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Wellbeing Collection Guide

Leisure Reading Collection


Do you need a break from your academic reading? We have a new Leisure Reading Collection of printed fiction books and graphic novels for you to borrow and enjoy.

These are right next to the Wellbeing Collection books. The collection is small but growing, do email us if you would like to suggest a book for this collection!

Follow this link to browse the Leisure Reading Collection online.

We now expanded the printed collection to free audiobooks! Enjoy a selection of curated contemporary fiction and non fiction from prize winning, BME, ,LGBTAI+ authors plus sci fi, historical and classic books.

See the Audiobooks tab on this guide for more information or log onto the Libby App or via your browser to view our collections:

Just choose University of Sussex Library to enjoy our audiobooks.


One of the most common things we get asked at the InfoHub is - 'where can I find a good novel to read?'

To try and answer that question, we've pulled out a few lists of fun books to read, and below are some suggestions from library staff as to books they go back to time and time again when they need cheering up.

Library picks

Different Seasons

  • by Stephen King
  • ISBN: 978-1444723601
  • Publication date: 1983

In this classic collection of four novellas, the grand master takes you on irresistible journeys into the far reaches of horror, heartache and hope. Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption is the story of two men convicted of murder - one guilty, one innocent - who form the perfect partnership as they dream up a scheme to escape from prison. In Apt Pupil a golden schoolboy entices an old man with a past to join in a dreadful union. The Body sees four young boys venture into the woods and find life, death . . . and the end of innocence. The Breathing Method is the tale of a doctor who goes to his club and discovers a woman determined to give birth - no matter what.

We say: '4 novellas in one, King with focus on human experience over his classic grisly horror. All re-readable.'



  • by Robert Harris
  • ISBN: 9780099527947
  • Publication date: 2009

During a sweltering week in late August, as Rome's richest citizens relax in their villas around Pompeii and Herculaneum, there are ominous warnings that something is going wrong. Wells and springs are failing, a man has disappeared, and now the greatest aqueduct in the world - the mighty Aqua Augusta - has suddenly ceased to flow . . . Through the eyes of four characters - a young engineer, an adolescent girl, a corrupt millionaire and an elderly scientist - Robert Harris brilliantly recreates a luxurious world on the brink of destruction.

We say: 'Easy going historical fiction on the days leading up to Vesuvius' eruption. Great insight behind the politics of the time, the rising tension, and a devastating payoff.'


Of Mice and Men

  • by John Steinbeck
  • ISBN: 9781526611154
  • Publication date: 1937

Drifters in search of work, George and his childlike friend Lennie, have nothing in the world except the clothes on their back - and a dream that one day they will have some land of their own. Eventually they find work on a ranch in California's Salinas Valley, but their hopes are dashed as Lennie - struggling against extreme cruelty, misunderstanding and feelings of jealousy - becomes a victim of his own strength. Tackling universal themes of friendship and shared vision, and giving a voice to America's lonely and dispossessed, Of Mice and Men remains Steinbeck's most popular work, achieving success as a novel, Broadway play and three acclaimed films.

We say: 'Re-read recently - a classic.'


The Gallows Pole

  • by Ben Myers
  • ISBN: 9781526611154
  • Publication date: 2019

From his remote moorland home, David Hartley assembles a gang of weavers and land-workers to embark upon a criminal enterprise that will capsize the economy and become the biggest fraud in British history. They are the Cragg Vale Coiners and their business is 'clipping' - the forging of coins, a treasonous offence punishable by death. When an excise officer vows to bring them down and with the industrial age set to change the face of England forever, Hartley's empire begins to crumble. Forensically assembled, The Gallows Pole is a true story of resistance and a rarely told alternative history of the North.

We say: 'I enjoyed learning about the Crag Valley coin forgers of the late 18th century. Great dialogue. Nice bit of historical fiction.'


The Secret Scripture - A Novel

  • by Sebastian Barry
  • ISBN: 9780571215294
  • Publication date: 2009

Nearing her one-hundredth birthday, Roseanne McNulty faces an uncertain future, as the Roscommon Regional Mental hospital where she's spent the best part of her adult life prepares for closure. Over the weeks leading up to this upheaval, she talks often with her psychiatrist Dr Grene, and their relationship intensifies and complicates. Told through their respective journals, the story that emerges is at once shocking and deeply beautiful.

We say: 'I love the way this author writes. The way he creates a POV of a 100-year-old woman in a mental institution is convincing. The story and language takes some getting into but I was emotionally invested in her relationship with over characters , one of the few books to make me cry.'


