Books that were worth the wait

Impatiently awaiting the next instalment in a series? Desperate to read the follow-up to that massive bestseller? Here's our pick of the novels and non-fiction titles that proved that patience is a virtue.

When we find something we like, we tend to want more of it. And in a world that is increasingly geared towards instant gratification, we want it now. But when an author is taking time to perfect something, working on other things, or just having a break, sometimes, as readers, we just have to. . .wait. Here we take a look at the writers who left us hanging, and the books that immediately earned our forgiveness by being totally worth waiting for.

The Passenger

by Cormac McCarthy

Book cover for The Passenger

A sunken jet. Nine passengers. A missing body. 

The Passenger is a bona fide international literary event: the first novel from Cormac McCarthy in sixteen years. It is the story of a salvage diver who is devastated by loss, afraid of deep water, pursued for a tangled conspiracy he cannot understand and looking forward to a death which he cannot reconcile with God.

That we’ve had to wait since 2006’s bestseller The Road for a new McCarthy isn't necessarily a surprise – he is a writer who has always believed in taking his time. He began fourth novel Suttree in 1959, six years before his debut came out, and it wasn’t published until 1979. The good news is you won’t have to wait decades, or even a year, for the follow-up to The Passenger. Stella Maris, the second part of this duology, is out in December.

Want to know more about why we’ve all been waiting for The Passenger? Read our guide to the work of Cormac McCarthy

To Paradise

by Hanya Yanagihara

Book cover for To Paradise

Hanya Yanagihara’s second novel A Little Life (2015) catapulted her into the literary spotlight. A modern epic with real emotional heft, it has a large and fiercely devoted following, and whatever came next was always going to carry the weight of a million expectations. After such astonishing success you could understand Yanagihara suffering from ‘difficult third novel’ syndrome. But she hasn’t. 

Taking you from an alternate nineteenth-century America to 1990s New York, before coming to land in a totalitarian 2093, riven by plagues, To Paradise is a ‘masterpiece’ (don’t take my word for it, this is from The Observer). Yanagihara weaves the three carefully created worlds together to devastating effect. If you’ve spent the seven years since meeting A Little Life’s Willem, Jude, Malcolm and JB hoping for a book with as much emotional impact, the wait is over.

Find out more about Hanya Yanagihara’s dedicated readers in her piece on how A Little Life took on a visual life of its own.

Atlas: The Story of Pa Salt

by Lucinda Riley

Book cover for Atlas: The Story of Pa Salt

OK, so there’s still a little bit of a wait for this one (it comes out in May 2023) but as existing fans of Lucinda Riley’s Seven Sisters series know, it’ll definitely be worth it – and it gives those who haven’t discovered the books yet a chance to catch up. 

Inspired by the Greek myth of the Pleiades, the seven daughters of Atlas and Pleione who were said to have been turned into the star constellation of the same name, the series follows the story of seven sisters, and begins as their adoptive father – the elusive billionaire they call Pa Salt – dies, and they are each given a tantalising clue to their true heritage. This, the final book in the series, will finally answer the question that readers have been asking since 2014: who is Pa Salt?

Lucinda Riley very sadly died in 2021, and this final instalment is co-authored by her son, Harry Whittaker. 

If you want to get into the series before the final book comes out, take a look at our guide to Lucinda Riley's The Seven Sisters books in order.

The Ship Beneath the Ice

by Mensun Bound

Book cover for The Ship Beneath the Ice

A variation on the theme here, with a book about a long but hugely worth it wait. On 21 November 1915,  Sir Ernest Shackleton’s crew watched in silence as their ship, the Endurance, succumbed to the crushing ice of the Antarctic. The miraculous escape and survival of all twenty-eight men on board has entered legend, but the ship was considered forever lost. Then, in 2022, it was finally tracked down. 

This is the extraordinary story of how the Endurance was found, told by the man who directed the expedition. Complete with a selection of Frank Hurley’s photos from Shackleton’s original voyage in 1914–17, as well as from the expeditions in 2019 and 2022, The Ship Beneath the Ice is the perfect tribute to this monumental discovery.

The Ministry of Utmost Happiness

by Arundhati Roy

Book cover for The Ministry of Utmost Happiness

Arundhati Roy's first novel, The God of Small Things, won the Booker Prize in 1997 and made her internationally famous. This, her second novel, was published twenty years later.

The Ministry of Utmost Happiness is an ambitious, sprawling interwoven portrait of contemporary India. As with The God of Small Things, readers come to utterly inhabit the world of its characters. It is both intimate and epic, 'an author worth waiting two decades for' according to The Financial Times.

The Exhibitionist

by Charlotte Mendelson

Book cover for The Exhibitionist

There’s been a nine year wait for consistently award-nominated Charlotte Mendelson’s fifth novel, following 2013’s exceptional Almost English.

Funny and fierce, The Exhibitionist takes us into the dark heart of the Hanrahan family as they gather for patriarch Roy’s new exhibition, one that will surely solidify his reputation for good. Lucia, his wife, is also an artist, but has been forced to put her roles as wife and mother first. This weekend, though, this may all be about to change. 

Taut and hilarious, this story was definitely worth the wait.