Love to unwind with a good book while you soak? We’ve read all of these in the bath (honest) to bring you a tried and tested list
Harvest by Jim Crace
Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2013 and feted as having prose to match that of Hillary Mantel’s works, this novel focuses on Walter Thirsk, whose village comes under threat when three outsiders set up camp on its borders on the same night that the local manor house is set on fire. Walter is a witness as the strangers are punished and his neighbours are held on suspicion of witchcraft. But this is just the beginning of the story…
The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton
The winner of the Man Booker Prize 2013, this book is set in 19th Century New Zealand’s goldfields. The main character, Walter Moody, has come to the goldfields to make his fortune, but on arrival, comes across a gathering of local men who have met in secret to discuss a series of unsolved crimes: a whore has tried to kill herself, a rich man has disappeared and a vast fortune has been found in the home of a drunkard. Moody is drawn into this web of complex mysteries in the beautifully told tale.
Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
Winner of the Costa Novel Award, the extraordinary story of Ursula Todd is told again and again, with all the twists and turns of her life resolving themselves differently each time. Set during the turbulent war years of the 20th Century, the novel questions how you could change your destiny and others’ if you had a second, third or even an infinite number of chances to live and re-live your life. Perhaps you could save the whole world? And would you even want to? Told with wit and compassion, this story will make you laugh and cry.
May We Be Forgiven by AM Homes
The winner of the Women’s Prize for Literature, this was one of those books we couldn’t bear to finish because we knew we would miss its hapless hero Harold Silver’s hilarious presence. Harold is shorter and less successful than his younger brother George. But after George loses control of his temper, resulting in a shocking act of violence, both brothers’ lives change forever. Harold suddenly finds himself an unprepared and unsuitable parent to his brother’s two teenage children, while George descends into madness. Internet dating, ageing parents and divorce are all handled brilliantly. This novel will make your toes curl – but in a good way.
Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver
We picked up this book because we had loved Kingsolver’s Poisonwood Bible – but while this book is very different, its characters and story are just as engrossing. It begins with rural farmer’s wife Dellarobia Turnbow’s strange experience with what she thinks at first is a raging fire, then follows her as the repercussions of the strange phenomenon lead her to question her life and faith as she comes into contact with scientists, religious leaders and the media. As her community begins to judge her and her miracle, she confronts her family, church and community. Set in the author’s native Appalachia, the telling of the tale is a joy to read.
Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel
Winner of the 2012 Man Booker Prize and of the 2012 Costa Book of the Year Award, this historical novel is the brilliant follow-up to the equally engrossing Wolf Hall (which we recommend you read first if you haven’t already). It follows the downfall of Anne Boleyn, with Thomas Cromwell as the protagonist. Set over three weeks, the novel follows the dramatic trial of Queen Anne, and those of the men accused of adultery and treason alongside her. Mantel’s true genius is in her portrayal of Cromwell – a historical caricature traditionally hatefully portrayed – as a human being readers can strongly empathise with. Mantel is now said to be working on the third of this series. We can’t wait…
Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple
Feted architect, crazy, vengeful, school gate mother, unpredictable but fascinating wife or untraditional and fabulous mother. Which of these is Bernadette Fox? The truth is, this fascinating character is all of these. Then she disappears and her 15-year-old daughter Bee is the only one who can find her – and will travel to the ends of the earth to do so. We loved this compulsive read – it’s funny, quirky and touching.
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
Has your other half ever maddened you so much you’ve harboured murderous thoughts? Meet Nick and Amy, who have fallen out of love. One day, Amy simply disappears and Nick is in the frame. The police are convinced of his guilt and it seems all the clues point straight at him… but this murder mystery is not all it seems. So what did happen to Amy? A massive hit in 2013, this book will keep you guessing right until the last pages.
We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo
Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, this is the powerful story of a young girl called Darling and her journey out of a violent, poverty-stricken life in Zimbabwe and to the land of plenty: America. But when Darling gets to the US, where she has a seemingly safe haven with an aunt, she finds that her options as an immigrant are perilously few and her dreams of a happy new life aren’t as assured as she’d dared to dream.
A Tale For The Time Being by Ruth Ozeki
Nao is a sixteen-year-old from Tokyo who is terribly lonely and suffering so much from her classmates’ bullying that she decides there is only one way out. But before she ends it all, she decides to document the life of her great-grandmother, a Buddhist nun who’s more than 100 years old. On the other side of the Pacific is Ruth, who comes across a Hello Kitty lunchbox washed up on a beach. Perhaps it is debris from the 2011 tsunami? As the mystery of its contents unfolds, Ruth is pulled into Nao’s story and its unknown conclusion. Inventive and alluring, we loved it.