The most beautifully-written books to light up your imagination - and your soul

Why am I passionate about this?

I love stories grounded in realism - but which also explore that there may be more to life than meets the eye; reasons beyond reason, for the way we dream, love, and think, and which come from unexpected sources. I love books whose characters really 'live', and stay with me, long after I've finished reading. I aspire to create such characters. In my novels, I seek to explore important themes from perspectives that often pitch rationality against what it cannot explain, or dismiss. The fiction I most love does this – whether it exploits mythology, suggests life beyond life, or uses magical realism to add ‘other’ dimensions to the ordinary. "There are more things… Horatio…"


I wrote...

The Estate Agent

By Therese Down,

Book cover of The Estate Agent

What is my book about?

Claire Cavendish is a London Commercial Lawyer whose lifestyle defines success. But when her sixteen-year-old daughter, Annaliese, is diagnosed with osteosarcoma and her husband, Jeremy, says he wants to begin an affair, wealth and success are poor levees against rising tides of grief, panic, and the re-surfacing of past trauma as Claire’s life breaks down. When Jeremy insists they sell Orchard House, their opulent London home, the stage is set for the advent of Matthew Summers, a young Estate Agent whose own life is profoundly affected by the people who occupy the house he must sell.

The Estate Agent is a story of lives in free fall when there is nothing left to control.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Golem and the Jinni

Therese Down Why did I love this book?

This novel is a creative tour de force. I was wholly immersed in the worlds it created and bereft when I finished it. Thank goodness – and the brilliant Helene Wecker - for its sequel, The Hidden Palace – just as brilliant.
Not a promising premise – a female Golem made of clay, and a Djinni, all fire and elemental passion, encounter each other in 1899 New York. Chava, as she is named, and Ahmad, as he is known, find ways to live and work in immigrant communities, while bound to each other in secret, in ways even their unsuspecting human lovers can’t imagine.

Achingly human, yet mesmerisingly ‘other’, these magical creatures weave and forge a truly unforgettable story – in any world.

By Helene Wecker,

Why should I read it?

9 authors picked The Golem and the Jinni as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'One of only two novels I've ever loved whose main characters are not human' BARBARA KINGSOLVER

For fans of The Essex Serpent and The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock.

'By far my favourite book of of the year' Guardian

Chava is a golem, a creature made of clay, brought to life by a disgraced rabbi who dabbles in dark Kabbalistic magic. When her master, the husband who commissioned her, dies at sea on the voyage from Poland, she is unmoored and adrift as the ship arrives in New York in 1899.

Ahmad is a djinni, a being of fire, born in…


Book cover of The Mermaid of Black Conch

Therese Down Why did I love this book?

The Mermaid of Black Conch takes a mythological creature and gives her extraordinary life, as a very real, young woman, called Aycayia.

She is caught – hooked like a prize fish - by greedy anglers, and hauled from the sea, bringing with her an already fascinating and tragic history of injustice and misunderstanding. But, she is also an object of love.

Not all fishermen are commercial opportunists… Not all men are eager to exploit beautiful and unusual women, and so begins an extraordinary rescue, and a life-affirming relationship, with many unpredictable, literally magical, and truly remarkable twists.

This enchanting book, written with breath-taking originality, is likely to spell-bind you – permanently. You’ll never again think of mermaids in the same way.

By Monique Roffey,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Escape to the ocean with the entrancing, unforgettable winner of the Costa Book of the Year - as read on BBC Radio 4.

'Mesmerising' MAGGIE O'FARRELL
'A unique talent' BERNARDINE EVARISTO
'Wonderful' BRIDGET COLLINS
'Brilliant' CLARE CHAMBERS

Near the island of Black Conch, a fisherman sings to himself while waiting for a catch. But David attracts a sea-dweller that he never expected - Aycayia, an innocent young woman cursed by jealous wives to live as a mermaid.

When American tourists capture Aycayia, David rescues her and vows to win her trust. Slowly, painfully, she transforms into a woman again. Yet…


Book cover of Piranesi

Therese Down Why did I love this book?

How to explain the appeal of this compellingly original novel? A man who no longer knows himself, exists in a place no longer known to the world; a series of halls flooded by tidal waters and populated by extraordinary statues and flocks of birds.

Narnia for grownups, Piranesi enthralled me from the start. The need to unravel the book’s mystery became an obsession, so that the story occupied my thoughts on and off all day, and I couldn’t wait to get back to it. The ‘reveal’ is as satisfying as it is unpredictable, and the writing is flawless.

Clarke had already asserted her narrative mastery with Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, but it is honed with Piranesi. World-class stuff.

By Susanna Clarke,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Winner of the 2021 Women's Prize for Fiction
A SUNDAY TIMES & NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

The spectacular new novel from the bestselling author of JONATHAN STRANGE & MR NORRELL, 'one of our greatest living authors' NEW YORK MAGAZINE
__________________________________
Piranesi lives in the House. Perhaps he always has.

