If you feel there are simply too many books and not enough time in which to read them, you’re in luck. For we’ve whittled down a shortlist for the tomes that you really should have gotten round to reading by the time you’ve reached the big 3-0. Below you’ll find a gaggle of really bloody good books (both old and new) which stand-out from the crowd.
A Room with a View by E.M. Forster
It’s all drama, drama, drama in this Edwardian masterpiece set across England and Italy. A coming of age of sorts, the novel’s lively young heroine Lucy Honeychurch must choose between the charming (if a little too wild) George Emerson and the boring but reliable Cecil Vyse.
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
The most famous of Austen’s works Pride and Prejudice has been made into an excessive amount of film and TV adaptations (Keira Knightley’s included). The adored story is a tale of unexpected love which overcomes great adversity, like differing social ranks (it was a big deal at the time guys), starring sassy Elizabeth Bennett and the reserved Mr Darcy.
Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
The first novel by Afghan-American author Khaled Hosseini was launched to rapturous applause in 2003. The book centres around the life of young Amir, a Kabul local, as he deals with the increasingly turbulent world around him, from the fall of Afghanistan’s monarchy to the rise of the Taliban.
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
Now a much-loved TV show (who else is addicted!?), this before-it’s-time book follows the story of Offred, a handmaid (essentially a sex slave) living in a fundamentalist regime that sees women treated as the property of the land of Gilead in which they live.
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
Fun fact: This book was the first-person narrative from the perspective of the title character. A dark romance (is that a thing?), the rather sombre Jane (to be fair she’s had a rather unpleasant childhood) becomes governess at Thornfield Hall, where she falls in love with her mysterious employer, Edward Fairfax Rochester. (Note: Falling in love with your boss is never a good idea)
The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan
Also a popular 90s film (90s fash included), this novel focuses on four Chinese women and their American-born daughters. Dark family secrets are revealed and personal histories shared over the course of the ladies’ regular mahjong games.
Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg
A must-read for the modern woman. This tome was a smash-hit when Facebook CEO Sandberg unleashed it back in 2013 and it’s no surprise as to why; the book is a straightforward guide as to how you (and all women for that matter) can better assert themselves in the workplace.
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Loosely based around Lee’s own childhood observations of an incident that occurred in her hometown of Monroeville, Alabama in 1936. Now considered a classic of modern American literature, the book explores racial tension in the deep south after a black man is accused of a crime against a white woman.
A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
Get the tissue box ready because this one’s a real tear-jerker. It follows four classmates from a small Massachusetts college as they move through life in New York; there’s handsome aspiring actor Willem, erratic artistic JB, conservative architect Malcolm, and the withdrawn but enigmatic Jude whose hidden secrets slowly begin to resurface.
The Great Gatsby by F.Scott Fitzgerald
Yeh yeh the movie was great, but Leo DiCaprio is honestly on par with the brilliance of the original book. Set in Long Island, the story follows the excessive and mysterious life of millionaire Jay Gatsby and his neighbour Nick Carraway at the height of the wild era of the Roaring Twenties.
Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
Controversial with a capital C is this novel which explores a middle-aged man’s obsession with his teen stepdaughter. The novel’s author, who writes under the pseudonym of Humbert Humbert, grows increasingly infatuated with Dolores, who he nicknames Lolita, until things become physical…. Yes, creepy we agree.
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
Ahead of the MAJOR movie interpretation out shortly you best get this one under your belt. Published way back in the 1860s (yes legit), the novel follows the four March sisters, Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy, as they transition from childhood to womanhood. While it may be set in the midst of the American Civil War, it still explores the never-more-relevant themes of gender roles.
Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote
This beloved short story, which later cemented its iconic status courtesy of a certain Audrey Hepburn, was originally written in 1958 but has lost none of its lustre. It sees a contemporary writer recounts his early days spent in New York City, making friends with his rather unusual (though rather delightful) neighbour Holly Golightly.
Recommendations by Sarah Bristow.