Discover the best books to start a reading habit for adults that gets you into reading books for the long term.
As a book blogger and reader of 100+ books per year, I will help you find books specifically for YOU to both start your reading habits and turn them into permanent reading habits. To further help you along your personal journey of changing your reading habits, I have also included a printable PDF at the bottom of this post that you can download to create your own unique list of the best books to start reading.
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If you’re looking for the best books to start a reading habit, then chances are you already know that reading has many life-changing benefits, from learning new things to improving your communication, reducing stress, helping you sleep better, increasing your empathy, helping you solve problems, expanding your worldview, helping you focus better, and even entertaining yourself.
You may even have a specific reason you want to read or a goal you want to accomplish in reading, as well as a plan in place for how, when, and where to start reading.
If not, here are my tips to get you started:
Once you know WHY you want to read and HOW, WHEN, and WHERE you plan to read, the next logical question is WHAT to read. This is what I’m going to help you with below.
But, because reading is an extremely personal experience, I’m sharing the best books to get back into reading in a way that is fully customizable to YOU.
I’m not going to just list out books that are easy to read and/or well-loved because no matter how much any book is beloved, there will still be people who disliked or even hated it. If you want a reading habit that really sticks, you’ve got to really sort through all the noise to determine what’s right for YOU.
So, the focus and format of my recommendations for the best books to read for beginners creating a reading habit are the TYPES of books that tend to make for interesting books to read and spark a desire to read more.
The renowned “habits” guru, James Clear, who is the author of the massively bestselling book, Atomic Habits believes in making your desired habits obvious, attractive, easy, and satisfying. So, those are the TYPES of books I will help you select.
Then, for each type of book, I will also give you some specific book recommendations to get you started, but the goal is for you to simply use this as a starting point to create your own personalized list of books to read. (You can even use the PDF template at the bottom of this post to do so!)
I truly believe this strategy is the gateway to a lasting reading habit.
That being said, let’s talk about the best books to start a reading habit for adults, as reading the right book will help you avoid bad reading habits.
Best Books to Start a Reading Habit
Below are ten TYPES of books that, in my experience, help readers ignite a long-term passion for reading, as well as a few specific recommendations that may spark your own personal interests.
A Self-Help Book
Self-help books make for great beginner reading books for adults. They’re inspiring, motivational, clear, and engaging. This is an excellent place to start.
Top Picks: For a good self-help book, I recommend the ever-popular Atomic Habits because it will help you develop your reading habit, which is a win-win. Readers also love the quick and easy classic fable The Alchemist (a personal favorite). Set Boundaries, Find Peace is a book that *actually* changed my life and has become popular recently with readers of The Literary Lifestyle who are looking to set boundaries in their own lives.
A Re-Read of a Book You Loved
If you’re really struggling to find easy reading books for adults, why not re-read something you loved?! This can work particularly well if you haven’t read it in a while or if you read it in a different format (i.e., graphic or audiobook vs. print or digital). You’re practically bound to enjoy it AND take away something new from it.
Top Picks: Only you know what books you’ve read and want to re-read, but I’m personally recommending Daisy Jones & The Six because it’s the only novel I can recall reading twice. It’s a unique print book, as it is told in the style of a documentary, and the audiobook is narrated by a full cast, so these unique facts made it feel like the perfect book for me to re-read.
And, if you’re a Harry Potter fan, you may wish to try “re-reading” the graphic Harry Potter books!
A read-a-like generally means a book that’s like a book that you already read and liked. I also like to include in the definition of read-a-like books from authors whose books you’ve already read and liked, as well as authors like those authors. You can search Google or this site for specific recommendations.
Top Picks: I’ve chosen to recommend Verity by Colleen Hoover here because this insanely popular romance author (and this shocking and thrilling book of hers in particular) are so often searched on this site for read-a-likes. If this happens to suit you too, check out these books like Verity, books like Colleen Hoover, and authors like Colleen Hoover.
A Book Recommended By Someone You Trust
So often in our lives, we rely on personal recommendations. This can work well for books too, but since reading is so personal, it’s imperative that you have a reason to trust the person’s recommendation. For me, this generally means the person and I tend to like the same books. Otherwise, I don’t give the recommendation too much weight.
Top Picks: Again, this is very subjective to each and every person, but one book recommendation that totally worked for me was Hamnet. Originally, this historical fiction about the death of Shakespeare’s son sounded boring to me, but since I love literary fiction, and other literary fiction lovers were praising it, I gave it a shot, and it ended up being one of my favorite books of the year.
An Unputdownable Book
Throughout my life, when I’ve encountered reading slumps, I have found that a really unputdownable book can get me right back into the swing of reading. (It’s kind of like a sporting season when you’re bored with watching your team, but then they make the playoffs and you can’t turn it off.)
