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40 Books You Won't Be Able to Put Down

You know that book. The one you read in one or two sittings. The one you practically swallowed whole. What an exhilarating experience –– to be so captivated by a book that you cannot bear to do anything until you get to the last page!  

I polled our ~3,000 HPB Bibliomaniacs around the country about which books they devoured. And they had much to say on the topic. So, if you've never read them, give these books a try. Without further ado, here are 40 Books You Won't Be Able to Put Down.

There seems to be something for everyone on this list -- mystery, romance, biography, contemporary literature, classics, even paranormal. So, did your favorite quick read make the list? Add yours to our list by making a quick comment below.

-- Julie

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Reader Comments (344)

Oddly enough, one that grabbed me was Stephen King's 11/22/63. I'm a longtime fan of King although I've had trouble getting into his newer works. However, this one grabbed me and didn't let me go. Despite a familiar plot, King focused on the characters. He wrote a detailed portrait of a modern man in a simpler time, and the last page left me in tears. It's a HUGE book (so an e-reader version may be preferable to lugging the real book around; I know it made it easier for me to read in bed!) but the characters are wonderful.

April 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDanyal

THE WANDERER'S NECKLACE, while nice Haggard, is not great Haggard. SHE is probably the most un-put-downable of all Haggard's novels as well as being his best novel. As for his Viking stories, ERIC BRIGHTEYES, written much in the tradition of a Norse saga, is a far better tale than the The Wanderer's Necklace. But Haggard wrote many great adventure tales and was pretty much the creator of the lost civilization yarn. He is a wonderful writer who scrawls his subconscious across the page and stirs deep waters.

April 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCharles Edward Pogue

i LOOOOVE laurie noatro!! "i love everybody" was the first one of hers that i read and it was HILARIOUS. i have 2 more waiting to be read :)

April 9, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterlace

My favorite book is To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee. I reread it every couple of years, and it always remains fresh and meaningful.

April 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterGrace McDonald

I'm delighted to see several of my favorites made the list and I have discovered others that I want to read. If I could add at least five more to the list I would add:

The House on Mango Street - Sandra Cisneros
To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings - Maya Angelou
Teacher Man: A Memoir - Frank McCourt
Eat, Pray, Love - Elizabeth Gilbert


April 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCyndi Contreras

Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck.

April 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJanice

Battle Royale by Koushun Takami is another one you can't put down.

April 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBri

I don't know who made this list but it is excellent! I've read over half of the books on here and they were all fantastic. The only one I would add is "A Prayer for Owen Meany" byJohn Irving. Other than that, perfect!

April 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterGinna

I love Laurie Notaro! I'm so happy she made the list. I Love Everybody and Other Atrocious Lies is wonderful!

April 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAutumn

Shantaran is one of the best books written

April 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterGregory David Roberts

Always proud to be an Idiot Girl! Glad to see you have honored our Empress, Laurie Notaro. We will spare you in the coming Idiot-pocalypse. It was fortold that the Snooki-baby would bring the Idiotgemmon. Yep. Great list. Thank you.

April 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKim

I was surprised that The Girl Who Played With Fire wasn't on the list. The first and third books of the trilogy are on there and I love them both, but I read the second book the fastest because it was the hardest for me to put down! I also agree with Danyal...11/22/63 is amazing.

April 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKaitlin

For me it's Clive Barker's "Weaveworld," Chris Elliot's "Shroud of the Thwacker," and David Wong's "John Dies At the End."

April 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterWestlake Keith

The Good Earth by Pearl Buck

April 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSherri

My favorite, the Lord of the Rings trilogy, is not there, although The Hobbit is. The Kite Runner is one of the best books I've ever read. Most of these books hold no interest to me personally, and a couple I tried (like The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo) and couldn't get past the first chapter.

Favorites of mine include
- The Twentieth Wife, The Feast of Roses and Shadow Princess by Indu Sundaresan
- Watership Down by Richard Adams
- anything by C.S. Lewis, especially Til We Have Faces
- anything by Amy Tan
- the wonderful "All Creatures" series by James Herriot
- the five books in Stephen R. Lawhead's series on King Arthur
- any of Alison Weir's books on British history, which all read like novels
- and many, many more!

April 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJanella Rollert

Add the Fifty Shades Trilogy and the list is perfect!!

April 15, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterleelee

Sex Drugs & Cocoa Puffs by Chuck Klosterman. Klosterman is a genius.

April 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCarrie

Great book selection.
Others (and if you're interested, see my URL for more recommendations)

Secret Daughter - Shilpi Somaya Gowda
Nicholas and Alexandra - Robert K Massie
And the Band Played On - Randy Shilts
World War Z - Max Brooks
Summer Sisters - Judy Blume
Under the Banner of Heaven - Jon Krakauer
Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
History of Love - Nicole Krauss
Girl in Translation - Jean Kwok
Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden

Happy reading!

April 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAlexandria

To Kill a Mockingbird for sure.. But also Alas, Babylon was great!

April 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAllison

Great list. I was happy to see Robin McKinley on the list although I'm surprised you chose Deerskin over Sunshine. While I loved Deerskin, Sunshine was phenomenal. I also appreciated your Linda Howard addition although I think Cry No More is a much meatier book by her.

April 16, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterShannon

Wow, thank you! Many of these I have read and devoured but it's nice to see some newer ones to check out as well. I would second the recommendation for A Prayer for Owen Meany. Also Dreams of Joy by Lisa See, Circle of Friends by Maeve Binchy, and The Birth of Venus by Sarah Dunant.

April 16, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterVanderbilt Wife

Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay
Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum

April 17, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterChelsey Standing

There's several on this list that I loved. I would add:
Russo's Empire Falls
Steinbeck's East of Eden (though anything by Steinbeck is great)
Anything by Dennis Lehane
Krakauer's Into the Wild and Under the Banner of Heaven
Perez-Reverte's Queen of the South
Hosseini's A Thousand Splendid Suns is also quite good
And my latest favorite is Morgenstern's Night Circus.

April 17, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMarcy

Lot's of great choices on your list!

My suggestion... It's non-fiction... but was fascinating to me... "Unthinkable - Who Survives When Disaster Strikes and Why" by Amanda Ripley.

April 17, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterinSANEmom

For me, the top three are THE FOUNTAINHEAD by Ayn Rand, FALLING ANGLES by Tracy Chevalier & BRIDGET JONES'S DIARY by Helen Fielding.

April 17, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLucie Simone

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