26 Great Books You’ve Been Too Busy to Read.

Via on Dec 30, 2011

Technology is awesome.

Between television, and texting and Twitter, we don’t even have to talk to each other anymore–let alone read a book. Don’t get me wrong, I love technology, and I do think it’s possible to use it mindfully.

Television seems to get better and worse every year. Friends are always telling me about great shows to which I reply “Yeah…I remember reading about that somewhere.” And I always  intend to check them out (but instead forget, get busy, and then usually watch three years down the road on Netflix.) Movies can be a great way to unwind, and definitely fuel my creativity. But when life is busy, curling up with a great book is the perfect anti-busy, especially in the wintertime. Go for a long snowy hike on a Sunday morning with the kids, curl up by the fire with a great book in the afternoon while they play. Perfect unplugged winter day.

Last year for my birthday my parents bought me a Nook. I love the idea of the Nook. Eco-friendly, less paper waste, instant gratification, books are cheaper, very portable, nice in the bathtub….and I do use it. Sometimes. But there’s something about a real book. The feel of the pages, the cracking of the spine when you open it for the first time, the smell of it–especially one from a used bookstore. I just can’t give that up.

If you’re making more time for books, here’s a list to get you started. Ten was too few…52 was too much. Here are 26 that I love, a new one every other week:

1. Leaves of Grass – Walt Whitman. Sure you’ve read it. Or have you? Maybe you remember some of it from high school or college. When was the last time you sat down and read a book of poetry cover to cover? “This is what you shall do…

2. Walden ~ Henry David Thoreau. I’ve read it at least once a year since I was 12. Usually in the fall, but it’s good whenever you’ve forgotten to live deliberately and suck the marrow out of life. If you’re up my way, I’ll show you a great spot to go skinny dipping at Walden pond.

3. Nine Stories ~ J.D. Salinger. There might come a week where you want something shorter to read. Good things come in small packages. (Great things in this case.)

4. Wuthering Heights ~Emily Bronte. Edward and Bella have nothing on Catherine and Heathcliff. Gorgeous and magical.

5. The Hobbit ~ J.R.R. Tolkein. Read it when I was eight, a few more times since. If you’ve never read it, engage your childish wonder and read it before the movie comes out.

6. Cathedral ~ Raymond Carver. Love Carver, poetry and prose. When he hit rock bottom with his drinking and clawed his way up towards sobriety, this was what he wrote next.

7. The Sun Also Rises ~ Ernest Hemingway. My favorite Hemingway. Actually, the only Hemingway I liked.

8. Stand Still Like the Hummingbird ~ Henry Miller. Stories and essays and autobiography and…well, if you are an artist you need to read it. If you are a writer, read it. If you are a human being (or even if you’re not) you should give it a read.

9. The Little Prince ~ Antoine de Saint-Exupery. Some people read the Bible a little every day. I read The Little Prince. It’s only a children’s book in the sense that all of us still have the child we were inside us, and we’ve forgotten to listen to him or her. This is your Berlitz guide to understanding what you’ve forgotten.

10. Still Life with Woodpecker ~ Tom Robbins. It’s the anti-romantic comedy. The subtitle is “a sort-of love story.” I sort-of completely loved it.

11. A Room With A View ~ E.M. Forster. The opposite of Still Life, in the best possible way. Flawless. (Thanks to Merchant-Ivory, the movie is as good as the book. Watch it…after you finish the book.)

12. Blonde ~ Joyce Carol Oates. Marilyn Monroe is-it-fiction-is-it-a-biography goodness. Sad and lovely, like Marilyn.

13. The Children’s Book ~ A. S. Byatt. It’s a tough start, but keep at it. You won’t regret it.

14. Don Quioxte ~ Miguel De Cervantes. To dream the impossible dream…we all need to remember this. Don’t be intimidated, just dive into it and let yourself be delighted and inspired.

15. Fahrenheit 451 ~ Ray Bradbury. Get re-acquainted with your inner adolescent sci-fi nerd. (I know he or she is still in there.)

