Review: KIDS OF APPETITE by David Arnold

It’s no secret that David Arnold is a good friend of mine, and that we occasionally read for one another, but trust me when I say that even if I’d never met him, I’d still be a fervent fan. There’s just something about the way his characters see the world — hope and wonder tempered with dry, razor-sharp wit — that is simultaneously endlessly fun to read while being deeply moving. I’m not typically the speediest reader, but with David’s stories…well, let’s just say that if they were cookies, I might as well be a hairy blue monster with giant googly eyes and an insatiable sweet tooth. And after David’s phenomenal debut Mosquitoland, I know I wasn’t the only one waiting with bated breath for his sophomore novel, Kids of Appetite.

Also, to pull back the curtain just a tad, I’d like to draw attention to this video David made about the four individuals with Moebius Syndrome who helped him bring Vic to life. As I’ve heard him say many times, they did more than just help him get Vic right; without them, there would be no Vic at all.

The Plot (from Goodreads):

Victor Benucci and Madeline Falco have a story to tell.
It begins with the death of Vic’s father.
It ends with the murder of Mad’s uncle.
The Hackensack Police Department would very much like to hear it.
But in order to tell their story, Vic and Mad must focus on all the chapters in between.

This is a story about:

1. A coded mission to scatter ashes across New Jersey.
2. The momentous nature of the Palisades in winter.
3. One dormant submarine.
4. Two songs about flowers.
5. Being cool in the traditional sense.
6. Sunsets & ice cream & orchards & graveyards.
7. Simultaneous extreme opposites.
8. A narrow escape from a war-torn country.
9. A story collector.
10. How to listen to someone who does not talk.
11. Falling in love with a painting.
12. Falling in love with a song.
13. Falling in love.

My Thoughts:

It’s always a little risky, both as a writer and a reader, taking on a book told from multiple points of view. It’s hard enough to find a book with one narrator I love, let alone two or more. Throw on top of that a non-linear structure — KIDS OF APPETITE opens on a scene that actually takes place near the end of the story, with the bulk of the narrative told in flashback — and in less capable hands, you might have a recipe for literary disaster.

Fortunately, David Arnold is far more than capable, and KIDS OF APPETITE is an often poignant, occasionally hilarious, surprisingly twisty delight from start to finish.

The central characters of KIDS OF APPETITE are a boy, Victor “Vic” Benucci, and a girl, Madeline “Mad” Falco, who meet by chance two years after the death of Vic’s father, and wind up profoundly changing each other’s lives forever. The narrative flips between both of their POVs, and alternates between their separate interrogations in a police station, and the events that brought them there. It’s a tricky structure, but it works. Both voices are sharp and distinctive, and the skips back and forth in time flow well, and are never jarring or confusing.

Vic is a boy still grieving his father’s death following a long illness. After fleeing his house during a particularly upsetting night, Vic encounters Mad and the rest of the Kids of Appetite — Baz and Zuz, refugee brothers from the Republic of the Congo, and Coco, an 11-year-old girl with a boundless imagination and a penchant for swearing. The four Kids live together in a neglected greenhouse, where they spend their time musing upon life, making grand declarations, and, every now and then, deciding to take it upon themselves to make someone else’s life better. When Vic and the Kids collide, they set out on a mission to fulfill his father’s final wish, and in doing so, bring Vic the closure he so desperately needs. But even as they are all working to help Vic, Vic is focused on Mad, who, despite her guarded exterior, he suspects could use some help of her own.

As the story went on, I fell in love with each of these characters. As in David Arnold’s previous book, MOSQUITOLAND, the members of his cast are like a bunch of mismatched puzzle pieces coming together to to form a sort of Wes Anderson-ized whole, full of quirks and flaws and idiosyncrasies that may make them an odd fit anywhere else, but work perfectly with each other. David Arnold’s great strength as a writer is in painting his characters with a vivid brush, and then stepping back and allowing them to shine through their dialogue as they interact with each other, and that talent is on full display here. In both the large moments and the small, loud and quiet, it was a joy to experience life with these characters, and to watch them live and laugh and see that it was good.

