Books readers wish they’d opened earlier

Books I Wish I Had Read Sooner: 28 Readers Share

By BookBub•Updated: May 12, 2021•6 min read

We’ve all seen it happen: A book becomes popular, and suddenly everyone is talking about it. For one reason or another, you don’t read it right away — and when you do, you wonder, “Why didn’t I read this sooner?” All bookworms have had that thought, which is why we asked our readers which book they waited way too long to read, and they had plenty to say! Editor’s note: Reviews have been edited for length and clarity.

Book cover for The Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy

The Prince of Tides

Pat Conroy

Cheryl says: “The Prince of Tides… Pat Conroy. Such a wonderful writer and a fantastic story with emotional pull every which way.”

Book cover for Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers

Redeeming Love

Francine Rivers

Kim says: “I had the book for 10 years and only read the first chapter. I thought it was going to be too much of an emotional roller coaster. I read it last month after seeing that the movie was about to be released. I’m so glad I did. It’s a beautiful romance. I can’t wait to see the movie!”

Book cover for The Big Burn by Timothy Egan

The Big Burn

Timothy Egan

Becky says: “Such a huge event with far reaching impact. The author’s structure was excellent: foundational elements of the park service highlighting Pinchot and Teddy R., then the fire and the people who fought and survived it, and those who died.”

Book cover for Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

Their Eyes Were Watching God

Zora Neale Hurston

Kathy says: “A book that I had read years ago that I never forgot. One that you will want to read over and over again.”

Book cover for Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand


Laura Hillenbrand

Amy says: “Unbroken. Inspiring story of faith and perseverance. Helped me see things and attack adversity in a whole new way.”

Book cover for Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Pride and Prejudice

Jane Austen

Book cover for The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin

The Left Hand of Darkness

Ursula K. Le Guin

Kathy says: “There was no particular reason why I didn’t read it for so long, just didn’t get around to it. But when I finally did — wow! One of the most beautiful things I have read.”

Book cover for Moby Dick by Herman Melville

Moby Dick

Herman Melville

Melissa says: “My mom was an English teacher, but somehow I made it through school without ever having read Moby Dick. I was probably in my 30s when I read it and I’m sure I appreciated how great it was better than I would have when in my teens.”

Book cover for A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

Betty Smith

Gustie says: “I recently picked this book up to read, [and] I am enjoying it immensely. The descriptions of the characters puts me right in the story, it is sensitively and thoughtfully written. I can now understand why it is worth a read.”

Book cover for The Last Policeman by Ben H. Winters

The Last Policeman

Ben H. Winters

Kathleen says: “The Last Policeman by Ben H. Winters… kept popping up on best of lists but I was put off by the use of the word “apocalyptic” in the reviews and descriptions. When I finally got past my preconceived notions and read it, it was just an incredibly intriguing story, apocalyptic or not.”

Book cover for The Shell Seekers by Rosamunde Pilcher

The Shell Seekers

Rosamunde Pilcher

Becky says: “I’d seen it around for years, but never picked it up until it was offered at a discount for Kindle. I really enjoyed it!”

Book cover for The Fifth Season by N. K. Jemisin

The Fifth Season

N. K. Jemisin

Francis says: “I’ve always like fantasy, and this is something that would have always enjoyed. It took me a long time to read it because, at the time, I was reluctant to pick up new books. I had such a focus on older books that I’ve missed a few new ‘classics’ that I’m working through now.”

Book cover for Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese

Cutting for Stone

Abraham Verghese

Nick says: “Cutting for Stone is so much more than a beautiful love story. The imagery, the history, the character development, alongside the exploration of medicine, had me hooked from page one.”

Book cover for East of Eden by John Steinbeck

East of Eden

John Steinbeck

Ellen says: “I suspect [that] a lot of the great literature that kids read for English classes would be enjoyed more if they waited until they were adults to read them. I have gone back to reread some of those and thoroughly enjoyed them, [even] though I struggled through them as a teen.”

