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Kiss, Marry, Kill Book Characters

We all know the game, don’t we? Kiss, marry, kill? Three contenders, and you HAVE to choose. I’m sure we’ve all played it with celebrities at one point or another, but I’m taking the nerdy route and playing it with our fictional friends. Here’s Kiss, Marry, Kill: Book Characters edition.

Kiss Marry Kill Book Characters - Book Discussion - Keeping Up With The Penguins

If you’re wondering, here’s my methodology: I made a list of 30 book characters, and used a random number generator to select the combinations.

Kiss, Marry, Kill: Daphne Bridgerton, Mr Rochester, Sherlock Holmes

I didn’t realise I’d have to reveal myself to be so problematic right away. Mr Rochester definitely deserves to die, BUT there’s a lot of other factors to consider. Being married to Sherlock Holmes would be infuriating, and marrying Daphne means marrying the whole Bridgerton crew (that’s a lot to take for this only child). She also never received any sex education and didn’t get up to a whole lot of kissing in her youth, so I’m not sure she knows what she’s doing in that regard – but I can’t picture Sherlock smooching up a storm either.

Verdict: Kiss Sherlock (what the hey, I’ll give him a go), marry Rochester (at least I’ll be able to free his poor wife from the attic when he’s not looking), and kill Daphne (under duress).

Read my full review of Bridgerton here.

Read my full review of Jane Eyre here.

Read my full review of The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes here.

Kiss, Marry, Kill: Heathcliff, Van Helsing, Jonathan Strange

Ohoho: we have three wild men on the cards! Heathcliff is a creep, Helsing is literally a cowboy, and Strange is a loose unit with magic. This one’s actually fairly easy.

Verdict: Kiss Van Helsing (he deserves a smooch for all his hard work), marry Jonathan Strange (at least the name change paperwork wouldn’t be arduous), and kill Heathcliff (he can finally join his beloved Cathy in the underworld).

Read my full review of Wuthering Heights here.

Read my full review of Dracula here.

Read my full review of Jonathan Strange And Mr Norrell here.

Kiss, Marry, Kill: Robinson Crusoe, Queequeg, Jay Gatsby

This one is tough! Robinson Crusoe is a racist arsehole, and Gatsby is a creepy stalker – not overjoyed at the prospect of kissing or marrying either of them, to be honest. Queequeg seems like a good sort, though, aside from all the whale-killing.

Verdict: Kiss Queequeg (if I can pull him away from the spermaceti for long enough), marry Gatsby (take the money and run), kill Robinson Crusoe (shouldn’t be hard, he’s alone on a desert island after all).

Read my full review of Robinson Crusoe here.

Read my full review of Moby Dick here.

Read my full review of The Great Gatsby here.

Kiss, Marry, Kill: Miss Jean Brodie, Dorian Gray, Marianne Sheridan

This is a MiLlEnNiAl GiRl AeStHeTiC wet dream (or Sophie’s Choice, depending how you look at it). Miss Brodie is toxic and self-involved but the drama is delicious. Dorian Gray is ageless and hedonistic. Marianne is a hot mess from a rich family – and pretty annoying. Hmmm…

Verdict: Kiss Miss Jean Brodie (she’s in her prime, after all), marry Dorian Gray (just think of the parties we could throw! and he’d stay hot FOREVER!), and kill Marianne (that’s what being annoying gets you).

Read my full review of The Prime Of Miss Jean Brodie here.

Read my full review of The Picture Of Dorian Gray here.

Read my full review of Normal People here.

Kiss, Marry, Kill: Daenerys Targaryen, Elizabeth Bennet, Mina Harker

Well, Jon Snow is batting two out of three when it comes to Daenerys! But let’s focus on me. I’ve got three beautiful ladies, all with their own set of issues, and I have to choose between them.

Verdict: Kiss Mina Harker (with all those dudes frothing over her, I want to see what the fuss is about), marry Elizabeth Bennet (I’ll fight Mr Darcy for her if necessary), and kill Daenerys Targaryen (can’t fight fate).

Read my full review of A Game Of Thrones here.

Read my full review of Pride And Prejudice here.

Read my full review of Dracula here.

Kiss, Marry, Kill: Mark Watney, Sal Paradise, Arthur Less

Oooh, this might be the easiest one so far!

Verdict: Kiss Mark Watney (I don’t have it in me to marry a man presumed dead on Mars, but I’ll kiss him goodbye), marry Arthur Less (we’ll show that ex-lover of his!), and kill Sal Paradise (he gets a job or he gets the knife, up to him).

Read my full review of The Martian here.

Read my full review of On The Road here.

Read my full review of Less here.

Kiss, Marry, Kill: Daisy Jones, Claire Beauchamp, Anne Boleyn

Another stunning lady line-up! The drug-addicted party girl-slash-rock star, the time travelling English nurse, and the demonised second wife of a belligerent monarch.

Verdict: Kiss Daisy Jones (I, too, like to Rock’N’Roll), marry Anne Boleyn (someone’s gotta save the poor girl from what’s coming for her), and kill Claire Beauchamp (she’ll probably figure out a time travel trick to stay alive anyway).

Read my full review of Daisy Jones And The Six here.

Read my full review of Outlander here.

Read my full review of The Other Boleyn Girl here.

Kiss, Marry, Kill: Tea Cake, Mr Darcy, Anna Karenina

How did two of my favourite leading gents end up in the same entry? Gah! (Plus the Russian drama queen, but she’s easy fixed.)

Verdict: Kiss Mr Darcy (smooch that prejudice right out of him), marry Tea Cake (I’ve wanted to ever since I read the book anyway), and kill Anna Karenina (I mean, she’s going to get there on her own anyway?).

Read my full review of Their Eyes Were Watching God here.

Read my full review of Pride And Prejudice here.

Read my full review of Anna Karenina here.

Kiss, Marry, Kill: Laurie, Rebecca, Amy Dunne (Amazing Amy)

The drama in this trio is so powerful, I may get radiation sickness. Okay, we’ve got the wealthy good-time guy next door, the specter of the wronged first wife, and the woman willing to literally fake her own death (among other things) to screw over her husband. Holy moly…

Verdict: Kiss Laurie (just to show him he’s got options outside the March family), marry Amy Dunne (because I’m afraid of what she’ll do to me if I don’t), and kill Rebecca (hopefully her husband will give me a fat pay cheque for doing his dirty work).

