What we’re reading right now: book recommendations from the Pan Macmillan team

If you’re wondering what to read next, look no further. Here, the Pan Mac team share their reading recommendations.

For bookworms (which the team at Pan Mac certainly are) the upside of spending so much time at home is that we have so many extra hours free to devote to our must-read lists. Here we asked some of the team to share the books they’re reading right now. So whether you’ve got to the bottom of your must-read pile and you’re wondering what to read next, or if you’re struggling to focus on a book in these strange times, we hope these reading recommendations will inspire you.

Wilding by Isabella Tree,  recommended by William Upcott, Digital Marketing Executive

With its blend of wildlife and hope, Wilding has provided an escape into nature that I’ve been missing over the last couple of months while cooped up in my flat. Wilding tells the story of Isabella Tree and Charlie Burrell’s ‘rewilding’ experiment – taking a step back from intensive farming at Knepp Castle to let nature take over their land. Following the introduction of cattle, deer and other free-roaming animals, rare wildlife has now found a home at Knepp unassisted by humans, with flora and fauna flourishing. Some of the more uplifting news stories of late have focused on nature’s ability to thrive. In the same way, I’ve found Wilding to be a beacon of hope for the future during otherwise troubling times.


by Isabella Tree

Book cover for Wilding

In a project now known as the Knepp Experiment, Isabella Tree and her husband Charlie Burrell gave nature free rein and stepped back to let it take its course, whilst introducing free-roaming animals including cattle, ponies, pigs and deer. Their land is now a home to rare species such as turtle doves and purple emperor butterflies, and is a buzzing, joyful ecosystem. This book is a transformative tale of hope, determination and the magical strengthening power of nature.

The Galton Case by Ross Macdonald and Funny Weather by Olivia Laing, recommended by Kris Doyle, Editorial Director, Picador

My first choice of book to bring relief in these difficult times was a humorous one, but the supposedly funny book I read wasn’t as funny as everyone said, so I came up with two other strategies. First, I went for plot: a classic crime novel by Ross Macdonald called The Galton Case. It was good to focus on a story, not the news. You’ll like this if you are a Raymond Chandler fan. The mystery will keep you turning the pages as the smart prose keeps you smiling. 


After all that pace I wanted to slow things down, so I picked up Olivia Laing’s lucid essays on culture, Funny Weather: Art in an Emergency, letting my brain float in the stopped time of Agnes Martin’s paintings and David Hockney’s landscapes. Laing’s a supple and precise writer on the visual arts, and she’s got a gift when it comes to the tougher of the critic’s two jobs: recommendation. Her enthusiasm sends you off to seek out what she loves with almost as much passion as she has; harder than doing a hatchet job, that.

Funny Weather

Book cover for Funny Weather

Funny Weather brings together a selection of Olivia Laing’s writing on art and culture from throughout her career, examining its role in our personal and political lives. We’re often told art can’t change anything, but Laing argues that it can. Art changes how we see the world, makes plain inequalities and offers fertile new ways of living.

The Other Bennet Sister by Janice Hadlow, recommended by Gillian Mackay, Regional Account Manager

I am reading The Other Bennet Sister by Janice Hadlow and enjoying discovering a new story in a familiar one. You see characters you know well from Pride and Prejudice from a different angle. Not just lonely, sad central character Mary Bennet, looking for her own slice of happiness and love, but also the other Bennet sisters, Mr Darcy, Mr Bingley, Mr Collins, the wonderful Gardiner family and more. Completely absorbing and a perfect escape.

cat with the other bennett sister book
Gillian's cat Mittens enjoying The Other Bennet Sister. 

The Other Bennet Sister

by Janice Hadlow

Book cover for The Other Bennet Sister

In Jane Austen’s beloved classic, Pride and Prejudice, Mary Bennet is often overlooked in the company of her sisters, unloved for her plainness. In Janice Hadlow’s heart-warming new story, Mary takes centre stage and reveals herself to be a warm, loving girl with hopes and dreams of her own. Fans of Jane Austen will love this homage to the classic story, rooting for Mary as she struggles to find her purpose and place in the world.

The Line of Beauty by Alan Hollinghurst, recommended by Alexandra Reed, Email Marketing Manager

I’m taking this time to return to some favourite reads that I haven’t picked up in a good while, and Alan Hollinghurt’s The Line of Beauty was first on my list. The book tells the story of Nick Guest, a young gay man who’s just moved in with the glamorous and wealthy family of a close university friend whom he secretly adores. The book will make you laugh with its sharp and unforgiving satire on British upper-middle class society in the 1980s – one particular scene featuring Nick dancing with Margaret Thatcher springs to mind. But there are also moments of real tragedy and heartbreak, as Nick attempts to find his place in a world that ultimately is not prepared to accept him.

The Line of Beauty

Book cover for The Line of Beauty

The Line of Beauty is Alan Hollinghurst's Man Booker Prize-winning masterpiece. It is a novel that defines a decade, exploring with peerless style a young man's collision with his own desires, and with a world he can never truly belong to.

You Are Not Alone by Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen, recommended by Keren Western, Regional Account Manager

A very apt title for the moment, this deeply psychological thriller is the third book from this great duo. The writing is very clever and keeps you guessing where the authors are going to lead you with the plot. Shay Miller wants to find love and fulfilment, but it eludes her, until a tragic incident leads her to a meeting with the Moore sisters. They seem to have things sorted, with a life of glamour and an unbreakable circle of friends. But as with all great psychological thrillers, things are never what they seem. The book tackles morality and ethics, crossed boundaries and obsession. If you love books by Clare Mackintosh or Gillian Flynn then this is a must.

