100 books like Beautiful Ruins

By Jess Walter,

Here are 100 books that Beautiful Ruins fans have personally recommended if you like Beautiful Ruins. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Beloved

Donna Hemans Author Of The House of Plain Truth

From my list on haunting: how the past lingers with us.

Why am I passionate about this?

I grew up in a culture that both fears and embraces spirits or outrightly rejects the idea that spirits live on beyond death. I grew up on stories of rolling calves and duppies that caused havoc among the living. Since then, I’ve been fascinated by what haunts us—whether it be our familial spirits that float among the living and continue to play a role in our lives, our memories, or our past actions. I’ve written three books that play with this idea of past actions lingering long into the characters’ lives and returning in unexpected ways.  

Donna's book list on haunting: how the past lingers with us

Donna Hemans Why did Donna love this book?

This book is a longtime favorite of mine. Toni Morrison was a master at blending the personal story and the political, and in this book, she blends the true story of a mother who kills her child to prevent slave catchers from returning the baby to life as a slave.

Morrison’s fictional Sethe is haunted by the ghost of the baby she killed and the memories of her difficult life as a slave. This is one of the novels I return to time after time, both for the beauty of the writing and the portrayal of a mother’s love, guilt, and the lingering impact of slavery.

By Toni Morrison,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'Toni Morrison was a giant of her times and ours... Beloved is a heart-breaking testimony to the ongoing ravages of slavery, and should be read by all' Margaret Atwood, New York Times

Discover this beautiful gift edition of Toni Morrison's prize-winning contemporary classic Beloved

It is the mid-1800s and as slavery looks to be coming to an end, Sethe is haunted by the violent trauma it wrought on her former enslaved life at Sweet Home, Kentucky. Her dead baby daughter, whose tombstone bears the single word, Beloved, returns as a spectre to punish her mother, but also to elicit her…


Book cover of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

Catherine McCarthy Author Of The Wolf and the Favour

From my list on a child who has a tough journey through life.

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm an author of dark fiction from Wales, UK, who, for many years, taught primary school children. In my own writing I often gravitate towards the child’s point of view, and the same can be said of the fiction I choose to read. As a teacher I dealt with children’s issues on a day-to-day basis, and sometimes you wonder how these kids survive, or at least you understand the trauma they carry for the rest of their lives. But what about those who manage to rise above it? Those are the characters whose stories I love to read. The child lurks in all of us, and we must never lose sight of that fact.

Catherine's book list on a child who has a tough journey through life

Catherine McCarthy Why did Catherine love this book?

I taught primary school children for many years, including children with a variety of learning difficulties.

It just so happened that at the time I was reading The Curious Incident I was also teaching a young boy with autistic spectrum disorder. The main character in the novel, Christopher Boone, shared so many character traits with the boy in my class that I pictured him the whole way through.

It’s not easy to write about neurodivergent people, you have to get it right as the last thing you want to do is patronize or stereotype. In my opinion, the author did an incredible job. I laughed and I cried, and I’m sure you will do the same.

By Mark Haddon,

Why should I read it?

20 authors picked The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Winner of the Whitbread Book of the Year

'Outstanding...a stunningly good read' Observer

'Mark Haddon's portrayal of an emotionally dissociated mind is a superb achievement... Wise and bleakly funny' Ian McEwan

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is a murder mystery novel like no other. The detective, and narrator, is Christopher Boone. Christopher is fifteen and has Asperger's Syndrome. He knows a very great deal about maths and very little about human beings. He loves lists, patterns and the truth. He hates the colours yellow and brown and being touched. He has never gone further than the…


Book cover of Under the Tuscan Sun

Susan Pohlman Author Of Halfway to Each Other: How a Year in Italy Brought Our Family Home

From my list on travel memoir for women on women (and men) who travel.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been fascinated by the transformational power of travel ever since my husband and I unexpectedly signed a lease to an apartment on the Italian Riviera instead of divorce papers. The power of that year abroad saved our marriage, united our family of four in a sacred way, and introduced us to the many cultures of Europe. I learned the crucial difference between taking a trip and embarking on a journey. Capturing a travel experience on the page for those who can’t journey to a destination themselves is a joy and a privilege I don’t take lightly. Publishing this memoir allowed me to pivot in my career to a full-time writer and writing coach/editor.

Susan's book list on travel memoir for women on women (and men) who travel

Susan Pohlman Why did Susan love this book?

I remember seeing this book for the first time on my mother’s bedside table.

As a mother of six children (five boys and a girl—me), I strongly suspect she dreamed of escape from time to time. A mother now myself, I understand feelings of overwhelm.

When I read this book back in the late ‘90s I saw a woman brave enough to step into her dreams and create a beautiful and sensuous life. It was bold, and it allowed me to dream of a bigger life. It made me curious if I could ever do such a thing.

