As someone who has read over a thousand books so far, it's no surprise that I've got a ton of book recommendations to give.

I read enough that my reading isn't a secret—my classmates knew, my colleagues know it, and some random acquaintances know it too. They're even more intrigued when I say that I'm a book blogger.

Hence, I've been asked for book recommendations several times. A couple of people have suggested that I make a post so that my best book recommendations are available in one place. I was initially against it because recommending books is a personal thing, you know? Usually, I ask a person about their preferences before suggesting anything.

But, I realized that it would help people who want to refer a list quickly without having to reach out to me personally. And I can easily send this link whenever I want to give a list of books. So, here I am, armed with a list of books that I think are the best and would recommend to everyone.

firstly, what do you like?

There are tons of book lists out there with "the best books to read", "books that everyone should read", "best books for beginners", etc. Barely a few of them talk about whom each book is for.

Here's the thing: recommendations are always contextual. We can try to make a list as generic as possible but it is still influenced by whoever is compiling it. A list will never be perfect for everyone.

Even if you've never read novels before, you will have preferences. What kind of content do you like, in any kind of media? Slice-of-life? Action? Romance? Mystery? Use that information to pick books as well. Don't assume you're a blank slate and don't know what you like.

The biggest mistake you can make is to pick a random book based on a recommendation without checking if it matches your preference.

I'll try to recommend books in a way that you're able to guess if it's to your taste. I'll also try to make the list broad in genres (but of course, I won't recommend books from genres that I don't like). I hope you find at least one book to read next from this list!

NOTE: I will not be recommending pure romance books in this list because I already have another list with the best romance novels that I recommend.

my best book recommendations

1. The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

The first time I read The Shadow of the Wind, I was in 7th grade. It was a random pick from the library. After that, I reread it every year for about 7 more years before the rereads spaced out. Although I haven't reread it in a while now, the story is still entrenched in my mind.

I loved it so much throughout the years that I can't help but recommend it first to anyone and everyone. The book starts with a "cemetery of forgotten books", a young boy entrusted to care for a rare forgotten book, and the mysteries he solves due to the book.

Why you should read it:

  • Fiction with a dark vibe
  • Mystery solved over several years
  • Multiple intertwined characters
  • Tragedy, love, loss
  • Satisfying ending

2. Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin

tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow

This book took the online book community by storm when it was released, and for good reason. It's a brilliant book that sweeps you into its story and keeps you hooked. It's a great book to read with a friend or a group and discuss. It's also a great book to annotate.

Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow is about a boy and a girl who love playing and making games together. We follow their lives from when they met as kids until decades later. We are with them through all the ups and downs. It's not a slice-of-life book and it is also not a book that has a central plot. It simply follows two passionate gamers.

Why you should read it:

  • Platonic relationship focus!
  • Great character growth
  • Amazing relationship growth—with tons of ups and downs like in real life
  • Highlights the good and bad parts of gaming
  • Two very passionate main characters
  • Great supporting characters

3. Remnants of a Separation by Aanchal Malhotra

remnants of a separation book cover

The first non-fiction book in this list so far, and it's a great one. I read this book through a recommendation and was blown away by how good it was. I'm surprised that it's not more popular because it genuinely deserves everything.

Remnants of a Separation is a series of interviews with survivors of the 1947 India-Pakistan partition and mass exodus. Our textbooks don't give a good picture of what actually happened on the ground during that time so this book is a great insight into it.

Why you should read it:

  • Beautifully written.
  • Highlights the lives and opinions of the common people during that time.
  • Shows how the trauma has evolved over the years.
  • Has stories from various perspectives.
  • Teaches about the Partition but also about various cultures and traditions of the people of those areas
  • Very emotional

Click here to read my full review of Remnants of a Separation.

4. Legend series by Marie Lu

legend by marie lu book cover

Books: #1 Legend, #2 Prodigy, #3 Champion, #4 Rebel.

An underrated series that was released during the dystopian wave in the early 2010s. Everyone was obsessed with The Hunger Games and was quickly disappointed by Divergent. Many were disappointed enough not to read dystopian books anymore. Legend deserves much more recognition and readership than what it got.

The story follows two rival kids who are handed very different lives as they become friends, learn more about their society beneath the facade, and become rebels to overthrow people in power. It's a story made with familiar starting plotlines that are easy to read and lose oneself in.

