Looking for your next book but can't choose from the plethora of titles available? Then you've come to the right place. Below you'll find book reviews penned by Stylist readers, giving their recommendations of really good reads. Each review is a concise 100 words or less, giving you a brief overview of the book another Stylist reader just couldn't get enough of. Think of it as your very own, hand-picked reading list.
Want to get your book review published on stylist.co.uk? Here's how: simply pen a review of your chosen tome in no more than 100 words (head here for tips on writing a good book review), and then email it to us on firstname.lastname@example.org, making sure you include your full name, and also your Twitter name should you have one. We'll then pick our favourites to feature on the site on a weekly basis. Reviews can be on any book, from classics to modern greats, fiction to biographies and short stories to a more substantial read.
Need some inspiration to release your inner literary critic? Take a look at the reviews that made the shortlist of our Culture Critic competition in the gallery below. Click an image to launch the gallery and read the reviews.
Birds Without Wings By Louis De Bernieres
The Critic: Melanie Johnson
"Expansive in its reach yet minute in its detailing, Birds Without Wings is a myriad of 'nested' stories baked in the Turkish sun: the love story between Ibrahim the shepherd and beautiful Philothei, the 'Circassian' prostitute Layla's tale, her master Rustem Bay's and those of the island boys through whose eyes we view the horrors of WW1. De Bernieres portrays the jealousies and tragedies of small town life with equal relish to its pleasures, but for all its realism and poignancy the novel glows with charity, true love and a harmonious mixed-religion community imploding under exterior racist forces."
Perfect Architect by Jayne Joso
The Critic: Caroline Skene
" 'The Architect is dead'. Jayne Joso begins Perfect Architect with the perfect first line. This isn't any ordinary architect who has choked on a piece of eel, this is Charles Ore, member of an elite group of international star architects. On his death Charles's wife, Gaia, discovers a series of intimate letters between her husband and another woman. These letters lead to a source of friendship and support through Gaia's grief as well as providing the impetus to set up a competition between her husband's contemporaries to design the perfect home for her. A quirky novel packed with warm humour."
A Place of Greater Safety by Hilary Mantel
The Critic: Tara Oakes
"Firstly: it’s huge. Secondly: it’s worth it. This may be true of many things in life, but particularly A Place of Greater Safety. Exploring the chemistry and innate tension between extremes of passion and reason, Mantel’s knack of conveying dizzying historical detail through engaging and complex characters is at its peak here. The reader’s life becomes entangled with three men who drove the French Revolution, and understanding what in turn drove them. Robespierre in particular is nowadays unavoidably associated with The Terror; but while you may shudder at his decisions, it is fascinating to see Mantel in his defence."
The Group by Mary McCarthy
The Critic: Maxine Francis Roper
"Known for frank and daring descriptions of female sexuality way ahead of its time, Mary McCarthy's story of five female graduates of New York's prestigious Vassar College, has inspired women writers as far apart as Sarah Waters and Candace Bushnell since. Published in 1963 and set in the 1930s, the writing is as vibrant and breathless as modern chick-lit but with the depth of literary historical fiction. It presents familiar issues (class, careers, relationships) alongside taboos of the age (abortion, lesbianism). Above all, it's a timeless study of female friendships and high-society cliques in all their catty and compelling glory."
Wise Children by Angela Carter
The Critic: Rosa Abbott
"A mock-memoir, Wise Children chronicles the existence of two batty septuagenarian ex-chorus girls, twins Nora and Dora Chance, and the ways in which their bawdy, chaotic lives clash with the elite Hazard Dynasty from which they descend... illegitimately. Perennially seeking acceptance (or even acknowledgment) from their Shakespearean-actor father, the girls pull out every stop to catch his eye during their eventful lives. But though dark undertones linger, the resilience and wit of the leading ladies transform this bleak tale of poverty and rejection into a whirlwind celebration of life. Carter’s compelling and original narrative style renders this a feminist masterpiece."
Room by Emma Donoghue
The Critic: Rebecca Cosgriff - winner of our Culture Critic competition
"Meet Jack; a boy whose perception of the world is limited to the 12ft square room from which he has never left. Child of his incarcerated ‘Ma’ and her monstrous captor, Jack’s life is dominated by the intense relationship with his mother, and the deceptions that she has woven to keep the horrors of his existence from him. Horrific themes are introduced by cleverly structured omissions to create a novel that is ultimately a glimpse into the private world a mother and her son, with ever present intimations of the Fritzl case adding an effectively unsettling chill to every word."
