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The 10 Most Addicting Books, According to the Internet

I asked, you guys delivered

08.11.17
MR Book Club
MR Book Club

When I asked the MR community to help me compile a list of genuinely addicting books, I had no idea the request would be met with such gusto. As of right now, there are 771 comments, my heart is dangerously warm and my to-read list is overflowing. There are 563 books on our Goodreads “can’t put down” bookshelf, and counting.

First of all, THANK YOU. Second of all, if those numbers overwhelm you, below is a starter-pack of the ten most recommended books. According to our intern Margaret’s analytics (thanks Margaret!), these were the most prolific titles of the bunch. Below, I’ve included their genre, a no-spoiler synopsis courtesy of Amazon and — because I’m always curious — the number of reviews the book’s received.

Have one to add? Join the comments here, and remember: There’s a difference between a great book and one that disrupts your whole damn life. Help me find the latter!

1. A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

Genre, per Amazon: Literary Fiction, Coming of Age, Family Saga

No-spoiler synopsis:A Little Life follows four college classmates—broke, adrift, and buoyed only by their friendship and ambition—as they move to New York in search of fame and fortune.”

# of Amazon reviews: 2,297

2. Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Genre: Literary Fiction, Cultural Heritage

No-spoiler synopsis: “Ifemelu and Obinze are young and in love when they depart military-ruled Nigeria for the West. Beautiful, self-assured Ifemelu heads for America, where despite her academic success, she is forced to grapple with what it means to be black for the first time.”

# of reviews on Amazon: 3,597

3. Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides

Genre: Literary Fiction, Family Saga

No-spoiler synopsis: “To understand why Calliope is not like other girls, she has to uncover a guilty family secret and the astonishing genetic history that turns Callie into Cal.”

# of reviews on Amazon: 1,881

4. The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

Genre: Literary Fiction, Coming of Age

No-spoiler synopsis: “Theo Decker, a 13-year-old New Yorker, miraculously survives an accident that kills his mother. Abandoned by his father, Theo is taken in by the family of a wealthy friend.”

# of reviews on Amazon: 25,375

5. The Girls by Emma Cline

Genre: Psychological Thriller, Coming of Age

No-spoiler synopsis: “Northern California, during the violent end of the 1960s. At the start of summer, a lonely and thoughtful teenager, Evie Boyd, sees a group of girls in the park, and is immediately caught by their freedom, their careless dress, their dangerous aura of abandon.”

# of reviews on Amazon: 1,639

6. Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

Genre: Literary Fiction, Dystopian, Political

No-spoiler synopsis:  “Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead. She may leave the home of the Commander and his wife once a day to walk to food markets whose signs are now pictures instead of words because women are no longer allowed to read.”

# of reviews on Amazon: 7,501

7. Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan

Genre: Family Life, Asian American

No-spoiler synopsis: “When New Yorker Rachel Chu agrees to spend the summer in Singapore with her boyfriend, Nicholas Young, she envisions a humble family home and quality time with the man she hopes to marry. But Nick has failed to give his girlfriend a few key details.”

# of reviews on Amazon: 1,589

8. White Teeth by Zadie Smith

Genre: Literary Fiction, Psychological Thriller

No-spoiler synopsis:  “Hapless veterans of World War II, Archie and Samad and their families become agents of England’s irrevocable transformation. A second marriage to Clara Bowden, a beautiful, albeit tooth-challenged Jamaican half his age, quite literally gives Archie a second lease on life, and produces Irie, a knowing child whose personality doesn’t quite match her name (Jamaican for ‘no problem’).”

# of reviews on Amazon: 563

9. All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Genre: Historical Fiction, Military, War

No-spoiler synopsis: “Marie-Laure lives in Paris near the Museum of Natural History, where her father works. When she is twelve, the Nazis occupy Paris and father and daughter flee to the walled citadel of Saint-Malo, where Marie-Laure’s reclusive great uncle lives in a tall house by the sea.”

# of reviews on Amazon: 27,046

10. When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

Genre: Memoir

No-spoiler synopsis: “At the age of thirty-six, on the verge of completing a decade’s worth of training as a neurosurgeon, Paul Kalanithi was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. One day he was a doctor treating the dying, and the next he was a patient struggling to live.”

# of reviews on Amazon: 7,047

Which one are you going to read this weekend?

Photo by Louisiana Mei Gelpi.

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  • Elise

    I added all of these to my Goodreads account so fast I cracked my phone screen.

  • Christel Michelle

    Adding these but please everyone read The Alchemist!!! It changed my life and I constantly reference it to this day (I read it 4 years ago), and I plan on re-reading it. BEST STORY FOR ALL OCCASIONS.