The Manningtree Witches

  • by A. K. Blakemore
  • ISBN: 9781783786442
  • Publication date: 2021

England, 1643. Puritanical fervour has gripped the nation. In Manningtree, depleted of men since the Civil War began, the women are left to their own devices and Rebecca West chafes against the drudgery of her days. But when Matthew Hopkins arrives, asking bladed questions and casting damning accusations, mistrust and unease seep into the lives of the women. Caught between betrayal and persecution, what must Rebecca West do to survive?

We say: 'Great debut. A compelling story. Lyrical language without being flowery or indulgent. Learned a lot about 17th Century Witch Trials in England.'


On the Road

  • by Jack Kerouac
  • ISBN: 9780241951538
  • Publication date: 1957

On the Road swings to the rhythms of 1950s underground America, jazz, sex, generosity, chill dawns and drugs, with Sal Paradise and his hero Dean Moriarty, traveller and mystic, the living epitome of Beat. Now recognized as a modern classic, its American Dream is nearer that of Walt Whitman than Scott Fitzgerald, and it goes racing towards the sunset with unforgettable exuberance, poignancy and autobiographical passion.

We say: 'I’ve read it several times since my teenage days and every decade since. It always stands the test of time.'


The Keeper of Lost Things

  • by Ruth Hogan
  • ISBN: 9781473635487
  • Publication date: 2017

Once a celebrated author of short stories now in his twilight years, Anthony Peardew has spent half his life collecting lost objects, trying to atone for a promise broken many years before. Realising he is running out of time, he leaves his house and all its lost treasures to his assistant Laura, the one person he can trust to fulfil his legacy and reunite the thousands of objects with their rightful owners. But the final wishes of the 'Keeper of Lost Things' have unforeseen repercussions which trigger a most serendipitous series of encounters...

We say: 'It’s such a lovely human story about a collection of lost and found objects left to someone who can be trusted to find their rightful owners. Just a beautiful read.'


The Tent, the Bucket and Me

  • by Emma Kennedy
  • ISBN: 9780091926793
  • Publication date: 2010

For the 70s child, summer holidays didn't mean the joy of CentreParcs or the sophistication of a Tuscan villa. They meant being crammed into a car with Grandma and heading to the coast. With just a tent for a home and a bucket for the necessities, we would set off on new adventures each year stoically resolving to enjoy ourselves. For Emma Kennedy, and her mum and dad, disaster always came along for the ride no matter where they went. Whether it was being swept away by a force ten gale on the Welsh coast or suffering copious amounts of food poisoning on a brave trip to the south of France, family holidays always left them battered and bruised.

We say: 'The funniest most joyest read I have ever had the pleasure to read. If you want to escape the horridness of the world this is the book. There is no other book which I have bought for more people than this one!'


Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times

  • by Katherine May
  • ISBN: 9780091926793
  • Publication date: 2020

Wintering is a poignant and comforting meditation on the fallow periods of life, times when we must retreat to care for and repair ourselves. Katherine May thoughtfully shows us how to come through these times with the wisdom of knowing that, like the seasons, our winters and summers are the ebb and flow of life.

We say: 'So after you’ve laughed yourself better from my first recommendation you can comfort yourself with the gift on Wintering, my 2nd recommendation. It is beautifully written book about how we all need to take time to ‘winter’ like nature does by dying back, dropping leaves or hibernating. Wintering is taking time (albeit if you have that financial luxury and job security) to stop, and recognising that it is important to do so before reaching burn out. It is not about retreating from life fully but giving yourself permission to say no and to nurture yourself. It doesn’t have to be at Winter time either. My copy is hardback and it is printed on this lovely off white smooth paper, it is lovely to hold.'


A Confederacy of Dunces

  • by John Kennedy Toole
  • ISBN: 9780241951590
  • Publication date: 1963 (1980)

Ignatius J. Reilly: fat, flatulent, eloquent and almost unemployable. By the standards of ordinary folk he is pretty much unhinged, too. But is he bothered by this?

No. For this misanthropic crusader against an America fallen into vice and ignorance has a mission: to rescue a naked female philosopher in distress. And he has a pirate costume and hot-dog cart to do it with . . .

'This is probably my favourite book of all time' Billy Connolly

We say: 'This is a really unique book and hard to explain - you can kind of see why it only got published 11 years after the author's death. Not everyone will like it - but for those who do it will be one of the funniest things you have ever read'.


My Brilliant Friend

  • by Elena Ferrante
  • ISBN: 9781609450786
  • Publication date: 2012

This novel is a rich, intense, and generous-hearted story about two friends, Elena and Lila. Ferrante's inimitable style lends itself perfectly to a meticulous portrait of these two women that is also the story of a nation and a touching meditation on the nature of friendship.

We say: 'I'm really recommending the whole series of Neapolitan novels, of which this is the first book. It's a great story of friendship - but it's a lot more than that as well: a depiction of post-WW2 Italian political and social history from the perspective of people growing up in inner city Naples, but written in an intense page-turning style which will make you thankful there are four long volumes to get through!'.


