20 Books You Can’t Put Down

books you can't put down

What makes you feel like it’s really summer?

For me, it’s a week at the beach with a beach chair, umbrella, a cooler full of drinks, and my Kindle reader.  I am constantly reading something, whether it’s a great novel, a self-improvement book, or even both at the same time! Reading is my guilty pleasure, and I’m constantly on the search for the next great read.

I started summer early this year with an April beach trip and several amazing books I devoured during the week and many more since then. I wanted to share my favorites with you.

Here are 20 books you can’t put down for your summer reading list:

1. Ruby (Oprah’s Book Club 2.0)

Screen Shot 2015-08-05 at 8.22.48 AMI just finished reading this unforgettable story of a man determined to protect the woman he loves from the small, Texas town set out to destroy her. This exquisitely written debut novel by Cynthia Bond has already received dozens of glowing reviews. The language is so beautiful, you’ll find yourself stopping to re-read sentences to soak in the words. This is a great book to get lost in this summer because the story and writing are so compelling.

Here’s what Amazon says about the story:

“Ephram Jennings, the son of a backwoods preacher, has been in love with the beautiful Ruby Bell ever since childhood. But Ruby has been so badly used by the men in her small African American town of Liberty, Texas, that she flees for New York City as soon as she is able, in search of the mother who abandoned her. When Ruby’s best friend dies, Ruby returns home, only to succumb to the bad memories that haunt her still.”

2. Revival: A Novel

Screen Shot 2015-08-05 at 8.24.04 AMGrab your beach chair and get ready for this page-turner. I have always been a fan of Stephen King’s books and have read nearly everything he’s written. King is simply a great storyteller, and if you like mysteries and thrillers, this book will not disappoint.

The story focuses on a minister, Reverend Jacobs, in a small New England town who befriends a young boy. After the minister’s wife and son are killed in an accident, and he is overwhelmed by grief and abandons his flock in favor of science.

A couple decades later, the boy is a down-and-out musician with a bad drug addiction, and he rencounters Jacobs by chance. They begin another disturbing relationship centered on Jacobs interest in electricity and the power it has for “miraculous” healing that has bizarre and frightening after-effects. This book is vintage King at his best.

3. 10-Minute Declutter: The Stress-Free Habit for Simplifying Your Home

Screen Shot 2015-08-05 at 8.15.30 AMThis is a book I wrote with co-author Steve Scott teaching the habit of getting your house in order in just ten minutes a day. We both used our personal decluttering experiences to break down the overwhelming chore of decluttering into bite-sized chunks.

Summer is a great time to work on decluttering as life is a bit less hectic. We give you the exact steps to organize every space in your house using the “less is more” mindset for letting go of stuff.

This is the perfect handbook for the busy professional or a parent who has little time for a massive organizing project. We also give you links to any organizing and cleaning supplies you’ll need.

4. Before I Go to Sleep: A Novel

Screen Shot 2015-08-05 at 8.24.55 AMI couldn’t put this book down because the story line was so unusual and riveting. It’s a psychological thriller about an amnesiac who has a mysterious accident and cannot remember her past or form new memories.

Her memories disappear when she falls asleep, and she awakens every day not knowing who she is. She must use her hidden journals to reconstruct her past and understand the people around her. She desperately tries to uncover the truth about who she is—and who she can trust. The author does a great job with a complicated narrative by keeping the suspense high, as you become as desperate as the protagonist to learn the truth.

5. The Nightingale

Screen Shot 2015-08-05 at 8.25.22 AMAuthor Kristin Hannah has captured a particular slice of French life during World War II with this story of two French sisters, each emotionally crippled by the death of their mother and abandonment by their father. Both sisters play a part in the French underground, and though they are separated by principles and temperament, they both overcome incredible challenges, moral dilemmas, and life-or-death choices.

As one reviewer says, this books is a “beautifully written and richly evocative examination of life, love, and the ravages of war, and the different ways people react to unthinkable situations.”

6. Habit Stacking: 97 Small Life Changes That Take Five Minutes or Less

Screen Shot 2015-08-05 at 9.02.42 AMWant to focus on making some small habit changes this summer? This amazing little book gives you 97 ideas that take five minutes or less. You can “stack” all of your new habits to create a daily ritual or routine that begins to feel automatic over a few weeks.