Gentleman and Players by Joanne Harris
The Critic: Amy Jones
"Every woman and their cat read Chocolat, Harris’s most famous novel. But if Chocolat was curling up by the fire with a glass of red wine, Gentlemen and Players is a shot of whisky on a stormy night — and it’s all the better for it. Set in an elite public school for boys, the story is narrated by both an old Latin master and ‘Mole’, a new teacher with a fifteen year old grudge against the school. Cue love, hate, sex, murder and betrayal, all presented in Harris’s deliciously decadent style of storytelling. Thrilling, yet curiously satisfying."
Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
The Critic: Katy Loftus
"African conflict has become almost passé to us in its unerring frequency and predictable horror. Adichie's novel brings it instead to shocking life. Half of a Yellow Sun is at once an incisive record of the 1967-70 Nigerian Civil War, and a heartbreaking, humorous and utterly authentic examination of humanity. We follow three intersecting lives in 1960s Nigeria: houseboy Ugwu; his Master's lover Olanna; and her sister's white boyfriend, Richard. Adichie's language and characters pulse with life, in a novel that will take you to the dark places of humanity, as well as the light, and leave you reeling."
American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld
The Critic: Rebecca Foster
"The life of former First Lady Laura Bush might not sound like promising material, but this fictional autobiography delights. When shy librarian Alice falls for Charlie, heir of the Blackwell political dynasty, private tragedies from her past − and her disagreement with her husband’s policies − threaten to emerge. It’s delicious fun to spot Bush family and administration members in this roman à clef. The well-drawn characters defy caricatures of a conniving presidential idiot and his meek, silent wife. Imagining the rich inner story that resides in every unassuming introvert, Sittenfeld has created a masterpiece from an ordinary life."
Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger
The Critic: Lucy Christian
"Before reading this book, be warned; this is unlike the cult classic charting the time travelling trials of Clare and Henry. If possible, it's better. The chilling tale follows identical twins Julia and Valentine, who, despite appearances, are contradictory in nature. Upon the death of estranged Aunt Elspeth, the twins inherit their elusive relation's Highgate home. London's most famous cemetery provides the perfect backdrop to this fantastically unravelling story of family secrets, interlacing desires of both the living and the departed. Niffenegger blends science fiction with human complexity like no other, but the surprising conclusion may leave a bitter taste."
Prozac Nation by Elizabeth Wurtzel
The Critic: Lauren Cooke
"Some books written bang on the Zeitgeist get old quickly. The most insightful social commentary becomes bland and repetitive, the story predictable. However, this 90's tale of salvation and depression following the prescription of the life-changing Prozac pill somehow manages to remain an inspiring window into the mind of a very troubled young woman – and it is easily as important now as it was when published. From page-to-page we are sardonically welcomed into every thought and feeling of a person suffering from severe depression, and it sits alongside iconic works such as The Bell Jar without even breaking a sweat."
The Trick is to Keep Breathing by Janice Galloway
The Critic: Tina Koenig
"Joy Stone is depressed. Haunted by memories of the drowning of her former lover she blames herself for his death. Janice Galloway has created a complex protagonist with obsessive compulsions - giving the reader an insight into a disturbed mind. The first-person narration means that nothing is concealed. Joy’s sense of hopelessness and the tragedy of a self-destructive life stain many of the pages with accounts of bulimia, alcoholism and self-mutilation. A fascinating read filled with uncertainty and fear yet sprinkled with humour. This book makes you realise you have no idea what a person’s life may really be like."
The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories by Angela Carter
The Critic: Sarah Rose
"With Hollywood’s renewed penchant for the fairytale revival, there is no better time to sample dark offerings from literatures’ original purveyor of the macabre. Angela Carter’s collection of reworked fairy tales firmly rejects the motif of the damsel in distress, instead choosing to follow strong young women and themes of awoken sexuality and confused lust in deliciously lyrical prose. From the gloomy eroticism of The Bloody Chamber to the haunting rewriting of Beauty and the Beast in The Tiger’s Bride, this collection of short stories show there is more to folk tales than beautiful princesses and happy endings."