12 All-Around Great Books to Shake Up Any TBR Pile

by Alex Weiss

When you're picking a new book to read you always go through the same process: Do you want to stay true and go with your all-time favorite genre or authors — or is it time to venture out and try something new? As someone who adores young adult and adult literary fiction novels, trying out fantasy and sci-fi has intimidated me. But once I finish a book of a genre I'm not used to, I'm always pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoy the new subject matter, writing, and adventures those genres take me on. Closing yourself off to certain genres is only hurting your reading life.

Not every book out there is guaranteed to fit your tastes, but there are a rare few — including these 12 — that are loved by just about anyone. Try it out: If you love memoirs and non-fiction, explore some of these fictional titles. And even if you can't imagine reading something originally written for kids, you won't be disappointed reading some of these children's books. From first-time writers to well versed authors in their genre, here are 12 books that will introduce you in baby steps to new genres that are sure to amaze you, no matter what.

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L'Engle

While you probably let go of everything that reminded you of middle school, this is one children's book that is a must-read no matter your age. I hadn't picked up A Wrinkle in Time until college, and I still fell in love with its exciting and adventurous story. Meg, an awkward but lovable pre-teen girl, and her misunderstood little brother Charles Wallace are worried about their missing father. So when a stranger comes knocking on the door one dark and stormy night (of course), little do they know they're about to travel through space and time to save their father.

Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

Thrillers, especially ones with murderous crimes, certainly aren't for everyone everyone, but Sharp Objects has enough family drama, suspense, and incredible characters that it can appeal to fans of all kinds of genres. Journalist Camille Preaker must return to her small hometown on business, but as she investigates the story of two murdered pre-teen girls, she begins to identify with the victims more than she wishes to. This psychological puzzle will keep you up all night, just like Flynn's famous Gone Girl did.

American Gods by Neil Gaiman

If you haven't read much fantasy, and Lord of the Rings gives you too many high school English class flashbacks, Neil Gaiman is the author for you. American Gods takes you on a mythology-filled and fantastical journey while still keeping you somewhat rooted in the real world. Full of mystery and witty dialogue, this book is a massive and exceptional tale that breaks genre boundaries.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

As someone who has rejected romance her entire life, I am living proof that Jane Austen can turn even love-pessimists into swooning optimists. Pride and Prejudice, though a classic, is a book that you'll adore even if old-tale love stories aren't your thing. Strong-willed Elizabeth Bennet will keep you thoroughly entertained, especially when the wealthy and intriguing Mr. Darcy comes into the picture and shakes things up.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

Whether you can directly relate to the shy Charlie in Perks of Being a Wallflower, everyone remembers what it felt like to be a misunderstood teenager. This is the story of Charlie making friends, fitting in, falling out, and trying to understand himself and his past all at once. Though it's technically a YA novel, it breaks the mold of a coming-of-age story by being written in letters and documenting the teenage experience in an entirely new way.

Yes Please by Amy Poehler

Because everyone needs more Amy Poehler in their lives — and because everyone needs an inspirational memoir to live by. Poehler is just as capable of cracking a joke on the page as she is on the stage, and even more importantly, Yes Please is full of honest and motivational stories. Maybe fiction has always been your thing, but breaking into nonfiction with something like this will be sure to broaden your horizons within this genre.

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

Their Eyes Were Watching God is one of the most important books ever written, and it's a classic you'll find yourself constantly recommending to friends and family. This is the story of Janie, a strong African-American woman, and her experiences with different men in her life. With strong themes of friendship and empowerment, this is a novel every woman and man should read in their lifetime.

Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris

When you crave more laughter in your life, Sedaris will make your stomach ache and you run out of breath from giggling so hard. From his hilarious attempt to learn French to learning guitar and the many funny underdog stories in-between, this is the kind of book everyone should break into on a gloomy day.

Room by Emma Donoghue

Room is unlike anything you've ever read. It's the story of innocent 5-year-old Jack and the horrors of what extreme isolation can do. Trapped in a small shack his entire life, Jack knows nothing else of the world until his mom makes an escape plan. But leaving the only place he knows behind for a world that seems impossible to comprehend might be too much for him. This novel will break and repair your heart too many times to count, no matter what you normally like to read.

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

Whether you like science fiction or not, Margaret Atwood's stories will turn you into a major fan. The Handmaid's Tale takes the dystopian world and turns it into a horrifying reality of stripping women of their rights. Offred, a woman who once had a normal life with a husband and child, is now forced into being a Handmaid, or essentially a birth-vessel, for the Commander. It's definitely creepy, but it's also hands-down amazing and important.

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz

Oscar dreams of becoming a writer and finding love. Diaz tells beautiful story of Oscar, who dreams of becoming and finding love, a family curse, modern America in general, and the crazy things we all do for love. No matter who you are and what you like to read, Oscar is sure to become one of your new favorite literary characters and you are going to want to read this Pulitzer Prize winner again and again.

Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling

At this point, there's no reason you shouldn't be reading Harry Potter. Sure, you can say wizards and magic isn't your thing, or you're too old for YA, but if you haven't read this iconic series, you're seriously missing out. These books changed an entire generation, and they still impacts the world nearly every day. You'll love each and every one of them no matter what.

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