A book with multiple timelines: Picks for the TPL Reading Challenge 2023

August 11, 2023 | Nisha

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Multiple timelines in books keep things interesting, and I have to say I really enjoy them — especially in thrillers.  It is such a great writing tool. If used well, it allows the author to add more layers, elaborate on backstories and flesh out characters.  Sure, it can get confusing and tricky, but that often makes the story better.

These are my recommendations:

All my rage

All My Rage by Sabaa Tahir 

All My Rage is the kind of book that stays with you after you finish reading. It’s  raw and emotional and covers so many heavy themes. You really feel for the main characters Noor and Salahudin. They live in a small town, where they are the only Muslim Pakistani teens. On top of that, they're simultaneously grieving a huge loss, struggling financially, managing high school life and preparing for college. The multiple timelines allow for Noor and Salahudin’s stories to converge.  Sabaa Tahir writes about complex relationships so well — loving people despite their flaws and mistakes, realizing family are not always what you expect them to be and yearning for more. 

Other categories:

  • A book about friendship
  • A nook about survival

   The Night She Disappeared

The Night She Disappeared by Lisa Jewell 

A young couple, Tallulah and Zach, are missing. There is no trace of them anywhere, and Tallulah’s mother Kim is desperate to find her. Kim knows without a doubt that Tallulah would never leave her one-year-old son Noah. The strong mother daughter bond in this book was very reminiscent of Lisa Jewell’s Then She Was Gone. There was a complex storyline with changing point of views and multiple timelines that all added to the thrill and mounting pressure of this story. 

Other categories:

  • A book about survival

Staff recommendations


Horse by Geraldine Brooks

Horse is based on the extraordinary true story of the record- breaking American racehorse Lexington and the impact his life had on horseracing and equine art. The story – which is underpinned by some very thorough research – weaves threads together from a rich array of characters across different time periods.  It explores themes of racism, slavery,  injustice  and strength of spirit through the central relationship between a man and his horse.  I know nothing about horseracing but this book is moving and beautiful, I was hooked. 

-Philippa, Library Board officer


Pachinko by Min Jin Lee

This story begins in the early 1900s Korea with Sunja. She is the daughter of a poor yet proud family. Sunja’s unplanned pregnancy threatens to shame her family, and her lover deserts her. A kind minister who suffers from tuberculosis saves her. He offers to marry her, give her a life in Japan and raise the child as his own. Spanning decades, the story tells the tale of Sunja and her descendants. Beautifully written and at times heartbreaking, it is a book that I could not put down.

-Jennifer, Public Service Assistant


Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides

This novel centres on a Greek-American family and spans a few generations. It covers the Greco-Turkish War of the 1920s, a move to the Grosse Pointe neighbourhood of Detroit, the 1967 Detroit riot and subsequent white-flight and an intersex romance. It is a very engrossing book that weaves several narratives and timelines together nicely.   

-Liz, Librarian


Tale for the time being

A Tale For the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki 

Ruth is a writer on a remote island in British Columbia. One day she finds a Hello Kitty lunch box washed up on the shore.  Inside is the diary of a 15-year-old Japanese-American girl named Nao, writing from some undetermined point in the past.  Thinking the diary has crossed the ocean after the 2011 tsunami, two parallel narratives emerge: Ruth reading the present, searching for what may have happened, and Nao in the past. The two narratives weave together the human experiences of isolation, time and being weighed down by the past. 

-Emily, Assistant Branch Head

Recommendations from the Facebook Group

These are just some of the suggested titles from our Facebook TPL Reading Challenge 2023 discussion group. You do not need a Facebook account to read the suggestions.

French recommendations

If you like to read in French, check out the list of recommended books for the category in French Un livre avec plusieurs trames temporelles : suggestions pour le Défi lecture.  There’s a mix of books, ebooks and digital audiobooks to try.

Is there a book with multiple timelines that you'd recommend? Add your suggestions in the comments section below.