Read the story of how she and her husband transformed an old villa as well as their lives!

By Frances Mayes,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Discover the New York Times bestseller that inspired the film. The perfect read for anyone seeking an escape to the Italian countryside.

When Frances Mayes - poet, gourmet cook and travel writer - buys an abandoned villa in Tuscany, she has no idea of the scale of the project she is embarking on.

In this enchanting memoir she takes the reader on a journey to restore a crumbling villa and build a new life in the Italian countryside, navigating hilarious cultural misunderstandings, legal frustrations and the challenges of renovating a house that seems determined to remain a ruin.

Filled with…


Book cover of The Immortalists

Deborah Gaal Author Of Synchronicities on the Avenue of the Saints

From my list on inducing laughter and tears on the same page.

Why am I passionate about this?

Nothing gives me more joy than painting stories in the colors of every human emotion in our spectrum.  And combining laughter and tears on the same page elicits a delicious thrill that keeps me sitting in the chair. It doesn’t happen to me on every page, (I’d be lying to say it did.) When it does, I don’t want to let it go. A former theater major (probably “a bad actor”) I started my novel-writing journey when I sent a resignation email to a few thousand employees I was managing at the time. “Hey girl, you made me laugh and cry in that email. Maybe you might think about writing.”

Deborah's book list on inducing laughter and tears on the same page

Deborah Gaal Why did Deborah love this book?

I love the magical realism aspect of this novel, which Benjamin handles with such a deft hand you don’t question whether or not the impossible is possible. A fortune teller’s prediction and old-world superstition create a heavy weight that exquisitely-drawn characters must navigate. The power of belief and its effect on destiny is a complex topic. Is it good or bad to know our future? Should we act on what we’ve been told? Should we ignore it? If we believe something does that make it happen? If we disbelieve does it not happen? Every character is a gem, including Klara: an extraordinary magician who convinced me we must embrace the mysteries of the world even if we can’t comprehend them.   

By Chloe Benjamin,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'Boundlessly moving' Observer

'Immersive and impressive' The Sunday Times

'Benjamin writes with verve and charm' Guardian

The NEW YORK TIMES Top Ten Bestseller

It's 1969, and holed up in a grimy tenement building in New York's Lower East Side is a travelling psychic who claims to be able to tell anyone the date they will die. The four Gold children, too young for what they're about to hear, sneak out to learn their fortunes.

Such prophecies could be dismissed as trickery and nonsense, yet the Golds bury theirs deep. Over the years that follow they attempt to ignore, embrace, cheat…


Book cover of The Neapolitan Novels Boxed Set

Susan Van Allen Author Of 100 Places in Italy Every Woman Should Go

From my list on women who love Italy.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am grateful to my maternal grandparents, immigrants from southern Italy, who instilled in me a love for the Bel Paese that has inspired me all my life. I began to travel to Italy 45 years ago, and after writing for television—on the staff of Everybody Loves Raymond—I turned to travel writing. I’ve written 4 books about Italian travel, along with many stories for magazines. I also design and host Golden Weeks in Italy: For Women Only tours, to give female travelers an insider’s experience of this extraordinary country.

Susan's book list on women who love Italy

Susan Van Allen Why did Susan love this book?

I have always loved visiting the city of Naples – for the great food, the rich history, and the warm locals who remind me of my southern Italian relatives. Ferrante’s novels go deep into the complexities of a female friendship that spans many decades, while also bringing to life a wide range of characters who I grew to love and truly care about, while devouring this extraordinary series.

By Elena Ferrante, Ann Goldstein (translator),

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Neapolitan Novels Boxed Set as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The complete four-volume boxed set of the New York Times–bestselling epic about hardship and female friendship in postwar Naples that has sold over five million copies.

Beginning with My Brilliant Friend, the four Neapolitan Novels by Elena Ferrante follow Elena and Lila, from their rough-edged upbringing in Naples, Italy, not long after WWII, through the many stages of their lives―and along paths that diverge wildly. Sometimes they are separated by jealousy or hostility or physical distance, but the bond between them is unbreakable, for better or for worse.

This volume includes all four novels: My Brilliant Friend; The Story of…


Book cover of White Hunter, Black Heart

Stephen Rebello Author Of Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho

From my list on featuring Hollywood giants as characters.

Why am I passionate about this?

A Southern California-based writer, screenwriter, and journalist whose adventures in and around the film business have led to hundreds of feature stories and film reviews for such magazines as Vibe, Playboy, American Film, Smithsonian, and Movieline. His books include three dedicated to Disney animated classics and a volume on the art of American movie posters. His lovingly satirical book Bad Movies We Love, co-written with Edward Margulies, inspired a Turner Network movie marathon series, his Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho was filmed in 2012. His next non-fiction book will be published in 2024.   