Cold Comfort Farm

  • by Stella Gibbons
  • ISBN: 9780140188691
  • Publication date: 1933

Winner of the 1933 Femina Vie Heureuse Prize, Cold Comfort Farm is a witty, irreverent parody of the works of Thomas Hardy and D.H. Lawrence. Flora Poste, left an orphan at the end of her "expensive, athletic, and prolonged" education, sets off for her relatives at Cold Comfort Farm, despite dire warnings of doom and damnation. Once there she encounters Seth, full of rampant sexuality; Elfine, who flits in and out in a cloak that is decidedly the wrong color; Meriam, the hired girl who gets pregnant every year when the "sukebind is in bloom;" and Aunt Ada Doom, the aging, reclusive matriarch who once "saw something nasty in the woodshed." Flora decides to "tidy up life at Cold Comfort Farm." Mocking Hardy's and Lawrence's melodrama, sensuality, and use of symbolism, Stella Gibbons has Flora, with her no-nonsense attitude, give Elfine a good haircut, teach Meriam some elementary lessons in birth control and send various morose, rural relatives off to happier fates.


Diary of a Nobody

  • by George Grosssmith
  • ISBN: 9780140188691
  • Publication date: 1919

The diary is that of a man who acknowledges that he is not a "Somebody" - Charles Pooter of 'The Laurels', Brickfield Terrace, Holloway, a clerk in the city of London - and it chronicles in hilarious detail the everyday life of the lower middle class during the Great Victorian age.




The Living Mountain

  • by Nan Shepherd
  • ISBN: 9780857861832
  • Publication date: 2011

In this masterpiece of nature writing, Nan Shepherd describes her journeys into the Cairngorm mountains of Scotland. There she encounters a world that can be breathtakingly beautiful at times and shockingly harsh at others. Her intense, poetic prose explores and records the rocks, rivers, creatures and hidden aspects of this remarkable landscape.

We say: 'Bliss to escape and feel you’re away from everything in the Cairngorms. Written in the 1940s but could have been yesterday.'



  • by George Eliot
  • ISBN: 9780230026865
  • Publication date: 1871/72

George Eliot's nuanced and moving novel is a masterly evocation of connected lives, changing fortunes and human frailties in a provincial community. Peopling its landscape are Dorothea Brooke, a young idealist whose search for intellectual fulfilment leads her into a disastrous marriage to the pedantic scholar Casaubon; Dr Lydgate, whose pioneering medical methods, combined with an imprudent marriage to the spendthrift beauty Rosamond, threaten to undermine his career; and the religious hypocrite Bulstrode, hiding scandalous crimes from his past.

We say: 'Said by some to be the best work of literature in the English language, it does not disappoint. It is a sprawling novel of magisterial proportion, that still provides incredible insight into the more mundane aspects of the human mind.'


The Hours

  • by Michael Cunningham
  • ISBN: 9781841150352
  • Publication date: 1999

In 1920s London, Virginia Woolf is fighting against her rebellious spirit as she attempts to make a start on her new novel. A young wife and mother, broiling in a suburb of 1940s Los Angeles, yearns to escape and read her precious copy of ‘Mrs Dalloway’. And Clarissa Vaughan steps out of her smart Greenwich village apartment in 1990s New York to buy flowers for a party she is hosting for a dying friend. Moving effortlessly across the decades and between England and America, this exquisite novel intertwines the stories of three unforgettable women.

We say: 'A deft reworking of Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway, that weaves together the unravelling lives of three women, builds into an affectively powerful work—one that has remained with me long after reading.'


Through a Window

  • by Jane Goodall
  • ISBN: 9781474615822
  • Publication date: 1990

Equipped with little more than a notebook, binoculars, and her fascination with wildlife, Jane braved a realm of unknowns to give the world a remarkable window into humankind's closest living relatives. On the shores of Lake Tanganyika, Gombe is a community where the principal residents are chimpanzees. Through Goodall's eyes we watch as the younger chimpanzees vie for power, and how the leaders must deal with this challenge. We learn how one mother successfully rears her children, whilst another appears to doom her offspring to failure. All life is here - glorious births and heart-breaking deaths, moments of brutality, alongside the most tender displays of affection.

We say: 'The compelling lives of the chimpanzees of the Gombe National Park relayed in Jane Goodall’s clear language and personable tone. There are surprising pleasures to be found in this accessible work of primatology.'


Unforbidden Pleasures

  • by Adam Phillips
  • ISBN: 9780241964088
  • Publication date: 2016

Society is fascinated by taboo - we spend our lives chasing illicit pleasures - but nobody pays much attention to all the unforbidden pleasures freely available to us every day. Could we be gaining just as much reward from these unnoticed, unforbidden indulgences as from the much-glorified forbidden - or even more?