Why you should read it:

  • Genius girl goes undercover to kill a rebel boy and likes him instead
  • Rebel boy who does all he can to protect his family
  • Thrilling action-packed story
  • Great characters
  • Will break your heart multiple times

5. Show Your Work! by Austin Kleon

Show Your Work! by Austin Kleon book cover

Non-fiction had not been my genre for a long time because I was reading the wrong books. It was books like Show Your Work that made me realize that non-fiction is much more than biographies and boring self-help. I loved it so much that I'm keeping it on my shelf forever.

Show Your Work is a small book with advice on creating content by showing your work. The book suggests different ways to show our work by easily leveraging the internet and explains how it will help.

Why you should read it:

  • Small book but gives great advice
  • Addresses how creatives now are different from creatives a hundred years back.
  • Mentions practical steps one can take to immediately start showing work
  • The points are mainly for creatives but can be taken by anybody
  • Refreshing and useful
  • Will inspire you to create

6. The Palace of Illusions by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

the palace of illusions book cover

The Palace of Illusions is a good feminist retelling of the Indian epic—the Mahabharata. I was blown away by how good it was when I read it. Although it's a bit known, not many have read it so I'm here to push it on everyone.

The actual epic goes through multiple characters and different storylines that eventually converge, but it never actually focuses on the women. Women are always the supporting characters. The Palace of Illusions retelling tells the story from Panchali's point of view.

Why you should read it:

  • A good introduction to the Mahabharata epic if you don't know about it.
  • Well-written book.
  • Easy to read.
  • The story delves into multiple characters well.
  • We see Panchali as a person instead of a sidekick wife!

Click here to read my full review of The Palace of Illusions.

7. The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

the song of achilles book cover

Speaking of mythology retellings, I can't not mention The Song of Achilles. It's highly popular and praised by everyone who has read it for a good reason.

The Song of Achilles is a retelling of the story of Achilles from Patroclus's point of view. In the Illiad, Achilles and Patroclus's relationship is a deep and meaningful one but there's no confirmation on whether it was romantic or not. This retelling takes the romantic route and delves into both characters and their relationship.

Why you should read it:

  • Will keep you HOOKED.
  • Great character development.
  • Great relationship development.
  • Shows the Greek myth well.
  • The emotional turmoil and pining is *chef's kiss*.

8. Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb

maybe you should talk to someone by Lori Gottlieb book cover

A non-fiction book that reads like fiction, Maybe You Should Talk to Someone was so nice to read that I pushed a non-fiction book towards everyone for the first time.

The book is written by a therapist about her therapy journey and of a few of her patients. It's about how therapy works, how it helps, and gives insight from both sides of the room. The book is also about what being human is and how we can all do better in our daily lives.

Why you should read it:

  • The book is structured like therapy, which is really interesting.
  • Each chapter makes a point and is worthy of reading.
  • Delves into human emotions.
  • Follows a variety of people to show a variety of messy lives.
  • Written very well.

Click here to read my full review of Maybe You Should Talk to Someone.

9. Mindf*ck series by S. T. Abby

the risk by S. T. Abby book cover

Books: #1 The Risk, #2 Sidetracked, #3 Scarlet Angel, #4 All the Lies, #5 Paint It All Red.

If you asked me for a story which delivers in all aspects, I would answer with this series. Right from the beginning of The Risk (book 1), the series doesn't hold back punches. There's a reason I read all 5 books of the series in ONE day and it continues to live in my mind.

The Mindf*ck series follows a serial killer taking her revenge and the FBI agent who is hunting her. They coincidentally meet at a coffee shop and hit it off but soon his profession and her secret life careen towards each other. As the story goes on, the reader is forced to think about who is right and who is wrong, and whom to root for.

Why you should read it:

  • Don't go by the covers, the story is brilliant.
  • Badass serial killer main character that you can't help but root for.
  • FBI profiler AKA The Perfect Good Guy™whos worldviews are challenged.
  • All the gory details of revenge murders.
  • Creepy settings, perfect for the Halloween vibe.
  • Gripping story full of action and thrilling scenes.

10. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury book cover

I always thought classics were boring and had to be trudged through. Then, Fahrenheit 451 came along and proved me wrong. Out of all the books I read, it is the only book (yet) that I planned to return but haven't been able to part with.

Fahrenheit 451 follows a man in a futuristic society who's job is to destroy books, until his beliefs are challenged and he is forced to question everything he knows. It's an intriguing and wonderful book about the place of books in society and how we will basically disintegrate without them.

Why you should read it:

  • Fast-paced, interesting story.
  • Written several decades ago but the story still holds weight today.
  • Great character growth and chaotic consequences due to it.
  • Has a ton of valid commentary on our media and where humanity is going.
  • A story that will surprise you and make you think.