Steve Scott is a master at breaking ideas down into manageable chunks and showing you exactly how to be successful in all areas of life from finances to fitness. If you’re into self-improvement but always procrastinate getting started, this is the perfect summer read for you.

7. A Land More Kind Than Home: A Novel

Screen Shot 2015-08-05 at 8.25.58 AMAnother stunning debut novel, A Land More Kind Than Home is “a literary thriller about the bond between two brothers and the evil they face in a small western North Carolina town,” as described on Amazon. It’s set in a small religious mountain community and is part coming-of-age story and part mystery about the death of  an autistic 13-year-old boy and the snake-handling preacher suspected of killing him.

The story is woven together through the narratives of three main characters: the dead boy’s brother; an elderly former parishioner; and the local sheriff. It is a powerful story of love, forgiveness, and tragedy that will leave you thinking about it for days.

8. The Girl on the Train

Screen Shot 2015-08-05 at 8.26.30 AMI loved this psychological thriller that’s been on the bestseller list for weeks and has been labeled the next Gone Girl.
It’s about Rachel, a sad divorcee with a drinking problem, who takes the same commuter train to work every morning. As she passes the suburban houses, she observes a beautiful couple on their deck every morning and fantasizes about their perfect lives.

One morning she sees something shocking and becomes involved in a mystery that takes the reader on a page-turning ride up until the surprising conclusion.

9. Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion

Screen Shot 2015-08-05 at 8.27.03 AMThis is a fascinating book by neuroscientist and secularist author Sam Harris on the intersection of science and contemplative wisdom. It’s a guide to the power of meditation and mindfulness, a memoir, and a handbook on how to live spiritually without organized religion.

Whether you’re a believer or non-believer, there is great food for thought and real-life practice in Harris’s assertions, especially in his argument that real life is contained in the present moment.

10. The Museum of Extraordinary Things: A Novel

Screen Shot 2015-08-05 at 8.27.42 AMWritten by Alice Hoffman, the author of the stunning book The Dovekeepers, Museum tells the story of a young woman in 20th century Coney Island who is the daughter of a sinister freak show impressario.

Part historical fiction and part mystery, this book is primarily a love story set in a bizarre and haunting backdrop of New York life during a time of greed and corruption that tragically impacts all of the characters.

Hoffman’s writing, as always, is lyrically beautiful, and she has crafted a story packed with mystery, history, and spellbinding imagery.

11. The Orphan Master’s Son

Screen Shot 2015-08-05 at 8.28.46 AMThis amazing, heart-wrenching book won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, as well as numerous other awards. It’s set in modern-day North Korea and tells the story of Jun Do, a North Korean citizen who is trying to survive in a miserable, violent country that’s one of the most secretive on earth.

Here’s the Amazon description: “In a totalitarian nation of random violence and bewildering caprice—a poor, gray place that nonetheless refers to itself as “the most glorious nation on earth”—an unnatural tension exists between a citizen’s national identity and his private life. Through Jun Do’s story we realize that beneath the weight of oppression and lies beats a heart not much different from our own—one that thirsts for love, acceptance, and hope—and that realization is at the heart of this shockingly believable, immersive, and thrilling novel.

12. Mindset: The New Psychology of Success

Screen Shot 2015-08-05 at 8.29.17 AMI interviewed the author, Carol Dweck, for my habit course because I found her research in this book so compelling. She details why our abilities are only one aspect of our potential for success. What’s even more important is how we approach them — with a fixed or growth mindset.

As Carol explains, praising intelligence and ability doesn’t foster self-esteem and lead to accomplishment. Instead it may actually jeopardize success. With the right mindset, we can motivate our kids and help them to raise their grades, as well as reach our own goals—personal and professional. She gives specific strategies to help us do just that. A must-read for anyone interested in self-improvement.

13. All the Light We Cannot See

Screen Shot 2015-08-05 at 8.29.51 AMAnother Pulitzer Prize winner set in France during World War II, this book tells the story of Marie-Laure, a blind girl who lives with her father in Paris, and Werner, an orphan boy in Germany. The author focuses on the interior lives of these two characters as they grow up and face the challenges of living in worn-torn countries during the occupation of France.

You find yourself becoming completely connected to these two compelling characters and how their lives eventually intersect. Prepare to stay in your chair for days reading this stunning book, awaiting the unpredictable outcome.

