Are There Books You Can’t Stop Reading?

We all have our favorites: dog-eared copies of books that we read over and over again. I had favorite books as a child, and you probably did, too. When I was at an age before I could read, the stories that I couldn’t get enough of included Harold and the Purple Crayon, The Pokey Little Puppy, and anything illustrated by Brian Wildsmith, the award-winning British artist. He used brilliant colors in his illustrations, and to this day, I am STILL drawn to color.

Even though I am not a visual artist, I can’t get enough of color. I am forever trying to convince art directors at Marquette to add some orange to the palette and my poor, long-suffering husband to allow me to paint our walls brilliant shades of purple, green, and blue. So far, he is winning, but we once came close to buying a plush purple sofa together, so I am making progress!

My love for color aside, there are any number of reasons why we are drawn to books. As an adult, I am moved by novels with a great story, a glimpse into another kind of life I wouldn’t ordinarily get to experience, and, of course, brilliant writing. While it is always fun to discover new authors, each summer, I revisit a series of my favorite books. I find comfort in re-reading them, discovering new insights about the characters, and analyzing the novels to figure out what makes them so darn good. I read them for enjoyment and again as an observer so that I can learn from my favorite writers and apply my learnings to my own novels.

I am going to tell you today about the books I love to re-read, but I also want to hear about the books you can’t stop reading. Write to me in the comments, and I’ll be sure to add them to my reading list!

Back When We Were Grownups by Anne Tyler

Back When We Were Grownups Book CoverAnne Tyler is, one of my favorite novelists. I have read almost all of her novels, except for the first two because I read in an interview that she doesn’t like them. Out of all the books Tyler has written, Back When We Were Grownups is my absolute favorite. I’ve read it so many times that I wore out my original copy and had to buy a new one recently so that I could re-read it again this summer.

Each time I read Back When We Were Grownups, I ask myself why I like it so much. Over the years, I have concluded that the main character, Rebecca Davitch, is a truly likable person, and there are details about her that Tyler peppers in skillfully that endear her to me: her social abilities, how she tends to the emotional needs of her difficult but loyal family, and the grace with which she handled her husband’s death when she was just 26 years old and had a daughter plus three step-daughters to care for and a business to run. So, that is the first reason: I like Rebecca Davitch as a person.

In addition, the way Tyler writes about mourning is exquisite. Here is the heroine, nearly 30 years after her husband’s death, and she finds herself missing him all over again after attempting to re-connect with an ex-boyfriend from her college years. She sees that her husband helped her escape a life in which she really had nothing to look forward to.

And finally, Tyler explores the idea of repeating the past and shows, through this slice-of-life novel of a professional party planner, why it’s impossible to go backwards. The relationship with her college boyfriend ended for good reasons, and even though Rebecca misses her husband, she has a newfound appreciation for the life that she chose.

Montana 1948 by Larry Watson

Montana 1948 Book CoverIf you enjoy stories about siblings and family drama, then Montana 1948 is a great read. If the #meToo movement and the recent sex abuse scandals that have since come to light are also topics that you care about, then you will find plenty to revere in this novella.

Told from the perspective of the 11-year-old protagonist David Hayden, the book follows his father’s impossible position of the need to be loyal to his family and hold his brother accountable for taking advantage of his position as the town’s doctor to sexually molest young Native American girls.

As the town’s sheriff, Wesley Hayden, David’s father, must investigate the allegations against his brother that were brought forth by their housekeeper, Marie Little Soldier, who tells David’s mother of his abuse against Native American girls. Wesley’s brother, Frank Hayden, is the favorite son, the town doctor, and a decorated war hero. Wesley knows that bringing forth allegations of sexual misconduct against his brother will have grave and irreversible consequences for him and his family.

Montana 1948 was published in 1993, and I first read it first as an undergraduate college student. Considering the recent conviction Larry Nasser, who likewise took advantage of his position as the USA Gymnastics team doctor to sexually abuse his patients, the book is now more relevant than ever.

