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  1. #1

    Your top ten most gripping reads

    If you had to pick ten books that gave you the most in pure "reading pleasure", then what would they be? I'm thinking about books with a really engrossing plot and characters, where reading is no effort and you just have to keep going. My top ten is:

    The Music of Chance - Paul Auster
    Talented Mr Ripley - Patricia Highsmith
    The Collector - John Fowles
    The Beach- Alex Garland
    The Dead Zone - Stephen King
    And Then There Were None - Agatha Christie
    The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
    Cold Caller - Jason Starr
    Revolutionary Road - Richard Yates
    We, The Accused - Ernest Raymond

    I've thought about books from my whole reading life that have absorbed me the most. I still remember the thrill of being lost in these books!

  2. #2
    imp's Avatar
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    I'd have to give this some serious thought, and I know exactly which kind of book you mean - where you can think of nothing else but finding a way to get back to the book. 'The Beach' is a good shout there. I loved 'Revolutionary Road' too, but don't know if I'd classify it as one that had me gripped. 'State of Wonder' by Ann Patchett I'd definitely have on there. I know I read 'The Wasp Factory' quickly, but I read all Iain Banks's books quickly because they're very easy to read - not sure if that's a good thing or not. Same with 'The Damned United' - read it in one go, but was never quite convinced it was much good.

    I was talking with frau imp last night about what we used to read as teenagers, and I told her how I was huge fan of James Herbert after reading 'Rats' and 'The Fog' - irresistible crap to a 12/13-year-old that I devoured. I also remember clandestinely reading 'Lovers and Gamblers' by Jackie Collins on holiday when I was 14 once my Mum had finished it and put it back in her suitcase. Kept making up excuses for staying in the tent ("not feeling well") so that I could fish it out. Eventually she caught on and just let me have it.
    Last edited by imp; 07-08-2017 at 16:11. Reason: Wrong Jackie Collins title. Tsk.

  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by imp View Post
    I'd have to give this some serious thought, and I know exactly which kind of book you mean - where you can think of nothing else but finding a way to get back to the book. 'The Beach' is a good shout there. I loved 'Revolutionary Road' too, but don't know if I'd classify it as one that had me gripped. 'State of Wonder' by Ann Patchett I'd definitely have on there. I know I read 'The Wasp Factory' quickly, but I read all Iain Banks's books quickly because they're very easy to read - not sure if that's a good thing or not. Same with 'The Damned United' - read it in one go, but was never quite convinced it was much good.

    I was talking with frau imp last night about what we used to read as teenagers, and I told her how I was huge fan of James Herbert after reading 'Rats' and 'The Fog' - irresistible crap to a 12/13-year-old that I devoured. I also remember clandestinely reading 'Lovers and Gamblers' by Jackie Collins on holiday when I was 14 once my Mum had finished it and put it back in her suitcase. Kept making up excuses for staying in the tent ("not feeling well") so that I could fish it out. Eventually she caught on and just let me have it.
    I've not tried Ann Patchett. Will give her a try! Cheers. I used to be a big James Herbert fan too. I read all The Rats ones. Was it a trilogy? Compulsive stuff!

    I've got "The Damned United" and tried the first few pages. I didn't persevere so will try that again.

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    Pretty much all of these put me into a kind of trance when I read them.

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    Two genre novels stick in my mind 20+ years on as the most purely exciting books I've read:
    Night Soldiers: Alan Furst
    Burning Angel: James Lee Burke

    Honourable mentions to the following:
    Flicker: Theodore Roszak
    From Hell: Alan Moore
    Cloud Atlas: David Mitchell
    Polar Star: Martin Cruz Smith

    Literary novels I had to force myself to stop and read in a more measured way
    Lolita:Vladimir Nabokov
    The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle:Haruki Murakami

    The younger me would choose the following:
    Salem's Lot: Stephen King
    The Chrysalids: John Wyndham
    Billy Liar: Keith Waterhouse

    An all-male list, which by no means reflects my reading habits but for unputdownabillity, these are the ones that come to mind.
    Last edited by Haddock; 07-08-2017 at 19:18.

  6. #6
    Amor de Cosmos's Avatar
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    In, more or less, the order they were read. There are many more but these stand out. It slightly favours books I read as kid simply because the pleasure of reading seemed more intense then. Peter and Wendy I've read, and re-read several times as an adult, but had never done so as a child (though I'd seen Peter Pan on several occasions.)

    Just William* — Richmal Crompton
    Jennings Goes to School* — Anthony Buckeridge
    Alice in Wonderland — Lewis Carroll
    Five Children and It — E. Nesbit
    Catch 22 — Joseph Heller
    The Wanderers — Richard Price
    The Big Sleep — Raymond Chandler
    Jane Eyre — Charlotte Brontë
    Kim — Rudyard Kipling
    Peter and Wendy — J.M. Barrie


    * These titles stand in for a series (which is a cheating a bit I guess). But in both cases I read almost every one many times and at this distance can't really separate them.
    Last edited by Amor de Cosmos; 08-08-2017 at 17:03.

