Reading books for pleasure isn’t as popular as it used to be. We’re already stimulated by social media buzz articles and scroll through Twitter for hours (“we” is actually me lol). I know some people who want to get back into reading but don’t know where to start, especially after staring at textbooks and Microsoft Word Docs for hours in college. A book after a reading dry-spell has to be magnificent; it has to suck you into another world and leave you wanting to read more. I wondered about the books that got me back into reading when I struggled to read for pleasure during vacations from school. These books are memorable to me because they feature gripping plot-lines, strong atmospheres, and nuanced characters. Hopefully these 5 books also reconnect you to your love of reading.
1.A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki
“I am a time being. Do you know what a time being is? Well, if you give me a moment, I will tell you. A time being is someone who lives in time, and that means you, and me, and every one of us who is, or was, or ever will be.”― Ruth Ozeki, A Tale for the Time Being
My sister plopped this book in my arms in high school and said, “SAMIA. This book is SO good!” The premise is wild: a writer finds a Hello Kitty lunchbox while walking on the beach next to her house and gets sucked into the diary she finds in the lunchbox. I was especially struck by the two character’s perspectives and distinct voices: Ruth written in a prose-y, eclectic, and insightful way and Nao a more child-like, grim, and philosophical perspective. Ozeki masterfully weaves these two characters lives into the pages, making it a unique and compelling read.
2.Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay
“I embrace the label of bad feminist because I am human. I am messy. I’m not trying to be an example. I am not trying to be perfect…I am just trying—trying to support what I believe in, trying to do some good in this world, trying to make some noise with my writing while also being myself.”― Roxane Gay, Bad Feminist
I distinctly remember reading Bad Feminist during spring break of my junior year of high school and the impact it made on my views of feminism and my growing understanding of intersectional feminism. Roxanne Gay is a Black, Queer woman and her perspective is candid, funny, and articulate. Her thoughts on singing along to degrading hip-hop lyrics and the paradoxical praise that people have for The Help by Kathryn Stockett are parts that are especially gripping. It is the best collection of personal essays that I’ve read!
3.Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
“There’d been no breeze off the harbor that day, and a gray milk fog had wreathed the city’s canals and crooked alleys in damp. Even here among the mansions of the Geldstraat, the air hung thick with the smell of fish and bilge water, and smoke from the refineries on the city’s outer islands had smeared the night sky in a briny haze.”― Leigh Bardugo, Six of Crows
Okay, a lot of my friends who are avid readers continuously recommended this book to me and I finally read it this past semester. The tagline is “six dangerous outcasts, 1 impossible heist.” While that sounds like something you’ve seen before, you haven’t quite seen it like this. I love Bardugo’s world-building and how Ketterdam comes off as a place that seems simultaneously familiar and unfamiliar. I don’t usually like novels with multiple perspectives, but Bardugo keeps you engaged with the 6+ perspectives by the end of the novel with how intentionally she writes them. I’m excited to see how they’ll adapt it into a Netflix TV series that is in the works!
4.The Night Tiger by Yangsze Choo
“No, the dream-eater is a ghost animal. If you have nightmares, you can call it three times to eat the bad dreams. But you have to be careful. If you call it too often it will also gobble up your hopes and ambitions.”― Yangsze Choo, The Night Tiger
Yangsze Choo knows how to create a compelling plot-line. I love the blend of reality and fantasy, set in the backdrop of 1930’s Malaysia. In this book, a doctor’s severed finger becomes the fixation of individuals whose lives intersect in unexpected ways. The atmosphere is really strong and you find yourself rooting for Ji Lin and Ren on their separate but linked journeys. My sister pointed out that Ji Lin is written in first person POV and Ren in third person POV and how that adds a dynamic layer to the story and keeps both perspectives engaging.
5.Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore by Matthew J. Sullivan
“Lydia had learned early on at Bright Ideas that stepping back here ensured an amplification of both intelligence and surliness. Many of her backstage comrades were bibliophiles who’d been so disappointed by people that they now sought as little human interaction as possible.”― Matthew J. Sullivan, Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore
[Book TW: Suicide]
I love the idea of a story about a mystery unfolding in a bookstore. The main character Lydia works at a bookstore and follows a trail of clues when she finds a well-liked patron of the store, Joey, dead in the upper room of the bookstore with a picture of her in his pocket. This was a fast, but gripping read for me. I enjoyed the ways that Lydia learns to suspend her disbelief and follow the literary-related coincidences to uncover what happened to Joey, understand her childhood trauma, and reconnect with important yet imperfect people along the way.
5 Random Tips & Thoughts Related to Reading:
1. Read 2 chapter of a book before you go to sleep every day
2. Audiobooks are a perfectly valid form of reading! I recommend Trevor Noah’s memoir Born a Crime
3. Log your books on a website like GoodReads to keep track of them and find other books you might like (RIP Shelfari, you were good to me in middle school)
4. Your local library might have a partnership with OverDrive (Northern California Digital Library for Santa Clara City Library) or Hoopla, and you can find tons of good eBooks
5. Support local bookstores with your book purchases! –S.A.
“She touches her dry bottom lip and thinks of how odd it is to experience a secret loss. A loss without a name. The loss of a potential version of her life. Of what she never had, and now never will.”– FATIMA FARHEEN MIRZA