When you’ve been working like a dog all week, every moment from Friday afternoon until your alarm goes off on Monday is precious. How you spend those hours of freedom must be perfect; when the dreaded Sunday evening rolls around, you need to have zero regrets. That’s why the minute we’re out of the office doors on Friday night, most of us turn into completely crazed versions of ourselves, on a mission to have as much fun as humanly possible before we’re back at our desk nursing a hangover and trying to stay awake until lunch.
So, I’m not surprised that you’re raising your eyebrows at the idea of devoting your entire weekend to one book. What if it’s bad? What if this is the weekend that all your friends meet Tom Hanks at a bar, and he takes them back to his house and re-enacts the whole of Forrest Gump for them — and you missed it because you were reading some trashy book on the sofa? That could totally happen! On the plus side, it’s free, and you’re broke.
Convinced? Here are 19 books I guarantee you won’t regret spending your entire weekend reading.
Image: Helga Weber/Flickr
'The Man Who Forgot His Wife' by John O'Farrell
The Man Who Forgot His Wife might as well be a Disney movie starring Lindsay Lohan, it’s so obvious where the story is going — but that’s not to say you won’t love every second. Grab the popcorn, save money on cinema tickets, and settle in for a delightful rom-com that’ll make you laugh, cry, and then forget it as easily as the title character forgot his wife.
'A Possible Life' by Sebastian Faulks
Pour yourself a large glass of wine and turn off your phone; this book is mesmerizing. It’s made up of five short stories with blink-and-you’ll-miss-them connections (a building, an experience, a realization). If you concentrate hard enough, you might find yourself back in the office on Monday with a whole new understanding and appreciation for life.
'Time's Arrow' by Martin Amis
Time’s Arrow tells the story of a man’s life in reverse, from death to birth. People walk backwards on the street; doctors injure the healthy and send them bleeding out the door; the Nazis make people out of ashes. This short novel is shocking and sad, but worth every second you spend reading on your sofa this weekend.
'The Homemaker' by Dorothy Canfield
When obsessively house-proud Evangeline’s husband has an accident and is bound to a wheelchair, they have to swap roles: he becomes the home-maker while she goes out to work. Remember, this is 1924. The account of a family in which the parents are allowed to escape their gender roles is poignant and brave.
'Us' by David Nicholls
Warning: you should probably make a pit-stop on the way home from work to buy a multipack of tissues. If you settle down with Us this weekend, you’ll be doing an awful lot of crying. But you’ll also emerge on Monday morning with a new, glorious confidence that your worth isn’t dependent on what you mean to others. (That probably won’t even last until lunchtime — but it was fun while it lasted.)
'Middlesex' by Jeffrey Eugenides
Middlesex features an incestuous relationship between brother and sister, and an intersex protagonist, raised as a girl until he assumes a male identity in his teens. Although it’s been mired in controversy — you’ll see why if you read it — I bet you’ll find it a brave and sympathetic exploration of gender, sexuality, DNA, and choice.
'Novel About My Wife' by Emily Perkins
Novel About My Wife makes it clear right from the beginning that the titular wife, Ann, is dead, and then narrates the last five years as they battle through mortgages, arguments, and a sinister man who may or may not be following Ann home. You’ll be hooked before you’re even off the bus home.
'The Notable Brain of Maximilian Ponder' by J. W. Ironmonger
How long would it take you to write down everything you know? Like, everything? It’s a rather tedious-sounding premise for a book, but J. W. Ironmonger manages to turn this bizarre mission into an eery and moving exploration of friendship and the ravages of time.
'The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake' by Aimee Bender
Aimee Bender has a wonderful way of weaving magic through her stories. She blends the surreal with the real so brilliantly that you’ll barely think it’s strange that her protagonist can taste people’s emotions in the food they make. The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake is a strange, sad, and sweet book that will keep you company right up to Sunday night.
'Veronika Decides to Die' by Paulo Coelho
A novel that begins with a young woman attempting to commit suicide doesn’t sound like a particularly cheery weekend read, but I promise that this book will have you smiling. What are weekends even for, if not to affirm that everybody is insane and life is worth living?
'A Special Relationship' by Douglas Kennedy
Sally Goodchild, suffering from severe postnatal depression, angrily tells her husband’s secretary that if he doesn’t come home at once, she will kill their newborn son. As Sally fights for the right to keep her child, it doesn’t matter how many times your friends call you this weekend; you’re not leaving the house.
'The Husband's Secret' by Liane Moriarty
'Invitation to the Waltz' by Rosamond Lehmann
This novel about a young woman’s first dance is no less engaging today than when it was written in 1932. Almost the whole novel is spent at the dance, and the roller coaster of hope, anticipation, and disappointment is so achingly familiar that you’ll be glad you can escape the social scene for a night, and curl up contentedly with this delightful book.
'On the Beach' by Nevil Shute
This is one of those books where I can remember exactly where I was when I read it. I was actually on holiday with friends at the time, but I could barely pay them attention as I was so absorbed in this 1957 post-apocalyptic novel. Before this premise became a cliché, On the Beach masterfully imagined the world’s last remaining survivors, waiting for their deaths.
'Bras and Broomsticks' by Sarah Mlynowski
Look, before you judge me, let me tell you a story. My sister discovered this book about a teenage witch when she was significantly older than its target market, and I teased her for it all week — until she read me the first page. Before long, our family holiday comprised us all lying in a row reading every book in the series. I think the boys may have enjoyed them even more than we did.
'The Outcast' by Sadie Jones
The Outcast follows a series of hurting and misunderstood characters failing to break away from their self-destructive paths. That might sound pretty grisly, but this is the perfect weekend read: it will grab you in on Friday night, keep you hooked all Saturday, and release you on Sunday with the satisfying ending that you deserve.
'An Unnecessary Woman' by Rabih Alameddine
An Unnecessary Woman is a book in which almost nothing happens — but before you cast it aside to watch Netflix instead, just try out this rather remarkable novel about a woman obsessed with books. The cast of literary characters is so huge, reading this book is like reading a whole library at once. This powerful love letter to literature will convince you that reading is the best and only way to spend a weekend.