14 unputdownable books that grab your attention and keep you hooked

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Person reading by bookshelf outdoors
Photo by L'odyssée Belle

It’s 8 pm, you’re exhausted, and you just want to be horizontal and immobile for a while. So you head to the sofa, load up Netflix, and find the perfect show to escape from the world with.

Yeah, I get it. (And yep, I do it too.) But each time I find a really great page-turner, I remember that unputdownable books can be just as gripping as a good TV series.

Sometimes, it’s even more immersive to get lost in a book and not leave it for a while. You also get to spend some time away from a screen (at least non-Kindle ones).

In this post, I’ve compiled the most gripping best books you can’t put down, including page-turning thrillers, addicting fiction, and binge-worthy novels. Take your pick, escape into a new world, and forget that you’re reading…

Gripping books you can’t put down once you start reading

Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir

Read Project Hail Mary for… a fantastically well-researched, nerdy, and lighthearted page-turner that’s perfect to read next if you loved Andy Weir’s previous bestseller, The Martian.

In Project Hail Mary, Ryland Grace, the sole survivor on a desperate, last-chance mission to save both humanity and the earth, is hurtled into the depths of space to complete the mission alone.

If you love to listen to books, Project Hail Mary is one of the most gripping audiobooks – it’s a perfect choice for road trips. Over on Goodreads, Bill Gates shared: “I finished the whole thing in one weekend.”

Wrong Place Wrong Time by Gillian McAllister

Read Wrong Place Wrong Time for… a genre-bending page-turner that offers gripping suspense, heart-rending family bonds, and time travel.

It goes without saying that some of the most gripping books are thrillers. One of the best new thrillers for 2023 is Wrong Place Wrong Time, which begins with Jen waiting up for her funny, happy eighteen-year-old son to come home.

As she watches from the window, she sees him. But he’s walking towards a man, and he’s armed. Then, he kills him.

When Jen wakes up, it’s yesterday. When she wakes up again, it’s the day before yesterday. Each day she wakes up a day earlier, and each day she gets closer to the answer – and has another chance to stop it.

Portrait of an Unknown Woman by Daniel Silva

Read Portrait of an Unknown Woman for… a thrilling high-stakes search for the greatest art forger who ever lived by bestselling author Daniel Silva. I read it in just a few days – it’s one of the best new unputdownable books for 2023.

In this new thriller for 2023 (and Book 22 in the Gabriel Allon series), renowned spy and art restorer Gabriel Allon has settled into his quiet retirement in Venice.

But when London art dealer Julian Isherwood requests his help in investigating the origins of a lucrative sale of a supposedly centuries-old painting, Gabriel is pulled back into the dangerous world he thought he’d left behind.

(A quick note considering world events: the book is written from the perspective of an Israeli spy.)

The Gifted School by Bruce Holsinger

Read The Gifted School for… a gripping book that will grab your attention from the start, described by The New York Times Book Review as “wise and addictive… the juiciest book I’ve read in ages”.

In the privileged and uneventful community of Crystal, Colorado, a group of close friends are raising their families in harmony. That is until news begins to spread that a ‘gifted school’ will be opening its doors in town.

Places will be sparse, the competition ferocious, and as the facade of their picture-perfect community begins to fade, long-buried secrets threaten to surface under the pressure. This unputdownable book is perfect for fans of Liane Moriarty’s Big Little Lies or the screen adaptation.

I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes

Read I Am Pilgrim for… an unputdownable book packed with action and suspense, about a man who supposedly doesn’t exist and the threat against humanity that only he can stop.

“A big, breathless tale of nonstop suspense” is how The New York Times described I Am Pilgrim when it was released in 2013. Over the last decade, this gripping book has been one of my most recommended books for non-readers who don’t usually like reading. That said, you do have to overlook some perspectives on race and gender that other reviewers have discussed.

The Housemaid by Freida McFadden

Read The Housemaid for… an addictive psychological thriller about the secrets and danger beneath the surface of a gorgeous picture-perfect home.

Behind the elegant veneer of their beautiful home and lives, the Winchesters have dark and dangerous secrets. But the most overlooked and undervalued presence in their home is also hiding something: their housemaid.

Freida McFadden, the author of The Housemaid (and its sequel, The Housemaid’s Secret) isn’t just a bestselling writer – she’s also a practicing physician specialized in brain injury.

Mad Honey by Jodi Picoult and Jennifer Finney Boylan

Read Mad Honey for… a binge-worthy book about murder, bees, and what we choose to keep versus leave behind from our past. I finished listening to the gripping audiobook of this 464-page book in a couple of days.