Read my full review of Little Women here.

Read my full review of Rebecca here.

Read my full review of Gone Girl here.

Kiss, Marry, Kill: Mr Knightley, Frankenstein’s Monster, Emma Woodhouse

Last but not least: two of Austen’s leads go head to head against… a literal monster. Welp!

Verdict: Kiss Frankenstein’s Monster (he needs cheering up), marry Emma Woodhouse (cha-ching! plus, all the scheming would make for a fun life together), and kill Mr Knightley (gotta get him out of the way to get to Emma’s heart).

Read my full review of Emma here.

Read my full review of Frankenstein here.

Best Books of 2022

Can you believe we made it through another year? Thankfully, 2022 went down a little smoother than the years prior. As always, I’m amazed – looking back – at how many brilliant books I had the opportunity to read this year. Check out the best books of 2022 (back-list AND new release).

Best Books of 2022 - Book List - Keeping Up With The Penguins
You’ll be the best READER of 2022 if you use an affiliate link on this page to make a purchase – I’ll earn a small commission.

Legitimate Sexpectations by Katrina Marson

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I considered myself fairly open-minded and well-informed about sex education prior to reading Legitimate Sexpectations – even though I received little more than the standard “how to use a pad” and “how the sperm penetrates the egg” at school, as far as I can recall. And yet, Marson opened my eyes, again and again, as to how the system as it stands is failing kids (and adults). Most importantly, she doesn’t just identify the problems; Marson outlines potential solutions. I want to thrust Legitimate Sexpectations into the hands of every politician, parent, and school principal. It’s one of the best nonfiction books of 2022, one that has the power to affect real change. Read my full review of Legitimate Sexpectations here.

56 Days by Catherine Ryan Howard

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Is it too soon for a COVID-19 murder mystery? Catherine Ryan Howard surely hopes not. 56 Days is her latest high-concept crime thriller, set in Dublin in the early days of the city’s first lock-down. It’s a well written, well paced, with tantalising clues and a couple of truly excellent fake-out twists. The couple at the heart of the story barely know each other when they’re forced into the pressure cooker pandemic situation, so the reader gets two (or more?) very different perspectives on the same events. I thoroughly enjoyed 56 Days – so my verdict is that it’s not too soon for a COVID-19 novel, as long as it’s a good one. Read my full review of 56 Days here.

Here Be Leviathans by Chris Flynn

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I loved, loved, loved Chris Flynn’s last book, Mammoth – it was one of the best books I read in 2020. So, when I saw he had a new book coming out, I sat up straight and said “yes, please!” in my polite voice. Here Be Leviathans is a collection of nine short stories, narrated by animals, places, objects, and even the (very) odd human. A grizzly bear on the run, a plane seat in a terrifying crash, a genetically modified platypus with the power of speech – each and every one, bizarre and brilliant. Flynn really pushes the boundaries of what we can expect from perspective and it takes a special, rare writing talent to pull it off. Read my full review of Here Be Leviathans here.

Rogues by Patrick Radden Keefe

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If you loved Say Nothing and Empire Of Pain (like I did), you’ll be overjoyed (as I was) to get your hands on a copy of Rogues, a collection of Patrick Radden Keefe’s most celebrated articles from The New Yorker and one of the best books of 2022. These delightfully detailed investigative pieces focus on his favourite subjects: “crime and corruption, secrets and lies, the permeable membrane separating licit and illicit worlds, the bonds of family, the power of denial”. Honestly, I could talk about each and every one of these stories for hours. They’re all masterfully crafted, perfectly balanced, and totally gripping. Read my full review of Rogues here.

The Importance Of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde

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The farcical premise and witty dialogue have made The Importance Of Being Earnest Wilde’s most enduringly popular play. I can attest to the fact that it’s a lot more fun than The Picture Of Dorian Gray, to boot. Wilde’s wit and insight shines at full strength throughout, and he gently pokes at the social mores and conventions of the time while still maintaining a timeless quality. It’s still beloved by critics, readers, and theatre-goers alike, and I’m happy to join them in singing its praises. It’s a quick read, remarkably clever, and delightfully ridiculous. Read my full review of The Importance Of Being Earnest here.

A Tale For The Time Being by Ruth Ozeki

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Very few blurbs have grabbed me like that of Ruth Ozeki’s A Tale For The Time Being. It’s a brilliant premise: a writer finds a diary, locked inside a Hello Kitty lunchbox, washed up on the beach in remote coastal Canada. She suspects it to be debris from the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami. She reads the diary, and finds herself increasingly obsessed with the life and inner world of 16-year-old Nao, the diary’s keeper. I mean… isn’t that fascinating?! I was very pleased to discover that the contents of Ozeki’s novel – one of the best books I read in 2022 – totally lived up to the high, high expectations that blurb set. Read my full review of A Tale For The Time Being here.

Weather Girl by Rachel Lynn Solomon

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I inhaled Weather Girl in one sitting. The plot is just the right level of ridiculous for a rom-com, the characters are well-developed and well-intentioned, and it has plenty of snort-laughs to offer. Best of all, though, were the steamy and – this is key – realistic sex scenes! Honestly, I wanted to high-five Solomon through the page. For once, rom-com characters experience the actual awkwardness and anxiety of intimacy with someone new, without it ruining the vibe. I gave this one five stars for that alone, one of the best books of 2022 for sure. Read my full review of Weather Girl here.

Sadvertising by Ennis Ćehić

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Every so often, a short story collection comes along that changes the game completely. In 2017, it was Carmen Maria Machado’s Her Body And Other Parties. I’m pretty confident that Ennis Ćehić’s Sadvertising is next. It’s a collection of short, sharp stories about modern life, technology, and marketing, and one of the best books of 2022. The stories are drenched in black humour, existential dread, and late-capitalist yearning. Some of them are seriously short – as in, 1-2 pages – so they’re quick to read, but deeply resonant. It struck me as I read through the collection that it would be an especially great read for fans of Black Mirror and the Gruen Transfer. Read my full review of Sadvertising here.

Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood

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Alias Grace is a fascinating and compelling work of historical fiction, one that tells us just as much about Canadian society and gender roles and the field of psychiatry at the time as it does the crimes of Grace Marks. I also loved the sneaky Gothic elements, which felt very true to form for a story of this nature. This book both satisfied my Murderino curiosity and met high literary standards – no mean feat, as it would have been easy to make this story schlocky and scandalous. Atwood has expressed some troubling views of late, but damn if this wasn’t one of the best books I read in 2022. Read my full review of Alias Grace here.

Booth by Karen Joy Fowler

Booth - Karen Joy Fowler - Keeping Up With The Penguins

Karen Joy Fowler wrote one of my favourite and most-often-recommended books, so I did an excited “squeeee!” when I saw she had a new one coming out. Booth is superbly readable. The pages flow by even when nothing particularly thrilling is happening. Fowler paints intimate portraits of each family member, and the narration includes deft wink-nods to the reader and the future. I was most impressed by the way Fowler kept the day-to-day family drama in the foreground – it struck me as very realistic. My hat goes off to her once again – she’s written an incredible, timely, and provocative novel, one of the best books of 2022. Read my full review of Booth here.

The Immortal Life Of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

The Immortal Life Of Henrietta Lacks - Rebecca Skloot - Keeping Up With The Penguins

Of all the great books I read this year, The Immortal Life Of Henrietta Lacks was the first one that came to mind when I sat down to write my list of the best books of 2022. To call it a ‘biography’ feels reductive, as it’s so much more than dates and the facts of a life. It’s a masterpiece of journalistic non-fiction, written by a first-time writer no less. It’s a study of bioethics, a masterclass in accessible science writing, and a testament to the human consequences of scientific discovery. And it’s compelling as heck, to boot! Read my full review of The Immortal Life Of Henrietta Lacks here.

Horrorstor by Grady Hendrix

Horrorstor - Grady Hendrix - Keeping Up With The Penguins

Setting aside any regards for its contents, Horrorstor is one of the best books of 2022 for design, alone. Look at it! It’s formatted to look like an IKEA catalogue, complete with an order form for a copyright page and product descriptions for chapter headers. It’s honestly one of the most beautiful tomes I’ve ever had the privilege of placing on my shelves. The concept is brilliant, too: haunted IKEA. Doesn’t that just send shivers down your spine? But it’s not all schlocky spooks and jump-scares. This story has hidden depths. Hendrix mines the mind-fuck of consumerism and late-stage capitalism to fuel your nightmares. Read my full review of Horrorstor here.

The Strangers by Katherena Vermette

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Despite the (very) heavy subject matter and Vermette’s talent for stark realism, The Strangers is surprisingly readable. The pages fly by! It really exceeded my expectations, and I’m still mulling over it, months later. It’s “a searing exploration of race, class, inherited trauma, and matrilineal bonds that – despite everything – refuse to be broken”. Katherena Vermette is a Red River Métis (Michif) writer, from the heart of Métis nation (Canada), and her heritage permeates this incredible First Nations novel – one of the best books of 2022. Read my full review of The Strangers here.

Calypso by David Sedaris

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David Sedaris is a must-read auto-buy author for me now, but I’m forcing myself to take it slow. I make myself read only one book of his at a time, instead of gobbling them all down at once. I started with Me Talk Pretty One Day, then last year Dress Your Family In Corduroy And Denim, and now in 2022 Calypso – a collection of autobiographical essays that (once again) was one of my best reads of the year. Even though the content of this one is a bit darker in parts, he still writes with the humour and panache that makes him unique. It’s impossible not to be impressed by his mastery of the form, the way in which he can punch in any direction and still manage to remain thoroughly likeable and hilarious. Read my full review of Calypso here.

Odd Hours by Ania Bas

Odd Hours - Ania Bas - Keeping Up With The Penguins

There’s been no shortage of quirky protagonists in recent years, but Gosia in Odd Hours is a different breed. She’s like the Polish love-child of an Ottessa Moshfegh character and a Fredrik Backman character, with a little of a Gail Honeyman character thrown in. The dark, wry humour keeps the story entertaining, rather than wearisome, but it’s far from a light-hearted rom-com. It lives up to the blurb’s promise of “a razor-sharp social comedy about human connection”. The plot builds to an unconventionally happy ending that will delight odd ducks everywhere. Read my full review of Odd Hours here.

Life Ceremony by Sayaka Murata

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As with Convenience Store Woman and Earthlings before, Life Ceremony was translated into English from the original Japanese by Ginny Tapley Takemori – and, once again, she’s done a fantastic job. It’s a collection of “weird, out of this world” short stories that mix “taboo-breaking horror with feminist revenge fables”. Exactly as you’d expect from Murata if you’ve read her work before, it’s full of the joyfully strange aspects of human nature and surreal conceits that will blow your mind. The stories vary in length and complexity, but they’re all fascinating in equal measure. Read my full review of Life Ceremony here.

The Cry by Helen Fitzgerald

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I was truly blown away by the TV series The Cry when I caught it by chance on the ABC a few years ago. I didn’t actually realise it was adapted from a book until I came across a copy! Even though the ending was ‘spoiled’ for me, I was still keen to read it – and it was still completely gripping. The Cry is a dark, psychological thriller with a gripping moral dilemma, perfect for anyone who enjoys a story about good people doing bad things. And if, like me, you’ve already seen the show, trust me when I say that it’s still worth a read – it’s one of the best books I read in 2022! Read my full review of The Cry here.

Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver

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One of my most recent reads is also one of the best books of 2022 (in my humble opinion). Demon Copperhead is surely destined to become a contemporary classic, an essential component of the burgeoning canon of books about the generation of lost boys in 21st century America. Kingsolver crafts a compelling adaptation of Charles Dickens’s classic novel, David Copperfield, transporting the story – complete with abusive parents, neglect, poverty, disease, and loss – to the Southern Appalachian mountains of Virginia. Even Kingsolver’s Uriah Heep character is every bit as creepy as the original, if you can believe it! Read my full review of Demon Copperhead here.

