Prepared to be swept away into these fascinating books you can’t put down. Just make sure you don’t have anything important going on the next day because these gripping books that will keep you up all night long.
We’ve all read them. Those books that keep you up all night because you are completely enthralled in the story. You lose all sense of time and don’t realize it’s suddenly 3 o’clock in the morning. But you only have 30 more pages to go, so why stop now?
The best page turners are worth the loss of sleep. Just remind yourself that you won’t be able to sleep anyways. You’ll just sit in bed with your mind spinning with possibilities. You simply must know what will happen next.
I’ve read more than my fair share of books that are hard to put down. Many a time I’ve stayed up way too late reading a captivating book. It’s like the author cast a spell on me. I can’t look away.
The mere fact that these books you can’t put down exist, teach you that they must be really good books. The author has done his job. He has made you completely invested in these characters and this story.
So if you are prepared to lose some sleep, here are 31 books you can’t put down once you begin.
The Best Page Turners
For some reason, I had low expectations for this Swedish thriller, so I was caught off guard when the entire series turned out to be the type of books you can’t put down. Journalist Mikael Blomkvist takes on the investigation into the 40-year-old disappearance of Harriet Vanger, the teenage daughter of one of the wealthiest families in Sweden. He teams up with Lisbeth Slander, a pierced and tattooed hacker whose troubled past has left her with a capacity for ruthlessness. It is a thrilling read, but, be warned, there is quite a lot of violence and language.
On a remote island, the perfect wedding turns deadly in this thrilling mystery. The high profile wedding between a television star and a magazine publisher is supposed to be the perfect event. Set off the coast of Ireland, all the stops have been pulled out. Yet once the guests arrive, past conflicts come into play and someone turns up dead. Was it the bride? The best man? The wedding planner? Foley keeps you guessing until the end, giving each suspect a firm motive to want to commit murder. Looking for something gripping to distract you, The Guest List is the perfect page-turner to read.
Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen
Just days away from her wedding to her charmingly attentive rich fiance, Nellie feels like someone might be following her. Meanwhile, his ex-wife Vanessa is obsessed with her replacement and desperate to stop the wedding. You might think you know how this domestic thriller will end, but appearances can be deceiving. In their first collab, Hendricks and Pekkanen have plenty of tricks up their sleeve, keeping the plot twisting and you second-guessing how it’s all going to end.
Born with red eyes, Sam Hill has been called the “Devil Boy” all his life. Reflecting on his life, Sam realizes that his childhood friendship with two other misfits – Ernie Cantwell, the only African American boy at his school, and Mickie Kennedy, a firestorm in the form of a girl – has defined and shaped his extraordinary life. Dugoni’s touching coming-of-age tale was captivating from the first page with its story of friendship and acceptance of what life throws at us.
A private jet flying from Martha’s Vineyard to New York City crashes into the ocean. The sole survivors are a young boy who is now the sole heir of his parents’ extensive fortune and Scott Burroughs, a down-and-out painter who just happened to catch a ride. The mystery of why the plane crashed unfolds masterfully and keeps you engaged. But the beauty of this book is that it is more than just a thriller. It’s a commentary on the consequences of our 24-hour news cycle and the desperate need to know everything right away. With its suspenseful build, this is surely the perfect example for books you can’t put down.
Mysteries are the perfect books that keep you up all night, and Tana French’s debut thriller is no exception. In the summer of 1984, four children go out to the woods to play but only one returns. With no memory of what happened to the other children that day, the lone survivor Rob Roy grows up to become a detective, seeking to right what wrongs he can. When he and his partner investigate a case eerily similar to what happened to him so long ago, Rob’s memories start to return. Will this case lead him to solve his own mystery? Or will his memories blind him to the truth of this case?