Book cover for Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur

Milk and Honey

Rupi Kaur

Amanda says: “I never got into poetry, but this book has changed that. Yes, it has lived up to the hype. I needed a lot of tissues when I read it, the words are so powerful.”

Book cover for Swing Time by Zadie Smith

Swing Time

Zadie Smith

Caleb says: “I’ve had several friends strongly recommend Zadie Smith to me. I think I was overwhelmed with where to start, but once I got into Swing Time, I instantly knew what all the hype was about.”

Book cover for A House in the Sky by Amanda Lindhout, Sara Corbett

A House in the Sky

Amanda Lindhout and Sara Corbett

Karen says: “It took me a long time to prepare myself mentally, but it turned out to be a beautiful book of survival and rising up. I was so glad I read it!”

Book cover for Up the Down Staircase by Bel Kaufman

Up the Down Staircase

Bel Kaufman

Candy says: “My high school teaching career was long finished when I finally read Up the Down Staircase by Bel Kaufman. If only I’d known! The hilarious side of the administration’s attempts to legislate children (and staff) into orderly behaviour, as well as those moments of genuine but ultimately futile connection with a needy child, are captured in a manner as fragmented and scrambled as the average teacher’s day. Just brilliant, and 100% relatable.”

Book cover for The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

The Alchemist

Paulo Coelho

Julia says: “The Alchemist was always a summer reading option that I sadly never chose throughout middle school. A few years back I finally gave it a chance, read it in one sitting, and then read it again a week later! I now recommend it to everyone I know and try to revisit it at least once a year.”

Book cover for Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan

Crazy Rich Asians

Kevin Kwan

Jo says: “This book was recommended to me on so many different occasions, but it took me a while to pick it up. I wish I’d read it sooner! It’s hilarious, smart, and binge-worthy, and I still recommend it to fellow readers all the time. If you enjoyed the movie but haven’t read this yet, I’d recommend picking it up!”

Book cover for A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

A Discovery of Witches

Deborah Harkness

Lori says: “I picked up the book at a thrift store ages ago and never opened [it]. It wasn’t until I happened upon the second book in the series one day that I decided to go back and read the first one. I fell in love with the series.”

Book cover for Harry Potter: The Complete Collection (1–7) by J.K. Rowling

Harry Potter: The Complete Collection (1–7)

J.K. Rowling

Katey says: “It just didn’t sound appealing to me, but my son read it, loved it, and wanted me to read it as well. I’ve read the whole series twice now, and [I] love it! How did I miss out on that for 15+ years?!”

Book cover for Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery

Anne of Green Gables

L. M. Montgomery

Suma says: “[I] didn’t read the Anne of Green Gables series until I was an adult. I love it and recommend it to everyone I know.”

Book cover for Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

Shadow and Bone

Leigh Bardugo

Linzi says: “I waited way too long to read Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo. Finally read them last summer. The Grishaverse very quickly became my favorite universe to visit.”

Book cover for Educated by Tara Westover


Tara Westover

Jan says: “I’m not a big fan of memoirs, but this one was remarkable. What an inspiring story!”

Book cover for The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

The Handmaid’s Tale

Margaret Atwood

Christina says: “I’m embarrassed, but I judged it by the cover and it looked like it was about Pilgrims or something. It wasn’t until the show came out that I finally realized what I was missing!”

Book cover for Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

Little Fires Everywhere

Celeste Ng

Marisol says: “When everyone was talking about this book, I paid no attention to it simply because it didn’t seem like something I would enjoy. I am glad to say that I was wrong. Little Fires Everywhere is a compelling story that touches on many crucial topics in our society today — it is a must-read!”

Book cover for The Green Mile by Stephen King

The Green Mile

Stephen King

Marianne says: “I had always thought of Stephen King as a horror writer, and thought I wouldn’t enjoy any of his works (I don’t like horror). Earlier this year, my sister told me that I should read it. Well, I am glad she did, as I loved it.”

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