With all this time at home it’s easy to spend a lot of it staring at a screen. Whether you’re working at home on your computer, playing games online, watching a Netflix series on TV or doing endless quizzes on your phone – it’s time to have a screen break. And what better way than by delving into a book – as everyone needs a little escape. We’ve rounded up 23 top books to lose yourself in from crime thrillers to autobiographies, chick lit and traditional classics. It's time to get reading. For more things to do at home visit.
This classic is a regular fixture on English literature syllabuses and is much-loved all over the world. When Jane Eyre gets sent to live with her guardians the Reeds, aged ten, she suffers a troubled childhood. After a falling out with the family she’s sent to Lowood Institution, a school for orphaned girls, where she stays on to become a teacher. Her experience her sees her move to Thornfield Hall where she meets the dark, brooding and mysterious Mr Rochester. What secrets are hidden in the house? And what will become of Jane? A riveting read and a top romantic classic.
Pride and Prejudice,
Another romantic classic that’s been made many a time for big and small screens, most notably with Colin Firth as Mr Darcy for the BBC 1990s remake. The story is set in rural England and tells the tale of the Bennet family – who have five unmarried daughters that Mr Bennet would like to see married. The story of Mr Darcy and Elizabeth is one of the all-time great romances.
The Lord of the Rings Trilogy,
J. R. R. Tolkien
Admit it. You’ve seen the films but you’ve never picked up the books. Well, you’re missing out. As much as Peter Jackson nailed the cinematic version, it skips over so many of the subplots and side stories of the Tolkien masterpiece. Dive into Middle-earth and follow the journey of Frodo Baggins and his legendary pals, as they battle orcs, cast spells and fight tyrannical forces. Plus, once you’ve spent all that time at home, you’ll fit right in with that wizard’s beard you’ve been growing.
The Great Gatsby,
F. Scott Fitzgerald
The flamboyant 1925 novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald follows the pursuit of the American dream. Starring millionaire Gatsby, who’s known for his lavish parties, it’s set in Long Island in the jazz era and focuses on the obsession with what’s new, exciting and material. It’s told by Gatsby’s former neighbour Nick Carraway and is a somewhat cautionary tale. Remade many times, most recently with Hollywood hero Leonardo DiCaprio – check out the original book for a glance into American life at the turn of the 20th century.
The Couple Next Door,
An easy read, but an unsettling one nonetheless, especially for parents. This psychological thriller stars Anne and Marco Conti, a happy couple with a baby. But when their little girl Cora disappears while they are having dinner with their next door neighbours, their world unravels. But who took the child? It’s a jumpy read, with a plot twist.
Lie With Me,
This thriller is, as you’d expect by the title, based on lies told by the leading characters. Lead character Paul can’t help but spin a few mistruths, but soon they become out of control, snowballing rapidly as he strives to portray a perfect life. But when family secrets get dragged out of the woodwork surrounding the death of a girl many years ago, truths come out.
The Girl on the Train,
Genuinely so gripping we’ll be surprised if you can put it down. This is a thriller novel that gives narratives from three different women about strained relationships, personal issues and mental illnesses. It weaves the narratives continuously and you’re never quite sure of who’s good, who’s bad, who’s right and who’s wrong. A proper thriller.
Recently adapted into a TV series that’s now on Netflix, this novel from crime writer Harlan Coben is a study on relationships and lies. “The Stranger” comes to people to warn them of things they might not know, or want to know, about secrets in their family. Adam Price is approached by The Stranger who tells him disturbing information about his wife Corinne. Their lives spiral downward from that point onwards and are never the same again.
The Woman in Black,
Arthur Kipps relives his thrilling, bone-chilling tale one Christmas Eve. He recounts the time he worked as a solicitor in a small town in the north east of England, sorting the estate of Alice Drablow. What he finds when he is there is haunting – and the setting, in a house cut off from the mainland by moody, abandoned marshes makes it all the more chilling. A popular book that’s since been a play and a film starring Daniel Radcliffe.
Big Little Lies,
The book that the famed US TV series is based on is set in Sydney, Australia, rather than the sunny California coast of the on-screen version. Big Little Lies follows single mother Jane as she moves to a new town with her son Ziggy and explores the relationships she develops and how secrets can have life-changing consequences.
My Sister’s Keeper,
A book that’s full of twists. It’s not desperately suspenseful but it’s a gripper, and focuses on the convoluted relationship between two sisters. The narrative flips between first-person accounts all the way to the end, but you’ll want to have the tissues ready and a happy show to switch on to afterwards.
