60 Highly Readable Books to Jumpstart Your Reading Habit

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Want to read more books? Maybe you’re trying to start a reading habit and are looking for great books to read for beginners. This list of easy reading, unputdownable books are some of the best books for adults to read to make reading a habit and a hobby.

Starting to read again can feel daunting if you haven’t read a book in a while. It’s hard to know what books are worth reading, how to find the time, and whether you’ll be able to stick with it.

Many people fear that if they don’t find the best books to start a reading habit right away, they’ll get bored and quit.

Maybe you’ve already tried and quit. 

Maybe you were hoping for an easy book to get back into reading and you picked up a well-known classic or a book you knew was popular–but it just didn’t work for you. 

And so you quit.

A pile of books with an ampersand paperweight. Beginner readers might feel intimidated by many book options.

I get it. It can be discouraging to find that a wildly popular book doesn’t work for you–because if it worked for so many others, shouldn’t you love it, too?

If this sounds like you, check out my tips to read more books and love it, as well as mistakes to avoid if you want to start reading.

A reading challenge is also a good way to get motivated to read more; find your reading challenge style and get started!

The Key to Reading More: Find the Right Books to Read

One of the most important steps in starting to read again is to find the right books

Finding good books to read for adults doesn’t mean following a list of books that some authority says “everyone must read” or forcing yourself to slog through only the “most important books to read.”

Those lists don’t always include the most readable books, or the best books for beginners. Many of these books are great, to be sure, but they just aren’t the best place to start. Because let’s face it: reading can be a little like running. 

You’ve been doing it your whole life, but it still takes practice to get in a groove of doing it regularly. So thinking of yourself as a beginner is okay, and will help lead you to the best books for you to start a reading habit.

Books and magnifying glass. Examine your interest to find the right books to start a reading habit.

Starting with an open, beginner mindset will help you find the books that will get you into reading–because you read for you and no one else.

To get you started, I’ve put together a list of compulsively readable books for adults to help you fall in love with reading and start making reading a habit in your life. 

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Great Books to Read for Adults Who Want to Start a Reading Habit

Below you’ll find easy-to-read books for adults from the following genres or types of books: contemporary fiction, literary fiction, historical fiction, light or humorous fiction, mysteries and thrillers, dystopias, alternate realities, classics, nonfiction and memoirs, and romance.

These are some of my favorite recommendations of books for beginner adult readers who want to enjoy reading again. No matter what interests you, there should be at least one book here to get you started and help you fall in love with reading.

Contemporary Fiction Books

There are so many great books to read, and it can be tough to know where to start if you’re trying to get into reading again.

These contemporary fiction books are some of my favorites, and I think they might be the perfect choices to get you started.

Contemporary Fiction typed on a typewriter. This genre is a great choice for new readers.

These modern fiction books are accessible, thought-provoking, and unputdownable, so new adult readers will be able to get lost in them for hours at a time.

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein, a great book about a dog

The Art of Racing in the Rain

Author: Garth Stein
Publish Date: 2008
Genres: Contemporary Fiction

A must-read for animal lovers, you will fall in love with Enzo (an aging dog who wishes he had thumbs) and won’t be able to resist the story of his and his best friend’s relationship.

The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

The Language of Flowers

Author: Vanessa Diffenbaugh
Publish Date: 2008
Genres: Contemporary Fiction

I couldn’t put down this book about a young woman who has aged out of foster care and discovered her unique talent of matching people with exactly the right flowers.

This Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel, a contemporary fiction book that will help you start a reading habit.

This Is How It Always Is

Author: Laurie Frankel
Publish Date: 2018
Genres: Contemporary Fiction

A truly contemporary family novel that follows young Claude (who wants to be Poppy) and the family that does their best to support that decision in a world that doesn’t make it easy.

Maame by Jessica George

Maame

Author: Jessica George
Publish Date: 2023
Genres: Contemporary Fiction

A young woman in London who spent years caring for her ill father asserts her independence from her Ghanaian family and seeks her own identity, even when she’s sidelined by tragedy and grief.

