Brilliant books from every decade of the Queen's reign

In celebration of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, we share three brilliant books from every decade of Her Majesty’s time on the throne so far.

17/05/2022
4 minutes to read
A range of books displayed in front of a platinum background.

 2022 marks the Platinum Jubilee of our longest-reigning monarch, Queen Elizabeth II. During her time on the throne, the Queen has been witness to significant historic events, magnanimous celebrations, and of course, the publication of some absolutely incredible books. While we can’t possibly include them all, here we share a few brilliant books from every decade of the Queen’s reign so far that you should definitely add to your reading list. 


1950s

The Tiger in the Smoke

by Margery Allingham

Book cover for The Tiger in the Smoke

One of the four queens of the Golden Age of crime, Margery Allingham's dark, psychological thriller The Tiger in the Smoke was published in 1952, just before the young Princess Elizabeth ascended the throne. An impenetrable fog has descended on the streets of post-war London and, lurking in the shadows, a violent murderer is on the rampage. It falls to private detective Albert Campion to pit his wits against the killer and hunt him down.

Casino Royale

by Ian Fleming

Book cover for Casino Royale

In 1953, the same year as the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, Macmillan published the very first James Bond novel by Ian Fleming, Casino Royale. In 007’s very first outing he is tasked with taking down the corrupt LeChiffre, assisted by the beautiful Vesper Lynd. This novel lay the first stone in a worldwide franchise of books, films and iconic music that would attract a legion of fans. 

A Bear Called Paddington

by Michael Bond

Book cover for A Bear Called Paddington

In 1958, the world first met and fell in love with Michael Bond’s polite, marmalade-loving creation, Paddington Bear. In this first story, we meet Paddington in his iconic duffel coat, wellington boots and hat, journeying from darkest Peru to London, carrying just a battered old suitcase along with a not, ‘Please look after this bear.’


1960s

Lady Chatterley’s Lover

by D. H. Lawrence

Book cover for Lady Chatterley’s Lover

In Lady Chatterley’s Lover, D. H. Lawrence tells the story of an aristocratic wife yearning for human contact after her husband returns from war paralysed, and her subsequent illicit and passionate affair with their estate’s gamekeeper, Mellors. The book was first published privately in 1928 but was banned in the UK and America for its scandalous content. It was only after a groundbreaking obscenity trial, that it was published to the masses in 1960 and promptly sold 3 million copies.

A House for Mr Biswas

by V. S. Naipaul

Book cover for A House for Mr Biswas

Written in 1961 and set in post-colonial Trinidad, A House for Mr Biswas was named one of the BBC’s 100 Novels That Shaped Our World and part of the Picador Collection of era-defining modern classics. Born into misfortune, Mr Biswas is an inherently unlucky man. But in spite of endless setbacks, he is determined to finally buy a home of his own. 

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

by Roald Dahl

Book cover for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Who wouldn’t want to win a golden ticket to Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory? Roald Dahl’s best-known work, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is the stuff of dreams for children everywhere - a river of chocolate, fizzy drinks that make you fly, and everlasting gobstoppers! 


1970s

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

by Douglas Adams

Book cover for The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

Totally hilarious, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is a work of utter comic genius from Douglas Adams. This laugh-out-loud romp through space is the first of five books in the 'trilogy', and sees protagonist Arthur Dent narrowly escape the destruction of Earth by hitching a ride on a spaceship with his alien best friend Ford Prefect.

Awakenings

by Oliver Sacks

Book cover for Awakenings

Hailed as a medical classic, Awakenings by Dr Oliver Sacks is the shocking account of a sleeping-sickness epidemic that left twenty individuals motionless and speechless for forty years, until a new treatment temporarily roused them from their slumber. . .. This is not simply an incredible story of medical curiosity, but a moving memoir of a tirelessly working, passionate neurologist. 

The Bloody Chamber

by Angela Carter

Book cover for The Bloody Chamber

Take all the most well-known fairytales and completely turn them on their heads. That's exactly what Angela Carter did in her 1979 short story collection, The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories. These don't feel like retellings or 'adult' versions of well-known fairytales, but like completely new stories that boldly explore themes of sexuality, feminism and power. 


1980s

Dear Zoo

by Rod Campbell

Book cover for Dear Zoo

The Queen isn't the only one with a significant anniversary this year. Rod Campbell's classic lift-the-flap book Dear Zoo is celebrating forty years in publication. A firm favourite with toddlers and parents alike ever since it was first published, this is a bright, bold story about a little boy who enlists the help of his local zoo to find the perfect pet. This beloved book is a staple on every child's bookshelf.

Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit

by Jeanette Winterson

Book cover for Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit

Jeanette Winterson's semi-autobiographical first novel Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit was first published in 1985, winning the Whitbread Award for a First Novel. A touching coming-of-age story about a young girl discovering her sexuality whilst growing up in a religious community, this novel is about challenging the status quo and being brave enough to take a different path from the one expected of you. 

The Pillars of the Earth

by Ken Follett

Book cover for The Pillars of the Earth

The Pillars of the Earth, the first book in Ken Follett’s epic Kingsbridge series, has sold an incredible fifteen million copies since it was published in 1989. This spellbinding tale of ambition and anarchy in medieval England sees mason Tom and prior Philip come together to achieve their dream of creating the greatest Gothic cathedral the world has ever seen. 


