33 books like Hell of a Book

By Jason Mott,

Here are 33 books that Hell of a Book fans have personally recommended if you like Hell of a Book. 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 Mexican Gothic

David Ferraro Author Of The Alchemy of Moonlight

From my list on Gothic with dark and haunting family secrets.

Why am I passionate about this?

Horror has had a place in my life since my parents let me watch horror movies at far too young an age. But horror comes in many forms, and I’ve found that my love for atmosphere supersedes that of cheap thrills. In Gothic literature, atmosphere is everything. Done right, it paints an unsettling picture that builds tension for readers hoping to get lost in a disquieting world. A lover of classics, I was drawn to Gothic texts, from Dracula to the works of Edgar Allen Poe, and my Gothic novel The Alchemy of Moonlight is a love letter to the pioneers who shaped these shadowy worlds for generation of readers.

David's book list on Gothic with dark and haunting family secrets

David Ferraro Why did David love this book?

Isolated locations are the cornerstone for building tension in a slow-burning mystery such as this.

With a strange family keeping secrets from our protagonist, to the quiet unease of something not quite right, the mounting dread of this Gothic tale takes readers on a journey both unique and unsettlingly familiar.

It crawls under your skin and remains, unbidden, like Noemi’s dreams of blood in a house that doesn’t want to let her go, just as the cousin she’s come to rescue seems destined to succumb under the rule of an oppressive family.

The resurgence of Gothic literature this new classic has inspired made it possible for my book to see the light of day.

By Silvia Moreno-Garcia,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The award-winning author of Gods of Jade and Shadow (one of the 100 best fantasy novels of all time, TIME magazine) returns with a mesmerising feminist Gothic fantasy, in which a glamorous young socialite discovers the haunting secrets of a beautiful old mansion in 1950s Mexico.

He is trying to poison me. You must come for me, Noemi. You have to save me.

When glamorous socialite Noemi Taboada receives a frantic letter from her newlywed cousin begging to be rescued from a mysterious doom, it's clear something is desperately amiss. Catalina has always had a flair for the dramatic, but…


Book cover of The Mothers

Roy L. Pickering Jr. Author Of Patches of Grey

From my list on Black family dynamics.

Why am I passionate about this?

Reading and writing about family dynamics, particularly Black families, has always appealed to me. Particularly when it comes to the generation gap between parents and their children that causes them to see the same world through different lenses. Who we choose to see as our true family, the ones who define the place we call home, may or may not be defined by blood. I am fortunate not to have personally experienced most of the drama and trauma found in novels that I am drawn to, and in stories I have felt compelled to write. Otherwise, I would have turned to memoir writing rather than fiction.

Roy's book list on Black family dynamics

Roy L. Pickering Jr. Why did Roy love this book?

Brit Bennett writes with a steady hand as she immerses us into the minds and lives of three people. Nadia and Aubrey are haunted to womanhood by maternal abandonment. They are friends as well as rivals for the affection of the same man. Luke would have made a mother out of Nadia had they chosen to parent, and he eventually makes a wife and mother of Aubrey. His mother is the first lady of the church that plays a prominent role in their lives. The mothers in Bennett's exceptional novel are hurt and betrayed by callous men and by each other. I rooted for each of them to persevere, but like many of my favorite novels, this is not a happily ever after for everyone type of story.

By Brit Bennett,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

From the Sunday Times bestselling author of The Vanishing Half.

The Mothers is a dazzling debut about young love, a big secret in a small community and the moments that haunt us most.

All good secrets have a taste before you tell them, and if we'd taken a moment to swish this one around our mouths, we might have noticed the sourness of an unripe secret, plucked too soon, stolen and passed around before its season.

It's the last season of high school life for Nadia Turner, a rebellious, grief-stricken, seventeen-year-old beauty. Mourning her own mother's recent suicide, she takes…


Book cover of Lakewood

Alex Jennings Author Of The Ballad of Perilous Graves

From my list on boundary-pushing fantasy.

Why am I passionate about this?

All of these books inspired me to become a better writer and to push my imagination to the limit by getting The Ballad of Perilous Graves onto the page. These books made me want to polish the contents of my own imagination and tell the biggest most heartfelt story I could. Ballad is in good company on library and bookstore shelves, so I wanted it to connect as hard as possible.

Alex's book list on boundary-pushing fantasy

Alex Jennings Why did Alex love this book?

Giddings takes the stories of Henrietta Lacks and the Tuskegee experiments and extrapolates them into the present day. A young woman dealing with crushing medical debt agrees to participate in medical trials with strange and debilitating side effects. This book is horrific, lyrically written, and brimming with emotion.

