The best character driven novels

Why am I passionate about this?

My passions for strong, dynamic characters in novels are threefold: as a teacher, an author, and a reader. The most important interest in character development came as a reader. I was drawn to characters who seemed to leap off the page and remind me of real people. As a teacher, there's no greater satisfaction than discussing a fictional character with your students as if they were a historical figure. And as an author, I'm so much more interested in who my characters are than in what they do. Their choices should always evolve out of their personalities. If you really want to stay in a reader’s mind, have a character they're willing to fight for.


I wrote...

Murder in the Painted Lady

By ML Hamilton,

Book cover of Murder in the Painted Lady

What is my book about?

Peyton and Marco have solved more cases than many senior members of the San Francisco PD, but this case (the death of a high-end real estate agent) is proving more difficult than the others. With no evidence, no suspects, and no motive, Peyton fears they won't get a break in the case before the killer strikes again. In the multi-million dollar San Francisco real estate market, realtors are literally dying for a sale.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Their Eyes Were Watching God

ML Hamilton Why did I love this book?

Their Eyes Were Watching God is a book that I read every year with my students and no matter what age I am when I read it, I come away with something new I’ve discovered. I think what draws me to this book is the main character, Janie Crawford. She is such a complex mix of thoughts and experiences, and the way Hurston lets her grow over the course of the book is a stroke of pure brilliance. When Janie returns to Eatonville, barefoot, wearing coveralls, the townspeople think she’s been defeated, but they don’t even begin to know the two things she’s learned about life: “They got tuh go tuh God, and they got tuh find out about livin’ fuh theyselves,” (Hurston, 192). 

By Zora Neale Hurston,

Why should I read it?

17 authors picked Their Eyes Were Watching God as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Cover design by Harlem renaissance artist Lois Mailou Jones

When Janie, at sixteen, is caught kissing shiftless Johnny Taylor, her grandmother swiftly marries her off to an old man with sixty acres. Janie endures two stifling marriages before meeting the man of her dreams, who offers not diamonds, but a packet of flowering seeds ...

'For me, THEIR EYES WERE WATCHING GOD is one of the very greatest American novels of the 20th century. It is so lyrical it should be sentimental; it is so passionate it should be overwrought, but it is instead a rigorous, convincing and dazzling piece…


Book cover of Crime and Punishment

ML Hamilton Why did I love this book?

I’ve spoken a lot about the impact Crime and Punishment has had on me as an author. I read it in high school, and it was the first time I fully comprehended the power of the written word. Dostoevsky creates a character in Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov (Rodya) that should horrify any lover of true crime; however, throughout the course of the novel, Dostoevsky breathes such life into Rodya that you find yourself rooting for a base murderer to escape his just punishment. Now that’s power. Not only that, but come on, how fun is that name to say!

By Fyodor Dostoevsky, Richard Pevear (translator), Larissa Volokhonsky (translator)

Why should I read it?

13 authors picked Crime and Punishment as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Hailed by Washington Post Book World as “the best [translation] currently available" when it was first published, this second edition has been updated in honor of the 200th anniversary of Dostoevsky’s birth.

With the same suppleness, energy, and range of voices that won their translation of The Brothers Karamazov the PEN/Book-of-the-Month Club Prize, Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky offer a brilliant translation of Dostoevsky's astounding pyschological thriller, newly revised for his bicentenniel. 

When Raskolnikov, an impoverished student living in the St. Petersburg of the tsars, commits an act of murder and theft, he sets into motion a story that is…


Book cover of Macbeth

ML Hamilton Why did I love this book?

Ah, Macbeth—as anyone who knows my books will be aware, Shakespeare has had a powerful influence on my writing. While it might not be fair to include a play here, I think this one deserves a place of honor on this list. My favorite Shakespearean work is Hamlet, but over the years, I’ve developed a deep appreciation for the Scottish play. Macbeth, as a character, is fascinating. The descent into madness brought on by pure ambition is jarring, but the character who is most interesting is actually Lady Macbeth. There is no Macbeth without the machinations and manipulation of his queen, who in the end, comes to the startling reality that she has created a monster.

By William Shakespeare,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Macbeth as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 9, 10, and 11.

What is this book about?

The authoritative edition of Macbeth from The Folger Shakespeare Library, the trusted and widely used Shakespeare series for students and general readers.