The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton

The Age of Innocence Book CoverIf Montana 1948 is a punch to the gut, The Age of Innocence is a cocktail party with fine wine and cheese. Published originally as a magazine serial in 1920, it won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1921, making Wharton the first woman to achieve this distinction. By the time Wharton published this novel—her twelfth—she was already an established writer and author.

Set in the pre-World War I years of the 1870’s, The Age of Innocence explores upper-class New York, a world in which Wharton found herself deeply entrenched and thwarted by societal expectations. Wharton’s novel is a story about an affair and two people who very much want to be together but cannot. Told from a male protagonist’s point of view, Newland Archer, a well-to-do lawyer, is engaged to May Welland. He is happy about his imminent marriage to May until he meets and falls for her cousin, Countess Ellen Olenska. Ellen has separated from her husband, a Polish Count, during a time when separation and divorce were condemned, especially in upper-class New York. Already the subject of rumors, associating himself romantically with the Countess would have been social and career suicide for Newland.

He tries to forget about the Countess and focus on his marriage to May, but Newland loses his zest for life and no longer wishes to make his loveless marriage work. He and Ellen begin an affair, and he resolves to leave May and follow Ellen to Europe. May, however, has learned of the affair and discloses to Newland that she is pregnant with the first child. Rather than abandon his family, Newland stays in New York with May.

Many of Wharton’s novels concern unrequited love. While we live in an era of Hollywood happy endings, Wharton’s novels are a strong reminder that life does not always work out or go according to plan. Wharton’s characters find themselves trapped by social mores and unable to pursue the lives they want to live. If you’ve ever suffered a heartbreak or are suffering through one now, you might find comfort in this novel. I know I did when I first read it, and I still enjoy reading it, thanks to Wharton’s realistic pictorial of the 1870’s. Wharton also infuses her novel with delicious details and writes in an absolutely exquisite manner. The Age of Innocence is a gift, and I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

Are There Books You Can’t Stop Reading?

I hope I’ve given you some summer reading ideas for when you’re lounging on the beach, reading on your patio or for reading inside with the comforts of air conditioning if you live in a hot climate.

And now, it’s your turn: I have one month before school starts up again and am looking for a few reading ideas! Write to me in the comments and tell me about the books you love.

12 Replies to “Are There Books You Can’t Stop Reading?”

  1. I love reading new book suggestions of what other people enjoy. I feel like books take you into a whole new world and they open your mind to so many things, they relive stress and are just amazing!

    Right now my favourite books I’ve re-read a lot would have to be You are a badass at making money by Jen Sincero, Dream It, Pin It, Live It by Terri Savelle Foy, Ask and It is Given by Esther and Jerry Hicks and the Biography of Anne Frank. All of these are self-help/ spirituality books except the last one is about the sad story of Anne Frank during her time in the Holocaust. My favourite books are a series called the Rondo Series by Emily Rodda, The Key to Rondo, The Wizard of Rondo and The Battle for Rondo. They are a fantasy type young adult fiction book series but they are amazing!!

    1. Thanks for sharing some of your favorite books, Flavia! I am not familiar with Dream It, Pin It, Live it but will take a look. I had read the Biography of Anne Frank in junior high school, and after reading your comment, I think it’s time to re-read that classic. We are so fortunate to have her account. If you haven’t read Victor Frankl’s A Man’s Search for Meaning, you might give that one a try. And yes, fantasy / sci-fi fiction can take you on an AMAZING journey. I love your list and thank you again for sharing!