Really Good Books That Are Hard to Put Down
Set in 1970s Ohio, Celeste Ng’s debut novel starts with the drowning of Lydia, the beloved daughter of James and Marilyn Lee. As the family struggles with her death, the author takes you deeper into the cracks and flaws of this mixed-race family. This captivating book is a poignant character study into the dynamics of a family where all the parents’ unfulfilled hopes are pinned on one child, to the detriment of all. The story unfolds masterfully and earns Ng her place among books you can’t put down. By the end, I was in tears for these poor children and the damage that had been done by their parents’ selfishness. Celeste Ng’s writing is exquisite, and I’m putting her second book, Little Fires Everywhere, at the top of my to-read list.
Our grandfather was a paraplegic, so this book hit close to home for me. I was in tears at the story of Will Traynor, a heartbroken man who felt he had nothing left to live for after being paralyzed, not fully understanding that there is always something more. Hired to help care for Will is a scared young lady who has settled for a very ordinary life. Through their friendship, Will brings meaning into Louisa’s life and gets her to reach beyond what she thought she was capable of. In return, Louisa tries to bring meaning back into Will’s life, before it’s too late. I promise this book will make you cry and is one of those memorable books that keep you up all night.
In 1974, Kate Mularkey becomes best friends with the cool new girl at school, Tully Hart. As Tully becomes a celebrity news anchor and Kate chooses to be a stay-at-home mom, their friendship full of love, jealousy, anger, and laughter will shape their lives over the next three decades. I loved the dynamics of the relationship between Kate and Tully, watching them renegotiate their friendship and struggle with their codependency as they each grew in different directions.
Really good books can take a diverse group of people and interconnect them together in completely unforeseen ways. Dan Chaon exactly achieves this with three strangers in his captivating book: Miles on an endless search for his missing schizophrenic twin brother, Lucy who runs away with her former high school teacher, and Ryan who just decides to walk away from it all. How much is our identity tied into who we are and how easily can we change it? Await Your Reply is one of those books that are hard to put down because every chapter keeps you wanting more.
I was surprised that Paula Hawkins’s second book, Into the Water, was one of the most overhyped books I read last year because I loved The Girl on the Train. Taking the same train to work every day, Rachel is fascinated by a woman who lives along her route. Every day, Rachel gets a glimpse into this woman’s “perfect” life. Until one day, when Rachel witnesses something shocking. I think unreliable narrators like Rachel make for the best page turners because you can never figure out what is true and what is not. Love it or hate it, The Girl on the Train is one of those books you can’t put down no matter how hard you try.
After a car accident caused by her drunk driving, Sunday Brennan returns to her large Irish family in New York. Five years earlier, she had abandoned them and her high school sweetheart with no explanation. Determined to rebuild her relationships, Sunday is startled when a man threatens the family’s business and forces the family to confront painful mistakes. A brilliant book club book that is one of the best books to read in 2021.
As an end-of-life doula, Nova’s job is to help the terminally ill cope with their impending death. Her most challenging client: Mason Shaylor, an up-and-coming indie singer-songwriter, who comes in asking for help to say goodbye after a deteriorating condition that has already caused him to lose his ability to play the guitar. Months later after Mason dies in a car crash, Mason’s mom comes in accusing Nova of assisting Mason’s suicide. Now Nova questions everything she thought she knew about a patient she had become extremely close to. The Next Thing You Know is a top-level tearjerker, expertly drawing you into the characters and perfectly timing revelations to emotionally wrench you.
Historical Fiction Books That Keep You Up All Night
I have loved every Kate Morton book I’ve read, and this one is simply brilliant. It all starts when sixteen-year-old Laurel Nicolson witnesses her mother Dorothy stab a man to death on a calm summer day. If that doesn’t get your interest piqued, I don’t know what will. Kate Morton beautifully unfolds the backstory of Dorothy’s life during World War II. The more you learn about Dorothy, the more you’ll keep wanting more. If you love figuring out the twists and turns of novels, you’ll love this book. I, for one, did not guess the ending.
In a small town in Massachusetts in the 1960s, Dahlia and Louie Moscatell have finally found a rhythm as long-term foster parents. Then a social worker begs them to take on one more foster child – a six-year-old indigenous girl who will change their family dynamics forever. Patry Francis hits the emotions hard in this powerful story of love and family and the struggles of the foster care system. You’ll cry with their heartaches and rejoice in their victories, and I can emphatically declare this one of those books you can’t put down.
