6 books I had to be talked into reading (that I’m so very glad I read).

6 books I had to be talked into reading (that I’m so very glad I read).

I’d like to think that I’m a knowledgeable, sophisticated reader, who doesn’t choose what to read (or not read) next based on whim and caprice.

Of course I’d like to think so—but it wouldn’t be true. I’m plenty vulnerable to picking up books, or avoiding them, for the wrong reasons. Here are six examples of wonderful books I nearly didn’t read because I avoided them for stupid, shallow reasons. I’m sharing them today in hopes that YOU won’t make the same mistake.

Surely I’m not the only one who’s nearly missed out on a great book because of a strange title or lackluster title. I’d love to hear your examples in comments.

Series: 6 books I had to be talked into reading
Ballad of the Whiskey Robber

Ballad of the Whiskey Robber

I would never have picked this book off the shelf: I just couldn't get past the awful cover. But a friend with great taste recommended it, and more importantly, she put the actual, physical book in my hands. I gave it a try out of loyalty to her, and I've been recommending it ever since. This nonfiction narrative about a Hungarian gentleman thief reads like a novel, but this true story is stranger than fiction. More info →
Ready Player One

Ready Player One

Author:
Nothing about this book description appeals to me, but I trusted my writing partner when she encouraged me to give it a try—especially the audio version narrated by Wil Wheaton. I couldn’t care less about video games or John Hughes movies, but this exceptional book hooked me from page one. I've been recommending it like crazy ever since. I've lost track of how many times readers have told me they never would have chosen this book for themselves, but they absolutely loved it. More info →
Quiet: the Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking

Quiet: the Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking

Author:
I read this when it first came out, before I heard all the amazing buzz about it. (There's a reason it vaulted to the top of the bestseller list and stayed there.) Despite my interest in the topic, I was hesitant to pick this one up because it sounded boring. (I hate to admit it.) But when I finally persuaded myself to give it a try I discovered that Cain is a fantastic writer: I wasn't expecting this to be a pageturner but she hooked me from the beginning. I'm currently re-reading this for the third time. That's high praise. More info →
The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right

The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right

Author:
I nearly didn't read this book because of the horrible title, and that would have been a shame. I'm so glad I relied on a friend's recommendation, and my own enjoyment of Gawande's latest release Being Mortal, and read it anyway. This brief, engaging book isn't just another productivity book: it's about how to successfully live and work in a world that's becoming increasingly complex. Gawande draws fascinating examples from medicine, construction, and aviation to explain why systems remain vulnerable to human error, and what we can do about it. Highly recommended. More info →
Cinder

Cinder

Author:
Each book in the YA fantasy series The Lunar Chronicles puts a new spin on an old fairy tale. In this first installment, Cinderella becomes a kickass mechanic, despised by her mother and stepsisters because she’s a cyborg. Admittedly, it sounds cheesy, but it works. I'd heard great things about this series but I found this terrible cover so offputting it took me years to give it a try. I'm glad I did. (I'm currently blazing my way through Winter, the series' final book, on audio.) More info →
The Little Book of Talent: 52 Tips for Improving Your Skills

The Little Book of Talent: 52 Tips for Improving Your Skills

Author:
I'd heard great things about this little handbook, but I couldn't get over the fact that it looked like a cheesy gift book—not the kind of thing I typically read. I checked it out of the library anyway, and finally opened it out of guilt the day before it was due. I was riveted. This surprisingly readable guide is packed with fascinating insights and practical tips covering diverse fields like sports, music, art, math, and business. More info →

What books did YOU have to be talked into reading, that you ended up loving? I’d love to hear your examples in comments.

6 books I had to be talked into reading (that I'm so very glad I read)

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98 comments

  1. My husband had to work on me for YEARS before I read Anna Karenina. I thought that I already knew the plot, and I hadn’t enjoyed a few other works of Russian literature I had read before. However, I am so glad that I read it! I especially loved the story of Kitty and Levin’s relationship.

  2. Dorothy says:

    I agree with the above comments-my to read list keeps getting longer because of you! Is there any way to link your lists to goodreads so I can simply add to my wan to read list instead of looking up the title in good reads? Thanks for your faithful blogging!