I want to take a moment to talk about the disability representation with Vic, who has a rare neurological disorder known as Moebius Syndrome, which is characterized by complete or partial facial paralysis. Before reading KIDS OF APPETITE, I had never even heard of Moebius Syndrome, and certainly had never met anyone who had it. It was evident in reading Vic’s point-of-view that David was very aware that this might be the first exposure many of his readers have to Moebius, as well as the first time his readers with Moebius see someone like them represented in fiction. The care and attention to detail was clear, and there is an author’s note at the end which thanks four individuals with Moebius for consulting closely on the development of Vic’s character. While I am not disabled, I am a strong proponent of increased diversity in fiction, as I believe that reading about a broad spectrum of human experiences can only serve to increase empathy. There are so few books out there with disabled protagonists, and even fewer where the author really opened themselves up to input from the community they are aiming to represent. And while KIDS OF APPETITE is definitely not a book about Moebius, I really appreciated the thoughtfulness that went into crafting Vic and making sure that the portrayal of a character with Moebius was accurate.

In the end, KIDS OF APPETITE is a beautiful story of grief and healing, of friendship and found family, of first impressions and broadened horizons, and of how you can know someone so well, yet discover there are parts of them you never knew at all. It is in turns funny and heartfelt, thrilling and surprising and gutting. It is a brilliant, honest, Super Racehorse of a book, and one I wholeheartedly recommend to anyone who loves great stories.

Review: THIS SAVAGE SONG by Victoria Schwab

It’s been a few years since Victoria Schwab has given us a new YA; she’s been spending the past couple years working toward world domination establishing her adult brand with Vicious and the Darker Shade series. During that time, she’s gained a lot of new readers, and I hope they follow her back to her YA roots for This Savage Song

I wasn’t sure what to expect from her monstrous new release (every time Victoria was asked about it, responses ranged from nonverbal grunting noises to maniacal cackling to “it’s so weird, you guys”) but once I finally got my grubby little paws on an ARC and read the first few pages, I couldn’t put it down. Now I can honestly say that This Savage Song this is my favorite of Victoria’s YA. Tonally, it feels like the younger YA cousin to Vicious, which is my favorite book of Victoria’s overall, and I am so excited that it’s finally crept its way into the world.

The Plot (from Goodreads):

There’s no such thing as safe in a city at war, a city overrun with monsters. In this dark urban fantasy from author Victoria Schwab, a young woman and a young man must choose whether to become heroes or villains—and friends or enemies—with the future of their home at stake. The first of two books.

Kate Harker and August Flynn are the heirs to a divided city—a city where the violence has begun to breed actual monsters. All Kate wants is to be as ruthless as her father, who lets the monsters roam free and makes the humans pay for his protection. All August wants is to be human, as good-hearted as his own father, to play a bigger role in protecting the innocent—but he’s one of the monsters. One who can steal a soul with a simple strain of music. When the chance arises to keep an eye on Kate, who’s just been kicked out of her sixth boarding school and returned home, August jumps at it. But Kate discovers August’s secret, and after a failed assassination attempt the pair must flee for their lives.

My Thoughts:

For the past couple years, Victoria (V.E.) Schwab has been focusing on her adult books, with Vicious and her Darker Shade series. However, This Savage Song takes her back to her start in YA, with an urban fantasy that explores the question of what it means to be monstrous. For readers of her adult works, expect a tone closer to Vicious than Darker Shade, and for readers of her YA, be prepared for a darker, twistier tale than either The Archived or The Near Witch.

This Savage Song takes place in a time and place not too removed from the world we live in now, except for one crucial detail — in this world, acts of violence breed literal monsters. The more horrific the violence, the more terrible the creature it creates.

August, one of the two narrators, is one such monster, born out of an event so horrible, he can barely bring himself to think of it. He wants nothing more than to be human, but throughout the story, it becomes increasingly clear why that can never be possible, and why, even so, he can never stop trying.

