Books Everyone Should Read at Least Once | The C&TH Book Club

Books Everyone Should Read at Least Once

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We all rediscovered a love for reading in lockdown, says Bloomsbury, who has reported its best half-year profits since 2008. So: we bring you the C&TH book club, our ultimate list of the books everyone should read at least once in their lives.

“A book is not only a friend, it makes friends for you. When you have possessed a book with mind and spirit, you are enriched. But when you pass it on you are enriched threefold.”
Henry Miller, The Books in My Life

10 Books You Finally Have Time to Tackle / Best Books for Hopeless Romantics

Books Everyone Should Read at Least Once

 

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  • The Magus

    The Magus by John Fowles

    Chosen by Lucy Cleland, editorial director

    Fifteen years later this evocative book still has the power to whisk me to a Greek island of otherworldly intrigue, mystery and tension. Part psychological thriller, part lesson in mythology and literature, with a good dose of highly charged eroticism thrown in, the transportative nature of Fowles’ 600-page novel stays with you like the lingering hazy heat. From £6.16, Vintage Classics

  • Middlemarch

    Middlemarch by George Eliot

    Chosen by Charlotte Metcalf, associate editor

    Middlemarch is an immersive journey, rich with detail, to the heart of Victorian rural life, yet the love story is satisfyingly universal and contemporary – sensitive, creative woman trapped with a bloodless, repressed bully falls in love with a luminous artist. Eliot captures the essence of the female soul, which has not changed, even though thankfully our lives have. £7.37, Penguin

  • Lee Child

    Anything by Lee Child

    Chosen by Ed Vaizey, culture editor

    I fell in love [with Lee] several years ago, and at one point the publishers used to send me advanced copies. I have met the great man, and thanks to him I also became friends with Tom Cruise – for a week.  I devour his books in 24 hours. Love, love, love.

  • Heaven's Command

    Heaven’s Command, Pax Britannica and Farewell The Trumpets, a trilogy by Jan Morris

    Chosen by Richard Hopton, books editor

    This trilogy remains the finest, most moving portrait of the now universally despised British Empire. This vivid history, packed with sparkling detail and telling anecdote, can be read time and again for the rich, joyful splendour of Morris’s prose alone. £12.99 each, Faber & Faber

  • War and peace

    War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy

    Chosen by Peter Hughes, travel writer

    To my disappointment, it was not about Spitfires. I was 12 when I spotted two volumes in the school library, obviously about aerial dogfights. Napoleon’s invasion of Russia and Moscow high society came as a surprise. But chagrin became enthralment, and abiding love for Natasha Rostova. My daughter would be Natasha. She is. From £8.91, Penguin

  • Seven pillars of wisdom

    Seven Pillars of Wisdom by TE Lawrence

    Chosen by Jeremy Taylor, motoring editor

    When I was nine, my parents dragged me to the cinema to see Lawrence of Arabia, then visit his Dorset home Clouds Hill and later his grave – all on the same day! Seven Pillars is an epic story of deceit, folly and the making of the Middle East as it is today. £5.29, Wordsworth Editions

  • Caroline and her friends

    Caroline and Her Friends by Pierre Probst

    Chosen by Caroline Phillips, contributing editor

    My godfather gave it to me in 1964 when I was five – and I read it (nearly) nightly for years. Caroline (that’s me) wears a pillar box red boiler suit and Converse high tops and bossily leads her friends – mischievous, literate, English-speaking bears, cats and dogs – on intrepid global adventures. Currently out of print, you’ll have to root around for a second-hand one

  • The Moon's a Balloon

    The Moon’s A Balloon by David Niven

    Chosen by Carole Annett, interiors editor

    David Niven’s autobiography is a charming, intimate and gossipy gallavant through life in Hollywood for this quintessentially English actor. He charts working and partying with Elizabeth Taylor, James Stewart, Lauren Bacall and Noel Coward, at a time when stars really did shine and no-one had heard of the Kardashians. £9.99, Penguin

  • Where The Crawdads Sing

    Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

    Chosen by Camilla Hewitt, wellbeing writer

    In a time when we are not seeing our loved ones this beautifully written book about solitude and isolation connected me to so many of mine through a shared love of Owens’ mesmerising ode to the natural world. There is a line in the book: ‘I wasn’t aware that words could hold so much. I didn’t know a sentence could be so full,’ and that is exactly what Owens does, fills every page with lyrical words that leave you completely absorbed in life on the marshlands North Carolina. £7.49, Little, Brown Book Group