    • Anne says:

      I’ve experimented with it and, with the current layout/technology, it is very time-consuming and looks AWFUL on mobile. I want you to know that I’m listening!

  3. Sara K. says:

    I agree with you on the Lunar Chronicles. It took multiple recommendations from multiple bloggers (and a really good kindle sale) to make me pick up Cinder. I’ve loved the whole series so far. Haven’t gotten Winter yet, but I probably will before the end of the year.

    I keep seeing Ready Player One recommended as well. Like you said, the description doesn’t appeal much to me so I have been dragging my feet. I expect I will get around to reading it eventually!

    Honestly, I did this with Harry Potter. I had just graduated from high school when the first book was published. I knew nothing about if for a few years, and it took about 6 years and several friends recommending before I decided to try this “kids” series. Boy was I wrong to wait so long! 🙂

  4. Jamie says:

    For me, the Star Wars expanded universe books fall squarely in this category. I’m pretty sure my dad and brother have read them all, and my husband has read a bunch, but I was convinced they were going to be a complete waste of time. (In my head, they were somehow the SciFi equivalent of Harlequinn novels. Not entirely sure where I got that impression, though.)

    In preparation for cosplaying as Mara Jade (Luke Skywalker’s wife), I decided to give them a fresh shot and I’m so sorry I waited so long! Like all good SciFi, they’re alternately leaving me laughing out loud like an idiot and then throwing my shredded, bleeding heart on the floor and stomping on it. (sigh)

    Thanks for your note about the Whiskey Robber – that one has been on my “no thanks” list as well. Guess maybe I’ll have to give it a try, too!

    • Anne says:

      “Like all good SciFi, they’re alternately leaving me laughing out loud like an idiot and then throwing my shredded, bleeding heart on the floor and stomping on it.”

      I love this.

    • Marlan says:

      Everyone in our household loved The Ballad of the Whiskey Robber as did book club. Other great non-fiction you might’ve missed Charlatan by Pope Brock, Shadow Divers (my apologies, but I forget this fabulous authors name).

  5. Aya Amurjuev says:

    I was not at all interested in reading Ready Player One (video games ugh) until I saw it recommended in your post on best books for MBTI types (I am in INFJ) I gave it a try only because of that article. I sat down and blew through it in a single sitting, and now am counting down the days till the movie comes out. It’s amazing!!! You’re amazing!!! Thank you for writing this blog… sometimes you need to see something recommended a couple of times before you give it a chance, and then you are glad that you did!!!

  6. I wasn’t really talked into it, but I was hesitant to read The Girl on the Train because everyone compared it to Gone Girl, which I really didn’t like. But when I read The Girl on the Train, I loved it! I’m so glad I gave it a chance.

  7. My son-in-law (an English Lit major) kept telling me to read Gilead by Marilynne Robinson. I finally did and wasn’t sure if I liked it until I talked it over with him. Now I want to read it again because he brought out all kinds of things I missed. So glad we have an English Lit major in the family! He’s also the one who recommended The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, which I did really like.

    • Deborah Larson says:

      Gilead is part of a series. We read two of the three in our church book club. Housekeeping is the title of the one we didn’t read. Lila is the other book. We read both Gilead and Lila. If you enjoy Gilead, you’d probably enjoy the others as well.

      • Dinah says:

        I have read “Lila” and liked it better than “Gilead”. Then, I picked up “Home” and it was my favorite of the three. I have “Housekeeping” on the pile – I don’t think it’s related to the other three though.

  8. liz n. says:

    “The Story of Edgar Sawtelle.” Every review I read praised the book, but none of them made me WAAAAANNNNT to read it. A friend whose reading tastes are similar to mine loved this book, and cajoled, whined, and nagged until I gave in. It’s become one of my favorites.