1990s

The Light Years

by Elizabeth Jane Howard

Book cover for The Light Years

Published in 1990 The Light Years is the first book in the bestselling Cazalet Chronicles series.  Each summer, the Cazalet family spend two wonderful months at their family home in the Sussex countryside. But they are each hiding heartaches and secrets that even the idyllic setting won’t let them forget. This series is in fact dearly beloved by one of the Royals, with HRH The Duchess of Cornwall stating 'If I were sent to a desert island with one book this would be my choice.'


Bridget Jones's Diary

by Helen Fielding

Book cover for Bridget Jones's Diary

At the beginning of 1995 Helen Fielding wrote her first Bridget Jones column for the Independent, striking a chord with women across Britain who demanded more. And so, Bridget Jones's Diary was born. While we all adore the film adaptations starring Renée Zellweger, Colin Firth and Hugh Grant, nothing beats Helen’s hilarious literary classic that remains just as relatable as ever. 

The Gruffalo

by Julia Donaldson

Book cover for The Gruffalo

Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler's The Gruffalo is an undisputed modern classic that has become a best-selling phenomenon selling over 13.5 million copies across the world. Children and parents alike have been enchanted by the rhyming story of a quick-witted mouse who ventures into the deep dark wood and meets an owl, a snake . . . and a hungry Gruffalo!


2000s

White Teeth

by Zadie Smith

Book cover for White Teeth

White Teeth by Zadie Smith deservedly won countless awards when it was first published in 2000. Focusing on two friends – the Bangladeshi Samad Iqbal and the Englishman Archie Jones – as well as their wider families, White Teeth is an expansive exploration of life in multi-cultural London, at times hilarious and heartwarming and at others brutal and heartbreaking.

Atonement

by Ian McEwan

Book cover for Atonement

You might be familiar with the BAFTA and Academy Award-winning film Atonement, starring James McAvoy, Kiera Knightley and a young Saoirse Ronan, but you may not know that the film was based on a stunning novel of the same name by Ian McEwan. Set across multiple time periods, this is a tragic story of how one mistake can have massive repercussions with devastating consequences on multiple lives.

The Line of Beauty

by Alan Hollinghurst

Book cover for The Line of Beauty

The Line of Beauty is Alan Hollinghurst's 2004 Man Booker Prize-winning masterpiece. Exploring themes of identity and class in Thatcher's Britain through the lives of the wealthy Fedden family and their 23-year-old lodger Nick, this novel lifts the veil on the Conservative elite and the relationship between politics and sexuality in 1980s London.


2010s

This Is Going To Hurt

by Adam Kay

Book cover for This Is Going To Hurt

This Is Going to Hurt provides a no-holds-barred account of former junior doctor Adam Kay’s time on the NHS front line. Hilarious, horrifying and heartbreaking by turns, these diaries are everything you wanted to know – and more than a few things you didn't – about life on and off the hospital ward. This million-copy selling phenomenon was recently adapted into a critically acclaimed BBC TV series.

Pinch of Nom

by Kay Allinson

Book cover for Pinch of Nom

The debut cookbook from the UK’s most-visited food blog, Pinch of Nom broke records when it was published in 2019, becoming the fastest ever selling non-fiction book in the UK. Pinch of Nom is a phenomenon that only keeps growing with more cookbooks and delicious recipes to come.  

Girl, Woman, Other

by Bernardine Evaristo

Book cover for Girl, Woman, Other

 This 2019 Booker Prize winner follows twelve characters on their personal journeys over the last one hundred years. From Newcastle to Cornwall and the beginning of the twentieth century to the modern day, each of them is searching for something. These wonderful interwoven stories address issues of race, identity and womanhood. 


2020s

Shuggie Bain

by Douglas Stuart

Book cover for Shuggie Bain
Read extract

The 2020s have only just begun, but we had to include Douglas Stuart’s blistering, Booker Prize-winning debut on this list. Shuggie Bain is a heartbreaking story that lays bare the ruthlessness of poverty and the limits of love. Set in a poverty-stricken Glasgow in the early 1980s, Agnes Bain has always dreamed of greater things, but when she finds herself trapped in a decimated mining town she descends deeper and deeper into drink. Her son Shuggie tries to help her long after her other children have fled, but he too must abandon her to save himself.

Read extract


Books about the Queen 

Queen of Our Times

by Robert Hardman

Book cover for Queen of Our Times

Robert Hardman, one of Britain's leading royal authorities, has collated insights from those close to the queen, interviews with world leaders and excerpts from unseen papers to put together a detailed and astonishing overview of the life of our longest-reigning monarch.

The Diamond Queen

by Andrew Marr

Book cover for The Diamond Queen

With his trademark flair for narrative and meticulous research, in this Sunday Times Top 10 Bestseller Andrew Marr turns his attention to the monarch, and the monarchy. He examines her role as Head of the Commonwealth, and looks at the drastic changes in the media since her accession in 1952, in particular, how the monarchy have had to change and adapt as a result. A fascinating read as we collectively look back at seventy years of Queen Elizabeth's reign in 2022, this is historical non-fiction at it's finest.


Innovation

by Peter Ackroyd

Book cover for Innovation

Innovation is the triumphant final volume to Peter Ackroyd's comprehensive History of England series. In this volume, Ackroyd takes readers from the end of the Boer War, through to the end of the twentieth century, covering the coronation and first five decades of Queen Elizabeth II's reign.