Page Turners: 13 Unputdownable Contemporary Fiction Books

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If you’re looking for a great page-turner book, this reading list offers modern unputdownable books that you’ll love. You’ll stay up past your bedtime reading these contemporary fiction page turners.

Earlier this year, I kicked off a series on page turners featuring books you can’t put down with a list of 27 highly readable books to jumpstart your reading habit.

If you’re trying to get back into reading, or just looking for compulsively readable books, the original list of 27 books–covering nine different genres–is a great place to start.

After that post, I decided to continue the series and add more to each genre because three for each just isn’t enough. Books that are page turners tend to be ones we race through–which means if you find a good one, you’ll soon be finished and ready for your next!

There are plenty of unputdownable books to choose from here; just pick the genre that suits your reading mood and you’ll be set with at least 14 page turners from each (and maybe more, because I keep adding to these lists!):

That’s a lot of books! If you’re having trouble deciding where to start, take this handy quiz for a personalized recommendation:

Unputdownable Contemporary Fiction

And this list, of course, covers contemporary fiction page turners.

I tend to read more contemporary fiction than any other genre, and my favorites usually straddle the literary and contemporary lines–they aren’t too highbrow, they tell a great story, and they have excellent writing and character development.

Of course, not all books that fall in these categories could be called “unputdownable”–a book that keeps you up way past your bedtime, or that has you hiding in the closet to read it, or saying, “just one more chapter!” because you have to find out what happens next.

The ones that get that designation usually have characters you care about deeply, high stakes, or an interesting timeline (very short or very long often captures my attention)–or some combination of all of these.

It can be a little hard to pinpoint exactly what makes a book a page turner, but I’d love to hear what elements make a book unputdownable for you–and also share your favorites! Here are 13 of mine.

13 Modern Page-Turner Books that You Won’t Want to Put Down

Far from the Tree by Robin Benway

Far from the Tree


by Robin Benway

Easily one of the best audiobooks I’ve ever listened to, this story of three siblings who find each other as teens is a heartwarming, complicated, and realistic exploration of the many meanings of family.

Read if you like:

  • Books about siblings
  • Stories about foster care and adoption
  • YA books that adults will also appreciate.

You might also like:

All Stories are Love Stories by Elizabeth Percer, a contemporary page turner book

All Stories are Love Stories


by Elizabeth Percer

Two major earthquakes hit San Francisco within an hour of one another, paralyzing the city. A big story made small, following one man’s attempts to walk home to his partner and two former lovers trapped beneath the rubble, this is filled with urgency and humanity at its best and worst.

Read if you like:

  • Books told over short time periods
  • Survival stories
  • Character-driven stories with large events as a backdrop.

You might also like:

On the Come Up by Angie Thomas

On the Come Up


by Angie Thomas

A teen who aspires to hip-hop stardom grapples with poverty and racism and is pulled between her own ideals and the persona the industry wants her to adopt. A compelling follow-up to The Hate U Give that–among other things–showcases the incredible talent and creativity of freestyle rappers.

Read if you like:

  • Books about music and the industry
  • Stories about ambitious teens who face hardship
  • Books that delve into the intricacies of a particular art form.

You might also like:

Boy Swallows Universe by Trent Dalton

Boy Swallows Universe


by Trent Dalton

A boy tries to save his family from the drug kingpin in his seedy Australian suburb. Gritty, violent, and just a little magical, but filled with heart and a main character striving to become a “good man.” I can’t stop raving about this 2019 release.

Read if you like:

  • Stories about society’s gritty underbelly
  • Books that are partially autobiographical
  • Coming-of-age stories.

You might also like:

All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood

All the Ugly and Wonderful Things


by Bryn Greenwood

A neglected girl finds care and companionship with her father’s drug runner. Their relationship changes as she grows up, but the world and the ugliness of her family’s dealings creep in.

Read if you like:

You might also like:

Five Days Left by Julie Lawson Timmer

Five Days Left


by Julie Lawson Timmer

Mara has a successful career as a lawyer and a loving family. She also has a devastating diagnosis and five days to say goodbye. Interwoven with Mara’s story is Scott’s, who she connects with online, and who also has five days before he must say goodbye to a boy he has been fostering.

Read if you like:

  • Stories about living with illness
  • Books about foster care
  • Books about difficult decisions.

You might also like:

After the End by Clare Mackintosh

After the End


by Clare Mackintosh

Young parents Max and Pip must make an impossible decision when their three-year-old son’s tumor damages his brain beyond repair. He can no longer walk, talk, or communicate, and there will be no change. When the two don’t agree on what to do, the court must decide.

Read if you like:

  • Stories about parenting
  • Books with unusual timelines
  • Books that will make you cry.

You might also like:

My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite

My Sister, the Serial Killer


by Oyinkan Braithwaite

Korede would do anything for her sister, Ayoola–and she does, when Ayoola starts killing her boyfriends. As Korede realizes that her sister is veering into serial killer territory, Ayoola sets her sights on the doctor Korede is in love with herself. Korede struggles with how to protect both the man and the sister she loves–but she may have to choose. (This was excellent on audio!)

Read if you like:

  • Dark humor
  • Gravitas balanced with absurdity
  • Books about siblings.

You might also like:

A Job You Mostly Won't Know How to Do by Pete Fromm

A Job You Mostly Won’t Know How to Do


by Pete Fromm

A quiet, achingly sad book about a Montana man whose beloved wife dies in childbirth. He is left to raise their daughter on his own with the help of a small cast of small-town friends and neighbors. One of my best books of 2019.

Read if you like:

  • Books about parent/child relationships
  • Books with quirky local characters
  • Books about grief and healing.

You might also like:

Beartown by Fredrik Backman

Beartown


by Fredrik Backman

A Swedish town defined by its hockey team is undone by one violent act that divides that town. You don’t have to love or know hockey to love this book (and its equally amazing sequel, Us Against You).

Read if you like:

  • Books about sports
  • Books about small town relationships
  • Books about singular passions.

You might also like:

Every Last One by Anna Quindlen

Every Last One


by Anna Quindlen

A mother who seems to have it all together deals with the aftermath of a breathtaking act of violence.

Read if you like:

  • Books about families
  • Books that examine senseless violence
  • Books about grief and healing.

You might also like:

Saving Ruby King by Catherine Adel West

Saving Ruby King


by Catherine Adel West

Ruby King’s mother was murdered in the south side of Chicago, and Ruby is now left with her violent father. Layla, Ruby’s best friend, is determined to save her, but Layla’s and Ruby’s fathers have a past with secrets that bind their families together across generations.

Read if you like:

  • Books about race
  • Books about generational trauma
  • Books about community.

You might also like:

The Antidote for Everything by Kimmery Martin

The Antidote for Everything


by Kimmery Martin

Two South Carolina doctors face off with their clinic when it bans transgender patients, and one is in danger of losing his job because of his sexual orientation.

Read if you like:

  • Serious books with surprising humor
  • Books about friendship
  • Books about injustice and LGTQIA issues.

You might also like:

Support Local Bookstores

Now, more than ever, local bookstores need our support. If you are purchasing books, consider buying local or from Bookshop.org, which supports local, independent bookstores.

Shop my book lists or search Bookshop.org for your next great read:

13 Modern Page Turners You Won’t Want to Put Down

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One Comment

  1. Such great options here! I’ve read several, but have now added more to my TBR.

    Your definition of page-turner is spot-on. In a way, it all comes down to the writing. If the author is good enough they nail the characters and the timeline. I’m also with you, even a longer arc can be riveting.

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