  9. Dana says:

    I have resisted Ballad of the Whiskey Robber for the same reasons as you. I may have to give it another look. I only purchased “Ready, Player One ” for my Kindle ( still waiting to be read), if it had not been for your recommendation. The Martian was one book I resisted for a long while until I kept hearing about it. I am not a big Sci-fi reader and I dismissed it for that reason. However, I devoured it in a day and a half and loved it. Also “The Name of The Wind” ( fantasy) by Patrick Rothfuss initially did not interest me but both a trusted reader friend and my local Indie bookstore owner recommended it. I devoured it and the 2nd book in the series and am anxiously awaiting the 3rd one. Thanks for the recommendations, several of the others you mentioned sound good as well.

    I really enjoyed Quiet and

    • Samantha says:

      The Name of the Wind was the same for me. I had to be worked on for six months by a coworker before I picked it up and I’m so glad I did. It is now at the top of every reading recommendation I give. I cannot wait for the Doors of Stone to come out! Also, if you like this series I highly recommend The Lies of Locke Lamora. The same coworker recommended it and I quickly devoured the first three books in this series and am anxiously awaiting the rest!

  10. I am selling people on Ready Player One all the time, and I don’t think anyone has ever been disappointed! I randomly took a chance on it with an Audible credit several years ago, but it’s the kind of book I’d usually need to be really talked into! A dear friend sold me on Quiet as well. Loved it.

    A book I am always trying to talk others into is In This House of Brede by Rumor Godden. It sounds boring (a professional woman decides to leave her job and life and become a nun in a Benedictine monastery), but it is just SO WONDERFUL. I would never have read it if a reader I trusted (but did not know personally — a mysterious commenter on my first blog) insisted that I would love it.

    A friend also sold me on Call the Midwife, which I resisted because I am not into medical stuff AT ALL. Loved it and its two sequels — excellent on audio.

    Since you, Modern Mrs. Darcy (another reader I trust but do not know personally) recommends Cinder, maybe I’ll try it. But man, do I ever hate that cover! Will definitely add The Checklist Manifesto and Ballad of the Whiskey Robber to the old TBR list.

      • Susan says:

        I don’t know anyone who reads for fun anymore, except my husband, and he has very different tastes than I do. Nice to meet more readers and get book recs!

    • Deborah Larson says:

      Rumor Godden writes a lot of Catholic faith based books. We’ve read a couple in our church book club (Five for Sorrow, Ten for Joy for an example). This House of Brede was highly recommended by one of the group members, but it is such a LONG read (I believe at least 500 pages), the group members decided to skip reading it and opted for a shorter novel instead.

  11. M.E. Bond says:

    I never ever read horror (or watch scary movies), but someone highly recommended World War Z and I was really impressed by it. I listened to the unabridged audiobook and the different voices definitely enhanced the experience. It’s about so much more than gory zombies: history, politics, culture.

    I concur that my to be read list is growing by leaps and bounds because of your blog. This was a great topic to cover!

  12. Teresa Simmons says:

    I loved Ready Player One (and just finished Cline’s Armada, which was fun but not as great). So far, no one I’ve recommended it to has read it — and I’ve recommended it a LOT.
    I’m just home from the library where I picked up the first three Lunar Chronicles. Based on the covers, I never would have chosen these, but I put them on hold immediately after your glowing recommendation. Looking forward to a good binge!

  13. Julie says:

    One that falls into this category for me is “Station Eleven.” No way would I ever, ever, ever have picked that up on my own. But enough really great readers, whose advice I trust completely, told me it was a must-read. It took less than a page for me to be completely mesmerized. I have pushed it into so many people’s hands since. I tell everyone not to read the back cover, and I never, ever use the word post-apocalyptic. Soooo worth it!

    • Anne says:

      Hahaha! Okay, I read this and loved it, and pre-ordered it for kindle based on a friend’s recommendation before it came out. So I NEVER saw the back cover until I just googled to take a look at it and … yep. I see exactly what you mean!

  14. I don’t dislike the cover of Cinder as much as I just don’t understand it. Cause I don’t think of Cinder as a red high heels kind of chick. Which I love about her. Leave Cress to the high heels. 😉

    (I do love the other covers in the series!)

