For a lot of people who want to read more or haven’t finished a book since GCSE English, the intimidating bit is knowing where to start! There are millions of books with millions of stories and how are you meant to know what you like and whether they’re any good or if they’re worth the money?
My first recommendation would to be to spend some time in charity shops or shops like The Works that do fantastic discounts and deals like 3 books for £6 and you can find some great popular titles as well as a bunch of books you will never have heard of, there really is something for everyone!
But if you’d like some more specific recommendations of books that are easy to read, aren’t too long (or intimidating!) and get a glowing review from me, I’ve collated a list of 10 books that I thoroughly enjoyed, a small synopsis and the genres they’re in – enjoy!
Blame – Jeff Abbott (mystery, thriller)
Jane was in a car accident with her best friend. David lost his life and Jane lost three years of her memory, unable to recall or understand why she and David had been driving on that road together and the events of the night he died. When a piece of evidence is found that suggests it wasn’t an accident at all, Jane can’t rest until she understands what happened to her that night and unveil the secrets around David’s death.
A fantastically gripping mystery that has you figuring out everything that happened along with the narrative – it’s a really interesting exploration into narrative as you wonder whether you can trust Jane’s perspective of it all. Highly engaging, incredibly clever and a very satisfying read.
The Shelf – Helly Acton (contemporary, feminism, romance)
Amy thinks her boyfriend is surprising her with a dream holiday to a mystery destination. She thinks he might finally be about to propose, but when he drops her off at a TV studio and she finds herself on a new reality TV show call ‘The Shelf’, to be publicly broken up with in the name of entertainment, Amy barely knows what to do with herself. Committed to something she never signed up to, Amy finds unlikely friendship in the other five newly-single women and they flip off the patriarchy whilst being set to ridiculous tasks to make them ‘more datable’.
I hated the concept when I initially heard about ‘The Shelf’, but when I saw raving reviews and got it cheap in The Works, I couldn’t put it down. I absolutely devoured this book – it’s heartwarming, funny and badass all in one. Written in a very easy style, I thoroughly recommend this as an easy step in contemporary romance.
Ready Player One – Ernest Cline (dystopian, science fiction)
When James Halliday passes away, he reveals that his fortune, the rights to his game company and all his property and possessions will go to whoever can find the Easter Egg in his VR game The OASIS. Five years later and billions of online users have a life on the OASIS – people can work, go to school and spend most of their life and money on the game and Wade is no different. He’s the first one to solve the first clue to find the Easter Egg, becoming famous overnight. But some want control of the OASIS, and they’ll do whatever they can to get it.
I only read Ready Player One last month and honestly, I can see why it’s become such a classic in the decade since it’s release. Written in an engaging but easy to understand style (as some sci-fi can be very intimidating!), the universe of the dystopian future and the OASIS is incredibly vivid and offers an intriguing insight to the value of integrity in a world where people will do anything for food tokens.
On The Other Side – Carrie Hope Fletcher (contemporary, magical realism)
Evie Snow has lived a long life and she is content. But when she finds herself in the body of her past self at 27, in front of the door of her first apartment, she can’t get in. She must lighten her soul enough to break through and she knows immediately she must share the three secrets she kept closest to her and how they made her into who she was when she died.
If fantasy feels a bit much to start off with, the magical realism in this book is so well integrated that I sometimes forgot about the ‘magical’ element and was totally drawn in by the ‘realism’! With a cast of really sweet characters, ‘On The Other Side’ is a lovely tale about the things we do for those we love, living with regrets and following our dreams. It sounds a bit wishy washy but it really isn’t – it’s truly lovely and writing about it has made me want to reread it, which I hope speaks volumes!
Ace of Shades: The Shadow Game – Amanda Foody (YA, fantasy)
Enne has never been to the City of Sin, but when her mother goes missing, she’ll do whatever she must to find her. With her only lead being the name of a young man called Levi Glaisyer, she immediately becomes very lost with no inclination of where to start looking for the only family she has. Thrust into the world of street lords, gambling and con artists, Enne is a long way from home, but learns that the only way to make it in the City of Sin is to play.
I would argue that the fantasy in The Shadow Game series is so well written that it feels like magical realism – the blood talent’s described sound so tangible they could be real. Honestly, Enne is a little bit annoying at first but Levi is a wonderfully flawed character and how both of them grow over the course of the trilogy is just majestic. I listened to the whole series as audiobooks and I highly recommend this format, the narration is superb.
The Kiss Quotient – Helen Hoang (contemporary, romance, disability)
Stella is autistic and very happy in her life as an econometrician – numbers make sense, people don’t. So when her mother pushes her to start dating, the only solution she can think of is that she needs a teacher – so she hires an escort. Michael is a principled man that can’t afford to turn down Stella’s offer – together, he teaches her everything on her lesson list on how to be a good girlfriend. But there’s only so much logic that can be applied to love.
I actually think this series should be compulsory reading to gain a better understanding of autism (especially the third book, ‘The Heart Principle’, where the protagonist is diagnosed as an adult). It’s a beautifully written dual-narrative contemporary romance and if you’re wanting to try something more mature than YA romance, the mature scenes in Helen Hoang’s literature are as spicy as they get. The whole series is so easy to devour and also offers an incredible insight to Vietnamese culture and migrating to the US!
A Good Girl’s Guide To Murder – Holly Jackson (YA, mystery, thriller)
Pippa is an incredibly bright student who sees potential in the closed case of the murder of Andie Bell – so she decides for her Sixth Form project, she’s going to do some digging. Meeting with the Singh family and hinting that their son did not murder Andie stirs a lot of questions and Pippa finds herself uncovering secrets that someone desperately wants to stay hidden.
I fully believed I wasn’t a mystery/thriller kind of girl… then I read AGGGTM. There are no words for how the narrative draws you in, desperately trying to figure out the case along with Pip and becoming evermore surprised at the lengths people will go to keep a secret. The definition of un-put-down-able!
The Mismatch – Sara Jafari (new adult, contemporary, romance)
Soraya has just graduated university and has no idea what she wants to do next. She never would have thought her future would involve someone like Magnus – her opposite in every way. An English girl with Iranian heritage, Soraya struggles to walk the line between her two cultures, feeling like she isn’t ‘enough’ of either of them. Her mother, Neda, felt much the same when she was her daughter’s age. Growing up fiercely intelligent in Iran, where being a woman in university was still very new, she faced her own hardships with her husband, leaving Iran and her place in her cultures. But neither could have expected the one who fits them perfectly.
A beautifully written, inter-generational family story told from both Soraya and Neda’s perspectives in two different time frames. The parallels between Neda’s life as a student in Iran and Soraya’s as a graduate in England were poignant, important and insightful as well as being told by very sweet, relatable narrators. I’ve not seen nearly enough people talking about this book and I think it’s wholly underrated.
Heartstopper – Alice Oseman (graphic novel, YA, LGBTQ+, romance)
When Charlie’s form changes to a vertical structure, putting boys from all year groups into the same classes, he meets Nick Nelson – a rugby lad from Year 11 who subverts every stereotype Charlie makes about him. As the boy who was inadvertently outed in Year 9, the bullying has mostly stopped for Charlie in Year 10. But together, Nick and Charlie help each other learn that there’s no one better you can be than yourself. Whoever that may be.
I was so unsure about graphic novels before I read Heartstopper but I’d seen so much hype (and I wanted to watch the Netflix show) that I had to see what all the fuss was about! Although initially I found it difficult to engage with the characters in a format that’s so much faster to read than prose, but Nick and Charlie are so easy to love. It’s the kind of story you can’t help but squeal and ‘aw’ out loud to. A truly beautiful YA romance with the sweetest character’s trying to navigate being themselves in a world of cut-throat teenagers.
Geekerella: Once Upon A Con – Ashley Poston (YA, contemporary, romance)
Elle adores classic sci-fi series ‘Starfield’, especially considering how much her parents loved it before she lost them. So when she sees a cosplay contest for a reboot movie, she knows she has to enter. With savings from her job at a food truck and finding an old costume that was her mom’s in the attic, Elle just has to figure out how to get past her step sisters, her step mother and all the odds to win that ticket to the cosplay ball at ‘Starfield’ convention ExcelsiCon. Darien has been cast as Prince Carmindor – the courageous lead of the ‘Starfield’ franchise. But the fans have written him off before they’ve even seen the film – just another celebrity pretty boy. If only they knew how he used to live for conventions. World’s apart, Elle and Darien have no idea who they’re talking to on their alias social profiles, but their world’s collide in more ways than one.
This series is so slept on! For all the nerds and the fangirls immersed in fan fiction, fan theories and almost compulsive engagement with whatever fandom floats your boat, ‘Geekerella’ takes what we know of a fairy tale story and puts a nerdy spin on it. With wonderful dual-perspective storytelling from two incredible protagonists, Geekerella is a fantastic story of friendship, team work and the best parts of being a nerd in the 21st century. Wholeheartedly recommend, the series only gets better (Bookish and the Beast is my favourite).
So there are 10 book recommendations for if you don’t know where to start with reading! Granted, there’s not as much genre variety as I’d thought there’d be if I’m honest (I just love romance!), but I think there’s a fantastic selection here that are all very easy to read and cover a variety of topics.
Thank you for reading,