Best books to get back into reading after a major slump

Written by Michelle Watson

January 15, 2022

Has it been forever since your last book? 

Hey, it happens! Even the most avid readers fall into slumps.

And sometimes, avid readers stop reading altogether. For months. Even years.

You’re here because you want to start reading again. Yay—go you!

But, where to begin? 

You need a few good recommendations, and that’s what I’m gonna give you. I’ve put together a master list of super-readable, entertaining books to get back into reading. 

Yes, yes, I’m going to give you the titles of specific books that (I believe) will rekindle your literary flame. But first, I’m going to teach you what types of books are especially excellent at helping readers bounce back from a bookish dry spell. That way, if you don’t like any of the recommendations I’ve listed, you’ll be fully equipped to venture forth and choose the right book for you.

Ready? Let’s go!

What exactly ARE the best books to get back into reading?

If it’s been a looooong time since your last book, then you probably have no clue where to start your book search.

The type of books you enjoyed back-inna-day probably aren’t the same books that your “now” self wants.

What to read to get back into reading?! I’ll help you escape this chicken-or-egg scenario.

Before I give you the booklist, I want to equip you to choose an amazing book without needing a booklist at all.

The first thing you need to know is this: Not every book is a good book to get back into reading.

For example, I love the venerable Jane Austen. I can read her anytime, anyhow. But, she’s probably not a great choice for someone who’s bouncing back from a book-less life. Austen can be rigorous. And confusing if you don’t know much about the customs of regency England. And, at times, she’s a little dull—don’t tell anyone I said that, k?

To rebound from a reading slump, you need a book that is:

  1. Short
  2. Easy to read
  3. Entertaining 

Let’s break each of these down real quick.

A short book is a quick win.

Your ultimate goal is to get back into reading. So, you need a quick win. At this point, you’re not looking to conquer War and Peace. You simply need to get traction. So choose something short that you can finish quickly. 

That way, you can swiftly check the box marked “I’ve read a book.” And that’ll motivate you to knock out another book, and then another. Pretty soon, you’ll be eyeing War and Peace, thinking, “Yeah, I can do it.”

Let me tell you a secret: You’re going to start reading your book, and then two minutes later, your fingers are going to go searching for your phone. It takes practice to build back your ability to concentrate. Hence, short.

How short? Try for a ballpark of: 

  • 300 ebook pages at standard font size
  • 300 print pages if the words are densely packed
  • 500 print pages if the words are spread out

These numbers aren’t hard and fast. Ballpark, people. 

An easy read lets you fly through the story.

The writing shouldn’t be hard to understand. That’ll cause friction, which will burn you out before you know it. 

Go for a book with clear, simple writing that isn’t difficult to comprehend at face value. You don’t want to stumble over complex, convoluted language. You need your eyes to race across the page.

Pretty much all modern genre fiction is easy. 

Literary fiction, classics, and academic works are hit or miss.

Entertaining books keep you turning those pages.

Now’s not the time to prove to the world that you’ve read Les Miserables. Grab a page-turner with a well-paced plot that’ll suck you in. These are the books that make you say, “Just one more chapter…” 

Mysteries, thrillers, romances, and young adult novels are hands-down the best fiction books to get back into reading. Why?

These genres are specifically designed to hook you (and keep you hooked).

And now, without further ado…

33 compulsively readable books to get out of a slump

Congratulations! You’ve made it to the booklist. I’ve separated the recommendations into categories, with young adult novels, mysteries, and romances at the top. 
And, naturally, I tried to follow my own bossy advice when handpicking this list. (I put a lot of thought into it, you guys, and I hope you love it.)

Heads up: It’s m’duty to tell you that this article contains affiliate links, which earn me commission at no extra cost to you. Here’s my disclosure policy.

Young adult books with addictive plots

Young adult books are fast-paced, full of drama, and very easy to read. That’s why they’re a fantastic choice to bounce back from a reading slump. Here are a few that I loved (but that aren’t too angsty or over the top).

Counting by 7s

By Holly Goldberg Sloan

This book is full of oddballs you can’t help loving. Willow, a brilliant 12-year-old girl, is suddenly orphaned and figures out a way to avoid getting scooped up by Child Protective Services. With the help of her utterly pathetic school counselor and the fierce friendship of some Vietnamese strangers, she stumbles toward a healing place.

