New year, new you. You’ve decided you need to read more, a goal you make every year, with the same disappointing result every time. My aim is to remove that infamous first stumbling block that always comes with this resolution: finding the right first book.
We all had those nights in our youth where we mischievously stayed up late, concealing ourselves under the thick covers with a worn-down library book, with only a cheap dollar-store flashlight to light the words on the page. I know I remember the sweet exhilaration I felt to even pursue such a rebellious task “on a school night.” I even remember turning down social invitations just so I could stay home and read “just one more chapter” (famous last words).
Do you ever wonder where that “reading fire” went? Did it just gradually sizzle out with our youth and curiosity? Did it drown in the heavy hours we spent reading tedious college textbooks? Or perhaps it was merely dampened as we struggled to find books that give us the same nostalgic euphoria?
Recently, I decided to ask my friends and community what books got them back into stoking that “reading fire” again. The numerous responses ignited a glimmer of hope within me, one that I feel obligated to share. Enjoy!
(Feel free to comment any other reading suggestions at the end of this post.)
By Brandon Sanderson
“It is an original story with loveable characters. Brandon Sanderson’s works are usually really lengthy, so starting off with one of his smaller works helped me develop a love for his work. And now I can’t stop reading them!”
Defeated, crushed, and driven almost to extinction, the remnants of the human race are trapped on a planet that is constantly attacked by mysterious alien starfighters. Spensa, a teenage girl living among them, longs to be a pilot. When she discovers the wreckage of an ancient ship, she realizes this dream might be possible—assuming she can repair the ship, navigate flight school, and (perhaps most importantly) persuade the strange machine to help her. Because this ship, uniquely, appears to have a soul.
By David Morrell
“It isn’t very long, so it wasn’t terribly intimidating to start, but it was a thrill from start-to-finish! I couldn’t put it down.”
New York Times-bestselling author David Morrell is back with a fast-paced tale of a man struggling to reclaim his abducted family from a stranger who may possibly be his long-lost brother. Brad Denning is a successful architect living a perfect life in Denver with his loving wife and son.
Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief
By Rick Riordan
“A very good read. I enjoyed seeing the Greek legends I loved reading about as a kid given a new lease of life, offered up to the most recent generation. I had to keep going.”
“This was such an epic adventure and I loved the countless hints and references to Greek Mythology! I couldn’t help but had to laugh out loud whenever Percy opened his mouth. I swear that young boy is the embodiment of sass and the more I read about him, the more I got attached. I had to keep reading his story.”
Percy Jackson is a good kid, but he can’t seem to focus on his schoolwork or control his temper. And lately, being away at boarding school is only getting worse – Percy could have sworn his pre-algebra teacher turned into a monster and tried to kill him. When Percy’s mom finds out, she knows it’s time that he knows the truth about where he came from, and that it’s time for him to the one place he’ll be safe. She sends Percy to Camp Half Blood, a summer camp for demigods (on Long Island), where he learns that the father he never knew is Poseidon, God of the Sea. Soon a mystery unfolds and together with his friends—one a satyr and the other the demigod daughter of Athena – Percy sets out on a quest across the United States to reach the gates of the Underworld (located in a recording studio in Hollywood) and prevent a catastrophic war between the gods.
The Crying of Lot 49
By Thomas Pynchon
“If you’re wanting a good story, this probably isn’t what you’re looking for (so, by all means, blame the author for having read the wrong book). If you’re looking for a good story told with a compelling use of language—language to be savored and considered and wallowed in—this is a great one.”
Suffused with rich satire, chaotic brilliance, verbal turbulence and wild humor, The Crying of Lot 49 opens as Oedipa Maas discovers that she has been made executrix of a former lover’s estate. The performance of her duties sets her on a strange trail of detection, in which bizarre characters crowd in to help or confuse her. But gradually, death, drugs, madness, and marriage combine to leave Oedipa in isolation on the threshold of revelation, awaiting the Crying of Lot 49.
