8 can’t-put-down books to binge instead of Netflix

It’s 9 pm, you’re exhausted, and you just want to be horizontal and immobile for a while. So you head to the sofa, turn on the TV, and load up Netflix. And you find the perfect thing to binge and escape from the world with.

Yeah, I get it. (And yep, I do it too.)

But each time I find a really great book I can’t put down for a weekend, I remember that Netflix isn’t the only binge-worthy entertainment.

Sometimes, it’s even more immersive to leap into the world of a book and not leave it for a while. You also get to spend a bit less time away from a screen (at least a non-Kindle one). Here are a few recommendations to get you started…

8 books to binge-read instead of watching Netflix on loop

1. The Chestnut Man by Soren Sveistrup

You might have seen this new Nordic Noir series appear on Netflix lately. If something seems familiar about The Chestnut Man, it’s because the show – and this book, which came first – are created by the guy behind The Killing.

Why not give the book by Søren Sveistrup a go first? In this compulsively readable thriller in the tradition of Stieg Larsson, a psychopath is terrorizing Copenhagen. (My current home city!)

His calling card is a “chestnut man” – a handmade doll made of matchsticks and two chestnuts – which he leaves at each bloody crime scene.

These seem to be a strange quirk, until one of the chestnut men bears the fingerprints of a government minister’s young daughter who had been kidnapped and murdered a year ago.

A pair of detectives must put aside their differences to piece together the Chestnut Man’s gruesome clues and try to save more lives – and protect their own.

2. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Looking for something lighter? The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is fantastic. It’s the type of book I cruise through in a weekend, unable to stop reading it for too long but not wanting it to end either.

Aging and reclusive Hollywood movie icon Evelyn Hugo is finally ready to tell the truth about her glamorous and scandalous life. But when she chooses unknown magazine reporter Monique Grant for the job, no one is more surprised (and confused) than Monique herself.

Summoned to Evelyn’s luxurious apartment, Monique listens in fascination as the actress tells her story. But it turns out that there’s a reason Evelyn chose Monique to tell this story – and it will make Monique think very differently about the best opportunity of her career.

3. 11/22/63 by Stephen King

If you ask book lovers for their best can’t-put-down recommendations, you’ll probably soon get bored of hearing 11/22/63. But it really is good.

When President Kennedy died on November 22, 1963, the world changed forever. But here, Stephen King asks – in his characteristic gripping and terrifying way – what if someone could change it back?

That person turns out to be Jake Epping, a thirty-five-year-old English teacher in Maine, whose friend and owner of the local diner, Al, lets him in on a secret: his storeroom is a portal to the past, a particular day in 1958.

So begins Jake’s new life as George Amberson, in a different world where every turn leads, of course, to a troubled loner named Lee Harvey Oswald and to Dallas.

4. Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

If you’re looking for a brilliantly plotted sci-fi thriller that’s mind-bendingly strange, read Dark Matter.

The last thing Jason Dessen hears before the masked abductor knocks him unconscious is this question: “Are you happy with your life?”
He awakens to find himself strapped to a gurney, surrounded by strangers in hazmat suits, and a man who Jason has never met saying, “Welcome back, my friend.” This life and world he’s woken up to isn’t the one he knows. But is it this world or the other that’s the dream? And even if the home he remembers is real, how can Jason possibly make it back to the family he loves?

5. The Windsor Knot by SJ Bennet

If you loved watching The Crown but would enjoy it even more with a slice of murder mystery, The Windsor Knot is your pick of this list.

The morning after a dinner party at Windsor Castle, eighty-nine-year-old Queen Elizabeth is shocked to discover that one of her guests has been found murdered in his room, with a rope around his neck.

When the police begin to suspect her loyal servants, Her Majesty isn’t so sure. For it turns out that the Queen has been living an extraordinary double life ever since her coronation, honing a brilliant knack for solving crimes. Can the Queen and her trusted secretary Rozie catch the killer, without getting caught themselves?

6. The Midnight Bargain by C.L. Polk

If magic meets Bridgerton sounds like your idea of a good time, grab yourself a copy of The Midnight Bargain by C.L. Polk.

Sorceress Beatrice Clayborn practices magic in secret, terrified of the day she will be locked into a marital collar to cut off her powers. She dreams of becoming a full-fledged mage, but with her family in severe debt, only her marriage can save them. What follows is trickery, magic, and a lot of romance.

7. The Gifted School by Bruce Holsinger

If you tore through Liane Moriarty’s Big Little Lies or the screen adaptation, this gripping page-turner by Bruce Holsinger should be perfect for your next read.

In the privileged and uneventful community of Crystal, Colorado, a group of close friends are raising their families in harmony. That is until news begins to spread that a ‘gifted school’ will be opening its doors in town. Places will be sparse, the competition ferocious, and as the facade of their picture-perfect community begins to fade, long-buried secrets threaten to surface under the pressure.

8. The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang

I’ve been binge-reading Helen Hoang’s books lately. I’m going to say now that I don’t usually read books with this much romance or sex. But if I’m going to start my foray into that genre, these books with fantastic themes of self-discovery and autism in the mix are a superb place to start.

It was only when researching her first novel in the series, The Kiss Quotient, that Helen Hoang was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder herself.

I don’t think I’ve ever read fiction that talks about autism spectrum disorder (which I have) so well. The Kiss Quotient is the first in a series of three beautifully interlinking books, each focusing on three women whose new partners give them a whole new view of love – and themselves.


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It's good to meet you! I started Tolstoy Therapy back in 2012 to share my healing journey through anxiety and PTSD with books. I also climb mountains, go on solo adventures, and write over at livewildly.co.

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