In 1603, James VI of Scotland ascended the English throne, becoming James I of England. London was alive with an interest in all things Scottish, and Shakespeare turned to Scottish history for material. He found a spectacle of violence and stories of traitors advised by witches and wizards, echoing James's belief in a connection between treason and witchcraft.

In depicting a man who murders to become king, Macbeth teases us with huge questions. Is Macbeth tempted by fate,…


Book cover of Dragonsong

ML Hamilton Why did I love this book?

I remember it distinctly—the day my father brought home Dragonsong for me. I had shown signs of being an avid reader and he thought I might like this book because it had a pretty cover. It did have a startlingly beautiful cover, but it was the story inside that captivated me. The tale of Menolly’s flight away from the stagnation of her family and her survival struck a chord in me, and I imagined myself as Menolly, learning to live life on my own without the support of those around me. And secretly, I always wanted a fire lizard for a pet. McCaffrey immerses you in her world so completely that you can see it, and Menolly is the perfect vehicle for that adventure.

By Anne McCaffrey,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Dragonsong as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 10, 11, 12, and 13.

What is this book about?

Let Anne McCaffrey, storyteller extraordinare and New York Times and Sunday Times bestselling author, take you on a journey to a whole new world: Pern. A world of dragons and other worldly forces; a world of mighty power and ominous threat.. If you like David Eddings, Brandon Sanderson and Douglas Adams, you will love this.

"Anne McCaffrey, one of the queens of science fiction, knows exactly how to give her public what it wants" - THE TIMES
"Do yourself a favour and read ANYTHING by this Author, you won't be sorry" -- ***** Reader review
"A real page turner" --…


Book cover of Of Mice and Men

ML Hamilton Why did I love this book?

My favorite John Steinbeck novel is Grapes of Wrath, but for pure character development, I have to choose this heart-wrenching classic. For me, Of Mice and Men is a singularly brilliant piece of writing. In only six chapters, Steinbeck creates characters in Lenny and George that are so real, so lifelike they have become a staple in dynamic characterization. Any writer who wants to learn how to draw living characters should study this novella because this is the pinnacle of how character development should be done. And for the reader, there is no more gutting scene than the final one. Sob.

By John Steinbeck,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked Of Mice and Men as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Introducing Little Clothbound Classics: irresistible, mini editions of short stories, novellas and essays from the world's greatest writers, designed by the award-winning Coralie Bickford-Smith.

Celebrating the range and diversity of Penguin Classics, they take us from snowy Japan to springtime Vienna, from haunted New England to a sun-drenched Mediterranean island, and from a game of chess on the ocean to a love story on the moon. Beautifully designed and printed, these collectible editions are bound in colourful, tactile cloth and stamped with foil.

Drifters in search of work, George and his childlike friend Lennie have nothing in the world except…


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A House on Liberty Street

By Neil Turner,

Book cover of A House on Liberty Street

Neil Turner Author Of A House on Liberty Street

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Reader Traveler Inquisitive Family guy Writer

Neil's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

Meet Tony Valenti. His high-flying corporate law career just cratered. His society marriage blew up in a bitter divorce. He's returned to the Chicago suburbs to lick his wounds and regroup in the haven of the Valenti family home. But time to heal isn't in the cards.

Tony's elderly father inexplicably shoots a sheriff's deputy on their front porch. Nobody knows why, and Papa isn't talking. Then their house becomes an unlikely target for condemnation and expropriation by corrupt local officials and their cronies.

With money and hope dwindling, Tony steps up to defend his father and take to city hall, and quickly finds himself in peril when he unearths sinister connections between the cases. The audacity of the plot against them fuels a gritty determination to get to the bottom of what really happened—regardless of the risks and ultimate cost to himself. To win, Tony must earn his father's trust and outwit his wily opponents.

A House on Liberty Street

By Neil Turner,

What is this book about?

A father. A son. A murder.

Meet Tony Valenti. His high-flying corporate law career just cratered. His society marriage blew up in a bitter divorce. He’s returned to the Chicago suburbs to lick his wounds and regroup in the haven of the Valenti family home. But time to heal isn’t in the cards.

Tony’s elderly father inexplicably shoots a sheriff’s deputy on their front porch. Nobody knows why, and Papa isn’t talking. Then their house becomes an unlikely target for condemnation and expropriation by corrupt local officials and their cronies.

With money and hope dwindling, Tony steps up to defend…


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