books

The book bucket list: 14 women share their favourite novel ever, from chick-lit to classics.

We’ve got a lot of time for great books. Unfortunately though, during the busier months of the year, we don’t often have a lot of time for…reading. Unless you count emails and podcast summaries. Which is why the holidays are such a good time to finally get stuck into a good novel.

In the name of filling out your summer reading list, we asked women to reveal their favourite books of all time – the ones that stayed with them long after reading, that they keep returning to and recommending year after year. We’re calling it the Book Bucket List.

Ellie: Tully by Paullina Simons.

“I picked this book up at random as a young teen when I was sick and took it to bed with me. My god. I was positively plunged into this intense and deeply emotional story. I loved Tully, I hated her. I laughed, I cried, I threw it across the room then raced to pick it back up. I re-read it every few years and each time it slays me in a different way at every life stage. I feel like I have grown up with this book.”

Kate: The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah.

“A story about the complex but unbreakable bonds of sisterhood, set during WWII. Had me in floods of tears and I couldn’t put it down.”

Jess: The Lonely City by Olivia Laing.

“This book is part breakup memoir, and part exploration into how loneliness has impacted some of our greatest artists from Andy Warhol, to Greta Garbo. Laing, a UK author, seamlessly weaves copious amounts of research with her own story of moving to New York, and the loneliness she experienced after her heartbreak. Her writing is beautiful, insightful and tender, and she manages to reframe a feeling that a lot of us experience, into something that can be constructive and transformative.”

Tamara: The Secret History by Donna Tartt.

“I first read The Secret History when I was 17, and have re-read it many times since – mostly to revisit the characters who feel like long-lost friends. It’s one of those books I force people to read, and then get offended if they don’t love it. Taking place at an affluent American college, the story unfolds in two parts: the lead up to the murder of a student and the investigation afterwards. From the very start, you know who did it – but you won’t know why until the end. Ultimately it’s about the danger of knowledge, the power of status, and the desperate need to belong. Tartt’s novels all have similar themes, and The Goldfinch definitely comes a close second.”

Laura: Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell.

“Not the love story people think: it’s about the determination and strength of Scarlett O’Hara in the face of war to save her home and protect her family.”

Clare: The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath.

“It’s my favourite book of all time because it’s the most nuanced, accurate description of mental illness I’ve ever come across. The metaphor of the bell jar – having a glass cage around you wherever you are, whatever you’re doing – is such a powerful one. It’s also a fascinating story of what it’s like to be a young woman making decisions about your future. There’s a description of the main character’s future spawning out like a tree and she doesn’t know what branch to choose, because choosing any branch means not finding out what’s on the others. Read at your own caution though – I read it when I was down and it took me further down that road!”

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Hannah: The Alchemist by Paul Coelho.

“It’s about learning to really listen to and follow your heart. A beautiful book.”

Laura: World Class by Jane and Burt Boyer.

“Based on the events of real tennis players and how they all had their own journey, and how they changed the game of tennis between amateur and open-class tennis. I read it once a year and you can’t help but love the characters.”

Claire: Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides.

“Sweeps me away with the prettiness of its writing and in doing so, draws me into history, mythology and perverse romance, with heart and humour. It is a LOT of story, multi-generational and quite literally epic, and yet huge swathes of it stick out clearly in my mind. Makes me think about a lot of things in the world in all-new ways each time I re-read it.”

Polly: Rebecca by Daphne Du Marnier.

“This was the first book I ever read entirely in one sitting. It manages to be long and moody, yet utterly suspenseful at the same time. It still haunts me in the best possible way.”

Charlotte: Normal People by Sally Rooney.

“My favourite book is one I only read earlier this year, but I can’t stop thinking about it. Rooney tells a story about love, friendship and the complexities of human connection, focusing on two characters that are captured beautifully. It’s gripping and relatable on so many levels.”

Billi: Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman.

“It’s absolutely my favourite book of all time – I wish I could endlessly read about Eleanor and how she sees the world. I find myself wanting to check in and see how she is doing now months after I finished reading it. The characterisation of Eleanor, who deals with profound loneliness, is exquisite. It was the most hilarious yet heartbreaking book I’ve read, and I can’t wait for it to be made into a movie!”

Amy: Sushi For Beginners by Marian Keyes.

“I’m unashamedly into chick-lit books about women doing things and falling in (and out) of love. Marian Keyes is probably my all-time favourite author, this book manages to be funny, light and relatable, but also really honest at the same time.”

Rachel: Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

“I’m a sucker for anything dark and unnerving – give me a small town full of secrets and I’m sold. Sharp Objects follows a female journalist sent on assignment to her hometown to investigate the murder of two young girls. From there, she gets drawn back into her family’s creepy web and the depths of her own psyche. You can’t go past Gillian Flynn for an intelligent psychological thriller – I just wish she’d write more books!”

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