Unputdownable books are generally fast-paced, thrilling and suspenseful, or they can even be really revealing and juicy (like a celebrity memoir). Often, they may have short chapters with cliffhangers that keep you turning the pages.
Top Picks: I recommend The Silent Patient because it ticks off a lot of boxes here, and it’s really popular with readers of The Literary Lifestyle too. This massively bestselling book is a fast-paced thriller with a major plot twist that keeps you on the edge of your seat. I still recall flying straight through it.
As for something that’s both short and hard to put down, I recommend the Audible version of Driving Miss Daisy, which is read by two very famous actors with memorable voices, Angela Lansbury and James Earl Jones. I’ve recommended this version of this book to so many readers who have thanked me for it. Since it’s a play, it’s short and all dialogue based, and since it’s narrated so well, it’s incredibly immersive and memorable. It also helps that it’s a heartwarming story!
An “Easy” Book
Recall that the “habits” guru James Clear stated that your habit should be easy. This is why it totally makes sense to start your reading habit with some of the best easy books to read.
Top Picks: Here, I like the idea of tackling a classic easy novels to read, like The Catcher in the Rye, To Kill A Mockingbird, and The Great Gatsby, all of which are commonly read at the high school level and generally very well-liked. I did well with all three when I was a teen myself! I tend to think you will also feel extra accomplish in starting your reading habit with a classic book “everyone should read.”
A Short Book
Short books make for some of the best books to start reading for beginners because they are both easy and satisfying — two things “habits” guru James Clear recommends to build your good habits, like reading. You can start and finish them in a small amount of time and feel accomplished about doing so.
Beyond a very literal definition of “short books” (about 300 pages or less), you can also consider reading poetry, short stories, novellas, plays, essays, etc.
Top Picks: Personally, Breakfast at Tiffany’s (a novella) is one of my favorite books of all time, if you love the movie and/or a character-driven story.
But, I also want to appeal to the masses, so I’ll also recommend a few crowd-pleasers: The Metamorphosis, The Outsiders, and A Room of One’s Own. I can vouch for all of these books and members of my book club, The Rory Gilmore Book Club, also tend to love them.
An Immersive Audiobook
An immersive audiobook can make all the difference in helping you start your reading habit. In fact, it’s probably the top way I’ve seen reluctant readers improve their reading habits.
I think the key here for beginners is an audiobook that’s especially immersive. Believe me, when you listen to this type of audiobook, you can’t stop, yet you also never want it to end. You will most often have these types of experiences by listening to memoirs narrated by the author, books read by a famous actor/actress, and/or books narrated by a full cast.
If you’re new to audiobooks, just trust me on these things! I listen to at least 100 audiobooks per year and regularly engage with other audiobook readers. And, I’ve heard that some of the most successful people read by way of audiobooks.
Top Picks: The Hate U Give is not just an award-winning Young Adult “Black Lives Matter” book that’s written really well, it’s also narrated extremely well. The listening experience felt more akin to a movie than a book to me. I also will always hold a special place in my heart for Ann Patchett’s sibling drama, The Dutch House, narrated so exquisitely by the beloved actor Tom Hanks that I had chills at the end.
Related Post: Best Audiobooks of All Time
A Book Series
Book series are definitely some of the best novels to read for beginners. Why? Because once you are familiar with characters and plot points that you like, you often don’t want the reading journey to end.
Whether there’s a cliffhanger to be answered in a sequel or a long-term journey to occur over a lengthy narrative, book series can be the steam that continues to fuel your reading habit over time.
Top Picks: Ever heard of Harry Potter? I mean, this best-selling series of all time is just the quintessential example of a literary world that leaves readers yearning for more. A few other popular series that both I and readers love are It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover and Beartown by Fredrick Backman.
Related Posts: Best Book Series
A Book Adapted to Film
Lastly, as you consider the best books to start a reading habit, consider books adapted to film. Not only can you engage with the story in multiple ways to enjoy and experience it more fully, but you can also rest assured knowing that generally only the most beloved books are adapted to film.
You can sequence your reading and watching any way you wish. It may even help you understand the book better if you watch the movie first. You may also wish to start with the book for a movie you absolutely love.
Top Picks: Two of my personal favorite books adapted to film are the same as my favorite films adapted from books: Little Women and Pride and Prejudice. I will reading and watch multiple versions multiple times. They always draw you into a time and place, and they never disappoint! They have also helped paint a clearer picture of these settings and characters in my mind’s eye.
Now you know the best books to start a reading habit for you specifically. Remember to follow the “habits” expert James Clear’s advice and choose books that are obvious, attractive, easy, and satisfying.
The top way I have seen readers accomplish this is through audiobooks that are especially immersive. You may also choose to read short books, books written at a younger reading level, books of films you love, and so on.
Want to learn more? Check out my epic guide to reading habits.
Lastly, to help you create your custom list of books to start a reading habit, you can download a printable PDF “To Be Read List” (which is part of my Reading Journal) below.
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