27 Highly Readable Books to Jumpstart Your Reading Habit

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Want to read more books? Maybe you’re trying to start a reading habit and are looking for great books to read for beginners. This list of easy reading, unputdownable books are some of the best books for adults to read to make reading a habit and a hobby.

Starting to read again can feel daunting if you haven’t read a book in a while. It’s hard to know what books are worth reading, how to find the time, and whether you’ll be able to stick with it.

Many people fear that if they don’t find the best books to start a reading habit right away, they’ll get bored and quit.

Maybe you’ve already tried and quit. 

Maybe you were hoping for a book to get back into reading and you picked up a well-known classic or a book you knew was popular–but it just didn’t work for you. 

And so you quit.

A pile of books with an ampersand paperweight. Beginner readers might feel intimidated by many book options.

I get it. It can be discouraging to find that a wildly popular book doesn’t work for you–because if it worked for so many others, shouldn’t you love it, too?

If this sounds like you, check out my tips to read more books and love it. A reading challenge is also a good way to get motivated to read more; find your reading challenge style and get started!

The Key to Reading More: Find the Right Books to Read

One of the most important steps in starting to read again is to find the right books

Finding good books to read for adults doesn’t mean following a list of books that some authority says “everyone must read” or forcing yourself to slog through only the “most important books to read.”

Those lists don’t always include the most readable books, or the best books for beginners. Many of these books are great, to be sure, but they just aren’t the best place to start. Because let’s face it: reading can be a little like running. 

You’ve been doing it your whole life, but it still takes practice to get in a groove of doing it regularly. So thinking of yourself as a beginner is okay, and will help lead you to the best books for you to start a reading habit.

Books and magnifying glass. Examine your interest to find the right books to start a reading habit.

Starting with an open, beginner mindset will help you find the books that will get you into reading–because you read for you and no one else.

To get you started, I’ve put together a list of compulsively readable books to help you fall in love with reading and start making reading a habit in your life. 

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27 of the Best Books to Start a Reading Habit

Below you’ll find easy to read books from the following genres or types of books: contemporary fiction, literary fiction, historical fiction, light or humorous fiction, mysteries and thrillers, dystopias, alternate realities, classics, and nonfiction and memoirs.

These are some of my favorite recommendations of books for beginner adult readers who want to enjoy reading again. No matter what interests you, there should be at least one book here to get you started and help you fall in love with reading.

Contemporary Fiction Books

There are so many great books to read, and it can be tough to know where to start if you’re trying to get into reading again.

These contemporary fiction books are some of my favorites, and I think they might be the perfect choices to get you started.

Contemporary Fiction typed on a typewriter. This genre is a great choice for new readers.

These modern fiction books are accessible, thought-provoking, and unputdownable, so you’ll be able to get lost in them for hours at a time.

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

The Art of Racing in the Rain


by Garth Stein

A must-read for animal lovers, you will fall in love with Enzo (an aging dog who wishes he had thumbs) and won’t be able to resist the story of his and his best friend’s relationship.

The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

The Language of Flowers


by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

I couldn’t put down this book about a young woman who has aged out of foster care and discovered her unique talent of matching people with exactly the right flowers.

This Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel

This Is How It Always Is


by Laurie Frankel

A truly contemporary family novel that follows Claude (who wants to be Poppy) and the family that does their best to support that decision in a world that doesn’t make it easy.

If contemporary fiction is your favorite genre, the posts linked below have even more must-read novels for any reader.

Literary Fiction Books

Literary fiction books are a great choice if you love character-driven novels.

Literary fiction sometimes has a reputation of being difficult or high-brow, but these choices are good for even new or lapsed readers.

Literary fiction written on paper and letter blocks.

These novels are character-driven but still have a great story and can be enjoyed by even new or lapsed readers.

They’re perfect for anyone who wants to get lost in a thoughtful, complex, and immersive story.

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

An American Marriage


by Tayari Jones

A gripping novel about a couple struggling to hold a marriage together when he is convicted of a crime he didn’t commit. Multiple themes here, including racial injustice and the wreckage it leaves in its wake.

The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai

The Great Believers


by Rebecca Makkai

My favorite novel of 2018, you’ll fall in love with the friends who are living through the 80s AIDS crisis. I also went more in-depth on how this fantastic book came to be in my story of the story series: 11 Things to Know about The Great Believers.

