What’s makes an immersive novel?
Compelling stories? Captivating, larger-than-life characters? Vivid and exotic places where you get transported to?
For me, it’s all of the above. Books that will stick forever, characters that you wouldn’t be able to purge from your mind.
If you’re on the lookout for those poignant novels this post is for YOU.
This list has 12 enthralling books that will entertain you. From the 1970s Baltimore to 1960s Hollywood, books set in captivating backgrounds to escape reality.
Whether you want to take a little time off your work, study or life in general, start reading these books right away!
12 immersive books to escape reality
Mary Jane by Jessica Anya Blau
In 1970s Baltimore, fourteen-year-old Mary Jane loves cooking with her mother, singing in her church choir, and enjoying her family’s subscription to the Broadway Show Tunes of the Month record club. Shy, quiet, and bookish, she’s glad when she lands a summer job as a nanny for the daughter of a local doctor. A respectable job, Mary Jane’s mother says. In a respectable house. every surface, IMPEACHMENT: Now More Than Ever bumper stickers on the doors, cereal and takeout for dinner. And even more, troublesome (were Mary Jane’s mother to know, which she does not): The doctor is a psychiatrist who has cleared his summer for one important job—helping a famous rock star dry out. A week after Mary Jane starts, the rock star and his movie star wife move in.
“Part of being alive is figuring out the balance between what you want, what you need, and what you have with what you don’t want, don’t need and don’t have.”Jessica Anya Blau, Mary Jane
‘Mary Jane‘ is a refreshing read. It takes you back to the 70s era instantly. The author Jessica Anya Blau has created characters with so much fun and energy. And you’re surely going to miss each one of them.
Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Malibu: August 1983. It’s the day of Nina Riva’s annual end-of-summer party, and anticipation is at a fever pitch. Everyone wants to be around the famous Rivas: Nina, the talented surfer and supermodel; brothers Jay and Hud, one a championship surfer, the other a renowned photographer; and their adored baby sister, Kit. Together, the siblings are a source of fascination in Malibu and the world over—especially as the offspring of the legendary singer, Mick Riva.
The only person not looking forward to the party of the year is Nina herself, who never wanted to be the centre of attention, and who has also just been very publicly abandoned by her pro tennis player husband. Oh, and maybe Hud—because it is long past time to confess something to the brother from whom he’s been inseparable since birth.
“Family is found…whether it be blood or circumstance or choice, what binds us does not matter. All that matters is that we are bound.”Taylor Jenkins Reid, Malibu Rising
‘Malibu Rising’ is more than just a beach read. It’s a compelling family saga told in the background of a summer party. Reid infuses many elements such as family, parenthood and friendship. Malibu Rising is s fast-paced book to help you escape reality.
The Henna Artist by Alka Joshi
Escaping from an abusive marriage, seventeen-year-old Lakshmi makes her way alone to the vibrant 1950s pink city of Jaipur. There she becomes the most highly requested henna artist—and confidante—to the wealthy women of the upper class. But trusted with the secrets of the wealthy, she can never reveal her own…
Known for her original designs and sage advice, Lakshmi must tread carefully to avoid the jealous gossips who could ruin her reputation and her livelihood. As she pursues her dream of independent life, she is startled one day when she is confronted by her husband, who has tracked her down these many years later with a high-spirited young girl in tow—a sister Lakshmi never knew she had. Suddenly the caution that she has carefully cultivated as protection is threatened. Still, she perseveres, applying her talents and lifting up those that surround her as she does.
“Hadn’t Gandhi-ji said, An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind?”Alka Joshi, The Henna Artist
“The Henna Artist” is a realistic portrayal of one woman’s struggle in 1950s India. Make yourself a cup of tea and get transported to the beautiful and full of life, Pink City of India Jaipur.
The Last Thing He Told Me by Laura Dave
Before Owen Michaels disappears, he smuggles a note to his beloved wife of one year: Protect her. Despite her confusion and fear, Hannah Hall knows exactly to whom the note refers—Owen’s sixteen-year-old daughter, Bailey. Bailey, who lost her mother tragically as a child. Bailey, who wants absolutely nothing to do with her new stepmother.
As Hannah’s increasingly desperate calls to Owen go unanswered, as the FBI arrests Owen’s boss, as a US marshal and federal agents arrive at her Sausalito home unannounced, Hannah quickly realizes her husband isn’t who he said he was. And that Bailey just may hold the key to figuring out Owen’s true identity—and why he really disappeared.