The Antidote for Everything by Kimmery Martin

The Antidote for Everything

Author: Kimmery Martin
Publish Date: 2020
Genres: Contemporary Fiction

Two doctors push back when their clinic bans transgender patients. A novel about serious topics that also includes a delightful friendship, funny quips, and intelligent medical writing. Smart but light writing at its best. 

Wahala by Nikki May

Wahala

Author: Nikki May
Narrator: Natalie Simpson
Publish Date: 2022
Genres: Fiction, Contemporary Fiction

A new addition to a close group of Anglo-Nigerian friends creates chaos in their friendships and relationships. I couldn’t stop listening as the subtle manipulation escalated.

If contemporary fiction is your favorite genre, these posts have even more must-read novels for adult readers.

Literary Fiction Books

Literary fiction books are a great choice if you love character-driven novels.

Literary fiction sometimes has a reputation of being difficult or high-brow, but these choices are good for even new or lapsed readers.

Literary fiction written on paper and letter blocks.

These novels are character-driven but still have a great story and can be enjoyed by even new or lapsed readers.

They’re perfect for anyone who wants to get lost in a thoughtful, complex, and immersive story.

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones, a highly readable contemporary literary fiction novel that will help you start reading as a hobby.

An American Marriage

Author: Tayari Jones
Publish Date: 2018
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Literary Fiction

A gripping novel about a couple struggling to hold a marriage together when he is convicted of a crime he didn’t commit. Multiple themes here, including racial injustice and the wreckage it leaves in its wake.

The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai

The Great Believers

Author: Rebecca Makkai
Publish Date: 2018
Genres: Literary Fiction, Historical Fiction

My favorite novel of 2018, you’ll fall in love with the friends who are living through the 80s AIDS crisis.

I also went more in-depth on how this fantastic book came to be in my story of the story series: 11 Things to Know about The Great Believers.

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

Where the Crawdads Sing

Author: Delia Owens
Publish Date: 2018
Genres: Literary Fiction, Historical Fiction, Mysteries & Thrillers

Another favorite of 2018, this book has everything: a compelling main character, a mystery, romance, and a setting that is practically a character itself. Kya is “the Marsh Girl”–abandoned by her family at a young age, she has raised herself in the marsh and finds herself the object of the local town’s suspicions.

Also see: 13 Evocative Books Like Where the Crawdads Sing

Once There Were Wolves by Charlotte McConaghy

Once There Were Wolves

Author: Charlotte McConaghy
Publish Date: 2021
Genres: Fiction, Literary Fiction, Contemporary Fiction

Inti is in Scotland to manage the reintroduction of wolves into the wilds of the Highlands. The locals, however, fear for their safety and their livestock, and their fears seem founded when a man is found dead. This gorgeous, atmospheric eco-fiction novel was my top read of 2021.

Happiness Falls by Angie Kim

Happiness Falls

Author: Angie Kim
Publish Date: 2023
Genres: Literary Fiction

In a DC-area park, a Korean-American father goes missing and his nonverbal 14-year-old son returns alone, bloody and distraught. As the family wrestles with what could have happened, they learn secrets that lead to more questions about what happened that day.

A fascinating exploration of family, the science of happiness, language, and disability alongside the mystery. I couldn’t put this one down.

Tom Lake by Ann Patchett

Tom Lake

Author: Ann Patchett
Publish Date: 2023
Genres: Literary Fiction

On a Michigan cherry orchard during the pandemic, Lara tells her adult daughters of her summer in stock theater and her romance with now-famous actor Peter Duke. Every moment of this novel feels like golden hour, filtered through the haze of memories, lakes, and dreamy orchards.

Already read the literary books above? Try these novels linked below for more suggestions.

Historical Fiction Books

The best historical fiction takes you back in time and brings history to life.

These books entertain while teaching you about history and making you care about the people who lived it.

Historical fiction written in block letters

More than anything else, historical fiction can grow your curiosity and your understanding of the lives of people who lived in earlier times.

Diving into the stories and details of the past can make even the driest historical topics endlessly fascinating–a great historical fiction book is the perfect choice if you’re looking for interesting books to read for adults.