Salt to the Sea

By Ruta Sepetys

This WW2 novel follows four desperate young people who meet each other as they’re caught up in Operation Hannibal, the by-sea evacuation of civilians from the war-torn Baltic states. You get the story from each young person’s perspective in bite-sized chapters. That’s why I like this one for a quick win. The pacing propels you onward.

Hope Was Here

By Joan Bauer

I just LOVE Joan Bauer’s humor! This book made me laugh from the first page to the last. Hope and her aunt are moving from the big city to a country town to restart their lives. They waitress at a local cafe, where the owner is embroiled in small-town politics. This is a feel-gooder through-n-through.

The Downstairs Girl

By Stacey Lee

Stacey Lee is great at writing YA historical novels that contain more than fluff. Jo Kuan is a Chinese orphan trying to make something of herself in Gilded Age Atlanta. A twist of fate lands her an anonymous advice column in a local newspaper, where she speaks her mind and sparks controversy. This was just plain FUN to read and is fantastic on audio.

YA series starters you won’t be able to resist

Series are serious money makers, so no wonder there’s a ton of them. If you’re seeking a long-term relationship with a cast of characters and the worlds they inhabit, then here are a few gateway books into several insanely popular young adult series. 

Cinder (The Lunar Chronicles #1)

By Marissa Meyer

This is a funny, lighthearted retelling of Cinderella with a sci-fi twist. After you finish Cinder, you meet Scarlet (Red Riding Hood), Cress (Rapunzel), and Winter (Snow White). One thing I really appreciate is the complexity of the villain and her reign of terror. These are excellent on audio!

The Giver (Giver Quartet #1)

By Lois Lowry

I used to read this book every year when I was a teenager. It’s so intriguing, the way things unfold, quietly and terribly. Did you know that there are three sequels? And they are all classic Lowry. Please, please don’t watch the movie!

Anne of Green Gables (Anne of Green Gables #1)

By L. M. Montgomery

This is my all-time favorite comfort read. I can’t tell you how much I love sinking into the sweet, safe world of Avonlea. The relationship between impulsive, emotional Anne and the practical, prickly Marilla is the stuff classics are made of.

The Hunger Games (The Hunger Games #1)

By Suzanne Collins

I know, I know. But Collins just nails the YA genre. She nails it. I mean, is there a more perfectly paced trio of books in the world right now? These always have me rushing from one chapter to the next, and addictively coming back for more.

Mysteries that’ll keep you guessing from page one

I’ve chosen “feel-good” mysteries that follow the cozy, classic style (but that are also smart and funny). What can I say? I’m too softhearted to read anything gristly.

Magpie Murders

By Anthony Horowitz

This is a modern novel, but it has all the charm of golden-era murder mysteries. There’s a colorful cast of characters—every last one of them has a motive to kill—and all the puzzle pieces fall into place with perfection by the end. (Heads up: This one has a super-fun structure that delivers two mysteries for the price of one.)

Death on the Nile

By Agatha Christie

This is one of my favorite Christie novels—and you can follow this up by watching the 2022 movie version. A glam girl is brutally murdered on a cruise boat in Egypt. The killer must be one of the passengers…right? If you can, listen to David Suchet narrate this on audio. It’s perfection!

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie

By Alan Bradley

If you love all things British, then you will go gaga over this lighthearted mystery. Flavia de Luce is a brilliant chemist. She’s also 11 years old. It’s the 1950s, and the action takes place on one of those lovely country estates. This one is loaded with period charm for anglophiles.

Romance novels for a love buzz

These books will scratch that romance itch, but I made sure none have explicit sex scenes (a.k.a. open-door scenes). As with all romances, there will be cheese. But it’s totally worth it.

Redeeming Love

By Francine Rivers

The quintessential Christian historical romance! This book truly touched me when I first read it in my twenties. It’s a romance novel, yes, but it’s a beautiful story of faith based on the book of Hosea in the Bible. The Christian elements are in your face, but they aren’t pedantic. And there’s (finally) a movie version, ya’ll!

Me Before You

By Jojo Moyes

This book will have you reaching for tissues while you grapple with issues, namely the hot-button issue of assisted suicide. The love story warms up the otherwise wretched tale of a handsome paraplegic and his “nurse.” I thought the movie version was adequate, but the book is truly touching.

Austenland

By Shannon Hale

An irresistible nugget for Janeites. I read it in less than 24 hours. This is a bubblegum book—and I mean that in the best way. This isn’t Shannon Hale’s best novel by a long shot—I love her!—but it’s catnip for the right reader. Remember, we’re not scaling mountains of literary achievement here. We’re just trying to start reading again for cryin’ out loud!