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

Where the Crawdads Sing


by Delia Owens

Another favorite of 2018, this book has everything: a compelling main character, a mystery, romance, and a setting that is practically a character itself. Kya is “the Marsh Girl”–abandoned by her family at a young age, she has raised herself in the marsh and finds herself the object of the local town’s suspicions.

Also see: 13 Evocative Books Like Where the Crawdads Sing

Already read the literary books above? Try these novels linked below for more suggestions.

Historical Fiction Books

The best historical fiction takes you back in time and brings history to life.

These books entertain while teaching you about history and making you care about the people who lived it.

Historical fiction written in block letters

More than anything else, historical fiction can grow your curiosity and your understanding of the lives of people who lived in earlier times.

Diving into the stories and details of the past can make even the driest historical topics endlessly fascinating–a great historical fiction book is the perfect choice if you’re looking for interesting books to read for adults.

Everyone Brave Is Forgiven by Chris Cleave

Everyone Brave Is Forgiven


by Chris Cleave

A highly readable and surprisingly irreverent World War II novel, Chris Cleave’s unique writing style will pull you in. I also covered this one in The Story of the Story: Everyone Brave Is Forgiven.

As Bright As Heaven by Susan Meissner

As Bright As Heaven


by Susan Meissner

An easy-to-read and affecting novel about a family who runs a funeral home during the time of World War I and the Spanish Flu epidemic.

The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett

The Pillars of the Earth


by Ken Follett

Perfect for anyone willing to dive into a long book–it’s hefty! But this story of the construction of a cathedral in Middle Ages England is surprisingly soapy and gripping. The drama is big, the villains are deliciously evil, and the history is fascinating. One of my favorite historical fiction books. 

Need more historical fiction for your TBR? Try the books on the reading lists linked below.

Light, Funny, or Uplifting Books

Sometimes a light, humorous read is exactly what we need to get back into reading and remember how fun it can be.

Reading feel-good fiction can also be a great way to relax after a long day.

A dog reading a book called How to Rule Humans.

These books are often easy reads for adults, and they offer a quick escape from the real world.

The books below will boost your mood with a bit of humor and a light touch you’re sure to enjoy.

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

The Rosie Project


by Graeme Simsion

One unique man’s quest to find the “perfect wife” leads him to a woman who meets none of his criteria but may just be perfect for him anyway.

Less by Andrew Sean Greer

Less


by Andrew Sean Greer

A middling novelist facing his 50th birthday and life as a single gay man bumbles his way through a trip around the world. His absolute conviction that he is fluent in German had me laughing out loud. Light on plot, but great for readers who like to follow interesting characters.

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

A Man Called Ove


by Fredrik Backman

This one has been everywhere for the last couple years, and for good reason. The curmudgeonly Ove is both frustrating and endearing, and his surprising friendships with the people who cross his path are both heartwarming and funny.

Need more lighthearted and uplifting reads? Try the options below–in print or audio!

Mysteries and Thrillers

A riveting mystery or thriller can be a great way to revitalize your reading life.

The suspense and excitement in these books will keep you engaged until the very end.

The word Mystery revealed behind a torn chunk of paper.

Clever twists and turns may have you marveling at the skill of the writers, and on the hunt for more authors who can spin a captivating thrill-ride or mind-bender.

The books below will keep you on the edge of your seat–and have you ready to pick up your next read.

Fierce Kingdom by Gin Phillips

Fierce Kingdom


by Gin Phillips

This book about a mother and her young son trapped in a zoo with a shooter on the loose literally had me on the edge of my seat. It’s one of very few books that I finished in one sitting.

Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell

Then She Was Gone


by Lisa Jewell

I don’t tend to rate thrillers with 5 stars on Goodreads, but this book about a mother who sees a resemblance between a young girl and her ten-years-missing daughter got those stars. Lisa Jewell has become a go-to thriller author for me–she doesn’t do gimmicks, just fascinating stories, great characters, and tight plots.

Freefall by Jessica Barry

Freefall


by Jessica Barry

A deliciously tangled thriller that starts with a survival story following a plane crash in the Rockies and leads to family dysfunction and corporate corruption. Read my full review.

Love a great mystery? Try the books on the lists below for more excellent options.

