I’ve just finished a book which I literally could not stop reading. This was a bit inconvenient as I started reading it fairly late at night, but sometimes that is just how it goes. Write off the next day through lack of sleep, wander around in a daze, in awe of a writer who can do that. Only a few books have that power; most of them are thrillers, quite a lot of them are YA, but not all. Sometimes it can just be a gripping premise or a character who won’t let go. Anyway here are my top ten books for adults which I could not stop reading (saving the top 10 YA for another day). You have been warned.
1. Three Hours by Rosamund Lupton. This is the one I’ve just finished, and I’ve been thrusting it (virtually of course) into friends’ hands ever since. I do like Rosamund Lupton’s writing. A great thriller writer, but she’s surpassed herself here. The whole book narrates the three hours of a siege at a UK children’s school (Rural Somerset. In a blizzard.) It swaps around so we see the various areas of the school and also the parents waiting helplessly outside. It’s brilliant, and one of the paciest reads I’ve encountered for a while.
2. Half Broken Things by Morag Joss. From fast paced action to slow burn. One of those books where you are constantly saying, ‘no, don’t do that!’ and of course that’s exactly what the character does. You can see the inevitable calamities approaching from far off. Three characters who are terribly damaged, drawn into more criminal behaviour, and yet you root for them. You want them to succeed.
3. Heart Shaped Box by Joe Hill. You won’t be able to put this book down because it’s going to scare the life out of you and there’s no way you can sleep until you know what happens. Ageing heavy metal rockstar buys a ghost on e-bay. That’s all you need to know. It’s genius.
4. After you’d gone by Maggie O’Farrell. And here is the best example of a book that will keep you reading, not because of a high concept thriller premise, but because you have to know what has happened and will happen to the main character, and why her partner has gone.
5. Pet Semetary by Stephen King. You can’t have a list like this without some Stephen King. To be honest, I’ve never been able to put any of his books down. I can still remember the first one I read – Under The Dome – over 1,000 pages and I started reading it on a Sunday morning, during a brief break from housework. Well, the Sunday roast was not roasted, the sheets remained unchanged, and small people kept coming in to plead for food and attention, but were heartlessly ignored. I’ve learnt my lesson and choose my moments more carefully now. Read Pet Semetary on holiday last summer – and yes it took all day. I’ve chosen this one, not because it’s the scariest, but because as a parent it’s the one which is truly the most terrifying and awful, and therefore the most unputdownable.
6. A Fatal Inversion by Barbara Vine. Back to that slow burn, where you can see the awful inevitable ending coming before the characters can, and yet you have to read on, read on… To my mind Barbara Vine (who was PD James) is the master of this type of read – the psychological case study, the slow burn thriller. This is my favourite of hers, though it wasn’t easy to choose.
7. Anybody Out There by Marian Keyes. I find all of Marian Keyes’ books unputdownable but this one probably affected me the most. If you want a case study in grief and self-deception, this is the one.
8. Little Face by Sophie Hannah. Alice leaves her two week old baby in the charge of her husband David while she goes out for a short while, but when she comes back, there is another baby in the cot. And no-one – including David -believes her.
9. The Rapture by Liz Jensen. Boy this one is good. The tag line describes it as an end of days blockbuster, and I’d go with that. You’ll not sleep until you’ve finished it – you might not sleep afterwards either, to be honest.
10. Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult. Here’s another author who is just brilliant at writing a good page turner. Her books often have deep social justice issues as well, and this one is no different. When a newborn baby dies, the nurse who is looking after him gets blamed. The heart of the conflict is prejudice and race, and Jodi Picoult shows just how the unequal power in America gets wielded.
As always, would love to hear it you have alternative suggestions, or if you agree or disagree with any of my recommendations. Until next time… sleep well!