  7. #7
    Various Artist's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Amor de Cosmos View Post
    It slightly favours books I read as kid simply because the pleasure of reading seemed more intense then.
    This, as they say. If I can work out a list of my own for this thread, it would be embarrassingly (?) heavy on the 'children's books' and bear no resemblance to some of those already posted and sure to be posted heavy with more 'literary' classics.

    It's funny, looking back, how much I too enjoyed the William Brown and the Jennings books, given they were written for and about children from generations before me, whose lives bore little resemblance to anything I'd recognise even in the relatively simpler times of the '80s and early '90s. Yet they were compulsively rereadable.

    You must've read an abridged version of the E. Nesbit stories, though, Amor – there were five children in them the last time I looked...
    Last edited by Various Artist; 08-08-2017 at 00:00.

  8. #8
    Amor de Cosmos's Avatar
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    Bugger! Fixed.

    It's funny, looking back, how much I too enjoyed the William Brown and the Jennings books, given they were written for and about children from generations before me,

    I know what you mean, so I was surprised to discover that Richmal Crompton didn't originally intend the William books for children. Most of her stories were tales of village life in Southern England, and Just William was only one collection of them. However it took off and continues to soar while her other forty-odd non-William books have pretty much disappeared without trace. There's something definitively 'kid as outsider' about them that's timeless I suppose. Perhaps particularly remarkable for someone who never had children herself
    Last edited by Amor de Cosmos; 08-08-2017 at 01:42.

  9. #9
    Patrick Thistle's Avatar
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    The Just William stories are still readable because they capture what life is like as a kid and that hasn't changed much.

    Back to the OT, I found The Girl With All the Gifts unputdownable last year. I wanted to read it again straight away. It's not high literature but I had to know what happened next!

  10. #10
    I read a few of the Just William as a kid too and really enjoyed them. I'd always assumed Richmal Crompton was a man! Just William was very popular in the late 70s/early 80s, and there was a TV series I used to watch.

    I should have put John Wyndham's "The Day of the Triffids" in my list instead of Revolutionary Road. "Triffids" is hypnotically readable.

  11. #11
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    My go back to authors have always been Stephen King, Iain Banks (with and without the M), Douglas Adams, Terry Pratchett and Colin Dexter. I recently re-read a book called Anno Domini by Barnaby Williams which I'd thoroughly recommend. And the Games of Thrones books are very readable, although by the fourth one it gets hard now if you've seen the TV series because the adaptation begins to deviate from the novels.

  12. #12
    Patrick Thistle's Avatar
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    Another vote here for John Wyndham. The stand out ones are Triffids and Kraken Wakes. A bit dated, but I like to read them as alt. hist. now. One of his lesser well-known books, Web, is also very good.

    My favourite book as a kid was 'Whispering in the Wind' by the Australian author Alan Marshall. I've read it several times as an adult as well. I recently found his autobiography called 'I Can Jump Puddles' and that was totally enjoyable as well. I breezed through it.

    Cannery Row by John Steinbeck is a 'classic' that I read through very quickly.

  13. #13
    I'm surprised there's been no mention of Charles Dickens so far. He could write a real page-turner. And the fact that he wrote episodically for periodicals meant that he, more than most, really had to grip the reader. My most fondest memories of a being lost in a Dickens book were with Nicholas Nickleby and Great Expectations.

  14. #14
    Amor de Cosmos's Avatar
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    I had A Christmas Carol on my long-list, and Nicholas Nickleby could have been there too.

  15. #15
    Various Artist's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Patrick Thistle View Post
    Another vote here for John Wyndham. The stand out ones are Triffids and Kraken Wakes. A bit dated, but I like to read them as alt. hist. now. One of his lesser well-known books, Web, is also very good.
    I've long meant to read the Wyndham classics. PT, since you mention just the two above specifically, does that mean you don't rate The Midwich Cuckoos (filmed as horror classic Village of the Damned) alongside them? Am curious to know if it struck you as a lesser book.

  16. #16
    Quote Originally Posted by Various Artist View Post
    I've long meant to read the Wyndham classics. PT, since you mention just the two above specifically, does that mean you don't rate The Midwich Cuckoos (filmed as horror classic Village of the Damned) alongside them? Am curious to know if it struck you as a lesser book.
    "Midwich Cuckoos" is superb, as is "The Chrysalids". All of his stuff is worth trying I'd say. "Day of the Triffids" is the one, though!

  17. #17
    Patrick Thistle's Avatar
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    I'd probably rate them as
    1) Triffids/ Kraken
    2) Web
    3) Cuckoos
    4) Chrysalids
    5) Lichen / Chocky
    6) The Outward Urge
    There are some collections of his short stories that have some very good ones in. Consider Her Ways is the anthology published by Penguin. 'Survival' is the standout story in that.

