The best books which keep you asking, ‘what would I have done?’

Why am I passionate about this?

After writing the Dilemma, I was struck by how many readers’ feedback posed this question, What would I have done? In the process of writing the book, whilst I created the story around this one particular big fat problem, I little realised how it would resonate with so many, and also have such divided – and deeply personal responses. I’ve since become increasingly fascinated by the many ‘sliding door’ moments we experience in our lives requiring split-second decisions which may (in retrospect) have been ill-considered but by then it’s too late to ‘wind back time.’ All we can do is learn to live with consequences, however damaging they may be. 


I wrote...

The Dilemma

By Sarah Hawthorn,

Book cover of The Dilemma

What is my book about?

After the unexpected death of her mother, with whom she’d had a distant and fractured relationship, Esme stumbles on a mysterious letter from 1945 and decides to travel to the island of Guernsey to investigate. What she discovers there turns all her beliefs about her upbringing upside down. Not only had her mother hidden an enormous secret, but Esme was an unknowing victim. As the story follows the parallel paths of two generations of women, and each is faced with painful decisions and shocking discoveries, a question emerges: Can a lie be forgiven when the truth seems too much to bear?

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Sophie's Choice

Sarah Hawthorn Why did I love this book?

This is one of those books whose central dilemma has always haunted me: if you had to choose one of your two children to live and the other to die, which would it be? I personally can’t think of a more ghastly ultimatum to be given but this is at the heart of Sophie’s Choice, about a woman who is a Holocaust survivor but deeply traumatised by the choice the Nazis forced to make – either select one child to survive or both will be killed. 

By William Styron,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Sophie's Choice as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In this extraordinary novel, Stingo, an inexperienced twenty-two year old Southerner, takes us back to the summer of 1947 and a boarding house in a leafy Brooklyn suburb. There he meets Nathan, a fiery Jewish intellectual; and Sophie, a beautiful and fragile Polish Catholic. Stingo is drawn into the heart of their passionate and destructive relationship as witness, confidant and supplicant. Ultimately, he arrives at the dark core of Sophie's past: her memories of pre-war Poland, the concentration camp and - the essence of her terrible secret - her choice.


Book cover of The Tenth Man

Sarah Hawthorn Why did I love this book?

Another novel set in WW2, this dark story delves into how far a man will go to secure his survival – and the guilt (and unhappiness) he must subsequently live with as a result of his arrogance in believing his money and status gives him certain privileges. Wealthy lawyer Chavel is a prisoner in occupied France. His Nazi gaolers decree three men are to be executed, at the prisoners’ discretion. The men draw lots and when Chavel’s name is drawn he offers his fortune to anyone who will take his place. A dying man agrees. What unravels after war’s end, and Chavel is released, offers him a chance for redemption for his cowardice.

By Graham Greene,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

From the author of the classics Brighton Rock and The Power and the Glory, a morally complex tale about a man at the mercy of deadly forces while being held in a German prison camp during World War II. Featuring an introduction by the author and two other story ideas from his archives.

When Jean-Louis Chauvel, a French lawyer incarcerated in a German prison camp, is informed by his captors that three prisoners must die, he devises a plan for survival. Offering everything he owns to a fellow prisoner if he will take Chauvel’s place, he manages to escape the…


Book cover of The Bridges of Madison County

Sarah Hawthorn Why did I love this book?

A WW2 war bride living on a remote farm, whose husband is away for a few days, falls for a photographer who is shooting images of covered bridges, and they embark on a highly emotion-charged affair. I wept and wept as I read this book, unable to put it down until I’d finished, and absolutely traumatised by the raw, powerful, poignancy of the prose. In its simplest terms, it’s a standard love story of star-crossed lovers, but so beautifully rendered that it feels as if it’s the first time you’ve ever read such a heart-wrenching tale

By Robert James Waller,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked The Bridges of Madison County as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Fall in love with one of the bestselling novels of all time -- the legendary love story that became a beloved film starring Clint Eastwood and Meryl Streep.

If you've ever experienced the one true love of your life, a love that for some reason could never be, you will understand why readers all over the world are so moved by this small, unknown first novel that they became a publishing phenomenon and #1 bestseller.

