If it were up to us, we’d happily spend every free hour of the day ensconced in a book.
But life, in its multitude of demands – Book that hotel! Don't forget to buy mum’s card! Update LinkedIn! Eek, check PayPal balance! – tends to get in the way.
And with a steady river of new releases whooshing by each month, picking which reads to invest our precious time on can be an dizzying task.
It’s a quandary that the book editors at Amazon know well. All insatiable readers, they spend their days, evenings and weekends whittling through boxes and boxes of advanced reading copies to find out which books to recommend to their audiences.
And now some of them have shared their favourite works of the year so far with Business Insider.
We’ve matched their recommendations with our own tips – as compiled by Stylist books contributors Cathy Rentzenbrink, Sarah Shaffi and others, to identify which four novels should be at the top of your hit list this year.
If you read nothing else, make sure you give the below titles a whirl. They cover a wide range of genres but are united in the weight of their popularity… go forth and conquer!
The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy
We say: It’s been 20 years since Roy released her first, and to date only, novel, the Man Booker Prize-winning The God of Small Things. Finally, here is The Ministry of Utmost Happiness. Starting with Anjum, who used to be Aftab, and taking in a varied cast of characters, The Ministry of Utmost Happiness goes from the neighbourhoods of Old Delhi to a burgeoning new metropolis, from Kashmir to the forests of central India.
The Amazon book editors say: This is an intricate and graceful story of lives touched by magic, broken by tragedy, and mended with love. It's an exceptional work of storytelling well worth the 20-year wait.
Exit West: A Novel by Mohsin Hamid
We say: Mohsin Hamid can pack more emotion, wit, and just plain good writing into 240 pages than most other authors can with triple the space, as evidenced by his latest Exit West, which takes us on a journey with Saeed and Nadia, a young couple who meet at an evening class and begin to fall in love, amid the backdrop of an oncoming war.
As the situation becomes increasingly dangerous Saeed and Nadia decide to take a chance on one of the mysterious doors that is opening in their city, and which will take them to another country. Exit West is a love story with a hint of dystopia and is by turns funny and tragic. And by telling the tale of refugees, it could not be more relevant.
The Amazon book editors say: Hamid (author of The Reluctant Fundamentalist) has said that in some sense we are all refugees, and it’s easy to sympathise with his protagonists, who find their romance tested by their travails in exile.
Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders
We say: Abraham Lincoln mourns his son, Willie, as the voices of the dead fill the air around them. George Saunders has written many books but this is his first novel and he has achieved something new and extraordinary in the way he weaves history and imagination together in a triumph of storytelling. Bound to win lots of prizes.
The Amazon book editors say: Set in 1862, at a ghost-filled cemetery where President Lincoln’s beloved son Willie has been laid to rest, this first novel by acclaimed short-story-writer and essayist George Saunders (of Tenth of December) will upend your expectations and leave you hooting with laughter when you aren’t wiping away your tears.
The Impossible Fortress: A Novel by Jason Rekulak
We say: Jason Rekulak’s novel, Impossible Fortress, is a moving love letter to the Eighties.
The Amazon book editors say: The Impossible Fortress is a coming-of-age story tucked inside a love letter to the strange and wonderful 1980s. It's one of those rare and special books where once you've finished it, you want all your friends to read it immediately.
Images: iStock and individual publishers