You Are Not Alone

Book cover for You Are Not Alone

Shay Miller has no job, no apartment and no boyfriend. When she witnesses a young woman throw herself in front of a train, she realises she could end up in the same spiral. But soon she meets a group of women who seem to have their lives together, and who invite her to join them, telling her, ‘you are not alone.’ As she is pulled deeper under the spell of the glamorous Moore sisters Shay’s life gets better and better, but at what price? You are not alone. Is that a promise, or a threat?

A Thousand Ships by Natalie Haynes, recommended by Elle Gibbons, Marketing Manager

A Thousand Ships by Natalie Haynes is providing me with the escape I so desperately need right now. Longlisted for this year’s Women’s Prize, it’s an epic, multi-layered retelling of the Trojan War from an all-female perspective. I’m always keen to read stories told by forgotten voices of the past, and Natalie’s background as a classicist lends the book a depth I haven’t come across before. As sharp as any of our Greek heroes’ swords and surprisingly playful, it draws powerful conclusions about what it means to be a woman caught up in the conflicts of men. It is the book to fill the Circe and Silence of the Girls-shaped hole in your life!

A Thousand Ships

Book cover for A Thousand Ships

One of the Guardian's 'Best Books of 2019,’ A Thousand Ships narrates the story of the Trojan War from the perspective of women, girls and goddesses whose voices have for so long been silent. In this powerful retelling of Greek myth, the devastating consequences of the war fall on the women embroiled in the conflict and its aftermath.

The Light Years by Elizabeth Jane Howard, recommended by Rosie Wilson, Publicity Manager

I'm rereading my tried and tested tonic for tough times, the first in Elizabeth Jane Howard's Cazalet Chronicles, a masterpiece five-part family saga. Opening in 1937, we meet the three Cazalet brothers, their wives and families, and their sister Rachel as the storm clouds of WWII loom in the Sussex countryside. The writing is exceptional and there's something glorious about knowing that four more installments await.

The Light Years

Book cover for The Light Years

This beautiful book is the beginning of an extraordinary family saga. Each summer, the Cazalet family – brothers Hugh, Edward and Rupert, sister Rachel and their parents – spend two wonderful months at their family home in the Sussex countryside. But the siblings are hiding heartaches and secrets that even the idyllic setting won’t let them forget.

The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman, Three Things About Elsie by Joanna Cannon and Maggsie McNaughton’s Second Chance by Frances Maynard, recommended by Sam Humphreys, Associate Publisher, Mantle

I've been struggling to read with so much going on in the world, to be honest, but a friend at another publisher very kindly sent me a proof of The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman, which is due out in September. It's the perfect read for troubled times: uplifting, engaging, entertaining, smart and funny – but also full of heart. It's basically clever escapist fiction at its best. Obviously it's not out yet, so I'd also recommend Three Things About Elsie by Joanna Cannon (which got me out of a reading slump once before) and Maggsie McNaughton’s Second Chance by Frances Maynard (which is a little bit cheeky as I publish it, but it's wonderfully heartwarming, so a great antidote to everything that's happening Out There).

Maggsie McNaughton’s Second Chance

by Frances Maynard

Book cover for Maggsie McNaughton’s Second Chance

Frances Maynard’s second novel is perfect for fans of Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine. It is an uplifting and heartwarming tale of friendship and the power of the written word. Maggsie MacNaughton is small, dyslexic and has just been released from prison. She’s sure that she doesn’t need anyone but herself, but she soon learns that everybody needs someone sometimes. She just needs to put her trust in the right people.

Little Bandaged Days by Kyra Wilder, recommended by Charlotte Greig, Project Editor, Picador

I’m re-reading Little Bandaged Days at the moment. It is a beautifully written literary novel which details a housewife’s descent into madness whilst trapped in the confines of her perfect life and home. Unpredictable, and brutally honest, the book grapples with the realities of motherhood and how they threaten to strip away your identity. In this case, things are exacerbated by the isolation of moving to a new country, Switzerland, with a language barrier. I’m drawn to stories about isolation right now, unsurprisingly, so this novel feels extremely relevant. It is vertigo-inducing, terrifying and – I think – very special.

Little Bandaged Days

by Kyra Wilder

Book cover for Little Bandaged Days

Kyra Wilder’s debut novel is a beautifully written, painfully claustrophobic story of a woman’s descent into madness. A mother moves to Geneva with her husband and their two young children. Unable to speak the language, and with her husband working increasingly long hours, she becomes more and more isolated. As her whole world becomes about caring for her children, Erika is determined that everything will be perfect. But it isn’t . . . Erika has never been so alone, and when the children are sleeping there is just too much time to fill all by herself.

Saint X by Alexis Schaitken, recommended by Emma Oulton, Creative Producer

Like a lot of people, I’ve been struggling to concentrate on reading with so much else going on in the world, but this book has finally allowed me to fully lose myself in a story. Saint X is about a woman suddenly confronted with one of the main suspects from her sister’s murder nearly twenty years earlier, who was released due to lack of evidence. Through the memories this chance encounter brings up for both of them, we try to piece together what really happened all those years ago. But even more compelling than the mystery is how richly drawn these characters are – I feel like I know them all inside out.

Saint X

by Alexis Schaitkin

Book cover for Saint X

When Claire is just seven years old, her teenage sister Alison vanishes while they are on holiday with their parents on the Carribean island Saint X. When Alison’s body is found days later two men are arrested, but the evidence is slim, and they’re later released without charge. As the story hits the tabloids, the lives of Claire and her parents are changed forever.

Years later, Claire is living in New York when she unwittingly gets into a taxi with one of the men accused of her sister’s murder. Sure this is fate, she engineers another meeting and begins an obsessive search for the truth. This moving, atmospheric novel has all the tension of a crime thriller novel as it hurtles towards a devastating end.