I read a lot, and I never regret spending a large amount of money on books every month. Unfortunately, not everything I come across is as good as its cute cover or Amazon summary promises.
But amongst the not so interesting reads and the subpar plots which I forget about almost immediately, every now and then I get a book I can’t put down and can’t stop thinking about long after it’s over. These are those books for me. Enjoy.
Prep, by Curtis Sittenfeld
Lee arrives on the campus of Ault, an elite East Coast boarding school, the fall of her freshman year. But despite how cheery and promising the school’s info pamphlets are, at the end of the day she’s from the Midwest and her peers….aren’t. She spends the next four years feeling like an outsider on campus, even though she never really makes much of an effort to fit in.
Maybe it’s because I had a similar boarding school experience of living in dorms, attending Chapel, eating seated meals in the dining hall, and attending a biannual campus wide event called “random hook up night,” but this story still makes me cringe because of how relatable it is. Def planning on re-reading again soon.
I Am Charlotte Simmons, by Tom Wolfe
While Tom Wolfe (RIP) is best remembered for works like Bonfire of the Vanities and The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, this book is low-key the best thing he ever wrote.
The story follows Charlotte Simmons as she navigates her first year of college at the fictional Ivy League school, Dupont University. Told from the perspective of several other students including star basketball player, Jojo, and popular frat bro, Hoyt, it addresses the whole hookup culture that is inescapable at college. What’s crazy about this book though, is how realistic the lengthy conversations between college students sound.
American Wife, by Curtis Sittenfeld
By the same author as Prep, this book is just as good. It’s loosely based on the life of Laura Bush pre White House except the book’s protagonist is Alice, not Laura, and she lives in Wisconsin instead of Texas.
The story pretty much revolves around the relationships she has with various men as she goes through her life in basic, middle America, until eventually she meets the man who becomes her husband and the president. I still can’t stop thinking about the tragedy that happens with her high school crush though. It haunts me to this day.
Tell Me Lies, by Carola Lovering
You know when you’re reading a book that is so addicting that you feel kind of empty inside when it’s over? I felt like I had lost a part of myself after reading this.
Lucy and Stephen have a toxic relationship which starts in college and lasts well into their twenties. Lucy has major self esteem problems and Stephen strings her along for 5 years while he dates other, not as hot girls on the side.
Their relationship is an eye opener for anyone who has dated a guy you know is bad, but you keep letting him back into your life over and over again. Kind of like Gone Girl, but for once it’s the guy who’s the sociopath.
A Little Life, by Hanya Yanagihara
This book left me shook.
It’s a saga about a group of four men and the different paths their lives take between when they move to New York after college through their middle age. Jude’s struggle with his childhood memories of being abused and raped becomes the main focus of the story, and in the end he is never able to recover from his past. I can’t really sum up this 800 page book in a single paragraph, but know that you will definitely be left in tears by the end.
City on Fire, by Garth Risk Hallberg
Another huge read (927 pages to be exact), but never without a dull moment. It’s 1976 in New York aka the time when anywhere below Midtown was still sketchy.
After a shooting takes place in Central Park on New Year’s Eve, the lives of two Long Island teenagers, a family of Upper East Side heirs and their respective partners, a magazine reporter and a detective all become intertwined to explain the mystery behind the murder. Dramatic to say the least.
Tuesday Nights in 1980, by Molly Prentiss
So I have actually have a full blown obsession with 1980s New York, which is why another book set in the city around this time made the list. This one revolves around the emerging SoHo art scene during that decade. There’s James – an art critic for The New York Times, Raul – a sexy Argentinian painter whose art is on the rise, and Lucy – a small town girl who comes to New York with neither a job nor an apartment and immediately entangles herself romantically with both men.
Mrs. Fletcher, by Tom Perrotta
What happens when Mrs. Fletcher finds herself divorced at the age of 46 and her only son leaves her to go off to college? She’s alone for the first time in a while and she has to find new ways to occupy her time.
During the day she volunteers at the town’s senior center, but at nights she finds herself becoming addicted to porn and fantasizing about hooking up with a 19 year old guy. Another reason why I love this book is because her son, who is such a dick to girls, finally gets a wake up call about his behavior when he goes to college.
The It Girl series, by Cecily von Ziegesar
Do not lie, you loved these books (among many similar others) when you were 13, and tbh I find myself still thinking about them at least once a week.
This particular series was a spinoff of Gossip Girl, following Jenny as she leaves New York and heads upstate to Waverly Academy boarding school. She quickly gets caught up in the world of her rich classmates, sneaking alcohol and cigs on campus and illegally having guys back to her dorm room. It’s everything I wish boarding school would have been.
The Interestings, by Meg Wolitzer
At a summer arts camp in the 1970s, six teenagers meet and become inseparable. Years down the road they’re all still friends, but while some have become extremely successful in their creative fields, others have had to realize that an artistic job isn’t that sustainable as an adult.
I read this like 10 years ago, but it’s still a favorite. Meg Wolitzer also recently released The Female Persuasion, which is another good read.
Forever, by Judy Blume
This is and will forever remain my favorite book ever. I’ve read it like 50 times. It’s a story of first love, first sexual exploration and what happens when it ends and you both go your separate ways. It literally depresses me when two people who used to be in love suddenly become strangers after a breakup. But I’m just weirdly emotional like that.