Read my full review of Fahrenheit 451.

11. Perfect Strangers by J. T. Geissinger

perfect strangers book cover

Out of all the books that I've read, Perfect Strangers is the only one that hooked its claws into me so badly that I took it with me to the office and was losing my mind there. One of my friends has told that out of the several books she read on my recommendation, this is the best one.

Perfect Strangers follows a grief-stricken author who meets a hot guy on a vacation as she tries to get out of writer's block. However, what seems like a regular romance soon becomes something else entirely. It's probably the most unique book I've ever read.

Why you should read it:

  • It will shock you out of your seat multiple times.
  • Is it a romance? Who knows. All I know is that it's brilliant no matter what genre you label it as.
  • A plot that keeps you on your toes.
  • Will make you forget about everything else for a while.
  • A book unlike anything else that you have read.

12. Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harrari

sapiens book cover

This book is popular and on several "best books to read" lists for a reason. I was a little sceptical of the hype but understood it soon after starting it. Immediately after finishing it, I gave it to a friend so that more people would read it. It's too good.

A non-fiction book that goes through the history of Sapiens, it condenses decades of research and history into one easily readable book. It's a one-of-a-kind history book.

Why you should read it:

  • Very easy to read. Usually history books are hard and boring but this isn't.
  • Well-written with good pacing. The author spends just the right amount of time on everything.
  • Answers many questions and raises some more.
  • Shows parallels between different parts of history and also with current times.
  • Debunks some myths and widely maintained beliefs.
  • Highly educational.
  • A book that will make you understand our history and lives much more.

13. The Plated Prisoner series by Raven Kennedy

Gild by Raven Kennedy book cover

Books: #1 Gild, #2 Glint, #3 Gleam, #4 Glow, #5 Gold, #6 Goldfinch.

I picked the first book Gild as a random read and was soon caught up in this magical world with a golden main character. The story and writing had such a hold on me that I pretty much devoured all the books in no time. The books range from 400 to 700 pages but are written in such a way that you will finish them faster than 300-page books.

The story follows a golden-touch girl as she is broken out of captivity and learns to become confident and powerful. That's a very abstract generalization because the book has much more than that. However, at the core, is Auren as she takes control of her power and her life.

Why you should read it:

  • A highly gripping story that will not let you go.
  • Easy to read and lose oneself in.
  • Adult fantasy book that is much more than just fantasy.
  • Great character development!
  • Intriguing relationship development.
  • Full of danger, twists, and villains.
  • Will get you out of a reading slump.

14. Building a Second Brain by Tiago Forte

building a second brain book cover

Out of all the self-help books that I've read so far, this is the only one that has been truly helpful. This is the only one that gave advice and actionable steps that almost immediately made a difference in my daily life.

Building a Second Brain teaches you how to create and maintain your ideal second brain so that you can be your best creative and productive self. In its core, it has a simple philosophy: take notes. But it has a huge impact, especially with the different methods it suggests.

Why you should read it:

  • Makes a case for the second brain so well with real daily issues that we all face.
  • Good explanation of everything mentioned.
  • Relatable examples and case studies are mentioned instead of only those of billionaires and businessmen.
  • Practical advice and action steps are provided that you can immediately start working on.
  • Provides help for all things around the second brain so you don't need anything except this one book.
  • A timeless book that you can keep coming back to when your life feels like a mess.

15. The Green Bone Saga series by Fonda Lee

jade city by fonda lee

Books: #1 Jade City, #2 Jade War, #3 Jade Legacy.

Although this series is fairly popular in online book circles, it's still not as popular as it deserves. And it definitely deserves more prominent shelf space in bookstores. So here I am, doing my bit to push the books on you.

The Green Bone Saga follows a Green Bone family who are clan leaders through decades as they engage in a slow war against another clan. The series has magic, power, politics, evolving countries, and more.

Why you should read it:

  • One of the most elaborate fictional worlds I have read about. The author has not spared effort in fleshing out supporting settings.
  • The only fantasy story I've read where the world evolves and changes to bring about new challenges.
  • A big cast of flawed characters.
  • Amazing character growth!
  • Brilliant politics.
  • A good amount of danger and battles.
  • You go on a long journey with the characters.

16. A Good Girl's Guide to Murder series by Holly Jackson

a good girl's guide to murder book cover

Books: #1 A Good Girl's Guide to Murder, #2 Good Girl, Bad Blood, #3 As Good As Dead.

This is the only Young Adult book in this list. I don't generally like YA nowadays but this series was just too good that it stands out against most of the books that I've read.