Bookish Gifts & Merch You’ll Love


White mug with a heart made of books on the side
Book Love Mug
Pink shirt with Booktrovert written on the front
Booktrovert T-shirt
Librarians Quietly Leading the Resistance Mug
Librarians: Quietly Leading the Resistance Mug
White t-shirt reading I Have No Shelf Control
I Have No Shelf Control T-Shirt

See more on Etsy

Dystopias

Dystopias sometimes feel like a dime-a-dozen these days, but they aren’t all teenagers saving the world.

Many dystopian novels include themes of feminism, nature, and more.

The word Dystopia written on paper

Dystopian books can often feel bleak, but they tend to be stories of rebellion and social consciousness; people taking matters into their own hands to right wrongs and fight oppression.

Despite dark overtones, many have an oddly hopeful note. They’re sure to have you contemplating the future (and the present), society, and your place in the world.

Into the Forest by Jean Hegland

Into the Forest


by Jean Hegland

This one does have some teenage protagonists, but the story is about family, survival after societal collapse, and going back to nature. I love this book and have read it multiple times.

Vox by Christina Dalcher

Vox


by Christina Dalcher

Another book that I read in one sitting, this thrilling feminist dystopia in which women are stripped of all rights and limited to speaking 100 words per day is a fast read and is eerie for its plausibility.

The Dreamers by Karen Thompson Walker

The Dreamers


by Karen Thompson Walker

A new book that feels like it borders the dystopia designation, this book with floaty prose that mirrors its name imagines what happens when a whole town starts falling asleep–and can’t wake up. Read my full review.

Can’t get enough of dystopias? The books on the list below are sure to expand your TBR.

Alternate Realities (Sci-Fi/Magical Realism/Fantasies)

Sci-fi and fantasy purists will not like me grouping these together (sorry!), and these are all kind of sci-fi and fantasy-adjacent–but that’s what makes them great options for new readers!

Sci-fi books often probe the limits of believability by considering what would happen if any number of exciting or scary scenarios came true.

Alternate Reality written in chalk

Fantasy, on the other hand, can take us into fantastical worlds that stretch our imaginations. Books with magical realism bring touches of magic into the everyday.

If you’re like me and don’t read many books in these genres, here are a few “alternate reality light” reads to get you started.

Justice Unending by Elizabeth Spencer

Justice Unending


by Elizabeth Spencer

A fun steampunk ride through a world ruled by immortals who must inhabit the bodies of mortals. An irreverent tone throughout overlays themes of power and systemic injustice.

Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield

Once Upon a River


by Diane Setterfield

A lightly magical historical fiction book set on the Thames River in Victorian England, about a young girl who appears to come back to life after drowning and the multiple families that lay claim to her.

Pattern Recognition by William Gibson

Pattern Recognition


by William Gibson

A sci-fi-light book about a “cool hunter” who falls into quest to discover the source of the first viral videos. I found this one more readable that Gibson’s better-known Neuromancer.

Love reality-benders that take you into alternate worlds? The list below might have more books that are right for you.

Classics

Not all classic books are boring and inaccessible. These choices are surprisingly readable and will have you hooked to the end.

I’m the first to say that not all “classics” are worth reading, but many still offer stories and characters that will stay with you forever.

A row of classic leatherbound books.

You don’t need to fill your reading list with classics if they’re not your favorite (read what you like!).

But if you’ve always meant to read the classics “someday,” these are a few that are worth the time and perfect for beginner readers.

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

Jane Eyre


by Charlotte Bronte

I didn’t pick up Jane Eyre until about two years ago and I was surprised by how readable it was. Jane is a strong female character and, despite the frustrating men around her, she usually manages to hold her own–no small feat in the constraints of her time.

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

Rebecca


by Daphne du Maurier

This gothic novel is a classic for a reason. An unnamed narrator marries a wealthy gentleman but is plagued by the villains around her–both present and not. Creepy (but not scary) and gripping until the very last page.

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, a classic long book that will help you start a reading habit.

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn


by Betty Smith

Another 20th century classic about a young girl growing up in poverty in turn-of-the-century Brooklyn. Book lovers will adore Francie and her keen observations.

Want to add more classics to your reading? The ones on the lists below are worth the read.

Nonfiction and Memoir

Some of the best nonfiction books read just like fiction.

Nonfiction can educate AND entertain–you can skip the dry factual accounts if they aren’t your thing.

A library endcap with a nonfiction sign on the side of the bookshelf.

Creative nonfiction and memoir are the perfect choices for new readers because they offer great writing and captivating narratives.

