• The cover of the book Cat's Eye

    Cat's Eye

    This novel about an artist reflecting on her difficult relationship with a childhood friend demands to be read and re-read. Time, Atwood says in the novel—and reflects in its structural fabric—is not linear, but like water, to be dipped in and out of at will.

     
  • The cover of the book The Night Watch

    The Night Watch

    A novel told backwards. Yes—backwards. We start with four characters in London in the mid-1940s, and then gradually work our way back to the tangled beginnings of their stories. A writing masterclass that somehow manages not to sacrifice an iota of emotional heft.

     
  • The cover of the book Cloud Atlas

    Cloud Atlas

    Reading this 2004 novel provided another lightbulb moment for me. We follow six characters across multiple continents and eras, criss-crossing time and space at a dizzying pace. Mitchell breaks so many rules—not least abandoning his characters as he goes along—and does so with absolute intelligence and control. Just jaw-dropping.

     
  • The cover of the book One Day (Movie Tie-in Edition)

    One Day (Movie Tie-in Edition)

    Structurally innovative novels can feel dry and arrogant, with the author playing intellectual games just to show off. This emotive blockbuster of a novel is a great corrective to that. Nicholls introduces a structural conceit—a will-they-won’t-they relationship, drawn out across 20 years—not to show off, but to ask provocative questions about the paths life draws us down, and how easily we can fail to seize the moment.

     
  • The cover of the book Collected Fictions

    Collected Fictions

    As you might have gathered, I’m not the biggest fan of clever-clever postmodernist novels – I waded through far too many of them while studying Spanish and Italian at university. But reading this superlative collection of stories by the forefather of postmodern fiction in the original Spanish was a hugely formative experience for me as a writer. Whichever language you read it in, it’s an unmissable primer on how to push the boundaries of fiction to their very limit.