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    31 Books You Won't Be Able To Stop Thinking About

    ~I just can't get you out of my head~

    We recently asked subscribers of the BuzzFeed Books newsletter to tell us about a book they couldn't get out of their head. Needless to say, these novels will stick with you long after you've finished reading.

    Jenny Chang / BuzzFeed

    1. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

    I love a good politically-relevant, dystopian science fiction novel — and had read 1984, Brave New World, and the like. But, as a woman, reading The Handmaid's Tale impacted me deeply. Not only is the writing dramatically beautiful and wry, it cut to the core of the experience of what it means to be powerless over your own body. It left me feeling haunted in a way no book ever has.

    —Jessica Rouzan, San Francisco

    2. A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

    Four young men meet at a small college in New England. One of them was traumatized as a child, but despite that — or rather because of it — they become bound to one another as their lives continue in New York City. This is a powerful story of love: what it can and cannot do. Jude, JB, Willem, and Malcolm will remain with me forever.

    —Lillian D.

    A Little Life is filled with such memorable characters; I still think about them months later. The writing is superb. I found it difficult to start a new book once I'd finished.

    —Morgan L.

    3. I Know This Much Is True by Wally Lamb

    I Know This Much Is True is the story of identical twins Dominick and Thomas, who is schizophrenic, and the struggles they face throughout their lives. A rollercoaster of a story about coping with loss, love, failure, and sorrow.

    —McKenzi Gaines

    4. Geek Love by Katherine Dunn

    Geek Love is about a traveling carnival side show family who, when faced with the carnival's declining popularity, come up with a plan to create their own freaks by exposing their unborn children to chemicals and radiation, thereby producing bizarre mutants to keep the business going. I still think about this book regularly in light of my own motherhood and the lengths desperate people will go to to survive. Surprisingly, the book is told in an entertaining, non-judgmental way, but the effect is long-lasting.

    —Tisa Houck, DeLand, FL

    5. The Lottery and Other Stories by Shirley Jackson

    Really a short story, "The Lottery" changed my life. I read it in the 11th grade and I still remember feeling the earth tilt on its axis when I reached the huge twist in the plot. I'm now a thirtysomething who re-reads this story every year and it reminds me of everything I want to be as a writer.

    —Kat M.

    6. The History of Love by Nicole Krauss

    The History of Love follows the intersecting plots of a fifteen-year-old girl, an eighty-year-old man, and the author of a book that mysteriously draws them all together. This novel is beautifully written and insightful about all sorts of love. I also read it at the recommendation of one of my favorite people in the world, and it really brought us closer!

    —Emily C.

    7. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

    It has been two and a half months and I'm still hung up on The Night Circus. It's completely unexpected and totally original in a very astounding way. The concept and execution come together so fantastically — and the end will leave you bawling on the floor.

    —Mackenzie Kormann

    8. Skippy Dies by Paul Murray

    It's about a group of boys at an Irish boarding school — and that's all I'll say because I don't want to give anything away (the title says enough). Murray's writing really makes you feel for each of the characters. And the twists and turns and consequences will stick with you for a very long time.

    —Agatha GP

    9. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

    Usually dystopian novels leave me feeling scared for the future. But after I read this book, I felt a deep sense of appreciation for humanity, for art, and for hope.

    —Sandra Manley-Eichler

    10. Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart

    This is the story of a man living in a dystopian future where the women wear "onion skin" jeans that show everything and people walk around with devices that display everything from their credit scores to their health vitals for anyone nearby to scan and access. The main character, Lenny, is an outlier in this society because he clings to things like printed books and real love. The futuristic plot elements come to mind at least once a month because of their eerie parallels to real life.

    —Amy Steves

    11. Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

    “Are you happy with your life?” That question alone makes you think, but then add in a masked abduction, time travel to other dimensions, action, romance, and more — it was so hard to put this book down. Every chapter made me go "hmmmm...." LOVED this book and I wish every one of my friends would read it so we could discuss!

    —Erynn S.

    It made me question everything about how we conceive of our sense of self and how we build our lives, what makes us who we are and how that can all change in an instant. It’s also extremely well-written with a tense but manageable pace. SO. WORTH. IT!

    —Kimberly P.

    12. Caraval by Stephanie Garber

    Caraval is set on a magical island where a mysterious game is held. And if you are the winner, you're granted one wish. The book is so fantastical and filled with so many plot twists and remarkable characters — it really rocks your world.

    —Vanessa Ibara

    13. The Nest by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney

    The Nest is about a dysfunctional family in which each child has plans for their share of an inheritance from their father. However, when they find out that the oldest son has spent the fortune in paying costs related to a serious car accident, everything's turned on end. They'd each banked on (pun intended) having that money to get themselves out of financial binds, and it's very interesting to see how their relationships twist and shift as they reckon with their new reality. Very well done.

    —Jill Porco

    14. The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver

    The story of Taylor, Turtle, and their cross-country journey of self-discovery is so sweet, with quirky characters that I didn't want to say goodbye to — and a lot of heart, too. I go back and re-read it once a year and still cry every time.

    —Jane Kemp

    15. The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

    An aging author finally pulls back the curtain on the real-life truth behind her most haunting works. In so doing, there's much suspense and lots of amazing plot twists — throughout the book I had many moments of "whaaat" and "oooohh, of course!" and "so that's how it all fits together." I had to re-read it a second time right after finishing so that I could follow all the subtle hints I'd missed the first time around. It left me thinking about nothing else for weeks.

    —Chaviva G.

