Jo Usmar (BA English Literature, 2005) is a Cosmopolitan columnist, freelance writer and co-author of the This Book Will series of lifestyle books. Here she picks her top five reads.
Rachel's Holiday - Marian Keyes
Marian Keyes gives the proverbial finger to anyone that has ever snorted derisively at 'chick lit'. She makes painful situations accessible and thigh-slappingly hilarious. Rachel isn't on holiday - she's in rehab. She's determined to believe she's not addicted to drugs.
After Dark - Haruki Murakami
This couldn't be further from Marian Keyes. It's about two sisters - Eri, a model who either won't or can't stop sleeping, and Mari, a young, isolated student. In trying to connect to her sister, Mari starts changing her life and discovers a world of diverse 'night people' who are hiding secrets.
Matilda - Roald Dahl
I wrote my dissertation on the influence of fairy tales on Roald Dahl's writing and it gave me a new appreciation for his weird and wonderful worlds. Matilda's battles with her hideous parents and the tyrannical headmistress, Miss Trunchbull, are equally funny and frightening, but they're also aspirational. Dahl wrote scary stuff about real issues, which is timeless.
The Stand - Stephen King
This is an epic fantasy horror novel from one of the best storytellers around. After a virulent flu outbreak wipes out 99.4% of the world's population, a battle rages between good and evil among those left. Randall Flagg - basically the devil in denim - is one of the scariest characters ever. Fact.
Gone Girl - Gillian Flynn
There was a bit of me that didn't want to love this when everyone else on the planet did, but it's brilliant. There's tension and anxiety from the beginning as both narrators, Nick and Amy, battle for your trust. It's a genuine whodunnit and the frustration when you realise what's going on is horribly enjoyable.