34 Great Books to Suit Any Mood or Interest

With all these choices (humor! thrills! non-snobby cultural criticism!) you're bound to find your next great read.

We independently evaluate all recommended products and services. If you click on links we provide, we may receive compensation. Learn more.

courtesy of publishers

There are several science-backed benefits of reading real books—relaxation being one of them. Count falling asleep faster as another health benefit of reading a book before bed. It can also be a fun summer activity for when you're short on funds. And, starting or joining a book club not only boosts your cognitive skills but also fills your schedule with an activity that can improve your emotional health and combat cabin fever—all too common during COVID. The Great Gatsby, for example, is a classic book that's perfect for any book club. It's also a great book to revisit when you're feeling nostalgic for the past. Those in their 20s might want books that offer valuable lessons on life, love, and friendship. Whatever the subject, a few good books tucked in a care package can't help but brighten anyone's day.

When we're looking for good books to read, we browse bestseller lists, click around Goodreads and Instagram, and ask friends for their recommendations. But the usual blanket categories and genres can be a bit too broad, and often, we've found that we get the best recommendations when we choose books based on our mood or our interests.

If you're looking for interesting books to read, we've compiled a list of 34 super-specific recommendations you won't be able to put down. This list has you covered, no matter how you're feeling.

If You're Looking for an Honest Story About Losing a Mother

crying in h mart book cover

Crying in H Mart, by Michelle Zauner

This is the memoir and debut book of Michelle Zauner, lead singer of the indie band Japanese Breakfast. Zauner writes about growing up Korean American and how losing her mother to cancer when she was 25 forced her to reconnect with her identity. It's a story of Zauner's grief and an exploration of all the gifts (language, food, history) her mother left behind. Zauner's memoir would be a wonderful addition to the growing list of great mother-daughter books.

If You're Looking for a Novel That Reads Like Poetry

on earth were briefly gorgeous book cover

On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous, by Ocean Vuong

Ocean Vuong is a Vietnamese-American poet and his debut novel is written in the form of a letter from a son to a mother who cannot read. Exploring race, class, and masculinity, the novel handles difficult topics with beauty and the kind of lines that will hang in the air long after you've set the book down.

If You Like Sharp Humor and Quick Reads

one day well all be dead and none of this will matter book cover

One Day We'll All Be Dead and None of This Will Matter, by Scaachi Koul

Written by Buzzfeed senior writer Scaachi Koul, this collection of essays is rich with relatable humor, no matter how specific the scenarios. Koul invites the reader into some of her most miserable and mortifying life moments, from feeling like an outsider as the daughter of Indian immigrants in Canada to shaving her knuckles to fit in at school.

If You Want to Remember bell hooks

all about love book cover

All About Love, by bell hooks

Feminist scholar and activist bell hooks died in 2021 at age 69, but her works have long been and will remain timeless. Her 1999 book is, as the title says, all about love, from personal, psychological, and philosophical perspectives.

If You Really Missed Traveling (and Anthony Bourdain)

world travel an irreverant book cover
Barnes and Noble

World Travel: An Irreverent Guide, by Anthony Bourdain and Laurie Woolever

Had to cancel your dream vacation due to the pandemic? This posthumous collection of essays and reflections captures the late travel and food writer and TV host Anthony Bourdain's favorite places on the planet—and may just inspire your future travels.

If You Want Something a Little Dishy

Good Company Book Cover
Courtesy of Amazon

Good Company by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney

This summer-perfect read about secrets in a marriage offers an insider's glimpse into the New York theater and Hollywood scenes.

If You Need to Be Reminded of (the Greatness of) the Great Outdoors

where the crawdads sing

Where the Crawdads Sing, by Delia Owens

Kya grows up wild and nearly alone along the North Carolina shores, where the natural world becomes her classroom and her great love. (It may just encourage you to go outside and commune with yourself and your nearest stretch of wilderness.)

