18 Books Worth Reading–and Reading Again

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Readers are always looking for books worth reading, and the ultimate find is a book that’s worth reading again. Find books that are sure to become life-long favorites. You’ll want these on your shelf for the next time you need a comforting book to reread.

If you’re an avid reader, you likely have a mental list of books you would recommend to almost anyone.

These are your top-of-mind favorites, the ones you remember for years after you read them.

Of course, not all favorites are books you want to experience again and again–some are just too hard-hitting for that (A Little Life, I’m looking at you).

But sometimes a book strikes just the right balance. It sticks with you, and you feel like you want to dive back in again–even if it’s difficult.

These are some of my favorite books that are worth reading–and reading again. Some are comforting, others are heavy, and others are pure fun indulgence.

All are excellent options for the “Read an old favorite” category in my More Joy, Less Stress 2021 Reading Challenge.

If you’re following along with the challenge, I’d love to know what old favorite you’re revisiting!

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Books Worth Reading—And Rereading

All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot, a book worth reading again and again

All Creatures Great and Small

Author: James Herriot

This is my choice for my reading challenge, and what I remember most about this memoir is how much fun I had reading it. I recall telling another bookish friend at the time, “These books are just making me happy right now!” There is no large, dramatic story here, but James Herriot’s telling of his life as a country veterinarian in Yorkshire is warm, funny, and touching.

Herriot spares himself no embarrassment but proves himself keenly observant and sensitive as he interacts with the characters—human and animal, by turns eccentric, sad, and inspiring—who pepper his stories. This was true comfort reading for me, and one I looked forward to sinking into the couch with.

I am enjoying the PBS series based on the book, and now seems like the perfect time to reread this. This is an easy one to read a little at a time, and I think it will bring me joy throughout the year.


Bel Canto by Ann Patchett

Bel Canto

Author: Ann Patchett

At a party in the vice-presidential mansion of an unnamed South American country, a band of young terrorists enters and takes hostages. The hostages include a world-renowned soprano, a Japanese business titan, and diplomats from various countries. The days and months stretch on and lines blur, relationships form, and tensions rise and fall and rise again.

This is one of my favorite books and was my first introduction to Ann Patchett– now one of my favorite authors.


The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

The Art of Racing in the Rain

Author: Garth Stein

The Art of Racing in the Rain was one of the books that brought me back to avid readership after grad school burnout. I have always been a dog lover, so of course I couldn’t resist a book narrated by Enzo, a philosophical dog who bemoans his lack of thumbs and likes to ride in race cars. Enzo will alternately charm you and break your heart, as he reflects on his life while anticipating his death.

Dog books are predictable in their sadness, but those of us who love them also love dogs. It’s hard to resist an imagining of their rich inner lives, and Enzo is particularly irresistible. It should go without saying that you’ll need your tissues, but it’s worth it.

Related: 8 Heartwarming Books for Dog Lovers


The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

The Language of Flowers

Author: Vanessa Diffenbaugh

This is a book that initially didn’t grab my interest with the title, cover, or description. For some reason, I picked it up anyway, and it stands out as a favorite. Victoria has aged out of the foster care system and finds herself working in a flower shop. She discovers that she has the unique talent of matching people with the perfect flowers.


Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay

Sarah’s Key

Author: Tatiana de Rosnay

In 1942 Paris, Jewish people are rounded up and sent away–often to their deaths. Sarah, 10 years old, hides her little brother in a cupboard, locking the door and promising to return. What follows is the story of her desperate journey back to him, alternating with the story of a journalist 60 years later who is investigating the round up.


The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood, a book worth reading and rereading

The Handmaid’s Tale

Author: Margaret Atwood

I first read this book as a young teenager and it blew my mind. In addition to this being my first dystopian read, it was one of my first exposures to a book that was subversive, political, and feminist. This is the story of Offred, a woman who not so long ago was a wife, mother, and independent woman. Now she is a handmaiden, separated from her family and pressed into service for her fertility. Each month, she must submit to the Commander in hopes of becoming pregnant. This is a frightening tale of a society where women are fully oppressed and valued for little else than their ability to procreate.

