Books to make you look smart on the train

Classic and contemporary masterpieces that are sure to impress your fellow passengers.

There’s something satisfying about  reading a book that makes you feel smart – especially when other people see you reading it. Whether you’re on your daily commute or just relaxing at home, the right book can stimulate both your intellect and imagination. Here we’ve rounded up some classic and contemporary masterpieces that are sure to impress your fellow bookworms and elevate your reading game. Get ready to become the most well-read passenger on the train!


by Hernan Diaz

Any novel longlisted for the Booker Prize will immediately make you look smart when reading it in public –  eyes will be drawn to the bold red sticker on the front cover that just screams leading literary award. Trust, a sweeping, unpredictable novel about power, wealth and truth, set against the backdrop of turbulent 1920s New York, was longlisted for the 2022 Booker Prize. As well as looking literary, you’ll also be highly entertained by this deliciously deceptive tale, and be eagerly turning the pages to try and solve the puzzle that lies within.

Crime and Punishment

by Fyodor Dostoevsky

Now this one can look like a daunting read, but if we saw you tackling this moralistic masterpiece on your commute, we’d be seriously impressed. Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment is a compelling story of a brutal double murder and its aftermath. Dostoevsky takes us right into the dark depths of the protagonist Raskolnikov’s troubled mind, as he battles his conscience, society, radicalism and tradition while the the consequences of his murderous actions loom ever greater. A sensation in its day, this novel has left an indelible stamp on the world of literature.

The Snakehead

by Patrick Radden Keefe

Patrick Radden Keefe is a highly-respected name in the world of investigative reporting. His bestselling book Empire of Pain was the inspiration behind the Netflix series about the US opioid crisis, Painkiller. So, why not show off your knowledge of this authoritative voice by reading The Snakehead.  It’s a thrilling panorama investigating a secret world run by a surprising criminal: a charismatic middle-aged grandmother, who from a tiny noodle shop in New York’s Chinatown, managed a multimillion-dollar business smuggling people. 

Animal Farm

by George Orwell

One of the most influential works of fiction ever written to this day is George Orwell’s Animal Farm, a brilliant political satire and allegorical farmyard fable about the corroding effects of power. The story of an equalitarian dream that descends into an increasingly divided and hierarchical society, riddled with lies and corruption, this thoughtful read feels at times frighteningly relevant. Whipping out this read on the commute will let all your fellow passengers know that you're an astute political mind.


by Don DeLillo

Eyes will be drawn down the train by the size of this impressive book in your hands. Spanning from the 1950s through to the 1990s in a non-linear fashion, Underworld is an 832 page panoramic vision of America. You’ll weave in and out of a number of intertwined yet varied themes, including baseball, waste disposal, guns and the Cold War. Considered DeLillo’s greatest work, and shortlisted for the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, it's a remarkable story of men and women, together and apart, searching for meaning and connection in the toughest of times.

The Art of War

by Sun Tzu

If you’re facing a challenge at your workplace, why not read a book that will not only make you look smart and cultured, but might perhaps guide you through it? If that’s the kind of book you’re looking for, you need to add The Art of War to your reading list. Originally a manual for Chinese dynasties on military strategies, today it serves as a guide to everyday life, with lessons on decision making, leadership and teamwork. Our beautiful edition also contains full commentary on Sun Tzu, the man and his ideas, making it your perfect introduction to one of the world’s most timeless classics.

The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat

by Oliver Sacks

Don’t worry, they aren’t staring at you, just at the peculiar title of the multi-million copy bestselling book you’re carrying. The Man Who Mistook his wife for a Hat is a provocative non-fiction exploration of the mysteries of the human mind from the twentieth century’s greatest neurologist, Oliver Sacks. Featuring extraordinary stories of patients struggling to adapt to neurological disorders that you can hardly believe, you’ll struggle to put this book down even when you arrive at your station.

On the Origin of the Species

by Charles Darwin

You’ll have noticed that non-fiction popular science books such as Sapiens have taken train carriages by storm, so, why not take it back to the original with the Origin of Species, Darwin's world-changing theory of evolution. You’ll absorb some of Darwin’s genius but also experience his boundless enthusiasm for our planet and its many species. Not to mention this pocket-sized Macmillan Collector’s Library edition is perfect to read on the go!

A Manual for Cleaning Women

by Lucia Berlin

You'll look very in-the-know to be seen with A Manual for Cleaning Women by rediscovered gem, Lucia Berlin. She invites you in with her extraordinary honesty about complex subjects with effortless clarity and a voice that is anarchic, compassionate and completely unique. Each story has a particular interest in the working-class and the marginalised experiences, rich with chaos, pain and the beauty of everyday life. This is truly one of the most remarkable short story collections in twentieth-century American fiction.