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Time to turn the page…

While we’re all feeling hunkered down there’s never been a better way to escape to another world than by snuggling up with a good book.

We have some talented local authors in the city so ESP asked one of them to recommend us some great reads. Darren O’Sullivan, over to you…

I’m one of those lucky enough to say I write for a living. Being the author of four (very soon to be five, more on that later) thriller novels with HarperCollins, you’d hope I knew a little about what makes a good story, and why we need them in our lives, especially now.

Stories have existed since the dawn of civilisation, the passing down of fables and morals, delivered in a way which can grab a listener and keep them hooked. It is the fabric of who we are. Telling stories is in our DNA. And in the modern age of streaming services, three hundred and thirty mine million channels, (mild exaggeration) and the ability to watch TV in the palm of our hands, stories are everywhere.

The need for books has never been more vital. I’ve selected from two genres that I read often. Uplifting/thought-provoking, and thrillers. Uplifting literature is an obvious choice right now, but you might think a thriller in this current climate is a daft idea, in part, I agree. Thrillers, if done well, get our hearts racing, and aren’t our poor hearts dealing with a lot as it is?  But, for me, thrillers are the ultimate escape, allowing me to get so lost in the world the author has created, I forget everything else.

Writing this was so hard, as there are hundreds of books I love, but I’ve managed to get it down to eight – four uplifting tales and four thrillers.

I’m going to start with a book that quite literally changed my life. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. I first read this book, many, many years ago, and it’s been one I come back to time and time again. Its simplicity, and hope-filled message is elevating. I’ve pinched the blurb for this book, as it tells you exactly why I love it…

Paulo Coelho’s masterpiece tells the mystical story of Santiago, an Andalusian shepherd boy who yearns to travel in search of a worldly treasure. His quest will lead him to riches far different—and far more satisfying—than he ever imagined. Santiago’s journey teaches us about the essential wisdom of listening to our hearts, of recognising opportunity and learning to read the omens strewn along life’s path, and, most importantly, to follow our dreams.

If you’ve read this, you’ll know exactly what I mean when I say it’s freeing. It allowed me to really dream, and then, work towards making it a reality. If you’ve not read this book, oh my, you are in for a treat. The Alchemist is a simple story of hope and love, and although relatively short for a book (approx. 50,000 words) it is no less powerful.

Others that are brilliant in the same uplifting genre are:

Life of Pi by Yann Martel. As in the movie, Life of Pi, but of course, the book is so much better.

Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom. Tissues will be needed for this one. A lot of them!

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini. There are no words, it is just beautiful!

I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes is one I have escaped into and it is a thriller, in fact, I might go as far to say, it’s the perfect thriller. It’s the one I wish I was clever enough to write.

Where do I begin? This story is so cleverly written it feels like a movie (probably because Terry Hayes is also the writer of several films and TV programmes), the pace is relentless, the twists just keep coming and by the time I was at the end, I was exhausted, in the best possible way.

A young woman murdered. All of her identifying characteristics dissolved by acid.

A father publicly beheaded. Killed in the blistering heat of a Saudi Arabian public square.

A Syrian biotech expert found eyeless. Dumped in a Damascus junkyard.

Smouldering human remains. Abandoned on a remote mountainside in Afghanistan.

Pilgrim. The codename for a man who doesn’t exist. A man who must return from obscurity. The only man who can uncover a flawless plot to commit an appalling crime against humanity.

This book literally takes you all over the world, there is no better way to escape.

If you like thrillers, here are a few others in the same genre that are just as amazing:

The One by John Marrs. This is soon to be a Netflix series.

Sleep by C.L. Taylor. A Sunday Times bestseller.

We Begin At The End, by Chris Whitaker. This book arguably has the best character I have ever read!

The Players, by Darren O’Sullivan. Just kidding, well, kinda not kidding. Please buy my book, it’s out in January, and set in our very own Peterborough city centre!

So, there we are, some of my favourite books that have helped me escape during 2020 and I really hope they work for you too, let me know your thoughts. You can find me on @darrensully on social media. I’d love to know your favourite books too, so please, get in touch, help me discover some hidden gems.

Stay safe everyone.


More about Darren…

ESP is always keen to celebrate our local talent and Peterborough author Darren O’Sullivan has written five novels for HarperCollins which have sold across a dozen countries and in several languages. Our Little Secret, Close Your Eyes, Closer Than you Think and Dark Corners are about to be followed by his latest thrilling novel, The Players, which is out on January 21.

It’s been described as:

‘Saw meets I See You in this dark, twisted and deadly game of kill or be killed. I held my breath from beginning to end’  by CL Taylor and ‘A clever concept thriller that leaves you breathless. Darren O’Sullivan’s best work yet’  by John Marrs.

In this game it’s kill or be killed as you’re forced to play a game where nobody wins! The Players, is a story based on true events, and is set in our very own Peterborough city centre.


Written by ESP Magazine

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