13 Classic Books That Weren’t Well Received

It’s easy to forget that some iconic books – classics that we were forced to read in high-school, that SparkNotes makes memes about now – weren’t always held up as the pinnacle of literature. Many of the “most loved” books today were woefully underappreciated in their own time. Some of them were downright derided. Here are thirteen classic books that weren’t well received… at first.

If you buy one of these classic books through an affiliate link, I’ll receive a small commission, very gratefully!

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

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Brave New World – Aldous Huxley’s now-classic dystopia, complete with sex, drugs, and “feelies” – got some positive press upon its release in 1932. Philosopher Bertrand Russell praised it, saying that Huxley “has shown his usually masterly skill” and Dame Rebecca West called it Huxley’s “most accomplished novel”. But he faced some heavy criticism, too. Fellow sci-fi author H.G. Wells railed against Huxley for “betraying the future as a concept”. A review published in The Guardian was particularly savage: “the title which he gave to one of his earlier books, These Barren Leaves, is applicable to very much that he has written…. This book fails both as a satire and romance…. It is easier to exploit the possibilities of mental death than to meet the demands of creative life.” Read my full review of Brave New World here.

The Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

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It might surprise you to know that The Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn was almost as controversial when it was first released in 1885 as it is today. As recently as 2016, the classic American novel was removed from one Virginia public school district, on the basis that it includes inappropriate language and racial slurs. 130 years prior, the Concord Public Library committee held a very similar view: “the veriest trash… rough, coarse, and inelegant, dealing with a series of experiences not elevating, the whole book being more suited to the slums than to intelligent, respectable people,”. They, too, chose to ban the book. Upon hearing that news, Twain is reported to have said “This will sell us another twenty-five thousand copies for sure!”. Read my full review of The Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn here.

Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë

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The Brontës famously published their works using androgynous pseudonyms (Emily going by “Ellis Bell”), but that didn’t stop reviewers going to town on her only published novel, Wuthering Heights. Graham’s Lady Magazine wrote at the time: “How a human being could have attempted such a book as the present without committing suicide before he had finished a dozen chapters, is a mystery. It is a compound of vulgar depravity and unnatural horrors,”. The Examiner said “as a whole, it is wild, confused, disjointed, and improbable; and the people who make up the drama, which is tragic enough in its consequences, are savages”. Emily, being notoriously shy and reluctant to publish at all, probably didn’t read her own press – good thing, too, if those reviews are anything to go by. Read my full review of Wuthering Heights here.

Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell

Gone-With-The-Wind-Margaret-Mitchell-Book-Laid-on-Wooden-Table-Keeping-Up-With-The-Penguins

Even though Gone With The Wind was wildly popular with readers immediately upon release (it was the best-selling fiction book two years running, in 1936 and 1937), critics didn’t share their enthusiasm. Reviewer for The New York Times, Ralph Thompson, said “I happen to feel that the book would have been infinitely better had it been edited down to say, 500 pages… Very nearly every reader will agree, no doubt, that a more disciplined and less prodigal piece of work would have more nearly done justice to the subject-matter.” That’s a sick burn all on its own, but critics rightly also zeroed in on Mitchell’s deeply problematic and revisionist depictions of slavery, the Civil War, and the Reconstruction. Those (very justified) criticisms have only amplified over time.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

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I have been very vocal about my own dislike of The Great Gatsby, and I am pleased to report that many early readers and reviewers agreed with me. The novel – now considered one of the classic books of the Jazz Age – was considered a fall from form for Fitzgerald, “an inconsequential performance by a once-promising author who had grown bored and cynical”, and reviewers were “quite convinced after reading The Great Gatsby that Mr. Fitzgerald is not one of the great American writers of today”. The plot was also called “improbable”, and its style “painfully forced”. Fitzgerald was apparently so bummed out by these reviews that he signed off a telegram to his publisher: “Yours in great depression”. Read my full review of The Great Gatsby here.

Moby Dick by Herman Melville

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One of the (many) funny things about Herman Melville’s Moby Dick is the contrast in its reception on different continents. In the U.K., where newspapers had a huge staff of experienced reviewers and literary critics, they called it “a phenomenal literary work, a philosophical, metaphysical, and poetic romance”, and “one of the cleverest, wittiest, and most amusing of modern books”. Meanwhile, in the New World (U.S.), where experienced critics were few and far between, baffled journalists trying to wade through Melville’s mountain of prose declared it “not worth the money asked for it, either as a literary work or as a mass of printed paper” and “a crazy sort of affair”. Of course, there are exceptions on both sides of the pond, but doesn’t that just prove the rule? Read my full review of Moby Dick here.

Ulysses by James Joyce

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Look, examples abound that prove Ulysses should be on any list of classic books that weren’t well received. Even today, respected as a load-bearing pillar in the modernist canon, most readers and reviewers regard it with confusion more so than admiration or anything else. Some of my favourite Ulysses slams include Virginia Woolf writing in her diary that it was: “an illiterate, underbred book it seems to me: the book of a self-taught working man, and we all know how distressing they are, how egotistic, insistent, raw, striking, and ultimately nauseating,”. See also The Sporting Times, who wrote that it was “written by a perverted lunatic who has made a speciality of the literature of the latrine,”. Read my full review of Ulysses here.

Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

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Joseph Heller threw a decades-long tantrum when Catch-22 wasn’t received as well as he thought it should have been. Even though The New York Times initially called it “a dazzling performance that will outrage nearly as many readers as it delights,”, a second review in the same paper said “[it is] repetitive and monotonous. Or one can say that it is too short because none of its many interesting characters and actions is given enough play to become a controlling interest,”. Despite Heller’s big hopes, it didn’t win a single award, not even the much coveted Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, and Heller remained bitter about it until the day he died. Read my full review of Catch-22 here.

