Revolutionary reads

Revolutions and revolts have long caught the public imagination, from Dickens to Dahl 

The unfolding events in the civil war-torn countries of the world are hard to look away from, with news updated every moment and uncertainty and terror splashed across the web, TV screens and newsprint.

Yet, as this year has thus far proved, rebellion, regime change and hope of revolution have happened before - and will again. And it's a ripe topic for literature, from the French Revolution-set A Tale of Two Cities by Dickens and Baroness Orczy's The Scarlet Pimpernel to young Marxist Che Guevara's memoirs The Motorcycle Diaries.

Below are five books which explore the very notions of revolution:

Ten Days That Shook the World

American journalist John Reed’s classic is an eyewitness account of the Russian Revolution. Published in 1919, it follows the events of November 1917 in Petrograd, when Lenin and the Bolsheviks finally seized power over the Tsarist regime. Using the stories of soldiers, peasants, bystanders and the speeches of leaders, Reed’s first-hand account is unashamedly on the side of the proles. He died in 1920, not long after his book was published.

A Place of Greater Safety

Wolf Hall's Hilary Mantel’s doorstopper of a novel (Fourth Estate) is an almost day-by-day account of the French Revolution through the eyes of three of its main agents: Georges-Jacques Danton, Maximilien Robespierre and Camille Desmoulins. It’s a pacy story and a heartbreaking tale of how idealism is corrupted by ambition and power.

Charlotte Grey

In this Second World War novel (Vintage), Sebastian Faulks tells the story of a young Scottish woman who is drawn into working for the resistance in Nazi-occupied France. It was later made into a film starring Cate Blanchett.


Another novel that became a hit film. Marjane Satrapi's ground-breaking autobiographical graphic novel Persepolis (Vintage) is set in Iran during the Islamic revolution, and deals with the topics of dictatorship, oppression - and growing up - with humour and heart.


A classic children’s novel about the overthrowing of tyranny. As in many of Roald Dahl’s most rebellious stories, the bullying, stupid grown ups reach their comeuppance through the actions of the oppressed children. In this case, child-hating headmistress Miss Trunchbull, who terrorises her pupils with the threat of “the Chokey”, a cupboard lined with broken glass and nails, is eventually defeated by the cunning and magic skills of the protagonist, book-loving little girl Matilda.