Nancy Wake, a New Zealander living in Paris, becomes a spy for the British and rises to one of the top leaders of the French Resistance and one of the most decorated women of the war. The story is split into two narratives – the first starting with Nancy parachuting into France in 1944 and the second telling of her courtship with her husband, Henri Fiocca, before the war. You’ll fall in love with Henri and cheer on Nancy as she transforms into a fierce fighter and respected commander. As the earlier timeline catches up with the later one, you’ll feel all the emotions of a woman caught up in a terrible war.
If you want to find a list of books you can’t put down, then look no further. I read this book cover-to-cover on a 3-hour flight and absolutely loved it. Historical fiction can be so much fun to read when you feel immersed in the time period. In her stunning first novel, Sara Nović tells the story of Ana Jurić, a ten-year-old girl whose life is upended by the start of the Yugoslavian civil war. The glimpses of modern war from a child’s perspective were fascinating. Yet, Nović doesn’t just cover the tragedies of Ana’s childhood. She jumps ahead 10 years as Ana returns to Yugoslavia to confront the ghosts of her childhood. With beautiful observations and a riveting storyline, you’ll be glad you read this book.
Kristin Hannah’s novel is one that would make pretty much anyone fall in love with historical fiction. Also, I think World War II novels tend to naturally be the type of books you can’t put down. Set in a small village in occupied France, the story centers around two sisters. Forced to house a German officer in her home, the older sister Vianne Mauriac must decide, to protect her daughter, where exactly she should draw the line of being complicit with German demands. On the other hand, her younger sister Isabelle Rossignol feels committed to doing anything she can to resist the German occupation. Just so you know, her latest novel, The Great Alone, is also amazing!
I can’t recommend this book enough; I even listed it as one of the top 10 World War 2 books out there. You’ll find yourself immersed in a world of intrigue with the story British spy, Agent “Verity.” Captured when her plane crashes in occupied France, Verity is interrogated by the Gestapo in an attempt to learn of her mission. As she confesses under torture, you’ll find yourself on the edge of your seat wondering what secrets she is willing to exchange for her life. How far is she willing to go for her mission? A brilliant and emotional read that you won’t want to miss. Just be prepared to lose some sleep because this is a prime example of books you can’t put down once you begin.
Nonfiction Books You Can’t Put Down
Truman Capote was the founder of narrative nonfiction with his thrilling look at an unspeakable crime. On November 15, 1959, in the small farming town of Holcomb, Kansas, two men brutally murder the Clutter family in their home for no apparent reason. Through extensive interviews from the first days following the events all the way to the execution of the murderers, Capote suspensefully unfolds the whole story of exactly what happened and more intriguing of all, why it happened. Make sure you set aside a chunk of time to read this one because, I promise, once you start you won’t be able to put this captivating book down.
As a therapist, Lori Gottlieb spent all day helping others with their problems. Yet, when her longtime boyfriend unexpectedly broke up with her, she found herself on the receiving end of therapy. Gottlieb’s memoir is top-notch with exceptional pacing, slyly weaving in explanations of therapy within the fascinating story of Gottlieb’s therapy sessions. You’ll become so attached to finding out what happens to her patients – a narcissistic tv producer, a dying newlywed, and a depressed senior citizen.
While writing a story about the overcrowding on Mt. Everest, investigative journalist Jon Krakauer got much more than he expected. Climbing to the summit on May 10, 1996, Krakauer’s group was engulfed by a storm that ended up claiming five lives. With his firsthand account of the glories and dangers of climbing Mt. Everest, Krakauer will have you gripped to the page as you follow along with his expedition. This heartstopping modern classic that anyone with an outdoor mindset will love has certainly earned a place among my list of books you can’t put down.