    • libs

      semi-related tangent, but I was listening to the latest ep of Mostly Lit today & they had some guests on and were discussing how one of the women completely loved The Alchemist when she first read it, like she felt that it changed her life and was super influential, but on rereading it just … did nothing for her – kind of saying that she’d needed to read it when she did, and it really mattered at the time, but didn’t stand up to a reread at a later point in her life. She was still really positive about it as a book though. Curious to see if you have a similar experience rereading it or if it’s maintained the originial impact for you? I haven’t read it but it seems like a pretty marmite book and I’m always interested in how peoples fave books hold up to rereading in general anyway.

      • Christel Michelle

        I have yet to reread The Alchemist. But! I will say, I had a similar reaction to the person you mentioned when I tried to reread On the Road by Jack Kerouac. I first read that when I was in high school, after reading The Alchemist actually, and it left such an impact on me that I seriously started telling people that Jack Kerouac was my long lost dad. My real dad was not amused. Anyway! Upon trying to reread OTR my sophomore year in college (last year) I had to put it down a bunch and couldn’t seem to fully get into it like I did when I was 17. Will let you know how rereading The Alchemist goes. Some books are a one and done deal in that way, so I’m interested to see if I’ve gotten all I can get it from it already.

    • Michelle

      Me too! Love love this book. Read it 3 times now.

    • Nancy

      I couldn’t STAND The Alchemist. It bored me to tears – thankfully it’s short. I’ve always thought it was more like a self-help book for people who don’t want to read self-help books.

  • Cristina

    I commented on the last post and bookmarked the Goodreads, but I think that it should be noted that a LOT of reviews are paid for/sent sample copies in exchange for good reviews. The Girls is terrible, and that’s not just me, that’s a large group once you get past all the publicity reviews! Anyway, the list should last me a couple lifetimes or so, so thank you Haley for putting it together!

    • avaa90

      Totally agree! Read Helter Skelter if you’re interested in the Mason family. Chilling,detailed, and SO much better than The Girls.

      • Cristina

        I tried reading Helter Skelter, I tried so hard! Argh! I don’t doubt that it’s good, but either I just couldn’t get into it at the moment, or my brain just doesn’t have the capacity to mentally track all of the details. It was so diligent and detailed I felt like I couldn’t keep up. It’s on my “try again” list!

        • prairie dogs

          If you’re a podcast fan, the Manson series from You Must Remember This is completely addictive. Talk about disrupting my life, I couldn’t stop listening.

          • But I’m a Cheerleader

            Me too!

          • Liz M.

            One of the best seasons of podcasts ever!

          • Cristina

            Thank you for this!!! I commute and love to listen to podcasts. Just started this series this morning!

        • Liz M.

          I also fall into the “couldn’t get into Helter Skelter” camp. Tried out “Manson: The Life and Times of Charles Manson” by Jeff Guinn and was ADDICTED!

    • I didn’t care for The Girls, either! I had to wait monthsssss for that library loan to become available, just for the book to end up on my dnf (did not finish) list.

      • Cristina

        I paid full price for mine because I’m an idiot. And I mean local, independent bookstore full price, not even Amazon! OY.

        • Lindsay D

          Me too!! Overrated, I was expecting a way better read from all the reviews

    • ArtsDuMal

      Agreed, that and A Little Life were my two least favorite books of 2016.

      • Adrianna

        Same. hated it

      • Catherine

        Synopsis/beginning of a Little Life was great (the groups friendship); main story felt like a cheap way of creating a harrowing, distressing story, weird internet fan fiction-y.
        But everyone I know LOVED it

    • libs

      I’d heard ONLY good things about The Girls until last week when someone was criticising it on twitter and now I feel like I’m only hearing from people who were massively underwhelmed by it!

      Where do you tend to find interesting/reliably good book suggestions? (not that I NEED more book suggestions, I have enough unread ones in my house, but … I still want more suggestions anyway!)

      • Cristina

        Honestly, I read the bad reviews that I can find as long as they don’t contain spoilers- Goodreads is better than Amazon I feel like, because a lot of those people actually READ. If the bad reviews are stupid reasons, or things I can get past and I know I’ll enjoy the overall premise of the book, I give it a go!

      • Terry Murphy

        I check on Stephen King’s Twitter feed. He reads all types of authors, and I have discovered a few I had never heard of by following his recommendations.

      • Shevaun

        I go for goodreads but take the ratings with a grain of salt. If you liked a book you can check on Goodreads and there are usually good suggestions based on what you read. I also check out authors who I enjoyed and see if they have a blog where they post their favorites. Also googling things like “top 100 fantasy books” or whatever can garner good results.

        Additionally you could use your local library! I am a librarian and librarians do reader’s advisory which is basically just “I want something to read where do I find please help”. Libraries also usually do recommended reads and book clubs which might help you find stuff!

    • PJB

      SO underwhelming. And a story we’ve heard before so many times!