Kate Harker, the other narrator, is the teenage daughter of the most powerful man in the city, and would happily throw away her humanity if it won her the attention of her father. She and August don’t so much come together as collide, and the narrative of This Savage Song clearly relishes playing out the tension between the monster boy longing for the very thing his human companion doesn’t seem to value at all, and the girl trying to reconcile what she knows of monsters with the boy standing in front of her.

It’s hard to discuss the plot of This Savage Song without getting into spoilers, so suffice it to say that the entire book is a tense, thrilling exploration of what it means to be human, what can make someone monstrous, and the marks violence leaves, both on the soul and on society. Kate and August’s relationship follows one of my favorite trajectories in fiction, from enemies to wary allies to respected partners to trusted friends, and I loved every delicious moment of their slow-burn friendship (is slow-burn friendship a thing? Because it should be).

I also was fascinated by the monsters that populated the dark world of This Savage Song. For the most part, they are not the mindless, salivating brutes of horror novels and fairy tales, but sinister, intelligent beings with agendas of their own. When the story starts, the monsters have more or less taken over the city, but they still have structure and hierarchy within their new, monstrous society. I’ve always considered worldbuilding one of Victoria’s great strengths, and This Savage Song is no exception, as she feels her way through how the world as we know it would change — and how it would remain the same — if monsters roamed among us.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the writing itself; as always, Victoria’s prose is beautiful, each word carefully chosen, each paragraph meticulously crafted. On a sentence level, I truly feel she’s one of the most talented writers in the game today. There’s hardly a page that goes by without a phrase that would be appropriate to print in loopy script and place in a frame somewhere. Her worldbuilding is lush and detailed, the dialogue sharp, the action taught, and the act of reading her words is decadence and joy and education all in one.

Make no mistake, This Savage Song is very dark, probably Schwab’s darkest since Vicious, and therefore won’t be for everyone. It’s violent and disturbing and, at times, very sad. But despite its darkness, it’s not a depressing book. Yes, Kate and August go through terrible trials and have to face awful things, but when I turned the final few pages of This Savage Song (which, it’s worth noting, ends on a very satisfying note, despite this book being the first of a duology), I felt oddly uplifted. For me, though it’s subtle, there was an undercurrent of light woven throughout the story, enough to leave the reader with the impression that though things may get bad, so bad it seems nearly impossible for them to ever turn around, that there is always hope. There is always goodness somewhere, maybe buried deep, maybe not where you’d expect to find it, and you might have to fight tooth and nail to get to it, but it’s there nonetheless. It’s a difficult balance to strike, but in my opinion, it’s executed beautifully here.

If you are a fan of urban fantasy, unlikely friendships, gorgeous writing, and thoughtful explorations of morality and monstrousness, rush to your local bookstore and dive into the world of This Savage Song today.

Review: SUFFER LOVE by Ashley Herring Blake

You know those tasks you really should get to, but you have so much time in which to get to them that it’s really not important that you do them right now? So you put them off, and put them off, watching your available time shrink and shrink and shrink until there’s barely enough time to get them done? But by then it’s stressful and rushed, and that gives you anxiety, so instead of buckling down and getting through your tasks, you put them off even more? Until there’s no possible way you can get them done in time, so really, why even try? And then you give up and feel like a failure and claim things “just got away from you,” but you know the truth?

Please tell me I’m not the only one who does this.

Anyway, this has been me and Ashley Herring Blake’s gorgeous YA debut, Suffer Love.

Ashley, as anyone who even casually follows me on Twitter probably knows, is one of my critique partners, but we didn’t meet until after she’d already written and sold Suffer Love. However, she said she could use one more pair of eyes on it before she went into copyedits, so she sent it to me and I read it over, making a few tiny suggestions here and there, but mostly just being utterly absorbed in and swept away by the characters and their story.

This was — I just looked it up — November, 2014.

Suffer Love released in May of this year.

Which means I’ve had a year and a half to write this review and put it up before the release date, and I still didn’t manage to get it done in time.