A Good Girl's Guide to Murder follows Pip as she investigates a 5-year-old case as a project because something about it doesn't add up. Soon after she starts digging, dangerous things start happening to scare her away which makes her more determined to find out the truth. But can the town handle the truth?

Why you should read it:

  • A suspenseful mystery set in a small town.
  • A high schooler who dreams of being an investigative journalist.
  • Shocking twists throughout the three books.
  • Books 1 & 2 are brilliant and book 3 smashes through everything that you thought you knew.
  • Fast-paced and a little eerie.
  • Full of danger and obsession.
  • A gripping story that keeps you on the edge of your seat.

17. Ace by Angela Chen

ace by angela chen book cover

You know that a book is a gem when it makes you feel understood and seen like nothing else. Ace was such a book for me. Although it was praised well, I didn't expect just how good it would be.

Ace is a non-fiction book that explores the role of sex in society and proposes that asexuality should be the default through interviews and cultural criticism. It's only around 200 pages but packs enough to keep you thinking for a long time.

Why you should read it:

  • Incredibly well-written. Chapters seamlessly integrate interviews, criticism, discussions, and the author's personal experiences.
  • Questions the increasingly sexual undertones everywhere in modern society and its affects.
  • Explores asexuality, why it is disregarded or hated, and how viewing it as the default can help.
  • Lots of insightful interviews with queer people.
  • Starts discussions that need to be had.

Read my full review of Ace.

18. Vera Wong's Unsolicited Advice for Murderers by Jesse Q. Sutanto

vera wong's unsolicited advice for murderers book cover

Few books grab your heart right from the start. And fewer books accurately capture what it's like to get to know a person in real life. Vera Wong's Unsolicited Advice for Murderers was both and more.

The story follows Vera Wong, an Asian sixty-year-old tea shop owner, who decides to investigate a murder after a random person's dead body is found in her shop one day. It has the whole package of emotions that you want in a light-hearted book.

Why you should read it:

  • It's absolutely hilarious. It has many funny moments that will make you laugh out loud.
  • The story is heart-warming. Reading about the lonely Vera Wong making friends and a found family by being a nosy auntie is the BEST.
  • A cast of characters that you can't help but root for, even while you suspect that they could be murderers.
  • Lots of great descriptions of food and tea that will make you crave them.
  • Will leave you feeling happy and content.

19. All For the Game series by Nora Sakavic

Books: #1 The Foxhole Court, #2 The Raven King, #3 The King's Men, #4 The Sunshine Court, #5 ???

the foxhole court book cover

And lastly, my absolutely favourite (currently). If you've been seeing my blog posts for the past few months, you won't be surprised about this being on the list. I love this series to bits and will gladly talk about it 24x7.

All For the Game follows Neil, a boy with many secrets, as he is drafted for a college team to play the sport Exy. Joining the team might be his undoing... or it might just save his life.

Why you should read it:

  • The most flawed, vulnerable, self-sabotaging, amazing, cruel, brilliant characters that you will ever read about.
  • The best found-family story EVER. Nothing will top this.
  • Books that will break your heart into tiny pieces and put back together over and over.
  • A fictional sport that heightens all the stakes.
  • Japanese mafia in the background that makes every move dangerous.
  • A group of broken college kids that become a fierce family.
  • Just read it.
  • P. S. Remember when the author went into radio silence after dropping the first 3 books a decade back? Well, she's back with MORE BOOKS IN THE SERIES. OUT OF NOWHERE. Go read the series (and go read The Sunshine Court, book #4, if you haven't!!!) (TSC2 is officially in the works too!) (Yes, I have zero chill for these books and characters, and I'm not ashamed.)

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I genuinely felt like rereading every book/series above as I was writing about them. I feel incredibly lucky to have read such brilliant books, each of which I could talk about for hours. It's so hard to condense the amazingness of books into a few selling points but I tried my best. You will just have to trust me and read them.

Have you read any of the books I mentioned? Are you adding any to your list? What are your best book recommendations? Share them with me in the comments!

photo of Sumedha

Sumedha spends her days reading books, bingeing Kdramas, drawing illustrations, and blogging while listening to Lo-Fi music. Read more ➔

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16 comments

  • Marie says:

    Oh what a fantastic post, thank you for putting it together! <3 and what a trip down memory lane, with Shadow of the Wind. I read this one AGES ago and still remember it fondly, such a fantastic, unique story <3

    Reply ➔
    • sumedha @ the wordy habitat says:

      thank you, Marie! I have such an urge to reread The Shadow of the Wind after writing this post, it was genuinely so good 🥹

      Reply ➔
  • abookowlscorner says:

    I genuinely thought I'd already commented on this before leaving for my grand hiking vacation, but I guess not... Whoops 😂🙈 However, I just had to come bacl because I love your list so much - there's such a diverse mixture of books, and seeing that I loved almost all of the ones on here that I've read, except for Fahrenheit 451 (it was okay) and the third AGGGTM book (I hated the ending), I probably have great chances of finding even more favorites among these!