In grad school, Phil Knight had a crazy idea that Japanese running shoes could overtake the domination of German company Adidas. He partnered up with his former track coach to help design innovative shoes and traveled to Japan to bring this crazy idea to life. Following the ups and downs of the journey that built the billion-dollar company Nike is today, Knight’s memoir will hook you in with a band of eccentric characters and an underdog story with excellent narrative pacing.
Gripping Novels in Young Adult Fiction
When books that make you cry are the same books you can’t put down, you know you are in trouble. Originally, I saw this movie at a drive-in theater, and I immediately knew I had to read the book. In a moment, Mia’s world is turned upside down when her entire family is involved in a car accident. Mia’s emotions of watching her world change in an instant hit me particularly hard. As Mia decides whether life is worth living if her family might not be there with her, it made me wonder what I would do without my family. Of course, being a mother, just the thought of living without my family always brings me to tears. A great and emotional read.
You will have to settle for a vague description of this captivating book because I don’t dare risk spoiling it for you. A rich family vacations every summer on a private island. Four friends, known as the Liars, spend every summer together as their parents experience all the drama. After a terrible accident last summer, everything seems to be different. As the protagonist Cadence slowly starts regaining her memory and all the details of what happened start becoming clear, half the fun is in trying to figure out what is going on. I enjoyed trying to piece the mystery of this book together. Besides informing you that once you begin this is one of those books you can’t put down, all I can say is that at some point, this becomes a book that will make you cry. But that is all the spoiler you will get from me.
J. K. Rowling
The seven books in the Harry Potter Series are the ultimate books you can’t put down. J. K. Rowling’s masterpiece about the boy wizard Harry brings the ultimate theme of literature – the battle of good versus evil – to life with vivid imagery and fantastic imagination. You get so caught up in Rowling’s fantasy world that the books are hard to put down. The series basically defines the millennial generation and will be around for generations to come.
Orson Scott Card
In a future where humanity is at war with an alien enemy determined to destroy life on Earth, Ender Wiggin is a third child in a family of extraordinarily gifted children. Sent off to battle school at only six years old, Ender with his perfect mix of compassion and ruthlessness is forced to become the military genius humanity so desperately needs. Ender’s Game is an amazing novel – not only thrilling enough to intrigue teenage boys who never read but also so packed with layer upon layer of complex themes and deeper meanings to make you want to read it again and again.
Sci Fi/Fantasy Books You Can’t Put Down
Astronaut Mark Watney wakes up to find himself marooned on the planet Mars, left for dead by the crew of the Ares 3 mission. Now, he must use all his ingenuity to overcome insurmountable odds for the chance to return home to Earth. I love how Weir uses real science and technology in this captivating book. To be honest, I almost didn’t read this book because the strong language at the beginning of the book turned me off. I’d have to say it’s one of the best sci fi books out there, and one of the most thrilling I’ve read in recent years – which is saying a lot considering how much I read.
Emily St. John Mandel
If you like science fiction books you can’t put down, then Station Eleven will be just right for you. Just so you know, it’s not the aliens and space ship variety of science fiction, but a story set in a dystopian future. Though it’s set after an apocalypse, it’s not really about the apocalypse, either. This captivating book grabs your attention not for its plot twists but for its themes. It’s hard to adequately describe to you its power and beauty. So you’ll just have to read it for yourself.
Everyone should read at least one fantasy series in their life, and The Kingkiller Chronicle is the best one out there. Kvothe, a living legend in the world he lives in, tells how he cultivated his life into a myth of epic proportions to a local biographer. The intricate details of the world Rothfuss creates will captivate your attention for days on end and make it one of those books you can’t put down. In our opinion, the entire Kingkiller Chronicle are books that every millennial needs to read.
When Fiver gets a premonition of danger, Hazel leads a group of bunnies to establish a new warren in the English countryside while facing predators, men, and neighboring rabbit tribes. You might be expecting an epic fantasy book, but Watership Down is just a book about bunnies. An extremely compelling story about bunnies that will hook you from the first chapter.
What Books Have Kept You Up All Night?
What do you think? Do you love books you can’t put down? What unputdownable books would you add to my list? As always, let me know in the comments!
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