  15. Also, I think my best friend from college (an English professor) is responsible for talking me into a lot of books I probably wouldn’t have read. Bridge of Sighs by Richard Russo is a favorite of those! Most recently, we’ve read Tess of the d’Ubervilles, Cold Comfort Farm, and Rebecca together, none of which I probably would have picked up because I don’t consider myself a classics reader, but I loved them all. Michelle also talked me into The Sparrow, which I didn’t LOVE at the time but it’s grown on me and I recommend it to a lot of people. My husband occasionally talks me into a sci-fi read, and I’ve loved Ender’s Game, Ender’s Shadow, and Speaker for the Dead; The Passage; and Wool by Hugh Howey.

    • Anne says:

      Somebody talked me into Ender’s Game, too! I really enjoyed it on audio, fairly recently. It’s interesting how I’ve never heard of several of those titles … but Cold Comfort Farm and Tess are books I’ve been meaning to read for YEARS.

  16. Grace says:

    Haha, oh man. I’m currently reading Ready Player One due to the constant insistence of my husband after he read and loved it. I also enjoy the Lunar Chronicles but I’m embarrassed to be seen reading them due to the cover, haha. The Giver is another book that I put off forever because I hated the cover – it just looked so boring – but I loved it and went on to read all the books in the series.

  17. Adrienne says:

    Alan Jacobs, author of The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction (which I reread on the regular), recommends reading at Whim. Note the capital W. There are worse ways to choose books.

    Of the books on your list, I’ve enjoyed the three I’ve read. Might have to look into the others. If it strikes my Whim.

  18. Lindsey Back says:

    It just shows how important the cover and title is to whether a book appeals to us….like a book with a bodice buster cover that turns out to be a really interesting story based on good historical research and well worth reading! I wonder how much input authors have into selection of title and cover?

  19. Kristin says:

    I just purchased “Quiet” based on your short synopsis – so, thank you! I am continually visually interested in “Cinder” and the rest of Meyer’s series but I’m not much of a sci-fi fan so I’m not sure the storyline would hold my interest. As for “The Checklist Manifesto,” it is referred to in my line of work time and again (I work in the clinical non-profit field) that I feel as though I’ve read the book without reading it. Gawande is a compelling writer, though.

    For years I was told I had to read “Rebecca” and I put it off for so long until a few years ago when I couldn’t put it down. I love the classics and du Maurier’s writing is so provocative and haunting that “Rebecca” is definitely on my top 10 favorites list.

    • Anne says:

      That’s interesting that The Checklist Manifesto is referred to so often in your field. I’m so curious!

      I hope you enjoy Quiet. (I couldn’t put down Rebecca, either.)

  20. Holly says:

    I have read many classic novels, for so many years I have seen and heard great things about Jane Austen, but something made me just hate the idea of picking up one of her novels, maybe it was because everyone was crazy about her, I don’t know. So I finally picked up a copy of Pride and Predjudice, and may I just say I am so happy I did. I love Jane Austen’s writing style, the way I was so angry about Lizzie acting towards and doubting Mr. Darcy, but I fell in love with their relationship and this novel, even if it kept me turning the page, and staying up till four in the morning reading.

  21. Arlene says:

    Ready player one,has been my surprise book for 2015. I’m not a video game person and at 56 have never read a book about video games. It took some convincing but my 60year old husband finally listened to the audio book and enjoyed it. We will be a couple of grey hairs in the Audience w h e n the movie coms out 🙂

  22. The Boys in the Boat! Could a title get more boring?? I’m not into rowing, knew absolutely zero about it, and really didn’t care to learn anything about it either. I would never in a million years have picked up this book on my own – would probably have resisted recommendations as well. But I couldn’t ignore it when it was chosen by my book club for our summer selection. I figured at least I had three months to slog my way through it. Boy, was I surprised! I found myself making plans for my day that made room for opportunities to listen to this wonderful story. Yes, it told me everything I ever wanted to know about rowing and more! (which I surprisingly found very interesting!) But it also broke my heart and then lifted it to the heights with Joe’s amazing story … I loved it!!!

  23. Leigh Kramer says:

    I actually like Cinder’s cover! So funny. And I didn’t need to be talked into it- as soon as I heard “fairy tale,” I was on board. I resisted reading Harry Potter and Twilight for the longest time- I was very skeptical about YA, which is hilarious now.

