99 books like The Secret Life

By Andrew O'Hagan,

Here are 99 books that The Secret Life fans have personally recommended if you like The Secret Life. 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 To The Lighthouse

Jan Eliasberg Author Of Hannah's War

From my list on exploring the world from a female point of view.

Why am I passionate about this?

I was raised to believe that I could do everything a man could do, just as Ginger Rodgers did, “backwards and in high heels.” My discovery that social expectations and boundaries for women were vastly different than those for men came as an enormous shock, and struck me as deeply, tragically unfair. I take strength from women in history, as well as from fictional female characters, who passionately pursue roles in a man’s world that are considered transgressive or forbidden. As a glass-ceiling-shattering female film and television director I take inspiration from women who have the gritty determination to live on their own terms. And then tell it as they lived it.

Jan's book list on exploring the world from a female point of view

Jan Eliasberg Why did Jan love this book?

Virginia Woolf knew – she insisted – that a life spent maintaining a house, throwing dinner parties, and taking children on sailing expeditions was not necessarily, not categorically, a trivial life.

Even a modest, domestic life is still, for the person living it, an epic journey, however ordinary it might appear to the outside observer. Woolf refused to dismiss lives that most male writers ignore or even denigrate.

And you can get lost in her magnificent sentences; no one puts words together as beautifully as Virginia Woolf.

By Virginia Woolf,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

“Radiant as [To the Lighthouse] is in its beauty, there could never be a mistake about it: here is a novel to the last degree severe and uncompromising. I think that beyond being about the very nature of reality, it is itself a vision of reality.”—Eudora Welty, from the Introduction.The serene and maternal Mrs. Ramsay, the tragic yet absurd Mr. Ramsay, and their children and assorted guests are on holiday on the Isle of Skye. From the seemingly trivial postponement of a visit to a nearby lighthouse, Woolf constructs a remarkable, moving examination of the complex tensions and allegiances of…


Book cover of No One Is Talking About This

Monica Wood Author Of Any Bitter Thing

From my list on literary reads that contain surprises.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a writer, I want my novels to be deeply humane and beautifully written, with characters who are worth your time and love and worry. And as a reader, I want my plots to keep you up past bedtime. Unsurprisingly, these same qualities show up in novels I remember the longest. In days of yore (the 1980s) the rap on “literary novels” was that they had poetic writing and no plot. I’m glad to say that’s no longer true (if it ever was). Gorgeous writing and riveting plots can and do go together! In that spirit, I hope you’ll love my book selections.

Monica's book list on literary reads that contain surprises

Monica Wood Why did Monica love this book?

I’m just gonna say up front: some of you will hate this novel, so I’ll describe it as clearly as I can.

The narrator is a famous blogger who rose to international fame over a one-sentence post, after which she surrenders to a life lived online, described in poetic, incandescent, at times infuriatingly overwritten prose. That’s Part 1, which ends with a thudding fall to earth: a text from Mom saying Come home. Part Two is a switcheroo in both style and content, and that’s all I can tell you without wrecking the novel’s unexpected turn. 

I know what this sounds like—impenetrable show-offing, and at times it is—but it’s like nothing I’ve ever read and I can’t stop thinking about it. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

By Patricia Lockwood,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked No One Is Talking About This as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'Patricia Lockwood is the voice of a generation' Namita Gokhale 'A masterpiece' Guardian 'I really admire and love this book' Sally Rooney 'An intellectual and emotional rollercoaster' Daily Mail 'I can't remember the last time I laughed so much reading a book' David Sedaris 'A rare wonder . . . I was left in bits' Douglas Stuart * WINNER OF THE DYLAN THOMAS PRIZE 2022 * * SHORTLISTED FOR THE BOOKER PRIZE 2021 * * SHORTLISTED FOR THE WOMEN'S PRIZE FOR FICTION 2021 * * A BBC BETWEEN THE COVERS BOOK CLUB PICK * ______________________________________________ This is a story about…


Book cover of Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography

Barry Sandywell Author Of Dictionary of Visual Discourse: A Dialectical Lexicon of Terms

From my list on beginning the study of visual culture.

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm currently an Honorary Fellow in Social Theory at the University of York, U.K. For more than five decades I've been working to promote more reflexive perspectives in philosophy, sociology, social theory, and sociological research. I've written and edited many books in the field of social theory with particular emphasis upon questions of culture and critical research in the expanding field of visual culture. Recent projects include Interpreting Visual Culture (with Ian Heywood), The Handbook of Visual Culture, and an edited multi-volume textbook to be published by Bloomsbury, The Bloomsbury Encyclopedia of Visual Culture. The passion to understand the thought and visual culture of both the ancient and modern world continues to inform my work. 

