The best books that don't use cookie-cutter stereotypes about characters or places

Who am I?

My parents had the travel bug and passed it on to me ten-fold—I’ve been to over 60 countries and counting. Each place has its own charm, hidden nooks and crannies that are completely unique. Even more so, the cultures I’ve been able to experience have shown me that while stereotypes can have a grain of truth, they never give you the whole picture of a place or people. I’ve tried to build this into my writing with settings and characters that showcase this. I love and appreciate it so much when I see it in books that I read. 


I wrote...

Sirens of Memory

By Puja Guha,

Book cover of Sirens of Memory

What is my book about?

Sirens of Memory follows Mariam, a young Kuwaiti woman who is in an abusive marriage. Upon finding out that she’s pregnant, she attempts to break free, and in the chaos of the Gulf War, manages to get away. She later flees to a refugee camp in Kuwait, believing her husband is dead. There, she is helped by Raj, an Indian man who she meets at the camp, and she assumes the identity of his late wife to help expedite her paperwork to escape.

Fast forward 25 years, they have built a real relationship and have raised her daughter together. When Mariam attends an event at the Kuwaiti embassy, her old life catches up with her—her husband Tareq is still alive and comes after her. 

The books I picked & why

Shepherd is reader supported. We may earn an affiliate commission when you buy through links on our website. This is how we fund this project for readers and authors (learn more).

The Guns of Navarone

By Alistair MacLean,

Book cover of The Guns of Navarone

Why this book?

In this book, Maclean created one of the most unique and incredible settings I’ve seen, along with an interesting group of characters. It’s a World War II thriller set on a fictional island in the Aegean Sea, Navarone—a combination of some of the Greek islands, where the German army has set up a pair of major cannons to control the nearby waters. The neighboring island houses a prisoner-of-war camp with at least two hundred Allied prisoners. 

To free the prisoners, the Allies assemble a team to neutralize the guns at Navarone. The team includes a New Zealand mountaineer, an American bomb and radio expert, an expert Greek combatant, and two British soldiers, each with distinct personalities, along with two locals who help them. 

The setting of Navarone has as much variety as the team, spanning cliffs, mountains, the harbor, and a series of caves. The mix of the two makes the story really unique, especially with the high stakes of the operation and the obstacles that the team encounters. 

The plot is also super gripping, especially as the Germans start to catch up to the team and they have to stay hidden in dire weather conditions. Maclean is also masterful with how he captures the different characters—nothing about them is cookie cutter, and each one has a distinct personality. The trust and camaraderie that builds within the team draws the reader in and makes the book hard to put down. Nothing about this book feels cliché or stereotypical and it’s a fantastic read. 

The Guns of Navarone

By Alistair MacLean,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Guns of Navarone as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

KEITH MALLORY, A MOUNTAIN CLIMBER FROM NEW ZEALAND, MUST INFILTRATE THE AEGEAN ISLAND OF NAVARONE, AND DESTROY THE GUNS ON THE GERMAN FORTRESS THERE, IN ORDER TO SAVE THE LIVES OF 1,200 BRITISH SOLDIERS. HE GETS A TEAM TOGETHER, BOARDS A SMALL CRAFT, AND HEADS TO NAVARONE. ON THE WAY THERE, HIS SMALL SHIP IS NEARLY DESTROYED IN A STORM, AND HE THEN MUST CLIMB A 400 FOOT SHEER CLIFF IN THE MIDDLE OF THE STORM. IN THE PROCESS, THEY LOSE ALL THEIR FOOD, AND ONE OF THEIR TEAM MEMBERS BREAKS HIS LEG. THE NEXT SECTION OF THE BOOK DESCRIBES…


The Blood of Olympus (The Heroes of Olympus, Book Five)

By Rick Riordan,

Book cover of The Blood of Olympus (The Heroes of Olympus, Book Five)

Why this book?

The best way to describe this book and the entire Heroes of Olympus series is fun. The world in which it takes place is fascinating, with the Greek and Roman gods. I love the characters, and this book in particular because we get to see the perspectives of two extra characters on top of the original seven ‘chosen’ heroes. Riordan builds each character into a full person, and while I don’t usually read much YA, I absolutely love this series. The female characters are particularly amazing – totally different from each other, and a real combination of strong and vulnerable. The dialogue and plot are funny and it doesn’t take itself too seriously, despite the high stakes.

On top of that, I love what Riordan does with the setting. The book travels from Greece to New York and I recognize many of the different places where it takes place from my travels. The characters notice both the obvious most touristy thing about each of those places, but more importantly, the details that give you a deeper perspective, such as the smell of the ocean and fresh-baked bread in Old San Juan and the taste of farturas in Portugal. 