Hannah and Bailey set out to discover the truth. But as they start putting together the pieces of Owen’s past, they soon realize they’re also building a new future—one neither of them could have anticipated.
“This is the terrible thing about a tragedy. It isn’t with you every minute. You forget it, and then you remember it again.”Laura Dave, The Last Thing He Told Me
‘The Last Thing He Told Me’ is a mystery novel that you wouldn’t be able to put down. The unforeseen circumstances that Hannah and her step-daughters go through are indeed intriguing and emotive.
The Dutch House by Ann Patchett
At the end of the Second World War, Cyril Conroy combines luck and a single canny investment to begin an enormous real estate empire, propelling his family from poverty to enormous wealth. His first order of business is to buy the Dutch House, a lavish estate in the suburbs outside of Philadelphia. Meant as a surprise for his wife, the house sets in motion the undoing of everyone he loves.
The story is told by Cyril’s son Danny, as he and his older sister, the brilliantly acerbic and self-assured Maeve, are exiled from the house where they grew up by their stepmother. The two wealthy siblings are thrown back into the poverty their parents had escaped from and find that all they have to count on is one another. It is this unshakable bond between them that both saves their lives and thwarts their futures.
“There are a few times in life when you leap up and the past that you’d been standing on falls away behind you, and the future you mean to land on is not yet in place, and for a moment you’re suspended knowing nothing and no one, not even yourself.”Ann Patchett, The Dutch House
‘The Dutch house’ is a dark fairytale. The siblings love for each other and their family house is something that you want to read again and again. And Tom Hank’s impeccable narration is something you surely don’t want to miss!
It Ends with Us by Colleen Hoover
Lily hasn’t always had it easy, but that’s never stopped her from working hard for the life she wants. She’s come a long way from the small town in Maine where she grew up
— she graduated from college, moved to Boston, and started her own business. So when she feels a spark with a gorgeous neurosurgeon named Ryle Kincaid, everything in Lily’s life suddenly seems almost too good to be true.
Ryle is assertive, stubborn, maybe even a little arrogant. He’s also sensitive, brilliant, and has a total soft spot for Lily. And the way he looks in scrubs certainly doesn’t hurt. Lily can’t get him out of her head. But Ryle’s complete aversion to relationships is disturbing. Even as Lily finds herself becoming the exception to his “no dating” rule, she can’t help but wonder what made him that way in the first place.
“All humans make mistakes. What determines a person’s character aren’t the mistakes we make. It’s how we take those mistakes and turn them into lessons rather than excuses.”Colleen Hoover, It Ends with Us
‘It Ends with Us’ is uplifting, romantic and heart-wrenching. Author Hoover has packed her novel with so many great elements that you are completely absorbed in the main character’s life. A phenomenal book to get lost in.
The Book of Lost Names by Kristin Harmel
Eva Traube Abrams, a semi-retired librarian in Florida, is shelving books one morning when her eyes lock on a photograph in a magazine lying open nearby. She freezes; it’s an image of a book she hasn’t seen in sixty-five years—a book she recognizes as The Book of Lost Names.
The accompanying article discusses the looting of libraries by the Nazis across Europe during World War II—an experience Eva remembers well—and the search to reunite people with the texts taken from them so long ago. The book in the photograph, an eighteenth-century religious text thought to have been taken from France in the waning days of the war, is one of the most fascinating cases. Now housed in Berlin’s Zentral- und Landesbibliothek library, it appears to contain some sort of code, but researchers don’t know where it came from—or what the code means. Only Eva holds the answer—but will she have the strength to revisit old memories and help reunite those lost during the war?
“Once you’ve fallen in love with books, their presence can make you feel at home anywhere, even in places where you shouldn’t belong.”Kristin Harmel, The Book of Lost Names
Unlike the other novels that are set in the background of World War II, ‘The Book of Lost Names’ takes readers to the world of forgery. It depicts a young woman’s journey to master it so well and to be able to help thousands of people. Courageous fighters who risked their lives to save Jewish children.
A woman is No Man by Etaf Rum
This debut novel by an Arab-American voice takes us inside the lives of conservative Arab women living in America.
In Brooklyn, eighteen-year-old Deya is starting to meet with suitors. Though she doesn’t want to get married, her grandparents give her no choice. History is repeating itself: Deya’s mother, Isra, also had no choice when she left Palestine as a teenager to marry Adam. Though Deya was raised to believe her parents died in a car accident, a secret note from a mysterious, yet familiar-looking woman makes Deya question everything she was told about her past. As the narrative alternates between the lives of Deya and Isra, she begins to understand the dark, complex secrets behind her community.