Anyway, I’m finally getting to it now, because I loved this book and I love Ashley and it deserves a glowing review…even if it’s a little late.

The Plot (from Goodreads):

“Just let it go.”

That’s what everyone keeps telling Hadley St. Clair after she learns that her father cheated on her mother. But Hadley doesn’t want to let it go. She wants to be angry and she wants everyone in her life—her dad most of all—to leave her alone.

Sam Bennett and his family have had their share of drama too. Still reeling from a move to a new town and his parents’ recent divorce, Sam is hoping that he can coast through senior year and then move on to hassle-free, parent-free life in college. He isn’t looking for a relationship…that is, until he sees Hadley for the first time.

Hadley and Sam’s connection is undeniable, but Sam has a secret that could ruin everything. Should he follow his heart or tell the truth?

My Thoughts:

It’s well-known that parents are scarce in YA literature. Either they’re dead, or they’re absent, or they’re around but strangely invisible. It’s understandable; YA is about teens, and it’s hard to put teens front and center if their parents are continually barging in and trying to take charge. So many YA stories deal with this by simply removing the parents, or shifting them to the background.

To be clear, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that approach. One of the main audiences of YA is, in fact, teenagers, and it makes total sense that they’d want to read stories about characters their age, not about their parents. I find absolutely no fault with authors who would rather focus on their teen characters and keep adults mostly out of the mix.

However, I’m a little bit backwards. I was one of those teens who read a lot of adult literature, and now I’m an adult who reads a lot of YA. As such, I’ve always been drawn to stories that feature both perspectives, the adult and the teen. I find it fascinating to explore where they clash, where they overlap, where the gap in years of life experience is an asset and where it’s a hindrance.

Suffer Love is one of those rare YA books that, while remaining solidly YA, really digs in and explores those questions. Sam and Hadley, the two teen narrators, are both dealing with the fallout of their parents’ infidelity. One family has already split apart, the other is trying to stay together but finding it a challenge. One narrator knows the sordid details of their parent’s affair, the other does not. Both are struggling to redefine their relationships with their parents and families, while still working through lingering feelings of anger and betrayal. The parents in both families are well-drawn, fully realized characters, but even when they’re not on the page, their presence is felt. Suffer Love doesn’t shy away from asking hard questions about the relationships between parents and teens, the mistakes both sides can make, and how both parties can move forward after being shaken to their core.

But much as I loved the way Suffer Love is a story about parents and kids and the particular hurting and healing that occurs within families, it’s about more than that. It’s about first love, and grief, and friendship. It’s two people in pain finding each other and realizing that they can heal better together than they can apart. It’s about loyalty, and secrets, and trying to make a good decision when all of the choices available to you are bad.

Sam and Hadley both felt like real people to me as I read. The alternating points of view were never confusing, with each having their own distinct voice and purpose. The side characters never felt peripheral either, and each had their own moments to shine, particularly Sam’s best friend Ajay (my favorite character) and Sam’s younger sister, Livy. Suffer Love is one of those books where you just want to hang out with several of the characters after the book ends, and maybe give a few of them hugs, not just because they need one, but also because you feel so connected to them.

The prose is lush and gorgeous but never gets overly flowery, and is infused with plenty of humor, as well as a hefty dose of Shakespearean references (including quite a few nods to my favorite Shakespeare play, Much Ado About Nothing, from which Suffer Love gets its title). It’s one of those books that strikes the perfect balance between lovely writing and compulsive readability, and I found that once the pages started turning, they didn’t stop.

Suffer Love is a beautiful, emotional story of grief and healing, of trust and friendship, of heartbreak and first love. It is about romance, and family, and the lengths a person will go to for the people they love. If you already love contemporary YA, or haven’t tried it yet and are searching for just the right book to get your feet wet, Ashley Herring Blake’s Suffer Love is a riveting and poignant debut, and I can’t wait to read what she writes next.

Review in Tweets: Captain America: Civil War

For my full review of Captain America: Civil War, please go check out my post on Avenging Force, where I write regularly about movies, television, and fandom. 