16. The Abstinence Teacher ~ Tom Perrotta. Tom Perrotta has a way with small town life: funny, frightening, and real.

17. The Jungle ~ Upton Sinclair. Everybody’s heard of somebody who read it and stopped eating meat. How about you? And follow it up with…

18. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle ~ Barbara Kingsolver. It’s not one of her novels, but definitely one of my favorites. It’s like being part of a great conversation with your favorite hippie aunt.

19. Cat’s Eye ~ Margaret Atwood. Great read for everyone who didn’t peak in high school. Which is to say, everyone.

20. The Great Gatsby ~ F. Scott Fitzgerald. You’ve probably read it before. Or were supposed to read it. Read it again. Follow it up with…

21. Complete Stories by Dorothy Parker. Just because.

22. On the Road ~ Jack Kerouac. Yeah, you have a copy. It’s a hipster materialist must-have. When was the last time you actually read it? Dig in. Get inspired.

23. Out of Africa ~ Isak Dinesen (Karen Blixen.) Allow yourself to be transported. I’ve wanted to sit at the foot of the Ngong hills since the first time I read it. I’ll get there. (This is another case where the film makers actually captured the book, mainly due to Meryl Streep and Robert Redford.)

24. Lucky ~ Alice Sebold. What doesn’t kill us make us so much stronger.

25. Her Fearful Symmetry ~ Audrey Niffenegger. Ever wonder what it would be like to be a twin? A twin born to a twin? And live with romantic ghosts in London?

26. Great Expectations ~ Charles Dickens. One of the best-known, least-read books that you need to own.

What did I miss? Hate any of them? Love them? It was hard to stop at 26, but instead of me making a list of 260, add your favorites to the comments!

About Kate Bartolotta

Kate Bartolotta is the strongest girl in the world. She is the love child of a pirate and a roller derby queen. She hails from the second star to the right. Her love of words is boundless, but she knows that many of life’s best moments are completely untranslatable. When she is not writing, you may find her practicing yoga, devouring a book, playing with her children, planting dandelions, or dancing barefoot with her heart on her sleeve. She is madly in love with life and does not know how this story ends; she’s making it up as she goes. Kate is the owner and editor-in-chief of Be You Media Group. She also writes for The Huffington Post, elephant journal, The Good Men Project, The Green Divas, Yoganonymous, The Body Project, Project Eve, Thought Catalog and Soulseeds. She facilitates writing workshops and retreats throughout North America. Heart Medicine, Kate's book on writing, is now available on Amazon.com You can follow Kate on Facebook and Twitter

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132 Responses to “26 Great Books You’ve Been Too Busy to Read.”

  1. Ingrid says:

    This is an impossible task! You are brave for taking a crack at it. There are so many wonderful classics on your list. Here are a few I’ve loved in the last ten years:

    The Time Traveler’s Wife, Audrey Niffenegger
    The Elegance of the Hedgehog, by Muriel Barbery
    Half Broke Horses, Jeanette Walls
    Breadcrumbs, Anne Ursu (kid lit is often underrated)
    The Master Butcher’s Singing Club, Louise Erdrich (anything by her really)
    The Invention of Hugo Cabret, Brian Selznick (again, kid lit)
    Devil in the White City, Eric Larson
    Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn

    These are all books I would describe as beautifully crafted and personally moving. Thanks for the conversation!

  2. Marc Agren (Mexico) says:

    Missing “The Lover” Marguerite Duras and “The English Patient” by Michael Ondaatje !!!!!!

  3. Debbie Wilton says:

    You had me right up until Her Fearful Symmetry. That was an awful book and a dreadful waste of time and money. Time Traveller's Wife on the other hand is one of my favourite books.

  4. cynthia says:

    Dream Work ( poetry ) by Mary Oliver, High Tide in Tucson ( essays) by Barbara KIngsolver, Interpreter of Maladies (short stories) by Jhumpa Lahiri, Eating Animals(non fiction) by Jonathan Safran Foer

  5. [...] and afternoons are spent reading (your imagination has been hungry and you continue to devour books as if you have been starving [...]

