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We recently asked subscribers of the BuzzFeed Books newsletter to tell us about a book we wouldn’t be able to put down. They gave us a lot to choose from, so take your pick — and get hooked.
1. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
This is a quiet, simmering drama with a surprising sci-fi twist. It follows Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy as adults just beginning to come to terms with their unusual upbringing at an elite British boarding school. Ishiguro reveals the disturbing mystery of their specialness with such patience and poise that you’ll be captivated till the very last page.
2. Safekeeping by Jessamyn Hope
Please, for the love of all things holy, read Safekeeping by Jessamyn Hope. It follows Adam, an addict from New York City, traveling to an Israeli kibbutz (rural communal settlement) in 1994 to fulfill his grandfather’s dying wish. But the woman he’s set out to find, and the legend behind a storied family keepsake he carries, soon sets him on a course far more complex than he’d anticipated. Safekeeping is filled with the things that I love most in books: a time period that is close to my heart, characters that are beautifully dangerous, and a setting that feels incredibly alive in Hope’s hands.
3. The Book of Night Women by Marlon James
Lilith, born into slavery on a late-18th-century Jamaican sugar plantation, has unwittingly become the linchpin of an impending slave revolt. She’s left to grapple with a conflict of desires — does she pursue her forbidden attraction to the plantation master, or maintain allegiance to her community and their plot for freedom? The weighty themes and thick Jamaican patois in which the characters speak certainly don’t make this an easy read, but there’s a frightening beauty in the The Book of Night Women’s brutality. By far one of the most devastating books I’ve ever read, this one also sucked me in and will stay with me for a very long time.
4. The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
First off, if you’ve only seen the abominable movie, put it out of your mind. This book is the ultimate in literary romance. Henry has an extremely rare genetic disorder that causes him to pop out of the present and into random points of his own life, future and past. In one such journey, he meets Claire — then a child — and learns that they’ll much later fall in love. Gut- and heart-wrenching obstacles ensue as they work to maintain their relationship across time. A word of caution: It can take a little while to work out the logistics when first reading, but the emotional payout is so worth it.
5. 11/22/63 by Stephen King
Long story short: Everyman Jake Epping is coerced into a time-travel stunt to stop the assassination of J.F.K. and, in so doing, wreaks havoc on the entire world.
“This is the best book I’ve ever read — a thrill ride from beginning to end.”
“Ingenious…not at all what I expected. And I came to understand why people like [Stephen King’s] other books; he’s simply a tremendous writer.”
6. Who Asked You? by Terry McMillan
Who Asked You? has everything you could ask for in a multigenerational family epic: the sage and soulful matriarch, a wayward son trying to find his way home, an addict daughter fighting for custody of her own child, and a full cast of other characters harboring their own secrets and personal struggles. McMillan is the master of wry humor and too-true characterizations, making this yet another totally captivating read.
7. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
My friends and I devoured The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. It’s a kind of literary fiction/murder mystery/heart-melting family drama mash-up centering around a teenager with Asperger’s syndrome. I loved it because I felt like I wasn’t reading a book so much as I was actually Christopher himself in the midst of his bizarre murder investigation.
8. Circle of Friends by Maeve Binchy
This is the story of two lifelong friends, Benny and Eve, growing up in rural 1950s Ireland and learning to navigate the real world together — at university and beyond. The moment that Benny realizes she’s been slandered and betrayed by her closest friend, I actually threw the book off a balcony and almost hit my mom on the head. I raced downstairs to find the book so I could finish and see how everything resolved. The entire book is similarly riveting throughout.
9. Legend by Marie Lu
The western U.S. is now the Republic, a nation at war. There, 15-year-old June is being trained to become part of the military elite. Day is her polar opposite, a teenage criminal born into the slums. They would otherwise have no reason to ever cross paths, until the day June’s brother is murdered and Day becomes the prime suspect. I couldn’t put this book down; it’s chock-full of adventure, betrayal, secrets, and suspense, leading up to a larger reveal of the Republic’s sinister inner workings and setting up the next two books in this thrilling trilogy.