The Catcher In The Rye by J.D. Salinger

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Angry teenagers forced to read The Catcher In The Rye in English Lit classes would be thrilled to know how poorly it was received upon its release in 1951. It was called everything from “disappointing”, to “a near miss”, to “wholly repellent”, to “peculiarly offensive”. Most reviewers seemed to take particular issue with the divisive protagonist-narrator, Holden Caulfield, whose adolescent angst was declared “wearisome” by the New Republic. Older wowsers didn’t like that he was running around getting drunk and trying to get it on with sex workers, either – a position that certain school board members still hold today, it would seem. Read my full review of The Catcher In The Rye here.

The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka

Kafka was the very definition of “underappreciated in his own time”, and he knew it, too. His diaries and letters are full of laments about his work and his general malaise, self-deprecation taken to the extreme. Today, The Metamorphosis is his best-known work and widely regarded as one of the most brilliant allegories ever written – but it was barely read when it was first published in 1915, and even Kafka himself didn’t like it in retrospect. He wrote that he “[was] reading The Metamorphosis at home and find[ing] it bad,”, that he felt a “great antipathy” towards it and its “unreadable ending”. The bulk of Kafka’s other work wasn’t published until after his death, and it certainly wasn’t widely read or beloved until many years later.

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

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Long before it was a HBO series, or the symbol of white feminist resistance against the Trump administration, The Handmaid’s Tale was a 1986 novel met with a reaction that could be best summed up as: “meh”. The New York Times said it “lacks imagination” (which is true, technically, given that Atwood has said time and again that everything she included in the book has happened or is happening somewhere in the world). It was also called, by various other outlets, “short on characterisation,” “thinly textured,” and (my personal favourite) “paranoid poppycock”. Read my full review of The Handmaid’s Tale here.

The Grapes Of Wrath by John Steinbeck

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The Grapes Of Wrath was basically America’s first big Hate Read. In 1939, everyone was reading it and everyone had something to say about it. Steinbeck was attacked from both ends of the political spectrum, believe it or not: both accused him of being a communist, and publishing a book of propaganda. The Associated Farmers of California were particularly vocal in their displeasure, calling Steinbeck’s depiction of the treatment of migrating farm workers as a “pack of lies”. Steinbeck was also revealed to have ripped off the research work of comparatively-unknown writer Sanora Bobb, but that didn’t seem as important to anyone as the fact that he was “trying to make a political point” (that it… sucks to be poor?). Read my full review of The Grapes Of Wrath here.

Lord Of The Flies by William Golding

Lord Of The Flies - William Golding - Book Laid on Wooden Table - Keeping Up With The Penguins

The criticism of Lord Of The Flies began before it even hit the bookstore shelves. More than 20 publishers passed on Golding’s nightmare-fuel story about shipwrecked children turning to savages (I can’t imagine why). One called it “rubbish and dull, pointless,”. Even when he finally found a publisher willing to take a punt on it, they sold only a few thousand copies before it went out of print. The New Yorker called it “completely unpleasant”. How it went from the bargain bin to a Nobel Prize winner assigned reading in every English-speaking classroom around the world is beyond me. Read my full review of Lord Of The Flies here.

100 Years Of Good Reads

I came across something fun on Goodreads the other day. They’ve put together a list of “the most popular books published over the past 100 years, as determined by Goodreads members’ digital shelves”. What a great use of the data they’ve collected from us obsessive book loggers!

100 Years Of Good Reads - Book List - Keeping Up With The Penguins
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It’s actually pretty fascinating: There are plenty of old-school masterpieces, of course, and a good supply of those books most likely to be found in required school curricula. But you’ll also find gonzo journalism, children’s classics, international literature, Arabic poetry, existentialist dread, and even graphic novels.

Goodreads (100 Years of Popular Books on Goodreads)

Just for fun, I thought I’d go through the list and add a little commentary for you. (Okay, and I also wanted to tally up how many of them I’d already read – sue me!)

1922: Ulysses by James Joyce

I don’t want to be that girl, but I promise you: Ulysses is not the crisis situation you’re imagining! Read my full review of Ulysses here.

1923: The Prophet by Khalil Gibran

1924: We by Yevgeny Zamyatin

1925: The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

UGH! Why? Why? Why? If I never have to see The Great Gatsby on a best-of book list ever again, I’ll die happy. Read my full review of The Great Gatsby here.

1926: The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway

A soldier gets his dick blown off, and remains such a misogynist that he never figures out how to go down on the lady he loves. The Sun Also Rises? More like The Lady Also Deserves To Finish. Read my full review of The Sun Also Rises here.

1927: To The Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf

1928: The Well Of Loneliness by Radclyffe Hall

1929: Passing by Nella Larsen

1930: As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner

A truly pleasant surprise! As I Lay Dying is short, weird, and an excellent example of why men can write from a woman’s perspective (occasionally). Read my full review of As I Lay Dying here.

1931: The Joy Of Cooking by Irma S. Rombauer

1932: Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

Sex, drugs, and feelies? The “dystopian” future that Huxley imagines in Brave New World doesn’t sound so bad, really. Read my full review of Brave New World here.

1933: In Praise Of Shadows by Jun’ichiro Tanizaki

1934: Murder On The Orient Express by Agatha Christie

1935: Gaudy Night by Dorothy L. Sayers

1936: Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner

1937: Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

Their Eyes Were Watching God is rich and wonderful and devastating – and Tea Cake is my ride-or-die classic book boyfriend. Read my full review of Their Eyes Were Watching God here.

1938: Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

Did you know that Rebecca has never been out of print? Never, not once, in the nearly-hundred years it’s been a good read? It’s gothic, it’s spooky, it’s fun, and it’s more than deserving. Read my full review of Rebecca here.

1939: The Grapes Of Wrath by John Steinbeck

When I finished The Grapes Of Wrath, I was angry. Angry that no one had ever told me – warned me! – how damn good it is. I’m still angry! Read my full review of The Grapes Of Wrath here.

1940: Native Son by Richard Wright

1941: The Library Of Babel by Jorge Luis Borges

1942: The Stranger by Albert Camus

1943: The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

The Little Prince works precisely because doesn’t get bogged down in making things “realistic” for the grown-ups. “Grown-ups never understand anything by themselves,” de Saint-Exupéry writes on page 6, “and it is exhausting for children always and forever to be giving explanations.” Bring tissues. Read my full review of The Little Prince here.