Barry's book list on beginning the study of visual culture

Barry Sandywell Why did Barry love this book?

In contrast to John Berger’s Marxist aesthetic, Barthes’s approach to visual experience and photographic images draws upon the tradition of semiotics and, to a degree, postmodern theories of text and intertextuality. Barthes leads his reader into the codes and conventions of the image. How images signify is thus made a central topic that provokes self-reflection and reflexive challenges to conventional image analysis. Where Berger’s work is expository and analytic, Barthes's book is exploratory and novelistic (Barthes would have his reader approach the work as a kind of intertextual fiction). As the title of the work suggests, this is Barthes at his most personal and reflective. His fascination remains with the photographic image which is presented as one of the defining aesthetic objects of modernity. But the act of photography is now itself complex, mediated, and open to a range of concrete experiential impulses.

Here the viewer of the photograph is…

By Roland Barthes, Richard Howard (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This personal, wide-ranging, and contemplative volume--and the last book Barthes published--finds the author applying his influential perceptiveness and associative insight to the subject of photography. To this end, several black-and-white photos (by the likes of Avedon, Clifford, Hine, Mapplethorpe, Nadar, Van Der Zee, and so forth) are reprinted throughout the text.


Book cover of 10:04

Laurence Scott Author Of Picnic Comma Lightning: The Experience of Reality in the Twenty-First Century

From my list on touching the reality of modern life.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a literary scholar by training (my doctorate is in comparative literature), but the more I experienced and thought about how digital technologies were “rewiring” me, the more connections I made to earlier cultural ideas about personhood, privacy, isolation, and community. My first book, The Four-Dimensional Human, used this training to observe digital life from an outsider’s perspective. It was shortlisted for the UK’s largest international non-fiction prize and named a WIRED Book of the Decade. Picnic Comma Lightning continues this project to explore digital realities and illusions, and the books I’ve recommended here have all influenced my own desire to capture the particular poetry of these bizarre, networked times. 

Laurence's book list on touching the reality of modern life

Laurence Scott Why did Laurence love this book?

I go to Ben Lerner’s writing for the shimmering atmospheres of his fictional universes. 10:04 is set in contemporary New York City and follows the narrator-writer through his urban routines. But between his health scares, relationship worries, and professional commitments, the novel thrums with a strange, uneasy beat as the narrator questions the fabric of modern life in a large city. He feels the sublime abundance of the commodities that surround him, whose very abundance is precarious. The book meditates on the fragility of the global supply chains that bring cans of ground coffee onto supermarket shelves and into our baskets. There is also a superstorm approaching, which threatens the city’s power. Lerner is wonderful on twenty-first-century, first-world malaise.

By Ben Lerner,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked 10 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A stunning, urgent, and original novel from Ben Lerner (The Topeka School and Leaving the Atocha Station) about making art, love, and children during the twilight of an empire.

Winner of The Paris Review's 2012 Terry Southern Prize

A Finalist for the 2014 Folio Prize and the NYPL Young Lions Fiction Award

In the last year, the narrator of 10:04 has enjoyed unlikely literary success, has been diagnosed with a potentially fatal medical condition, and has been asked by his best friend to help her conceive a child. In a New York of increasingly frequent superstorms and social unrest, he…


Book cover of Once Upon a River

Maureen McQuerry Author Of Between Before and After

From my list on family secrets with a literary voice and a touch of wonder.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve always believed in magic, the kind that’s just around the corner, out of view. I loved books and libraries. So, it was no surprise that I became a teacher, and later, a poet and novelist. Now, as the author of four novels, I want my books to capture what I love best from poetry and teaching: beautiful, unexpected language, a touch of wonder, and themes that probe the big questions of life. A library shows up in most of my novels along with a bit of the fantastic.

Maureen's book list on family secrets with a literary voice and a touch of wonder

Maureen McQuerry Why did Maureen love this book?

Everything about this literary novel captures my imagination, from the beautiful language to the quirky characters and atmospheric setting. It feels as if I’ve stepped into a fairytale with a mystery at the heart of it: a mysterious child has shown up at the local pub, and as the book unspools, we discover the secrets of the town and eventually the secret of the missing girl. 