  24. Candida says:

    I’m surprised so many are turned off by the cover of Cinder. Without reading the description on it the book struck me as looking like it might reference someone who may be living with prosthetic limbs. And thus being a rather strong character. I just read the description though and immediately thought it sounded awesome! It is a bit strange how we are pulled and pushed and sometimes just float up to the things we enjoy.

  25. Eve says:

    So how long should I give Ready Player One? I read the first 50 pages and gave it up. I am one that takes awhile to get into a book, though.

    • Anne says:

      That’s hard to say but I wouldn’t give up yet if that’s not abnormal for you. I listened to the audio which is a different experience, so I don’t remember exactly how long it took to hook me. (I think it’s much easier to “enter” the world of the book when you have background music and a great narrator to reel you in.)

  26. I have Ready Player One sitting in my dining room right now. It’s overdue at the library because I’ve put off reading it – EVEN THOUGH I requested it based on all the recommendations! (Also, I’m currently re-reading the Lunar Chronicles books in preparation for Winter.) (Yes, instead of reading Ready Player One!)

  27. Beth Anne says:

    Thanks for these recommendations, Anne! Adding Ready, Player One to my list.

    I have to say, I’ve been a bit irritated by all of the praise for Checklist Manifesto, but this is probably because I was so spoiled with Gawande’s first two books: Complications, and Better. They had a more personal touch and I liked the stories and lessons learned much more.

    Also, this is probably my bias but when it comes to pilots and checklists, he should have talked to fighter pilots, not commercial airline pilots. My hubby flies F/A-18’s and the checklists they have to memorize are far more extensive. Wasn’t impressed with hearing about commercial pilots 🙂

    Still a huge fan of Gawande and loved all of his other books. Checklist Manifesto was good in theory but lacked the narrative feel and more personal touch of his other books.

    Always love hearing your take on books, Anne! I’ve read so many great ones because of you!

    • Susan says:

      For me it was The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton. This was back when minimalist fiction was fashionable, and I couldn’t stand how bloodless it was. I asked an English professor friend for novels that were gripping and emotionally honest — literary page-turners. She recommended Wharton, George Eliot’s Middlemarch, and The Fixer by Bernard Malamud. Many years later, I’m still grateful. She opened up a world to me.

    • Anne says:

      Now I’m so curious about what the fighter pilot checklists would look like!

      I thought The Checklist Manifesto was fascinating, but I coincidentally ordered his two previous books on surgery/medicine this morning. Thanks for the nudge to actually read them. 🙂

  28. Molly says:

    I read Quiet because of your recommendation, Anne. It is an wonderful book. I am reading Ready Player One right now and can’t put it down.

  29. Regan says:

    My teenage son loved Ready Player One. He saw it at the bookstore on the staff suggestions shelf and gave it a try.

    I can’t think of a book that I had to be talked into reading, but I have read some recently that were suggested to me that I wouldn’t normally read. Liane Moriarty’s Big Little Lies is the most recent.

  30. Tosha Morrison says:

    Mine was when I was little, my mother gave me $20 to go to my school’s book fair, and told me I had to purchase ‘Little Woman’, which I did. But because she made me get it or the title or something unknown I did not read it for a couple years. When I had nothing to read I broke down and read it. It’s the first book that kept me up all night with flashlight to injest that story, which, once finished I started reading it again immediately. It was the first book to make me feel all those amazing things a boom can evoke from the reader.

  31. Elbow says:

    Geek Love! The title is really misleading; apparently a ‘geek’ here is a person who bites the heads off living chickens in the circus. And it’s not a romance novel at all, it’s actually pretty dark. It’s so original and well-written, everyone asking me for books is having that forced on them right now 😀

  32. Nicole says:

    Outlander by Diana Gabaldon! A friend at work recommended this series and I kept putting it off because the books are SO long (I’m talking hundreds of hours of reading time for the series), but I bought the first through Audible and couldn’t stop listening! The narrator Davina Porter is amazing, and the story has just the right combination of magic, history, romance and drama to keep me completely in love!

