12 Binge-worthy books for fall
What makes for a good binge read? My definition for this list is a book that can draw you in and keep you immersed in the story to the point that you don't want any disruptions. The book could be long, short, part of a series, or anything in-between. So here are my recommendations for an even dozen books to sink into.
As usual with my lists, many are back-list books - easier to get from the library or maybe already on your shelves. The hot new titles hold appeal, but are certainly not the only books worth reading! These are books I've read and can recommend. (arranged alphabetically by author)
The Mists of Avalon #1 by Marion Zimmer Bradley
Published 1982, 844 pages
An excellent retelling of the Arthurian legend but from the viewpoint of the females of the story, primarily Morgaine. Though I read this years ago, in my memory it's a 5 star read. Skimming some reviews I see complaints about the way female characters are reflected and about the long length. I'm never put off by a long book, in fact I often hunt for them. Twenty years ago I didn't notice the role of the women from a feminist standpoint; I wonder if I would read the book differently now.
This is the first in a series and though I read the 2nd book, it didn't make much of an impression because I don't remember loving it as much as this book.
Harry's Trees by Jon Cohen
Published 2018, 432 pages
This recommendation isn't nearly as long, but is SO immersive I really couldn't put it down. It has just a touch of magical realism as it tells the story of a man who has lost his wife in a tragic accident and a little girl who's lost her dad. Both are caught up in their grief and turn to the forest for comfort. Their relationship and the healing powers of friendship turn this sad book into a story of love and hope. Charming and touching, it's a book you won't forget.
The Pillars of the Earth #1 by Ken Follett
Published 1989, 976 pages
I found this hefty tome a revelation. It's historical fiction at its best in that it attempts to bring life to a particular slice of history. We learn about architecture and the creativity needed to overcome building problems, we meet people who feel real and have real feelings and challenges, and we learn of the politics of the time as well as the role the Church played in every aspect of life. Follett took years to research and write this book and the proof is in the pudding. It's excellent. I read the 2nd book of the trilogy and didn't like it as much and never made it around the the 3rd, but this first book is totally worth a binge read!
The Magicians #1 by Lev Grossman
Published 2009, 402 pages
This trilogy (The Magician King and The Magician's Land) is an entertaining and lighter read about magic in the real world. It had hints of Harry Potter but the characters are high school graduates and as they move into adulthood and discover the magical world of Fillroy, they also learn about love and sex, good and evil. Jump into the trilogy and sink into a world of magic.
A Discovery of Witches #1 by Deborah Harkness
Published 2011, 579 pages
Let me recommend another binge-worth trilogy. Witches, vampires, love, time travel, with a dash of historical fiction. The series follows a witch who falls in love with a vampire - and there are all sorts of "rules" about how the two are never supposed to mix. But, love. So all the conflict arises as these two try to find a way to be together; she had to learn the fullness of her witchy powers and he had to battle other vampires to live their lives. The best part of this series is the way the powers and restrictions of each was so cleverly thought out.
Shadow of Night #2 and The Book of Life #3
The Dry #1 by Jane Harper
Published 2016, 352 pages
Here's the beginning of another series (I've read this one and the second one, Force of Nature) but moving away from witches and magic, this one is solidly set in Australia. She writes so evocatively of the place that you can almost feel the heat. And the mystery is strong too. An excellent entry to the mystery series genre. If you want to binge read Harper, The Lost Man is an excellent stand alone, also evocative of Australia, but more of a family struggle story.
The Stand by Stephen King
Published 1978, 1440 pages
A truly epic binge effort would be to read the full Stephen King catalog. But, that would be a lot! So I offer this mini-binge suggestion instead. The Stand is one of his iconic stories and even if you think you're not a King fan because you don't like horror, many of his books (including this one) aren't really horror. Suspenseful or weird or making an everyday event scary, but not really horror with creepy things in the dark. This is a dystopian look at the world of good and evil. Go ahead, October is the perfect time to give it a try -
The Given Day #1 by Dennis Lehane
Published 2008, 736 pages
Known for Mystic River, Lehane goes a different direction in this series: Set in Boston at the end of WWI, the two main characters are Danny Coughlin, an Irish cop from a family of cops, and a poor black man, Luther Laurence. With well drawn, fully realized characters, Lehane tells the story of that era through the lens of these two men, who against all odds become friends. It's obvious this book is extensively researched as it touches on many of the landmark events of the time and how it affects the everyday American. Read the series: Live by Night #2 and World Gone By #3
Bluebird, Bluebird #1 by Attica Locke
Published 2017, 320 pages
I love a protagonist that is flawed. Locke has created just such a character in this beginning of a series: Darren Mathews is a black Texas Ranger with a boat load of personal issues that keep crossing into his professional life as he tries to solve a murder in rural east Texas. I enjoy how Locke illustrates an imperfect lawman and one who deals with racism on a daily basis, and how he reconciles doing his best on a job he loves with bending the rules for people he loves.
Reviewed here. Book #2 is Heaven, My Home.
The Knife of Never Letting Go #1 by Patrick Ness
Published 2008, 512 pages
This trilogy is a YA sci-fi series that I zoomed through and thoroughly enjoyed. A young teen boy and girl are on the run from evil men and are trying to stay alive and get to a safe town. Along the way, everything that can go wrong does, and that makes for a very adventurous, action-packed story. The premise? Men on the planet can't hide their thoughts - every thought is vocalized! When Todd discovers a girl that has crash landed on his planet, they take off together, teaching each other along way. There are crooked politicians, strong women, the indigenous population they can't communicate with, bad decisions, and strength of character. A great series. First book reviewed here - 2nd and 3rd books reviewed here.
Doc #1 by Mary Doria Russell
Published 2011, 394 pages
Here's a terrific recommendation for a change of pace. This excellent, well researched duology (book #2 is Epitaph) tells the story of Doc Holliday. Though the first book starts a little slowly, stick with it - it becomes a fascinating look at the old west, at the disease of TB, at the life of a wealthy, privileged doctor who is slowly dying and how he chooses to live his life. Russell brings to life this man and his friendship with Wyatt Earp and the Mastersons in a challenging time of American history.
A Curious Beginning #1 by Deanna Raybourn
Published 2015, 339 pages
A binge-worthy series if you enjoy a strong female lead character, novels set in Victorian England, and a strong dose of adventure with a splash of romance. Veronica Speedwell is a formidable protagonist, a young woman who knows her own mind and intends to live independently, in spite of what is acceptable in society. She travels, takes lovers, and uses her intellect to make deductions that help solve crimes. Quick reads, the series is currently up to 5 books. Book #1 reviewed here and #5 reviewed here.
I hope you find something here that piques your interest and sends you to your library to start a reading binge fest! Happy Reading!