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10 Books for People Getting into or Back into Reading

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Julia Rittenberg

Senior Contributor

Julia is a professional nerd who can be spotted in the wild lounging with books in the park in Brooklyn, NY. She has a BA in International Studies from the University of Chicago and an MA in Media Studies from Pratt Institute. She loves fandom, theater, cheese, and Edith Piaf. Find her at juliarittenberg.com.

It feels like there are more books than ever these days. If you’re trying to get into reading regularly for the first time or trying to get back into reading, it can be a little difficult to know where to start. Usually, I try to reread a favorite book to break a reading slump, but I’ve reread my favorites so many times at this point that I’m starting to look for something different. Books for people just getting into reading or getting back into reading should be engaging, with emotional weight and strong storytelling to keep you invested.

There’s a lot of competition for our attention spans these days. It’s important that your chosen book immerses you in the world, and is complex enough to be compelling to your focus but not exclusionary in a way that causes your mind to wander. Only a certain kind of reader would want to jump into The Brothers Karamazov after a long reading slump.

I’ve divided up this list into the genres that have helped me jump-start back into reading when I’ve taken a break for whatever reason: comedy, nonfiction, romance, mystery and graphic novels. If you’re looking for genres I’m not an expert in, like science fiction and fantasy, the best of 2022 is a great place to start, as well as a list of sci-fi novellas to read in one sitting, and light fantasy to read for fun. For getting back into reading, it’s important to find a genre that takes your brain on a journey outside of yourself.  

Comedy With a Big Heart

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Hello, Molly! by Molly Shannon

Molly Shannon might be one of the best contemporary illustrations of how the funniest people can come from tragic circumstances. When she was a child, her family got into a car accident, killing her mom, sister, and cousin. Survivor’s guilt is a major theme, as is the difficulty of forgiveness. Shannon is just as funny in writing as she is in movies, television, and comedy sketches, and she has amazing stories about everything behind the scenes as well.

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I Feel Bad about My Neck by Nora Ephron

Nora Ephron’s final essay collection takes on so many indignities of modern life with her signature wit. There’s no wrong Ephron book to start with, but this one is comprehensive in a way that is exciting to dive into. From stories about her iconic screenplays to musings on the constancy of pouring Perrier, Ephron has tons of brilliant thoughts to share. The short, engaging essays are perfect for someone looking to reignite their love of reading.

Book cover of We Are Never Meeting in Real Life by Samantha Irby

We are Never Meeting in Real Life by Samantha Irby

There might be no funnier writer than Samantha Irby. All her essay collections are brilliant and this book focuses on the awkward transition from adolescence to adulthood, which is a difficult process. Irby is always hilarious, pulling no punches against herself or the weirdos she encounters in the world. Although she might not admit, she has a major tenderness for the ridiculous people of the world. It’s a funny, engaging read.

Harrowing Nonfiction

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Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland by Patrick Radden Keefe

“The Troubles” in Northern Ireland has always felt like an understatement to the degree of unrest that raged across the country, and this book takes you through every major moment in the 20th century fight for Irish unification and how the revolutionaries got there. It’s difficult to put down because you want to find out who is responsible for the dark actions of the revolutionary fight. It’s not a simple story with simple solutions, but it’s important.

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All About Love: New Visions by bell hooks

Love is important to every moment of our lives, so hooks argues. She offers so many important conceptions of love to help us live more intentionally, including self-love that goes against narcissism, an idea of communal love, and the joys of true intimate love. It’s a book many writers return to often with good reason: it’s inspirational and re-centering.

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The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson

Brag alert — Isabel Wilkerson spoke at my high school graduation. From 1915 to 1970, a large number of Black Americans migrated from the southern United states to the northern United States. This matters because it changed the makeup of states, cities, and industries so largely from the 19th century to the 20th. It’s an important account of the migration of the Black community in America throughout the history of the United States.

Immersive Romances

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How to Catch a Queen by Alyssa Cole

When King Sanyu and Shanti Mohapi get married, it’s not exactly like either of them imagined. The country sees her as an interloper, but her husband goes to her for advice on matters of state. The king and queen have a deep, electric connection, but the chaos of the country gets in the way of them getting what they want. Alyssa Cole is one of the most exciting contemporary romance writers, creating immersive worlds that you don’t want to leave.

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A Rogue by Any Other Name by Sarah MacLean

Sarah MacLean is a master of exciting Regency romance. The heat between Lady Penelope Marbury and the Marquess of Bourne is undeniable. If you are interested in using romance as a gateway to more reading, this is a great entrypoint. Both Penelope and Bourne have complicated histories, and their marriage makes their lives even more complicated. It’s so satisfying to read them marry, fall in love, and get on the same team.

Mysteries That Keep You Guessing

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And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

If you’re a fan of any of Rian Johnson’s recent movies, you are either already an Agatha Christie fan or need to dive into more of her work. This mystery uses the framing device of a nursey rhyme and the tension mounts as the attendees of a weekend on a private island realize they are being picked off one by one, according to the rhyme. It’s a masterful building of tension and mystery.

Exciting Graphic Novels

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Nimona by N.D. Stevenson

This graphic novel has it all: fantasy, creatures, unpredictable magical fights, and more. Stevenson’s famous webcomic is even more exciting in book form with extra content and original sketches. Nimona is a sidekick and teams up with Lord Ballister to prove the Instruction of Law Enforcement and Heroics are a deeply flawed organization.

Reading More and Widely

The thing about a reading slump is that you need books that take you outside of yourself. A lack of interest in reading may come from boredom. Seeking diverse reads, especially by authors without your exact experience or outside of your usual genres, can lead to a renewed interest.

You can keep up with new releases on Book Riot, or check out various best of lists for your favorite genres: fantasy, science fiction, mysteries, nonfiction, and more.