Fifteen books you can read in a week*
Planning to read more in 2014? This might help: fifteen of the picador.com editors’ favourite books that you can easily read in a week. You can see what we’re all reading at the moment by visiting our profiles.
*Not the same week, unless you’re a speed reader extraordinaire.
Francesca Main, Picador Editorial Director
From Picador I’d recommend Emma Chapman’s How To Be a Good Wife, which has a voice so hypnotic and a story so compelling it won’t let you go. Three short but brilliant novels I love are Muriel Spark’s compulsive, shocking The Driver's Seat (Penguin), Deborah Levy’s darkly seductive Swimming Home (Faber) and Christopher Isherwood’s compassionate and deeply moving A Single Man (Vintage) – all under 200 pages but with the impact of novels two or three times their size. But if what you’re really after is a book that will not only make you laugh but also teach you how to make the perfect vinaigrette, look no further than Nora Ephron’s Heartburn (Virago).
Lee Dibble, Marketing Director
Le Grand Meaulnes by Henri Alain Fournier (Penguin): a magical, idealistic, very sweet and romantic novel that one is probably best off reading in one’s youth. At the other end of the scale is Disgrace by J. M. Coetzee (Vintage), in which a disgraced professor leaves academia following a failed love affair. The novel is set in post-apartheid South Africa and doesn’t shy away from difficult themes – brutality, exploitation, ownership, racism, sex; it’s a real state of the South African nation book. The read is often uncomfortable but it’s utterly compelling and a brilliant page-turner, too.
And a fun one: The Heart of a Dog by Mikhail Bulgakov (Vintage). This is a bizarre and very funny story about a dog that is experimented on and becomes a kind of half-man, half-dog creature that runs around the streets of Moscow causing havoc. It’s absurd in that way that the allegorical Russians do so well.
Paul Baggaley, Picador Publisher
A Sport and a Pastime by James Salter (Picador) is an exquisite and erotic masterpiece and a beautiful evocation of a time and place. Set in post Second World War France, the novel tells of the affair of an American college drop-out and a young French girl, as witnessed by a self-consciously unreliable narrator, who is himself indulging in a fantasy of their relationship. Salter writes better about sexual obsession than any writer I can think of.
So Long, See You Tomorrow (William Maxwell, Vintage) is a great introduction to a wonderful, underrated writer – this is a heart-breaking short novel that spans fifty years, and relates a friendship and its devastating destruction in a rural American community. Michael Ondaatje said of it: ‘One of the great books of our age. It is the subtlest of miniatures that contains our deepest sorrows and truths and love’.
Charlie Mundy, Picador Editorial Assistant
Blindness by José Saramago (Vintage) kept me up till 3 a.m. one night – I read it in one fell swoop. Once you’re pulled into the swiftly escalating spiral of depravity and despair you can’t put it down due to the need to see the light that you hope must lie at the end of the tunnel. (No pun intended.)
You could and actually should read The Lighthouse by Alison Moore (Salt Publishing) twice in one week: as soon as you put it down you feel compelled to go straight back to the beginning in an attempt to piece together the intricate, shocking and upsetting puzzle that is revealed with the most amazing bang of a twisty ending that I’ve ever read.
Kris Doyle, Picador Editor
Picador's Never Mind by Edward St. Aubyn follows the self-sufficient five-year-old Patrick as he encounters the volatile lives of adults. This short novel is the first of the Patrick Melrose cycle of novels, which I think is one of the greatest literary works in the English language in the last fifty years.
Sophie Jonathan, Picador Assistant Editor
Mr Fox (Picador) is a short novel anyway but Helen Oyeyemi’s skipping, euphoric language means you read it at the most extraordinary pace, bouncing along with the mischievous narrative. And when you’re not reading it, you’ll be wanting to – so I reckon you can polish this one off in well under a week!
Nick Blake, Editorial Manager, Adult Publishing
Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson (a.k.a. The Bloggess), which Picador published in 2012, proves that life’s most absurd and humiliating moments, the ones we wish we could pretend had never happened, are the very same moments that make us who we are. Also ideal for reading episodically, if one can manage to.
Rosanna Boscawen, picador.com Editor
The Outsider (L’Étranger) by Albert Camus (Penguin, or Folio in the original French) has it all: death, bereavement (or lack thereof), sex, murder... Camus revels in the Absurd, too. If you finish it in less than a week then read it again, this time in French.
What do you think of our suggestions? Have you got any other recommendations of books you can read in a week?