Already binge watched that new series you heard about months ago?
Went through your go-to classics and even watched that documentary that pissed you off even more? Screen time at ridiculous levels? Need an eye adjustment?
Maybe it’s time to pick up a book.
Or, rather, a different kind of book.
But no matter how much you read, or how long it’s been since you had a favorite writer, you can always find something fascinating, illuminating, entertaining and enlightening in a new book.
We’ve put together a list of 15 books — organized in five categories to help you filter by preference — to start right now. We even asked some of OPB’s familiar contributors to help curate your new journey.
In the box: brief (sometimes abstract) synopses, page lengths and fun facts. The sum of these parts: five countries represented; 1.2 million written words; page lengths ranging from short (98 pages) to pour-yourself-a-tall-one-this-is-going-to-take-awhile long (928 pages).
So, it’s been a while
For people who haven’t completed a book in a while, these books are short in length yet large in impact.
By Yukio Mishima
What happens when you are no longer a person but, instead, a famous person? This novella follows Rikio “Richie” Mizuno, a 23-year-old actor who is so famous and beloved that his fame starts to break the wall of reality. Because what is truly real when you’re famous?
Published 1960; translated in English in 2019; 98 pages
“All My Goodbyes”
By Mariana DimópulosMalaga, Madrid, Heidelberg Berlin and other locales. A beautifully written piece about travel, jobs, love and lovers, self-reflection and, oh yeah, there’s a murder.
Fun fact: At one point in the novella, the protagonist spends time working at IKEA. Dimópulos took the idea from her real life experience of working at the furniture company.
Published 2019; 160 pages
“So Much Blue: A Novel”
By Percival Everett
Painter Kevin Pace is working on his masterpiece. Not even his family is allowed inside his studio. While working, Pace looks back on two defining moments in his life. The novel alternates between present-day painting to an El Salvadorian adventure with a best friend during their college days to an encounter in Paris (10 years prior to present day) at a gallery where a painting of his was being shown.
Published 2018; 236 pages
Wu-Tang is for the children
Kids’ bookshelves out of date? Would rather put a new book in their hand than a tablet? Options, people.
“Skin Like Mine”
By LaTashia M. Perry
A book of acceptance that allows its reader to find the uniqueness in themselves and others: in their own way, in their own skin. In a world filled with an infinite number of colors, this story illustrates the beauty in them all.
Published 2016; 24 pages
“Wayside School is Falling Down”
By Louis Sachar
Published 1989; pages 179
“Stuck In Neutral”
By Terry Trueman
Because of a condition, 14-year-old Shawn McDaniel has no control over his bodily functions. Any of them. On the first page, he tells us this himself, in a witty and comedic recap of his life thus far. The outside world has no idea what is going on in Shawn’s mind. But he understands everything and he has a few opinions on the world.
Published 2001; 144 pages
The real world (true story)
Fiction is great, but some of the best stories are the ones that happened in real life. Memoirs, biographies, history, etc. are all great ways to understand the world around us.
“Looking For Lorraine: The Radiant and Radical Life of Lorraine Hansberry”
By Imani Perry
For the first time, the story of playwright and artist Lorraine Hansberry is told with the same fury and elegance with which Hansberry lived her life. She was the playwright of the most important Broadway play of its time (“A Raisin In The Sun”) in her 20s, had been under surveillance for years (by the FBI) by the time she was 30 and died four years later, leaving behind an ancestral trail of art, advice and revolution.
Published 2018; 204 pages
“Beneath the Underdog: His World as Composed by Mingus”
By Charles Mingusazz musicians are not from this realm, and when one as prolific as Charles Mingus sits down (for more than 12 years) to write his story, you understand that statement in totality. But first ask yourself this, do you really want to go inside the mind of an artist? Or do you want to stay in the fantasy of who you think they are?
Fun fact: Although coming in at just under 400 pages, the original manuscript was three times the size.
Published 1971; 366 pages
“Too Much and Not the Mood: Essays”
By Durga Chew-Bose
A book about nothing that ends up being about everything, “Too Much and Not the Mood” mixes memoir and cultural criticism into essays exploring human interior life. Durga Chew-Bose’s prose is stunning whether it’s about basketball, old movies or “how becoming is multipart, but mainly a pilgrimage inward.” Unbelievable.
Published 2017; 200 pages
(Synopsis and recommendation by KMHD Host Isabel Zacharias)
Umm. Hmm. Wow. Damn.
A quarter of the way through these books, you will be confused. Halfway through these books, a light switch will come on. As the story consumes you, it will hit a point where you go, Wow. And when you have finished, these books will leave you with a few thoughts, one of which will likely be, Damn.
“The System of Dante’s Hell”
By Amiri Baraka
This experimental and structure-less novel follows its protagonist through levels of hell, just as done in a poem by 14th century writer Dante Alighieri. But what happens at these levels, and what is hell to a man living in an American favela?
Published 1966; 159 pages
“The New York Trilogy”
By Paul Auster
Published 1985 & 1986; 314 pages
“If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler”
By Italo Calvino
What if I told you that this is not just one novel but 10 novels. And that the art of reading for both the novel’s characters and you, the novel’s reader, is at the center of this quest to complete that first novel … that turned into 10. Got it?
Published 1979 (translated to English in 1981); 260 pages
Got enough time on your hands for a challenge? Want to enter a far away world with every page? These epic reads will keep you busy and bury your brain in the process.
By Richard Powers
It is rare to find a book that rises to the top of all-time favorites. This one shot up like the giant Redwoods that inspired the author, Richard Powers, to write it. Winner of the 2019 Pulitzer Prize in Fiction, “The Overstory” is simply one of the most beautifully and intricately woven stories ever written. It reminds us that being still is one of the most powerful things we can do for humanity. A good one for Earth Day!
Published 2018; 502 pages
(Synopsis and recommendation by OPB executive producer Catherine Stimac)
“The House of the Spirits”
By Isabel Allende
Published 2015; 497 pages
(Synopsis and recommendation by OPB science and environment reporter Monica Samayoa)
By Haruki Murakami
The year is 1984. Aomame is in the back seat of a taxi in the middle of Tokyo traffic on a ramp. She’s going to be late for her meeting. Noticing an emergency ladder just on the side of the road, she decides she will walk to her meeting. But the taxi driver warns: going down that ladder may change reality. Aomame goes anyway.
Whether 500 words or 900-plus pages, Marukami is going to do what he does best: pluck you from wherever you think you might be, and sit you down squarely in his creations.
Published 2009; 928 pages