We like big books and we cannot lie

Nothing pleases us more than a beautifully written novel. Falling in love with characters, analysing plot lines and losing ourselves in another world. We asked the team which novels topped their list and why. Is yours on anyone’s list?

Andy - Preacher comics

The 'Preacher' series of comics / graphic novels holds a special place in my heart, because it was the first graphic novel series I really invested in. It's what started it all off for me (Well, that and Watchmen, but Watchmen already enjoys glory on plenty of 'top book' lists). No camp superhero costumes. Well fleshed-out, human characters. Great big heavy doses of cynicism about organised religion. And truly adult, gritty story writing that wasn't afraid to be offensive or controversial (Arseface?).

Oh, and the absolutely most badass character ever written... The Saint of Killers.

Emily - Tess of the d’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy

I’ve been a bookworm since the moment I could read. I maxed out my library card every Saturday when I was growing up and to this day would much prefer to curl up with a good book than watch countless TV episodes on Netflix! Tess was one of the first classics I read and is a novel I’m particularly fond of. It was also one of the reasons I chose to study English Literature at uni. 

If you’ve not read it, it’s an epic tale telling the tragic life of Tess Durbeyfield, following her disasters in love, her heart-breaking experiences with death and her ultimately futile attempts to become a ‘proper’ woman. Hardy’s style and language is beautiful, the plot contains many twists and turns and the characters are great (even the nasty ones).

Ian - Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

Trying to pick a favourite book was really tricky, as so many have left me with memories and strong feelings. One kept coming into my mind though, Catch-22. There’s a moment when the book changes and you realise things were not quite as you’d thought. That moment has stuck with me ever since.

I’d started to read Catch-22 several times, struggled to “get it” and stopped. If you’ve put the book down and never finished it, make sure you try again. It really reminds me other books I love, Kafka’s “The Trial”, Vonnegut’s “Slaughterhouse Five” and if I dare mention a film then definitely “Full Metal Jacket”.

Catch-22 is a brilliant, funny and ultimately shocking book to remind us just how ridiculous war (and much more in our lives) really is.

Jamie - American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis

Firstly as a writer I am possessed with a serious case of authorial jealousy when I think about Bret Easton Ellis. The man is an arch-stylist and is more in control of his prose than anyone I can think of. On a sentence by sentence basis, I can’t think of a book which is more precise or pitch perfect.

For someone who works in marketing or advertising, this is a must read as it is the ultimate critique of consumerism and capitalist greed. Despite the furore caused at the time of its release it isn’t a misogynist book, it is an anti-human book if anything and the only character in the whole book who has anything approaching a soul is Jean, Patrick Bateman’s PA. 

And above anything, above the gore and the excess, it is a very funny and very sharp satire that holds up to repeated readings and the passage of time.

Matt - 1984 by George Orwell

Few books can claim to be the genesis of so many ideas and paradigms of the twentieth century, or grow more worryingly relevant with each passing decade since its writing. And this edition is an object lesson in great cover design, at once unsettling and entirely appropriate.

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Max - The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

I fell in love with this novel after studying it during A-Level English Literature. Whilst some might see deconstructing each paragraph of every page as ruining the finely crafted story, it actually helped me appreciate F. Scott Fitzgerald's writing, even more. 

Set in the Roaring Twenties, Gatsby's tragic story explores themes surrounding the illusion of the American dream. Surrounded by the antics of the Jazz age, Fitzgerald's commentary on materialism and success grounded upon wealth are themes which still resonate with readers today.

Steph - Metropol by Ted Mckeever

I've always been drawn to things with a certain underlying darkness to them, so when I was recommended to check out Ted McKeever by a friend it was obvious I was going to be hooked. I love all of his works, but Metropol just slightly tops his others for me. I think it's his most accomplished story, an epic but totally original tale of good vs. evil peppered with plenty of dark humour and I completely devoured it in one sitting. His scratchy, scrawled lines add such a heavy, claustrophobic atmosphere to each and every panel, creating this brilliantly creeping sense of dread and hopelessness as the end of days looms closer. It's so easy to get lost in it once you start. 

Will - Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

Of all time, it would have to be Great Expectations by Dickens. He brings the characters alive and you feel yourself involved in the book, instead of a mere bystander. There are so many great characters as well (like Mrs Havisham!) The story of a poor child rising up through society is also inspiring. And of course, one of my favourite lines: "Ask no questions, and you'll be told no lies.”