By Megan Giddings,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

NPR Book of the Year 2020

Electric Literature: One of 55 Books by Women and Nonbinary Writers of Color to Read in 2020 | Lit Hub & The Millions: Most Anticipated Books of 2020 | Ms. Magazine: Anticipated 2020 Feminist Books | Refinery29: Books by Black Women We are Looking Forward To Reading | One of The Millions' Most Anticipated Reads of 2020 | Amazon Book of the Month Pick | Audible Editor's Pick | Essence's Pick| Glamour's Must Read | Ms. Magazine's Anticipated Read of 2020

A startling debut about class and race, Lakewood evokes a terrifying world of…


Book cover of If You Want to Make God Laugh

Jeni McFarland Author Of The House of Deep Water

From my list on secrecy and denial.

Why am I passionate about this?

I come from worlds that look much like the worlds in these books: raised in poverty, absent father, generational trauma, and mental illness running strong in my genes. I’ve always been interested in the ways our opportunities shape us, and the coping mechanisms we wield—secrecy, denial, anger, violence, even love—as we try to survive. 

Jeni's book list on secrecy and denial

Jeni McFarland Why did Jeni love this book?

Marais does an excellent job of moving among these three point-of-view characters: a Black woman and two white sisters, all brought together by a child and the question of parentage. At the heart of the story is life in apartheid-era South Africa. A must-read for anyone who loves messy families and complex characters.

By Bianca Marais,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked If You Want to Make God Laugh as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From the author of the beloved Hum If You Don't Know the Words comes a rich, unforgettable story of three unique women in post-Apartheid South Africa who are brought together in their darkest time and discover the ways that love can transcend the strictest of boundaries.

In a squatter camp on the outskirts of Johannesburg, seventeen-year-old Zodwa lives in desperate poverty, under the shadowy threat of a civil war and a growing AIDS epidemic. Eight months pregnant, Zodwa carefully guards secrets that jeopardize her life.

Across the country, wealthy socialite Ruth appears to have everything her heart desires, but it's…


Book cover of Here Goes Nothing

Betsy Robinson Author Of The Last Will & Testament of Zelda McFigg

From my list on laughing while squirming with new self-awareness.

Why am I passionate about this?

I write to learn what I don’t know about myself and our purpose as flawed beings in this Alice-in-Wonderland world. In the documentary about singer/poet Leonard Cohen, creator of the much-covered “Hallelujah” (title of the documentary), to explain the song, he says that life is so impenetrable that the only options are to shake your fist or exclaim “Hallelujah.” I think there is a third option: to laugh. And I prefer to do all three because that is what comes through me: confusion, pain, and hilarity. And hopefully a better understanding of the whole mess once I’ve written about it. And that is what I hope to share with readers.

Betsy's book list on laughing while squirming with new self-awareness

Betsy Robinson Why did Betsy love this book?

Not only did I laugh all the way through this rollicking novel, but I felt as if author Steve Toltz is a brother writer from a cousin muse to my own.

Angus Mooney, the protagonist, is a thief, a romantic, and a philosopher who is dedicated to the easier path of not learning or understanding anything. And, not a spoiler, he dies.

If you console yourself that a better life awaits you in heaven, or if you're resigned to life being painful, but after all, it's only temporary, and once it's over, it'll be over, think again.

In this shockingly inventive, wildly funny epic about one man's life, death, and beyond, you may have some epiphanies about existence in general and how you want to spend or squander your time.

By Steve Toltz,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Here Goes Nothing as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A Times (of London) Best Fiction Book of 2022

A wildly inventive, savagely funny and topical novel about love, mortality and the afterlife, by the Booker-shortlisted author of A Fraction of the Whole.

Angus is a reformed ne'er-do-well looking forward to the birth of his first child when he's murdered by a man who is in love with his pregnant wife Gracie. Having never believed in God, heaven or hell, Angus finds himself in the afterlife - a place that provides more questions than answers. As a worldwide pandemic finally reaches the shores of Australia, the afterlife starts to get…


Book cover of Donna Has Left the Building

Betsy Robinson Author Of The Last Will & Testament of Zelda McFigg

From my list on laughing while squirming with new self-awareness.

Why am I passionate about this?

I write to learn what I don’t know about myself and our purpose as flawed beings in this Alice-in-Wonderland world. In the documentary about singer/poet Leonard Cohen, creator of the much-covered “Hallelujah” (title of the documentary), to explain the song, he says that life is so impenetrable that the only options are to shake your fist or exclaim “Hallelujah.” I think there is a third option: to laugh. And I prefer to do all three because that is what comes through me: confusion, pain, and hilarity. And hopefully a better understanding of the whole mess once I’ve written about it. And that is what I hope to share with readers.

