I used to adore reading, and don’t get me wrong, I still do – but in a world that moves so fast it’s often hard to find the time to sit down and actually open a book. I really want to embrace the autumn by changing that, and find more time in the day, to invest in important things for our mind and soul like reading. By next year, I am determined to read at least two books a month. I’m not sure how I’ll succeed in that challenge, but boy will I be giving it a go. Below are some of my favourite books that if you start, I guarantee you won’t be able to put down! (I couldn’t anyway.)
THE LIGHT BETWEEN OCEANS, M.L STEDMAN.
A captivating, beautiful, and stunningly accomplished debut novel that opens in 1918 Australia – the story of a lighthouse keeper and his wife who make one devastating choice that forever changes two worlds.
Australia, 1926. After four harrowing years fighting on the Western Front, Tom Sherbourne returns home to take a job as the lighthouse keeper on Janus Rock, nearly half a day’s journey from the coast. To this isolated island, where the supply boat comes once a season and shore leaves are granted every other year at best, Tom brings a young, bold, and loving wife, Isabel. Years later, after two miscarriages and one stillbirth, the grieving Isabel hears a baby’s cries on the wind. A boat has washed up onshore carrying a dead man and a living baby.
Tom, whose records as a lighthouse keeper are meticulous and whose moral principles have withstood a horrific war, wants to report the man and infant immediately. But Isabel has taken the tiny baby to her breast. Against Tom’s judgment, they claim her as their own and name her Lucy. When she is two, Tom and Isabel return to the mainland and are reminded that there are other people in the world. Their choice has devastated one of them.
I have done a whole separate review on this book, but it’s so moving, real and completely timeless. I like to think that I’ll find myself reading this book throughout the years and my ever-changing life. I could never recommend this enough.
‘This is not my world. Something is wrong, askew. . . I am Ellie Falkner, thirty-four years old and married to Greg Manning. Although two police officers have just come to my door and told me he is dead . . . ‘
It’s devastating to hear that your husband has died in a horrific car accident. But to learn that he died with a mystery woman as his passenger is torment. Was Greg having an affair?
Drowning in grief, Ellie clings to Greg’s innocence, and her determination to prove it to the world at large means she must find out who Milena Livingstone was and what she was doing in Greg’s car. But in the process those around her begin to question her sanity and motive. And the louder she shouts that Greg must have been murdered, the more suspicion falls on Ellie herself.
Sometimes it’s safer to keep silent when someone dies.
This novel is unpredictable and addictive. It breaks your heart, and makes you question everything that the author has told you. If you’re looking for a heartbreaking thriller, this is it!
ME BEFORE YOU, JOJO MOYES.
Louisa Clark is an ordinary young woman living an exceedingly ordinary life—steady boyfriend, close family—who has never been farther afield than their tiny village. She takes a badly needed job working for ex-Master of the Universe Will Traynor, who is wheelchair-bound after an accident. Will has always lived a huge life—big deals, extreme sports, worldwide travel—and now he’s pretty sure he cannot live the way he is.
Will is acerbic, moody, bossy—but Lou refuses to treat him with kid gloves, and soon his happiness means more to her than she expected. When she learns that Will has shocking plans of his own, she sets out to show him that life is still worth living.
This is one of the most bittersweet books that I have ever encountered. I love the colourful writing style of Moyes, it makes it very hard to put down, and the characters are so ridiculously relatable and sweet. Even if you have seen the recent film adaptation, reading this book is still utterly heartbreaking. (I cried).
DRACULA, BRAM STOKER.
Dracula is an 1897 Gothic horror novel by Irish author Bram Stoker. It introduced Count Dracula, and established many conventions of subsequent vampire fantasy. The novel tells the story of Dracula’s attempt to move from Transylvania to England so that he may find new blood and spread the undead curse, and of the battle between Dracula and a small group of men and a woman led by Professor Abraham Van Helsing.
I feel like this is one of those books that people always mean to read but never actually do, but I implore you to give it a go! I first read it when I played Lucy Westenra in a stage adaption and I was so HOOKED. It’s moving, and sad and terrifying. There’s a reason that it’s still a classic to this day.