The Armstrongs, Daunt, and Rita are characters as real as any people I know. Part of me still stays in the village of Radcot and wants to share stories at the local pub, The Swan.

By Diane Setterfield,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked Once Upon a River as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From the instant #1 New York Times bestselling author of the “eerie and fascinating” (USA TODAY) The Thirteenth Tale comes a “swift and entrancing, profound and beautiful” (Madeline Miller, internationally bestselling author of Circe) novel about how we explain the world to ourselves, ourselves to others, and the meaning of our lives in a universe that remains impenetrably mysterious.

On a dark midwinter’s night in an ancient inn on the river Thames, an extraordinary event takes place. The regulars are telling stories to while away the dark hours, when the door bursts open on a grievously wounded stranger. In his…


Book cover of Lies, Lies, Lies

Lorna Dounaeva Author Of The Family Trap

From my list on reads to keep you awake all night.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am the author of a number of psychological thrillers including The Perfect Family and The Wrong Twin. I like this genre because it really makes your blood pump. For the most part, these are ordinary people who get caught in extraordinary situations so it’s easy to relate. Once you start reading a really good thriller you can’t stop, it’s like riding a roller coaster. It feels exhilarating but it’s totally safe. And the really good ones get you thinking. What would I do in that situation? How would I react?

Lorna's book list on reads to keep you awake all night

Lorna Dounaeva Why did Lorna love this book?

Adele Parks was already accomplished at writing entertaining women’s lit well before she turned to psychological thrillers so the style is engaging and accessible. It feels like you’re reading the confessions of an old friend. This book has a great plot too, it has more twists than you can shake a stick at. I consider myself good at figuring out what’s coming, but not with this one. The pace is fast, the storytelling keeps you hooked, and you won’t see the bends in the road until it’s too late.

By Adele Parks,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Daisy and Simon’s marriage isn’t what it seems…

After years together, the arrival of longed-for daughter Millie sealed everything in place. They’re a happy little family of three.

So what if Simon drinks a bit too much sometimes—Daisy’s used to it. She knows he’s just letting off steam. Until one night at a party things spiral horribly out of control. And their happy little family of three will never be the same again.

In Lies, Lies, Lies, #1 Sunday Times bestselling author Adele Parks explores the darkest corners of a relationship in free fall in a mesmerizing tale of marriage…


Book cover of The Devil and the Dark Water

Gigi Pandian Author Of Under Lock & Skeleton Key: A Secret Staircase Mystery

From my list on mysteries with solutions you’ll never see coming.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve always been drawn to locked-room mysteries, the baffling mysteries where the crime looks truly impossible. The mystery becomes not only who did it, but also how. It’s the ultimate puzzle. The best locked-room mysteries include gothic elements that make you wonder if something supernatural is responsible, but then are resolved with a satisfying rational explanation—like Scooby-Doo for adults. I’ve written more than a dozen mystery novels, but until now, I’ve only focused on locked-room mysteries in my short fiction. In my new Secret Staircase mystery series, I’m focusing on these puzzles in my novels. Here, I’m sharing some of my favorite locked-room mysteries that feature truly ingenious puzzles. 

Gigi's book list on mysteries with solutions you’ll never see coming

Gigi Pandian Why did Gigi love this book?

Set on a treacherous sea voyage in 1634, this impossible crime is cloaked by an atmospheric setting. Is a demon hiding on the ship—or is there a very real killer stalking victims in the claustrophobic setting? This was unlike any locked-room mystery I’d ever read, and it was impossible not to get swept up in the adventure on the high seas. With detective Samuel Pipps accused of a crime and imprisoned in cramped quarters on the ship, it’s up to his bodyguard to act on his behalf and prove a human hand—not a demon—is responsible for the murder and mayhem aboard.

By Stuart Turton,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'If you read one book this year, make sure it's this one' Daily Mail CHOSEN AS A BOOK OF THE YEAR BY THE GUARDIAN, SUNDAY TIMES, DAILY MAIL, FINANCIAL TIMES, DAILY EXPRESS AND i PAPER WINNER OF THE BOOKS ARE MY BAG READERS AWARD FOR FICTION SELECTED FOR THE BBC TWO BOOK CLUB BETWEEN THE COVERS AND THE RADIO 2 JO WHILEY BOOK CLUB An impossible murder A remarkable detective duo A demon who may or may not exist It's 1634 and Samuel Pipps, the world's greatest detective, is being transported from the Dutch East Indies to Amsterdam, where he…


Book cover of By These Ten Bones

Sarah M. Awa Author Of Hunter's Moon

From my list on pawsitively awesome werewolfs.

