Sometimes the everyday stresses of life have a way of getting on top of you, and you can find yourself wishing you could escape and be somewhere else entirely.
Whether you turn to the past in search of simpler times, dream of alternate realities, or look up to the stars in search of some greater perspective, there is always one refuge waiting for you when needed - the joy of reading.
However, not all books are made equal and some are more therapeutic than others when you are looking to temporarily bury your head in the sand. So, to help you find the right read, we’ve rounded up 10 of the best escapist books.
The Lord of the Rings series
Tolkien's fantasy trilogy is undoubtedly the epitome of escapist reads. Whether you've read them a hundred times or not at all, these books are always guaranteed to fully immerse you into the ancient magical world of hobbits, dragons and wizards.
This fantastical tale follows the story of Frodo, a young hobbit who finds a long-lost, ancient and all powerful ring. This discovery leads to an epic yet daunting adventure to destroy the ring and defeat the evil forces threatening to destroy the world. With a series like this in your hand, boredom will be a thing of the past.
Noughts & Crosses series
The best escapist reads tend to keep you thinking long after the final page has turned. Malorie Blackman’s Noughts & Crosses is that kind of read.
This thought-provoking series follows a blossoming Romeo & Juliet-style romance, set in an alternate reality, where Africa has colonised Europe. The black ruling class, the Crosses, heavily oppress the white lower class, the Noughts.
The series essentially turns the very real history of apartheid and racial segregation on its head, introducing you to a newly envisioned England, now named Albion.
While it is classed as a young adult series, Noughts & Crosses has also proved largely popular with a not-so-young adult audience. This is a thoroughly engrossing read which encourages the reader to personally reflect upon the uncomfortable subject matter of ethnic dominance, privilege, and a lack thereof.
Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series
Sometimes all you need from an escapist novel is a really good laugh to make any present woes disappear. If your spirits are in need of a lift and you wish to put the real world on hold for a little while, this is the book for the job.
A science fiction trilogy in five parts, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy was initially released as radio episodes, with the book adaptation published the following year. The story begins just before the earth is to be destroyed to make way for an hyperspace bypass. It focuses on earthling Arthur Dent, who after being saved from the destruction, embarks on a mind boggling adventure through the universe with alien, Ford Prefect - a researcher for the titular Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.
Its combination of outrageous characters, a surreal yet playful universe and its quintessential dry English wit make it an unforgettable read.
David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas doesn't provide you with just one engrossing plotline to get lost in, but spoils you with six. These six narratives follow the lives of six very different people from very different walks of life.
With tales spanning from the mid-19th century to the far reaches of the future, there’s never a dull moment in this book. It almost reads like a collection of short stories. Yet - without giving away any spoilers - these individual tales are more linked than they seem, allowing the overarching narrative to muse upon the interconnectedness of humanity.
This 2012 thriller by Gillian Flynn is an intense yet atypical 'whodunit' novel, in which the main detective is none other than the reader themselves.
The narrative alternates between the perspective of the two central characters, Amy and Nick Dunne - a young married couple. After Amy mysteriously goes missing on their wedding anniversary, the reader is left to question the trustworthiness of both characters and their accounts of the events which lead up to it.
This is a book with several twists and turns that will keep you constantly on your toes. The book gained a great deal of popularity, featuring on the New York Times Best Seller list, and was made into a successful film.
Call Me By Your Name
Set in an endless Italian summer, Call Me By Your Name is a moving story about a blossoming gay romance between a young boy and an older American Jewish scholar, who is staying at his parent’s home in the beautiful Italian Riviera.
While it is a short-lived romance spanning merely six weeks, it soon develops into a highly charged experience for both of them, and one that is not forgotten. Spanning the 20 years that follow, this is a compelling read about the rare beauty of true intimacy.
Not all escapist reads are fiction, as Yuval Noah Harari’s Sapiens proves. Initially published in Harari’s native Hebrew in 2011, and subsequently in English three years later, it leans on natural sciences, such as evolutionary biology, to examine the magnitude of human evolution.
The book's escapism lies in its encouragement of big picture thinking. This book will take you from some of the earliest years of human existence up to the present day, and on a mind-blowing discovery of our past.
The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe
Nothing beats a bit of nostalgia to help you mentally escape the present. Yet, even if you weren’t read this classic children’s book before bed, you’ll soon be deeply lost in Narnia before you can say "Mr Tumnus".
The book follows Lucy and her siblings as they discover an enchanted world, before uniting with some of its endearing inhabitants in order to save it - and them - from an evil queen. CS Lewis’ novel is especially soothing if you find yourself inside with nowhere to go. The promise of a near-idyllic fantasyland awaiting just behind your wardrobe doors is something dreams are made of, for both children and adults alike.
A Brief History of Time
Stephen Hawking’s first and, arguably, most famous book, A Brief History of Time, is a great option for those wishing to escape the everyday, while also learning something new in the process. Written for just that purpose, it is never condescending, even with its somewhat intimidating subject matter - the origin and evolution of the universe.
Also pondering on the eventual fate of the universe, the book covers the basics in modern physics and astronomy, along with the interwoven concepts of time and space. While this is strictly a non-fiction book, Hawking's later-added chapter on time travel and wormholes will certainly appeal to those with a love of science fiction. Considered a major achievement in scientific writing, it has sold over nine million copies worldwide.
The Harry Potter series
What better way to forget the stresses of everyday life than by entering the Wizarding World? If you find yourself more familiar with the film adaptations - which have been as globally popular as the novels themselves - then there is no time like the present to immerse yourself in JK Rowling’s captivating written world.
As soon as you put the first book down, you’ll be comforted to know that there are many more to come (with seven books in total), giving you plenty of time to get fully lost in all things magical.
Those of you that have previously binge-read the series will surely not need reminding - there is no limit on the number of times you can take refuge inside the enchanting walls of Hogwarts. So join Harry, Ron and Hermoine once again, as they navigate a world of spells, potions and quidditch, alongside fighting dark magical forces.