Content Warning: This article contains talk of suicide. Please proceed with content.
This year, I have set the intention to be more consistent with reading. I used to be an avid reader, but the required readings in high school and college have made it difficult for me to find the time to read for fun. I try to make an effort to read at least during the weekdays, giving myself the chance to step back from my phone and relax before going to bed.
As much as I love getting recommendations on TikTok for new books to read, I sometimes get tired of seeing the same books over and over again. So if you’re in the same boat as me, here are some of my favorite books that I didn’t find on BookTok.
“What Made Maddy Run”
This was my top read for 2021, and I constantly find myself recommending it to people looking for a good nonfiction book. It follows the true story of Maddy Holleran, a once highly decorated high school athlete, and the events that lead to her tragic death only days into her second semester at the University of Pennsylvania.
Author Kate Fagan, who was also a college athlete, works with the Holleran family to try to piece together what happened, and what led this seemingly happy and successful teen to take her own life. Fagan uses Maddy’s text messages, emails and diary entries to try to puzzle together what happened during her one semester as a student-athlete.
She also interjects several times throughout the novel to share her own experiences with collegiate athletics and shows how Maddy’s feelings of inferiority and self-doubt aren’t isolated to just her. It also shows the aftermath of how Maddy’s passing impacted her family, and how they have since worked to advocate for better mental health resources for all students in the state of New Jersey.
Though it deals with heavy topics, it is a great read for anyone who has ever dealt with mental illness or feelings of inferiority. “What Made Maddy Run” is a beautifully crafted novel that I can’t recommend enough.
“The Haunting of Hill House”
The inspiration for the 2018 Netflix miniseries of the same name, Shirley Jackson’s “The Haunting of Hill House” is a gothic masterpiece that is tragically underrated.
It should be said that you should not go into this book expecting it to be similar to the Netflix show. Although the two share the names of characters and the same spooky atmosphere, the novel follows a completely different story, following four adults residing in the titular Hill House to record the presence of the paranormal.
Although the premise can feel a little absurd, this book is less of a horror novel and more of a psychological thriller. Jackson plays with the thin line between paranormal and the fragmented emotions of her characters, and it’s never really clear if the haunting is the work of ghosts or the characters’ imaginations. It can be frustrating for some that there is never any confirmation of the supernatural, but the unknown can be just as scary, or even scarier, than knowing everything that is happening.
This book is one of the best examples of how the horror genre doesn’t need to rely on gimmicks or spooks to create a captivating novel. “The Haunting of Hill House” is a novel that can rely on its complex characters and the unknown to create a tone that keeps you on the edge of your seat until the last page.
Another book that lead to a Netflix series, “You” follows bookstore clerk Joe Goldberg and his infatuation with Guinevere Beck, and the lengths he goes to win her love. He stalks her and works to insert himself in her life, swearing to make her his, no matter what the cost.
Reading the book feels like you are inside Goldberg’s head. His twisted inner thoughts add a layer of creepiness, and it is fascinating (and a little terrifying) to see a toxic relationship from the abuser’s point of view.
Although the subject is somewhat terrifying, author Caroline Kepnes writes in a way that lulls you into a false sense of security. No matter how many bad things Goldberg does, reading this story from his point of view seems to almost humanize him.
However, no matter how cute Penn Badgley makes him seem, Joe Goldberg is not the guy anyone should aspire to be with. He is a textbook “nice guy” that believes that he is deserving of Beck’s love because of his kind gestures and devotion to her.
This book isn’t scary because of blood or gore, but the idea that this scenario isn’t totally impossible. If you liked the show, you will love this book. Just maybe read it with the lights on and the curtains closed.
Just remember, BookTok is a great resource for anyone looking to get into reading. The most important part is finding books that interest you and make you want to read.