Some books are just too good.
Too good for studying. Too good for you to think about literally anything else until you've reached the final page.
This isn't a list of my favorite books because some of those I was able to put down (or had to because, well, sometimes you need to take a break from greatness). With these, however, I did not have that luxury.
The books below are those I'd risk exacerbating my insomnia for. Books I would, as stated in the title of this article, pull an all-nighter reading before a major exam at school. They will have you in whatever kind of figurative choke-hold books can.
1. The "Red Rising trilogy" by Pierce Brown
"I am the Reaper.
I know how to suffer.
I know the darkness.
This is not how it ends."
Highlights: Exemplary female characters, many lovable characters in general, gripping tale, includes rebellion against a hierarchy comparable to our reality's racism.
This is the most recent novel I've read on the list. The "Red Rising" trilogy is a dystopian series that makes itself stand out among the blowup of the genre, from what I assume was due to the hype of series like "The Hunger Games." The setting begins on Mars, so we get to fast-forward through the 'Earth is dying, we need other options' dilemma. I'm not a huge fan of books set in space, to be honest. Sci-fi isn't really my thing. The first book was recommended to me years ago and I only just picked it up a few weeks ago—but man, was that my mistake. The first fifty to one hundred pages of the first book are a little slow as the plot and setting is set up, but once things get going, they really get going. That bookworm thought of just one more chapter becomes just until I reach the end and it's 3 a.m. and I'm crying.
If I'd had all three of the books on hand when I got a hold of the first book, I probably would have done nothing else for however long it took for me to read all three. As it was, I had to wait a few agonizing days between books in order to get copies from my county's libraries.
One last plus of this series—as well as some below—is that it fits into what's known as new adult fiction; fiction with protagonists between the ages of 18-30, therefore older than the typical protagonist in young adult novels, but sometimes younger than those in general fiction. As an almost-21 year old college student, it's really cool to be able to read books with protagonists my own age.
2. "Carry On" by Rainbow Rowell
“Just when you think you're having a scene without Simon, he drops in to remind you that everyone else is a supporting character in his catastrophe.”
Highlights: diverse cast (POC and LGBTQ representation), the nostalgia, highly readable.
This is over 500 pages of the most entertaining not-fanfiction-but-almost-fanfiction I've ever read. The story behind it is one of the best parts, as the book started out as merely a reference in another book by the author, "Fangirl." In it, the protagonist writes "Carry On" fan-fiction. From what readers are first introduced to in "Fangirl," the story of "Carry On" characters Simon, Baz and Penelope is eerily similar to that of Harry Potter, with a "Chosen One" and other characters comparable to Malfoy, Hermione, Voldemort and Dumbledore.
In this full-length novel, however, Rainbow Rowell has the space to differentiate the story from the Harry Potter series. The entire thing is magical, hilarious and now one of my favorites. It's long, yes, but you blow through it so fast you'll wish there was more. You don't need to read "Fangirl" before reading "Carry On" as it's a stand-alone, but if you're like me, you'll want to read every other Rainbow Rowell book once you read your first of hers anyway.
If you need the nostalgia of your Harry Potter childhood without having the time to tackle a seven-part series, "Carry On" is for you.
3. "The Grisha Trilogy" by Leigh Bardugo
“He has served countless kings, faked countless deaths, bided his time, waiting for you.”
Highlights: enchanting, great world-building, contains one of my favorite lit characters of all-time ("the Darkling")
The Grisha trilogy is a high-fantasy series set in the the fictional nation, Ravka. The protagonist, Alina Starkov, faces a new world of challenges when she discovers she's not merely human but rather blessed—or cursed—with the powers of the Grisha. With a power unique from most other Grisha, Alina is whisked away to the palace of the Darkling, the leader of the magical elite. Her introduction to this new life of power and magic is a stark difference from what she's previously known, and she's doubtful she can live up to the expectations of those around her. Evil and plot twists arrive at different turns, and you'll probably need the sequel in your hands ASAP after you finish the first installment.
The trilogy has a darker, gothic feel that I appreciate; books with perky pixies, elves and cuteness can't always cut it for me. Especially before a big exam where nothing is or can be cute.
