So you've been out of the reading habit for awhile; life has gotten away from you and although you used to read voraciously, these days it's just harder and harder to find the time. But you're committed — you want to get back into books and the escape they offer. You also want to be smarter and nicer.
But to kick off this renewed habit, you want to read something really good. Really juicy. I mean like, grabs-you-and-doesn't-let-go kind of amazing. Look no further — I've compiled a list of some of the very best books that have compelled lapsed readers and nonreaders alike to leap back into the reading habit, reigniting their love of books.
I've categorized them a bit so you can make decisions based on what you like to read. I haven't read all of them, but you can bet the ones I haven't are on my TBR list. If you want even more suggestions, be sure you check out Goodreads' Popular Fast Reads.
I know that I've missed some — be sure to add your favorite fast reads in the comments!
And so without further ado...
The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman (Dark)
If you like dark, ambitious, slightly creepy fair tales, Neil Gaiman is your man. I haven't read this one, but for my friends who love Gaiman, many of them recommend starting with this one. Amazon calls it an "imaginative romp;" Booklist calls it "a lovely yarn."
Lamb by Christopher Moore (Humor)
The subtitle says it all: "The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal." The Philadelphia Inquirer called this book "reminiscent of Vonnegut and Douglas Adams" and a guy I used to date was a big fan of this book as well (which means this might be a good starting point for guys looking to read more literary fiction). If you think you've read everything there is to know about Jesus (and really, who has?), this might be something new to add to your list.
She's Come Undone by Wally Lamb (Literary fiction)
I read this years (and years and years) ago, and despite it's considerable length, I plowed through it. The book was listed as an Oprah Book Club pick way back in 1997, if that says anything. A coming of age novel and a redemption story, She's Come Undone tells the story of overweight 13-year-old Delores Price. Described as a "dysfunctional Wonder Years," the book eloquently (and often with humor) deals with issues such as divorce, mental illness and forgiveness.
Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell (YA)
This is a book I picked up for my then-15-year-old daughter, who is probably one of the toughest reviewers I know. So many people who love Young Adult fiction have recommended this book because of its writing and its new take on teen angst. The book tells the awkward love story between two "star-crossed misfits," the wild-haired, new kid in town Eleanor, and the nerdy but loveable Park. I picked it up last summer, then got distracted with another book (happens all the time), but I definitely plan on picking it back up soon.
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (Thriller)
There are very few books that I tell people that they have to read, and this is one of them. Not because the book is so, so amazing, but because the plotting in it is fantastic. Blow-your-mind good. If you've seen the movie, fine, you know what happens, but go back and read the book anyway. It's fascinating to watch how Flynn sets all the characters up and then, bam, knocks them back down again.
The Hunger Games By Suzanne Collins (YA)
The closest I've ever come to getting in a fistfight over this book (why yes, there was liquor involved!). Which is curious, because I thought it was a "shitty book." I know, I know, this isn't the best way to start off describing a book that's on a "must read" book list. But thanks to Jennifer Lawrence, we've all become fascinated by the dystopian, bow-wielding herione Katniss and an older, wiser self now thinks it's worth picking up. I've only read the first in the trilogy (see above "shitty book" reference), and it was indeed a fast read. If you're looking to get back into reading, this book will get you back in the groove.
Bossypants by Tina Fey (Humor)
Here's another one that I recommend to people all the time. I love Tina Fey. I'm pretty sure we would be besties if we actually knew each other (I have this reoccurring daydream of her, Jennifer Aniston, and me — maybe Louis CK is there too — all sitting at a booth at Stella's, telling jokes and throwing back whiskey). This book is fast, smart, choke-on-your-tea hilarious and just so, so good. Buy the hard copy; you'll read it and pass it on to all your smart, funny friends (who have actually probably already read it, because it's that damn good, so nevermind.)
Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsen (Thriller)
This is one of the few books that I can say that I've seen the movie, but haven't read the book. Again, I once started it, but as is my habit, got distracted by a shiny other book — which goes against Amazon's claim that "Once you start The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, there's no turning back." It tells the story of anti-heroine Lisbeth Salander, a "a misunderstood genius with a cache of authority issues." A thriller filled twists and turns, Booklist laments that "What a shame that we only have three books in which to watch the charismatic Lisbeth Salander take on the world!"
The Tipping Point by Malcom Gladwell (Nonfiction)
Here's one for you nonfiction fans. Gladwell, the grandfather of pop sociology, describes the tipping point as a "magic moment when an idea, trend, or social behavior crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire." Using examples such as the drop of violent crime in New York and the comeback of Hushpuppies shoes, this book has already changed how the world thinks about ideas. An engaging, highly readable book.
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern (Dark)
So many people loved this book. So many. I think it has to do with its YA-ish style romance and magical setting, but who knows? I thought it was meh (check out my video review to see why). Still, I think it's worth mentioning as a good book to get you back in the habit if you've been out for awhile.
Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follet (Historical fiction)
The first book in a series about a cathedral being built in the middle ages. Brilliantly written, with plenty of romance, thrills and historical context to go around. This may not be exactly a "quick read" at over 1,000 pages, but it's still a good one. The Library Journal says the book "will appeal more to lovers of exciting adventure stories than true devotees of historical fiction." Sold.
Good in Bed by Jennifer Weiner (Chick lit)
Meet Candace "Cannie" Shapiro, Philadelphia Inquirer reporter who one day opens up a magazine and finds a column penned by her ex-boyfriend that proclaims "Loving a larger woman is an act of courage in our world." Thoroughly humiliated, Cannie takes solace in tequila and her rat terrier Nifkin, and then proceeds down the road of redemption. "This is a must-read for any woman who struggles with body image, or for anyone who cares about someone who does," said Publisher's Weekly. I'm saving this one for the next time I'm sick, and need something engaging and fast to read.
Okay, so let me know: what did I miss? What did I list that should've been left off this list? Leave a comment below.
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Jill Hinton Wolfe