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The Most Absorbing Books I've Ever Read

After my insane reading year in 2022, I severely burnt myself out on books (can't believe I'm saying that). I've read a handful so far in 2023, but none have really captured my attention or have been able to lift me out of my reading slump.

If you're also in a reading slump, I've got a post on my top tips on how to get out of one --- but the most important tip on there is to pick a book you would love to get lost in and that immediately engages you and pulls you in. That's a rare feat so I wanted to highlight the top 10 most absorbing books I've ever read in hopes you'll fall into the wonderful world of these stories as quickly as I did.



Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

Dark Matter has one of the most unique and mind-bending storylines I have ever read. It follows a brilliant scientist as he questions the decisions he has made in his life and where it has brought him. He has a wife and son he loves dearly, but at times feels like he gave up a different, more successful life in the field of physics. The central theme is one every reader can relate to, but Crouch goes deeper when he chooses to explore the question of "Are you happy in your life?" The story goes down the insane rabbit hole of the multi-verse, the idea that there are infinite universes existing at this very moment, and how each decision we make alters the universe just a little bit.

I remember staying up until 3 AM to finish this book because I absolutely could not put it down. And the ending did not disappoint. I sat by myself for days contemplating the nature of my reality (hello, Westworld), and all the decisions I've made that have led me to where I am today, and what would be different if I had decided differently. It's a mighty feat for a book to make me feel all those feels, but Dark Matter did and did it beautifully. I have no doubt that even if you are not typically a sci-fi reader, you will get snatched up by this book.


Looking for Alaska by John Green

If you read my latest post about the best books I read in 2022, you'll know that I am a firm believer that books will hit different based on your season of life. I recognize that Looking for Alaska effected me deeply because I read it when I was 16 --- I was young, reckless, and feeling all the emotions of life so intensely (the last part is still true even at 28). But I've reread it as an adult and was still just as engaged and absorbed by this story as I was over a decade ago.

Looking for Alaska is the story of Miles aka Pudge, as he searches for his Great Perhaps as a new student at a boarding school in Alabama. He befriends a small group of misfits, including the beautiful and mysterious Alaska Young, and is thrown into a world of pranks, cigarettes, and life contemplation. The exciting and poetic plot barrels towards an event that, once occurs, changes everything, and nothing was the same after.

I could probably give a list of the top 5 books that made me bawl my eyes out, and this would absolutely be one of them. The raw adolescent emotion of this book is so incredibly powerful that it stays with you long after you finish the book. It also has my favorite last few pages of any book ever. Pudge reflects over the events that have taken place as he grapples with his grief, and writes that “When adults say, "Teenagers think they are invincible" with that sly, stupid smile on their faces, they don't know how right they are. We need never be hopeless, because we can never be irreparably broken. We think that we are invincible because we are." My 16-year-old self absolutely relished those words. At the time, I felt intoxicated by that feeling of invincibility that Green writes about. I did many dumb, teenage things during those years, but reveled in them because I knew I would never be this young and stupid ever again. And even when I reread the book today, I get that same incredible feeling of power, of promise, of adventure despite the harrowing end. I remember how it felt to be young and reckless, but I also remember that I do not have to lose that feeling as I get older — I just find new ways to experience that thrill of life.


The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

If you're really looking to get lost in the reality of a fictional world, reading a series is the way to go. I'm always going to scream about Harry Potter if someone wants a difficult yet uplifting journey, but if you're looking to get lost in a more complicated story, I couldn't recommend The Hunger Games enough.

I read this series in high school and at the time, it was years away from being turned into movies and not many people had heard about or read them yet.

These books might be the most engrossing I have ever read in my life in terms of plot and pacing. I'm sure you've heard of the story --- Katniss Everdeen lives in a dystopian society that pits the children of its districts against one another in a fight to the death. I distinctly remember reading the first book with my eyes wide open in disbelief, glued to the page, absolutely unable to put it down. I've never seen an author make a scene feel so immediate and intense as Collins. The unique story line was one I had never imagined before in my life, and Collins created characters that were complicated and flawed, emotional and angry. I was hooked. I also have a very vivid memory of finishing the third and final book, Mockingjay, and sobbing into my mother's arms because I was so distraught. There's something about the ending of this series that just really effected me, showing me that war can destroy every inch of a country and a person, but that there are ways to rebuild and find hope.

Although The Hunger Games is labeled as young adult, its themes of war and grief reach beyond any age. It is a deeply moving and thrilling story of rebellion, leadership, loss, and how to move forward in the aftermath of destruction. If you're looking to immerse yourself in a powerful fictional tale that makes you think long after the last page, I highly recommend this series.


Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir

This was one of the best books I read in 2022, and it is arguably the best sci-fi book I have ever read. It's one of those books where the first page immediately grabs you, and keeps your attention throughout the entire journey.

The story follows Ryland Grace, who realizes after waking up from a medically induced coma, that he is the sole survivor of a space mission to save Earth from destruction. He is millions of miles from home, and feels the crushing weight of being alone in the galaxy he is hurtling through --- until he learns he might not be as alone as he thought.

I am floored by Andy Weir. How can a guy know so much about science, math, and physics yet also be able to write the most perfect science fiction novel to ever exist? His writing is so rare for the genre --- it is sarcastic, engaging, has emotional depth, and had moments I laughed and cried. I felt so connected to the two main characters. The plot was so clever yet reasonable (as reasonable as a journey in outer space can be). The ending was perfect, perfect. I cried so many beautiful tears. The friendship in this book is one of my favorites of all time. This story encompasses what it means to have empathy, to sacrifice, to love, and to care deeply and wholly.

Project Hail Mary reminded me why I love fiction so much. A great fiction book can feel more real than nonfiction. It can engross you in its world, yet make you feel more connected to reality and those around you. I truly believe anyone would love this book, no matter what genres usually capture your attention or what season of life you're in ---- it's a modern masterpiece for everyone.


The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides

(my copy is currently being read by my wonderful mama)

I enjoy a good thriller every now and then but none have engrossed me or shocked me more than The Silent Patient.

The book opens with words from a woman's diary --- words that would feel familiar to anyone who has ever attempted to keep up with one. "I don’t know why I’m writing this. That’s not true. Maybe I do know, and just don’t want to admit it to myself. I don’t even know what to call it – this thing I’m writing. It feels a little pretentious to call it a diary. It’s not like I have anything to say." The reader soon learns that the woman narrating her diary, Alicia, supposedly killed her husband of seven years and is spending the rest of her life in a psychiatric hospital. The story goes back and forth between two points of view: Alicia's diary, although the entries seem to take place before the murder; and Theo, her psychotherapist, who is desperately trying to figure out why Alicia committed such a heinous crime.

I have never read a thriller like this before. The plot sounds stereotypical of the genre, but I realized about a third of the way through the book that this was unlike any book I'd ever read. It's difficult to explain what makes this story so compelling without revealing spoilers, but the twist crept on me slowly and when I realized what was happening, I was floored. The ending haunted me, completely threw me for a loop, and I finished the entire book in two sittings because I could not put it down.



This page-turning expose chronicles the ridiculous scandal of Elizabeth Holmes, her startup Theranos, and the winding and deep fraud that surrounded the company. First of all, this is simply an incredibly well-written story. I finished it in three days because I couldn't stop reading it. When nonfiction reads like fiction, you know it's going to be memorable.

John Carreyrou is actually the journalist who originally broke the story for the Wall Street Journal back in 2015 and it's astounding how much detail he was able to collect to accurately tell this daunting story, and daunting it is. Elizabeth Holmes was America's Silicon Sweetheart for the years she pretended to have invented a technology that would be able to run hundreds of tests on one drop of blood. I think America wants so desperately to have more successful women in the world of technology and startups that it was willing to look past Holme's suspicious activity and demeanor. Can you blame it? Even the people within the company who began to realize that the technology was not working seemed to want Elizabeth to succeed despite her lies. It's a telling account of how far people are willing to go to keep a secret, and how blind people can be because they wish something to be true.


Colin Jost, one of the host's of SNL's Weekend Update, isn't necessarily someone I was super familiar with before reading his memoir. I haven't watched SNL in years and the times I have watched Weekend Update, I wasn't crazy about his humor or demeanor. However, I've enjoyed memoirs quite a bit over the last few years and I believe one of my friends, Alison, raved about this one and I wanted something that could make me laugh.

This now one of my favorite memoirs of all time. I listened to the audiobook version, which I definitely recommend, and was shocked at how engrossing Colin's stories were. He talks about his upbringing on Staten Island, going to a fancy private school, getting into Harvard, and finding his way to SNL. All of those facts might deter you from picking this up (it certainly made me wonder how I could relate to a guy like this), but please reconsider. I laughed out loud so many times, I even cried a few times. The story of his mother as the Chief Medical Officer of the NYFD during 9/11 really moved me (that's where the tears came in). His ridiculous antics kept me entertained and engaged the entire book, and I don't know if I've ever enjoyed a memoir quite as much.

