Books that had us hooked from the first line

Looking for a book you won't be able to put down? Here's our edit of books that reached and out grabbed our attention from the very first line.

Ever find yourself bleary-eyed at 2 a.m., reading by your phone's torchlight because just one more page turned into just one more chapter

If, like us, you're constantly searching for that can't-put-it-down factor (is there anything better?) you'll love our edit of the best books that reached out and grabbed us from the very first line, and didn't let go . . .

The Christie Affair

by Nina de Gramont

'A long time ago, in another country, I nearly killed a woman.'

In 1926, Agatha Christie disappeared for eleven days. Only one person knows the truth of her disappearance – her husband's mistress, Nan. 

Despite their differences, the two women will become the most unlikely of allies. And during the mysterious eleven days that Agatha goes missing, they will unravel a dark secret that only Nan holds the key to . . .

Inspired by the true story of Agatha Christie's unexplained disappearance in 1926, The Christie Affair is a must-read.

Nineteen Eighty-Four

by George Orwell

'It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.'

We're not sure any first line has ever instilled a greater sense of unease than that of George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four.

A masterful work of dystopian fiction that continues to inspire authors decades after its publication, Nineteen Eighty-Four follows Winston Smith, who makes a living rewriting history in a world where everyday people are constantly watched by Big Brother and controlled by the Thought Police. Ominous and foreboding, you won't be able to put this classic down.


by Raven Leilani

'The first time we have sex, we are both fully clothed, at our desks during working hours, bathed in blue computer light.'

Razor-sharp, painfully funny and surprising tender, Luster is the story of Edie, a millennial who is messing up in her dead-end admin job in her all-white office, sleeping with all the wrong men, and failing at the only thing that meant anything to her, painting. Then she meets Eric, a white middle-aged archivist in a sort-of-open marriage and father to an adopted black daughter. With nowhere else left to go, Edie finds herself falling head-first into Eric’s home and family.

Heralded by many as one of the best books of the year (from the New York Times to Vanity Fair) and lauded with awards and nominations, Edie's voice will reach out and take hold in an instant.

Crying in H Mart

by Michelle Zauner

'Ever since my mom died, I cry in H Mart.'

We weren't alone in not being able to put down Crying in H Mart, in fact we were in good company as Barack Obama named it one of his favourite books of 2021. A lyrical writer (and front-woman of the twice Grammy-nominated band, Japanese Breakfast), Michelle Zauner's moving memoir delves into the loss of her mother to pancreatic cancer. This devastating loss forced a reckoning with her identity and led Michelle to reclaim the gifts of taste, language, and history her mother had given her.

Read more about Michelle Zauner's rise to literary and musical renown in our exclusive Q&A with her.

My Annihilation

by Fuminori Nakamura

Book cover for My Annihilation

'Turn this page, and you may give up your entire life.'

This remarkable work of literary noir grabs its readers with both hands. A confessional diary, it implicates its reader in a heinous crime and reveals, puzzle piece by puzzle piece, the motives of a killer. Delving into the deepest darkest corners of the human psyche, this confronting page-turner is not to be missed.

Into the Dark

by Fiona Cummins

'The wind sounded like the dead had risen, climbing out of their graves and drumming their bones against the roof.'

If crime thrillers are your thing, you've found your next read. Fiona Cummins' Into the Dark revolves around the disappearance of the Holdens: a gilded family who live in a beautiful art deco home that overlooks the bay of Midtown-on-Sea. The kettle is still warm, all the family’s phones are charging on the worktop, the cars are in the garage. But the house is deserted.

In fifteen-year-old Riva Holden’s bedroom, scrawled across the mirror in blood, are three words: Make. Them. Stop.

Malice Aforethought

by Francis Iles

'It was not until several weeks after he decided to murder his wife that Dr Bickleigh took any active steps in the matter.'

Malice Aforethought is one of the earliest and finest examples of the inverted detective story – we know who committed the crime, but will he get away with it?

Set in stuffy 1920s England and told from the perspective of the devious and ruthless Dr Bickleigh who, unable to tolerate his wife any longer, much less deny his passion for Madeleine Cranmere, resolves to commit murder. Impeccably plotted and darkly comic, this is classic crime fiction at its best.  

A Marvellous Light

by Freya Marske

'Reginald Gatling’s doom found him beneath an oak tree, on the last Sunday of a fast-fading summer.'

Perfect for fans of Bridgerton (so, everyone), as well as those who like to add a little magic to their bookshelves, Freya Marske's A Marvellous Light is set in an alternative Edwardian England and combines historical fiction and fantasy in a sharp-edged tale of mystery and murder.

The Pillars of the Earth

by Ken Follett

'The small boys came early to the hanging.'

This chilling line is the first in Ken Follett's historical masterpiece, The Pillars of the Earth; the first instalment in his internationally bestselling series, the Kingsbridge novels

Set in 1135, this epic tale of ambition, anarchy and absolute power follows an impoverished mason and a resourceful monk who share the same dream: to build the greatest gothic Cathedral the world has ever known. But in a time beset by strife and with the two men encircled by enemies, a struggle between good and evil ensues that will turn church against state, and brother against brother.

The Restaurant at the End of the Universe

by Douglas Adams

'The story so far: In the beginning the Universe was created. This has made a lot of people very angry and been widely regarded as a bad move.'

While you’re exploring outer space, why not make the most of it and stop by the famous Restaurant at the End of the Universe? Arthur Dent certainly plans to. It’s just a shame there is a crew of angry Vogons trying to hunt down Arthur and his friends before dinner.

The opening line to the second book in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series epitomises Douglas Adams' trademark wit and warmth, and if that doesn't draw you in, we don't know what will. 

I Capture the Castle

by Dodie Smith

'I write this sitting in the kitchen sink.'

Lauded as one of the BBC's 100 Novels That Shaped Our World this wonderfully quirky coming-of-age story, follows the eccentric Mortmain family who have been rattling around in a vast, decrepit castle for years, and gradually slipping into financial ruin. Mortmain is crippled by writer’s block, while his beautiful second wife Topaz struggles to be a dutiful stepmother to Rose, Cassandra and Thomas. Rose needs a husband, and Thomas an education, but Cassandra lives for her writing. Through her diaries she chronicles the trials of family life, the impact on their prospects of the arrival of a glamorous American family, and the agonies of falling in love for the first time.