves you asking questions.
- There’s a tangible sense of dread as you realize more and more about the plot.
- This is another book covering heavy topics, and might not be to everyone’s tastes.
House Rules (2010)
Emma is concerned that the police investigating a local murder in their town suspect her son, Jacob, is behind it. Is it just Jacob’s inability to read social cues and avoid eye contact? Or something more?
- A fascinating look into both how familial and communities perceive and react to those they perceive as ’different.’
- Jacob and his character are fascinatingly shown, a big departure from Picoult’s other characters.
- Outside of Jacob, many of the other characters are archetypes that Picoult has used before on many occasions.
Sing You Home (2011)
Music was everything in Zoe Baxter’s world, which is one of the reasons that she pursued being a music therapist, as well as finding love on the way. But how will her loved ones react when she falls in love with the ‘wrong’ kind of person?
- One of Picoult’s first openly LGBTQ+ couples in a main role.
- Given the period this occurs in, this gives a whole new dimension to Picoult’s love of courtroom dramas.
- Not every thread is answered by the end of the book.
Over The Moon (2011)
Time for something a little different! Working with Jake van Leer and Ellen Wilber, this combination of music play and fairy tale is unlike pretty much anything else in Picoult’s bibliography!
- A starkly different work from Picoult’s other books and pieces.
- This story has a vibrant and fun fairy tale feeling to it.
- This is a play aimed at children, more than her usual target audience.
Leaving Home (2011) (Short Story Collection)
Rather than a single full-length novel, Picoult treats us with her first short story collection, with 3 previously published works brought into a single book, for your reading convenience.
- Many of these stories, from children leaving for college, to vacation trips, are outside of her usual wheelhouse and are a breath of fresh air.
- These stories are lightning-quick to get through, while still being enjoyable
- Might be a little too short?
Lone Wolf (2012)
Finally, back to the mystery and intrigue! The Warren family is a household full of family–destroying secrets. So what happens when they aren’t so secret anymore?
- The different twists and turns of different characters keep things fresh.
- The info-dumps around world behavior are interesting but feel a little out of place.
The Storyteller (2013)
Sage Singer, intrepid baker, loves telling stories. But when she accidentally lets a dark secret slip, how many lives will she ruin?
- Sage Singer is a character of many layers, as are many of this book’s supporting cast!
- It’s a surprising departure, that might make it your favorite work of hers, or your dead last.
Leaving Time (2014)
Jenna Metcalf hasn’t stopped looking for her mother for 10 years. Will she find the right help in the form of a private detective and psychic to find her?
- This book has a central question that it sticks to answering.
- The three main characters have great chemistry.
- The two main side characters border on stereotypes in their voices and characterization.
Larger Than Life (2014) (Novella)
Perhaps her first work is directly tied to a previous novel, Larger Than Life covers Jenna’s estranged mother, Alice, as she studies behavior in elephants and how they grieve.
- We get some great characterization from Alice, and how she views both her research and the wider world.
- This sequel(prequel?) to the previous book gives some much-needed expanded context.
- The plot is somewhat predictable, outside of the animal aspect of it.
Where There’s Smoke (2014) (Short Story)
Where there is smoke, there is… a celebrity psychic? Serenity Jones has built an entire career off of her psychic abilities. But a TV show with a war widow leads Serenity to face how much she had sacrificed for pride and fame.
- The TV show setting makes for a similar, but novel setup to Picoult’s usual courtroom scenarios.
- Probably not the best book to introduce new readers of Picoult to.
Shine (2016) (Short Story)
In a short novella that tackles race and privilege, the main character Ruth must navigate two worlds: The one of her native Harlem, and the new, upstate school where everyone seems to treat her differently.
- A great short story to prepare for her next full-length novel!
- Perhaps as a result of this setup story, it ends quite abruptly.
Small Great Things (2016)
From Shine, Ruth is now grown up and works as a delivery nurse in a Connecticut hospital. But when she tries to perform emergency CPR on a white supremacist couple’s baby, she is taken into (say it with me now) a court to defend her innocence.
- A biting commentary about race and gender, in this courtroom drama.
- While Picoult does handle the issue with sensitivity, some people might feel that the perspective of an African American woman might be best written about by… well, an African American woman.
Mermaid (2017) (Short Story)
Back with another short story, Picoult tells the tale of Hope Payne, a marine biologist who is concerned about her research fish disappearing from her pond. What, or perhaps who is eating them?
- A strange, but surprisingly tense setup keeps this book from becoming boring.
- It can be a little confusing at times.
A Spark Of Light (2018)
Set in a women’s reproductive clinic, the tense 24 hours this story takes place over are some of Picoult’s best work in years!
- A tense thrill ride, from beginning to end.
- The plot is surprisingly linear, making it easy to follow.
- While it does follow a linear timeline, the different perspectives can be tricky to follow.
The Book Of Two Ways (2020)
With a scenario that every regular plane passenger fears coming true, this is a book that you’ll probably want to leave on the ground for your next flight!
- A flyer’s worst dream was brought to vivid life!
- The main character comes off as quite unlikable by the end of the story.
Wish You Were Here (2021)
A woman’s professional career is interrupted by a familiar pandemic sweeping across the world. Sounds familiar?
- A deep dive into the struggle that many of us faced during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- This is still an ongoing topic, with all the baggage that brings.
Between The Lines (2012)
What happens when a young girl finds solace in her fairy tales in the library? Well, if this book is anything to go by, a new boyfriend!
- A magic, fairy-tale love at the center.
- A great collaboration between mother and daughter!
- The ending might feel a little unexpected for some, and not in a satisfying way.
Off The Page (2015)
Her second collaboration with her daughter, this story tells the tale of a forbidden relationship that (of course) cannot be stopped. Or can it?
- A very sweet high school romance story.
- The pacing grinds to a halt by the end.
Mad Honey (2022)
When a picture-perfect marriage starts to unravel, what will Olivia McAfee try to start fresh? Find out here!
- Equal parts thriller and a tragic familial bonding story.
- The ending might be a little predictable for Picoult fans.
Wonder Woman: Love & Murder (2007)
Wonder Woman’s alter ego, Diana Prince, is forced by the Department of Metahuman Affairs to capture one of the biggest superheroes out there: Wonder Woman herself!
- Picoult’s contribution to this classic character’s mythos is excellent, with her signature wit and twists easily seen.
- Picoult is somewhat limited by editorial influence and artists’ interpretations of her script. Great if you’re looking for a change, but maybe not if you’re looking for all of her favorite story beats.
So, with pretty much anywhere to start, which Jodi Picoult book will you start with first?
Frequently Asked Questions
How Many Books Did Jodi Picoult Write?
Combining all her books, from solo work to collaborations, Picoult’s written credits add up to a total of 35 works. 35!
In What Order Should I Read The Series?
Because most, if not all, of these stories are standalone novels, you’re free to read them in any order that you might like!