Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Read In One Sitting (or would have if I had the time)

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.

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Even though it is with a huge sense of relief that we are rapidly approaching the holidays and I am now merrily giving books to students to keep and not to mark again – not to mention the joy of saying to my daughter today “Your shirt is a bit dirty; throw it in the bin!” – the idea of having time to read a book in one sitting is a far distant memory!

But it has happened in the past and I recall the following four specifically.

The Uncommon Reader, Alan Bennett

This was such a sweet lovely novel! Gentle and humorous and touching.

The Uncommon Reader is none other than HM the Queen who drifts accidentally into reading when her corgis stray into a mobile library parked at Buckingham Palace. She reads widely ( JR Ackerley, Jean Genet, Ivy Compton Burnett and the classics) and intelligently. Her reading naturally changes her world view and her relationship with people like the oleaginous prime minister and his repellent advisers. She comes to question the prescribed order of the world and loses patience with much that she has to do. In short, her reading is subversive. The consequence is, of course, surprising, mildly shocking and very funny.

128 pages.

More Than This, Patrick Ness

I adore Patrick Ness, and having devoured the Chaos Walking trilogy, this was a Summer holiday spent on the sofa with a small child balanced on my arm for much of it.

A boy called Seth drowns, desperate and alone in his final moments, losing his life as the pounding sea claims him. But then he wakes. He is naked, thirsty, starving. But alive. How is that possible? He remembers dying, his bones breaking, his skull dashed upon the rocks. So how is he is here? And where is this place? It looks like the suburban English town where he lived as a child, before an unthinkable tragedy happened and his family moved to America. But the neighbourhood around his old house is overgrown, covered in dust and completely abandoned. What’s going on?

480 pages.

And The Ocean Was Our Sky, Patrick Ness

Yes another Patrick Ness, albeit significantly shorter than More Than This. Moby Dick inverted and reimagined from the whale’s point of view.

“Call me Bathsheba.” The whales of Bathsheba’s pod live for the hunt. Led by the formidable Captain Alexandra, they fight a never-ending war against men. Then the whales attack a man ship, and instead of easy prey they find the trail of a myth, a monster, perhaps the devil himself… With their relentless Captain leading the chase, they embark on the final hunt, one that will forever change the worlds of whales and men.

160 pages.

Grief is the Thing With Feathers, Max Porter

This was such a powerful read – painful and raw and mythic and uplifting, all in one.

In a London flat, two young boys face the unbearable sadness of their mother’s sudden death. Their father, a Ted Hughes scholar and scruffy romantic, imagines a future of well-meaning visitors and emptiness.

In this moment of despair they are visited by Crow – antagonist, trickster, healer, babysitter. This sentimental bird is drawn to the grieving family and threatens to stay until they no longer need him.

128 pages.


On occasion, the ability to read a novel in one sitting is not so much a compliment – it is an indication of a lack of depth in the story. And so I cite the following as an example.

The Lost Symbol, Dan Brown

The renowned author Dan Brown is so so easy to parody – all those unnecessary adjectives and ridiculously precise measurements… but they are compulsively trashily page-turner disposable reads.

But always beware the elderly, apparently benevolent paternal figures…

Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon is summoned unexpectedly to deliver an evening lecture in the U.S. Capitol Building. Within minutes of his arrival, however, the night takes a bizarre turn. A disturbing object –artfully encoded with five symbols–is discovered in the Capitol Building. Langdon recognizes the object as an ancient invitation . . . one meant to usher its recipient into a long-lost world of esoteric wisdom.

When Langdon’s beloved mentor, Peter Solomon–a prominent Mason and philanthropist –is brutally kidnapped, Langdon realizes his only hope of saving Peter is to accept this mystical invitation and follow wherever it leads him.

509 pages.


The following novels are those which in another world with more time and fewer pressures I would have liked to have devoured in one indulgent sitting!


This Is How You Lose The Time War, Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone

This is a novel to consume both in one setting and also to linger over and absorb the language of it. Gorgeous and moving and lyrical and brutal…

Among the ashes of a dying world, an agent of the Commandant finds a letter. It reads: Burn before reading.

Thus begins an unlikely correspondence between two rival agents hellbent on securing the best possible future for their warring factions. Now, what began as a taunt, a battlefield boast, grows into something more. Something epic. Something romantic. Something that could change the past and the future.