  6. [...] 1. Read a book. Grab something you’ve always wanted to read and get to it. [...]

  7. [...] As you can imagine, this does not go over well; the person asking is hurt that I don’t have time for them and I am furious, and quite honestly, a little depressed, that I don’t have time for myself. [...]

  8. Michael says:

    No offense, but Out Of Africa the film is an example of capturing the book? The character of Denys Finch-Hatton, played by Redford couldn't have been more miscast. People who haven't read the book may think the character was American when he was actually British.

  9. Coldnoseca says:

    The Alexandria Quartet by Lawrence Durrell. I read it almost every summer, a fantastic book. Also Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry. Both are classics.

  10. Ana says:

    Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston, The Way of the Peaceful Warrior, Dan Millman, Tess of the D'Ubervilles, Thomas Hardy……………..

  11. Denise Steiner says:

    The Book Thief – one of the most remarkable stories,,,heartwrenching!

  12. sharon says:

    R o o m ~ by Emma Donoghue

  13. Lucy says:

    Wuthering Heights is probably my all-time most loved book, so much passion from a young female writer in a time when it was deemed inappropriate, plus I grew up near that moor and now it's far away, and I miss it. I was also really happy to see Dickens on the list, and Margaret Atwood's Cat's Eye had such a profound effect on me certain passages and themes regularly pop into my mind, although I've not picked it up for over ten years. Awesome list!

  14. Gabii says:

    The bronzed Horseman from Paulina Simmons belongs on this list …its a page turner

  15. cynthia says:

    anything by barbara kingsolver. high tide in tucson, the first thing i read of hers, got me hooked.

  16. theja says:

    Rebecca- Daphne du Maurier, pride and Prejudice- Jane Austen, Mariana- Monica Dickens, Things Fall Apart- Chnuha Achebe.

  17. Holly says:

    Lonesome Dove ~ Larry McMurtry. BTW, laughed at Nook comment in a bathtub.

  18. Elizabeth Kumari says:

    Love! I’ve read all but 5. And the Westie with the glasses could be my dog, Patsy. Made my day and gave me a few new book ideas…

  19. Howard says:

    What a great post. I think my book list must be past 50 by now… I have to mention Bel Canto, by Ann Patchett. Never has a book left me more emotionally spent.

  20. yogamom says:

    This book is a MUST. 'OUR CROWD' Stephen Birmingham, also "The Red Tent". last but not least "Once we were brothers"

  21. ellenx says:

    nice list- always fun to feed my fiction addiction w new book lists & more suggestions in the comments…
    it makes me sad that "the sun also rises" is ur only hemingway! i implore u to read "a moveable feast" & "the green hills of africa"- both r amazing! he is the master of the simple sentence…
    a few of my faves:
    tiny beautiful things– cheryl strayed
    kitchen confidential– anthony bourdain
    a prayer for owen meany– john irving
    post office– charles bukowski
    disquiet– julia leigh
    she's come undone– wally lamb
    the year of magical thinking– joan didion
    just kids– patti smith
    blood, bones & butter– gabrielle hamilton
    and the ass saw the angel– nick cave
    the good earth– pearl s. buck
    the redneck manifesto– jim goad
    no laughing matter– joseph heller
    sometimes a great notion– ken kesey
    a heartbreaking work of staggering genius– dave eggers

  22. Michael Trim says:

    I have to disagree with the Out Of Africa statement about the movie capturing the book perfectly. Meryl was incredible but the casting of Robert Redford was horrendous. He was an Englishman in the book, not an American cowboy.

  23. HipsterMonk says:

    Sorry, but a really uninspiring list. No surprises here. And I don’t believe you read Walden “at least once per year.” I certainly don’t believe you read The Little Prince every day. C’mon now. Be honest with you yourself and your readers.

  24. soleil_ak says:

    The Tale of Genji. Written in 12th Century Japan…by a woman.

