It’s a bad habit, but I frequently find myself staring off into space, lost in the memory of books I’ve read. Books whose plots, characters, scenes, or settings inhabit my mind long after I’ve closed the pages. Some of the books I read are for momentary pleasure or information, and some books just stick with me a little longer. Here are 9 books that I can’t stop thinking about.
It’s a stormy night in 1866 New Zealand when Walter Moody stumbles across a secret gathering of 12 men discussing a series of inexplicable events: a wealthy man vanished, a prostitute attempted suicide, and a trunk of gold was discovered in a local drunkard’s home. The tension in the hotel bar is palpable and the scene itself is so vivid that it drifts into my mind every single week. If this masterpiece of a novel is ever turned into a movie, I could easily describe each of the required sets to the producer.
We like big books and we cannot lie—we buy them, we shelve them, and we stare at them, promising that someday, when we have the time, we’ll read them. Winter is the perfect season for crossing some of those wonderful doorstops off your list.
I am absolutely haunted by Hanya Yanagihara’s emotional, heart-wrenching novel of four college classmates who move to New York seeking fame and success. As the years pass and the men all grow up and change, they remain tied together through their devotion to Jude, a brilliant, enigmatic man scarred by severe childhood trauma. I have never loved or championed a character more than I have Jude, and I will never stop thinking about his story.
I’m not exaggerating at all when I say I cried for 700 pages of this 832-page masterpiece. I have never loved a character more deeply than I love Jude, the main character in this ode to male friendship, who is scarred and broken from an unspeakable trauma. Reading about Jude’s ever-changing relationships with his three best friends from college was one of the best experiences I’ve had as a reader—and certainly as a crier.
An exquisite family saga about two different brothers bound by tragedy, THE LOWLAND is vivid storytelling at its finest. Moving from the 1960s to the present and from India to America, my mind often drifts through the various and beautifully described settings as I’m falling asleep at night. I can picture Subhash in his Rhode Island home just as clearly as I can picture his brother walking to secret political meetings back home in India.
From the Pulitzer Prize-winning, best-selling author of "The Namesake "comes an extraordinary new novel, set in both India and America, that expands the scope and range of one of our most dazzling storytellers: a tale of two brothers bound by tragedy, a fiercely brilliant woman haunted by her past, a country torn by revolution, and a love that lasts long past death.
Every time one of my friends gets engaged, which seems to be increasingly frequent these days, I think about Nickolas Butler’s SHOTGUN LOVESONGS and the four childhood friends brought together back in Little Wing, Wisconsin, for a wedding. So far, none of the weddings I’ve attended have been as exciting, stressful, and dramatic as this rich and moving book about the true meaning of adult friendship and love.
Little Wing is a place like hundreds of others but seldom has the American heartland been so richly and accurately portrayed. For four boyhood friends brought together for a wedding, this small Wisconsin town will foster heartbreak, hope, healing, and heroism in a novel that, once read, will never be forgotten.
My dad and I discuss how remarkable ORHAN’S INHERITANCE is at least once a month, likely more often. My dad was the one who first fell in love with this novel about a young Turkish man who inherits his eccentric grandfather’s kilim rug business. As soon as he told me about it, with its striking setting and intricate web of family secrets, I was hooked. You won’t ever again be able to look at a rug without thinking of this indelible novel.
Moving between the Armenian Genocide during the last years of the Ottoman Empire and the 1990s, ORHAN’S INHERITANCE is a lyrical and passionate novel about a young man who sets out to understand why his grandfather left his inheritance to a stranger thousands of miles away.
I first read this debut novel on submission when I was an intern at a publishing house. I’ve been thinking about it ever since. I was obsessed, and still am. A sweeping, intergenerational saga set in the 1840s South, it follows 15-year-old Naomi—as she escapes an Alabama plantation, seeks refuge in a Georgia brothel, and falls in love with a white man—and her daughter, Josey, whose life as a slave is irrevocably changed by the Emancipation Proclamation.
A beautiful and profound novel about the interconnected lives of four women, each of whom experiences a life-changing moment at a classic Las Vegas casino nightclub, the characters in ’ROUND MIDNIGHT get into your head and stay there. These women feel more like people I know than characters on a page, and I often find myself thinking about their lives the way I think about my friends’ lives.
Samuel Andresen-Anderson hadn’t seen his mother in decades when she throws a stone at a prominent local politician, sparking a sensational news story and resulting in her arrest. This electric scene is burned into my brain—as is the rest of Samuel’s journey to uncover his mother’s past and long-buried secrets stretching across generations and continents.
If your favorite character is Nancy Wheeler
If you’re a Nancy supporter at the end, you loathe a “traditional female character.” You appreciate Nancy for being a natural gunslinger, choosing the thick-haired hottie over the greasy paparazzo, and not letting her grandma-closet-raiding friend slut-shame her. THE NIX follows a whole gaggle of odd characters but centers on the mystery of a woman who is an intellectual, mother, student, daughter, protestor, lover, and—most of all—recluse.
I didn’t think I liked THE PAYING GUESTS when I first read it. But then I couldn’t stop thinking about the gorgeous, genteel 1922 London villa in which the characters live. Then I couldn’t stop thinking about Mrs. Wray, an impoverished widow, and her spinster daughter, Frances, who have to transform their home to take in lodgers for the much-needed source of income. Then I couldn’t stop thinking about Lilian and Leonard Barber, the modern young couple taken in as lodgers. Then I couldn’t stop thinking about the passionate affair that changed everything. Then I realized how much I actually love this book.
Sarah Waters earned a reputation as one of Britain’s great writers of historical fiction, and here she delivers again. A love story, a tension-filled crime story, and a beautifully atmospheric portrait of 1920s London, this is her finest achievement yet.