1944: Ficciones by Jorge Luis Borges

1945: The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams

1946: The Member Of The Wedding by Carson McCullers

1947: No Exit by Jean Paul-Sartre

1948: I Capture The Castle by Dodie Smith

1949: 1984 by George Orwell

1950: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis

1951: Foundation by Isaac Asimov

1952: Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

1953: Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

Did you know that books don’t actually burn at 451 degrees Fahrenheit? Ray Bradbury asked an expert for help naming his novel, but they misunderstood the question. Paper auto-ignites at that temperature, but burns much, much lower. That fun fact is honestly more interesting to me than Fahrenheit 451 was. Read my full review of Fahrenheit 451 here.

1954: The Fellowship Of The Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien

1955: Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

1956: Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin

1957: Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak

1958: Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

1959: The Haunting Of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

1960: To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Yes, I know, it’s problematic. White saviours are bad, and Atticus Finch is the whitest-saviouriest of them all. But To Kill A Mockingbird is still such a good read! And Harper Lee’s only (true) novel! Read my full review of To Kill A Mockingbird here.

1961: Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

Catch-22 is funny… for the first hundred pages or so. Beyond that, you’re just reading the same joke over and over again. It’s good to know where the idiom came from, though! Read my full review of Catch-22 here.

1962: Silent Spring by Rachel Carson

1963: The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

It’s infuriating how good The Bell Jar is. Like, seriously, I wanted to throw it down on the floor and just give up. So good. And the Faber editions are so pretty! Read my full review of The Bell Jar here.

1964: Charlie And The Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl

1965: Dune by Frank Herbert

1966: Rosencrantz And Guildenstern Are Dead by Tom Stoppard

1967: One Hundred Years Of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez

One Hundred Years Of Solitude has a cracker of an opening line – the famous one about Colonel Buendía facing the firing squad. Beyond that, I didn’t love-love-love it, but I didn’t hate-hate-hate it, either. Read my full review of One Hundred Years Of Solitude here.

1968: Slouching Towards Bethlehem by Joan Didion

1969: I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

I think critic Opal Moor put it well: “Though easily read, [I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings] is no ‘easy read’.” It’s confronting, it’s brilliant, and it’s an enduring classic for a reason. Read my full review of I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings here.

1970: The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

Morrison has said that she wrote The Bluest Eye because she was “interested in talking about black girlhood”. It seems sadly inevitable that a book on that subject would end up a foundational text about the impact of Euro-centric beauty standards and internalised loathing. Read my full review of The Bluest Eye here.

1971: Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson

1972: Ways Of Seeing by John Berger

1973: The Princess Bride by William Goldman

1974: Carrie by Stephen King

I’ve got this one on a to-read shelf, that I might get to… some day… probably…

1975: Salem’s Lot by Stephen King

1976: The Woman Warrior by Maxine Hong Kingston

1977: Song Of Solomon by Toni Morrison

1978: The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin

1979: Kindred by Octavia E. Butler

1980: The Name Of The Rose by Umberto Eco

1981: Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie

1982: The Color Purple by Alice Walker

The Color Purple is still – to this day – being challenged, banned, and removed from high school reading lists. Common reasons for scrapping it from reading lists include the explicit sexual content, language, violence, and lesbianism (the horror! eye roll). Read my full review of The Color Purple here.

1983: The Queen’s Gambit by Walter Tevis

1984: The House On Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros

1985: The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

Even though it might feel like “The Handmaid’s Tale is coming true!” with everything going on at the moment, the truth is that Atwood didn’t use a single thing that hasn’t already happened, or isn’t already happening, to create the dystopian world of Gilead. Just a heads up! Read my full review of The Handmaid’s Tale here.

1986: Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones

1987: Watchmen by Alan Moore

1988: The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

The Alchemist is a beautiful fable, a wonderful read… for hippies. Read my full review of The Alchemist here.

1989: The Pillars Of The Earth by Ken Follett

1990: Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett

1991: Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

Time travel to 18th century Scotland, marriage of convenience with a Scot in a kilt… but make it horny! It’s not a great work of literature, but Outlander does exactly what it says on the tin. Read my full review of Outlander here.

1992: The Secret History by Donna Tartt

I’m sorry to say that The Secret History, is every bit as good as everyone always says it is. Read my full review of The Secret History here.

1993: The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides

1994: The Wind Up Bird Chronicles by Haruki Murakami

1995: The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman

1996: A Game Of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

A Game Of Thrones might never have made it onto a list like this, if not for the HBO adaptation that had the whole world glued to their screens for eight seasons. But here we are! Read my full review of A Game Of Thrones here.

1997: Guns, Germs And Steel by Jared Diamond

1998: The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

1999: Girl With A Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier

2000: House Of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielwski

2001: The Shadow Of The Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

2002: Coraline by Neil Gaiman

2003: The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri

2004: Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

2005: Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

I reckon this one is destined to become a classic. It’s clever, and it’s creepy as heck. Well deserving of its place on this Goodreads list! Read my full review of Never Let Me Go here.

2006: The Road by Cormac McCarthy

2007: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Look, if you’re in the mid- to upper-end of the Young Adult bracket and you’re just starting to understand the significance of WWII, The Book Thief is a brilliant, life-changing read. For the rest of us… well, it’s a good reminder that literacy is important. Read my full review of The Book Thief here.

2008: The Guernsey Literary And Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer

Do you remember when it felt like everyone and their book club was reading The Guernsey Literary And Potato Peel Pie Society? You might’ve skipped it because of all the hype, but it’s actually not bad. Read my full review of The Guernsey Literary And Potato Peel Pie Society here.

2009: Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

2010: The Immortal Life Of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

To call The Immortal Life Of Henrietta Lacks a “biography” is reductive. It’s so much more than the dates and facts of a life. It’s a study of bioethics, a masterclass in accessible science writing, and a testament to the human consequences of scientific discovery. And it’s compelling as heck! Read my full review of The Immortal Life Of Henrietta Lacks here.

2011: The Song Of Achilles by Madeline Miller

2012: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

If you haven’t read Gone Girl yet, monks could use the rock you’ve been living under as an off-the-grid retreat. You need to hop to it, if for no other reason than it’s miraculous it hasn’t been spoiled for you yet. Read my full review of Gone Girl here.

