Books we'd do anything to read again for the first time

Our favourite revelatory reading experiences.

An emotional response we didn't anticipate. The shock of a didn't-see-it-coming-twist. . . Is there anything better than that feeling of discovery, the growing realisation that you've happened across something amazing? Here's our pick of the books we'd do anything to experience again for the first time, a gift to those in the enviable position of not having read them yet. 

Great Expectations

by Charles Dickens

Book cover for Great Expectations

Oh, to have the joy of Great Expectations with no expectations! The number of TV and film adaptations of this, one of Dickens' most renowned and accessible novels, runs to double figures, but we advise skipping them all and going straight to the book. To follow the story of Pip, an orphan boy trying to leave his humble origins behind, and to meet genuinely iconic characters like Miss Havisham and Magwich for the first time, as they were originally written, is a real privilege. 

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

by Douglas Adams

Book cover for The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

Laughter is at its heart a communal experience. Book jackets will often tell you a novel is 'laugh-out-loud funny', but it's rare to find one that actually is – how many times do we genuinely sit and guffaw by ourselves? Unless, of course, we're reading Douglas Adams. No review or reader anecdote can prepare you for just how hilariously absurd The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is going to be. And whilst this comedy masterpiece stands up to multiple rereads (and adaptations), nothing quite compares to the snort-inducing delight of reading an expertly constructed joke for the first time.

Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret

by Judy Blume

Book cover for Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret

You probably don't wish you were a teenager again, but it might almost be worth it in order to experience the shock of recognition, the relief that comes with realising you're not the first or only person who feels like this, that comes from reading Judy Blume. Whilst Forever is probably her best known YA novel, Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret deserves similar recognition for its bold, empathetic exploration of what it's like being a teenage girl who feels that they don't quite fit in.

Daisy Darker

by Alice Feeney

Book cover for Daisy Darker

A book with a great twist will have you going back to the beginning to look for clues, but nothing can top that lurch in your stomach when you first realise what's really going on. Alice Feeney's latest has a twist so good you'll wish you could be surprised all over again. It's Halloween, and Daisy Darker has just arrived at her grandmother’s house to celebrate her eightieth birthday with her family. The house, Seaglass, sits perched on a rugged private island whose granite rocks are isolated form the rest of the world whenever the tide comes in. The Darkers haven't been reunited for over a decade, and by the time the tide goes out, one of them will be dead. . .

A Little Life

by Hanya Yanagihara

Book cover for A Little Life

Some books have such an emotional impact that you struggle to imagine being so affected by a piece of writing again. A Little Life is one such novel; literature at its most intense and visceral. It follows four friends in New York City: actor Willem, architect Malcolm, struggling artist JB, and prodigious lawyer Jude – the damaged, beating heart of the group, enigmatic, vulnerable, and deeply loved.

If you've already had your A Little Life first-read experience, get yourself ready for the paperback release of Hanya Yanagihara's equally affecting third novel, To Paradise.

Crying in H Mart

by Michelle Zauner

Book cover for Crying in H Mart

Knowing in advance that it's a memoir about grief will not prepare you for the unflinching, emotional sucker punch that is Crying in H Mart. Also known as indie rockstar Japanese Breakfast, Michelle Zauner writes movingly on growing up mixed-race, Korean food, losing her Korean mother, and forging her own identity in the wake of that loss, with a startling and necessary frankness. 


by George Eliot

Book cover for Middlemarch

This is George Eliot's masterpiece, known for its striking lead character, Dorothea Brooke, its candid observation, its emotional insight and its transcendent humour. Its place on this list requires a little poetic license, as what's particularly distinctive about Middlemarch is how often it is cited as a book to reread. It's a novel that seems to change alongside the reader – our sympathies shift, our emotional response is recast, the book's emphasis and meaning widens, or narrows, depending on our own lives – so each time you read it feels like the first time. A winner for both new readers and those already familiar with this great English novel.