If you're in a slump, or need a companion on your daily drives or walks, I highly recommend Colin's memoir.


Even if you're not runner but you enjoy nonfiction, I believe you would still find this book wonderfully engrossing.

It's an unusual mix of human evolution, memoir, and ethnography, but it somehow is executed perfectly. McDougall effortlessly moves from talking about his own struggle with running injuries, to the science behind movement, to the practices and culture of the Tarahumara Indians, and finally about an off-the-cuff road race he pulled together in Mexico. There different parts of the book are woven together with tension and stakes, which makes it incredibly engaging.

However, if you are a runner or would like to do more of it, you need to read this book. It made me appreciate my body and its potential, and I feel like evolution is on my side whenever I lace up my running shoes and head out the door.


Evicted follows eight families and their landlords in Milwaukee in 2007-2008 as they struggle to pay their rent and deal with the cycle of poverty. The reason this book is so remarkable and convincing is because it is told through the third person. Matthew Desmond is completely silent in this book (until the epilogue and notes). His voice is nowhere to be found. Instead, the stories unfold through the voices of those involved. The book reads like fiction: there are direct quotes, thoughts from inside people’s head, pictures painted from all sides of the rent equation. I have never read a nonfiction book like this before, and I believe it is the main reason why it is so powerful. It is difficult to feel like a reader is getting an objective story when it is told through the eyes of the author. By removing himself from the narrative, Desmond was able to present the harsh and authentic reality of renting in an American city.

Poverty is a story best told through the people it affects, and Desmond understood this so well. But he also knew that in order to show the whole picture, he also had to show the lives of landlords and rental managers. Instead of filling this book with just facts, figures, big ideas, and vague details of the lives of those in poverty, Desmond made sure to squeeze empathy out of readers. He described the people and their personalities, their past struggles and mistakes, their hopes and plans for the future. He showed that they are real. These are not fictional characters. The people in this book are real and the horrors they go through are painful and impactful. I will always remember the names of every person in this book - their story, their struggle, their desperation, and their resilience. The end result is astounding. I don’t say this very often, but I believe this is a book that should be read by every American. It shows such a devastating and important part of our country, but a part that most do not ever see or understand.

Evicted opened my eyes to the reality of poverty, it changed my mind about underlying and systemic injustices that keep the renting industry where it is, and it evoked anger in me. But instead of ending the book with no solutions, Desmond actually offers up ideas he believes could help solve the problem. Although a harrowing book about poverty, Desmond was able to end on a hopeful note, making it one of the most absorbing books I've ever read.


Under the Banner of Heaven is one of my favorite books of all time, period. Nonfiction or fiction. I don't think I could ever fully articulate what this book did to me as a person. It changed me in the most unexpected ways. It is one of the most engrossing and well-written books I have ever read. Jon Krakauer is probably one of the most famous (and arguably best) biographers of all time, and his work has won countless awards and been on numerous 'Best of' lists, most notably Into the Wild. But there is something about Under the Banner of Heaven that connected with my soul in a way few books have, let alone a nonfiction book.

The Goodreads page calls this book "A multilayered, bone-chilling narrative of messianic delusion, savage violence, polygamy, and unyielding faith," and I really could not have described it better. It is absolutely bone-chilling. It centers around a haunting narrative of two Mormon fundamentalist brothers murdering their sister-in-law and one-year-old niece, which in and of itself is a winding and complicated story. But it is also about faith, human behavior, and religion's battle with modernity.

While this story and its history is fascinating on its own, it is so much more gripping because of the way Krakauer pieces the narratives together. He is no doubt a master storyteller, somehow creating anxiety and anticipation in a story that has a well-known ending. I read this book one summer when I was 19 and working as a lifeguard, stealing away into the break room to read just one more chapter. I distinctly remember finishing the book on a lounge chair on my back deck during a cloudy afternoon. I remember this feeling of horror, and of fascination, and of disbelief. I remember processing the story piece by piece, trying to understand the battle that seemed to be waging in my soul over the humanity of the story. Even today, I am still struck by the weight of this book that I read so long ago. I am still heavy with the reality of what happened, and what it means for the human psyche, of what it means for me personally. There will never be a nonfiction account that hits me like this one, making it one of my favorite books of all time.


Don't forget, if you're ever in a reading slump and need some inspiration, send me a recommendation request. Tell me what mood you're in, what your reading goals are, or the last book you loved and I will recommend options I think you'll love.

Happy reading, y'all.


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