In his notebooks, day after day, he makes a clear and careful record of its wonders: the labyrinth of halls, the thousands upon thousands of statues, the tides that thunder up staircases, the clouds that move in slow procession through the upper halls. On Tuesdays and Fridays Piranesi sees his friend,…


Book cover of Klara and the Sun

Therese Down Why did I love this book?

This astonishing novel from literary Nobel-prize-winning author, Kazuo Ishiguru, gripped me from page 1 and kept me in thrall, to the end.

It bloomed, slowly, but steadily, into a panoramic narrative, artfully focalised from a unique perspective. In a society growing resentful of the androids it has created, to be ‘friends’ to its neurally ‘uplifted’ children, one android, Klara, speaks with a voice - and evident ‘soul’.

Truly innocent, and movingly vulnerable, Klara trusts the sun - on whose energy she relies for life - to help her meet the needs of those she learns to love. But, can they love Klara? A beautiful, extraordinary story, written by an author unsurpassed in his narrative skill.

By Kazuo Ishiguro,

Why should I read it?

20 authors picked Klara and the Sun as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

*The #1 Sunday Times Bestseller*
*Longlisted for the Booker Prize 2021*
*A Barack Obama Summer Reading Pick*

'A delicate, haunting story' The Washington Post
'This is a novel for fans of Never Let Me Go . . . tender, touching and true.' The Times

'The Sun always has ways to reach us.'

From her place in the store, Klara, an Artificial Friend with outstanding observational qualities, watches carefully the behaviour of those who come in to browse, and of those who pass in the street outside. She remains hopeful a customer will soon choose her, but when the possibility emerges…


Book cover of The Mad Women's Ball

Therese Down Why did I love this book?

A startling kaleidoscope of a novel – indicated by the arresting cover.

Mas’ book whirled me into the heart of its narrative with fast-moving stories of women whose lives are radically changed by supernatural encounters which, in 19th century Paris, invite diagnoses of mental illness. What follows is a disorienting but compulsive account of 'madness', ‘other-world-ness’ - and the dangers of being different.

Beautifully imagined and expertly crafted, this novel engrossed me – and I learned a lot about mental asylums, and attitudes to women, in rather unenlightened times. A fabulous book.

By Victoria Mas, Frank Wynne (translator),

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Mad Women's Ball as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'A darkly sumptuous tale of wicked spectacle, wild injustice and the insuppressible strength of women' EMMA STONEX, author of THE LAMPLIGHTERS

'In this darkly delightful Gothic treasure, Mas explores grief, trauma and sisterhood behind the walls of Paris' infamous Salpetriere hospital' PAULA HAWKINS, author of A SLOW FIRE BURNING

'A beautifully written debut...I have absolutely no doubt it will be one of my favourite novels of 2021.' AJ PEARCE, author of DEAR MRS BIRD

The Salpetriere asylum, 1885. All of Paris is in thrall to Doctor Charcot and his displays of hypnotism on women who have been deemed mad or…


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Medical Hostages

By Shawn Jennings,

Book cover of Medical Hostages

Shawn Jennings Author Of Locked In Locked Out: Surviving a Brainstem Stroke

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

The five recommended nonfiction books on my list profoundly affected my life in my time of need. I struggled when a minor accident led to a brainstem stroke and being locked in at 45. How would I find happiness now? How can I go on? These five books gave me the strength to work hard, accept what couldn’t be improved, and be grateful for each day of good health. I hope the recommended books will help you prepare for the day your life will change...and it will.

Shawn's book list on accepting and moving on from a tragedy

What is my book about?

Duke, the leader of a bike gang, is in custody for murder. He plans an escape by feigning illness and hospitalization. But an unexpected turn of events results in two gang members and Duke holding a medical floor of patients hostage. Patients will die if the police don't meet their demands within hours.
The drama follows Duke and Drs. Mindy Fletch, director of the Intensive Care Unit, and Craig Russell, a family medicine resident, in this tense hostage stand-off.

Will the bikers find freedom? Will hostages die? Can Mindy and Craig survive and prevent deaths? In times of stress, people often discover new directions and strengths.

Medical Hostages

By Shawn Jennings,

What is this book about?

Duke, the leader of a bike gang, is in custody for murder. He plans an escape by feigning illness and hospitalization. But an unexpected turn of events results in two gang members and Duke holding a medical floor of patients hostage.


Patients will die if the police don't meet their demands within hours.


The drama follows Duke and Drs. Mindy Fletch, director of the Intensive Care Unit; and Craig Russell, a family medicine resident; in this tense hostage stand-off.


Will the bikers find freedom? Will hostages die? Can Mindy and Craig survive and prevent deaths?


In times of stress, people…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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