Life After Life
By Kate Atkinson
“While it’s not perfect, I was completely swept away by Life After Life and this is something I’ll re-read in the future. I found so much humanity in this read, and it was so well-written, I couldn’t help but be moved and informed and entertained by it.”
What if you could live again and again until you got it right? On a cold and snowy night in 1910, Ursula Todd is born to an English banker and his wife. She dies before she can draw her first breath. On that same cold and snowy night, Ursula Todd is born, lets out a lusty wail, and embarks upon a life that will be, to say the least, unusual. For as she grows, she also dies, repeatedly, in a variety of ways, while the young century marches on towards its second cataclysmic world war. Does Ursula’s apparently infinite number of lives give her the power to save the world from its inevitable destiny? And if she can—will she?
Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic
By Allison Bechdel
“Whereas most graphic novels are quick, fun reads, this is unlike anything I’ve read before because it’s so rich with meaning. This is like a literary fiction novel tucked into a graphic novel.”
An unusual memoir done in the form of a graphic novel by a cult favorite comic artist offers a darkly funny family portrait that details her relationship with her father, who is a historic preservation expert dedicated to restoring the family’s Victorian home, as well as a funeral-home director, high-school English teacher, and closeted homosexual.
Me Talk Pretty One Day
By David Sedaris
“I recommend listening to the author himself read from the audiobook – his unmistakable, somewhat babyish voice makes it even better, and then when I picked up the books later I could replay the voice in my head. I can’t wait to read more of his books.”
David Sedaris’ move to Paris from New York inspired these hilarious pieces, including the title essay, about his attempts to learn French from a sadistic teacher who declares that every day spent with you is like having a cesarean section. His family is another inspiration. You Can’t Kill the Rooster is a portrait of his brother, who talks incessant hip-hop slang to his bewildered father. And no one hones a finer fury in response to such modern annoyances as restaurant meals presented in ludicrous towers of food and cashiers with six-inch fingernails.
By Jonathan Lethem
“There are more laugh out loud moments in this book than in anything I’ve read for ages.”
Lionel Essrog is Brooklyn’s very own self-appointed Human Freakshow, an orphan whose Tourettic impulses drive him to bark, count, and rip apart our language in the most startling and original ways. Together with three veterans of the St. Vincent’s Home for Boys, he works for small-time mobster Frank Minna’s limo service cum detective agency. Life without Frank Minna, the charismatic King of Brooklyn, would be unimaginable, so who cares if the tasks he sets them are, well, not exactly legal. But when Frank is fatally stabbed, one of Lionel’s colleagues lands in jail, the other two vie for his position, and the victim’s widow skips town. Lionel’s world is suddenly topsy-turvy, and this outcast who has trouble even conversing attempts to untangle the threads of the case while trying to keep the words straight in his head. Motherless Brooklyn is a brilliantly original homage to the classic detective novel by one of the most acclaimed writers of his generation.
Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster
By Jon Krakauer
“I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not the biggest fan of nonfiction, and I much prefer to listen to podcasts or interviews, rather than read straight-up non-fiction about a certain topic. And as someone who is NOT AT ALL interested in climbing or sports in general, this wouldn’t be a book that I’d normally read. But I’m so glad that I did. It was so good!”
A bank of clouds was assembling on the not-so-distant horizon, but journalist-mountaineer Jon Krakauer, standing on the summit of Mt. Everest, saw nothing that “suggested that a murderous storm was bearing down.” He was wrong. The storm, which claimed five lives and left countless more—including Krakauer’s—in guilt-ridden disarray, would also provide the impetus for this book, Krakauer’s epic account of the May 1996 disaster.
The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America
By Erik Larson
“This book will give you the heebie jeebies. A fascinating book and an easy read. Chapter by chapter, in simple chronological order, the author juxtaposes preparations for the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair with the doings of one of the country’s first serial murders.”
A compelling account of the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893 brings together the divergent stories of two very different men who played a key role in shaping the history of the event—visionary architect Daniel H. Burnham, who coordinated its construction, and Dr. Henry H. Holmes, an insatiable and charming serial killer who lured women to their deaths