Olivia McAfee knows what it feels like to start over, after leaving her picture-perfect life in Boston to return to the sleepy New Hampshire hometown she grew up in. Here, she settles in with her teenage son and takes over her father’s beekeeping business.

This seems like the new start she needed… until Olivia receives a phone call that Lily, the new girl in town, is dead. When she hears that Asher is being questioned by the police, she wonders if she really understands her son at all. 

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Read The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo for… a captivating novel about a reclusive Hollywood movie icon who’s finally ready to tell the truth about her life, and the unlikely woman she’s chosen to write the story.

Like Taylor Jenkins Reid’s other bestsellers, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is the type of book I can read in just a few days; unable to stop reading for too long, but not wanting it to end either.

On Reddit, Impossible_Action_82 shared: “My cousin, my partner, and I all read The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo in 1-3 days this past month. That book is excellent. Shockingly deep, deals with identity and relationships and family. Just a really really good read. Side note: this cousin doesn’t usually read anything.”

11/22/63 by Stephen King

Read 11/22/63 for… Stephen King’s characteristically gripping and terrifying exploration of a single what if: what if President Kennedy didn’t die on November 22, 1963?

If you ask book lovers for their recommendations of the best books that grab your attention from the beginning, you’ll probably get bored of hearing 11/22/63. But it really is good.

Over on Reddit, pkosuda shared: “I could never binge read any book but this one may have been the closest I ever got. Every free moment I had I spent reading the damn thing. Could not put it down. Definitely an underrated book and I wish there was somehow a sequel.”

The Secret History by Donna Tartt

Read The Secret History for… Donna Tartt’s dark academia masterpiece, centered around a group of isolated classic students at an elite New England college.

In a Reddit thread about books you can’t put down, AdamWestsButtDouble shared that, “It’s been more than 25 years, but my answer to this will always be Donna Tartt’s The Secret History. I’d gotten into it a bit and was going to read some before bed one night, about 11pm. Cut to four hours later and I’m still reading.

If you want to nerd over the cult-favourite book as you read it, here’s my list of the 30+ books mentioned in The Secret History.

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

Read Dark Matter for… a brilliantly plotted sci-fi thriller that’s mind-bendingly strange and so gripping you’ll forget you’re reading.

The last thing Jason Dessen hears before the masked abductor knocks him unconscious is this question: “Are you happy with your life?” He awakens to find himself strapped to a gurney, surrounded by strangers in hazmat suits, and a man who Jason has never met saying, “Welcome back, my friend.” 

This life and world he’s woken up to isn’t the one he knows. But is it this world or the other that’s the dream? And even if the home he remembers is real, how can Jason possibly make it back to the family he loves?

The Windsor Knot by S.J. Bennet

Read The Windsor Knot for… one of the best bingeworthy books if you loved watching The Crown but would enjoy it even more with a slice of murder mystery.

The morning after a dinner party at Windsor Castle, eighty-nine-year-old Queen Elizabeth is shocked to discover that one of her guests has been found dead in his room. When the police begin to suspect her loyal servants, Her Majesty isn’t so sure.

It turns out that the Queen has been living a double life ever since her coronation, honing a brilliant knack for solving crimes. Can the Queen and her trusted secretary Rozie catch the killer, without getting caught themselves?

Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin

Read Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow for… one of the most memorable and gripping books I’ve read in a long time, about video games, the dedication and sacrifice of creativity, and different types of love.

This fiction bestseller is the story of two nerdy kids who meet in a hospital, bond over video games, and years later start their own game company. This brings them money and fame, but also tragedy.

Many readers have enjoyed Tomorrow x3 as much as I did – it was named Goodreads Fiction Book of the Year 2022. For more like this, here are 10 books to read next if you loved Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow.

Circe by Madeline Miller

Circe book cover

Read Circe for… Madeline Miller’s magnificently defiant reimagining of the daughter of Helios and the ocean nymph Perse, known in myth as perhaps the most dangerous woman a man could come across.

In this captivating book from 2018, the sorceress Circe is banished to the island of Aiaia after her gifts threaten the gods. Here, she hones her occult craft, casting spells, gathering strange herbs, and taming wild beasts.

But she won’t be left in peace for long, and it’s for an unexpected visitor, the mortal Odysseus, for whom Circe will risk everything. Immerse yourself in this gripping book and get excited for the upcoming HBO Max adaptation of Circe.

For more gripping books that keep you hooked, you might like…

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