The Blood of Olympus (The Heroes of Olympus, Book Five)

By Rick Riordan,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Blood of Olympus (The Heroes of Olympus, Book Five) as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Blood of Olympus is the fifth book in the bestselling Heroes of Olympus series - set in the high-octane world of Percy Jackson.

Though the Greek and Roman crew members of the Argo II have made progress in their many quests, they still seem no closer to defeating the earth mother, Gaea. Her giants have risen - all of them - and they're stronger than ever.

They must be stopped before the Feast of Spes, when Gaea plans to have two demigods sacrificed in Athens. She needs their blood -the blood of Olympus - in order to wake. The…


The Widows of Malabar Hill

By Sujata Massey,

Book cover of The Widows of Malabar Hill

Why this book?

This book takes place from 1916-1921 in Bombay and Calcutta, following the protagonist in an alternating timeline. The story that is set in the past is my favorite part of the book, when you get to see how the protagonist, a young Parsi woman, became who she is. I loved watching her first fall in love, then grapple with gender roles and expectations until the past timeline eventually catches up with the present-day mystery. The setting itself is fascinating and unusual, and the protagonist’s journey is particularly compelling.

The Widows of Malabar Hill

By Sujata Massey,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Widows of Malabar Hill as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

1920s India: Perveen Mistry, Bombay's only female lawyer, is investigating a suspicious will on behalf of three Muslim widows living in full purdah when the case takes a turn toward the murderous. The author of the Agatha and Macavity Award–winning Rei Shimura novels brings us an atmospheric new historical mystery with a captivating heroine.

This Deluxe Paperback Edition features: an interview with the author, discussion questions, essays on the real-life inspirations behind the novel, delicious recipes taken from the story, and previews of The Satapur Moonstone.

Perveen Mistry, the daughter of a respected Zoroastrian family, has just joined her father's…


Sirocco

By D.L. Wilson,

Book cover of Sirocco

Why this book?

This book combines a terrorism thriller with a mystery, as Brett, the protagonist, learns of his brother’s death. As he learns more about the murder/suicide, it connects to Sirocco, a terrorist organization planning a bio-terror plot in the US. The pacing and interweaving of the terrorist plot with Brett’s investigation are really well done, keeping you interested in both parts of the plot and guessing up till the end. I especially loved the twist the author put in—I’m usually pretty good at seeing those, but in this case, it really caught me by surprise.

Sirocco

By D.L. Wilson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Sirocco as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

D.L. Wilson's SIROCCO delves into the very real danger of bioterrorism.

Sirocco, a secret organization within the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, threatens to unleash a bioweapon at the heart of the United States unless Congress funds a new Palestinian government and convinces Israel to cede strategic occupied land.

Brett Reynolds, an attorney representing the pharmaceutical lobby, is summoned to Washington for an urgent meeting by Homeland Security to investigate the threat.

With a bio-terror looming that could devastate the U.S., Brett learns of his brother's death in a bizarre murder/suicide. He discovers connections between his brother and Sirocco's terrorist plot. His…


Jet

By Russell Blake,

Book cover of Jet

Why this book?

Jet follows a former Mossad operative who faked her death to escape the spy life. The main character travels all over the world and the different places she visits read real and authentic. As a reader, I believed how much she wanted to be free of that life and how events early on in the book make it impossible for her to stay hidden. The author chooses unusual destinations like Trinidad, Venezuela, Algeria, and Belize, and I loved how the plot wove together between the different characters and places. The whole book feels like a roller coaster ride!

Jet

By Russell Blake,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Code name: Jet Twenty-eight-year-old Jet was once the Mossad's most lethal operative before faking her own death and burying that identity forever. But the past doesn't give up on its secrets easily. When her new life on a tranquil island is shattered by a brutal attack, Jet must return to a clandestine existence of savagery and deception to save herself and those she loves. A gritty, unflinching roller-coaster of high-stakes twists and shocking turns, JET features a new breed of protagonist that breaks the mold. Fans of Lisbeth Salander, SALT, and the Bourne trilogy will find themselves carried along at…


3 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in the Mossad, Greek mythology, and World War 2?

7,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about the Mossad, Greek mythology, and World War 2.

The Mossad Explore 4 books about the Mossad
Greek Mythology Explore 47 books about Greek mythology
World War 2 Explore 1142 books about World War 2

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Rainbow Six, Killing Hope, and Walking with Shadows if you like this list.