    16. Beartown by Fredrik Backman

    I am obsessed by the richness of this plot. It's about community and sports and how we place our hopes on the youngest generation. It's about how people step up or slink away when faced with tough choices. But the most important part was Backman's insights into how a community and the police treat the victims of sexual assault in the wake of trauma. A brilliant book all around!

    —Aishwarya S.

    17. The Road by Cormac McCarthy

    The Road by Cormac McCarthy stayed with me for months. Its post apocalyptic landscape is bleak and hopeless; there is no way toward a happy ending. Yet the love between The Man and The Boy in spite of such dire circumstances shows that certain human aspects are eternal.

    —Greta Compton

    18. Euphoria by Lily King

    Loosely based on the life and work of cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead, Euphoria follows three anthropologists in 1930s New Guinea who become entangled in a love triangle. Told through each of their distinct voices, the novel has taut pacing, satisfying shock, and abounds with insightful observations on human nature.

    —Toni G.

    19. The Silo trilogy by Hugh Howey

    The trilogy is about a population living in a silo underground who can't leave due to deteriorated air quality. It explores different aspects of how society could work in this environment — and there are so many twists, my brain is still hurting.

    —Aaron Kelly

    20. The Shock of the Fall by Nathan Filer

    Brilliantly written. An exploration into death, grief, guilt, and the onset of schizophrenia. I'm 60 years old and have read a lot in my life — this is one of the best.

    —Jesse Daniels

    21. This Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel

    This book, about a family with four young boys, the youngest of whom identifies as a girl, was heartwarming and so thought-provoking. As the story evolved, It became less about Claude's identity and more about acceptance, open-mindedness, lying for the good of the people you love, and family connections. It literally changed my mind and heart about how all people find a way to live the happy lives they deserve.

    —Christy B.

    22. The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins

    This is one of the most fucked-up, yet completely addicting and intriguing books I've ever read. God goes missing, leaving his adopted children to fight for control of his library which holds the secrets to the universe and creation. The story centers around Carolyn, who's pitted against her siblings in the fight to make a new God, and the ride along the way is absolutely thrilling. Carolyn is a fierce and cunning woman that you can easily find yourself identifying with.

    —Beth Martin

    23. Night Film by Marisha Pessl

    How did Ashley Cordova really die? And what does her death have to do with her famed reclusive cult-horror-film director father who hasn't been seen in public for more than thirty years? This book has so many layers and twists until the very end. I think about it years later and still have not read another book like it.

    —Katie Richgels

    24. Smoke Gets In Your Eyes by Caitlin Doughty

    I read Smoke Gets in Your Eyes and I still think about it often. It's a memoir by the woman who does the "Ask a Mortician" series on YouTube. She gives a really powerful inside look at death and the death industry here in the United States. It's emotional but also surprisingly funny.

    —Nikki D.

    25. Good as Gone by Amy Gentry

    If you loved Girl on the Train, you'll like Good As Gone, too. There's just so much suspense — you don't know until the very end what happened and everything is pieced together. I couldn't put it down and flip-flopped whose side I was actually on throughout the entire book.

    —Sammi Berrafato

    26. Blue Is the Warmest Color by Julie Maroh

    This is a beautifully-written and heartbreaking graphic novel about a female high student named Clementine who falls in love with an art school student named Emma, which inspired a critically-acclaimed movie of the same name. If you've only seen the movie, you haven't seen the whole story, so I highly recommend picking it up for its philosophical discussion about love, life, and grief.

    —Melissa Montovani

    27. The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin

    A lone human ambassador is sent to an alien world where inhabitants can change their gender whenever they choose. I found this to be very thought-provoking read about how we view sex and gender in the world. It is also a great book on the bonds of friendship and how difficult they can be to maintain.


    28. The City and the City by China Miéville

    A professor randomly recommended The City and The City during a class of mine — it sounded so intriguing, I actually ordered it in class (shhh). It's outwardly a murder mystery and suspense novel in a dystopian setting, but in a deeper sense is about two city-states that occupy overlapping geographical space, and the citizens therein. There are rules about "unseeing" citizens of the other state when you encounter each other on the street. Refusing to "unsee" them (and breaking other laws) results in government officials "disappearing" you to a secret location where they mete out your punishment. It has stuck with me for the past 6 years  — the particular theme about what is and is not part of your reality, and how that influences your view of the world. Highly recommend.

    —Mary Halling

    29. Einstein's Dreams by Alan Lightman

    I could not get Einstein's Dreams off my mind. A quick read with short chapters, each chapter is its own story, exploring the concept of what time might look like in another reality. I was fascinated by all the ways Alan Lightman imagined time could manifest. I still consider it one of my favorites to this day and it's the book I recommend most often, as I think it can be greatly appreciated by most everyone.

    —Erin Cunagin

    30. Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult

    I haven't stopped thinking about Small Great Things since I read it last year. It's a book about race and hate and power and the spirit of humanity. I recommend it constantly because I think it's an excellent conversation starter for people wanting to learn and talk race in modern-day America.

    —Krista Wilbur

    31. The Watchmaker of Filigree Street by Natasha Pulley

    Thaniel Steepleton comes home one day to find a gold watch on his pillow. He has no clue who has left it there and carries on with his life — until 6 months later, when it saves him from an explosion. And so he sets out to find the watchmaker. His resulting adventure through 19th century London is filled with fantasy and mystery and romance galore. I read the novel through without stopping, then went back to the beginning and read it all over again. I'm eagerly awaiting Natasha Pulley's next book.

    —Viji Sashikant

    Note: Entries have been edited for clarity and length.

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