  2. So glad that I may have had an influence on your early reading favorites! You know mine is “To Kill a Mockingbird.” I am currently reading “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn” for my book group. I remember seeing the movie years ago and I was very moved by the story. I don’t think I’ve ever read the book. I think you would like it. I will put your thoughtful suggestions on my reading list. Thank you for sharing!
    (By the way, I know I should underline titles, not put them in quotations, but don’t know how to do that with an I-pad 😉)

    1. Well, hello, MOM! I should have known that you’d find my website eventually. You are always so supportive and my biggest fan 🙂

      One of the blog posts in my future will be to thank you and Dad for fostering my love of reading. No matter what was going on or how late we were out or even if we had gone to story hour at the library, you or Dad always read us a bedtime story. There is NO DOUBT in my mind that your willingness to do that day in and day out influenced my decision to become a writer. And after floundering around for the past few years, I am getting back into it. So thank you for all the bedtime stories. You can see that they’re paying off.

      Believe it or not, I did read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. It is a classic and one of my favorites. The scene when Francie receives flowers from her father (who had sent them before he passed away) had me sobbing. It is a skillfully executed novel, and if I hadn’t started this blog, I wouldn’t have known it was one of your favorites.

      Thanks for taking the time to write and for helping me discover my love of books.

      1. Wow!! I am quite teary eyed reading your reply. I am not at all surprised that you have already read any book I may suggest! I am enthralled with your insights and so proud! Carry on, dear daughter! 💞

        (Ok, I also noted in your response that “all caps” replaces underlines!)

  3. Great article! My favorite book or maybe the most interesting is “DaVinci’s code’ i couldn’t stop reading. Great website, I love it!

    1. Thanks so much for the kind words, Maya! I’m glad you like the website.

      I love the DaVinci Code, too. As I recall, I read that one very late into the night and was, consequently, sleepy the next day. It was totally worth it, though! I couldn’t put it down. It’s such an unusual novel because Dan Brown blends culture with suspense. I’m racking my brain but can’t think of anyone else who I’ve read who does it that well. Thanks for sharing one of your favorites — I think I need to make a point to re-read it.

  4. I can’t say that there is a book that I read over and over but I can say that there is an author that I enjoy reading what he writes about. Being a mystery crime buff of sorts, James Patterson has caught my reading passion there.

    I found your teaser style review stirring to get reader to want investigate the suggested books. You have a style that captured my attentions and led me to read through your article and review some sections to ensure I read it right.

    1. Thank you, Donnie! I appreciate the kind words. So glad that you mentioned James Patterson. I really like him as well, especially his Alex Cross novels. His books are definitely page-turners!

      If you like crime fiction, you might also like Michael Connelly. His Harry Bosch novels are great, though I love a good legal thriller and really enjoy the Mickey Haller series that starts with The Lincoln Layer.

  5. This is awesome, Laura! I think one of my favorite things to read is anything you have written – you are so skillful in your construction.

    “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn” is also one of my all time favorites and I was sobbing too. I have wanted to pick it up again, but for all of the beauty in that story, not sure I can face the sadness. Especially after becoming a parent, I find it very difficult to read about anything bad happening to children.

    Have you read “The Book Thief” by Marcus Zusak? That is another of my favorites – so unusually written, but beautiful even I When it’s difficult. But that might not be a Light summer read! Maybe save that one for winter. 🙂

    To your point about experiencing life at another point in time, I also enjoyed The Paris Wife. It’s not like it’s great literature, but rather an intimate portrait of a woman living in a different time whose life seemed perfect from the outside, but was much more complex.

    Lastly, I recently read “News of the World” by Paulette Jiles and think you’d like it.

    Keep writing, Laura. I believe someday you’re novel will be on the “must-read” list too.

    1. Adrienne, Thank you for all the kind words! I very much appreciate your support. It means more to me than you could ever know.

      I know what you mean about “facing the sadness”. Sometimes a book or other type of artwork can really stir our emotions, and there are times where we need to be in the right place emotionally to re-visit them. There are certain songs, for instance, that I avoid if I can help it.

      I appreciate you sharing your list. I have heard of “The Book Thief” and “The Paris Wife” but have not read them yet. I will also check out the Paulette Jiles book. Thanks for sharing your list!

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