10. Season of Storms by Susanna Kearsley
This is one of those books that you start reading in the middle of the afternoon and find yourself finishing at 5 a.m., wondering what year it is. It’s about a young English actress who travels to a mysterious mansion in Italy, having been cast as the lead in a decades-old play that is (shockingly) also shrouded in mystery. Kearsley does an amazing job with this beautiful story, and I would recommend it to anyone looking for a fresh read!
11. Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
In Thirteen Reasons Why, characters start receiving tapes from their classmate, Hannah, two weeks after she’s committed suicide. The tapes reveal Hannah’s account of how each person contributed to her death, culminating with Clay Jensen, who was hopelessly in love with her. Waiting to discover how he might have pushed her over the edge will keep you up late, flipping fast through the pages.
I read this book when I was 15 and struggling with depression and anxiety. Reading about how this character’s suicide shaped the world of her town and affected the narrator so much made me think twice about my desires to no longer live. I saw myself in the suicidal character, but also felt the pain of the characters she left behind with all of my heart.
12. Dark Places by Gillian Flynn
Libby Day was 7 when her mother and two sisters were murdered. She testified that her brother did it but 25 years later meets a group of people who want to prove that her brother is innocent. Everything only gets more twisted from there.
Of all of [Flynn’s] books, this one is by far the most suspenseful. I spent the entire time reading it trying to figure out who the bad guy was, and in the end, I didn’t even get close. It’s truly a wild ride.
13. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
The year is 2044, and all human interaction has been relegated to virtual reality in OASIS, a complex future internet-scape entered via goggles and gloves. It’s no wonder that Wade Watts goes there to escape his grim life as an overweight outcast and orphan living in a trailer park. But now he’s stumbled onto the first of a series of clues and challenges that lead to an Easter egg hidden in OASIS’s core which, if he finds it, will earn him an immense prize. What follows is a fantastical, hilarious, and enthralling adventure, replete with villains, chases, battles, ’80s pop-culture lore, and a ton of heart.
14. Zone One by Colson Whitehead
Love zombies but tired of the same old undead tropes? Then this next-level literary twist on the genre is definitely for you. It transpires over three days and, like Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, mixes gritty action into what is, at heart, a larger meditation on perseverance and loss. Yes, Whitehead frequently leans on big words and provocative asides, but the sum is ultimately quite satisfying.
15. Maybe Someday by Colleen Hoover
This book is just so, so addictively good! Sydney thinks she’s finally gotten her life together — until she discovers that her boyfriend has been cheating on her with who she’d thought was her best friend. After moving out, Sydney is taken in by her neighbor Ridge. He’s a musician, charismatic and sweet, and their chemistry is immediate. But Ridge has secrets of his own that will set Sydney on an even more dramatic emotional roller coaster. Maybe Someday makes you question everything — about friendship, trust, betrayal, and romance.
16. The Orenda by Joseph Boyden
The Orenda charts the surprisingly dramatic 17th-century-arrival French Jesuit missionaries in Canada via three perspectives: 1) Snow Falls, a young Iroquois girl, 2) Père Christophe, the missionary kidnapped alongside her, and 3) Bird, the Huron warrior who is holding both of them captive. Boyden brings an oft-overlooked period of history to life with such beautifully meticulous detail and lively, compelling characterizations — I couldn’t put this one down and will definitely read it again.
17. Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll
This one took me just a weekend to read (I usually need about a week) and, even though it’s been a month since I’ve finished, I can’t stop thinking about it. It’s dark, engaging, and smartly written! In the vein of Gone Girl, it’s the seductive story of a woman spurned, with secrets and scandal galore.
18. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
This is coming-of-age at its finest, about two Mexican-American teenage boys — outcasts — who meet in the 1980s, become friends, and discover important truths about themselves and the world around them. There also may or may not be romance…anyway, the book had me reading so much that I finished it in just one day!
19. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
All The Light We Cannot See draws together two unique points of view: that of Marie-Laure, a young blind girl who is captivated by science and the outside world, and in possession of a cursed stone that just happens to be at the top of Hitler’s wish list; and Werner, a boy with a remarkable aptitude for technology and engineering, who learns the human cost of his intelligence, ambition, and silence. The narration is beautiful, the chapters are short, and the story unwinds like numbers in a combination lock, with a subtle intricacy giving way to a conclusion that will leave you in awe.
20. Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven by Susan Jane Gilman
In 1986, Gilman and her friend Claire decided to travel the world, starting with China, which had just been opened to tourists. But once there, Claire starts displaying increasingly bizarre and dangerous behavior, and a frightened Gilman can’t figure out why her friend is acting so strange, or even how to help her in this foreign land. I took the book to work and would pretend to go through my purse just so I could read another page!
21. The Lying Game by Sara Shepard
Emma slips into the life of her long-lost (and now murdered) twin sister to piece together what went wrong. Irresistible, twisted, dark, glamorous, and so much better than Pretty Little Liars. Once you start, you won’t be able to stop.
22. Think of a Number by John Verdon
Definitively the most irresistible page-turner I’ve read, Think of a Number (Sé lo que estás pensando en español) is such a trip. Mysterious letters from a taunting and seemingly clairvoyant writer spark a grisly serial murder investigation that threatens to drag homicide investigator Dave Gurney down with it. The writing is unusually rich for a suspense novel, and the twists and thrills so intricately plotted that you’ll be hanging on til the very last page.
23. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
The anticipation as Marlow travels up the Congo River in search of the mysterious ivory trader Kurtz, the mounting dread, the suspense… You’ll read Heart of Darkness in just a few hours, but it will haunt you for long after that.
24. Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight
Reconstructing Amelia tells the story of a mother trying to piece together the last few weeks of her daughter’s life in the wake of her suicide. It gets you thinking about how well you can really ever know someone. The mystery as to whether Amelia did kill herself will keep you gripped until the end (which I personally have mixed feelings about, but that’s another matter).
25. Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward
This is a beautifully written novel about a working-class African-American family in the 12 days leading up to Hurricane Katrina. It’s told by 14-year-old Esch, who’s trying to work out what to do about her newly discovered pregnancy. She’s simultaneously struggling to keep her family together, with an alcoholic father and three very different brothers. It’s a heart-wrenching, lyrical, and gripping read.
—Abi Rowse, Nottingham
26. The New York Trilogy by Paul Auster
I have never been so adamant about finding out what’s going to happen in a book, whilst at the same time feeling so baffled by the path taken to get there. Auster’s interlocking, genre-bending detective stories are something you really just have to dig into to understand. And, as amazing as this book is, it should really come with a warning: “Will ruin all other books for you by making them seem highly ordinary.”
27. And the Sea Will Tell by Vincent Bugliosi and Bruce Henderson
This is the surreal-yet-true story of mayhem and murder on the remote Pacific Palmyra Atoll in 1974. Bugliosi makes you feel like you’re actually there — you can feel the tension, the humidity, the burning sand, and the desperation of strangers stranded together on an island, with an ex-con and psychopath among them.
28. Kindred by Octavia Butler
In the midst of her 26th birthday celebration, Dana, a black woman living in 1976 L.A., finds herself abruptly transported to a slave plantation in the antebellum South. She continues to be rocketed between the time periods and left to reckon with her place in both. Butler’s trademark realism makes this a gripping and unforgettable read.
29. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
Yes, it starts out slowly to establish the unique setting and characters. But once you get those first pages under your belt, you can’t put this one down. Journalist Mikael Blomkvist sets out to solve a missing persons case, with the help of the thorny and enigmatic Lisbeth Salander to help — and hinder — him along the way. Their chemistry is unlike any other crime duo, and every page of this books makes you wonder what’s going to happen in the end. Once you get there, it’s truly a spine-tingling shock of a close.
30. The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North
What do you do when immortality is your curse? As Harry August nears the end of his 11th life, he meets someone who might be able to help. This is a tense — and sometimes bleak — but also gripping and incredibly original read.
31. The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin
“Mara Dyer doesn’t think life can get any stranger than waking up in a hospital with no memory of how she got there. It can.” The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer pulls you in from the first paragraph and doesn’t let you go. It’s just fantastic.
32. Devil in a Blue Dress by Walter Mosley
It’s about time you got some Easy Rawlins in your life. Don’t think 1940s detective noir is your thing? See if Walter Mosley doesn’t change your mind. His effortless prose and richly developed characters bring a bygone era to life, following a decent and ordinary man, Easy Rawlins, into the violent and corrupt underbelly of mid-century L.A.
33. Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer
When a comet grazes the moon, pushing it out of orbit and closer and closer to Earth, Miranda and her family are forced into survival mode. I originally listened to this book on audio, and woke up in the morning sad and upset until I remembered, oh, it’s only a book. So I bought the print copy, read the book again, and had the same reaction. It felt so real — everyone I’ve handed this book to agrees it’s one of the most riveting recent reads they’ve come across.
—Toby Rajput, Chicago
34. Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie
I didn’t know anything about Indian history before I read Midnight’s Children, but that didn’t stop me from loving it. The book is about Saleem Sinai, a man who is born at midnight on Aug. 15, 1947, the moment that India becomes independent. He and 1,000 other “midnight’s children” born around that time all have different magical powers, and the story tracks their lives alongside the turbulent growth of their nation. I finished this book on the way back from a spring break road trip, in the backseat of a car, holding a gas-station flashlight in my hand. That’s how completely and utterly absorbing it is.
35. Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin
I literally tried to put this book down and, five minutes later, picked it back up to finish it. If you haven’t seen the movie, Rosemary and her hubby, Guy, move into a new apartment building and all sorts of weird stuff starts happening to them. If you have seen the movie, don’t worry about the book ruining it. The story is just as exciting and, if anything, you just end up just more sure that Mia Farrow was cast perfectly. :)
36. Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
Set in the 1980s, it’s already a nostalgia-filled romp, but what I didn’t expect was how heartbreaking and adorable this romance is. You will cheer and root for Eleanor and Park, bite your nails when things get bad, and lose your mind with love for this adorable underrated story of love.
37. Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts
Shantaram is an absolute masterpiece: 800 pages that restore your faith in humanity through an intense story of redemption, love, drugs, money, the mafia, and, ultimately, the universal beauty and kindness of people. The only time I could put the book away was after one character died. And then I couldn’t pick it up for a week.
38. Native Son by Richard Wright
My jaw literally dropped multiple times while reading Native Son. It is a brutal and relentless — but very important — read. The tragedy of Bigger Thomas, a young black man coming of age in 1930s Chicago, though fictional, lays bare a period of unbelievable racial and political conflict that we would be remiss as a nation to forget. Add this to your list, and brace yourself.
39. The Secret History by Donna Tartt
The appeal of this page-turner cult novel lies in the aura of mystery and exclusivity surrounding the circle of friends at its center. Even though you know what they’ve done from the very start (the prologue acts as a flash-forward, making the novel a whydunnit rather than a whodunnit), the characters are so fascinating that you just have to know how they got there. The novel doesn’t disappoint, and when the events leading up to the prologue are revealed, it’s like a bombshell: No one saw that coming. And the best part? That’s only the first half of the novel.
40. The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
The Name of the Wind is a wonderful fantasy book that I always find myself going back to. Rothfuss’ beautiful writing style is a huge reason why I am in love with his series. It is practically loaded with twists and turns, as you learn about the origins of a legendary magician, assassin, and thief. It’s the only book I don’t feel guilty about reading at the same time as another. Although lengthy, it promises a rewarding read, trust me.
41. Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
Prague, star-crossed lovers, civil war in a parallel universe, a heroine with blue hair, sharp wit, and beautifully written prose — what else could you possible ask for in a fantasy read? I could not put this book down. It’s the first of a trilogy, and it will definitely leave you wanting more.
42. A Piece of Cake by Cupcake Brown
This memoir is the most heartbreaking and eye-opening tale of redemption I have ever encountered. I’ve read this book six to eight times over the last seven years, and I will continue to read it throughout my life. Any person who has been dealt a sucky hand in life will connect to and never forget the words of Cupcake Brown! My go-to book when asked for a recommendation!
43. And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
Right away, the queen of mystery has you wondering and guessing what’s going to happen next as strangers on an isolated island start dying. The suspense and intrigue of the entire premise had me totally captivated throughout.
44. Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill
Heart-Shaped Box is the one book that I have not been able to put down recently. It’s horror — about a jaded rock star haunted by a ghost he purchased on the internet — but the characters feel real and are easy to relate to. I got so invested in them that I ended up staying up until 3 in the morning to finish it!
