9 Books to Drop Everything and Read

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If you’re a passionate reader, you’re always on the hunt for the next book that will totally engross you. We’ve pinpointed some that are worth the old drop-everything-and-read treatment.

1) The Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant

After he’d won the Civil War and spent two terms in the White House, Grant was strapped for cash. His pal Mark Twain convinced the retired general to pen his memoirs, which Twain then published. Just how good was the finished product? Twain called it “a great, unique and unapproachable literary masterpiece.”

2) The Moonstone  by Wilkie Collins

Nothing is quite as gripping as a good mystery novel, and Collins’ masterpiece, first published in 1868, is sometimes credited as the very first detective novel. If you like a good whodunit, it’s worth the effort to find out where the genre got its start.

3) The Amateur Cracksman  by E.W. Hornung

Hornung enjoyed Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories so much that in the 1890s he set out to craft his own take on the brilliant investigator. Hornung got creative, though. Instead of creating his own detective, he dreamed up A.J. Raffles, an anti-Holmes who made his living as a “gentleman thief” and burglar. The resulting stories are thrilling and often hilarious.

4) Tom Sawyer, Detective  by Mark Twain

Twain would know a little something about literary masterpieces. He’d also know something about baffling sequels. Published in 1896, Tom Sawyer, Detective details the title character’s efforts to solve a murder in a burlesque house. How can you not drop everything to read that?

5) The Wealth of Nations  by Adam Smith

For a book published in 1776, Adam Smith’s revolutionary The Wealth of Nations is a surprisingly engaging and approachable read. It can get a little technical in parts, but a solid read will arm you with more economics knowledge than you ever thought you’d have.

6) Pride and Prejudice  by Jane Austen

If you haven’t read Pride and Prejudice, what are you doing reading on the Web? Pride and Prejudice is funny, beautifully written, and indispensable. The only downside is that since writing wasn’t considered an honorable vocation for a woman of Austen’s class, she couldn’t take credit for the novel when it came out. The title page reads “By the author Sense and Sensibility.” That book, in turn, only reveals that it was written “By a lady.”

7) Jane Eyre  by Charlotte Bronte

Like Austen, the brilliant Bronte sisters disguised their identities. Before Charlotte Bronte broke out with her incredible novel Jane Eyre, the three sisters adopted the pseudonyms Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell. In 1846, the Brontes self-published a collection of poetry under these pseudonyms. How did the three literary titans’ debut fare? They sold a whopping two copies. Things took a positive turn for Charlotte the following year when, still writing as Currer Bell, she found a publisher for Jane Eyre.

8) One Thousand and One Nights

Sure, you probably know Aladdin, Ali Baba, and Sinbad. But there are still hundreds of classic Middle Eastern folk tales waiting for you in this volume. How can you read a story title like “The Fakir and His Jar of Butter” and not be just a little intrigued?

9) Walden  by Henry David Thoreau

Thoreau’s beautiful account of living in New England seclusion is gripping for its simplicity, but it wasn’t easy to write. Thoreau needed seven years to write and edit the 18 essays that he wrote while living in a cabin on Ralph Waldo Emerson’s land for two years. It’s hard to blame Thoreau for heading to the wilderness; his other option was sticking with the family pencil-making business.