A book to make the miles fly by…
February 13, 2011 3:50 PM   Subscribe

I have recently discovered the joys of reading my Kindle while running on the treadmill. I'm looking for well-written, super-engrossing books to put on my Kindle to make the miles fly by…

I much prefer running outdoors, but sometimes circumstances dictate a treadmill run. Over the years I've gotten very good at running while reading trashy gossip mags (so I am quite good at the ole run-and-read, no need to worry or warn me about the safety aspect.) Recently I've discovered that when I enlarge the text size on the Kindle, reading books while running is not only possible, but really fun.

So, I need some awesome book suggestions! I'd like fiction books that are page-turners, books that are so addicting they'll make me want to go to the gym and be disappointed when my run is over. Ideally, these books will strike a balance between being well-written and being easy for a panting, tired person to understand. I love capital-L Literature but I'm not looking for anything too difficult or abstract for this task. Conversely, although I like the occasional "airplane book" I would prefer something a bit more well-written than your typical James Patterson mystery, for instance. Genre is less important than the "I-can't-put-it-down-oh-please-just-a-few-more-pages" feeling I'm after.

The books that have worked best for me so far are The Hunger Games series. They were easy to read and understand but really captured my attention and made even long runs seem short. I'm currently reading The Book Thief but, while interesting, it's not quite as distracting as I might have hoped. Suggestions? Let me hear 'em!
posted by Bella Sebastian to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (29 answers total) 60 users marked this as a favorite
Operation Mincemeat made me wish my hour-long bus ride were even longer. (Caveat: it's not fiction, but it's a total thriller--I couldn't put it down, I kept worrying the Nazis would figure out the British ruse and win!)
posted by Meg_Murry at 3:58 PM on February 13, 2011

The Millennium Trilogy (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl who Played With Fire & The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest)
posted by New England Cultist at 3:59 PM on February 13, 2011

Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer - in three years of commuting by train, it was the only book to make me miss my stop.

Also anything by Marian Keyes. She's classified as "chick lit" but she's the by far the best of the genre.
posted by something something at 3:59 PM on February 13, 2011

a) Too Big to Fail by Andrew Ross Sorkin

b) Known and Unknown: A Memoir by Donald Rumsfeld
posted by jchaw at 3:59 PM on February 13, 2011

I have to admit to recently reading and really liking both the Gossip Girl series by Cecily von Ziegesar and the Pretty Little Liars series by Sara Shepard. The PLL books, especially, I couldn't stop reading. They're not great literature (at all), but they're both more fun that you might think. And the PLL books contain an overarching mystery through the eight books, making them more compelling maybe than GG, which really is just about the characters' social lives.
posted by lysimache at 4:28 PM on February 13, 2011

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius and What is the What by Dave Eggers

Books by Richard Ford: Independence Day, The Sportswriter, The Lay of the Land

Straight Man by Richard Russo

Midwives by Chris Bohjalian

Drinking: A Love Story by Caroline Knapp
posted by kirst27 at 4:36 PM on February 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

A. Nick Hornby
B. David Sedaris
C. Chuck Klosterman
I recently discovered this same trick - and I find it a more welcome distraction than slapping on headphones or tv. I prefer the short story / essay format - you might like it. Instapaper and kindlefeed have been great as well. Best of luck, great question - I'll be keeping my eye on this thread.
posted by ten year lurk at 4:54 PM on February 13, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks for the answers so far! Lots of these books sound like good reads, but for the purposes of this question, I'm really looking for fiction books. In "real life" I enjoy Eggers, Hornby, Sedaris, etc, but I'm not sure they have the compelling, get-lost-in-the-plot style that will move me while exercising.

Of those that have been suggested so far, I think the Stieg Larsson books (Girl with Dragon Tattoo series) are the closest in spirit to what I'm after, although I don't want to limit answers to just mysteries/thrillers. I'm also intrigued by the Pretty Little Liars suggestion because that is my secret television shame, and I am at heart a 13-year-old girl.

Now I'll try to butt back out, and please keep the answers coming!
posted by Bella Sebastian at 5:20 PM on February 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

The Reacher novels by Lee Child are fly-through literature at their best. I inevitably pick one up, and three hours later, realize that I've read the whole damn thing, what the hell.
posted by Etrigan at 5:26 PM on February 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

Anything by Lee Child; anything (but especially the Jane Whitefield novels) by Thomas Perry.
posted by rtha at 5:29 PM on February 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

posted by rtha at 5:30 PM on February 13, 2011

I was surprised at how unputdownable 'Room' by Emma Donoghue was. If you liked the Hunger Games, I'll recommend Plain Kate, by Erin Bow. Seanan McGuire's Rosemary and Rue books are also very good.
posted by jeather at 5:38 PM on February 13, 2011

I'm currently reading Blackout by Connie Willis, and am looking forward to the sequel, All Clear. Highly recommended - it should meet your criteria!
posted by shrieking violet at 6:03 PM on February 13, 2011

Terry Pratchett?
posted by thegreatfleecircus at 6:12 PM on February 13, 2011

Definitely seconding Stieg Larsson.

