A variety of books hung from fishing hooks, like bait, against a light blue background.
A variety of books hung from fishing hooks, like bait, against a light blue background.

If you’re anything like us, long weekends represent an opportunity to sink into a book – and, whenever possible, to devour the whole thing before your days of respite come to an end. Below, we’ve gathered a collection of novels fit for that purpose, from heady novellas to longer novels that take hold of you until the last page.

Open Water by Caleb Azumah Nelson (2021)

There are few better ways to spend a reading weekend than immersing oneself in Caleb Azumah Nelson’s debut novella, in which two young artists from South London – one a photographer, one a dancer – fall in love, only to find themselves confronted with the weight and bigotries of the world: sexism, toxic masculinity and racism. At once a tragic love story and a treatise on what it means to dedicate one’s life to art, Open Water is a gorgeous read and a Costa First Novel Award winner.

Read more: Caleb Azumah Nelson on the caring power of family

Assembly by Natasha Brown (2021)

In her 2021 debut novel, Assembly, Natasha Brown packs an epic’s worth of literary themes, characterisation and metaphors into just 112 pages – no wonder it was shortlisted for the Folio Prize, Goldsmiths Prize, and the Books Are My Bag Fiction Award, not to mention being selected as a Book of the Year by the Guardian, New Statesman, and more. Centred on a Black British millennial protagonist who has done All The Right Things but who is up against global and social forces much bigger than her, Assembly considers: Maybe it’s time to take it all apart?

Read more: ‘I still have a soft spot for Mary Bennet’: 21 Questions with Natasha Brown

The Herd by Emily Edwards (2022)

Emily Edwards’ debut novel delves into the uneasily familiar: vaccines, herd immunity and personal choice. While The Herd may sound timely, it’s actually about the measles vaccine, and what happens when a white lie slips between two parents and best friends with very different opinions. We read The Herd in one breathless sitting - so if you’re going for this one, may we recommend you pick another from this list, too?

Read more: The Herd: author Emily Edwards answers our questions

The Push by Ashley Audrain (2021)

How does what we were raised into define who we become? Can we ever escape a family legacy? And what happens when the children we long for turn out to be people we dread? Ashley Audrain asks the big questions in this compulsive book, which got book clubs chatting over who, really, is the victim of what happens. We can’t guarantee whose side you’ll be on, but we know you’ll read The Push fast - and then be desperate to chat about it. 

Read more: We read Ashley Audrain's The Push – and we have questions

Acts of Desperation by Megan Nolan (2020)

Debut author Megan Nolan said that she wanted this novel to feel like the relationship it depicted: all-consuming, enrapturing and even claustrophobic. Just as our unnamed narrator struggles to break away from her boyfriend and the toxicity that bounds them together, so the book challenges you to put it down. You may well finish this slim novel in a weekend, but we bet you’ll be thinking about it for far longer. 

You and Me on Vacation by Emily Henry (2021)

There’s a good reason that almost all of Emily Henry’s latest books have taken over BookTok: they’re the kind of big, lovely rom-coms that Hollywood hasn’t quite gotten right since the 1990s – and they’re perfect for your weekend read, especially if it’s a weekend away. In You and Me on Vacation, Henry tells the story of friends Alex and Poppy, and the titular holiday that marks the culmination – and possibly the finale – of their 12-year, on-and-off-again relationship. Could this trip determine the rest of their lives? It will certainly determine your weekend’s reading…

Killing Floor by Lee Child (1997)

If you’re yet to meet Jack Reacher, you’re in for a treat: clever, courageous and with a ruthless pragmatism regarding his own survival, Lee Child’s internationally beloved lone ranger is one of modern fiction’s greatest heroes. Killing Floor is where Reacher makes his debut, in a suspiciously picturesque small town in the American Deep South. Expect to fall hard for Reacher – and find yourself reaching for the next Child novel – in a matter of hours.

Read more: 'Between real and mythic': an oral history of Jack Reacher

The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman (2020)

It’s the best-selling book of the last two years for a reason: Richard Osman’s debut novel – about four plucky care home residents in their seventies, whose penchant for crime novels comes in handy when a fellow resident is found murdered – walks a perfect tightrope between heart-warming characters, a wry sense of humour, and a grisly, white-knuckle plot. It’s the kind of inviting, page-turning read that will easily eat up a weekend – and if you’re lucky enough not to have read it yet, you should let it.

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion (2013)

Can you calculate love, or write a formula for affection? Don, a geneticist on the cusp of 40, thinks so. He’s also never had a second date. But he does have faith in science, enough, in fact, that he conjures up The Wife Project: meticulously calibrated to land him a life partner. But no amount of science can figure out love, and there’s only so much maths that can make sense of Rosie. This feel-good read is a perfect weekend warmer.

Pure Colour by Sheila Heti (2022)

Sheila Heti’s latest book isn’t long – it hovers around the 200-page mark – but it’s just as heady as the rest of her incredible bibliography, from the deeply experimental How Should A Person Be? through to her exploratory Motherhood and beyond. In Pure Colour, Heti imagines the universe as a painting canvas, and our moment of existence as the exact one in which God has stepped back to examine his artistry. From there, she launches into a typically Heti-esque exploration of life, human archetypes, the meaning of love, and the very nature of existence. That you can fit such an incredible journey into a single weekend? That’s just a bonus.

Wahala by Nikki May (2022)

In Nikki May’s debut novel, the lives of three inseparable Nigerian-British friends – Ronke, Boo, and Simi – start turning upside down the moment a friend from Simi’s school days reappears in their lives. Called “Sex and the City with a killer twist”, by others, but “a modern, subversive, dark take on friendship, family, culture and race – underpinned by a rather epic revenge story” by its author, Wahala is an absorbing story about modern life with a twist that keeps readers hooked until the end.

The Paper Palace by Miranda Cowley Heller (2021)

Cape Cod, London, Manhattan: even if you’re not leaving your sofa for the weekend, Miranda Cowley’s pacy novel of loves lost will transport you. Immersive writing, unforgettable characters and a love triangle so entangled it’s had readers chewing it over for months, The Paper Palace is the kind of will-she, won’t-she book that begs you to keep reading. When you’re done, head here for Cowley Heller’s take on her novel’s ending.

Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid (2021)

Don’t be fooled by the satisfying heft of Taylor Jenkins Reid’s summery drama: the exploits of the sun-kissed Riva family are too delicious to not devour. Jenkins Reid sets her story both across 24 blistering hours and decades of dark family history. Switching between both - as the reader tries to establish how the mistakes of the past will emerge fatefully all in one champagne-fuelled night - makes for dizzying reading. Eighties excess, Fifties glamour and the inexorable pull of the Pacific Ocean: escape for a weekend with Malibu Rising.

The Summer Job by Lizzy Dent (2021)

One of the most relatable protagonists in some time is Birdy Finch, the messy heroine at the centre of Lizzy Dent’s heart-warming debut, The Summer Job. Birdy has just accepted her dream job, and met a really great guy – the problem is, her co-workers (and the guy!) all think she’s Heather, Birdy’s best friend. As funny as it is sweet, The Summer Job is a perfect rom-com to take for a breezy weekend away, summer or not.

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