14. Peace of Mindfulness: Everyday Rituals to Conquer Anxiety and Claim Unlimited Inner Peace

Screen Shot 2015-08-05 at 8.16.36 AMThis is one of my books teaching you simple mindfulness and meditation techniques.You can experience calmness and present moment awareness in all your daily activities, and perform every task, thought, and action through the lens of mindfulness. You’ll learn simple daily routines to bring you back again and again to the pleasure of full presence and awareness.

Whether you’re coping with stress and anxiety, or you simply want to increase self-awareness and contentment, the skills taught in Peace of Mindfulness meet you exactly where you are — in your home, your work, your simple daily tasks

15. And the Mountains Echoed

Screen Shot 2015-08-05 at 8.30.26 AMYet another masterful book from Khaled Hosseini, the #1 New York Times and international bestselling author of The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid SunsThe book is a series of intertwining stories, starting in 1952 in anAfghanistan village when a poor man, Saboor, decides he must abandon one of his children in order to survive.

This decisions has a profound impact on the one child remaining and his descendants, as the story spans nearly 60 years of Afghan history. As the Austin Chronicle review notes, “Hosseini skillfully weaves the tapestry with universal elements: human fallibility, innate goodness, perseverance, forgiveness, sexuality, jealousy, companionship, and joy.”

16. Into the Darkest Corner: A Novel

Screen Shot 2015-08-05 at 8.30.49 AMThis psychological thriller is absolutely riveting and haunting. It’s the story of Catherine, an obsessive-compulsive who checks her door locks six times before going to bed, avoids red clothes, and will shop just on particular days. She has gone through something terrible, and the author slowly lets us in on the disturbing details involving a Jekyll and Hyde boyfriend.

You get a window inside the mind of an abused person and come to understand how hard it is to break free. However, Catherine does break free and the final showdown is a scene that will stay with you long after you turn the last page.

17. The Paris Wife: A Novel 

Screen Shot 2015-08-05 at 9.21.26 AMWhether or not you’re a fan of Ernest Hemingway, you’ll love this novel about his first wife, Hadley Richardson. Hadley is the quiet, ordinary girl who takes care of her mom and is close to becoming a spinster when she meets Hemingway, who is charismatic and tempestuous. He is drawn to Hadley’s calm, sweet nature, and she is swept off her feet by his good looks and talent.

The book focuses on their years together in 1920’s Paris when he grows into his literary power and socializes with Gertrude Stein, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and James Joyce. As Hemingway becomes more of a legend, Hadley becomes the wife pushed to the sidelines and eventually pushed out of his life. But not before we get a satisfying glimpse into the lives of these two intriguing people.

18. Serena

Screen Shot 2015-08-05 at 9.01.38 AMThis story takes place very close to Asheville, NC, where I’m about to move. It’s the tale of George and Serena Pemberton who move from Boston to the North Carolina mountains in 1929 to create a timber empire.

Although Serena is new to a mountain environment, she proves herself to be as good as any man by tending to the crews, hunting rattlesnakes with a pet falcon, and manipulating her husband to kill off anyone who defies them and their lumber business.

When George Pemberton is faced with the presence of his illegitimate child, you see Serena’s brutality take a new and more dangerous turn. These are unforgettable characters enriched by the author’s powerful use of language.

19. Leaving Time 

Screen Shot 2015-08-05 at 9.01.59 AMI am a fan of Jodi Picoult’s novels because she always tackles controversial, complicated subjects. In Leaving Time, her subject is the treatment of animals, more specifically elephants. Picoult clearly did her research on elephant behavior and what sensitive creatures they are.

The story focuses on Jenna who is searching for her information about her mother (an elephant researcher) who went missing from an elephant sanctuary when Jenna was small. By studying her mother’s journals, she learns about the elephants that were in her mother’s care, about her mentally ill father, and finds clues as to why her mother disappeared.

Add a psychic and a washed up detective to the mix, and Jenna ultimately discovers the truth about the elephants and her mother in a shocking conclusion.

20. Self-Discovery Questions: 155 Breakthrough Questions to Accelerate Massive Action

Screen Shot 2015-08-05 at 9.03.14 AMI wrote this little book as a tool for taking control of your life, one powerful question at a time. It’s your go-to guide for uncovering exactly what you need to know about yourself too make massive change for the better in your relationships, your career, your health, your finances, and virtually every aspect of your life.

Self-questioning is a highly useful and powerful technique for creating awareness and self-discovery. By asking the right questions, you open hidden doors in your mind leading to solutions and “aha” moments that lead to change and success.