I used to be turned off by high-fantasy novels because of the large amount of information you're introduced to as the author describes an imagined world so different from our own. But reading about the world of the Grisha is what convinced me to give the fantasy genre another chance.
4. Basically any book by Ellen Hopkins
“The bad thing about fear
Is it requires a reaction. Some hide.
Some cry. But, like a dog condemned
to a walled yard with no hope
of escape or affection, some learn
Highlights: format, tackles the tough issues, very quotable
Ellen Hopkins' books are written as a series of poems, and that format itself was what kept me from picking them up for a while. But the thing is, it doesn't read like any of the intimidating poetry you might have been introduced to in school. As you slip into the story, the format won't even bother you anymore, if poetry isn't usually your thing. They're not separate poems, they're a story.
I can't pick just one of her books to recommend. All of her books are gripping, and what makes them addicting (no pun intended) is the subjects she tackles in her books—drug addiction, eating disorders, sex trafficking, abuse, sexuality and religion. It's not just a middle-age woman writing about what she thinks she knows; they're realistic, and one thing I respect about her is that she's consulted real-life victims and survivors in order to do the subject matter and struggles justice. She's also written from experience, as the mother of a young woman who struggles with addiction.
Personal recommendations: "Identical," "Impulse," "Tricks," and "Traffick."
5. "The Bone Season" by Samantha Shannon
“Madness is a matter of perspective, little dreamer.”
Highlights: strong protagonist, romance that's not overwhelming/focal, diversity (LGBT, POC), new adult fiction, awesome author
"The Bone Season" begins in London in the year 2059. The story contains nefarious, corrupt authorities we're accustomed to fearing and discrimination of what are called "voyants"—individuals that have the power of clairvoyance. But these aren't just your typical psychics; rather, there is a hierarchy of voyants ranging from those who can be possessed by and carry out actions of the dead, to voyants like the protagonist, nineteen-year old Paige—known as the "Dreamwalker." In this dystopian reality, clairvoyance is considered criminal.
There are gangs and the underground scene, but when Paige is captured early on and taken to an abandoned makeshift prison in the Oxford area, we're introduced to a crowd we really have to fear—the Rephaite. The Rephaite are a nonhuman race that enslave voyants under the radar and force them to do their bidding. Tall with metallic skin and a hardness to them, each Rephaite acts as a slave-keeper of voyants, and Paige doesn't have any reason to believe her keeper, Warden, is any different than the rest of them. Not at first.
There's romance, but more importantly, there's bravery, strong characters and that page-turning quality that landed the book on this list. The author has stated that the series will be seven books long, and currently published are the first and second books. The third is set to be released early next year.
Besides the amazing story, the author also wrote the book when she was a university student herself—a published author before she turned 22. If that's not inspiring to young writers, I don't know what is.
6. "John Dies at the End" by David Wong
"Watch out for Molly. See if she does anything unusual. There’s something I don’t trust about the way she exploded and then came back from the dead like that.”
Highlights: dry humor, ridiculously entertaining, the synopsis that won't let you pass the book by
Alright, "John Dies at the End" is hilarious. One of the funniest things I've ever read and so entertaining. When I first read it, I was going through a stage where I kept a highlighter near me while reading so I could highlight my favorite passages. Let's just say my copy of this is pretty well marked.
The two main characters here are twenty-somethings, Dave and John. Over the course of a crazy night, the two are introduced to a strange substance called "Soy Sauce" that leads to death, human possession, monsters, hallucinations...it's nothing you'll buy on the streets in our reality.
Yet. All those that have had even a small taste are given a window into a separate dimension. The novel jumps some in time, from when Dave and John first discover the drug to however much time passes before they've figured out how to deal with it to some degree.
I'll warn you, the kind of humor within isn't for everyone. It can be crude. But if you think you'd be into the kind of dry, sarcastic, sometimes crude humor it contains, I can tell you it's a book you'll never be able—or want—to forget.
I hope anyone who has at least skimmed this has found a book or two or six to add to their to-read list.
Happy reading, and good luck studying after the book hangover you'll get after reading any of these.