Historical fiction to sweep you away

If you love your books steeped in long-gone times and faraway places, then you’ll love these selections. Historical fiction does double duty. It’s entertaining, but it’s also informative; you learn a thing or two about the time period. (Side note: Isn’t it interesting how similar the covers are to each other?)

The Nature of Fragile Things

By Susan Meissner

Sophie is an Irish immigrant who moves to 1900-era San Francisco to be (of all things) a mail-order bride. She agrees to wed a devastatingly handsome widower with a 5-year-old daughter, who instantly bonds with Sophie. They enjoy peace and prosperity, so, outwardly, all seems well, but something is off… And then…then earthquake! Yep, The Big One hits San Fran. I really love Meissner’s thoughtful historical novels.

News of the World

By Paulette Jiles

This book is so much better than the movie, which is just okay. The book is fantastic! It’s a short, funny stunner. Joanna is a white child raised by Native Americans in reconstruction Texas. The elderly Captain Kidd agrees to deliver her to her only living relatives, and along the way, they bond. Tissues required for the last chapter.

The Exiles

By Christina Baker Kline

We modern women think we got problems? Try living in the 19th century, where you get framed for a crime you didn’t commit and then sentenced to exile in the wildland of Australia. What I adore about this novel is that these women, although imperfect and weak, rise above their hardship and refuse to be victims.

This Tender Land

By William Kent Krueger

Part Odyssey. Part Huck Finn. Part Peace Like a River. If you love stories with a “journey to the promised land,” then read this one! Four children flee the horrible conditions at a Minnesota boarding school in the 1930s. This is an episodic adventure with a tale-tellin’ protagonist and a colorful supporting cast.

Sci-fi fantasy books to get back into reading

True-blue fantasies are notoriously long, so these three novels lean hard toward the sci-fi side of things. But it’s not all spaceships and aliens. These are character-driven books that just happen to have insanely intriguing intergalactic plots.

Ender’s Game

By Orson Scott Card

It’s a classic; there’s no getting around it. This book sucks you in. It’s long and complicated, but it’s addictively readable, and Ender is such a sympathetic hero. (I didn’t care for the film version.)

Station Eleven

By Emily St. John Mandel

“Is it a good idea to read a pandemic novel right now?” I asked myself when I picked this up in 2021. It’s an intoxicating mix of literary delights (a.k.a. great writing) and a page-turning plot with high stakes. This isn’t your classic popcorn thriller. It’s slower paced and focused on the internal journey as well as the external plot, but there’s a lot here to chew on.

Kindred

By Octavia E. Butler

Part time-travel story, part historical fiction, this genre-bending book packs a ton of grit. You’ve gotta gird up your loins to read it, as it takes some very brutal turns. Dana, an African-American writer, inexplicably passes through time to antebellum Maryland, where she meets a white man who turns out to be an integral part of her own past.

Middle-grade novels that you (yes, YOU) will enjoy

Middle-grade books are written for kids ages 8 to 12. But that doesn’t mean you won’t like them. In fact, some of the best books ever written fall into the middle-grade category. Just let the story wash over you, and appreciate it for what it is.

Sweep

By Jonathan Auxier

The less you know about this book beforehand the better you’ll like it. It’s London in the 1870s, and young Nan Sparrow is eeking out a sad, Dickensian existence as a chimney sweep. Until a lump of coal changes her life forever. This book deals with true misery, but it manages to feel light as a feather without falling flat.

Schooled

By Gordon Korman

Korman writes the BEST middle-school fiction. Capricorn Anderson (great name, huh?) was raised by his grandmother on a failed hippie commune. Then, he’s suddenly thrust into the real world for the first time. And, by “real world,” I mean middle school. Hilarity ensues. And, in signature Korman style, the plot builds to a totally outlandish ending that’ll leave you with a huge smile on your face.

When You Reach Me

By Rebecca Stead

This book seems like nothing special at first. It appears to be your basic friendship book set in the good ol’ 1970s. But, add a dab of mystery, mix in some time travel, and splash in a lunatic, and you’ve somethin’. This book comes with a big payoff—the ending is worth every page.

Bloom

By Kenneth Oppel

This is a super-addicting middle-grade thriller. One day, it rains all over the earth, and things are never the same after. Three young people find themselves immune to the rain’s destructive results, and it’s up to them to save humanity. Dun, dun, duuuuunnnnn!

