Reading list

Why 2017 is the year to read these 11 topical books

There's no doubt 2017 will be a big year in books. From Adrian Mole to Dan Brown to Jane Austen, these titles chart some of the year's most significant literary moments.


A Brief History of Time

Stephen Hawking

Stephen Hawking will celebrate his 75th birthday on 8 January 2017, so it's a great time to celebrate his huge contribution to our understanding of space and time by reading his best-known book. In it, the world’s greatest living scientist looks at Newton and Einstein’s theories of the cosmos and investigates the great mysteries of black holes, spiral galaxies and dark energy - all in an entertaining read that’s much more page-turner than textbook. And the companion app, Stephen Hawking’s Pocket Universe, brings the theory to life on your phone or tablet.

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Modern Poets: Your Family, Your Body

Warsan Shire made the headlines when she provided the poetry for Beyonce’s much talked-about video for Lemonade - the album expected to dominate this year’s Grammy awards in February. This slim but beautiful volume of modern poetry is features more of Shire’s powerful writing, alongside poems by Malika’s Poetry Kitchen founder Malika Booker and Pulitzer Prize winner Sharon Olds, in a collection that’s all about experiences of the female body, the family, sexual politics and conflict. For another Grammy-inspired read, try Elvis Costello's audiobook, which is nominated in the awards' Spoken Word category.

You can also hear Elvis Costello on the Penguin podcast.


Doctor Zhivago

Boris Pasternak

With 2017 marking 100 years since the Russian revolution, Doctor Zhivago offers an insight what it was like to live through this tumultuous time. It tells the story of Yuri Zhivago, a doctor and poet who is torn between his love for his family and his affair with the beautiful, passionate Lara as he struggles to come to terms with the changes in himself and his society. The book – which was banned in the Soviet Union until 1988 – is one of six beautiful, thought-provoking Russian masterpieces released by Vintage to mark the revolution’s centenary. 


The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13¾

Sue Townsend

Adrian Mole has brought us some of the greatest comic moments – and the worst poetry – of the last 35 years. As the iconic and hapless diarist celebrates his 50th birthday in April 2017, it’s definitely the moment to read – or re-read – the novel that first inspired us to take the tortured teenage poet and misunderstood intellectual, his erratic parents, and their troublesome dog, to our hearts. Somehow this book manages to be both a painfully candid and funny insight into adolescence and a satirical snapshot of 80s Britain, and pulls both functions off in style.


Into the Water

Paula Hawkins

If you were a fan of The Girl on the Train (OK, who wasn’t?), you probably already have May blocked out in your diary as the month you’ll be staying in to read Paula Hawkins’ new book, Into the Water. This time the mistress of the psychological thriller brings us a standalone novel about a small-town family with some massive secrets. It’s a story that promises even more twists, turns and suspense than its predecessor, and looks set to be the book everyone’s talking about this spring.  


Midnight’s Children

Salman Rushdie

One of the world’s most interesting and influential contemporary authors, Salman Rushdie will turn 70 this June. If you haven’t yet read his books, the epic and original Midnight’s Children is a great place to start. It follows the life of Saleem Sinai, a child born on the stroke of midnight at the exact moment that India became independent – an event that leaves him with a telepathic connection to 1,000 other ‘midnight’s children’ with their own special abilities, and a life that seems destined to echo the highs and lows in the modern history of India itself. 



Claudia Rankine

This powerful, multi-award-winning book is an important read in the context of the Black Lives Matter movement. A collection of searing essays, images and poetry, it looks at the effects of the racism still endemic in today’s Western world through stories about everyday discrimination and prejudice, and the individual experiences of violence and abuse that have impacted the lives of figures from Serena Williams to Zinedine Zidane to Mark Duggan.


The Secret History

Donna Tartt

This year marks 25 years since Donna Tartt’s cult hit about a group of misfit students was published. Set in the 1980s, this tense, psychological book is almost a murder mystery in reverse. It follows the six friends as they come under the cultish influence of their Classics professor and embrace a hedonistic lifestyle that goes way beyond youthful excess – with some grisly results that will change the course of all their lives. 



Dan Brown

We probably don’t need to remind fans of the Robert Langdon books that Dan Brown’s latest novel to feature the code-cracking hero is set for publication this Autumn. The book will plunge the Harvard symbologist into a dangerous struggle to answer two crucial questions about human existence. Expect a momentous discovery, delivered with The Da Vinci Code author’s own special blend of cliff-hangers, codes, science, religion, history, art and architecture. 

All Quiet on the Western Front

Erich Maria Remarque

A century after World War One, we’re still trying to make sense of its events. This classic novel offers a real insight, as Remarque explores the lives of young men who arrived in the trenches straight from school. Following German recruit Paul Bäumer and his former classmates, it looks at the war’s devastating effect on a generation whose first adult experiences were shaped by fighting and bloodshed, and seeks expose the waste and futility of the war to ensure that it will never repeated.



Jane Austen

This winter marks 200 years since Jane Austen’s final novel was published. Perhaps the most grown up of Austen’s books, this is a story of lost love and second chances. It tells the tale of Anne Elliot, a titled gentlewoman who broke off an engagement seven years earlier because her family did not believe that her fiance, Captain Wentworth, was successful enough to make a good match. When her family moves to Bath and Wentworth comes back into her life, she is faced with a choice – should she choose happiness with him, or a wealthy and comfortable life with a more ‘appropriate’ suitor?


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