Book Box | 5 thrilling books to snap you out of that reading slump - Hindustan Times

Book Box | 5 thrilling books to snap you out of that reading slump

Jul 29, 2023 12:39 PM IST

A tech thriller, a snarky college admissions story, YA with a video game backdrop, a murder mystery in the Hindi heartlands and a thriller in the Hamptons

Dear Reader,

The Guest by Emma Cline(The Author) PREMIUM
The Guest by Emma Cline(The Author)

"I used to read so much, but nowadays I can’t seem to get into a book," a friend sighs.

It is a common complaint. Maybe you are stuck, for a month or more, struggling with worthy but weighty tomes - such as Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahnemann or The Earth Transformed by Peter Frankopan. Or maybe you’ve picked up a book you simply don’t enjoy. Fear not. Give up the book you are stuck on, and try these five pacy books to snap you out of that reading slump.

Book 1 of 5

Going Zero by Anthony McCarten(The Author)
Going Zero by Anthony McCarten(The Author)

Going Zero starts with the US government teaming up with a brash young founder from Silicon Valley to create a surveillance program. But hold on, it's not your usual government thing; they invite ten regular citizens to dodge surveillance for a month. The stakes are sky-high, the plot is propulsive, and you'll be hooked from the start. Like in Hunted, the hit television series, the contestants must turn their digital devices off, cut ties with any known friends and family and disappear. If they do manage to evade detection for 30 days, they get a 3 million dollar reward. Author Anthony McCarten is a four-time Academy Award-nominated screenwriter, and it shows in his writing, which is crisp and action-packed, even if the plot gets a little implausible towards the end. Overall though, this tech thriller is exciting and thought-provoking, since much of the surveillance tactics in the book, are already a reality.

Book 2 of 5

The Guest by Emma Cline (The Author)
The Guest by Emma Cline (The Author)

Fans of Inventing Anna will love The Guest. Meet Alex, a twenty-two-year-old master manipulator who infiltrates the world of New York's uber-rich. She is a thief, but I found myself rooting for her as she takes on the snobby rich, lying and stealing her way through Hampton’s hedged lanes and gated driveways. Emma Cline's writing is fast-paced and reflective, and her thriller digs into the big issue of inequality, hitting close to home.

Book 3 of 5

Small Admissions by Amy Poeppel(The Author)
Small Admissions by Amy Poeppel(The Author)

If you have ever been subjected to school and college admissions mania, Small Admissions is the book for you. Witty, snarky, and fast-paced, it tackles themes like meritocracy, sibling rivalry, and life choices, all while showing how our education systems perpetuate inequality. For more on this subject, read Admission by Jean Hanff Korelitz, the story of an admissions office in Princeton. Both books are fabulous additions to an important debate of our times - that our education systems, meant to be a means of social and economic advancement, today simply reinforce existing inequalities. Small Admissions holds its own with critically lauded books like The Tyranny of Merit and After the Ivory Tower Falls.

Book 4 of 5

Slay by Brittney Morris(The Author)
Slay by Brittney Morris(The Author)

For an edgy and action-packed tale, Slay is your go-to. It tells the story of Kiera, a black teenager, who inhabits two worlds. By day, she is a sincere student studying earnestly for college in a mostly white school, and by night, she is the creator and co-admin of a badass MMPORG (massively multiplayer online role-playing game) for black people only. But when a young boy is killed, and a real-life troll threatens Kiera, her two worlds collide. This YA book has rapid-fire action, and it also explores white privilege, racial conflict, and social justice. The perfect follow to this is Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow, a book that is also set in the world of video game developers, and which has been getting rave reviews from readers, including Bill Gates.

Book 5 of 5

Age of Vice by Deepti Kapoor(The Author)
Age of Vice by Deepti Kapoor(The Author)

And finally, a murder mystery set in the murky badlands of North India. Age of Vice is a racy cocktail of political intrigue, predatory business deals and murder. I especially liked the compelling way fact and fiction mix. The rich and poor stories intertwine with a faithful fall guy servant trope - and in this book again, you see the catastrophic consequences of inequality and corruption. The action is fast-paced, even though it does meander in its second half. Still, overall, it’s a great read.

Hope these racy pacy books rescue you from your reading slump. Save these for your next airplane read, or for when you are between non-fiction books.

Next week I bring you recommendations of the best bookish podcasts. Until then, Happy reading and keep those pages turning!

Sonya Dutta Choudhury is a Mumbai-based journalist and the founder of Sonya’s Book Box, a bespoke book service. Each week, she brings you specially curated books to give you an immersive understanding of people and places. If you have any reading recommendations or suggestions, write to her at

The views expressed are personal

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