We say: 'Another example of Adam Phillips’ astute understanding of the human subject—and further evidence of the continuing relevance of psychoanalysis in the present day. It can be thrilling and, indeed, challenging to see one’s self writ upon the page so plainly.'


Pig Tales

  • by Marie Darrieussecq
  • ISBN: 9780571193721
  • Publication date: 1998

Pig Tales is a brilliant satirical novel about a stunning young woman working in a beauty 'massage' parlour. She enjoys extraordinary success at bringing home the bacon (in part due to her increasingly rosy and irresistible backside) until she slowly metamorphoses - into a pig. Rejected by her boyfriend, left to wander the sewers and forage for food in public parks, she takes up with a werewolf with insatiable appetites. They share everything (pizza is a particular favourite; she gets the pizza, he gets the delivery boy) until someone alerts the authorities and tragedy strikes . . .

We say: 'A disturbingly sensual romp I have returned to over and over.'


The Arcades Project

  • by Walter Benjamin
  • ISBN: 9780674008021
  • Publication date: 1999

Focusing on the arcades of nineteenth-century Paris-glass-roofed rows of shops that were early centers of consumerism--Benjamin presents a montage of quotations from, and reflections on, hundreds of published sources, arranging them in thirty-six categories with descriptive rubrics such as "Fashion," "Boredom," "Dream City," "Photography," "Catacombs," "Advertising," "Prostitution," "Baudelaire," and "Theory of Progress." His central preoccupation is what he calls the commodification of things--a process in which he locates the decisive shift to the modern age.

We say: 'Don’t be frightened by the scale. It’s built to be moved through much like the arcades themselves – with wandering attention and constant distraction. Some of the greatest and most beautiful thinking on modernity, history and politics and art to exist.'


As When

  • by Tom Raworth
  • ISBN: 9781784100339
  • Publication date: 2015

Dubbed 'an immaculate survivor' by Robert Creeley, Tom Raworth has remained steadfastly independent of literary fashions and cliques throughout a poetic career spanning fifty years. As When is the first selection of Raworth's writing to address the full range of his work, from the first poem he ever shared with anyone outside his family, 'You Were Wearing Blue', to his most recently published poem, 'Surfing the Permafrost through Methane Flares'.

We say: 'One of my favourite poets. His poetry often makes me laugh and I don’t know why but I suspect it was intended.'


A Fine Balance

  • by Rohinton Mistry
  • ISBN: 9780571230587
  • Publication date: 1996

India, 1975. An unnamed city by the sea. The government has just declared a State of Emergency. Amidst a backdrop of wild political turmoil, the lives of four unlikely strangers collide forever. An epic panorama of modern India in all its corruption, violence, and heroism, A Fine Balanceis Rohinton Mistry's prize-winning masterpiece: a Dickensian modern classic brimming with compassion, humour, and insight - and a hymn to the human spirit in an inhuman state.

We say: 'This 'state of the nation' novel set in 1970s India is remarkable in its scope, yet the way in which the author gives us access to the various main characters means the reader is left with a deeper experience and a real connection with each of their triumphs and troubles. Or at least that's what it did for me.'


Billy Liar

  • by Keith Waterhouse
  • ISBN: 9780140017830
  • Publication date: 1959

Keith Waterhouse's Billy Liar was published in 1959, and captures brilliantly the claustrophobic atmosphere of a small town. It tells the story of Billy Fisher, a Yorkshire teenager unable to stop lying - especially to his three girlfriends. Trapped by his boring job and working-class parents, Billy finds that his only happiness lies in grand plans for his future and fantastical day-dreams of the fictional country Ambrosia.

We say: 'One of the most entertaining comic fantasists ever created: William Fisher, the working class 19 year old suffocating in a small northern town. It may be possible that some of the attitudes in the book are rather 'of their time', yet the humour and storytelling allow it to transcend such problems. There is tenderness, humility and fear beneath Billy's grandiose self-image and for me, that saves him and the book. The sequel 'Billy Liar on the Moon' is great too and very underrated.'


The Secret History

  • by Donna Tartt
  • ISBN: 9780140167771
  • Publication date: 1993

Under the influence of a charismatic classics professor, a group of clever, eccentric misfits at a New England college discover a way of thought and life a world away from their banal contemporaries. But their search for the transcendent leads them down a dangerous path, beyond human constructs of morality.

We say: 'It’s been described as ‘haunting, compelling and brilliant’ (The Times), and is the perfect American campus novel. This story, told from the point of view of an outsider who is accepted into a privileged clique of Classics undergraduate students, grips the reader from its opening confession of murder. It’s beautifully written, evocative of the 90s, and a novel to get lost in.'