This weekend, I saw the much-anticipated newest addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Captain America: Civil War. Twice.

I mean, I had to see it once to make sure it was okay for my kids, and then obviously I had to actually bring the kids. (For the record, though they both went in thinking they’d be Team Iron Man, one of them came out Team Cap.) So it was only reasonable that I see it twice.

I had, as you can imagine, a lot of thoughts. And while I put them together in a much more coherent actual review over on Avenging Force (and then delved even deeper into the little details of the movie here), I figured that over here, I’d post all my reaction tweets that I wrote immediately after coming out of the theater the first time. Because not all of you follow me on Twitter, and I tweeted enough about this movie to pretty much equal a full-length review anyway.

(For more of my thoughts on Spider-Man, Peter Parker, and the MCU, see this post)

I mean look at this


Book Suggestions for Reluctant Adult Readers

A couple weeks ago, my friend Ashley tweeted this:

We got into a short discussion trying to come up with suggestions for her friend. I wondered what other books she’d liked, to try to get a feel for her taste, and she said her friend didn’t know. Her impression was that her friend thought she should read, but had no idea what she actually liked to read.

Now, I just want to get this out there first — I agree with this. Reading is, of course, a good skill to have, and I don’t think that never reading at all is a great idea, but the idea that everyone should enjoy recreational reading is, in my opinion, flawed. Reading for pleasure is a hobby, and just like watching movies or building model airplanes or running cross-country, it’s not for everyone.

However! I would encourage adults who have never enjoyed reading a book to give it another shot. Lots of us got our first exposure to books in school, and for many of us, the books our teachers picked out were not exactly what we would have picked for ourselves. Not everyone enjoys the classics or literary fiction (I know Teen Me sure didn’t), which is what I know made up most of my high school English curriculum. And while some of us decided to venture outside of our assigned reading lists to find books we did love, others, understandably, gave up.

Or maybe they didn’t. Maybe they kept trying, but the books they picked up didn’t resonate. Or maybe something else (poor eyesight, short attention span, dyslexia, or any number of other reasons) made the act of reading itself unappealing.

And maybe they’re fine with that. Which is okay. This post is not intended to shame anyone. Some people just don’t enjoy reading. I don’t enjoy sports or crafts, and no amount of attending football games or covering things in Mod Podge is going to change that. There is no single perfect fit for everyone when it comes to hobbies.

But according to this 2015 study by the Pew Research Center, 3 out of 10 of adults have not read a single book in the past 12 months. And while it’s very possible/likely that a good number of those are people who will never like to read, no matter what, this post is not for those people. Go, non-reading people. Live your lives. Be content and fulfilled.

But I have to believe that some of them would enjoy reading, if they could only find the right book. Just a few days ago, best-selling author James Patterson announced he was launching BookShots, aiming to publish short, catchy novels that can be read in one sitting, designed to ensnare non-readers. There is definitely a contingent of adults who would like to read, but don’t, for whatever reason. I know I see these sorts of requests pop up on Facebook all the time: I don’t read much, but would like to change that. 

So if this is you — or, more likely given the readership of this blog, if this is your friend — this post is for you.

For those who have never really found a book they loved with their whole heart, but still think it could be out there, I wanted to put together a list of book suggestions. James Patterson’s bite-size books will be great for people who find the length of the typical novel daunting, but there are lots of reasons people don’t read that have nothing to do with page count. So I took to social media, asking for help, and the Bookish Internet turned out in force!

I think any book could be the book for someone, but this is a list of titles people thought would be most likely to pull in someone who’s never really understood how a book can make a person cry, or laugh out loud, or stay up all night. A list of books submitted by my social media followers isn’t very scientific, but it’s a start. Much as it might seem simple to tell someone just read about what interests you, turning your interests into a list of books can be overwhelming, even for a seasoned reader. This list may not be comprehensive, but hopefully it’ll at least give you a good jumping off point.