I know you're looking for fictiion, but for non-fiction that reads like fiction, try Unbroken. Especially when you're running... this should keep you going. It was the first book that made it impossible for me to put my kindle down.
posted by torticat at 7:13 PM on February 13, 2011

Oh and The Time-Traveler's Wife, if you haven't read it. Easy to read in short intervals, and it will definitely keep you coming back for more. Also has a running theme.
posted by torticat at 7:19 PM on February 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

Chuck Palahniuk is a shoe-in. Short, pithy stories. Urgent sentences. Perfect!
posted by WaspEnterprises at 7:29 PM on February 13, 2011

The Hunger Games made me get on the wrong train and totally forget to get off at the transfer station! Similarly, I couldn't put down The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.
posted by sillymama at 8:45 PM on February 13, 2011

Among Others by Jo Walton. Which I will probably recommend incessantly all goddamn year because holy crap it is just that fantastic.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 10:59 PM on February 13, 2011

For more teen fiction, try the Tomorrow, When the War Began series. Super unputdownable.
posted by chronic sublime at 2:39 AM on February 14, 2011

I can't stop reading Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality. In later chapters, the characters have more emotional weight, but the laugh-out-loud aspect never goes away. Actually, maybe I don't even recommend it while running... it's a little bit too engaging.

Someone has set up automatic formatting for the Kindle and other ebook formats, updated daily.
posted by tantivy at 1:47 PM on February 14, 2011

I found Tara French's In the Woods and The Likeness to be really freaking hard to put down.
Although the end section of In the Woods may make you yell out loud at the characters, YMMV.
posted by grapesaresour at 3:26 PM on February 14, 2011

richard stark aka donald westlake
posted by IndigoJones at 5:34 PM on February 14, 2011

Because I hate-hate-hated the one Stieg Larsson book I read, let me try to come up with a different suggestion. ... Okay, here are a few. Apologies if some are the usual suspects, but I tried to think of the books I've devoured most quickly in the past few years:
- Phillip K. Dick, anything, but particularly his short stories -- very easy-reading and easy to jump right into.
- My own recommend-all-year book is We Have Always Lived in the Castle. Simple language, well written. It's a creepy, "I love these characters but they creep me out, but I'm worried and hope it works out" thing. It's not exactly a page-turner from a suspense and action perspective, but you can't ever quite look away.
- Sherman Alexie's Flight, another book where you keep reading because you care about the characters, though in this case, because of a teenage kid who has been through some crazy stuff. It has adult themes but a nice casual YA writing style. It goes really quickly; I think I've read it in a single day twice.
- And for that classic can't-stop-reading thriller thing, check out World War Z if you haven't already.
- And if you want to do Stieg Larsson because you like angry and spunky young women and guys who act like adolescents, try some Neil Stephenson, particularly Zodiac (a fast environmental thriller) or Snow Crash (there are a few slow sections that'll make for a boring workout or two, but it has been called the "manic apotheosis of cyberpunk science fiction," and it pulls you in immediately).
posted by salvia at 1:53 AM on February 15, 2011

A little late to heap on, but:

Amazing Adventures of Cavalier and Klay by Chabon
Yiddish Policemans' Union by Chabon
Winter's Bone by Woodrell
City of Thieves by Benioff
Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter by Grahame-Smith

Book Thief by Zuszak
Edge Chronicles Series (1-10 with awesome illustrations!) by Stewart & Riddell
Mysterious Benedict Society by Stewart
Pseudonymous Bosch Secret Series

Stiff by Roach
Sin in the Second City by Abbott
posted by santojulieta at 6:33 PM on February 15, 2011

I second Mary Roach (Stiff, Packing for Mars, Bonk), as her works are very much readable & chuck-inducing funny, despite covering science topics.

She might be a little serious & melancholy at times, but Alice Munro's short stories are engaging and very literary (she is often compared to Chekhov). I would recommend starting with "Runaway".
posted by flowerpig at 10:46 PM on February 15, 2011

Nth-ing Mary Roach - all of them are good. Packing for Mars, her latest, it LOL funny. I recently went to a talk by a NASA astronaut after reading it, and could not help but picture him in the various situations she described in the book.

If you like metafiction with a side of absurdity, then I highly suggest the Thursday Next books by Jasper Fforde: The Eyre Affair, Lost in a Good Book, The Well of Lost Plots, Something Rotten, First Among Sequels, and the latest coming out next month, One of Our Thursdays Is Missing. Good fun reads, and make you feel smart, too. :)

Fforde's Nursery Crimes series - think detective noir crossed with Humpty Dumpty - is good as well, but the Thursday Next books are a better entry into his work.

I loved the Hunger Games trilogy. While there are good YA books out there, most are not the page-turners that series is.
posted by southpaw at 9:23 AM on February 16, 2011

Nthing Lee Child and Donald Westlake/Richard Stark.

Since you're a Kindle user, you might also try Project Gutenberg editions of Victorian thriller-writers: H. Rider Haggard's She is one seriously wacky book, but it's a page-turner, and of course the Sherlock Holmes books are sometimes a little slow but certainly gripping.
posted by mishaps at 1:48 PM on February 16, 2011

Half-Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls was very engrossing for me, as was her autobiography, The Glass Castle.

And how has the Southern Vampire/Sookie Stackhouse Series by Charlaine Harris not been mentioned?? It's the series that True Blood is based on, and while I would consider them trashy-novel-beach-reading, they are pretty captivating books!
posted by Fruitcrackers at 8:51 AM on February 17, 2011

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