Be sure to read the sequel, The Testaments, as well. It’s not quite as explosive as The Handmaid’s Tale, but it’s worth it to read Atwood’s resolution–and new perspectives on Gilead.

Related: 11 Dystopian Books that Will Make You Fear the Future


Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

Outlander

Author: Diana Gabaldon

In 1945, English combat nurse Claire Randall walks through a circle of standing stones in Scotland and finds herself in 1743. Separated from her new husband by 200 years and at the mercy of a suspicious clan embroiled in conflict, Claire must use her cunning to survive and make her way back to the 20th century. Young Highlander Jamie Fraser emerges as an ally and protector in an alien time and land. As she and Jamie grow closer, Claire faces decisions about her life–including when and where she wants to live, and who she wants to be with.

This entire series was completely immersive for me–dramatic, a little sexy, and unputdownable. I raced through all of the (huge!) books. Once I know the release date of the next one, I might take on reading the whole thing again. It’s a fun ride, and I can’t wait to get back on.


Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

Homegoing

Author: Yaa Gyasi

Homegoing is an epic generational novel following the family lines of two half-sisters born in Ghana 300 years ago: one is married off to an English slave trader while the other is sold into slavery. Each chapter follows a new descendant of the women, illustrating how events and injustices of the past reverberate through the lives and struggles of future generations.

An astonishing, emotional novel that deftly answers the question of how the descendants of slaves continue to be oppressed by the institution of slavery, Jim Crow, and systemic racism, even 150 years after abolition.


The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett

The Pillars of the Earth

Author: Ken Follett

I can’t say that a story about building a cathedral in Middle Ages England sounded like a riveting premise–but I was wrong. This massive tome is filled with drama and intrigue, evil characters, romance, political maneuvering, and fascinating history. It’s a bit of a historical soap opera, on par with Outlander, in the best possible way. Highly readable, hard to put down, and also a bit of a guilty pleasure.

The others in the series–A Column a Fire, World Without End, and the prequel The Evening and the Morning–are also worth reading. They aren’t quite as riveting as Pillars, but still a fun return to the high drama of Kingsbridge.


Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese

Cutting for Stone

Author: Abraham Verghese

Two twins in Ethiopia are born to an Indian nun and a British surgeon, but they are orphaned after their mother’s death and their father’s disappearance. Love of the same woman pulls the twins apart, but their bond them back together to reckon with the past. This is an epic story, set across decades and countries, about families, forgiveness, and the nature of healing. I know I loved this book, but I remember very little about it. I’m looking forward to reading it again like it’s the first time.


A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

A Thousand Splendid Suns

Author: Khaled Hosseini

While I loved Hosseini’s The Kite Runner, this one sticks with me even more. The tale of two women brought together under oppressive circumstances in Afghanistan. As dangers grow both in and out of their home, their bond and resourcefulness are the things that see them through. I am both fascinated and horrified by the circumstances of many women in Afghanistan.

This story brings readers into one home to see how two women manage to make a life under such oppression–and the sacrifices they must make for those they love.


Body and Soul by Frank Conroy

Body and Soul

Author: Frank Conroy

Body & Soul tells the story of Claude Rawlings, a piano prodigy discovered by chance as a six-year-old on his lonely wanderings through New York. Left largely to himself while his mother drives a taxi, Claude picks out tunes on a piano and befriends the owner of a music store.

His genius propels him to fame and riches–and eventually into a crisis of creativity and obsession common with brilliant artists. Sweeping and completely immersive.


The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead

The Nickel Boys

Author: Colson Whitehead

In the Jim Crow South, a simple mistake sends a black boy to a reform school where boys are brutalized and sometimes disappear. Tasked only with surviving, Elwood holds onto his ideals, shaped by the inspiring words of Dr. Martin Luther King. His friend Turner, however, is just as certain in his cynicism and their conflicting views bring them to a crossroad, leading to a choice that has repercussions for years to come.

Based on the real-life Dozier School in Florida, which only shut down in 2011 and where many unmarked graves have since been discovered, The Nickel Boys is heartbreaking, disturbing (though not overly graphic if you’re a sensitive reader), and highly recommended.


