The Best Paperbacks of All Time – Our Top Picks

The Best Paperbacks of All Time – Our Top Picks

One Day – David Nicholls

A love story that observes the cruelty of life and chance with startling realism, Emma and Dexter’s ‘will they, won’t they’ relationship is revealed to us across 20 years on each St Swithin’s Day.

Birdsong – Sebastian Faulks

The story of Stephen Wraysford at different points in his life before and after World War 1, Birdsong offers a heartbreaking wartime tale with poignant influences from war poetry.

The Book Thief – Markus Zusak

A mesmerising tale of love, freedom and power set against the backdrop of the hateful Nazi regime, Markus Zusak uses Death to narrate his story in an unusual take on mortality.

Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis de Bernieres

Set during the German and Italian occupation of Greek island Cephallonia during World War 2, Louis de Bernieres contrasts various types of love with the horror of war.

The Catcher in the Rye – J. D. Salinger

Famously controversial, The Catcher in the Rye captures that period of teenage alienation, angst and uncertainty between childhood and adulthood in lonely and rebellious character Holden Caulfield.

Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell

A story of universality and human oneness, Cloud Atlas includes 6 stories taking us from the 19th century to a post-apocalyptic future, all of which relate to one another and are concluded in the final story.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time – Mark Haddon

15 year old Christopher describes himself as “a mathematician with some behavioural difficulties”. As he investigates the gruesome death of his neighbour’s dog, we learn more about Christopher’s struggles with society’s expectations.

The Fault in our Stars – John Green

John Green’s doomed lovers Hazel and Augustus captured and then broke the hearts of millions of readers, with their intense but short time together, offering a new perspective on both cancer and love.

A Game of Thrones – George R. R. Martin

The first book in an unfinished series of 7 volumes, A Game of Thrones introduces us to an ambitiously diverse and real world where over 1000 named characters use violence, sexuality and questionable morals in the fight for power.

The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald

Filled with decadence and extravagance, The Great Gatsby provides a snapshot of the Jazz Age of the Roaring Twenties as the back drop to young and mysterious millioinaire Jay Gatsby’s obsessive love for Daisy Buchanan.

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry – Rachel Joyce

65 year old Harold Fry’s journey to visit terminally ill old friend Queenie allows him to reflect on the successes and mistakes of his life. Although he sets out to see Queenie in her final moments, he soon realises that his 627 mile walk serves more purpose than that.

Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrel – Susanna Clarke

Based in an alternative 19th century England where magic exists, Susanna Clarke introduces us to Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrel – two great magicians who couldn’t be more different. Friendship, reason and madness are all called into question in this fantastically imaginative story.

The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini

Exploring the relationship between parents and children set against the turbulent military events that have taken place in Afghanistan in recent years, The Kite Runner is a heartfelt and poignant story with themes that cross across cultures.

Life of Pi – Yann Martel

A story layered in deeper meaning, Yann Martel’s story of a shipwrecked boy and tiger at sea for 227 days raises questions around truth and what we choose to believe. In 2010 Barack Obama described it as “elegant proof of God” in a letter directly to Martel.

Never Let Me Go – Kazuo Ishiguro

A dystopian sci-fi novel in which clones are made of the human population to be harvested for vital organs, Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel is an eye-opening look at life and mortality.

One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez

First published in 1967, One Hundred Years of Solitude was one of the first books of the literary Latin American Boom of the 60’s. Interpreting Columbian history through 7 generations of the Buendía family, we gain an insight into some of Columbia’s key historic events.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower – Stephen Chbosky

Written as a number of anonymous letters, The Perks of Being a Wallflower is an intimate picture of adolescent life, covering everything from sexuality and friendships to drugs and body image and much more.

Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier

Love and jealousy play their part in this tale as Maxim de Winter’s deceased first wife Rebecca casts a shadow over his new marriage with our young and naive narrator. Struggling to find her identity in a strange home with a husband she barely knows, our heroine must learn her place in her new life.

Room – Emma Donoghue

Written from the perspective of a 5 year old boy held captive in a small room with his mother, Jack reveals the tragic story of his mother’s kidnapping and abuse, as well as the psychological impact their isolation has had on them.

The Secret History – Donna Tartt

Donna Tartt’s first novel is narrated by student Richard, who immediately reveals the murder of a fellow student and friend. With a confessional tone, the story slowly reveals not who committed the murder but why, as well as the effects of the crime on those involved.

Shantaram – Gregory David Roberts

Gregory David Roberts’ story of a convicted bank robber and drug addict who escapes prison and runs away to India has been well praised for its vivid imagery and depiction of Bombay life. Thought to be influenced by the author’s own experiences, the lines between fact and fiction within this tale are blurred.

The Island – Victoria Hislop

Victoria Hislop’s heartbreaking historical novel follows 25 year old Alexis as she investigates her family’s hidden past and the tragic history of Spinalonga island which was once used as a leper colony in the 20th century.

The Lord of the Flies – William Golding

Popular on school reading lists, this dystopian novel explores human nature and social structure as a group of stranded British boys descend into savagery in their attempts to survive.

The Lord of the Rings – J. R. R. Tolkien

Epic fantasy novel The Lord of the Rings is one of the bestselling novels ever written and enduringly popular with young and old readers. Continuing the stunning world created in The Hobbit, we follow Frodo Baggins on his quest to take the One Ring to Mordor.

The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold

An unusual premise, The Lovely Bones is narrated by Susie, a teenage girl who has been murdered and now watches her friends and family from heaven as they grieve and come to terms with her death.

The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks

Told from troubled and isolated teenager Frank’s perspective, The Wasp Factory explores themes of death, religion and violence. Although mostly well received, Iain Banks’ gruesome depictions created some controversy upon release.

To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee

Set during the Great Depression, this classic story raises questions around race and justice. 6 year old Scout Finch narrates the story as her lawyer father Atticus Finch takes on the case of a black man who has been accused of raping a white woman.

Trainspotting – Irvine Welsh

Based around a group of drug users in Scotland, Irvine Welsh’s Trainspotting has achieved cult status for its gritty narrative and unforgettable characters. Both the book and film adaptation have received fantastic critical acclaim.

I Capture the Castle – Dodie Smith

Written by the author of The Hundred and One Dalmatians, I Capture the Castle is a funny story of romance and family based around the eccentric Mortmain family. The book is structured as youngest daughter Cassandra’s journal as she discusses love, life and family.

Gone Girl – Gillian Flynn

Dark, suspenseful and completely unputdownable, Gone Girl helped fuel our love for domestic noir with its nail-biting story of a toxic marriage. How well do you really know the person you love?

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