Spring break is just around the corner, and you know what that means — it’s time to forget about school for a week and kick back on the beach, in a ski lodge or wherever you choose to spend your free time. The problem is, there’s only so much time you can give Netflix before feeling like your eyes are going to fall out of your head. But don’t worry — you can always turn to a book. If that’s your style, below are five of my favorite books, all of which I loved reading and found to be engrossing and memorable.
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
This is my favorite book of all time, but I would only recommend this to mature readers who honestly enjoy reading. First of all, it isn’t lighthearted and takes a little while to get into, and second of all, it’s more than 700 pages long. This has garnered some criticism from reviewers who felt that the book could have easily lost a couple hundred pages, but I loved everything I read. It seems to me that you either love this book or can’t get into it, but I certainly fall into the former category, and it’s worth a try either way. The Goldfinch follows Theo Decker, who, as a young teenager, survived a terrorist attack while in an art museum and took a small painting (The Goldfinch by Carel Fabritius) with him. The painting serves as a source of hope as his life unwinds from that point on. The Goldfinch is full of vivid, unforgettable characters and incredible writing, and is a book that I don’t think I’ll ever forget. It’s definitely not what you’d call a “juicy beach read,” but it’s a beautiful book that will occupy your thoughts for a long time.
Room by Emma Donoghue
This is one of the most engrossing books I’ve ever read. From the first page, I was completely hooked. Room is one of those books that drags you along with the story. I couldn’t put it down the first time I read it, and I even went back to read it a second time a year later and was equally as entranced. Room follows a 5-year-old boy named Jack, who, unbeknownst to him, is a captive of a man who kidnapped his mother, Ma, before he was born. The two are imprisoned in a small, inescapable shed that Jack calls “Room,” hence the book’s title. Jack has never ventured outside of Room’s four walls and believes that it’s the whole world. Eventually, Ma realizes that they can’t stay in Room and begins to devise plans of escape. Long story short, Room is a beautifully written, heartfelt book that I can’t recommend enough. Jack’s experiences adapting to the outside world are equal parts heartbreaking, humorous and poignant, and, once you’re done reading, you can watch the movie, which does an incredible job of bringing the book to life.
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
All the hype and praise that comes along with Gone Girl is completely justified. This book is the ultimate beach-read, but — and this is what makes it one of my favorite books — it didn’t feel like I was reading something totally meaningless that would entertain me for the time being, but that I’d ultimately forget about upon finishing. It’s dark, twisted, psychologically thrilling and utterly captivating. Gone Girl revolves around Nick Dunne, a Missouri-based man whose beautiful, golden-girl wife Amy suddenly and mysteriously disappears. All eyes turn to him in accusation as Amy’s disappearance becomes a national mystery, but the question arises of whether or not he really did it. With one of the best twists you’ll ever read, Gone Girl is a book that will grab your attention and keep it occupied until the very last word. Same goes for the movie.
Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
Like Gone Girl, Big Little Lies is another beach-read with substance. You might have heard about or seen the TV series that came out last year (another must-watch after reading the book), but the book that started it all is one you shouldn’t miss. It takes place in a seaside town in Australia and focuses on three different mothers who become close friends against the background of schoolyard drama. Right at the beginning of the book, you learn that someone in their close circles is dead, and the mystery and the struggles the three women face in their lives evolve throughout the plot. I really enjoyed Big Little Lies. Moriarty manages to handle important topics without becoming heavy or overly serious, and the finished result is a captivating book that does a great job of exploring family dynamics and individual lives.
The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
This memoir reads more like a work of fiction. Like Room, it’s a book that immediately captivated me. I can’t say that many books have made me laugh out loud, but this one did more than once. Walls recounts the highly dysfunctional upbringing that she and her siblings experienced at the hands of her parents, two of the most complex characters you’ll ever come across. Her parents, Rex and Rose Mary Walls — both of them blessed with no small amount of charisma, intelligence and talent — succeeded in raising their children the best they could, but their faults and selfishness brought out the ugly side of Walls’ childhood. Despite the many hardships and unfair responsibilities that Walls dealt with, she never conveys even a hint of self-pity or blame towards her parents, which made the book that much more profound. The Glass Castle is a book I truly loved, both moving and humorous, triumphant and inspirational. It’s definitely not a story that you’ll forget anytime soon.