  • Passionate Nomad

    Passionate Nomad: The Life of Freya Stark by Jane Fletcher Geniesse

    Chosen by Harriet Compston, contributing editor

    A brilliant and balanced biography on the remarkable British explorer Freya Stark. The book charts Stark’s extraordinary Middle Eastern adventures in the early 20th century, from the forbidden territory of the Syrian Druze to the castles of the feared Assassins of Persia to becoming the first woman to explore Hadhramaut, now in southern Yemen. £15.99, Modern Library Inc

  • Delirium by Lauren Oliver

    Delirium by Lauren Oliver

    Chosen by Rebecca Cox, online editor

    Young adult dystopian fiction is my guilty pleasure, but the teenage melodrama and end-of-the-world plots aside, never has a book so perfectly described the delicious, heart-wrenching pain of falling madly in love for the first time. £6.99, Hodder

  • Normal People

    Normal People by Sally Rooney

    Chosen by Daniella Saunders, online assistant

    This revered literary romance – ‘Best Novel’ winner at the 2018 Costa Book Awards – is utterly absorbing, so much so that I felt entirely dispirited once I’d turned the final page. Luckily, the BBC adaptation of the book (available now on iPlayer) was announced shortly after – I simply can’t get enough. For those who haven’t yet read the novel, Normal People follows Sligo-born Marianne and Connell as they undergo a complex and all-consuming on-and-off-again relationship, beginning at school and enduring through university, including an Italian summer and a difficult year abroad. But whilst this might appear a conventional tale of boy-meets-girl, the novel offers so much more. From its raw illustration of male depression and masochism, to the subtle depiction of social status and socio-economic inequalities, Rooney has devised what The Guardian heralds ‘a future classic’. There is something about Connell and Marianne’s relationship that is so irresistibly intense, compellingly addictive and relatable to anyone who has experienced the kind of fervent romance which embodies young love. An unconventional representation of impassioned and life-altering romance, this contemporary love story is a must-read. £6.99, Faber & Faber

  • Heartburn

    Heartburn, Norah Ephron

    Chosen by Ellie Smith, online writer

    A semi auto-biographical tale based on Ephron’s marriage to Watergate journalist Carl Bernstein, Heartburn tells the story of food writer Rachel Samstat, who, at seven months pregnant, discovers her husband Mark is in love with another woman. Yet Heartburn is as hilarious as it is heart-breaking: Ephron manages to turn her personal tragedy into one of the most relatable comedies of all time. It’s no surprise this is Nigella Lawson’s favourite book: cooking is one of the novel’s central themes, and there are recipes peppered throughout the narrative – a unique feature that adds to its charm. Bursting with quotes that demand to be underlined, Heartburn is the kind of book that yearns to be read in one sitting. £9.99, Virago Modern Classics

  • On Love

    On Love by Charles Bukowski

    Chosen by Amy Wakeham, managing editor

    This collection of poems is, for me, the very best of Charles Bukowski. You wouldn’t think his coarse, colourful style would make for good love poems – but you’d be very wrong. On Love is a beautiful, begrimed meander through love in all its facets: tough love, romantic love, unrequited love, passionate love – and also paternal love, which emerges after Bukowski’s daughter is born. A book to keep on your bedside table for insomniac nights. £9.99, Canongate Books

  • Three Women

    Three Women by Lisa Taddeo

    Chosen by Sofia Tindall, features assistant

    Over an eight-year period, journalist Lisa Taddeo interviewed three real-life women about their love lives. The result is Three Women, her debut novel and Sunday Times No 1 bestseller. Disclaimer: if you’re looking for fairytale endings, this isn’t the book for you (real life, after all, has very few). But Taddeo’s exquisite writing dives into the tricky topic of love with unflinching honesty. The universal pains and agonies, ecstasies and crushing disappointments of love (all of which we will have at some point likely been acquainted), are uncompromisingly laid bare, and Taddeo leaves no facet of the human heart unexplored. This is a perfect read for a cosy evening by the fire on a windy night, the type of book which will stay with you for many weeks after you’ve turned the last page. £16.99, Bloomsbury

  • Down and Out in Paris and London

    Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell

    Chosen by Dina Nagapetyants, online intern

    Hunter S Thompson who? Gonzo journalism was perfected in Orwell’s autobiographical account of the author’s time living in abject poverty in the underbelly of the two cities. Part buddy comedy (the author’s loveable, hapless friend Boris is one of the book’s unforgettable characters), part scathing social commentary, it follows Orwell as he goes from working as aplongeur [French dishwasher] at a series of doomed Parisian establishments, to tramping around London in search of cigarette butts with his fellow down-and-outs. Both hilarious and gut-wrenching – often within the space of a few pages – my first read (incidentally, on a train from Paris to London) had me intermittently snorting with laughter and weeping. £8.99, Penguin

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