Children’s books with loads of charm

Sometimes you just want to read something clean and pure. Children’s books offer a peaceful retreat from the relentless march of life. Sweet innocence may be just what you need to get back into reading again.

Charlotte’s Web

By E. B. White

This barnyard tale never gets old for me. It’s perfect if you’re in the mood for something gentle and a tad meandering. When I read this to my kids in 2021, I got caught up in the nostalgic scenes of childhood. A county fair. A hayloft. An apple tree. And, oh, that ending!

A Bear Called Paddington

By Michael Bond

I came to this book as an adult and was immediately smitten. There’s something adorable about Paddington. He’s a talking bear from Darkest Peru—and a total fish out of water in London. His good-natured antics and funny foibles are fun to read at any age. Don’t expect much plot. Just a clueless, loveable bear.

Astrid the Unstoppable

By Maria Parr

This is a modern reimagining of Heidi, featuring a spunky little heroine who worms her way into everyone’s hearts. Set on a pristine piece of Norwegian mountainside, with ski slopes in winter and a clear-running spring in summer, it’s a peaceful backdrop to the energetic plot (and fraught parent-child relationships).

Short books to get back into reading

If you love checking boxes and earning completion badges, then polish off one of these quick books in a weekend (or a day).

84 Charing Cross Road

By Helene Hanff

This book contains the real-life letters exchanged between NYC writer Helene Hanff and the employees at Marks & Co. booksellers in London. The correspondence spans decades. Books are purchased and mailed. But, as the friendships deepen, so are care packages, family photographs, and heartfelt gifts. If you can, read on audio—it clocks in at less than two hours. If you love classics, then you’ll adore the bookchat here!

The Pearl

By John Steinbeck

You read Of Mice and Men in high school, but it’s very possible you’ve never heard of this novella from the ’40s. It’s about a poor fisherman who happens to find a massive pearl inside an oyster. His good fortune, though, quickly turns dark and dangerous. Give this a try if you want something gorgeously literary but quick.

Flowers for Algernon

By Daniel Keyes

This classic “sci-fi” novel is written in the form of letters and notes, so it’s got that “short chapter” feel, which propels you forward. For as short as it is, the themes in this book are long-lasting. What does it mean to be happy? How should society treat the mentally disabled?

Nonfiction books that feel like novels

The best of both worlds! A true story that reads like fiction. These picks aren’t strictly “narrative nonfiction,” but they’re fascinating (all the more cuz they’re true).

Endurance

By Alfred Lansing

Okay, this may seem a little stuffy at first, but it quickly becomes a swashbuckling adventure. It’s about Sir Ernest Shackleton’s 1914 quest to lead the first crew across the continent of Antarctica on foot. They barely get started before all heck breaks loose. This one had me breathless.

The Hiding Place

By Corrie Ten Boom

This book should be required reading for every Christian. I hate reading true stories about Nazi atrocities. But Corrie Ten Boom’s sincere, humble narrative is just as charming as it is disarming. There are dangers and threats that come with harboring Jews in Nazi-occupied Holland. But there’s also courage, discernment, and the outright miraculous. I don’t think I can recommend this one highly enough.

Didn’t see anything on this list that you liked? Here’s what to do…

Pick your own! You read through this whole article (even that beginning bit, wink-wink) so you know what kind of book to look for:

  1. Short
  2. Easy
  3. Entertaining
  4. Try YA, mystery, thriller, and romance

And here’s one more bonus strategy!

Reread a favorite book

You may be thinking, “No way!” but an old, familiar book may be just the ticket. Why?

Because you already know the plot and all the characters. So, your poor ol’ brain won’t have to work overtime to keep track of it all. Instead of reading for plot, you’re reading for the sheer delight of experiencing the story.

I promise, you’ll notice things you didn’t the first time around. And you’ll appreciate those details in a whole new way. Also, you’ve grown as a person since that first reading, and you’ll experience the book differently, seeing it with new, “now” eyes. 

When you reread a book, you bond with it. C. S. Lewis said that people who truly love a book should read it at least once every ten years or so.

10 Days to Bookish Bliss

It’s time to recover your long-lost bookworm days.
Finding a good book is a huge piece of the puzzle, but I’ve got MORE for you—a FUN email-audio journey to help you get back into reading books.
It’s everything you need to start reading again—and LOVE it!

More along these lines…

0 Comments

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published.