The 15 most gripping novels you will finish in a day

Posted by
Scarlett Cayford

Make no mistake: this is not an article about short books. This is an article about addictive books: the kind of tomes you turn a front cover idly on, then end up wide awake at 2am, frantically paging your way to the end, desperate to find out what happens next.

It’s a rare find, the un-put-downable novel – and what is enchanting to one might be an anathema to another.

But here are 15 novels that this author – and many denizens of the internet – read, voraciously, in a single sitting. 

  • The Girl On The Train - Paula Hawkins

    If you’ve not yet seen a girl on a train reading The Girl On The Train, then count yourself lucky, since the Emily Blunt-fronted adaptation of the novel has turned it from a best-seller into a must-read.

    Some readers have questioned the literary merit of this thriller, which follows the actions of alcoholic anti-hero Rachel, as she tries to make sense of what she’s seen, in passing, from the window of her train – but those same critics probably still read it as you will – quickly, excitedly, and when you really ought to be working. 

    Buy it here

  • Delicious! - Ruth Reichl

    Author Ruth Reichl is a chef first and a writer second, meaning that this 2014 novel is infused with the kind of intuition and certainty that only comes from an author fictionalizing a world she herself has inhabited.

    Delicious! follows the the trials and travails of Billie, a magazine intern discovering herself in the publishing world and the mean streets of New York. She possesses all the annoying qualities of the modern romantic hero (beautiful but unassuming, awkward but brilliant) but all of this is mitigated by the fact that her defining talent is her palette.

    Part mystery, part historical fiction, all recipe book, this book will leave you with the sense of just having eaten something really, well… delicious. 

    Buy it here

  • Bel Canto - Anne Patchett

    Some authors are blessed with the gift of creating work that fully immerses the reader, and Patchett is one of them.

    Based in an unnamed South American country, this is a novel that never leaves one house: the home of the Vice President, at which he is holding a birthday party for a Japanese business tycoon, into which infiltrates a number of terrorists. Holding the entire party hostage until their demands are met, this novel exists as the sole most unrealistic and original depiction of Stockholm Syndrome you’ll ever bear witness to.

    Close your mind to the impossible and fall in love with the opera singer, the translator and Carmen – the terrorist who just wants to learn English. Two things are essential to the enjoyment of this novel: a suspension of disbelief, and lots of tissues. 

    Buy it here

  • Eligible - Curtis Sittenfeld

    It was never going to be anything other than brilliant when the queen of the modern coming-of-age novel decided to take Pride and Prejudice into her own hands.

    If you’ve read Austen (and we hope you’ve read Austen) then you won’t be sticking around out of a desperate need to find out how it ends: but you’ll be gripped, nonetheless, by the tale of suburban sisters, Liz and Jane, navigating the charms of the reality star and the haughty neurosurgeon.

    Yeah, she made Mr Darcy a neurosurgeon. Because she can. 

    Buy it here

  • This Charming Man - Marian Keyes

    In truth, any one of Marian Keyes’ novels could have made this list, due to her charm, humour and pathos. But we’ve opted for this one because it clocks in at 928 pages – and you’ll still want to read it in a single sitting. Never one to shy away from darkness, Marian tackles addiction, depression and domestic violence in this tale of four different women and one charming man. NB: Don’t blame us if you come away speaking like Lola. 

    Buy it here

  • Neverwhere - Neil Gaiman

    He’s not for everyone, Gaiman, with his unique blend of satire and fantasy all topped off with a hearty helping of Norse gods – but if you’re a London dweller then you’ll find plenty to love in this adventure set in the streets of London Below, a world filled with monsters and murderers and the Angel Islington.

    It’s a macabre love letter to London as well as a grippingly original tale – and it’s an excellent entryway into Gaiman, as his very first novel. 

    Buy it here

  • Frenchman’s Creek - Daphne du Maurier

    Pirates! Sex! Murder! Mystery! Du Maurier’s best known works are often listed as Rebecca, The Birds or Jamaica Inn – but Frenchman’s Creek, the story of Lady Dona St Columb’s descent into hedonism and piracy, is just as tortured and terrific as the above.

    The best thing about du Maurier’s protagonists has always been how very human they are – and Dona, torn between a respectable life as a mother and her longing for freedom and danger, is the ultimate anti-hero. With the sex-appeal of Rebecca, the self-doubt of Mrs De Winter and the devilish streak of Mrs Danvers, you’ll be with her for the whole wild ride.

    Be warned, though – the author strove always for “calculated irresolution” in her plots – so don’t expect a satisfying ending. 

    Buy it here

  • Gone Girl - Gillian Flynn

    We’ve heard tell that there were thrillers before Gone Girl hit the shelves – but no one captured imaginations (or ruined relationships) quite like Gillian Flynn, with her depiction of a marriage gone wrong, a psyche turned evil, and a town baying for blood. You won’t know who to trust until the very last twist. And maybe not even then.

