The best books in which all that glitters is not gold

Why am I passionate about this?

I've always been drawn to stories in which all that glitters isn't gold, and all three of my novels contain this theme. They are, at the bottom, tales of hubris, which is why I like them. A character strives to obtain some glittery thing, confident it will be better than what they have. Yet, ultimately, their confidence is misplaced, and their ambition brings about their downfall. Perhaps because I'm someone who's naturally quite risk-averse but also believes little good comes in life without taking chances, stories like this attract me. They allow me to safely hunt for the Aristotelian mean between being overly sensible and irrationally ambitious.  


I wrote...

How to Kill with Kindness

By S.R. Masters,

Book cover of How to Kill with Kindness

What is my book about?

My book is a slow-burn mystery about cynical Tessa, who moves to Nether Appleford, “England's Kindest Village,” in order to become a better person. Overseen by the Kindness Committee, this close-knit community strives to live their lives with kindness at the heart of everything they do.

For Tessa and her partner Andy, this sounds like the perfect escape. An opportunity to settle down and move on from a past that haunts them. But what if the kindest thing you could do meant hurting someone? Then what would you do?

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

The books I picked & why

Book cover of Pet Sematary

S.R. Masters Why did I love this book?

All that glitters isn't gold, and sometimes, dead is better. For a tale that Stephen King was told not to publish because it was too scary and that he only released to get out of a contract, I've always found this book oddly comforting. It once genuinely helped me process a string of sudden bereavements. 

I admire its frankness about death: it pulls no punches. In my own family, and perhaps in British culture more widely, we struggle to talk about death. I've read the novel lots, as a young man and as a not-so-young man with his own children, and found that what stands the test of time is the central notion that, yes, not being here is bad, it's really bad, but it isn't the worst thing–and for that small mercy we should be grateful. 

By Stephen King,

Why should I read it?

11 authors picked Pet Sematary as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Now a major motion picture! Stephen King’s #1 New York Times bestseller is a “wild, powerful, disturbing” (The Washington Post Book World) classic about evil that exists far beyond the grave—among King’s most iconic and frightening novels.

When Dr. Louis Creed takes a new job and moves his family to the idyllic rural town of Ludlow, Maine, this new beginning seems too good to be true. Despite Ludlow’s tranquility, an undercurrent of danger exists here. Those trucks on the road outside the Creed’s beautiful old home travel by just a little too quickly, for one thing…as is evidenced by the…


Book cover of Rebecca

S.R. Masters Why did I love this book?

Daphne Du Maurier has made a permanent mark on my soul. Whether it was Hitchcock's adaptation of The Birds, which I watched when I was far too young, or the wrecked ships of Jamaica Inn, her imagery and ideas are unforgettable. 

And like the titular character of Rebecca, part of me still roams the halls and grounds of Manderley. I first encountered the story at a transitional moment in early adulthood. Having been a child drawn to spooky stories about ghouls and spectres, this book marked the moment I came to understand that not every haunted house has a ghost. 

By Daphne du Maurier,

Why should I read it?

41 authors picked Rebecca as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

* 'The greatest psychological thriller of all time' ERIN KELLY
* 'One of the most influential novels of the twentieth century' SARAH WATERS
* 'It's the book every writer wishes they'd written' CLARE MACKINTOSH

'Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again . . .'

Working as a lady's companion, our heroine's outlook is bleak until, on a trip to the south of France, she meets a handsome widower whose proposal takes her by surprise. She accepts but, whisked from glamorous Monte Carlo to brooding Manderley, the new Mrs de Winter finds Max a changed man. And the memory…


Book cover of The Circle

S.R. Masters Why did I love this book?

In researching this list, I was surprised to learn it had been over a decade since this book's release. At the time, in 2014, I'd never read anything that had so accurately captured the madness of social media and how it might be affecting our psychology and the world. It perfectly captured my own anxiety about the changing nature of the internet. 

Some dinged the book for not accurately portraying Silicon Valley, but like many of Eggers's books, it is more of an allegory. It has as much to say about online status seeking and groupthink as it does about big technology monopolies. And the film is nothing like the novel, so please don't miss the book because of it. 

By Dave Eggers,

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked The Circle as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


NOW A MAJOR MOTION PICTURE starring Tom Hanks, Emma Watson and John Boyega

THE NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER - a dark, thrilling and unputdownable novel about our obsession with the internet

'Prepare to be addicted' Daily Mail

'A gripping and highly unsettling read' Sunday Times

'The Circle is 'Brave New World' for our brave new world... Fast, witty and troubling' Washington Post

When Mae is hired to work for the Circle, the world's most powerful internet company, she feels she's been given the opportunity of a lifetime. Run out of a sprawling California campus, the Circle links users' personal emails,…


Book cover of The Stepford Wives

S.R. Masters Why did I love this book?

What I love about Ira Levin is his ability to tackle huge concepts with such a mix of black humour and lightness that suspension of disbelief is made easy. I might also have put Rosemary's Baby on this list, but it was Stepford that got to me first. 

It's such a neat little novel, a master class in writing efficiency, and that's just one thing I love. Another is how it evokes that feeling of the world changing for the worst around you, while everyone else seems to be just smiling like nothing's happening. 

By Ira Levin,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Stepford Wives as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The internationally bestselling novel by the author of A Kiss Before Dying, The Boys from Brazil, and Rosemary's Baby

With an Introduction by Peter Straub

For Joanna, her husband, Walter, and their children, the move to beautiful Stepford seems almost too good to be true. It is. For behind the town's idyllic facade lies a terrible secret -- a secret so shattering that no one who encounters it will ever be the same.

At once a masterpiece of psychological suspense and a savage commentary on a media-driven society that values the pursuit of youth and beauty at all costs, The…


Book cover of Jurassic Park

S.R. Masters Why did I love this book?

I couldn't resist putting this in here. The book is as much of a treat as a movie and has its own darker vibe. It's the first “grown-up” book I ever read, and it's rewarded re-reads over the years. Like with Ira Levin, it's amazing to see a high-concept pulled off so well, and even now, you have to applaud what Crichton did with it.

It built in me a healthy respect for science and a skepticism of big business, and even now it makes me feel that wonder I had when I first read it. 

By Michael Crichton,

Why should I read it?

16 authors picked Jurassic Park as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'Crichton's most compulsive novel' Sunday Telegraph
'Crichton's dinosaurs are genuinely frightening' Chicago Sun-Times
'Breathtaking adventure. . . a book that is as hard to put down as it is to forget' Time Out

-------------------------------

The international bestseller that inspired the Jurassic Park film franchise.

On a remote jungle island, genetic engineers have created a dinosaur game park.

An astonishing technique for recovering and cloning dinosaur DNA has been discovered. Now one of mankind's most thrilling fantasies has come true and the first dinosaurs that the Earth has seen in the time of man emerge.

But, as always, there is a…


You might also like...

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…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in technology, romantic love, and genetic engineering?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about technology, romantic love, and genetic engineering.

Technology Explore 123 books about technology
Romantic Love Explore 864 books about romantic love
Genetic Engineering Explore 52 books about genetic engineering