You can check out my other books on my author page here.

If you like this post please share on Facebook and I’d love to hear some of your favorite books in the comments below.

Comments

  1. A wonderful list. I did not dare look too long at the list as I had to stop and buy the first book I saw.
    Thanks a lot Barrie!

  2. Great list! “Serena” is definitely being added to my TBR pile this summer! I wanted to recommend an awesome book I just finished called “The Friend Request” by author Charles Soto. The book follows Chase and Carly, two high school sweethearts who reconnect after years and years and find that their lives and priorities are totally different. Chase owns a successful business, lives the millionaire lifestyle and Carly is stuck in a dead end job and is trying her best to raise her disabled son on her own. The book has so many twists and turns throughout I couldn’t put it down. I love the idea of getting a second chance at life and love and this book shows that you can have just that 🙂

    • Nannette Crane-Post says:

      Serena has been made into a movie, with Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence. While it was good, the book (as always) was much better. The cinematography was beautiful.

  3. LOVE your list, Barrie! Many of these I’ve just loved. Although as an author and editor, I basically read for a living, nothing makes me happier than snuggling in with a great bound book.
    I’d been on the fence about Ruby. But you’ve just talked me into it 🙂
    Thank You!

  4. Thank you for this list – I am in Australia so I’ve put several of these down on my Winter reading list.
    Nothing better than snuggling down in bed on a cold night with a good book 🙂

    • S.Kesler says:

      Liz, I just finished “The Husband’s Secret” which takes place in Melbourne and Sydney. A good spellbinding novel. Liane Moriarty is the author.

      • Loved The Husbands Secret! A must read for sure! Intertwines various peoples lives in an intriguing way.
        Also, for Stephen King fans: Mr. Mercedes followed up by his latest, Finders Keepers. Both great novels that include a trio of characters that come together. There will be a third coming out soon.
        Finally, although it’s older, The Kite Runner. The story that follows the lives of two young boys in Afghanistan and the tragedies that tie them together through adulthood.

  5. Thanks a lot for your recommendation! The books seem to be interesting and useful. Though I’ll be busy this summer, I hope I will have time to read all of them:-). Great thing is that, on the list, there are both nonfiction and fiction.

  6. Sharon Forbes says:

    This is a great list with a few I am definitely interested in! Summer is always a great time for reading, and especially for me this year, as I am on a medical leave from work, and have lots more time to indulge in my favorite pastime of reading!

  7. Thank for the list. Quite a variety. Having all the authors’ names would be helpful and I like seeing them be recognized : ).

  8. Connie McCrummen says:

    If science fiction is your thing–and even if it isn’t, I recommend Extinction by H.V.Purvis. Set in rural central North Carolina, it is a story about the struggle of William Roberts and his son, Jason, to survive after a viral infection has changed 90% of the population into powerful, mindless beasts–that attack and kill. It is a story about family and community and fighting for survival against insurmountable odds. Mr. Purvis is a natural storyteller and creates unforgettable characters and plenty of action as this handful of survivors come together to salvage their community and help others to survive. Extinction and its sequel, Survival, are available on Amazon.

  9. #4 sounds too much like the 2000 film by Christopher Nolan (Batman trilogy) “Momento” which was awesome. Maybe the writer of this book saw that film and then wrote her own story around the same premise. All I can see by reading the description is the movie..thus. But I like most of the books on your list

    • Patricia says:

      Sandra, I agree that #4 sounded a lot like a movie but it reminded *me* of that movie: 50 First Dates w/Drew Barrymore.

      #8 The Girl on the Train sounds good to me. I think I’ll have to pick that one up.

  10. I moved to Asheville in 2009- you will love it here!!!

  11. Good list – I’ve read quite a few. One thing (I work at a library, so I know I’m picky) – writing a book is an incredibly difficult accomplishment. Please include the authors’ names!

  12. Beth Rogers says:

    Another excellent read is Marie Kondo’s, “The Lifechanging Magic of Tidying Up.”

  13. Dave Comstock says:

    “The Martian” by Andy Weir. “Hard” Sci-fi (not always my favorite kind) married to wonderful character development and an adventure plot that just doesn’t quit. Sucked the whole thing down in a couple of days and wanted more.