    As to which other books I've read, I think you probably already know about most of them, but for completeness' sake, here they are: The Shadow of the Wind (I should really reread this and continue on with the series!), Tomorrow, Tomorrow, and Tomorrow (By the way, have you read Gabrielle Zevin's The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry? I loved that one even more!), The Song of Achilles (🥰), Jade City (I mean, you already know how much I love this...), and All for the Game (Obviously. But seeing you gush about it again made me so happy!).

    You've actually made me really curious to try Legend, though. Somehow, within my huge YA dystopian phase, I never read that one?

    Reply ➔
    • sumedha @ the wordy habitat says:

      haha that’s alright. i would love to hear your thoughts on the other books! our books are like a venn diagram with a few mutual favourites but many books that we enjoy even if we don’t love them like the other person 😂

      I haven’t read The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry! I will get to it soon. I did get Young Jane Young by Zevin on my last bookstore trip though.

      You HAVE to read Legend!! it has its flaws but is genuinely so good. i would rate THG as #1 dystopian ofc but Legend is #2 for sure.

      Reply ➔
      • abookowlscorner says:

        I think I should actually have reviews for most of them up on my blog, should you be interested in digging deeper! Either way, though, I feel like our Venn diagram has the biggest overlap in the mutual favorites section, so that's always great to know! 💙

        Oooooh, that is high praise of Legend intead! 👀 I guess I do have to read it sooner rather than later! 😂

        Reply ➔
  • Charlotte says:

    Oh wow I haven't read any of these 🙈 although a few have been on my TBR for a while and a few others I've had to add after reading your thoughts.

    Firstly as soon as I saw that it starts with 'a cemetery of forgotten books' I knew that I needed Shadow Of The Wind on my tbr. If I saw it elsewhere I'd have skipped over the Mindf*ck series given the covers and series title but it sounds so intriguing. And I somehow never knew what Fahrenheit 451 was about. Although obviously I had heard of it.

    Green Bones saga & Song Of Achilles have been high priority on my TBR for a while so I really should get to them soon. I've wanted to read the Legend series for ages too. I have finally read a book by the author though and really enjoyed it.

    As someone who loves retellings, especially when they give women more of a voice, I really do need to check out Palace Of Illusion.

    It's also good to know you enjoyed the Plated Prisoner series so much. I've got the ebooks so maybe I should prioritise them soon. (Along with Good Girls Guide which I have in the same format).

    I loved seeing all of your recommendations and how you shared enough to excite curious readers without venturing into spoiler territory.

    Reply ➔
    • sumedha @ the wordy habitat says:

      I’m so glad I managed to add a few books to your TBR! You will love them.

      On The Mindf*ck series, I like to say that it’s titled that way because the main character lowkey fucks with people’s minds, and sometimes it fucks with our minds too 😂 (hmm maybe i should mention this in the post)

      thank you! 😊

      Reply ➔
  • Sophie @ Me & Ink says:

    I love the variety of books on this list and how you've laid it out. I am sorry to say I have read very few books on this list and shall seek to change this 🤭 luckily I adore the green bone saga and the foxhole court, so it is looking good.

    I really want to read Palace of Illusions so I'm glad you speak so highly of it. I shall have to make it high priority.

    I hadn't heard of building a second brain before, but if sounds like an interesting and different self help book. Hopefully I would gain something from it.

    Great list ❤️ thank you for sharing!

    Reply ➔
  • Manjushree S says:

    My TBR list keeps om growing because of you!!
    Just for you to add one more, I feel "Yajnaseni" has a much better depiction of Draupadi & Mahabharata than "The Palace of Illusions". Give it a try!
    Now let me go and start a new book off your list.

    Reply ➔
    • sumedha @ the wordy habitat says:

      mission accomplished 😎
      ooh i’ll check out Yajnaseni! i am looking to read more retellings because there’s a ton i’m yet to explore. i’m sure this list will evolve as i read more 😊

      Reply ➔
  • Kristina says:

    Ive loved ace & vera wong- still need to reas maybe you should talk to someone! Of course, the latest had always been checked out on my libby app for ages 😅

    Reply ➔