If You're Worried You're a Helicopter Mom

Girls with Bright Futures Book Cover
Courtesy of Amazon

Girls With Bright Futures, by Tracy Dobmeier and Wendy Katzman

This thriller follows three moms as they go into overdrive to try to get their daughters a single, coveted spot at Stanford—including possibly attempted murder. (So no, you're doing just fine!)

If You Ever Wondered What Life Was Like in Your Dream House

the dutch house book cover
Barnes and Noble

The Dutch House, by Ann Patchett

Spoiler alert: Life isn't as perfect on the inside of a dream house as it appears. This artful portrait of a dysfunctional family—and the house they inhabit—is worthy book club fare.

If You Appreciate Great Dialogue

Cover of Normal People
Penguin Random House

Normal People, by Sally Rooney

If you haven't yet read Rooney's Normal People or her 2017 debut, Conversations with Friends, the Irish author's novels are great books to read if you like biting dialogue and stories about messy, real relationships.

If There Aren't Enough True Crime Podcasts for You

Cover of Say Nothing
Penguin Random House

Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland, by Patrick Radden Keefe

We'll say it: There are tons of true crime books and podcasts—but very few of them actually solve said crimes or offer much in the way of new information (of course, no shame in getting a rundown or entertaining commentary!). But this fact is what sets Say Nothing apart. You don't need to know much about the conflict in Northern Ireland to immediately be sucked into Keefe's reporting and writing, then completely enraptured when he starts to figure out who murdered Jean McConville.

If You Want Something a Little...Unsettling

Cover of Trust Exercise
Macmillan Publishers

Trust Exercise, by Susan Choi

In Choi's experimental coming of age novel, which won the 2019 National Book Award for fiction, two theater kids, Sarah and David, fall in love and explore their relationship for their craft under the watchful eye of their drama teacher. The twists are unexpected and the setting—a high-pressure arts school in the 1980s—is pitch-perfect. You'll want to talk about it with everyone.

If You're Looking to Learn Something

Cover of Wine Simple
Penguin Random House

Wine Simple: A Totally Approachable Guide from a World-Class Sommelier, by Aldo Sohm and Christine Muhlke

Aldo Sohm has been named the best sommelier in the world and oversees the wine program at one of New York City's top restaurants. Despite such accolades, he and Christine Muhlke have written a highly approachable handbook. Full of fun charts and illustrations, the unfussy Wine Simple demystifies everything from buzzy natural wines to tasting like a pro at your next dinner out.

If You Want to Read Cultural Criticism Without the Usual Snobbery

Cover of Trick Mirror
Penguin Random House

Trick Mirror: Reflections on Self-Delusion, by Jia Tolentino

In her debut collection of nine original essays, the popular NewYorker.com writer interrogates everything from millennial scammers to the Internet. It's compulsively readable, thanks in large part to Tolentino's own self-reflection and autobiographical elements.

If You Want to Spend a Little Less Time on Your Phone

Cover of 24/6
Simon & Schuster

24/6: The Power of Unplugging One Day a Week, by Tiffany Shlain

In 24/6, filmmaker and popular speaker Shlain introduces readers to what she calls a "Technology Shabbat"—the one day, every week, where she and her family turn off all electronic devices. Beyond detailing the many ways she and her family have benefited, Shlain gives helpful, reassuring advice for embracing your own tech shabbat and curbing device use.

If You Can't Read Enough About Hygge, Lagom, and Swedish Death Cleaning

cover of The Book of Ichigo Ichie
Penguin Random House

The Book of Ichigo Ichie: The Art of Making the Most of Every Moment, the Japanese Way, by Héctor García and Francesc Miralles

You've death-cleaned your home. You hygge with the best of them come winter. But have you heard of ichigo ichie, the Japanese art of savoring the moment, yet? Let the authors of The Book of Ichigo Ichie be your guides.