A picture hides a thousand words . . .
On a hot July day in 1967, Odelle Bastien climbs the stone steps of the Skelton gallery in London, knowing that her life is about to change forever. Having struggled to find her place in the city since she arrived from Trinidad five years ago, she has been offered a job as a typist under the tutelage of the glamorous and enigmatic Marjorie Quick. But though Quick takes Odelle into her confidence, and unlocks a potential she didn’t know she had, she remains a mystery – no more so than when a lost masterpiece with a secret history is delivered to the gallery.
The truth about the painting lies in 1936 and a large house in rural Spain, where Olive Schloss, the daughter of a renowned art dealer, is harbouring ambitions of her own. Into this fragile paradise come artist and revolutionary Isaac Robles and his half-sister Teresa, who immediately insinuate themselves into the Schloss family, with explosive and devastating consequences . . .
This book is colourful, layered and so exciting. The author describes the scenes, from the colourful new age of London, to the Spanish rurality so beautifully, it’s as if you were there. It’s an easy and incredibly enjoyable read.
SAFE HAVEN, NICHOLAS SPARKS.
When a mysterious young woman named Katie appears in the small North Carolina town of Southport, her sudden arrival raises questions about her past. Beautiful yet self-effacing, Katie seems determined to avoid forming personal ties until a series of events draws her into two reluctant relationships: one with Alex, a widowed store owner with a kind heart and two young children; and another with her plainspoken single neighbor, Jo. Despite her reservations, Katie slowly begins to let down her guard, putting down roots in the close-knit community and becoming increasingly attached to Alex and his family.
But even as Katie begins to fall in love, she struggles with the dark secret that still haunts and terrifies her . . . a past that set her on a fearful, shattering journey across the country, to the sheltered oasis of Southport. With Jo’s empathic and stubborn support, Katie eventually realizes that she must choose between a life of transient safety and one of riskier rewards . . . and that in the darkest hour, love is the only true safe haven.
This book is one of my absolute favourite guilty pleasures. It’s so easy to read, yet so hard to put down. It’s exciting, sweet and scary, and makes you want to laugh, cry, and just appreciate life that little bit more. I’ve read it on holiday, and on the train. It’s a must read!
WUTHERING HEIGHTS, EMILY BRONTE.
Wuthering Heights is a wild, passionate story of the intense and almost demonic love between Catherine Earnshaw and Heathcliff, a foundling adopted by Catherine’s father. After Mr Earnshaw’s death, Heathcliff is bullied and humiliated by Catherine’s brother Hindley and wrongly believing that his love for Catherine is not reciprocated, leaves Wuthering Heights, only to return years later as a wealthy and polished man. He proceeds to exact a terrible revenge for his former miseries.
This book will always always be in my heart. I read it when I was cast as Catherine Linton, in a new film adaptation. Not only is it the book that helped me find my other half, (who played Hareton ironically), but it’s one that I’ll never forget reading for the first time. It’s not an easy read, and Jesus there’s a lot to take in, but it’s one of the most interesting stories about humanity and love at its worst that I’ve ever read.
THE LAKE HOUSE, KATE MORTON.
A missing child.
June 1933, and the Edevane family’s country house, Loeanneth, is polished and gleaming, ready for the much-anticipated Midsummer Eve party. Alice Edevane, sixteen years old and a budding writer, is especially excited. Not only has she worked out the perfect twist for her novel, she’s also fallen helplessly in love with someone she shouldn’t have. But by the time midnight strikes and fireworks light up the night skies, the Edevane family will have suffered a loss so great that they leave Loeanneth forever.
An abandoned house.
Seventy years later, after a particularly troubling case, Sadie Sparrow is sent on an enforced break from her job with the Metropolitan Police. She retreats to her beloved grandfather’s cottage in Cornwall but soon finds herself at a loose end. Until one day, Sadie stumbles upon an abandoned house surrounded by overgrown gardens and dense woods, and learns the story of a baby boy who disappeared without a trace.
An unsolved mystery.