On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong

On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous

Author: Ocean Vuong

This novel, framed as a letter from a son to a mother who cannot read, is a debut for poet Ocean Vuong. The son, named Little Dog, reflects on life with his mother. She is work-worn and sometimes abusive, exhausted by her lack of a homeland, her inability to read or speak English fluently, and her mentally ill mother who was traumatized by the war. Little Dog grapples with his identity as a son, an Asian American, and a gay man experiencing his first romance with a troubled farm worker.

The prose and the story–especially the first three-quarters–are stunning. The writing is spare but poetic, and devastatingly insightful. Some parts caused me to pause and read them again to savor their brilliance.

Related: 17 Books about Motherhood and Mothers


The Shell Seekers by Rosamund Pilcher

The Shell Seekers

Author: Rosamund Pilcher

The premise of this book doesn’t seem like much: Penelope discovers that her father’s painting is worth a small fortune. Her adult children have their own ideas about what she should do about the discovery.

The Shell Seekers moves between past and present, revisiting various times in Penelope’s life, including her Bohemian youth during World War II. Penelope is truly an unforgettable character; I loved the slow reveal of her life told over decades. The English setting makes this a perfect comforting, cozy read–one that I’m sure I’ll be rereading in the future.


The Overstory by Richard Powers

The Overstory

Author: Richard Powers

This 2019 Pulitzer Prize winner absolutely blew me away. Powers constructs a novel that begins with a series of seemingly disconnected stories, each grounded by a tree, and some of them stretching back more than a century. The “understory” finally lands us on a number of central characters.

These disparate characters come together in a larger-than-life narrative that becomes a call to activism, a meditation on our place in the world, and an awe-stricken view into the complex and impressive lives and resilience of trees.


Boy Swallows Universe by Trent Dalton

Boy Swallows Universe

Author: Trent Dalton

Twelve-year old Eli Bell loves his messed-up family: his older brother, August, who stopped talking after a childhood trauma, and his mother and stepfather who are heroin dealers and former addicts. Things go south when the violence of his parents’ business comes to their home. His stepfather disappears and his mother ends up in jail.

Eli embarks on several missions: to save his mother, to find out what happened to his stepfather, to become a crime journalist, and to become a good man–all while taking down the man running the drug show in his seedy Australian suburb. Gritty, brutal, a little dreamy, and utterly absorbing–one of my favorites of 2019.


A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, a classic long book that will help you start a reading habit.

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

Author: Betty Smith

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is the much-loved classic about a young girl, Francie Nolan, growing up in poverty in turn-of-century Brooklyn. Francie is a bookish, resourceful child, caught between her dreamer of a father and her work-worn, practical mother. Francie is self-aware and a keen observer of people and the life around her, a heroine who manages to continue to seek beauty even as it seems determined to elude her.

This is a favorite of so many readers, and it’s a book worth reading again and again.

Related: 11 Moving Books Like A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

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18 Books Worth Reading--and Reading Again

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31 Comments

  1. I’ve heard such great things about The Language of Flowers…must pick that up this year!!

    1. Definitely! I have Vanessa Diffenbaugh’s next one on my shelf as well–We Never Asked for Wings. I haven’t heard as much about it, but I’m hoping it’s good.

  2. Good point. I had a lot fewer books available to me when I was a kid than I do now, so I definitely re-read more back then. Now I hardly ever do. Just like you, I have too many books I want to read for the first time to waste time re-reading. Except for a few old favorites, of course 🙂

    Happy TTT!

    1. I think kids often find rereading comforting as well, so that my have been part of it. I’ll be interested to see if my kids reread like I did, even though they have more ways to get books.

  3. Lots of titles I haven’t read, so I was excited to add some of these to my TBR list! I’m the same way with many of the books I want to re-read lately—I read many of them ages ago and rated them 5 stars, but I’m curious to read them again to see if they still hold up to the rating. Since I basically stopped re-reading books about 6 or 7 years ago, I’ve challenged myself this year to start re-reading some again, just because I know there is a lot of good that comes out of re-reading (and that you always get something different out of a re-read than you did the first time).

    1. I’m so glad you found a few for your TBR! I’ll be satisfied if I reread just a couple this year, since I haven’t done any in so long.