2013: The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

2014: Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

It wasn’t quite the blockbuster success that Little Fires Everywhere was, but Everything I Never Told You is still a masterful, gripping domestic drama, fully deserving of its place on any list of good reads. Read my full review of Everything I Never Told You here.

2015: Between The World And Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

2016: When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

2017: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

It’s incredible how timely The Hate U Give was at the time of its release – and it’s incredibly sad that it’s still so timely, even more so, years later. Read my full review of The Hate U Give here.

2018: Educated by Tara Westover

When it comes to writing memoirs, you’ve either got to have talent for storytelling or a life so fascinating that talent (or lack thereof) doesn’t matter. Luckily, Tara Westover has both. Even in the hands of a real bore, Educated would be a fascinating read. Read my full review of Educated here.

2019: Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston

Red, White & Royal Blue, unbelievably, lives up to the hype. Of course, it’s targeted at younger readers, but I can vouch for the fact that it resonates for young-at-heart readers, too. I’d especially recommend it for fans of The West Wing and anyone who needs a bit of starry-eyed optimism. Read my full review of Red, White & Royal Blue here.

2020: The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

Through this multi-generational family saga, Brit Bennett plays out the domino effect of reductive labels. The Vanishing Half is a must-read for your book club; there’s a lot to unpack here. Read my full review of The Vanishing Half here.

2021: Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Alright, I’ve read 33 of these so far, and reviewed most of them, too! Not bad! How about you? Drop your total in the comments! And thank you Goodreads for putting together this list – nice to see you using your powers for good.

15 Books About Big Secrets

Nothing gets my heart in my throat like a big secret in a book. As soon as you’ve got one character trying to keep something from all the rest of them, I’m hooked. If they bring someone else in on the secret, forget about it! (After all, as the saying goes, two can keep a secret if…) Even though I know that the big secrets are (almost) always revealed by the book’s climax, my eyes are still wide open and I’m wondering how the heck they’ll get away with it. Here’s a list of books about big secrets that will keep you turning pages past your bedtime!

15 Books About Big Secrets - Book List - Keeping Up With The Penguins
It’s no secret: if you use an affiliate link on this page to make a purchase, I’ll earn a small commission!

Flowers In The Attic by VC Andrews

Flowers In The Attic - VC Andrews - Keeping Up With The Penguins

As far as books about big secrets go, they don’t come much bigger than this. In Flowers In The Attic, the matriarch of the Dollanganger family is keeping a few big secrets, not the least of which is the four children hiding in the attic. After the death of their father, she’s forced to return to her own family home, and try to mend fences with her estranged family. The thing is, she knows that her father won’t approve of her children. The logical solution (ahem!) is to hide them in the attic of the house for a day or two… or a month or two… or a year or two? That definitely couldn’t have any disastrous consequences, right? Read my full review of Flowers In The Attic here.

The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty

The Husband's Secret - Liane Moriarty - Book Laid on Wooden Table - Keeping Up With The Penguins

The title says it all, really: in The Husband’s Secret, the main character’s husband has a secret. And it’s a BIG one. Her first clue is a sealed letter she finds, with a mysterious note on the envelope: “For my wife, only to be opened in the event of my death”. I don’t know about you, but there is no way I could resist the temptation to open that tantalising Pandora’s Box. Lucky, for fans of thriller books about big secrets, Moriarty’s protagonist can’t resist either. The contents of the envelope are about to turn her whole world upside-down. Read my full review of The Husband’s Secret here.

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

Little Fires Everywhere - Celeste Ng - Book Laid on Wooden Table - Keeping Up With The Penguins

In Little Fires Everywhere, it feels like everyone’s keeping big secrets. The “placid, progressive suburb” of Shaker Heights, Ohio, looks perfect from the outside. Elena Richardson, the matriarch of a quintessential nuclear family, magnanimously rents out her investment property to struggling artist and single mother, Mia. Little does Elena realise that the arrival of Mia and her daughter, Pearl, is about to blow both families’ secrets wide open. Why are Mia and Pearl always on the move? How do the Richardson children really feel about their picture-perfect lives? All will be revealed, naturally! Read my full review of Little Fires Everywhere here.

Adèle by Leïla Slimani

Adele - Leila Slimani - Keeping Up With The Penguins

On the face of it, the big secret at the heart of Adèle sounds delicious and fun. Adèle is a closet sex addict. Even though she’s “happily married”, she spends her nights – and, let’s be honest, some of her days – trawling the Parisian arrondissements looking for lovers. It only takes a few pages to realise, though, that Adèle’s secret is far from a fun one. Her pursuit of intimacy is destructive, threatening to destroy her otherwise-perfect life at every turn. This is one of the most twisted books about big secrets that don’t involve murder or bloodshed, which only makes it far more sinister. Read my full review of Adèle here.

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

We Were Liars - E Lockhart - Book Laid Flat on Wooden Table - Keeping Up With The Penguins

The seemingly-perfect Sinclair family are keeping one hell of a secret in We Were Liars. They have all the trappings of considerable wealth (summer holidays on a private island, anyone?), but ironically none of them actually earn enough to support themselves. The wealth, and the power it supposedly affords them, is an illusion. The teen generation sees through it all, and they’re angling to lead the revolution… until one of them, Candace, is found seriously injured and floating in the ocean. She has no memory of what happened to her to have her end up that way, and no one will tell her. The hint is in the book’s title… Read my full review of We Were Liars here.

The Cry by Helen Fitzgerald

The Cry - Helen Fitzgerald - Keeping Up With The Penguins

It’s hard to imagine that the family of a missing child could keep any secrets. Between the police interrogating their every move and motive, and the media combing over every hint and clue as to the child’s whereabouts, no stone remains unturned. But Alistair and Joanna have managed it, by the skin of their teeth. They’re hiding a whopper of a secret in The Cry, about what happened to their missing nine-week-old son Noah. Books about big secrets naturally attract readers who love a good moral dilemma and ethical grey-areas – if that sounds like you, Fitzgerald’s psychological thriller is a must-read. Read my full review of The Cry here.