    • Agreed! The Martian was by far the best book I read last year. It gets you from Page 1 and keeps you hanging on for the entire ride. Funny, suspenseful, adventurous. I would highly recommend this novel.

  14. Add Karma’s Little Helper to that list for summer reading. Check out the reviews on Amazon.

  15. Donna Kauhane says:

    Thanks for your list. I’m always looking for great reads. I have read All the Light We Cannot See, Leaving Time, and The Girl on the Train and can vouch for all three as well worth your time.

  16. Another new one to try that was just released is “Aspects of Success”. It’s a playbook for a more successful/happy life. Has exercises to help you put your thoughts in order.

  17. I love mysteries! The Rilynne Evans Mysteries and Nell Sweeney Mysteries are at the top of my list! Can’t wait to dive into some of these, though.

  18. Kimberly says:

    The book, War of Wings by Tanner McElroy is a thrilling novel about the angelic war in heaven between good and evil. The battle is amazing…you can’t put it down!

  19. Girl Underwater an Sandra Brown Mean Streak are awesome too

  20. Lauretta says:

    I have read five and they were excellent. There are two more I intend to read. “All the Light We Cannot See” was wonderful and brilliant. Both “The Girl on the Train” and “Before You Go to Sleep” are books that you will find it hard to put down. I also loved “The Paris Wife” and “The Museum of Extraordinary Things.” There are so many wonderful books. Members of my book club enjoyed “The Husband’s Secret” and our next book to be discussed is “The Invention of Wings.”

  21. I will have to check out the habit stacking one…Though I would suggest also setting your links to open up in a new window so that people don’t click on a link to a book and never come back to finish the list!

    Dave Gardner

  22. Deana Raimondi says:

    Got to check out “The Accidental Don” A man caught between two identities, by Guy Tirondola. What a great, fun read. You really get attached to the characters in this book. Hope he writes a sequel!!

  23. James slater says:

    Another MUST READ….
    Stage IV Addiction/ Addicted to the Adict
    By B.L. Marks
    Just incredible, couldn’t put it down. Cried all night.

  24. BrittneyG says:

    We are book twins! I have either read all the books you suggested, have them on my kindle, or they are on my Goodreads list. I disagree about Ruby – it seemed to me the author was TOO caught up in using terrific prose and writing a descriptive narrative – to worry about plot. So many of the characters were underdeveloped and I found the plot too weak. 🙁

  25. i recommend The Citizens of London
    Non fiction

  26. Carmal Allworth says:

    Read: “Spiritually Surrounded”, on Amazon, intriguing, spirits are real!

  27. I had read a handful of these titles. I also have several of these titles already on my to-read list. I would also recommend Garth Stein’s A Sudden Light and anything by Lisa Lutz, like the Spellman books or Heads You Lose. She also has a new one out, but the title sadly escapes me.

  28. quite a list! I read- and the mountains echoed- great book!
    As for the others, I tend to lean more to light hearted books for my summer reads..Mary Kay Andrews, Susan Mallery, Mary Alice Monroe, Jane Green…guess I’m more of a romantic than a thriller!
    I am reading Sweetwater right now..great read!
    Thanks for the list..I added Serena to my list!!!

  29. Neva Fairchild says:

    Looking forward to reading most of these. Thanks for the suggestions. I felt smart that I had already read one.

  30. Paul Chambers says:

    Some great books listed here. Thank You for sharing these recommendations.
    I have dabbled a little in recent year with self-help books. Especially those that are business related since I established my own startup but I found many of them to be very cliche and impractical. A colleague of mine recently gifted me ‘The Magic of Attracting Money’ by Mani Maran and it has absolutely changed my life. I can’t stress enough what a huge inspiration this book has been for me in terms of positive mindset and winning attitude. It makes all the difference and this book just shows You the way in such clever and practical steps.
    If You read this book and really take on board the wisdom that is being shared, You will be forever thankful to this wonderful author.

  31. I have read many of the books on your list and enjoyed most of them one in particular I had trouble getting into, The Husbands Sectet which I never finished. I just read the book Everything I Never Told You by Celest Ng. A story about a Chinese American family in the seventies struggling to find their own identity

  32. Absolutely fantastic list. I will be getting each and every one of them soonest. Thanks for sharing

  33. I found the Girl on the Train so mediocre I wonder if any of these others are any good? SPOILER ALERT
    I was enthralled for 2 thirds, and then it just got stupid. Quite disappointing.

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