Everyone Brave Is Forgiven by Chris Cleave, a readable historical fiction novel that will help you love reading again.

Everyone Brave Is Forgiven

Author: Chris Cleve
Publish Date: 2017
Genres: Historical Fiction

A highly readable and surprisingly irreverent World War II novel, Chris Cleave’s unique writing style will pull you in.

I also covered this one in The Story of the Story: Everyone Brave Is Forgiven.

As Bright As Heaven by Susan Meissner, a highly readable historical fiction novel about a pandemic that will help you start a reading habit.

As Bright as Heaven

Author: Susan Meissner
Publish Date: 2017
Genres: Historical Fiction

An easy-to-read and affecting novel about a family who runs a funeral home during the time of World War I and the Spanish Flu epidemic.

The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett

The Pillars of the Earth

Author: Ken Follett
Publish Date: 1989
Genres: Historical Fiction

Perfect for anyone willing to dive into a long book–it’s hefty! But this story of the construction of a cathedral in Middle Ages England is surprisingly soapy and gripping. The drama is big, the villains are deliciously evil, and the history is fascinating. One of my favorite historical fiction books. 

The Vanishing Half, a book about family drama with multiple generations

The Vanishing Half

Author: Brit Bennett
Publish Date: 2020
Genres: Fiction, Literary Fiction, Historical Fiction

The story of two Black twin sisters who take different life paths, only to be reunited decades later and forced to reckon with their choices.

The raves for this book are well-deserved; it features intricately drawn, multi-generational characters exploring race, identity, and family.

The Downstairs Girl by Stacey Lee

The Downstairs Girl

Author: Stacey Lee
Publish Date: 2019
Genres: Fiction, Historical Fiction, Young Adult

In the early 1900s, a teenager of Chinese descent lives on the fringes of Atlanta, squatting in the basement of a newspaper with her father. She causes a stir when she begins anonymously writing as “Miss Sweetie,” a progressive advice columnist. An easy and intriguing historical read.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo

Author: Taylor Jenkins Reid
Publish Date: 2017
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Historical Fiction

When aging movie star Evelyn Hugo recruits Monique Grant, an unknown reporter, to write her biography, she is quickly drawn into Evelyn’s winding tale. From her rise to stardom, her multiple marriages, and the dramas of her life, Evelyn weaves a tale that juicy, smart, and unputdownable.

Need more historical fiction for your TBR? Try the books on the reading lists linked below.

Light, Funny, or Uplifting Books

Sometimes a light, humorous read is exactly what we need to get back into reading and remember how fun it can be.

Reading feel-good fiction can also be a great way to relax after a long day.

A dog reading a book called How to Rule Humans.

These books are often easy reads for adults, and they offer a quick escape from the real world.

The books below will boost your mood with a bit of humor and a light touch you’re sure to enjoy.

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion, a light, uplifting book about a misfit that will help you get into the reading habit.

The Rosie Project

Author: Graeme Simsion
Publish Date: 2014
Genres: Contemporary Fiction

One unique man’s quest to find the “perfect wife” leads him to a woman who meets none of his criteria but may just be perfect for him anyway.

Less by Arthur Sean Greer, a book about a man facing his own aging that will help you start a reading habit.

Less

Author: Andrew Sean Greer
Publish Date: 2017
Genres: Contemporary Fiction

A middling novelist facing his 50th birthday and life as a single gay man bumbles his way through a trip around the world. His absolute conviction that he is fluent in German had me laughing out loud. Light on plot, but great for readers who like to follow interesting characters.

A Man Called by Ove by Fredrik Backman

A Man Called Ove

Author: Fredrik Backman
Publish Date: 2015
Genres: Fiction, Contemporary Fiction

Ove is a solitary curmudgeon who is set in his ways and unreserved in his criticism of anyone who crosses his path. But behind his rough exterior is a sweet, sad backstory and a soft-hearted man committed to his morals who has his world rocked by several people (and a cat) who refuse to be held off by a few cranky words. Ove is by turns funny, sad, and heartwarming.