There are plenty of lists of books for reluctant teen readers (and those lists are GREAT), but not so many for reluctant adults. This list contains adult, YA, and even a couple MG, across all genres. I’m not separating out the YA/MG from the adult, since this entire list is already intended for adults. If I have something under the wrong heading, please let me know – I haven’t read all of these, so this categorization is my best educated guess.

I struggled with how detailed to get in this list. Some people’s suggestions came with caveats (this book is really long, but anyone with even the remotest interest in the Civil War will gobble it up) or really specific audience recommendations (this is great for people who are really into WWII stories and espionage). Ultimately, I decided to stick with just a basic genre differentiation, as writing a paragraph’s worth of description for each title would’ve made the list really hard to browse. The Amazon links provide all the extra detail you need.

Titles in red were suggested by multiple people (I could break it down further — how many suggested each — but my social media following really isn’t extensive enough for further detail to be all that meaningful).

* marks a book that is part of a series.


Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith

*The Cainsville series by Kelley Armstrong

*The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis

*A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

*The Emperor’s Edge series by Lindsay Buroker

*The Farseer series by Robin Hobb

*Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

*The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling

Haroun and the Sea of Stories by Salman Rushdie

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

*The Mistborn trilogy by Brandon Sanderson

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Book Store by Robin Sloan

The Princess Bride by William Goldman

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

*Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

*Twilight by Stephenie Meyer

Uprooted by Naomi Novik

Vicious by V.E. Schwab

Science Fiction

*Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

The Humans by Matt Haig

*The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton

The Martian by Andy Weir

*Red Rising by Pierce Brown

*The Vorkosigan Saga by Lois McMaster Bujold

Realistic Fiction and Romance

The Cordina’s Royal Family series by Nora Roberts

Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

Good in Bed by Jennifer Weiner

Hatchet by Gary Paulsen

The Husband’s Secret by Laura Moriarty

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan

The Sea of Tranquility by Katja Millay

Something Like Normal by Trish Doller

A Walk to Remember by Nicholas Sparks

Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple

Winger by Andrew Smith

Historical Fiction

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

*Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

Marina by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides

The Moon and Sixpence by W. Somerset Maugham

*Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys

The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

The Revenant by Sonia Gensler

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

Wish You Well by David Baldacci


11-22-63 by Stephen King 

*The Alex Delaware series by Jonathan Kellerman

Before I Go to Sleep by S.J. Watson

Bellweather Rhapsody by Kate Racculia

Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith

Dark Places by Gillian Flynn

*The Jack Ryan series by Tom Clancy

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

*The Hunt by Andrew Fukuda

*I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga

*Kiss the Girls by James Patterson

Misery by Stephen King

Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King

*The Myron Bolitar series by Harlan Coben

*The Pendergast series by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn 

The Stand by Stephen King

*The Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich

Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion

World War Z by Max Brooks


1491 by Charles C. Mann

Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow

And the Dead Shall Rise by Steve Oney

The Color of Water by James McBride

Confederates in the Attic by Tony Horwitz

Devil in the White City by Erik Lawson 

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom

I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai

The Order of the Death’s Head by Heinz Zollin Hohne

Stiff by Mary Roach

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand


Bossypants by Tina Fey

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me by Mindy Kaling

Why Not Me by Mindy Kaling

Yes Please by Amy Poehler

Other authors mentioned with no specific works referenced: A.J. JacobsCraig Johnson, Dan Brown, David McCulloughJ.A. JanceJ Maarten TroostJohn Elder RobisonNeil GaimanRainbow RowellSteve Berry, Terry Pratchett, Tracie PetersonJennifer WeinerHaruki Murakami, Karen Kingsbury.

When people just gave me authors without specific titles, they tended to have fairly extensive bodies of work, so take a look at their author pages and see if any write on subjects that interest you. This list includes writers of non-fiction, inspirational fiction, mysteries, fantasy, romance, and everything in between. I’d be really shocked if all of the authors listed above were your cup of tea — but I’d be equally shocked if none of them were.