If You Just Finished Binge Watching and Reading The Handmaid's Tale

women talking book cover

Women Talking, by Miriam Toews

A lot of books claim to be "the next Handmaid's Tale," but Women Talking really fits the bill. This feminist fiction novel about a group of Mennonite women who are drugged and attacked by men from their community is particularly haunting because it's based on real events. Margaret Atwood herself says the story "could be right out of The Handmaid's Tale," so it has the official stamp of approval. If you're feeling helpless about the state of the world, Women Talking will inspire you to stand up, use your voice, and keep fighting.

If You're Happy With a Smart, Grown-Up Romance

The Kiss Quotient, by Helen Hoang

The Kiss Quotient, by Helen Hoang

Stella is great with numbers, but because she has Asperger's, she's not so great at romance. To gain experience, she hires an escort to practice and perfect her skills in the bedroom—and accidentally falls in love with him. Helen Hoang's #ownvoices novel is equal parts sweet and steamy. After reading The Kiss Quotient, you can jump immediately into the next book in the trilogy: The Bride Test, a companion novel about a woman searching for love and an autistic man who doesn't know if he can return her feelings.

If Oddball Families Make You Smile

Cover of Mostly Dead Things, by Kristen Arnett
Tin House Books

Mostly Dead Things, by Kristen Arnett

Everyone's family has their strange quirks, and Jessa's is no exception. After her father commits suicide in their family's taxidermy shop, their behavior gets even stranger; for starters, her mom begins making aggressive and sexually suggestive taxidermy art. Jessa takes over the business and tries to be strong for everyone but struggles to reach her loved ones that refuse to talk about their issues. Mostly Dead Things is one of the strangest, most bizarre books you'll ever read—in the best possible way.

If You're Down for a Literary Masterpiece You Can Read in One Sitting

Cover of Looker, by Laura Sims
Simon & Schuster

Looker, by Laura Sims

Sometimes, it's hard to categorize a book into just one genre. Looker isn't exactly a thriller or a mystery, but it contains elements of both. It offers a peek into the mind of an unnamed woman growing more and more unstable by the page. As she mourns her own broken life, she becomes obsessed with her neighbor, a famous actress. While Looker is short—less than 200 pages—it's packed with themes of obsession, jealousy, and madness. Laura Sims made every word count.

If You Want a Good Cry (Two Boxes of Tissues, Minimum)

The Bright Hour: A Memoir of Living and Dying, by Nina Riggs

The Bright Hour: A Memoir of Living and Dying, by Nina Riggs

This memoir, published posthumously, sets out to answer the question: How do you make your life meaningful when you know your time is limited?

If You Wore Out Your Copy of Like Water for Chocolate

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender
Penguin Random House

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, by Aimee Bender

Fans of magic realism should dig into this tale of a young girl whose mother's despair is a key ingredient in her desserts.

If You Just Went Through a Breakup

Alone Time, by Stephanie Rosenbloom
Penguin Random House

Alone Time, by Stephanie Rosenbloom

​​Four cities, four seasons, and countless tables for one. In this memoir, Stephanie Rosenbloom explores the joys of solo adventuring.

If You Love Quirky Science and Psychology

swearing is good for you book cover
Discover Books

Swearing Is Good For You, by Emma Byrne

A damn good read, packed with scientific proof that sometimes it's OK to drop a few f-bombs.

If You Want to Fulfill Your Fantasies of Working on a Winery

The Shortest Way Home, by Miriam Parker

The Shortest Way Home, by Miriam Parker

When Hannah finds herself with everything she's ever wanted (at least she thinks so?), she can't resist giving it all up for a dream she never knew she had.

If You've Been Looking for Another Book Like Where'd You Go Bernadette

What You Don’t Know About About Charlie Outlaw, by Leah Stewart

What You Don't Know About About Charlie Outlaw, by Leah Stewart

A quirky tale of two Hollywood stars who break up only to find themselves needing each other more than ever—especially after one of them is kidnapped on a desert island.