  33. Deborah Larson says:

    Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. We read this for our church book club. I put off starting it b/c the title didn’t catch my interest and the book’s cover wasn’t appealing either. But once I started reading, I couldn’t put it down. It’s VERY well-written, compelling read. I highly recommend it.

  34. Jan Stone says:

    If I ever finish all the as yet unread books in my house in this lifetime, not to mention all of Modernmrsdarcy’s other recommendations, then I can simply turn to this page for even more ideas…..now I think that Edgar Sawtelle book is in the spare room…..so many books, so little time!!

  35. Sharon Colomb says:

    Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry – yes, a western! My husband “made” me read it. About half-way thru, I kept saying, “I can’t believe I’m enjoying a western so much!” The TV adaption was good, but, as in most cases, the book was better.

  36. Donna Hubner says:

    I have been an avid reader all my life. I got hooked with Rebecca in HS. My favorite genre is historical fiction. I have to learn something from a book or I’m not interested!

  37. Carol Lawrence says:

    The Hunger Games. I can’t believe I almost missed this triology. My daughter, who I thought never reads for enjoyment, recommended it to me. She said she couldn’t put it down. I thought if it was that good I’d give its try. I’m glad I did. It is diffidently a read over and over.

  38. Anna says:

    Although Oprah trashed the author for embellishing his story, A Million Little Pieces remains one of the most powerful books I’ve ever read. And, a MUST READ for anyone who is ever going to die Being Mortal….not “fun”, but very important.

  39. DR says:

    “Water for Elephants” was mine. I don’t really like circuses and knew the animal abuse would upset me. But a trusted reading friend suggested it. Before I finished the first chapter, I saw how captivating the storytelling was. “Cinder” and “Ready Player One” are on my to-read list.

  40. Amanda A says:

    I attempted to read Cinder. 5 chapters and I absolutely hated it and gave up. I’m not sure what book I had to be talked in to reading.

  41. Katie Toffey says:

    Into Thin Air is a book I never would have picked up on my own. One of the many things I love about being part of a book club is reading choices by other people. I loved Into Thin Air – what a fascinating story! I am listening to Ready,Player One now based on your recommendations.

  42. Christen Collins says:

    I see this is an old post, but it showed up on my FB feed. I listen to your podcast every week, so I am currently reading Ultraviolet & also purchased Ready Player One, so it’s ready to eras when I finish Ultraviolet. I just finished When Breath Becomes Air, which was discussed by one of your guests. Thanks for putting new books onto my Kindle!

  43. Louise says:

    Mine was “Dead Poets Society”. It was part of the School curriculum and our teacher was excited. It did NOT talk to me at all(!), and I waited until the bookreport was due to read it. When I finally gave in and read it I was lost in their world!
    – and ended up loving the movie with Robin Williams. It is still very special to me. Maybe it is about time to read it again…

  44. Kellye says:

    Just finished ready player one! It was great! Thanks for the post! I’m about to start another from your list!

    Happy reading!
    Best,
    Kellye

  45. Mary G Williams says:

    This post came up on my Pinterest feed and by the time I finished the article and the comments I had eleven books to add to my Books to Read board!! Of those mentioned, I loved Being Mortal (I agree a must read for everyone), Quiet, the Austen novels and more. Here is a book I had to be talked into reading: From Sea to Shining Sea by James Alexander Thom. He is one of the best historical fiction writers ever. I went on to read everything he wrote, and so did my husband, who is not a reader. I have not had a lot of luck getting others to read his books, and that’s too bad. This one is a long book but a page turner as well as steeped in history. It is the story of both William Clark (think Lewis and Clark expedition) and George Rogers Clark, his older brother, with whom I fell in love! Another book that I read only because my sister in law said it was her favorite book was The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd. It is also historical fiction btw.

  46. Nakul Grover says:

    Thanks for sharing the list.

    I’ve not read any of the book listed above. But, now, I just ordered ‘the little book of talent’ after reading the post.

    I hope the book will be worth reading. .. 🙂 🙂
    Thank you again..

  47. Elizabeth says:

    I have to say Lily and the Octopus by Steven Rawley…the audio version was amazing…my favourite book this year…Every time I see hear the word tofurky or see it in the grocery story I start to giggle….

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