This series of short stories from Cecelia Ahern (the name behind P.S. I Love You and If You Could See Me Now among others) is based around women. It’s an easy read but the stories are relatable and characters feel well developed. Some stories are funny, some are moving, some will make you think – and many you will see yourself or someone you know in. Characters include those who are swallowed up by the world due to their embarrassment and those who are literally eaten away with guilt – they are a timely look at women
The Devil Wears Prada,
Miranda Priestly is the big boss at fictional Runway magazine. She’s a formidable character, who’s not easily pleased or impressed. So when wannabe journalist Andrea Sachs gets a PA position at the magazine, there’s lots of shocks, humiliation and turmoil in store. The book is darker than the film but is an entertaining ride through the New York publishing scene.
The ultimate romance book by a man well-known for his work (he’s also behind Dear John, Safe Haven and A Walk to Remember), his most famous has to be his first novel, The Notebook. The story is told through a series of diary entries and letters that Noah reads to Allie in their old age. A love story that will appeal to all hopeless romantics, but is a little sickly sweet if you’re not into that kind of thing.
Autobiographies and biographies
A Long Way Home,
This book was adapted into the film Lion. Saroo Brierley was just five years old when he got lost in rural India. This book is told as an adult in his home in Australia, reliving his journey that led him to becoming adopted by a wealthy Australian family – and his search for his birth family 25 years later. It’s an eye-opening (and at times eye-watering) book, that’s interesting, sad and heartwarming.
One of the most gifted footballers of all time, the incredible rise of Northern Irishman George Best with Manchester United thrust the mercurial talent into the spotlight. Imagine the fame of David Beckham combined with the skills of Lionel Messi and you’re close to how popular, and good, this man was. His genius was flawed, however, and he had internal battles for many years leading up to his death, becoming as famous for embarrassing public appearances as he was for his talent.
This humorous book from Hollywood writer Tina Fey (the name behind Mean Girls among others) is a look into the comedian’s life penned in 2014. It’s sharp and funny, and if you’re a fan of her work then you’ll race through this.
Clothes, Music, Boys,
The guitarist from punk’s first (and best) all female band writes vividly and honestly about her childhood and the formation of her band right through to her later years away from the music business. Albertine’s tales of the late 1970s take you back to the grotty squats, pubs and tour buses in an instant. There are some uneasy relationships along the way in this frank memoir, but the book is all the better for the rawness.
This easy read packs a decade’s worth of tales into a 24-hour period in one of London’s most luxurious (unnamed) hotels. It’s told from the perspective of an anonymous receptionist pulling a double shift and everything he sees (most of which are unprintable here). It’s funny, it’s quick, it’s observant and it’s eye-opening. You’ll never look at five-star London hotel room the same again. And if you want a version set on a luxury island resort try the follow-up Beach Babylon, which is more of the same – just with less businessmen and more palm trees.
Good old Reginald Dwight, he’s one of the biggest stars in the world and has been for around 40 years. But his life as Elton John has not been without its problems or outrageous incidents. Co-written with music journalist Alexis Petridis this outstanding book shows that the Rocket Man doesn’t take himself too seriously, is aware of how ridiculous his life (and often his behaviour) has been and has an endearing side. Much more in-depth and nuanced than the recent biopic about his life, this is a hilarious and touching read.
There are loads of books about The Beatles but for real fanatics, this is the one to get stuck into. While some like Revolution in the Head by Ian MacDonald go into forensic detail about each recording session and the intricacies of the music, Mark Lewisohn’s Tune In delves deep into the lives of the four moptops and discovers how the band met and the band was formed. This mammoth tome (the first in a proposed three-part series) covers the childhoods and formative years of Lennon, McCartney, Harrison and Starr up to the release of the band’s first album.
This coming of age tale focuses on a young Indian boy, Ajay Mishra, who moves to New York City with his parents in the 1970s, following the American dream. But things don’t pan out as planned, and Ajay’s older brother suffers a life-changing injury. The semi-autobiographical book follows how the family cope with the accident and aftermath, how relationships are affected and how the family adapt to a new life – both in terms of what they are used to, both geographically and culturally.
Ever wanted to know what it’s like to be an MI5 officer? This account of life as a spy is a behind-the-scenes look into Britain’s MI5 and it’s utterly fascinating, dark and compelling. It’s Tom Marcus’ story of London post 7/7 terror attacks, and how the forces work hard to keep the city and country safe – taking them to physical and mental limits.
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