  25. Julie says:

    Thank you for this list – have read many and put others on my to read list! There are some great non-fictions in here, btw … Barbara Kingsolver … Loren Eiseley was one writer who blew my mind with his The Immense Journey; also Annie Dillard writes Pilgrim at Tinker Creek – so awesome. I've read some amazing memoirs as well. And I think some of my first reads in my early twenties, was East of Eden by John Steinbeck, which made deep impressions on me. I love books from a naturalist perspective such as Sharing A Robin's Life by Linda Johns. Joseph Boyden is an amazing First Nation writer; I loved his Three Day Road, as well as others. Interesting comments!

  26. Laura says:

    Thank you, as a I was not raised in an anglo-saxon culture, your list makes me curious, I’m going to explore it step by step.

    Here are some more ideas:

    Milan Kundera: The unbearable lightness of being

    David Grossman: Lion’s honey

    Lessing: Nathan the wise

    Orhan Pamuk: Snow

    Salman Rushdie: Midnight’s children

    Paul Auster: Moon Palace

  27. kylie says:

    To kill a mockingbird, my all time favourite

  28. Elien says:

    Love the suggestions and just what I needed, thanks! I would add Jane Austen (Emma is one of my favorites, light yet witty), Paulo Coelho (Brida, magical!), John Steinbeck, Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer, Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson…I can keep coming up with more but I'll stop here…Oh and please try A moveable Feast by Hemmingway, it's a memoir about his years in Paris..even if you don't like Hemmingway ;)

  29. Elien says:

    Joanne Harris! I loved “Peaches for monsieur le Cure’ and ‘Red Shoes’

  30. gusty gonesailing says:

    "A Walk in the Woods" by Bill Bryson

  31. Marissa says:

    Louisa May Alcott – She reaches beyond Little Women. She really did write stories of intrigue, longing, with provocative antagonists. The Long Fatal Love Chase – it’s a quick read, one of my favorites. Hospital Sketches – LMA spent a short time as a nurse caring for Union soldiers during the Civil War. This was a little fiction memoir with a lot of ties to her real life experiences, much like her most well-known novel – Little Women.

  32. Dania Fuentes says:

    ONE HUNDRES YEARS OF SOLITUD by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, PLATERO Y YO ( in spanish but it is an amazing read) thanks for sharing :)

  33. Tommy says:

    Confederacy of Dunces- John Kennedy Toole
    Hunger- Knut Hamsun
    Women- Charles Bukowski

  34. Laurie-Michelle says:

    Ishmael by Daniel Quinn

  35. Dottie says:

    Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese, A Bend in the River by V. S. Naipal, The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy

  36. Dana says:

    1984 by George Orwell. A pivotal book!

  37. aquamango says:

    Leaning Towards Infinity

    True History of the Kelly Gang (people should get into Australian authors – they're brilliant)

  38. Molly says:

    I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.

  39. Laura says:

    The Grapes of Wrath…or anything by Steinbeck.

  40. Anything Raymond Carver is a hit for me. I tried to mix it up between classics, recent reads I liked, and older stuff that might not make most "classics" lists. I will definitely check out The Leftovers…like a lot of Perrotta's stuff…Election & Little Children were both good…Joe College…eh. Not a hit. Thanks, Jay!

  41. Jay – I have tried so hard to like Faulkner….still hasn't happened.

  42. Andrea Balt Andréa Balt says:

    Flannery O'Connor has been on my list for too long. I did love Carson McCullers' The Heart is a Lonely Hunter… does she count as a Southerner?
    Oh Ms. Woolf, I forgot that I adore her. She didn't like Ulysses either and she even told James Joyce it was crap. :) No Melville yet (so wrong!).
    I didn't expect Runaway to be so good. I have yet to read a contemporary author who's as polished in the short story genre as Munro.

  43. Faulkner's the greatest–try Light in August.

  44. I did try Light in August, but it was many years ago, so I will give it another try on your say so.

  45. Sad to say while I have seen Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (locally & Liz Taylor) I have not read it! Yikes!

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