The books below had me riveted with fascinating stories–made all the more interesting because they are true.

Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo

Behind the Beautiful Forevers


by Katherine Boo

The story of several families growing up in a Mumbai slum, this nonfiction book is so well-told that while reading it, I had to double-check that it actually was nonfiction.

Educated by Tara Westover

Educated


by Tara Westover

One of the more fascinating memoirs I’ve read in a long time, this is Westover’s telling of her childhood growing up in a dysfunctional survivalist family in Idaho, and her journey to awareness and an elite education.

Calypso by David Sedaris

Calypso


by David Sedaris

David Sedaris’ latest offering is a little darker than some of his previous, but still sharp and funny in its observations. If you’re new to Sedaris, try one of his older books first (maybe Me Talk Pretty One Day), and no matter which you choose, go for the audio version.

Love great memoirs and nonfiction? Try the books on the reading lists below.

Still Not Sure Where to Start?

Take the quiz for your personalized book recommendation!

Support Local Bookstores

Now, more than ever, local bookstores need our support. If you are purchasing books, consider buying local or from Bookshop.org, which supports local, independent bookstores.

Shop my book lists or search Bookshop.org for your next great read:

Visit this list on Bookshop.org.

What would you add to this list of compulsively readable books that you’d recommend to new readers? What is your go-to recommendation for a good book to read for adults? Finally, if you’re still looking for the right books, are there any genres you’d like to see added? Let me know!

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19 Comments

  1. What a Fabulous list! I saw so many books I loved and several I hadn’t heard of but am adding to my TBR. I’m always interested in a new thriller author so am going to try the Lisa Jewell book the next time I’m in a slump.

    1. Thanks, Catherine! Thrillers are really hit-or-miss for me, but I’ve been impressed by the three Lisa Jewell novels I’ve read.

  2. There are a few on here that I loved so much I’m hoping to reread soon – The Rosie Project, The Art of Racing in the Rain, etc.

    I’d add anything by Kate Morton (probably The Secret Keeper since that was my favorite)!

    1. I really want to reread The Art of Racing in the Rain. It stands out as a book that got me back into reading after grad school.

      I think I’ve only read The Lake House by Kate Morton, but I definitely want to read more. The Distant Hours is sitting on my shelf.

      1. Love Kate Morton, the only one I struggled with was the clockmakers
        daughter,

  3. This is a great list of books! Some of my all time and new-time favorites! Plus some I haven’t gotten to yet, but will add to my TBR. It’s the second time in two weeks that I’ve read about Beyond the Beautiful Forevers, so I think I’ll start there. Thanks!

    1. What a marvelous list! You might add Water for Elephants and The Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet these are two of of my absolute favorite! I’ve read them several times! They are a pure pleasure to read I hope I’ve helped in some way! God bless you all thanks for listening! Denise J Tidwell

  4. I ‘m surprise that how you can order the all the powerful books, i was finding most of them but after a few minutes, i found your site that is full of the best inspirational and motivational books i never seen such amazing collection books.
    I am very thankful to you that i read a few best life changing books.

  5. Thanks for such a beautiful website you write and draw the pictures is very awesome and beautiful. I like the way of your design. Thank you very much …….Goodluck.

  6. The best collection of books I ever found. All books you refered us are worth to read and get inspired. The book, I decided to buy and read is “Once upon a river” in this collection which is the best and emotional story. I also recommend this book to those people who love reading. Thanks for sharing these worth reading book with us and in the last I wanna say heartily thanks to the owner of this blog.

  7. You and I share very similar taste in books. Of your selections, I’ve read so many and really enjoyed them. For the others, they are already on my to-read shelf. Happy reading!

  8. The Rosie Project is one of my all time favorites! I highly recommend it if you need a good laugh-actually as lot of laughs!!

  9. I can’t simply go without leaving a comment. This post is a great read.

    Donut Hole is a War story told by a Marine who had just survived 395 days in a war zone, but at the end of his 13 month tour, he would have to survive the 68 TET Offensive and the Donut Hole to come home alive.

    I hope you can take the time to read my book as well:Donut Hole

  10. Thanks for your list of recommended books. I like how you categorize the books and your personal take on each book. More importantly, you include a synopsis of the book! There are so many other sites that don’t and I have to toggle back and forth to find it on my own. I have bookmarked this page and will be revisiting when I’m ready to pick up another book. Thanks!

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