Meanwhile, in the attic writing room of her elegant Hampstead home, the formidable Alice Edevane, now an old lady, leads a life as neatly plotted as the bestselling detective novels she writes. Until a young police detective starts asking questions about her family’s past, seeking to resurrect the complex tangle of secrets Alice has spent her life trying to escape.
I love books with dual timelines, I can’t imagine how hard they must be to write, but this is effortless. The mystery feels woven between the pages, it really is a beautiful and tragic page turner that transports you between both lifetimes beautifully.
FIVE ON TREASURE ISLAND, ENID BLYTON.
The very first Famous Five adventure, featuring Julian, Dick, Anne, not forgetting tomboy George and her beloved dog, Timmy! There’s a shipwreck off Kirrin Island! But where is the treasure? The Famous Five are on the trail – looking for clues – but they’re not alone! Someone else has got the same idea. Time is running out for the Famous Five, who will follow the clues and get to the treasure first?
The Famous Five, and Magic Faraway Tree series were pretty much my childhood amongst Harry Potter. I have the best memories of reading these under my bunk bed hideaway and escaping for hours upon end. This really was such an important part of introducing my love for reading, and creativity, and I hope to one day be introducing the beloved gang to my children.
THE RAILWAY CHILDREN, E. NESBIT.
In this much-loved children’s classic first published in 1906, the comfortable lives of three well-mannered siblings are greatly altered when, one evening, two men arrive at the house and take their father away. With the family’s fortunes considerably reduced in his absence, the children and their mother are forced to live in a simple country cottage near a railway station. There the young trio — Roberta, Peter, and young Phyllis — befriend the porter and station master.
The youngsters’ days are filled with adventure and excitement, including their successful attempt to avert a horrible train disaster; but the mysterious disappearance of their father continues to haunt them. The solution to that painful puzzle and many other details and events of the children’s lives come to vivid life in this perennial favourite.
This story makes me cry every time without fail. It truly is a classic that whatever your age, I couldn’t praise higher. “Daddy” and I start sobbing uncontrollably – if you have no idea what I’m talking about then you haven’t read it yet, but oh you will.
THE WHITE QUEEN, PHILIPPA GREGORY.
Philippa Gregory presents the first of a new series set amid the deadly feuds of England known as the Wars of the Roses. Brother turns on brother to win the ultimate prize, the throne of England, in this dazzling account of the wars of the Plantagenets. They are the claimants and kings who ruled England before the Tudors, and now Philippa Gregory brings them to life through the dramatic and intimate stories of the secret players: the indomitable women, starting with Elizabeth Woodville, the White Queen.
The White Queen tells the story of a woman of extraordinary beauty and ambition who, catching the eye of the newly crowned boy king, marries him in secret and ascends to royalty. While Elizabeth rises to the demands of her exalted position and fights for the success of her family, her two sons become central figures in a mystery that has confounded historians for centuries: the missing princes in the Tower of London whose fate is still unknown. From her uniquely qualified perspective, Philippa Gregory explores this most famous unsolved mystery of English history, informed by impeccable research and framed by her inimitable storytelling skills.
As a huge fan of the Plantagenet ruling, no biggie but I’m related to Elizabeth of York (massive biggie), this story was so interesting and human. I couldn’t put it down. It hurt, made me scared, and sad, and angry, and I really did enjoy every second.
OF MICE AND MEN, JOHN STEINBECK.
The compelling story of two outsiders striving to find their place in an unforgiving world. Drifters in search of work, George and his simple-minded friend Lennie have nothing in the world except each other and a dream–a dream that one day they will have some land of their own. Eventually they find work on a ranch in California’s Salinas Valley, but their hopes are doomed as Lennie, struggling against extreme cruelty, misunderstanding and feelings of jealousy, becomes a victim of his own strength.
It seems crazy to me that a book I read as part of a school exam touched my heart so deeply as this one. I cried. Like a hell of a lot. This book, a story of love and friendship, is devastating. I’ve never read a story like it. It seems so simple, and yet it really is so powerful. I don’t think any book has hurt me as much as this one did. It’s just beautifully tragic. Please read it?
There are so many books on my wish list, (I’ll do a post soon), and so many books on my shelf waiting to be read, but here are my favourites so far! I’d love to hear everyone else’s?