    • Nico

      I completely agree about The Girls. Her writing was decent but the story and subject matter fell so flat. Plus it was just really dark. It was really hard to finish it….

    • Jeanie

      That why I find it so hard to find the right book to read. People give five stars for very different reasons when it comes to books.

    • Dymond Moore

      I liked it a lot and bought it myself, but personally i don’t think that book should’ve ever been geared towards adults and rather the YA/new adult genre bc the character and experiences it focused on just seemed so ingrained in the teen experience. Maybe that’s why I preferred it.

    • belle

      Yep, The Girls is pretty pitiful. Even aside from the poor take off of the Manson family, it’s just not well done. Helter Skelter is much better and has the advantage of being first hand knowledge.

      In terms of podcasts I would check out You Must Remember This (although the host has some serious pronunciation issues) then listen to Last Podcast on the Left’s series about Manson, revealing what a total loser he really was…

    • Nicole

      I thought the girls was really great, honestly. If I wanted to read a manson biography, I would have. I really enjoyed experiencing her fictitious inner world, and I loved the way it was written. I did not get it for free and I wasn’t disappointed. It wasn’t supposed to be a direct interpretation?? I don’t understand why people are under the assumption that it was supposed to be.

  • Shevaun

    None of these books look *fun* tho.

    • Robin Bromberg

      Crazy Rich Asians is totally fun

      • Lisa Handley

        Good, that’s the one I was interested in!

  • mapillski

    I REALLY did not like All The Light We Cannot See, I do not get all the hype around it. I loved all the others though.

    • Nicola V

      Seconded. It was very trite to me. Also, I prefer books that are not about war or about a girl being murdered because I find those to be overused plot devices.

    • Cristina

      Same, super over-hyped and really slow!

    • PCE

      SAME. slow, and I hated all the characters.

    • Beasliee

      Ah I loved it and loved all the characters! Found it really tense and gripping and couldn’t read it fast enough.
      How funny that I am totally opposite.

  • Abi

    bookmarked

  • lunapowa

    I noticed The Brief Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao is not on the list, but included in the links below.. Let me just say that after reading one of Junot Diaz’s books (This is How You Lose Her) I was HOOKED and ended up reading all of his books including The Brief Wonderous Life… 10/10 RECOMMENDSSSSSSS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Thivia Mogan

      THIS IS HOW YOU LOSE HER is one of the best!! It’s so freaking good!

      • lunapowa

        So good! You gotta read the others!!

    • Elli rvs

      I totally agree I think Junot Diaz is an exceptional writer!

  • Margaret Stolte

    YW if anyone needs me to organize their physical library as well, let me know. I luved doing this

    • You are now officially my hero. I thought noone can organize so many books in a relevant time. Thank you, will read the few I still haven’t so far. Am still reading A Little Life …

      • Margaret Stolte

        I feel like I can’t NOT read A Little Life after reading this list so I am purchasing today after work wahoo!

        • Just finished it, this minute. Need some alone time now…

          🙂

  • Kay Nguyen

    I have to add them all to my reading list! Can’t never get enough good reads <3

    https://www.myblackcloset.com

  • libs

    This list has made me 1.) buy A Little Life and 2.) want to reread The Goldfinch, even though I need to 3.) read loads of confusing French lit for uni.

  • Madison Grace

    Sorry, irrelevant question: who was the winner of last month’s writer’s club?? I can’t find it haha

    mads x

    • Shevaun

      It was the person who wrote about insomnia. I think it was posted earlier this week.

  • spicyearlgrey

    can we have a book club but for books we hate and have a debate luv debates

  • Shannon

    I missed out on the first article but must say CUTTING FOR STONE is one of the best books I’ve ever read. I was in tears at the end and never wanted it to end. I recommend it to everyone and I think about it almost every day (I read it 5 years ago). Must read!!

  • Francesca

    Addicting is not a word. I think you meant addictive. I agree with most of these books.

  • Eszter Sólyom

    Has anyone read Small Island from Andrea Levy? I haven’t read Americanah yet, but from the synopsys in this article they seem very similar plot-wise!

    • Beasliee

      No but Americanah is really good, if a little ‘triggering’. I just read Half of a Yellow Sun. Also amazing.

  • Jessica

    Just to add to the never-ending list of addictive books, two I read recently that I couldn’t put down:

    Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll and Before the Fall by Noah Hawley

    • Jessica

      And probably my all time favourite book: The Dispossessed by Ursula Le Gunn. Its a masterpiece.

  • erinsux

    tbh I thought the Goldfinch was fine, but it was sooo not gripping, I had to push myself to finish it

    • Rachel D.

      I haven’t tried it because I *hated* The Secret History, and I feel like I’m the only person who actively dislikes Donna Tartt. Honestly I’m relieved to hear someone wasn’t super big on one of her books!