Stephen's book list on featuring Hollywood giants as characters

Stephen Rebello Why did Stephen love this book?

Novelist Peter Viertel, an uncredited screenplay contributor to three John Huston-directed movies, wrote one of the great Hollywood-adjacent novels in this 1953 classic backgrounded by the preproduction of a fictionalized film. Hint: it’s transparently Huston’s The African Queen and the "John Wilson" character is clearly John Huston himself. The book dramatizes the hell screenwriter Peter Verill (Viertel, of course) endures when the bigger-than-life director becomes more obsessed with hunting and killing a majestic elephant than in shooting the film he’s been sent to make. 

Funny, marvelously readable, it's also rich with wry and knowing portraits of characters based upon Katharine Hepburn, Humphrey Bogart, and producer Sam Spiegel, the latter of whom says of Wilson/Huston: “In a well-ordered society, he’d be in a straitjacket now.” Clint Eastwood directed and starred in a 1990 movie version. Skip that, watch The African Queen, then read this instead.

By Peter Viertel,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked White Hunter, Black Heart as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

It was a stellar cast gathered to make an epic masterpiece...a movie that could be made only by a mad genius. And John Wilson was a cinematic genius sent dangerously out of control by the madness of Africa itself. The human cost would be awesome, reflecting the tragic legacy for Africa of the white man's ignorance, arrogance...and passion.

Modeled on John Huston, and the making of The African Queen.

"Its incidental pictures of African scenery and colonial society, both British and Belgian, are vividly those of a first-rate observer and reporter. So, too, is the London background of hotels and…


Book cover of Fergus

Stephen Rebello Author Of Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho

From my list on featuring Hollywood giants as characters.

Why am I passionate about this?

A Southern California-based writer, screenwriter, and journalist whose adventures in and around the film business have led to hundreds of feature stories and film reviews for such magazines as Vibe, Playboy, American Film, Smithsonian, and Movieline. His books include three dedicated to Disney animated classics and a volume on the art of American movie posters. His lovingly satirical book Bad Movies We Love, co-written with Edward Margulies, inspired a Turner Network movie marathon series, his Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho was filmed in 2012. His next non-fiction book will be published in 2024.   

Stephen's book list on featuring Hollywood giants as characters

Stephen Rebello Why did Stephen love this book?

In the mid-‘60s, acclaimed Irish-Canadian novelist Brian Moore unhappily spent time grappling with the script problems plaguing director Alfred Hitchcock’s 1966 spy thriller Torn Curtain. In this frankly autobiographical 1971 novel, a Hitchcock-esque producer comes in for knocks when a Moore-like novelist-screenwriter gets lured to Hollywood to work on the screenplay for a famous moviemaker’s next film. (Moore described his brush with Hitchcock as “awful, like washing floors.”) Waiting to learn whether he’s going to be forced to do another script rewrite, the novelist agonizes over his ongoing divorce and his relationship with his new girlfriend. Mostly, though, he’s confronted by the ghosts of friends and family members past, notably his father’s. So sharply funny, painfully honest a book that one almost wishes Hitchcock had filmed it instead of Torn Curtain.

By Brian Moore,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This volume is produced from digital images created through the University of Michigan University Library's large-scale digitization efforts. The Library seeks to preserve the intellectual content of items in a manner that facilitates and promotes a variety of uses. The digital reformatting process results in an electronic version of the original text that can be both accessed online and used to create new print copies. The Library also understands and values the usefulness of print and makes reprints available to the public whenever possible. This book and hundreds of thousands of others can be found in the HathiTrust, an archive…


Book cover of Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption

Mark Wish Author Of Necessary Deeds

From my list on gruesome murders and genuine love.

Why am I passionate about this?

I had the passion to write Necessary Deeds because: 1) as someone who'd spent 20+ years writing novels, dealing with untrustworthy literary agents, and book-doctoring other writers’ novels in order to pay rent, I'd come to know betrayal (“best friend” writers who stole drafts of mine and called them their own, novelists who backstabbed me after I helped them land agents and book contracts, and so on); 2) like many people who lived through the drug-and-alcohol-laced Eighties, I had a long relationship with someone that ended because they cheated on me. So I never doubted that, as I wrote Necessary Deeds, my heart knew well what motivated its characters.

Mark's book list on gruesome murders and genuine love

Mark Wish Why did Mark love this book?

Much as I enjoyed the film based on this novella by Stephen King (which I now understand is a standalone book—I read it as part of a story collection long ago), I enjoyed the novella more.

Why? Because of its extraordinarily likeable narrative voice, which has caused people worldwide to find themselves rooting for its narrator. How can you not want to know what’ll happen next to someone so candid and down-to-earth—who has experienced homicide and love so intensely? Especially when he wants intimacy yet also feels threatened by it.