Remember Me by Charity Norman

Remember Me - Charity Norman - Keeping Up With The Penguins

There’s an obvious way to ratchet up the tension in books about big secrets: put them in the hands of someone who can’t be relied upon not to spill the beans. In Remember Me, the secret is at risk for the most heart-wrenching reason. Emily Kirkland’s father has dementia, and it’s rapidly progressing. As the disease captures his mind, he’s thrown back into the past, and Emily worries that he might reveal something she doesn’t want to know. Something about Leah Patara, the young woman from her town who vanished without a trace, decades ago. Could he have had something to do with the disappearance that rocked a small New Zealand town? Read my full review of Remember Me here.

Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides

Middlesex - Jeffrey Eugenides - Keeping Up With The Penguins

The big secret at the heart of Middlesex is the very definition of ‘fuck around and find out’. Only, the Stephanides don’t ‘fuck around’ so much as ‘fuck within their own family tree’. Generations of interbreeding have given rise to Cal’s genetic 5-alpha-reductase deficiency, a congenital disorder that affects sexual development. So, the family secret becomes Cal’s secret as they navigate adolescence and adulthood as an intersex person. But don’t be fooled: this is much more than a “gender novel”. It’s a big book, in length, depth, and breadth, and yet it’s compelling and thoroughly readable. Read my full review of Middlesex here.

The Turn Of The Key by Ruth Ware

The Turn Of The Key - Ruth Ware - Book Laid on Wooden Table - Keeping Up With The Penguins

A new governess alone in a huge creepy “smart”-house with two weird kids? A cantankerous housekeeper and mysterious bumps in the night? As if books about big secrets weren’t chilling enough, Ruth Ware levels up with The Turn Of The Key. Writing to her lawyer from prison, Rowan does her best to explain the turn of events that led to one child dead, another traumatised, and herself awaiting trial for murder – but in her cell, she’s yet to uncover the biggest secret of all. Hats off to Ware for (literally!) keeping us guessing until the very last page! Read my full review of The Turn Of The Key here.

Notes On A Scandal by Zoë Heller

Notes On A Scandal - Zoe Heller - Keeping Up With The Penguins

In Notes On A Scandal, narrator Barbara Covett is in on the secret. She’s worked hard to ingratiate herself with her new BFF Sheba, the delightfully young and beautiful new pottery teacher at her comprehensive school, and she’s sure her diligence and patience will be rewarded. Sheba’s affair with an underage student is shocking, yes, but it’s also just the thing to bind the two friends together forever. Sheba’s about to discover that she’s not the only one keeping her personal proclivities under wraps… Read my full review of Notes On A Scandal here.

The Plot by Jean Hanff Korelitz

The Plot - Jean Hanff Korelitz - Keeping Up With The Penguins

In books about big secrets, often the characters fool themselves into thinking that what they’re keeping hidden can’t hurt anyone. Take The Plot, for instance: would anyone really mind that Jacob Finch Bonner stole the plot to his best-selling widely-acclaimed novel from a dead creative writing student? Evan Parker’s idea was brilliant, after all, and Jake had braced himself for the kid’s success (as his own career went down the tubes). Why should Evan’s death mean that his brilliant idea has to die with him? Only it turns out, someone knows what Jake has done, they do mind and they’re not planning on keeping quiet. Read my full review of The Plot here.

Atonement by Ian McEwan

Atonement - Ian McEwan - Keeping Up With The Penguins

Every serious booklover will recognise Atonement as one of the most iconic books about big secrets. Ian McEwan’s 2001 novel explores the devastating ramifications of one mistake, one childish lie, across the course of three adult lives. Briony Tallis, a 13-year-old girl, kicks up a big stink when she sees her sister Celia in a (ahem) passionate embrace with the housekeeper’s son, Robbie. Briony’s imagination runs away with her, painting Robbie as a sexual predator, and the stain of her accusation stays with him for life. As an adult, Briony knows that maybe she didn’t see exactly what she thought she saw, and she wrestles with whether to come forward, whether to reveal that she’s been keeping a secret that has ruined a man’s life. Read my full review of Atonement here.

Instructions For A Heatwave by Maggie O’Farrell

Instructions For A Heatwave - Maggie O'Farrell - Keeping Up With The Penguins

For fans of books about big secrets, Instructions For A Heatwave is a buy-one-get-one-free deal. Or, really, buy-one-get-a-whole-bunch-free, because everyone in the Riordan family is hiding something. Each of the Riordan siblings has their own secrets and foibles that the others know little, or nothing, about (and the matriarch, Gretta, is hiding a few things under her hat, too). There’s a failing marriage, conflicted feelings about motherhood, debilitating dyslexia, and a missing husband. Of course, it’s all going to come out into the open, and bring with it the biggest secret of all. Read my full review of Instructions For A Heatwave here.

Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston

Red White And Royal Blue - Casey McQuiston - Keeping Up With The Penguins

Okay, so many of these books about big secrets are scary thrillers – what about fun, sexy secrets? That’s Red, White & Royal Blue: a secret enemies-to-lovers romance between America’s First Son and the Prince of Wales. Keeping a secret (especially one as delicious and exciting as a love affair) isn’t easy under the best of circumstances, but what about when you’re two of the most recognisable and scrutinised young men in the world? That’s what faces Alex and Henry, two young adults trying to figure out who they are and what they are to each other, with the weight of the world on their shoulders. Conventions of the genre dictate that they must get their Happy Ever After, but it’s hard to see how. Read my full review of Red, White & Royal Blue here.

Nothing To See Here by Kevin Wilson

Nothing To See Here - Kevin Wilson - Keeping Up With The Penguins

Madison needs help. Her twin stepkids are about to move in with her new family, under the roof of her buttoned-up politician husband. The twins are lovely, but – hold on to your hat – they have the terrifying tendency to spontaneously combust when they get excited. Seriously: the kids catch fire! Madison reaches out to her school friend, Lillian, and begs her to be their live-in caretaker, keeping them out of sight (and, y’know, not on fire). Nothing To See Here is a ridiculous, hilarious, glorious story about fierce protective love and figuring out which secrets need to be kept. Read my full review of Nothing To See Here here.

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