“A real choice doesn’t have conditions. A real choice is free.”
Etaf Rum, A Woman Is No Man”
From the refugee camp in Palestine to Brooklyn, this multigenerational drama depicts three generations of Palestinian women and how their voices get silenced in the patriarchal culture.
A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
Meet Ove. He’s a curmudgeon, the kind of man who points at people he dislikes as if they were burglars caught outside his bedroom window. He has staunch principles, strict routines, and a short fuse. People call him the bitter neighbour from hell, but must Ove be bitter just because he doesn’t walk around with a smile plastered to his face all the time?
Behind the cranky exterior, there is a story and a sadness. So when one November morning a chatty young couple with two chatty young daughters move in next door and accidentally flatten Ove’s mailbox, it is the lead-in to a comical and heartwarming tale of unkempt cats, unexpected friendship, and the ancient art of backing up a U-Haul. All of which will change one cranky old man and a local residents’ association to their very foundations.
“You only need one ray of light to chase all the shadows away,”
Fredrik Backman, A Man Called Ove
‘A man called Ove’ deals with many themes one of which is the loneliness among the elderly. But Backman has masterfully crafted the plot with humour and charm that you are going to have many laugh-out-loud moments and heartwrenching sobs.
Ask Agin, Yes by Mary Beth Keane
Francis Gleeson and Brian Stanhope, rookie NYPD cops, are neighbours in the suburbs. What happens behind closed doors in both houses—the loneliness of Francis’s wife, Lena, and the instability of Brian’s wife, Anne, sets the stage for the explosive events to come.
In Mary Beth Keane’s extraordinary novel, a lifelong friendship and love blossoms between Kate Gleeson and Peter Stanhope, born six months apart. One shocking night their loyalties are divided, and their bond will be tested again and again over the next thirty years. Heartbreaking and redemptive, Ask Again, Yes is a gorgeous and generous portrait of the daily intimacies of marriage and the power of forgiveness.
“We repeat what we don’t repair,”
Mary Beth Keane, Ask Again, Yes
‘Ask, Again, Yes’ is a coming-of-age novel that follows two families. The unexpected incidents change the relationship between them forever but cause them to build a new one.
The Bermondsey Bookshop by Mary Gibson
Set in 1920s London, this is the inspiring story of Kate Goss’s struggle against poverty, hunger and cruel family secrets.
Her mother died in a fall, her father has vanished without a trace, and now her aunt and cousins treat her viciously. In a freezing, vermin-infested garret, factory girl Kate has only her own brave spirit and dreams of finding her father to keep her going. She has barely enough money to feed herself, or to pay the rent. The factory where she works begins to lay off people and it isn’t long before she has fallen into the hands of the violent local money-lender. That is until an unexpected opportunity comes her way – a job cleaning a most unusual bookshop, where anyone, from factory workers to dockers, can learn to read and then buy books cheaply. A new world opens up, but with it come new dangers, too. Based on the true story of the Bermondsey Bookshop, this is the most inspiring and gripping novel Mary Gibson has yet written.
‘The Bermondsey Bookshop’ is a fascinating period fiction with unforgettable characters. The story is told in the background of the real Bermondsey Bookshop founded by Ethel Gutman in 1921. An epic novel that’ll transport you to 1920s London.
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo Taylor Jenkins Reid
Ageing and reclusive Hollywood movie icon Evelyn Hugo is finally ready, to tell the truth about her glamorous and scandalous life. Monique is not exactly on top of the world. Her husband has left her, and her professional life is going nowhere. Regardless of why Evelyn has selected her to write her biography, Monique is determined to use this opportunity to jumpstart her career.
Summoned to Evelyn’s luxurious apartment, Monique listens in fascination as the actress tells her story. From making her way to Los Angeles in the 1950s to her decision to leave show business in the ‘80s, and, of course, the seven husbands along the way, Evelyn unspools a tale of ruthless ambition, unexpected friendship, and great forbidden love.
“People think that intimacy is about sex. But intimacy is about truth. When you realize you can tell someone your truth, when you can show yourself to them, when you stand in front of them bare and their response is ‘you’re safe with me’- that’s intimacy.”
Taylor Jenkins Reid, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo
You will instantly fall in love with Taylor Jenkins Reid’s characters, especially the glamorous Evelyn Hugo herself. This sweeping historical novel is going to ll take you on a roller coaster of emotions.
Ready to immerse yourself in these books?
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I am curious to know though, what other books would you include in the list?
Let me know in the comments.
Always curious to hear from you,