Part of being a reader is knowing what you like to read. We’re all looking for something when we turn to a book—and it varies a lot from person to person. Some people like the puzzle of a mystery. Some folks like the heart-thumping anxiety of a suspense novel. Some like to luxuriate in the exquisite poetry of literary prose. The trick a good read, I think, is knowing what you’re looking for—and then finding it.
Right now, in my life, I’m just looking for great, page-turning, utterly engaging stories that don’t let me go.
I’m looking to feel connected to the characters and to care about them and to root for them. I want to feel like their story matters, and I want to get pulled in—all in—in a page-turning, up-past-bedtime way. A little bit of comedy is a plus. Great, snappy dialogue is an even bigger plus. And I never say no to a delicious love story. If I can feel inspired, or turn around at the end and look at my own life in a new way, even better.
Here are some books I enjoyed, admired, and could not put down.
THE FAULT IN OUR STARS
I might be the last person in America to have read this book, but I just finished, and I loved it too much not to say something. It’s hardly new—it’s a movie by now, after all. It’s sad, sad, sad—but satisfying. The setting, the parameters of the story, the troubles the characters have to deal with? All heartbreaking. But there’s comedy, too, and genuine human connection. You turn the last page and feel changed. You come out of the story feeling more alive.
ELEANOR & PARK
There’s an intensity to this story that does not let you go. It feels so real, so urgent, it’s as if you’re living it with the characters. The love and connection these two mid-western teenagers in the 1980s find for each other captures the intensity of first love—but the story captures something bigger: the beauty and power of how people take care of each other.
THE ROSIE PROJECT
This is a story of a university professor who’s not great at reading social cues. He reads an article about the health benefits of being married and decides to take a wife—by creating a survey to assess potential candidates. It’s a great premise with lots of comedy—but the thing that hooks you is how engaging he is as a character and how hard he tries. He gets it wrong over and over, misreads people and does the wrong things, but you are one-hundred percent all in rooting for him like crazy.
ONE LAST THING BEFORE I GO
My brother-in-law gave me this book, saying, “This guy is the male you.” So that got my attention. It’s definitely a very guy-ish book—opening, for example, with the main character on his way to make a donation the sperm bank (in contrast to my bedside table reading stack, which tends to be very Ladies’ Nite)—but I felt affection for the main character, rooted for him, and most of all loved stumbling on the story’s many wise insights about life and what it all means.
ME BEFORE YOU
I had this one on my night table for a long time before I tackled it. People kept saying, “You have to read it! You’re going to cry your face off.” But the thing was, I didn’t really want to cry my face off. I didn’t want to get to the end and have to lie on the floor in despair. So I put it off and put it off. When I finally opened it up, I read it in a day. Did I cry my face off? Nope. Moyes renders the story so well that everything that happens feels meaningful and right.
A WALK IN THE WOODS
An oldie but a goodie. This is one of my top two Bill Bryson books (along with Made In America). It’s the story of Bryson, in his forties and out of shape, deciding to walk the Appalachian trial. An old friend from high school joins him, and this story is equal parts comedy, disaster, terror, camaraderie, and Bryson-esque trivia about anything and everything. A movie version (with Robert Redford and Nick Nolte. Read) is about to come out. Read the book first!
Happy Summer Reading!
And read more about Katherine here. Welcome Katherine!