The story of Robert Kincaid, the photographer and free spirit searching for the covered bridges of Madison County, and Francesca Johnson, the farm wife waiting…


Book cover of The Children Act

Sarah Hawthorn Why did I love this book?

I’ve long been a huge fan of McEwan, whose many works often revolve around a central question with no easy answer, and The Children Act is a brilliant example. A high court judge must decide whether to enforce medical treatment for a teenage boy which will save his life, but that he is refusing on religious grounds. The decision she makes, all the while grappling with past judgments and her current marriage issues, does not put an end to the matter, and McEwan takes the reader on many unforeseen twists and turns.

By Ian McEwan,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Fiona Maye, a leading High Court judge, renowned for her fierce intelligence and sensitivity is called on to try an urgent case. For religious reasons, a seventeen-year-old boy is refusing the medical treatment that could save his life. Time is running out.

She visits the boy in hospital - an encounter which stirs long-buried feelings in her and powerful new emotions in the boy. But it is Fiona who must ultimately decide whether he lives or dies and her judgement will have momentous consequences for them both.


Book cover of Jane Eyre

Sarah Hawthorn Why did I love this book?

At the altar, heartbroken on discovering her husband-to-be is already married, Jane renounces him. When he asks her to live with him as ‘man and wife’ in France, she refuses, as it goes against her Christian principles. 

What’s so fascinating about Jane Eyre is comparing Jane’s choice, given her reasons at the time (mid-1800s), to how that choice would probably have been completely different given a twenty-first-century context. This ‘daring’ book was considered anti-Christian by many but nevertheless, I wonder how many readers at the time asked themselves the question, What would I have done? 

By Charlotte Brontë,

Why should I read it?

36 authors picked Jane Eyre as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 12, 13, 14, and 15.

What is this book about?

Introduction and Notes by Dr Sally Minogue, Canterbury Christ Church University College.

Jane Eyre ranks as one of the greatest and most perennially popular works of English fiction. Although the poor but plucky heroine is outwardly of plain appearance, she possesses an indomitable spirit, a sharp wit and great courage.

She is forced to battle against the exigencies of a cruel guardian, a harsh employer and a rigid social order. All of which circumscribe her life and position when she becomes governess to the daughter of the mysterious, sardonic and attractive Mr Rochester.

However, there is great kindness and warmth…


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Empire in the Sand

By Shane Joseph,

Book cover of Empire in the Sand

Shane Joseph Author Of Empire in the Sand

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

I have been a writer for more than twenty years and have favored pursuing “truth in fiction” rather than “money in formula.” I also spent over thirty years in the corporate world and was exposed to many situations reminiscent of those described in my fiction and in these recommended books. While I support enterprise, “enlightened capitalism” is preferable to the bare-knuckle type we have today, and which seems to resurface whenever regulation weakens. I also find writing novels closer to my lived experience connects me intimately with readers who are looking for socio-political, realist literature.

Shane's book list on exposing corporate, political, and personal corruption

What is my book about?

Avery Mann, a retired pharmaceuticals executive, is in crisis.

His wife dies of cancer, his son’s marriage is on the rocks, his grandson is having a meltdown, and his good friend is a victim of the robocalls scandal that invades the Canadian federal election. Throw in a reckless fling with a former colleague, a fire that destroys his retirement property, and a rumour emerging that the drug he helped bring to market years ago may have been responsible for the death of his wife, and Avery’s life goes into freefall.

Does an octogenarian beekeeper living on Vancouver Island hold the key to Avery’s recovery, a man holding secrets that put lives in jeopardy? Avery races across the country to find out, with crooked bosses, politicians, and assassins on his tail. Joseph spins a cautionary tale of corporate and political greed that is endemic to our times.

Empire in the Sand

By Shane Joseph,

What is this book about?

Avery Mann, a retired pharmaceuticals executive, is in crisis. His wife dies of cancer, his son’s marriage is on the rocks, his grandson is having a meltdown, and his good friend is a victim of the robocalls scandal that invades the Canadian federal election.

Throw in a reckless fling with a former colleague, a fire that destroys his retirement property, and a rumour emerging that the drug he helped bring to market years ago may have been responsible for the death of his wife, and Avery’s life goes into freefall.

Does an octogenarian bee keeper living on Vancouver Island hold…


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