If You're Breastfeeding Your Cluster Feeding Baby

Gmorning, Gnight!: Little Pep Talks for Me & You, by Lin-Manuel Miranda
Penguin Random House

Gmorning, Gnight!: Little Pep Talks for Me & You, by Lin-Manuel Miranda

You know you want Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda to be your best friend. While you may not be able to join his entourage and follow him around all day, you can get his book. Inspired by his lovely messages to his fans on Twitter, this illustrated collection of sayings will encourage you to seize the day, the night, and all of the other hours in between.

If You Want to Be Put Into a Good Mood

Becoming, by Michelle Obama

Becoming, by Michelle Obama

Former First Lady of the United States Michelle Obama has lived an accomplished life, but it hasn't been without hardships. In Becoming, Obama weaves the story of her inspiring life, from the years she spent growing up on the South Side of Chicago to her life in the White House. You will earn to a new appreciation of the former First Lady when you learn about all the things she's experienced—and triumphed over—and her story will inspire you to live a more daring life.

If You're About to Have a Baby

Overwhelmed, by Brigid Schulte

Overwhelmed, by Brigid Schulte

You've probably heard by now that you won't be sleeping much after you welcome your bundle of joy (and noise) into the world. Parenthood can be challenging and exhausting, but you don't have to feel like you've lost yourself while you're creating a life for someone else. Journalist Brigid Schulte lays out how our always-on culture can get the best of us and what you can do to take back some time for yourself.

If You're in Love

Kafka on the Shore, by Haruki Murakami

Kafka on the Shore, by Haruki Murakami

A novel of fantastical magic realism, Kafka on the Shore has a vivid, dreamy plot. Even more accomplished is the novel's turn of phrase, like this quote: "Anyone who falls in love is searching for the missing pieces of themselves. So anyone who's in love gets sad when they think of their lover. It's like stepping back inside a room you have fond memories of, one you haven't seen in a long time." With hundreds of lines like that one, Kafka on the Shore will have you going back again and again to find more gorgeous words to describe your own ardor.

If You're In a Bad Mood

I Remember Nothing, by Nora Ephron
Penguin Random House

I Remember Nothing, by Nora Ephron

Do you have one of those friends that can complain about anything, but their complaints are entertaining, literary delights? No? Well, Nora Ephron can satisfy that itch. In I Remember Nothing, Ephron, the late writer and creator of beloved movies like You've Got Mail, holds forth on the weird and wonderful changes that define modern life. Don't read this book in public: People will keep giving you weird looks when you can't stop laughing.

If You're Feeling Ready for a Vacation

Cover of Flâneuse, by Lauren Elkin
Courtesy of Amazon.com

Flâneuse, by Lauren Elkin

Each of us holds a desire to wander, but for Lauren Elkin, the urge is irresistible. In Flâneuse, Elkin meanders through the great cities of the world, including New York, Paris, Venice, and London, ruminating on the culture of strolling through cities and what it means to explore as a woman.

If You're Getting Hitched

Cover of The Wedding Date, by Jasmine Guillory

The Wedding Date, by Jasmine Guillory

If you're about to get married, and you're planning a huge party for your nuptials, take a minute to see your wedding from your guests' perspective: attending a wedding without a plus one has the potential to be nerve-racking. In Jasmine Guillory's fun romance, The Wedding Date, Alex Monroe and Drew Nichols solve their potential date-less embarrassment by faking a relationship, and the result is as juicy and delightful as you can imagine.

If You're in the Mood for a Spine-Tingling Stories

Cover of The Thirteenth Tale, by Diane Setterfield

The Thirteenth Tale, by Diane Setterfield

The Thirteenth Tale is a novel for book lovers. Although it's anything but cozy, it's the perfect book to read in chilly winter. Biographer Margaret Lea is tasked with telling the life story of the enigmatic author Vida Winter, whose lauded collection of stories is missing the eponymous 13th tale. As Winter unravels her life's story for Lea, her mysterious past of Victorian-gothic proportions unfolds.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles