You love spending time with books that are hard to put down.
We have that in common!
While your list of gripping books might differ from someone else’s, some books find their way onto more lists than others.
If you’ve read any of the books listed below, you already know they’re too good to put down, even when you’ve reached the last page.
And they stay with you.
If you haven’t read all of the following books yet, you’re in for a treat!
Feel free to browse, download some samples, and get started on a new favorite of your own.
Here are 25 books you can’t put down for your summer reading list:
I 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.”
Grab 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 of 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.
This spellbinding book is a true treasure — one that will keep you settled in your reading chair for days.
It’s a compelling mystery, love story, and inquiry into human nature all rolled into one beautiful story with fascinating characters you won’t easily forget.
It’s about three missing girls and three families who are desperate to find them.
The story begins at the Swan, an inn located on the bank of the Thames. A wounded man, Henry, enters the inn on a cold night bearing a small child who appears dead to everyone in the room.
The local nurse, Rita, is called to treat the wounded man, but when she checks on the dead child, Rita discovers the child isn’t dead after all.
Whose child is it? Where did she come from? All three families believe she is theirs. As the mystery unravels, many things and people are not as they appear.
Fantastical happenings occur that make you wonder about the veil between life and death as the cloud of mystery about the child remains unsolved until the very end.
Rita and Henry are compelled to find out the truth, and along the way, they discover more about themselves and the people of their town than they ever intended.
I couldn’t put this book down because the storyline 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.
Author 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.”
This is a story of resiliency and survival, as well as a love story and murder mystery. It’s also a beautiful coming of age story.
Kya grows up in a small shack in the marshes near a rural village on the coast of North Carolina.
Her mother and older siblings leave home to escape their abusive father, and Kya is alone with her father and must fend for herself. Her father eventually leaves her completely alone.
Kya is known to the townspeople as the “Marsh Girl.” She is lonely and stays to herself, but she carves a life for herself in the wild beauty of the marshes.
But two young men from town are enchanted by her beauty, independence, and love of nature. One of them teaches her to read, and she begins to educate herself.
The other man, the local hotshot, is found dead, and suddenly Kya is thrust into the spotlight as the prime suspect.
Another 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.
I 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.
This 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.
Written 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.
This 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.”
I 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.
Another 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.
This stunning, epic novel was A New York Times Top Ten Book of the Year and National Book Award finalist.
It follows four generations of a poor Korean immigrant family in Japan as they fight to survive and create lives for themselves.
It begins when Sunja, the innocent and adored daughter of a poor but proud family, ends up pregnant by a wealthy, married man.
To save face for herself and her family, she accepts an offer of marriage from a kind minister who is staying at her family’s boarding house before leaving to live in Japan.
But her decision to leave her home in Korea, and to reject her baby’s wealthy and powerful father, triggers a dramatic saga of heartbreaks, desperation, and triumphs that echo down through each generation of the family.
The book is a series of intertwining stories, starting in 1952 in an Afghanistan village when a poor man, Saboor, decides he must abandon one of his children in order to survive.
This decision 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.”
This 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.
Whether 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.
This story takes place very close to Asheville, NC, where I live.
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
I 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.
The year is 1870, and Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd travels through northern Texas to give live readings to paying audiences who are eager for news of the world.
Kidd is an elderly widower who has lived through and fought in wars and now enjoys his roaming, solitary life.
On a stop in Wichita Falls, Kidd is offered a $50 gold piece to return a young girl, Johanna, to her relatives in San Antonio. The girl had been kidnapped and raised by a band of Kiowa raiders four years earlier.
The raiders had killed Johanna’s parents and sister but spared the little girl to raise her as one of their own.
Recently rescued by the U.S. Army, Johanna has once again been torn away from the only home she knows.
On their 400-mile arduous journey together, Johanna and Kidd form an unlikely bond and begin to trust one another.
When Kidd must finally hand over Johanna to relatives who see her as a burden, Kidd has a difficult choice to make.
This is a beautiful, heartwrenching story with characters so real and colorful you won’t soon forget them.
As a recent addition to this list of 25 books you can’t put down, American Dirt is another that deserves more than one reading.
The story begins in the Mexican city of Acapulco, where the lead character, Lydia Quixano Perez, lives with her son, Luca, and her journalist husband. When tragedy strikes, Lydia and her son flee the city and head to the United States, where the cartel can’t reach them.
Along the way, they meet many others who, like them, are running from something. But no one really knows what they’re running to.
Here’s what one of its most notable reviewers, Sandra Cisneros, has to say about it:
“This book is not simply the great American novel; it’s the great novel of las Americas. It’s the great world novel! This is the international story of our times. Masterful.”
22. Maybe You Should Talk To Someone: A Therapist, HER Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed by Lori Gottlieb
Written by a New York Times bestselling author, psychotherapist, and national advice columnist, this book explores her world as well as the lives of the people she serves.
When a personal crisis leads her to the office of a quirky but seasoned therapist, she confronts the reality that many of the challenges her own clients face — and many of their questions — mirror her own.
With wisdom and humor, Gottlieb examines the truths and fictions we tell ourselves and others, specifically those she’s told herself, her clients, and her own therapist.
Ariana Huffington calls it a “daring, delightful, and transformative book.” And Susan Cain, author of Quiet, describes it as “wise, warm, smart, and funny.”
This relatable memoir explores how therapy works from the perspective of a pro who’s unafraid to reveal her own fears, defenses, and blind spots.
Bestselling British author Penny Vincenzi writes this story about the book-worthy lives of London’s Lytton family. Lady Celia Beckenham is the strong-willed heroine who forces her parents’ blessing on her marriage to Oliver Lytton by getting pregnant.
After their firstborn, Giles, more children come even as Celia talks her way into an editorial position at Lytton’s Publishing House and becomes indispensable.
When her husband returns after four years of fighting in WWI to find books Celia herself has written and published, he’s appalled and loses all desire for her.
When Celia finds comfort with a handsome new author, she considers leaving Oliver for him. But she finds herself wondering what her life would be if she were not a Lytton.
One of President Barack Obama’s favorite books of the year, this literary novel by Brit Bennett comes with a flood of glowing reviews from respected publications and authors.
The story follows twin sisters who grow up together but live worlds apart as adults. Years after running away at age 16, one of them lives with her black daughter in the same neighborhood she’d tried to escape, while another passes for white and keeps her past secret from her white husband and daughter.
I can see myself rereading this novel to catch nuances missed during my first reading and spend more time with the characters.
The author uses third person to explore the lives of each of the twins, the people in their intimate circles, and the consequences of the secrets they keep.
Dear Edward is a New York Times bestseller and was named one of the best books of the year by The Washington Post, Parade, and LibraryReads.
The main character in this story is the sole survivor of a tragic plane crash that killed his beloved older brother, along with a cast of interesting characters.
Twelve-year-old Edward is left to grapple with the question of how, after losing everything, does he learn to put one foot in front of the other and to do more than merely survive the years he has left.
Though his story draws national attention, he feels that part of his life remains in the sky, tied to those last moments with his brother and the passengers he met.
The story weaves past and present into a narrative that explores Edward’s grieving process and ultimate growth.
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Did you find a book you can’t put down?
Did any of these books strike a chord with you? I hope you choose one (or more) that you pick up and find you just can’t put it down.
Here’s to great books and the pleasure they bring us. May your love of reading and your curiosity infuse everything you do today!
Take a moment to share this book list with others on your preferred social media platform. I’d love to hear some of your favorite books in the comments below.