    Come to think of it, you may not ever trust anyone, ever again. 

    Buy it here

  • The Eyre Affair - Jasper Fforde

    A little left-of-centre, this first book in the Thursday Next series imagines another 1985, where the Crimean War rages on, dodos are as rife as rats, and there is a veritable army of Mrs Danvers. This is a novel like no other, a combination of mystery, imagination and literary reference designed to delight book lovers and fantasy fiends alike.

    Prepare for 45,000 puns, masterful wordplay and a book that is truly like no other. Plus, if you love it, there’s the bonus of knowing that it’s the first in a brilliant series. 

    Buy it here

  • Battle Royale – Koushun Takami

    You’ve probably already read The Hunger Games – but have you read the bloodily crisp source of the concept of children manipulated into murdering each other?

    This is not a Suzanne Collins story: this is a nasty tale told in jagged phrases, with all the conciseness of a government document – but it’s high-octane, brilliant and much much more gruesome than the one with Jennifer Lawrence plastered all over it. Prepare to be queasily entertained. 

    Buy it here

  • Me Before You - JoJo Moyes

    This instant bestseller is the definition of an aeroplane book, in the best and most complimentary sense of the word. With brightly-painted characters and a heartrending plot, it draws you into the life of Lou, a colourfully-clad lost girl trying to find a job to sustain her family, and Will, the erstwhile mountain-climbing city boy, now all but paralysed from the neck down.

    It’s a romance, yes, but not as you know it – and even once you see the ending coming, you’ll still manage to be surprised by it. Buy it at Gatwick, read it on the plane, leave it in your hotel for the next traveller in need of a delightful distraction. 

    Buy it here

  • The Time Traveler’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegger

    This is a book that does what it says on the tin - tells the story of a woman who is married to man who travels through time – but it does it so much more richly and beautifully than you can ever imagine.

    Henry’s time travelling is the result of a genetic mutation; he and Clare are thrown together by fates that pair their twisted timelines; she must exist in a world where he disappears, often, against his will, with no certainty that he will ever come back.

    Henry is the traveller, but Clare is his pivot – and also the focus of a novel that laughs in the face of the idea that there are no new love stories. Set aside a day, close the curtains and make sure you wear waterproof mascara.  

    Buy it here

  • Station Eleven - Emily St John Mandel

    If you think you’ve reached saturation point when it comes to dystopian fantasy, and you’ve not yet read Station Eleven, think again. Longlisted for the Bailey’s Prize last year and a New York Times Bestseller, the book follows the path of a travelling band of performers, bringing Shakespeare to a North America torn apart by the effects of deadly virus that has wiped out most of the population.

    Darkly beautiful and devastating, the novel asks: if civilization was lost, what would you preserve? CLUE: it’s not your iPhone. 

    Buy it here

  • The Wrong Knickers - Bryony Gordon

    Never let it be said that fictional literature makes for more gripping reading than tales from real life – truth, after all, is stranger than fiction, and in the case of Bryony, it’s also much more sexy and embarrassing and sad.

    These days, the author is an inspirational speaker and a hero to many, but this book isn’t about that: it’s about trips to STI clinics and wine as a food group and a decade of decadent misadventure.

    Pour yourself a big glass of something strong, open a family-size bag of salt and vinegar chips and prepare to gasp out loud. 

    Buy it here

  • And Then There Were None - Agatha Christie

    The set-up is simple. 10 strangers are invited to gather on a remote island, with no way off. This being written by the Queen of Crime, it’s no surprise that they gradually start being killed off, one by one. But is the murderer hidden somewhere on the island, or is it one of the 10?

    This is one of Christie’s most famous books for good reason, and she is master of ratcheting up the tension to unbearable levels. If you can bear to put it down before the end – and switch the lights out – you’re a stronger person than many before you. 

    Buy it here


Share this article


Scarlett Cayford

Scarlett Cayford is 28 years old and works in digital content production. She has strong feelings about hair dye, bucket lists, Gilmore Girls, all baths and most books

Recommended by Scarlett Cayford

  • Books

    From Zadie Smith to Roald Dahl, these are the authors girls are reading in 2018

    8 girls share what books they’re reading right now - and why they love them

    Posted by
    Made By Girls
  • Books

    9 brilliant short stories by women to read now

    Liked Cat Person? You'll love these

    Posted by
    Sarah Shaffi
  • Books

    The immersive new book trend you need to know about

    Ambient Literature has the book world talking – and for all the right reasons

    Posted by
    Sarah Shaffi

Other people read

More from Books

More from Scarlett Cayford