Betsy's book list on laughing while squirming with new self-awareness

Betsy Robinson Why did Betsy love this book?

How I love to laugh at the same time that I’m feeling all the raw pain of being a human—in this case a human woman who runs away from home. The beginning of this book—about a housewife, cooking ware saleswoman's trip to hell and back, is belly-laugh-inducing, causing one to cough and gasp in joy. But there’s more: Gilman writes real, complicated characters, complete with pain and delusions. And the reason they are so deeply funny is that Gilman is self-aware enough to know and show their flaws better than they know them. 

Titular protagonist Donna Koczynski may inhabit a particular era (one when trendiness reigns), but she is rooted in her own psychology, which includes equal parts compassion, open-minded curiosity, lunatic-level denial, and crazed she-wolf rage.

By Susan Jane Gilman,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Donna Has Left the Building as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Donna Koczynski is a failed punk rocker, recovering alcoholic, and suburban mother of two teenagers whose relatively peaceful existence suddenly detonates when she comes home early from a sales conference in Vegas to find the surprise of a lifetime. Suddenly realizing that life can be more than the rut of middle-aged motherhood, she sets off on an impulsive quest to reclaim everything she believes she sacrificed since her wild youth: Friendship, great love, and art. But as she flees her family and drives across the U.S. on what she calls an "emotional scavenger hunt"(and others might call a midlife crisis),…


Book cover of I Am Not Sidney Poitier

Betsy Robinson Author Of The Last Will & Testament of Zelda McFigg

From my list on laughing while squirming with new self-awareness.

Why am I passionate about this?

I write to learn what I don’t know about myself and our purpose as flawed beings in this Alice-in-Wonderland world. In the documentary about singer/poet Leonard Cohen, creator of the much-covered “Hallelujah” (title of the documentary), to explain the song, he says that life is so impenetrable that the only options are to shake your fist or exclaim “Hallelujah.” I think there is a third option: to laugh. And I prefer to do all three because that is what comes through me: confusion, pain, and hilarity. And hopefully a better understanding of the whole mess once I’ve written about it. And that is what I hope to share with readers.

Betsy's book list on laughing while squirming with new self-awareness

Betsy Robinson Why did Betsy love this book?

I’ve read this book twice and probably will read it a few more times before I die. It’s that good.

The story of a young Black man (named Not Sidney Poitier) traversing the U.S.A. is a picaresque, hilarious, heart-breaking tale about trying to find yourself.

Eighteen-year-old Not Sidney is surrounded by people who only see his race or his wealth, or conversely by geniuses who have succeeded despite themselves and, although they see Not Sidney without the cultural labels, are of little help in his quest to find his mission in life. 

The first time I read this book, I was spitting coffee laughing. The second time, my heart broke. I am curious what my next read will evoke.

By Percival L. Everett,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked I Am Not Sidney Poitier as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Not Sidney Poitier is an amiable young man in an absurd country. The sudden death of his mother orphans him at age eleven, leaving him with an unfortunate name, an uncanny resemblance to the famous actor and, perhaps more fortunate, a staggering number of shares in the Turner Broadcasting Corporation. Percival Everett's hilarious new novel follows Not Sidney's tumultuous life, as the social hierarchy scrambles to balance his skin color with his fabulous wealth.


Book cover of I Am Sovereign

Betsy Robinson Author Of The Last Will & Testament of Zelda McFigg

From my list on laughing while squirming with new self-awareness.

Why am I passionate about this?

I write to learn what I don’t know about myself and our purpose as flawed beings in this Alice-in-Wonderland world. In the documentary about singer/poet Leonard Cohen, creator of the much-covered “Hallelujah” (title of the documentary), to explain the song, he says that life is so impenetrable that the only options are to shake your fist or exclaim “Hallelujah.” I think there is a third option: to laugh. And I prefer to do all three because that is what comes through me: confusion, pain, and hilarity. And hopefully a better understanding of the whole mess once I’ve written about it. And that is what I hope to share with readers.

Betsy's book list on laughing while squirming with new self-awareness

Betsy Robinson Why did Betsy love this book?

Hint: You have to read a hard copy of this book because the comedy is designed into the fonts and layout, which could never be translated into an ebook.

This is a free-for-all bumper car ride between people and their ids, filled with abrupt and perfect transitions that are so logical in their illogic that they are funny. 

But not only is it unique and funny, but it is founded on a profound understanding of silence—its essential healing and our inability to find it. 