    1. Thanks! The Art of Racing in the Rain is so sad, but I loved it.

  4. You have some great books on this list. I really loved Bel Canto, Cutting for Stone and A Thousand Splendid Suns. I could read all of them again!

    1. Thanks! I’m hoping to reread at least a couple this year. It’s been a while since I have!

    1. My parents had them on the shelf at home too! I never picked them up as a kid, though–I wish I had. I loved reading them so much. I think I need to pick them up more often and just read a chapter here and there for something light and fun. I think there are kids stories from Herriot as well–I kind of want to get some for my kids.

  5. I never got the chance to own books as a kid – all of my books were from the library due to financial reasons. Of course, now as you mentioned with books being one click away, I can definitely say I own a few books of my own.

    I probably wouldn’t reread them if I ever got around to reading them, though.

    1. Rereading is definitely rare for me, but I always hold onto the hope that I’ll get back to the really good ones!

  6. The Language of Flowers has stayed with me for SO LONG; I noticed that you are planning to read her latest, so I hope you’ll share your thoughts. I completely agree with you on Bel Canto, as well; it’s the novel that made Ann Patchett a must-read author, for me.

    1. I will definitely review the next one by Vanessa Diffenbaugh. I really haven’t heard much about it so I’m going in blind.

      I think I want to read both Bel Canto and Run again this year. Run isn’t talked about as much when people discuss Patchett, but it’s another one that I remember really liking.

  7. Thanks for reminding me how much I loved some of these books! Especially The Language of Flowers- I could see reading that again. I read her newest novel and it was quite good, but not as much as Language.

    I have absolutely no idea why, but I have never read Bel Canto and I know so many people who love it. I’m moving it to the top of my backlist reading list.

    1. Ooh, definitely read Bel Canto! I’d love to hear what you think. I’m glad to hear you liked Diffenbaugh’s latest. Actually, I’m traveling soon and both of those sound like they might be good ones to take along 🙂

  8. Wow! Catherine, love your list! Noted.

    about book “Outlander”:

    The first chapter is slow, but don’t let that stop you from getting this story! I found it listed in the “romance” category, but it’s *way* more than a romance novel – it’s a very well-developed story with sophisticated characters and plots. I was really impressed how she captured the essence of Scottish Highland culture and the use of Gaelic with English. There are romantic scenes, but they’re not written like for a romance novel – much more sophisticated and sultry than your typical romance. Not for kids.

    Julie Anne,
    https://www.julieannepeters.com/

    1. I too am an outlander reader as well as enjoying the tv series as well. I started reading these 15 years ago and went way to fast in the first 4 books and had to wait 3 yrs for the next! I am an ER nurse and a group of us who had read all that were available went to a Diana Gabalden book signing. I was awesome meeting her! These books were her first novels! As others have said, this series just keeps moving along, and you really don’t know where they are going. Also the author had never been to Scotland prior to writing! There is also a companion book to help with terms, events, and keeping track of characters.

  9. Language of Flowers, Sarah’s Key and The Handmaid’s Tale, yesssss! Love, love those books. I haven’t read a few of the others so guess I need to add some things to my list!! Thanks for the post 🙂

  10. What do you guys think about the following books:

    The Hiding Place – Corrie Ten Boom
    The Nightingale – Kristin Hannah
    The Glass Castle – Jeannette Walls
    All the Light We Cannot See – Anthony Doer

    1. Lynn, I haven’t read The Nightingale, but all of the others are excellent! I know many readers loved The Nightingale.

  11. I have only read a few of the books on this list. Definitely want to read Sarah’s Key and The Handmaid’s Tale. My all time favourite to reread is Watership Down by Richard Adams.

    1. Can you believe I haven’t read Watership Down? Good to know it’s good enough to reread.

  12. So many great books here and discovered a couple to add to my TBR list. Thanks.

  13. I also had grad school burnout – 40 years ago. That UVa English Dept. just about destroyed my interest in reading. I agree with “Cutting for Stone” and “Pillars of the Earth”. I’ll look at the others. Thanks for posting!

  14. Bel Canto is my all time favorite. I have read it several times. We have very similar taste in books! I would also add The Poisonwood Bible and Ahab’s Wife. And just about anything by Ann Tyler!

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