Author Harlan Coben praises the Queen on her approach to promoting reading

Bestselling author Harlan Coben has commended the Queen and the Queen’s Reading Room charity for their approach to encouraging people to read.

American Coben, 62, who has more than 80 million books in print worldwide, is famous for novels including Win, The Boy From The Woods, Run Away, Fool Me Once, Tell No One and the Myron Bolitar thriller series

Several of his books have been adapted by Netflix, most recently Fool Me Once, which starred Dame Joanna Lumley and Michelle Keegan, and was a hit for the streaming service, topping the list of most-watched programmes.

The Queen’s Reading Room charity reception
Harlan Coben, Donna Tartt, the Queen, Helena Bonham Carter and Dame Joanna Lumley during a reception to mark the findings of a new research study commissioned by The Queen’s Reading Room charity (Yui Mok/PA)

He is among the impressive line-up for the Queen’s Reading Room festival, now in its second year, which is being held at Hampton Court Palace on June 8.

Coben, who met the Queen earlier in the year during an event at Clarence House, told the PA news agency of the “tremendous honour” of being asked to appear at the literary festival.

He said: “But also what made it better for me is, especially after going to the Clarence House event, what the Queen’s Reading Room is doing, which is so unusual and different.

“I’ve done a lot for a lot of literary groups and we’re always trying to encourage people to read, young people to read, old people to read, and the Queen is doing that.

“But I think by tying it into actual science is what I find so interesting.

“When we were at Clarence House there was a lot of scientists there, who by looking at brainwaves and things like that, have discovered that reading … is good for you, that reading a novel or a book, not scrolling on your phone, increases empathy, and reduces stress and is good for your mental health.

“We know that, but to actually see the science behind it … I think that’s really powerful stuff and I commend the Queen and the Queen’s Reading Room for taking that approach to it”.

Netflix series Fool Me Once photocall – London
Dame Joanna Lumley, Harlan Coben, Michelle Keegan and Richard Armitage attend a photocall for Fool Me Once (Ian West/PA)

On meeting the Queen, Coben said: “I don’t get nervous very often.

“But I have to confess that coming into Clarence House was fun, intimidating, and she has a instant warmth to her, the Queen, even in the few seconds that you first meet her that she’s so gracious and of course you’re nervous … she immediately makes you feel at ease.

“She was extraordinarily polite. And I’ve been told by others who knew her personally that she is extraordinarily warm and down to earth.

“And that was the feeling that I got almost instantly from her, and I think everyone in the room did, it was a really interesting dynamic that she created for all of us to put us all at ease.”

This year Coben and novelist Mick Herron, whose works were adapted into Apple+ series Slow Horses, will be in conversation together at the literary festival in a session hosted by Welsh author Ken Follett, whose work includes The Pillars Of The Earth.

Also on the bill for the Queen’s Reading Room festival are the authors Sir Ian Rankin, Ann Cleeves, Lee Child, Elif Shafak and Kate Mosse.

Other speakers include historian Mary Beard, screenwriter Alex Michaelides and broadcaster Reverend Richard Coles.

The former Duchess of Cornwall launched The Reading Room on Instagram in January 2021 and the project was relaunched as charity The Queen’s Reading Room in February 2023.

It also has a podcast whose second series guests included Good Omens and Stardust author Neil Gaiman and Withnail And I actor Richard E Grant.

In March, the Queen gathered authors, academics and celebrity supporters for an evening reception at Clarence House to mark new research commissioned by her literary project.

She highlighted the research during a speech, saying: “In addition to our five a day and our 10,000 steps, we should all be aiming for at least five minutes of reading every day for invaluable benefits for brain health and mental wellbeing.

“Just as we always suspected, books are good for us – and now science is proving us right!”

The Queen’s Reading Room festival is a co-production between The Queen’s Reading Room and Historic Royal Palaces, the independent charity that cares for Hampton Court Palace.

The event takes place at Hampton Court Palace on June 8 with tickets available now.