This book is so inventive I’m kind of amazed (1) that it got published and (2) that author Nicola Barker and this book appear to be wildly popular in the U.K.

By Nicola Barker,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

__________________________________________
'One of the funniest, most finely achieved comic novels, even by her own standard ... I think it's a masterpiece.' ALI SMITH

'I think Nicola Barker is incapable of a dull page. [Her work] is unified by its spirit of adventure.' KEVIN BARRY

Charles, a forty-year-old boutique teddy bear maker and wearer of ironic t-shirts, is trying - and failing - to sell his small, characterless house in Llandudno. His estate agent Avigail, whose name is definitely not Abigail, is trying - in vain - to rein in Charles's most unhelpful eccentricities, especially his repeated recounting to prospective buyers…


Book cover of Smallbone Deceased: A London Mystery

Connie Berry Author Of The Shadow of Memory

From my list on mysteries on the golden age of detective fiction.

Why am I passionate about this?

My love of British crime fiction began when, as a young teen, I discovered Agatha Christie on the shelves of my local library. With Scottish grandparents, I was already well indoctrinated in the “everything British is best” theory, but it was as a student at St. Clare’s College, Oxford, that I fell totally under the spell of the British Isles. No surprise, then, that my Kate Hamilton Mystery series is set in the UK and features an American antiques dealer with a gift for solving crimes. I love to read the classic mysteries of the Golden Age as well as authors today who follow that tradition.

Connie's book list on mysteries on the golden age of detective fiction

Connie Berry Why did Connie love this book?

For my last pick, I’ve chosen a novel published near the end of the Golden Age (roughly the 1920s through the 1950s). Author and solicitor Michael Gilbert set his novel in the chambers of Horniman, Birley, and Craine. After the death of the firm’s senior partner, a hermetically sealed deed box is opened, revealing the corpse of Marcus Smallbone, a co-trustee with the late Mr. Horniman of the valuable Ichbod Trust. With the help of newly qualified solicitor Henry Bohun, Chief Inspector Hazelrigg sorts through a maze of lies and misdirection to uncover the surprising perpetrator and motive. Martin Edwards, in the foreword to the Poisoned Pen Press edition, said, “The book blends in masterly fashion, an authentic setting, pleasingly differentiated characters, smoothly readable prose, and a clever puzzle.” 


By Michael Gilbert,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Discover the captivating treasures buried in the British Library's archives. Largely inaccessible to the public until now, these enduring classics were written in the golden age of detective fiction.

"A first-rate job"—New York Times

"A classic of the genre"—Guardian

Horniman, Birley and Craine is a highly respected legal firm with clients drawn from the highest in the land. When a deed box in the office is opened to reveal a corpse, the threat of scandal promises to wreak havoc on the firm's reputation—especially as the murder looks like an inside job. The partners and staff of the firm keep a…


Book cover of The Onion Field

Rod Sadler Author Of Killing Women: The True Story of Serial Killer Don Miller's Reign of Terror

From my list on killers.

Why am I passionate about this?

The one thing you’ll find in common about the books I recommend and the books I write is the attention to detail. As a retired police officer, I know that it was often the smallest of details that helped solve a crime. In my books, you’ll find an inordinate amount of information that was never known to the public, and I think that’s what truly holds a reader’s interest. Killing Women is the true story of serial killer Don Miller, and you’ll be abhorred at what he did to his victims. Are you ready for his release in 2031?

Rod's book list on killers

Rod Sadler Why did Rod love this book?

As a high school senior planning a career in law enforcement, I was mesmerized by Joseph Wambaugh’s account of the kidnapping of two Los Angeles police officers in 1963, and the murder of one of them.  Wambaugh unsympathetically details the stories of the two men convicted in the case, while at the same time humanizing the officer who survived and suffered from humiliation and guilt again and again throughout seven years of court proceedings against the men who kidnapped him and murdered his partner. The courtroom dialogue is verbatim, and to me, that leads to a feeling that the reader is actually there watching the proceedings. Wambaugh is a superb writer, and I consider this book is another must-read.

By Joseph Wambaugh,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • “A fascinating account of a double tragedy: one physical, the other psychological.”—Truman Capote

This is the frighteningly true story of two young cops and two young robbers whose separate destinies fatally cross one March night in a bizarre execution in a deserted Los Angeles field.

“A complex story of tragic proportions . . . more ambitious than In Cold Blood and equally compelling!”—The New York Times

“Once the action begins it is difficult to put the book down. . . . Wambaugh’s compelling account of this true story is destined for the bestseller lists.”—Library Journal


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