The Great Escape — Books You Can’t Put Down

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Last weekend, I got to spend a few relaxing hours at my grandparents’ house, drinking coffee, looking out at the lake and reading Murakami. Next to me, my cousin Bekah was completely immersed in reading Twilight. She read with me on the porch, but she also read while the rest of the family watched TV, rode in the car, and slept (see photographic evidence above). Of course, I understood her obsession. She was with us, but she was also a million miles away in Twilight world with Edward, Bella, the Volturi and that creepy vampire baby army.

I love to read pretty much anything, but there are certain books that totally grab hold of you and pull you in — they’re intoxicating, and you hate to put them down. Sometimes they’re great, and sometimes they seem a little silly, but sometimes pure escapism can really hit the spot sometimes. Here’s my top five escapist books (most of them are series, actually). They’re your Get Out of Stress Free card, a ticket out of your stressful everyday life:

Twilight
It’s not well written. It’s not a classic. But it’s storytelling that gets you absolutely drunk on the obsession and infatuation of Edward and Bella’s story. Besides, with its movies, t-shirts, bumper stickers and rabid fan base, you can’t really escape Twilight, so just stop fighting and read it already. It has everything: A love triangle, motorcycles, cliff jumping, and at least one Christian vampire. Sure, it’s not great literature. But it’s lots of fun.

Hunger Games
If you have trouble with the passivity of Twilight’s Bella, you’ll love Katniss of the Hunger Games. She strong, empowered, and she fights as hard as any boy. She has to — Hunger Games is the story of a coliseum-style death match played out between the children of post-apocalyptic America on reality television. Yeah, you read that right. Pick up this book, and you’ll be off your couch and in the arena with Katniss within 50 pages.

Discovery of Witches
This star-crossed love story between a witch and a vampire is set in the academic world of Oxford (modern day) and swings all the way back to the Crusades and World War II … but dress it up however you want — Discovery of Witches is basically Twilight for grownups. The writing style’s a touch pretentious, but the intoxicating storytelling makes up for that.

Harry Potter
Okay, this pick seems obvious. But I still know plenty of people who haven’t treated themselves to the world of Harry Potter. It’s dressed up in magic, but the real plotline here is about love, friendship, and making hard choices when they matter most. It’s romantic without being trashy, compelling without resorting to cheesy plot twists, wonderfully readable and re-readable. The movies and the theme park are fun, but it’s the books that are true magic.

Night Circus
It’s beautiful, enchanting, mysterious, and fun. I read it in one day, then woke up the next morning and wanted to immediately read it again. There are serious themes about the significance of creativity and art in our lives and in our relationships, and, both in theme and in execution, this book shows us the importance of wonder to the human experience. It reminded me at times of Daniel Handler (a.k.a. Lemony Snicket) and at times of Harry Potter, but it really has its own voice and fully realized world.

Carrie is co-owner and book buyer at Church Street Coffee & Books. She’s also a serial blogger — read about her buy-local project at Shop Small.

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