      • Beasliee

        The Secret History I loved when I was 18. I would have loved The Goldfinch when I was 18, but I am 33 now and I really disliked the story and everyone in it. I think only 18 year old me wants to read about obnoxious people for 100’s of pages….

    • Annamarie Morris

      I really enjoyed the Goldfinch, while it did take a long time for me to get through, I felt like it was worth it in the end. That said, The Secret History only took me a few days and I really didn’t enjoy it as much as I thought I would. I found the format was similar to a condensed form of the Goldfinch, but not as fulfilling.

    • belle

      I couldn’t finish it. I’ve tried twice. Loved The Secret History though

  • Ana Amaro

    The Middlesex is my favourite book ever. I read it in an August week 4 years ago. Had buy it in second hand just because it had a dry flower inside and it was an amazing surprise!

  • Tess

    I still think, while an excellent book, Middlesex is being mislabeled as “addicting”. It’s pretty lengthy, and it takes its time narratively meandering about. Same too goes for All The Light We Cannot See, which is truly a slow read.

    • kellymcd

      THANK YOU for saying that about Middlesex. That book dragged on for eternity. Plus, you know the “secret/big reveal” from the beginning so it is super anti-climatic in the end. It was a snoozefest, in my opinion.

  • Taylor Strawn

    FAB list of books. I would add Dark Matter. It’s absolutely incredible, finished it in a 2 days

  • Daniel Chase

    I’m shocked that neither Infinite Jest nor any of the Ayn Rand works made the cut. Just shocked.

    • ApocalypsoFacto

      LOL at how you think you’re funny

  • EmilyWilson

    Can you put out a similar call for great podcasts?

    • M

      yes please!!

  • Jesspromisepup

    It’s “addictive,” not addicting. Please stop this plague!!!!!!

  • PCE

    I hated all the light we cannot see. I had zero connection to the characters and didn’t care about the outcome. I was so disappointed as so many people loved it, but I just couldn’t get into it.

  • SO underwhelming. And a story we’ve heard before so many times!
    Đất Nền Bình Chiểu

  • Elli rvs

    I loved when breath becomes air, i could not put it down. The other 2 books (both also memoirs like when breath become air) I could not put down this past year were: let’s take the long way home by Gail Caldwell and the argonauts by Maggie Nelson.

  • Lindsey

    Because of that post two weeks ago and all the comments, I went out that day and bought A Little Life. I’m not halfway through it, and it is just wrecking me. I love, love, love it. <3 I also love the community here–I feel like y'all (writers and commenters alike) are my tribe!

    • Have just finished it. Now what?
      Think, with wet eyes….

  • Cynthia Schoonover

    I enjoyed “All the Light We Cannot See”, and “The Glass Castle”, but “The Goldfinch” dragged on forever. Everyone raved about it, but I was disappointed because it was so long and I didn’t see the point of most of it.

  • Lauren

    So many of these are on my TBR pile, I don’t t even think it’s funny!

  • Pili G

    Wow, all of this seem so amazing! I’ve never heard of any of them! I’m defiantly going to save a few in my goodsreads account!
    Love
    PILI
    To Read with Tea

  • Ann Grismore

    “All The Light We Cannot See” and “When Breath Becomes Air” are both amazing. Very glad to see they’re both on this must-read list.

  • Saryah

    I feel like whoever recommended these books was trying too hard. I normally love everything MR posts and was underwhelmed by this list.

  • zldn

    The Neapolitan novels by Ferrante need to be on this list!

  • Alyssa Trivelli

    Great list. A Little Life, and the Goldfinch are both epic journey type books. I still think about them both a lot. And everyone in my book club loved All the Light we Cannot See. These are my thoughts.

  • Maryam Ele

    I knew Donna Tartt’s ‘The Goldfinch’ would be on there before I even clicked on the link. Do yourself a favour: read ‘The Goldfinch’ and then immediately read ‘The Secret History’, also by Donna Tartt. The longer you wait the less time you’ll have to reread them a million times over.

  • Harriet Corns

    Requiem For A Dream!! Has not left my brain since I finished reading it. A story about addiction in so many ways

  • Seth

    U forgot to include Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronté

  • Mary Eastham

    Thanks Cristina for addressing the elephant in the room of paid reviews. I tend to stay away from books that have a ton of reviews for that reason and as a writer of short fiction, flash fiction and poetry, my books (Squinting Over Water & The Shadow of A Dog I Can’t Forget) are not in the category of runaway bestsellers anyway. I get my reviews the hard way by asking bloggers and other authors for honest reviews on Amazon. They always love my books. As I am known to say, ‘You can’t ghostwrite a poem or short story!’

  • Brittney Thompson

    love the list.
    Jamaican is not a language… it’s patois 🙂