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

Via Kate Bartolotta
on Dec 30, 2011
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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!


Ten Non-Fiction Books to Read Before You Die.

The Top 10 Best-Selling Books, Ever (Plus 11 Lesser-Known Recommendations).


Every good book list needs a few Buddhist or meditation ones:

Click here for: The Top 10 Best-Selling Books, Ever (Plus 11 Lesser-Known Recommendations).

Plus! Library Porn!

Library porn


About Kate Bartolotta

Kate Bartolotta is a wellness cheerleader, yogini storyteller, and self-care maven. She also writes for Huffington Post, Yoga International, Mantra Yoga+ Health, a beauty full mind, The Good Men Project, The Green Divas, The Body Project, Project Eve, Thought Catalog and Soulseeds. Kate's books are now available on Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.com. She is passionate about helping people fall in love with their lives. You can connect with Kate on Facebook and Instagram.


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

  1. oops – here's the 2nd link again – http//www.elephantjournal.com/2011/10/looking-for-god-on-the-6-train/

  2. Oooh thanks for some new suggestions Susanna! Junot Diaz…Brief Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao, yes? On my to read list!

  3. susan says:

    Agree with Valerie's suggestion to add Life of Pi (brilliant) and was going to add another: Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts for power beyond words, sink-into-it reading and an unforgettable story with lovable characters. I do not understand how Fearful Symmetry gets on the same list as The Sun Also Rises… but okay, it's your list. Cheers

  4. […] cell phone… whatever it is you are reading books on these days here is a fabulous historic list of authors/books you must consider. As a writer, philosopher and lover of the imagination, I am so […]

  5. Thanks Susan! I will check out Shantaram. As far as the wide variety, it wasn't meant to be a list of classics per se, just ones I like…some classics, some older less known stuff, and some newer stuff I've enjoyed.

  6. Amy says:

    Thank you for recommending Her Fearful Symmetry. I adored this oooooook!

  7. Kate Manfredi says:

    You should start listing your reads on shelfari.com and then allow the public to friend you and get your recommendations from there. It's impossible to list all the wonderful books intelligent readers love in one article but on shelfari you can keep track of them and other's can use your (endless) list as a reference.

  8. Kate – I think I may try to do more posts on this…possibly by topic in some way. I did have a goodreads account for awhile, but it's hard to find time to go back & think of books I've read before & rate etc…easier w/ new reads. Thanks!

  9. Fere says:

    Hi Kate, I love your bio and also the list. I have another suggestion if anyone interested, since Life of Pi and Vernon God Little are on the list. I came accross White Tiger by Aravind Adhiga a few years back, and I think it's a great read.

  10. Cristina says:

    "tried but he was gay" ?

  11. Thanks Fere! I saw White Tiger at the library the other day and almost grabbed it! Most of my bio is stolen from Pippi and Tinkerbell, but then it's mostly me too!

  12. I think she was referring to falling in love with the authors…fleshing out the metaphor a little… I don't believe any slight against his sexuality was intended.

  13. T.Cockroft says:

    This should be a must for all women…

  14. Jill Barth says:

    And, OH, Eugenides's new one: The Marriage Plot. Characters. Characters. Characters.

  15. tuesday2 says:

    #24, LUCKY.

    Read it and started crying on page 4. What a powerful book. Lovely Bones was another favorite by the same author.

  16. kate says:

    Anything written by Anne Lamott.

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  22. SOFLY_Anna says:

    Hi Kate,

    I am so glad to find this post! I am certainly adding some of the titles to my "wish list" in the local library. And all the comments, so exited:-)

    If anyone interested here is my top 10 list:

    1. Tom Robbins – all of it!
    2. Christopher Moore (read & loved all of it:-)
    3. Ray Bradbury
    4. Kerouac
    5. Gurdjieff (meeting with remarkable men my fav)
    6. Hunter S. Thompson (Hell's Angels: The Strange and Terrible Saga of the Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs)
    7. The Essential Crazy Wisdom
    8. Aldous Huxley (The brave new world and the doors of perception)
    9. Nine Kinds of Naked by Tony Vigorito
    10. The Illusion of Conscious Will by Daniel M. Wegner

    Happy Reading,

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  29. Katie says:

    The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho is a suggestion worth repeating.
    When God Was a Rabbit was a quirky, fun read by Sarah Winman, as is The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

  30. Julie Martin says:

    I am not inclined to spend my time reading what amounts to a big fat lie – fiction. If it's made up, I don't want to waste my time reading it. It's a shame because I see that most people do enjoy doing that, and when I read articles like this one I feel that I am missing out. But, even so, I just can't get into it. I do enjoy reading though, and do it often, if it's non fiction. But the point I wanted to make here is that this article exudes enthusiasm, and I feel inspired by it. Not to read fiction, but to spend more time doing the things that I do enjoy. Lovely article.

  31. Shannon Aldrich says:

    I LOVED Anna Karenina which I just finished. I also recommend A Moveable Feast — Hemingway, And one of my all time faves…. is Candide by Voltaire. I am wanting to read Atlas Shrugged next but I had The Lost World By Conan Doyle. And I started it. Yea I like this thought and the suggestions. Thanks! I also read a bunch of Anthony Trollope the Barsetshire Novels. They were dry but fun.

  32. shaydewey says:

    I have read all but 8, got to get my library card out. We have similar tastes My favorite books in no order.

    1. The Brothers Karamozov, Dostoevsky
    2. Breakfast of Champions Vonnegut
    3.Tropic of Cancer, Henry Miller
    4.Leni, Biography of Leni Riefenstahl
    5. The Crying Lot of 49, Pynchon

  33. Iila says:

    Alice in Wonderland by Louis Carroll and Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda.

  34. […] fighting a cold, so my break is going to be bundled up in front of the fire with a book and some great […]

  35. Heather says:

    The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak, brilliant!

  36. John Wiswell says:

    I'm surprised you listed Don Quixote as inspiration to "dream the impossible dream." Both novels are absolutely savage to Quixote for being deluded and stupid. It's satire that's mostly at his expense, and even his friends wind up abusing his weakness. I honestly felt bad for the character having to belong to that author, because he himself is a charming idea. I kind of like that culture has forgotten Cervantes's intentions and instead romanticized the addled knight as a role model.

  37. 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!

  38. Marc Agren (Mexico) says:

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

  39. Gina says:

    Great books all, my reading twin.

  40. 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.

  41. Elena says:

    Lovely to see you mention Leni! I was trying to explain who she was to my housemate after we saw a midnight showing of Inglourious Basterds recently, and gave up.

  42. 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

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

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  46. 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.

  47. 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.

  48. 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……………..