How to choose which Bond book you should read this summer

While many of Bond’s best adventures are yet to hit the big screen, there’s a fair few already on the bookshelf. Here’s how to pick one…

If we’re lucky, September will bring us a brand new Bond adventure. Daniel Craig will holster up his Walther PPK for one final time and take audiences into martini-quaffing, car-rolling, black-tying battle with Rami Malek’s villainous ‘Safin’. The story will flit from Norway to Cuba to Italy — and looks to be one rip-roarer of a ride.

Still, an entire summer is a long while to wait. But, while many of Bond’s best adventures are yet to hit the big screen, there’s a fair few already on the bookshelf. And, from Fleming’s original series of novels to many modern authors’ attempts at 007 stories, we’ve bookmarked and burned through almost every title in search of the best.

So, if you’re looking to crack the spine on a gripping espionage thriller this summer, here’s how to choose which Bond book is right for you…

If you’ve never read a Bond book before…

You’ve likely seen a Bond film or two. Perhaps you’ve seen them all. But that doesn’t mean you’re an expert. If this is your first foray into the world of literary 007, there are several choice places to start. For one, the beginning of Fleming’s franchise; ‘Casino Royale’. The 2006 film was remarkably faithful to the original 1953 novel, so you’ll have no trouble visualising all the Vesper-mixing, baccarat-playing and yes, even that scene with the chair.

Alternatively, you could skip ahead in the series. ‘Thunderball’, the ninth entry in the series, sees the first appearance of terrorist organisation SPECTRE — and begins an unofficial trilogy that concludes with ‘You Only Live Twice’. Or, for a change of pace, ‘On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’ sees Bond marry, show a more emotional side and reveal deeper secrets about the agent; a psychological portrait of the character.

How to choose which Bond book you should read this summer

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service

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If you’re looking for a summer escape…

The weather is hot, the days are long — but the borders remain, sadly, restricted. And that means holidays are at a minimum this year. So why not dive headlong into the pages of one of Fleming’s more far-flung Bond adventures? Because there are some terrifically tropical destinations to get lost in…

‘Live and Let Die’ springs to mind. The second Bond book follows the superspy from New York to Florida — and then to Fleming’s own favourite island country, Jamaica. ‘Dr. No’ washes up on the fictional shores of sun-dappled Crab Key in the Caribbean, and ‘The Man with the Golden Gun’, Fleming’s final Bond novel, returns for a final time to the Jamaican swamps and sugar plantations. 

How to choose which Bond book you should read this summer

The Man with the Golden Gun

£10

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If you’re looking for something short…

Of course, if you’re boarding a short-haul flight or heading off on a mini-break, you’ll want a briefer Bond adventure. And Fleming wrote his fair share. Between 1959 and 1965, the author penned nine short stories for Bond, featuring in publications as distinct and disparate as the Daily Express, Playboy, The Sunday Times and Cosmopolitan. 

These works, including ‘007 in New York’, From a ‘View to a Kill’ and ‘The Property of a Lady’, were collected into two volumes; ‘For Your Eyes Only’ and ‘Octopussy and The Living Daylights’. Alternatively, when Raymond Benson began writing the Bond novels in 1997 (he wrote six full-length books), the American author released three short stories. His first effort, ‘Blast from the Past’ is best; a sequel to ‘You Only Live Twice’. 

How to choose which Bond book you should read this summer

Octopussy and The Living Daylights

£9

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If you’re looking for something modern…

Finally, like the Benson books mentioned above, you could avoid Fleming altogether. If, thanks to the film adaptations, you already know how many of the original novels end, there have also been scores of original, official 007 books released since Fleming set down his pen in 1965. From Kingsley Amis to John Gardner, many writers have taken up Fleming’s mantle.

But the best are the relatively modern efforts. ‘Carte Blanche’, by Jeffery Deaver, brings Bond storming into the 21st century with a gripping story of twists and unsavoury turns. ‘Solo’ sees William Boyd give us a 60s Bond, tasked with stopping a civil war in the fictional country of Zanzarim. And the latest official Bond release, Anthony Horowitz’s ‘Forever and a Day’ is another corker; a considered prequel to ‘Casino Royale’ that tells the tale of a fledging, less confident Bond. 

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