It happens to hundreds, maybe thousands, of people everyday. You're on the subway or the commuter rail, and your book is just starting to get good: the police are about to break down the murder's door; the protagonist is near-death at the hand of her most-trusted ally; the star-crossed lovers are about to reunite. And then BAM! It's your stop, and you need to close your book or power down your eReader and get on with your day. But you keep sitting (or standing, let's be real here) on the train anyway, and take it five stops past yours just to find how if good wins over evil, if it was really the boyfriend all along, or if it was all a dream. Damn you, page-turners, you've done it again!
Mystery, suspense, relentless pacing, high stakes, secrets within secrets — all of these things contribute to a book's place among the ranks of page-turners. In essence, a true page-turner, whether it be an epic romance, a psychological thriller, or a murder-mystery, grabs you by both arms and doesn't let go until you're winded, exhausted, and begging for a conclusion. Whether it's showing up a half hour late to work, staying in on a Friday night, awkae until 3 a.m., these books continue to have control over readers and their ever-shrinking attention spans.
Think you're ready to crack open a new one? Here are 15 glorious page-turners to pick from.
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'Girl on the Train' by Paula Hawkins
The title that has become synonymous with the term page-turner is 2015’s Girl on the Train, whose unreliable narrator has kept readers hanging on until the last page. Full of twists, turns, and the interwoven lives of Paula Hawkins’ characters have rightfully earned a place alongside the likes of Gillian Flynn, not to mention a place on your bookshelf.
'The Kind Worth Killing' by Peter Swanson
Patricia Highsmith’s classic psychological thriller Strangers on a Train joins the mile-high club in Peter Swanson’s modern re-imagining, The Kind Worth Killing. Devious and chilling, this novel takes you along on a twisted game of truth that turns deadly, and you’ll find yourself up all night trying to find out who, if anyone, survives it.
'Unbecoming' by Rebecca Scherm
When their plan to steal priceless art goes awry, Grace takes off for Europe and establishes a whole new life and identity, leaving her husband and her lover to take the fall. A cat-and-mouse style game of stolen art and betrayed lovers, Unbecoming is a heist novel that will have you looking over your own shoulders with every compulsive turn of the page.
'Sharp Objects' by Gillian Flynn
In this layered novel of self-mutilation, family dysfunction, and murder, narrator and journalist Camille Preaker has to face the psychological puzzles of her past in order to survive the future. You will be cringing, gasping, and drooling with each new chapter until you’ve reaching the startling conclusion, done in true Flynn style.
'The Vanished' by Tim Kizer
If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, then it’s a duck. The same theory can be applied to a guilty murderer, but The Vanished makes you question everything you think you know about the novel’s missing girl, Annie, and her too obviously guilty father, David. You won’t be able to stop yourself from frantically turning the pages of this absorbing thriller. Just beware of paper cuts.
'We Need to Talk About Kevin' by Lionel Shriver
Even though you know that Kevin murdered seven of his classmates and a teacher from the beginning of this spellbinding book, the impossibility of putting it down comes from finding out how he came to do such an atrocious thing. Page after page of his mother’s letters to his father slowly reveal his unsettling childhood, leading up to the day of the massacre, and you won’t be able to stop until there’s nothing left to read.
'Bury This' by Andrea Portes
Like most small towns, Beth Krause’s home in Michigan is full of secrets, including the answer to what really happened to her all those years ago. As a group of film students begin to make a documentary of Beth’s life and disappearance, they will quickly find out that there are few truths that can stay hidden — and you’ll be hanging on to their every shocking discovery.
'In the Woods' by Tana French
History repeats itself for detective Rob Ryan who, 20 years after surviving a traumatic experience in the woods that left three children presumed dead, must face the same woods again in a chillingly similar murder of a young girl. Gripping as it is suspenseful, this page-turner will have you hanging on until the last sentence — and reaching for the next title in French’s Dublin Murder Squad series.
'The Secret History' by Donna Tartt
Some of the best page-turners are those where the characters know all the answers, but their keep the readers in the dark from chapter to chapter. Donna Tartt’s psychological thriller does just that by introducing a group of esteemed college graduates with a shared dark and twisted secret that only comes to full light after a second crime has taken place. Suspenseful from start to finish, The Secret History lives up to its name, and will keep you in the dark all the way to the end.
'Luckiest Girl Alive' by Jessica Knoll
If a character’s life seems perfect, chances are she has a deep, dark secret lingering in her past. Such is the case Ani FaNelli, who has spent years overcoming the public humiliation of her youth only to have it resurface and threaten everything she’s become. Unsuspecting twists lay around every corner as you frantically flip the pages to find out whether or not the truth with out.
'Her' by Harriet Lane
'The Rabbit Back Literature Society' by Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen
'The Siege' by Arturo Perez-Reverte
'The Dinner' by Herman Koch
Two brothers and their wives meet to discuss a horrific crime committed by their children, and with each meal, little details are exposed. But it isn’t until the last course that the couples can actually face what has happened, and with that kind of narration, you won’t be able to put this one down until you’ve had every last bite.
'Night Film' by Marisha Pessl
If you think the protagonist of this novel, Scott, has an unhealthy — not to mention creepy, eerie, disturbing — obsession with with the mysterious death of an iconic filmmaker’s daughter, just wait until it’s 4:30 a.m. and you still haven’t put down Night Film. A true hair-raising thriller to the very last word.