Except the discovery of their bond would mean death for each of them. There’s still a war going on, after all. And someone has to win that war. That’s how war works. Right?

208 pages.

The House in the Cerulean Sea, T. J. Klune

Tender, sweet romance burgeoning between the buttoned down bureaucrat, Linus Baker and the gentlemanly, caring Arthur Parnassus.

Linus Baker leads a quiet life. At forty, he has a tiny house with a devious cat and his beloved records for company. And at the Department in Charge of Magical Youth, he’s spent many dull years monitoring their orphanages.

Then one day, Linus is summoned by Extremely Upper Management and given a highly classified assignment. He must travel to an orphanage where six dangerous children reside, including the Antichrist. There, Linus must somehow determine if they could bring on the end of days. But their guardian, charming and enigmatic Arthur Parnassus, will do anything to protect his wards. As Arthur and Linus grow ever closer, Linus must choose between duty and his dreams.

400 pages.

Pet, Akwaeke Emezi

This was a powerpunch of a novel treading the line between parable and realism, myth and drama.

There are no more monsters anymore, or so the children in the city of Lucille are taught. With doting parents and a best friend named Redemption, Jam has grown up with this lesson all her life. But when she meets Pet, a creature made of horns and colours and claws, who emerges from one of her mother’s paintings and a drop of Jam’s blood, she must reconsider what she’s been told. Pet has come to hunt a monster, and the shadow of something grim lurks in Redemption’s house. Jam must fight not only to protect her best friend, but also to uncover the truth.

208 pages.

Lanny, Max Porter

Another Max Porter novel; this one did take me a few days to read, but it was so utterly poignant and powerful – and utterly British and folkloric.

Not far from London, there is a village.

This village belongs to the people who live in it and to those who lived in it hundreds of years ago. It belongs to England’s mysterious past and its confounding present.

It belongs to families dead for generations, and to those who have only recently moved here, such as the boy Lanny, and his mum and dad.

But it also belongs to Dead Papa Toothwort, who has woken from his slumber in the woods. Dead Papa Toothwort, who is listening to them all.

224 pages.

Gideon the Ninth, Tamsyn Muir

Simple exuberant fun – many novels would benefit from more skeletons, revenants and broadsword wielding heroines – and hats off to Tamsyn Muir for being able to conjure up twelve different forms of necromancy!

Brought up by unfriendly, ossifying nuns, ancient retainers, and countless skeletons, Gideon is ready to abandon a life of servitude and an afterlife as a reanimated corpse. She packs up her sword, her shoes, and her dirty magazines, and prepares to launch her daring escape. But her childhood nemesis won’t set her free without a service.

Harrowhark Nonagesimus, Reverend Daughter of the Ninth House and bone witch extraordinaire, has been summoned into action. The Emperor has invited the heirs to each of his loyal Houses to a deadly trial of wits and skill. If Harrowhark succeeds she will be become an immortal, all-powerful servant of the Resurrection, but no necromancer can ascend without their cavalier. Without Gideon’s sword, Harrow will fail, and the Ninth House will die.

496 pages.

496 pages may be a push to read in one sitting – and there are twelve pairs of necromancers and their cavaliers to come to know before they start dying – but the world of Canaan House (if not quite the wider universe beyond it) was so engrossing.


So there we have it, ten novels which I did – or might have – finished in a day.

And perhaps with the six week summer holidays I might be able to add some more to this list… but probably not with an over-tired eight year old daughter needing to be entertained!

Upcoming Top Ten Tuesday Themes

  • July 27: Books I’d Want With Me While Stranded On a Deserted Island
  • August 3: Titles or Covers That Made Want to Read/Buy the Book
  • August 10: Secondary/Minor Characters Who Deserve More Love
  • August 17: Favourite Places to Read
  • August 24: Books I Wish I Could Read Again for the First Time
  • August 31: Fictional Crushes

18 comments

  1. I completely forgot about the Dan Brown books! I’ve read them all and yes, one sitting reads. I remember especially The Da Vinci Code. Read until the wee hours of the morning with that one.

    Lovely list and I hope you enjoy your upcoming holidays. Mine are just over with school starting again today.

    Happy TTT!

    Elza Reads – Ten one sitting reads

    Like

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