The best novels about redemption and forgiveness

Why am I passionate about this?

I have a passion for this theme because I have spent my whole adult life trying to redeem myself from things I did or failed to do in the past. I have learned that for me the only path to redemption is forgiveness, and the only path to forgiving oneself is forgiving others. I try to act on this passion in my professional life as a college professor and published novelist. My novels reflect my experiences with other people, especially young people trying to do the right thing under difficult if not impossible circumstances.


I wrote...

A Contrite Heart

By Tom Milton,

Book cover of A Contrite Heart

What is my book about?

The story of a woman who committed a major crime against the military government in Argentina during the Dirty War in the 1970s. After twenty-five years she still feels guilty for what she did, and since it led to the deaths of other people, including the father of her child, she's unable to forgive herself. She's living in New York City now, and as she's leaving for work one morning she confronts a young man who addresses her with the alias she used in her crime.

So what does this guy want from her? Does he want to arrest her? Does he want revenge? Although it was dormant, her feeling of guilt was always alive in the bottom of her heart, and now it has been aroused.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Atonement

Tom Milton Why did I love this book?

I could relate to the character who did something wrong in her past and only later realized its consequences. I think we all have done something we later regret, and the challenge is to find a path to redemption, which I believe requires forgiveness. We may have to forgive someone else whom we blame for our actions, and we always have to forgive ourselves. For most of us that’s not easy.

By Ian McEwan,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

On the hottest day of the summer of 1934, thirteen-year-old Briony Tallis sees her sister Cecilia strip off her clothes and plunge into the fountain in the garden of their country house. Watching her is Robbie Turner, her childhood friend who, like Cecilia, has recently come down from Cambridge. By the end of that day, the lives of all three will have been changed for ever. Robbie and Cecilia will have crossed a boundary they had not even imagined at its start, and will have become victims of the younger girl's imagination. Briony will have witnessed mysteries, and committed a…


Book cover of The Kite Runner

Tom Milton Why did I love this book?

I could relate to the character who witnessed something wrong and did nothing about it. Most of us encounter that kind of situation and we fail to act for a variety of reasons. Usually we find justifications for our failure to act, which are really excuses. The underlying reason for our failure is usually fear, which is hard for us to acknowledge. So we find ways of deflecting our guilt or covering it up, usually with lies that sooner or later will come back to haunt us. When we seek redemption, it’s always a challenge.

By Khaled Hosseini,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked The Kite Runner as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Afghanistan, 1975: Twelve-year-old Amir is desperate to win the local kite-fighting tournament and his loyal friend Hassan promises to help him. But neither of the boys can foresee what will happen to Hassan that afternoon, an event that is to shatter their lives. After the Russians invade and the family is forced to flee to America, Amir realises that one day he must return to Afghanistan under Taliban rule to find the one thing that his new world cannot grant him: redemption.


Book cover of Crime and Punishment

Tom Milton Why did I love this book?

I could relate to the character who knowingly and deliberately commits a murder. We may deny it, but as human beings we all have the capacity to do evil, including the ultimate evil of taking someone else’s life. The character, despite his convoluted mind, does have a conscience, so he suffers guilt and ultimately finds redemption through love, which he has never really known before.

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 Les Miserables

Tom Milton Why did I love this book?

I could relate to the convict who found the path toward redemption by helping other people. I believe that directing our thoughts and actions toward other people could be the only way to redeem ourselves from crimes we have committed and to attain forgiveness. The convict persists on this path despite being persecuted for crimes of his past. The minor characters are on this same path, which exemplifies the saying that love is not a feeling, it’s action.

By Victor Hugo, Lee Fahnestock (translator), Norman Macafee (translator)

Why should I read it?

8 authors picked Les Miserables as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

NOW A SIX-PART MINISERIES ON MASTERPIECE ON PBS

The only completely unabridged paperback edition of Victor Hugo’s masterpiece—a sweeping tale of love, loss, valor, and passion.

Introducing one of the most famous characters in literature, Jean Valjean—the noble peasant imprisoned for stealing a loaf of bread—Les Misérables ranks among the greatest novels of all time. In it, Victor Hugo takes readers deep into the Parisian underworld, immerses them in a battle between good and evil, and carries them to the barricades during the uprising of 1832 with a breathtaking realism that is unsurpassed in modern prose.

Within his dramatic story…


Book cover of Great Expectations

Tom Milton Why did I love this book?

I could relate to the character who fails to appreciate what other people have done for him. Like many of us, he fails to see his true benefactors because of prejudice against them. He even fails to see that one of the people who he believes is his benefactor is really seeking revenge for a wrong done to her. It takes him a long time to learn the truth and to appreciate his real benefactors, and by then it’s almost too late. He seeks redemption through love for a woman he really doesn’t know.

By Charles Dickens,

Why should I read it?

10 authors picked Great Expectations as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'His novels will endure as long as the language itself' Peter Ackroyd

Dickens's haunting late novel depicts the education and development of a young man, Pip, as his life is changed by a series of events - a terrifying encounter with an escaped convict in a graveyard on the wild Kent marshes; a summons to meet the bitter, decaying Miss Havisham and her beautiful, cold-hearted ward Estella; the sudden generosity of a mysterious benefactor - and he discovers the true nature of his 'great expectations'. This definitive edition includes appendices on Dickens's original ending, giving an illuminating glimpse into a…


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Acquaintance

By Jeff Stookey,

Book cover of Acquaintance

Jeff Stookey Author Of Dangerous Medicine

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Historical fiction writer Gay male Reader History buff Curious human

Jeff's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

As a young doctor, Carl Holman has experienced the horrors of World War I and the death of his lover, a fellow officer. Back home after the War, he befriends a young jazz musician who he hopes will become a companion he can share his life with. But this is Oregon: the Ku Klux Klan is gaining influence, homosexual acts are illegal, and such a relationship will jeopardize Carl’s promising medical career.

Musician Jimmy Harper has his own dreams for the future and his own obstacles to overcome before he will allow himself to accept Carl’s love. More than a gay love story, Acquaintance is a deep dive into gay and lesbian history based on extensive period research of the 1920s.

Acquaintance

By Jeff Stookey,

What is this book about?

As a young surgeon, Carl Holman has experienced the horrors of World War I and the loss of his lover, a fellow officer. Back home after the war, he befriends a young jazz musician who he hopes will become a companion he can share his life with. But this is Oregon: the Ku Klux Klan is gaining influence, homosexual acts are illegal, and such a relationship will jeopardize Carl’s promising medical career. Musician Jimmy Harper has his own dreams for the future and his own obstacles to overcome before he will allow himself to accept Carl’s love.
Acquaintance is a…


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