A few interesting things I’ve noticed while compiling this list:

  • Length seemed to have very little to do with how much reluctant adult readers liked a book. While I think a big component of kids being reluctant readers is actual reading ability, with adults (according to my very unscientific study) it seems to have far more to do with enjoyment. The overwhelming consensus seemed to be that if an adult was interested in the subject matter and the pacing was good, the actual page count was not a turn-off. (That said, not everyone is into reading doorstoppers, and that is totally okay. There are plenty of titles on this list that have lower page counts).
  • The three most-recommended titles by a wide margin: The Martian by Andy Weir, Vicious by V.E. Schwab, and Devil in the White City by Erik Lawson. A sci-fi, an urban fantasy, and a historical non-fiction. Interesting genre spread.
  • Most-recommended genres were thrillers and non-fiction. Thrillers I could’ve guessed — the pacing tends to be quick, without a good place to set a book down — but non-fiction was a surprise, at least to me.
  • That said, there is a lot of crossover fiction above. I put each book in the category it most closely resembles, but a lot of these titles defy simple categorization. There are several books featuring time travel that read like historicals. Tons of the books outside the Thriller category have the pacing of thrillers. And so on and so forth.
  • Lots of these books are what are considered “gateway” titles. Books such as Twilight and Harry Potter are widely known for sucking in people who previously wouldn’t have considered themselves readers, but there are also genre gateway books. Don’t think you like fantasy? Try A Darker Shade of Magic. Not into sci-fi? Try The Martian. Think non-fiction is boring? Maybe pick up Devil in the White City. Maybe it still won’t be your jam…or maybe that genre you didn’t think you liked is better than you think.
  • I wrestled with whether to curate the suggestions I was getting according to what I consider objectionable or problematic, but ultimately I decided not to, for two reasons. 1) I’m not familiar with every author/book on this list, and I certainly don’t want to narrow the list to only books I’ve read, so even if I did curate, it wouldn’t be consistent; and 2) I don’t feel it’s my place to define what’s objectionable or problematic for someone else. What bothers me about a book or an author, you may be totally fine with. Or you may agree with me, but still want to read the book anyway for any number of reasons. So I’m including every suggestion I’ve received, even the ones that made me go hmmm. This is a list for adults, and as such, I’m trusting that anyone using it is capable of using the links provided to determine what they are comfortable reading.
  • Many of these books begin a series, which tend to be great for reluctant readers, as you can stick with something you know you like for multiple books. (There are some books not marked as a series that actually do have sequels or companions, but the first book was originally written as a standalone.) I know series aren’t for everyone, though, so I’ve tried to mark them all, so you don’t accidentally wind up reading the first book of a twelve-book saga when you wanted a standalone.

As always when it comes to matters of taste, YMMV. You may see some titles here that you really struggled with, and I’m positive there are many great books I haven’t included. (If you can think of any you feel should be included, please suggest them in the comments and I’ll add them!) My best suggestion is to follow the links, read the descriptions of the books you’re considering (including the page count – some reluctant readers might devour Pillars of the Earth, while others might find its extensive page count prohibitive), and make an informed decision based on the taste, ability, and comfort level of your intended audience, whether that’s you or someone else. Keep in mind that this is a list for adults, so many of these titles (though certainly not all) will contain mature content.

And lastly, while I’ve focused on novels in this post, remember there are many other ways to read. If novels aren’t your thing, maybe try short story collections or graphic novels or comics; there’s lots of excellent storytelling going on in all formats today. Or if the physical act of reading isn’t a good option for you, try audiobooks. I know lots of people who do most of their reading via audiobooks, while driving or exercising or folding laundry (or just staring at the wall — NO SHAME if that is you). Most of the above listed titles also have an audio version, which should be available through the same link.

The bottom line is that if you want to be a reader, but just haven’t figured out how to make reading work for you yet, it’s never too late to try again.

Have you read any of these? See one you’d like to try? Know an adult reluctant reader who might be willing to give one of these books a shot? Let me know in the comments, and happy reading!