Everyone has a TV show they’re binging. With covid, spending time at home is unavoidable, and there are a lot less out-and-about things we can do to entertain ourselves. So, you’ve speed-watched a bunch of TV shows, seen too many movies, and gotten way too good at your favorite video game. If you feel like you’re starting to run out of things to do, trust me when I say you’re not alone.
Maybe reading books for fun is not something everyone does. A lot of the time, when I ask someone about a book, they respond with “Well, I watched the movie…” and I stop listening. The thing is, if you have a lot of hesitancy towards cracking open a book and reading it (such a difficult task, I know), it’s probably because you’ve read mainly books for school. But the thing is, reading a book for yourself is so different from reading a book for school. I’ve actually found that I read a book faster if I don’t have a due date for it--and that’s because reading it isn’t stressful.
These books are all very different in hopes that one may catch your attention.
1. These are in no particular order other than the categories they are divided into
2. The age/content ratings are based purely on my judgment
First genre: YA page-turners
If you’re new at reading, or don’t read that much and are intimidated by intense books like Frankenstein or Pride and Prejudice, young adult novels are a great place to start. They’re the perfect way to get your feet wet in the world of reading; these books have always been some of the most entertaining ones out there. Whether they take place in an overly glorified dystopian future or a cloudy vampire-ridden town, it’s nearly impossible to put most of them down. So, if you’re looking for something like these kinds of fast-paced dramas, the following two recommendations fit the bill.
1. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (12+)
Love it or hate it, The Hunger Games (and the trilogy it is a part of) is a modern classic. It follows the story of Katniss Everdeen and her travels through a war-torn futuristic society in this epic fight-the-system tale. When her sister, Prim, is chosen for the Hunger Games (a tradition where people aged 12-18 are forced to fight to the death), Katniss volunteers in her place and this is where her story truly begins. If you’re into post-apocalyptic futures, this has all the things you love: violence, pretty people, and love triangles. And, once you’re finished reading the books, there are movies (which, shockingly, are actually good).
I can’t cover every YA apocalypse book or series, but if you’re already a fan of The Hunger Games, some other books/series that should be able to tide you over are The Maze Runner (there are movies to accompany it), The 100 (whose TV show is the best thing the CW--a production company featuring CBS and Warner Bros--has ever made), and Red Queen.
2. Twilight by Stephenie Meyer (13+)
I can feel you rolling your eyes. But if you haven’t read it, you’re not allowed to judge. It has really been dragged through the dirt, but believe it or not, it’s actually a really good love story. On Goodreads, the majority of people give it 5 stars, the second most people give it 4. And sure, it’s not the deepest book you’ve ever read, but it is an intensely rich pageturner--a guilty pleasure, if you will. It’s the book equivalent of eating a chocolate lava cake. This book is one of the most famous young adult romances of the modern era, and has three sequels, one retelling from a different point of view, and one genderswap AU to prove that.
This book (well, the whole series) is very difficult to put into words so, to sum it up, here is a famous quote from the first book, and one of my favorites as a reader:
“About three things I was absolutely positive. First, Edward was a vampire. Second, there was a part of him—and I didn't know how dominant that part might be—that thirsted for my blood. And third, I was unconditionally and irrevocably in love with him” (Meyer, Twilight).
I think this pretty much speaks for itself. So, if that little snippet intrigues you, you’ll probably love these books. If not, that’s okay. There are still 4 more recommendations I have for you (and, if you’ve already read and loved all of the Twilight books, just a quick google search can get you all the melodramatic vampire romance novels you desire).
Side note: go check out Zoe Mann’s article about Twilight to learn more!
Second genre: dense, timeless classics
These books I’d recommend to anyone looking for a deep read. They’re all very dense and most of them have been referenced in plenty of modern literature. If you’re new to reading, these might not be the best choice for you, but everyone’s different, so who knows? In all honesty, I’ve had some trouble reading these kinds of books myself, and I’ve been reading nearly my entire life. So if these are too much, that’s nothing to be ashamed of. But these are the cream of the crop when it comes to classics. We’re talking Pride and Prejudice, Jane Eyre, and Wuthering Heights. There are one or two on here that are more recent and much easier to understand than the likes of 1800s novels, but either way, these are the books that will be in our history for centuries to come.
3. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (13+)
This book is one of the most important books of English literature. It is written in a very old-fashioned and flowery English, but is a classic nonetheless. Its many movies and adaptations prove just how important and monumental it is. The book follows the story of Victor Frankenstein who works to create a living being from the body parts of many long-dead humans. When he succeeds, though, he is terrified of his creation and abandons it. The creature follows him and vows to get its vengeance for having been created this way, without explanation of why it was so different. While Frankenstein’s monster is the antagonist of the tale, it is also the victim and this is one of the reasons this book is so relevant, even today.
This book may not be in a predominantly teenage demographic, but I read it in the sixth grade and to this day it is one of my favorite books of all time. Rich with emotion, imagery, and metaphors, it is a very mature and meaningful book about inner demons and the fear of one’s own power.
4. Dune by Frank Herbert (13+)
If any of you, like myself, are extremely invested in “Booktok,” you may have heard bad things about the book Dune. I, personally, have heard people talking about how they could not get past the first few pages because of how dense and “boring” it is. So, I suppose, this book is not for the weak of...reading? Maybe I was just a very strange seventh-grader. Who knows.
It’s a pretty dense book, so yes, I got stuck a couple of times, but I enjoyed the hell out of it. Quoting an article by Dave Itzkoff for the New York Times, “‘Dune,’ published in 1965, remains a perfect, self-contained work of science fiction: an enormous 500-page novel of feudalistic families clashing in a futuristic world for control of its precious few natural resources, and an exiled boy-king learning the traditions of a foreign land in order to fight his way back onto his throne” (Itzkoff, New York Times).
Dune is a science fiction, political, and ethic-ridden extravaganza whose plot is so intense and complicated it’ll make you feel like you’re really there. The story is that of Paul Atreides, whose father the Duke takes control of the planet Arrakis (also known as Dune) and so he and his family have to move there. Arrakis is the home of many conspiracies, strange natives, and religions. Paul finds that his new home planet holds many answers as to who he really is and where in the history books his story will be written.
This book combines coming-of-age, sci-fi, political drama, romance, and action thriller. There aren’t many emotions you won’t find sprinkled throughout this book and the metaphors of his story.
If the writing style seems too dense or too slow, just read the first chapter. Give it a chance, and maybe it’ll hook you in. And if not, I’m willing to bet that at least one other book here will suit your fancy.
Go check out Estella Burque’s article about Dune for a different outlook on the book.
5. The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller (16+)
The Song of Achilles is still pretty recent, but it is indeed a classic and I’d put money on the fact that it’ll stay that way for quite some time. It is not as dense as the others in this genre, and is the easiest read--though I do not say that to make it seem dumbed down. It takes place in ancient Greece (hence the name) and is a retelling of the Iliad, from the point of view of Patroclus, Achilles’s lover.
This book is rich in Greek mythological magic and gods. Think gold and silk and tears, and you’ve pretty much got it. I won’t lie when I tell you that this book will tear your heart out and drag it all over the ground and put it back together again just to smash it into twenty-nine and a half little pieces. That being said, enjoy it!
But seriously, this book and Dune are pretty much tied in first place for me. They are very different but the one thing they have in common is their depth and their rich human emotions. This book will give you so much to think about and, if you’re like me, it may even get you invested in Greek mythology.
6. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut (15+)
This novel was very big when it came out, and the title may sound familiar if you’ve seen Footloose and have very keen ears. It is decently short, but that doesn’t keep it from being an extravaganza of sorts. It has all the things you love: time travel, jumping between moments, aliens, World War II, and optometry. This book is rich in emotion and is told in a very matter-of-fact way that enriches the story even further. Kurt Vonnegut is a genius writer and this book is a perfect example of his art.
If you enjoy science fiction (again), as well as pieces that speak out against war, and overall really putting things into perspective, this book is for you. It is a fast read, but this does not at all take away from the story. In fact, it emphasizes the moments that are told and brings strength to the writer’s message.
That’s it folks, and I hope you’ve found at least one book that piques your interest. The thing is, books would have gone out of style hundreds of years ago if classics weren’t a thing: every book is important in its own right, but the classics that mark some of the most important points on the literary timeline are what keep the art going. And whether they’re velvety guilty pleasures like Twilight or serious political sci-fis like Dune, they’re classics for a reason.
Well, hopefully now you’re inspired to get back into reading, or maybe get into reading for the first time. And hey, maybe after reading one of these you’ll even be inspired to write a book of your own!