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Captivating Reads

Books that’ll get you hooked

Cindy Burnett
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UNPUTDOWNABLE Looking for a good book but not sure what to pick up? Try Drowning by T.J. Newman. (Photo: Cindy Burnett)

Taking the time to sit down and read a book can seem daunting to people who don’t regularly do so. With so many titles publishing weekly, even selecting a book can feel overwhelming. For those who are interested in immersing themselves in a great story but are not sure where to start, I am highlighting 10 titles that will appeal to infrequent or reluctant readers. These books will help you get hooked on reading – even if you don’t think you are a reader.

Drowning by T.J. Newman (thriller) – Drowning is a heart-pounding thriller that grabbed me from page one and did not let up until the very last sentence. Six minutes after Flight 1421 takes off from Honolulu, the plane plummets into the ocean and eventually starts sinking to the sea floor with 12 passengers still on board. Faced with one disaster after another, these individuals fight to stay alive until they can be rescued. Newman is a former flight attendant and really understands how to ramp up the suspense in this environment. 

Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus (historical fiction) – Set in the 1960s, chemist Elizabeth Zott becomes the reluctant star of a cooking show entitled “Supper at Six” and uses the show to promote women’s rights. A highlight of the book is Zott’s fabulous dog 6:30. A screen adaptation of Garmus’s wildly successful debut is coming to Apple TV in October and stars Brie Larson as Elizabeth Zott.

The Mostly True Story of Tanner & Louise by Colleen Oakley (contemporary fiction) – This not-to-be-missed gem stars 21-year-old Tanner Quimby and 84-year-old Louise Wilt who are thrown together when Louise’s family decides she needs a live-in caregiver. One evening, Louise wakes Tanner up and insists that they leave immediately (in a car Tanner didn’t even know existed) and head across the country. This book is delightful and hilarious from the start, and I wish I could take a road trip with Tanner and Louise.

How Not to Drown in a Glass of Water by Angie Cruz (contemporary fiction) – Written in a unique format across 12 job-counseling sessions, this book is a quick but very compelling read about a woman coming to terms with how she has lived her life so far. It is just the right combination of humor, family drama, and a strong setting.

Woman on Fire by Lisa Barr (thriller) – After reporter Jules Roth talks her way into a job with Chicago’s preeminent investigative reporter, he assigns her to a top-secret story, locating “Woman on Fire,” a very valuable painting stolen by the Nazis during World War II. The novel contains fabulous twists and turns combined with a stellar plot and an intriguing cast of characters. 

Vera Wong’s Unsolicited Advice for Murderers by Jesse Q. Sutanto (mystery) – This laugh-out-loud mystery set in San Francisco’s Chinatown stars 60-year-old Vera Wong who finds a dead body in her tea shop. Frustrated with the investigation, she decides to do a little detective work herself, while inadvertently becoming friends with the people she is sure are suspects. Filled with humor and hijinks, Vera Wong’s Unsolicited Advice for Murderers is a delight from beginning to end.

These Silent Woods by Kimi Cunningham Grant (thriller) – Grant’s compelling and haunting thriller stars a father and daughter duo who have been living in a remote cabin off the grid for eight years in the northern Appalachian woods. But when the person who delivers their annual supply delivery doesn’t show up, a series of events are set in motion that will challenge the life the father has created for them. I read this tension-filled story in one sitting, and it is one of the best thrillers that I have read in a long while.

Nora Goes Off Script by Annabel Monaghan (romance) – In this absolutely delightful romantic comedy, Nora Hamilton writes formulaic scripts for a Hallmark-like channel, and when one of her scripts is filmed at her home, Leo Vance, America’s heartthrob, is cast in the leading role. No one is more surprised than Nora when Leo bonds with her kids and runs errands with her in town. Monaghan creates a heartwarming, hilarious, and charming story that kept me completely engaged in the story as I rooted for Leo and Nora. 

All Good People Here by Ashley Flowers and Alex Kiester (thriller) – A journalist returns home to Indiana and becomes focused on an unsolved murder from her childhood following the present-day disappearance of another young girl. The more she digs, the more she realizes that something is amiss. The chapters are short, and the story is fast-paced and incredibly engaging.

Take My Hand by Dolen Perkins-Valdez (historical fiction) – This sad, but important, book highlights what happens when those in charge think they know what is best and take matters into their own hands regarding forced sterilization. With the recent focus on reproductive rights, this is a particularly relevant and compelling story. I listened to this one, and the audiobook is stellar.

Happy reading! 

Editor’s note: Southside Place resident Cindy Burnett also writes our weekly Page Turners column. She hosts the Thoughts from a Page Podcast, is co-creator of the Houston literary event series Conversations from the Page, runs the Instagram account @thoughtsfromapage, and regularly speaks to groups about books.

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