Remember when we were kids and we spent entire days with our noses buried in a book? We had flashlights hidden under our pillows and we’d read under the covers at night, completely unable to shut off our undeniable sense of wonder. As we got older, the joy of reading for so many of us became tainted—we learned to treat reading as an assignment instead of pleasure. Lately I’ve been hearing so many people talking about wanting to get back into reading, but it being so hard for them to find something that really grasped their attention because of this chronic reading burnout. These eight books were game-changers for me—each of them molded the way I think in a unique way. I hope that these can help spark the innate magic of reading for pleasure.
Looking for women’s empowerment, unapologetic honesty, and advice that will stay with you throughout your whole life? In her not-your-typical memoir, Glennon Doyle’s inspiring vulnerability will hook you from the beginning and keep you turning the page for more. Her anecdotes are both endearing and entirely intentional; each story effortlessly morphs into a lesson that everyone needs to hear. Doyle’s take on personal freedoms, raising children, and choosing to honor your “Inner Knowing” is liberating for women of all ages and stages of life.
The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto
Frankie Presto will capture your heart from the very beginning; written from both the point-of-view of music and reminiscent interviews with famous musical artists who are attending his funeral, Frankie’s life is retold. In the beginning of the story, music reveals that as infants we each grab a different color—each color corresponds with a skill like purple and mathematics or, like Frankie’s choice, blue and music. Frankie’s abundance of music is comparable to Beethoven or Elvis Presley, according to music itself. As a young boy, Frankie’s father took him to a blind man called El Maestro to learn the guitar. He developed prodigy-like skills with music and had a promising future until war broke out in Spain. El Maestro sends Frankie to America with the finest guitar money can buy and his magical strings. This is the story of the encapsulating and poignant life of a young Spanish boy who endures chronic hardship, yet his passion for music drives him forward and up. In this work of literary fiction, you will be entranced at the endlessly interesting puzzle that is Frankie Presto’s life.
The Silent Patient
If you like a thriller, The Silent Patient is definitely for you. Six years ago, rising artist Alicia Berenson shot and killed her husband, Gabriel Berenson, unexpectedly. Ever since Alicia shot Gabriel, she hasn’t spoken a word. Theo Faber, a newly certified psychotherapist, has been interested in Alicia’s story since he learned of the tragedy six years before—who is Alicia Berenson and why won’t she speak? Theo begins working with Alicia and slowly unravels her complex history: trauma, abuse, death, and stalking-induced paranoia. This is a book that you can’t put down—be prepared to spend the whole day trying to understand what happened to Alicia Berenson.
My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry
Fredrik Backman outdoes himself with My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry. Elsa, a Harry Potter loving seven-year-old girl, is best friends with her Granny. Granny is eccentric and wild, and she’s been Elsa’s hero for as long as she could remember. When Granny gets cancer and passes away, Elsa is heartbroken; on top of her Granny’s death, her parents are in the process of getting a divorce and are now seeing new people. Elsa’s world is turned upside-down until she discovers letters her Granny wrote to her old friends. Her adventures reveal more and more about her Granny’s life and who she was, as well as her friends. This quirky story will make you laugh and cry, as so many of Backman’s books do. Elsa leads you through a complex web of relationships and history that will help you realize the importance of refraining from judgement and being kind.
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho is about a young boy named Santiago, a Spanish shepherd. He loves his sheep; he knows each sheep’s name, mannerisms, and relationships with the other sheep. Santiago is content, until knowledge of possibility is awakened inside of him by a fortune-teller. She describes a great treasure in Egypt and how he must find it to fulfill his life’s purpose. Santiago has to sacrifice his stagnant, but stable life for a life he knows nothing about. Soon after, he meets an old man in a market that somehow knows everything about him—he tells Santiago that he must pursue this ultimate dream that has been designed for him. The old man’s identity and his advice persuade the shepherd to take a risk. Santiago learns about reading omens, understanding the language of the world, and believing in what his heart tells him to do. This story of personal, spiritual growth is inspirational and awakening. No matter what you believe in, The Alchemist has something that can help you understand yourself and the world with a greater sense of clarity.
The Kite Runner
A beautiful couplet of historical fiction, Khaled Hosseini elegantly shapes two stories that unexpectedly collide: The Kite Runner, and the next recommendation, A Thousand Splendid Suns. The Kite Runner begins in late 1960s Afghanistan from the point-of-view of a young boy named Amir; Amir is the son of one of the richest men in his city. With their wealth, Amir’s family has servants who are close family friends. Hassan is Amir’s endlessly loyal best friend and helps him compete in kite fighting competitions, which are very popular in Afghanistan. Hassan’s loyalty never falters, but Amir sacrifices Hassan for his own safety. Very soon after a traumatic moment for both Hassan and Amir, the Taliban invades Afghanistan, forcing Amir and his father to flee to the United States. Hosseini follows Amir throughout his life into his adulthood, capturing Amir’s shame, guilt, and regret about his actions that hurt his best friend. One day, Amir gets notified that Hassan’s family is in need of immediate aid, and he realizes it’s his time to redeem himself—or is it too late? Hassan and Amir’s lifelong journey is harrowing, yet hopeful.
A Thousand Splendid Suns
Like The Kite Runner, A Thousand Splendid Suns takes place in pre-and-post Taliban-invaded Afghanistan. This story begins from the point-of-view of a young woman named Mariam. She lives with her mother in a small shack on the outskirts of town; her father, an influential and rich man in Afghanistan, impregnated his maid—Mariam’s mother—and forced them to move out of the city and away from the public spectacle. When Mariam’s mother can no longer take care of her, her father finds her a husband who is 30+ years older than her. As the story continues, another perspective is added—Laila, a young, educated woman who lives in the heart of Kabul. Her father had plans for her to go to college and develop a career until the Taliban took over. Laila is faced with extremely difficult choices that result in her agreeing to marry the same man as Mariam. After she agrees to marry the man, Laila discovers crucial information that awakens her to the possibility of her life becoming more than being the wife of a man she doesn’t love. This is the powerful story of two women from very different backgrounds who do all they can to survive under the oppression of the Taliban and their husband.
However, these books require a major trigger warning for sexual assault, rape, and suicide. Please do not read these books if you don’t have the mental capacity.
Always Only You
Always Only You is about a woman named Frankie with autism learning how to navigate her social relationships and how to express her emotions when she feels like a hindrance in everyone’s lives. Frankie is used to being treated like a problem, so when she meets her coworker Ren Bergman, she knows she must be wary. Ren is endlessly optimistic, tall, and handsome and Frankie is chronically grumpy, deadpan, and reserved about her feelings and her autism diagnosis. Opposites attract with this sweet narrative about love and learning. Always Only You is complete with lively side-characters, a slow and oddball romantic build, and an opportunity for compassionate learning about autism. The really special part about this book is that the author, Chloe Liese, has autism. Liese describes writing this book as a huge personal achievement as well as an achievement for autism awareness. For those who love a good, light-hearted romance novel, this one’s for you.