In fact, just after I finished reading the Shawshank novella, I vowed to write a novel about someone in NYC who exuded those same attributes: candor, humility, and understated yet solid wisdom about murder and affairs of the heart. And after several years of writing with this goal, I finally tapped into the voice of Matt Connell, the narrator of…

By Stephen King,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The No. 1 bestselling author Stephen King's beloved novella, Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption - the basis for the Best Picture Academy Award-nominee The Shawshank Redemption - about an unjustly imprisoned convict who seeks a strangely satisfying revenge, is now available as a standalone book.

There's a guy like me in every state and federal prison in America, I guess - I'm the guy who can get it for you.

And new convict Andy Dufresne wants two things from fellow prisoner Red: a small rock-hammer for carving stones and a giant poster of Rita Hayworth.

So begins this mesmerising tale…


Book cover of Crash

Leighton Gray Author Of Dream Daddy

From my list on to completely ruin your day.

Why am I passionate about this?

I like to create silly, fun things. This is not the kind of content I consume. If something makes me feel bad, I generally like it; if it is also beautiful, I will like it a lot. It is through the generosity of the Shepherd team that I was allowed to flip a promo for a gay dad comic into a way for me to peer pressure you into consuming media that will make you feel bad. Consider this list an aperitif for the feel-goodness of Dream Daddy, a delicate shot glass of cyanide after a hearty meal. Bon appetit!

Leighton's book list on to completely ruin your day

Leighton Gray Why did Leighton love this book?

Cronenberg’s 1996 movie adaptation (not the one that won many Oscars and is bad) captures Ballard’s sensual mechanical fetishism and apocalyptic consumerism perfectly. It is a 120-minute-long sex scene in a carousel of mangled metal. It is probably the best adaptation of prose to film I can think of, which is bolstered by the sheer strength of the book itself. Crash (again, not the 2006 one, the car crash sex one) is by far Cronenberg’s horniest feature, and that’s saying something. Uh. I didn’t mean to just talk about the movie. I should probably talk about the book. The book is very good. I’m deathly afraid of car accidents, and reading about them through Ballard’s dreamy, eroticized lens is a capital-E Experience. Truly one of my favorites.

By J.G. Ballard,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The definitive cult, post-modern novel - a shocking blend of violence, transgression and eroticism - reissued with a new introduction from Zadie Smith.

When Ballard, our narrator, smashes his car into another and watches a man die in front of him, he finds himself drawn with increasing intensity to the mangled impacts of car crashes. Robert Vaughan, a former TV scientist turned nightmare angel of the expressway, has gathered around him a collection of alienated crash victims and experiments with a series of auto-erotic atrocities, each more sinister than the last. But Vaughan craves the ultimate crash - a head-on…


Book cover of Everything Is Illuminated

Deborah Gaal Author Of Synchronicities on the Avenue of the Saints

From my list on inducing laughter and tears on the same page.

Why am I passionate about this?

Nothing gives me more joy than painting stories in the colors of every human emotion in our spectrum.  And combining laughter and tears on the same page elicits a delicious thrill that keeps me sitting in the chair. It doesn’t happen to me on every page, (I’d be lying to say it did.) When it does, I don’t want to let it go. A former theater major (probably “a bad actor”) I started my novel-writing journey when I sent a resignation email to a few thousand employees I was managing at the time. “Hey girl, you made me laugh and cry in that email. Maybe you might think about writing.”

Deborah's book list on inducing laughter and tears on the same page

Deborah Gaal Why did Deborah love this book?

I was deeply affected by Foer’s descriptions of the shtetl in Poland, the cruelty that affected its villagers, and the inescapable effect of this tragedy on future generations. Foer’s ancestry mirrored what I knew of my own family history, and the desire we have to document those stories before they disappear. But Foer alternates the “old world’s” dramatic scenes with hilarity. The Polish blind driver who guides Foer on his search to discover his family’s past employs a “seeing eye bitch” (a dog) to help him navigate the countryside. And his narrator’s constant quirky misuse of English makes for a unique voice that I still—twenty years after reading the book—can’t get out of my head. The novel is at times heartbreaking, at times uproarious, and always oh-so-satisfying.  

By Jonathan Safran Foer,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Everything Is Illuminated as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 14, 15, 16, and 17.

What is this book about?

This is the story of a young man who visits the Ukraine to find the woman who saved his grandfather from the Nazis. In turns hilarious and harrowing, lit with a manic energy, it is narrated in part by a Ukranian translator, who has a murderous approach to the English language, and in part by the young man, who reanimates the lives of his grandfather and ancestors. Eventually the past meets the present, as fiction collides with reality in an unforgettable climax. With breathtaking inventiveness and narrative control, Jonathan Safran Foer has written a book about searching - for people…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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