    After he got famous a lot of his earlier pseydonymous work was republished under the Wyndham name. That's not as good as his famous stuff, but still OK.

    The thing with Wyndham is that he was good on concepts but didn't always create the story to match, imo. He did for Triffids/ Kraken/ Web, but personally I didn't think there was much of a story in Chrysalids/ Cuckoos to match the concepts.

    I fully accept other people will/ do feel differently.

  18. #18
    No-one's gone for My Story by Steven Gerard yet?

    The Brothers Karamazov - Dostoevsky
    The Grapes of Wrath - Steinbeck
    Hard Boiled Wonderland And The End Of The World - Murakami
    number9dream - David Mitchell
    Bone Clocks - David Mitchell
    I couldn't decide which so went for both
    A Fraction Of The Whole - Steve Tolz
    One Hundred Years Of Solitude - Marquez
    The three Girl With the Dragon Tattoo books
    Irk the purists! I started the first one without any real interest, it having just been hanging around the house for ages. By about a week later I finished the third.
    The Woodlanders - Thomas Hardy He's written several better but this one brought me the most pleasure
    The Ancestor's Tale - Richard Dawkins I'm typing this by our bookshelves and it's been defying me not to include it. He's a twat, of course. But this is still a remarkably gripping read.

  19. #19
    Various Artist's Avatar
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    Thanks for the Wyndham responses, both.
    Quote Originally Posted by lackedpunch View Post
    "Midwich Cuckoos" is superb, as is "The Chrysalids". All of his stuff is worth trying I'd say. "Day of the Triffids" is the one, though!
    D'oh! – for some reason, it was only on reading the above sentence that I remembered I've actually read The Day of the Triffids. Albeit not for about 20 years.

  20. #20
    I can do a top three. A top ten would take quite a bit more time and thought, but Steinbeck, Chandler and Iain Banks would be jostling for places on it, if not for the specific books mentioned upthread. The Wasp Factory was brilliant, but I could hardly bear to pick it up again after the traumas of the 'What Happened to Eric' chapter. The Crow Road would have been my candidate. Anyway :

    1. Joyce Carol Oates - We Were the Mulvaneys
    This is the novel that made me care most about what happened to all its main characters, as opposed to just the main protagonist. The plot is basically about how a single incident causes the fall of a family and how they (or some of them) tentatively recover from it.
    2. Catherine O'Flynn - What Was Lost
    Set in what must be Merry Hill shopping-centre, centres around the disappearance there of a young,would-be detective.
    3. Harper Lee - To Kill a Mockingbird
    Surprised that hasn't had a mention yet.
    Last edited by jameswba; 11-08-2017 at 14:37. Reason: Got O'Flynn's first name wrong

  21. #21
    I'm looking forward to trying some of the titles mentioned on this thread in future.

    I've just recalled another which I read at the age of fourteen that gripped like a vice - "No Orchids For Miss Blandish" by James Hadley Chase. It made quite an impression, as it was the most adult and hard-hitting thing I'd come across at the time. I found the narrative enthralling, which tells the story of a kidnapped woman. I'd like to read it again to see how I would find it now.

  22. #22
    Patrick Thistle's Avatar
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    Hmm, so picking 10 that I just had to keep reading...

    Whispering in the Wind - Alan Marshall
    Day of the Triffids - John Wyndham
    Use of Weapons - Iain M Banks
    The Girl With All the Gifts - MR Carey
    The World According to Garp - John Irving
    Cannery Row - John Steinbeck
    Catch 22 - Joseph Heller
    The Secret History - Donna Tartt
    Possession - AS Byatt
    Hey Nostradamus - Douglas Coupland

    Honourable mentions
    The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Attwood
    Nineteen-Eighty-Four - George Orwell
    Last edited by Patrick Thistle; 12-08-2017 at 00:05.

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by lackedpunch View Post
    I'm looking forward to trying some of the titles mentioned on this thread in future.

    I've just recalled another which I read at the age of fourteen that gripped like a vice - "No Orchids For Miss Blandish" by James Hadley Chase. It made quite an impression, as it was the most adult and hard-hitting thing I'd come across at the time. I found the narrative enthralling, which tells the story of a kidnapped woman. I'd like to read it again to see how I would find it now.
    I think that potboiler forms a plot point of at least one Alisdair Gray novel. Whose Unlikely Stories, Mostly is a short story collection I can read again and again, almost as much as Borges.

  24. #24
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    In no particular order, and subject to change as I remember other ones ...

    Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
    The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins
    Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez
    The Martian by Andy Weir
    The North Water by Ian McGuire (who as I mentioned when I read it over on Current Reading was one of my Fiction Writing lecturers at uni)
    All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
    The Big Friendly Giant by Roald Dahl
    Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
    South by Ernest Shackleton
    The Beach by Alex Garland

  25. #25
    Good list, but the BFG? It's minor Dahl!

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