45. Seraphina by Rachel Hartman
This book has a strong heroine, struggling to fit into two worlds and navigate their separate political agendas. There is, of course, a romantic seduction, but also so much beautiful writing that evokes great emotion in a reader. I immediately went out and bought the sequel.
46. Blasphemy by Sherman Alexie
As master of the short story, Alexie knows how to make his characters come alive. I finished the book more than a month ago and I’m still frequently talking and thinking about these characters. Why? Because they are absolutely real — their questions, their jokes, their ideas, wishes, hopes, hesitations, doubts, and fears. Combine that with Alexie’s dark, twisted humor, which will make you laugh out loud, and you have a very deadly combination. He sings to the empty places in my mind, and this is a book I just cannot get out of my head.
—Elske Krikhaar, Amsterdam
47. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky
I will not lie and say that this book is riveting all throughout, but toward the end I genuinely could not stop reading. The on-and-off nature of Raskolnikov’s personality is so annoying that I actually enjoyed it. He longs for his mother, his sister, Sonia, or he literally hates everyone and wants to murder more people. Also his transformation in the end is just remarkable. I thought that the interlacing of romance in the book turned out to be beautiful. The relationship of Raskolnikov and Sonia put me on an emotional roller coaster that I did not want to get off. Oh, and one more thing: That one drunk guy who Raskolnikov meets in the bar has some really cool quotes — “I don’t blame her, for the one thing left her is recollection of the past, and all the rest is dust and ashes.” He really moved me.
48. The Light of the World by Elizabeth Alexander
This memoir made me confront one of my worst fears: that someone I love could drop dead and leave me without warning. But that’s what Alexander experienced. Her ability to write about the ineffable — the unthinkable — and to turn that into a story that’s ultimately life-affirming and profound made me feel as if I had been given a gift. I’ve already had occasion to buy a copy for a friend. And this will be my go-to gift for others well into the foreseeable future.
49. I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes
No matter who I’ve raved to about this book — male, female, avid reader or not, young, old — it has appealed to every. single. person. It’s pure recommendation gold. A former top spy writes the ultimate book on how to commit the perfect crime, thinking it will never be read. When someone follows it to the letter, our spy is the only one who can track them down — and that’s just the beginning of the intrigue. Part murder mystery, part international espionage thriller, this is an exhilarating ride. I reread it as soon as I finished. Knowing how it all ends doesn’t diminish the intelligent, well-executed narrative; it adds to it. Perfectly paced, and with intricately drawn characters (even the Big Bad one — actually, especially the Big Bad one) will make this a thriller that will likely be enjoyed for generations. I desperately hope there is more to come.
50. Consequences by Aleatha Romig
One of the best books I have ever read is Consequences by Aleatha Romig. It’s about an abductee and captor, and it is enthralling. The plot twist at the end had me staring wide-eyed at the ceiling for at least half an hour trying to wrap my mind around what I’d just read — it left me craving more, and possibly needing therapy. Fortunately, it’s the first in a five-book series!
51. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer
Oskar Schell is a little boy whose father died in the Twin Towers on Sept. 11. He has a key that belonged to his dad, and the book is about his determined quest to figure out the mystery of what it unlocks. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is funny and beautiful and sad all at the same time — and I guarantee you will be in tears at the end.
52. The Mountain Story by Lori Lansens
From the jacket teaser — “Five days. Four lost hikers. Three survivors.” — to the shocking and satisfying end, I simply could not put The Mountain Story down. I relished the mystery of finding out which beloved character wouldn’t survive. Each page I read, every turn of events, spurred me on. A must-read this summer!
—Tessa Rootenberg, Toronto
53. Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World by Haruki Murakami
This book is wonderfully complex, following the parallel narratives of a deranged scientist and a humanoid data processor hurtling through the seedy underworld of a near-future Tokyo. Yes, it’s a weird, experimental, post-modern celebration of the mind but, by the end, I was so ensnared in Murakami’s strange world and bizarre characters that it was sad to have to say goodbye.
Some entries have been lightly edited for clarity and length.