Why am I passionate about this?

While the werewolf curse isn’t real (as far as we know/thank goodness!), I do know what it’s like to have my life turned upside down by a painful illness that seems like a curse. When I was 23, I almost died from a rare autoimmune disease that tried to devour my lungs. More than a decade later, I’m still here and fighting, and my escapist love of reading fantasy books turned into a passion to write them. I also love metaphors and werewolves, and it all combined nicely with my BA in English! Aside from writing, I help other “underdog” authors as COO for indie publisher Thinklings Books.

Sarah's book list on pawsitively awesome werewolfs

Sarah M. Awa Why did Sarah love this book?

This book is at the top of my list because it’s one of my very favorites. Dunkle spins a gripping, atmospheric story with memorable characters, and you can tell she’s done her research on medieval Scotland. I love the old Celtic tales woven in, and the sweet romance between Maddie and the woodcarver. But what I like most of all is the theme of redemption. Maddie is a true hero, brave in the face of an unimaginably powerful, ancient evil. She showed me that you don’t have to be big or strong or rich or “somebody” to make a difference. You just have to be willing, have faith, and do your part.

By Clare B. Dunkle,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked By These Ten Bones as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 11, 12, 13, and 14.

What is this book about?

There’s hidden places all over this land-old, old places. Places with a chain for them to chain up the wolf when it’s time.
A mysterious young man has come to a small Highland town. His talent for wood carving soon wins the admiration of the weaver’s daughter, Maddie. Fascinated by the silent carver, she sets out to gain his trust, only to find herself drawn into a terrifying secret that threatens everything she loves.
     There is an evil presence in the carver’s life that cannot be controlled, and Maddie watches her town fall under a shadow. One by one, people…


Book cover of The Depths

Casie Bazay Author Of Not Our Summer

From my list on YA books featuring teens in the great outdoors.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a writer with a passion for nature and the great outdoors. As a child, my family vacations centered around camping in various locations around the U.S. We spent plenty of time hiking, swimming, exploring caves, and sitting around a campfire. My mom and I also frequently camped with our horses, sometimes even sleeping in the back of our horse trailer. Those are some of the best memories of my life. To this day, my family and I still enjoy exploring the great outdoors. Some of our favorite destinations include the Grand Canyon, the beaches of Key West, the Pacific Northwest, the Redwood forests, and Yellowstone National Park.

Casie's book list on YA books featuring teens in the great outdoors

Casie Bazay Why did Casie love this book?

I absolutely loved the lush island atmosphere in The Depths. This book is eerie and beautiful, with a dash of romance (love a good romantic subplot!), but all is not as it seems with our main character, Addie, and the boy with whom she becomes enamored.

Over halfway through, the story took a turn I did not expect at all, but it kept me engaged the entire time. This book has such a unique setting and is so different from other YA books I’ve read. I thoroughly enjoyed it!

By Nicole Lesperance,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Depths 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?

A tropical island full of secrets. Two Victorian ghosts, trapped for eternity. And a seventeen-year-old girl determined not to be next.

Eulalie Island should be a paradise, but to Addie Spencer, it’s more like a prison.

Forced to tag along to the remote island on her mother’s honeymoon, Addie isn’t thrilled about being trapped there for two weeks. The island is stunning, with its secluded beaches and forests full of white flowers. But there's something eerie and unsettling about the place.

After Addie meets an enigmatic boy on the beach, all the flowers start turning pink. The island loves you,…


Book cover of The Last List of Mabel Beaumont

Julia Jarman Author Of The Widows' Wine Club

From my list on improbable friendships.

Why am I passionate about this?

Like the widows in The Widows’ Wine Club, I’m getting on. Unlike them, I’ve been a writer for forty years, often hunched over a keyboard, ignoring people. Amazingly, though, I managed to have a happy marriage and make some great friends. Phew! Because I’ve needed friends, especially since my husband died. Looking back, I’m interested to see that I didn’t instantly take to some of my closest buddies. Circumstances threw us together, and we got to know and like and love each other. I explore this in my book. 

Julia's book list on improbable friendships

Julia Jarman Why did Julia love this book?

I took a while to warm to Mabel Beaumont. She’s grumpy and wasn’t a loving partner to her late husband, Arthur, a caring attentive man.

When he dies, she’s bereft and feels bound to carry out his last wish, written cryptically in his last list, "Find D." Mabel thinks she knows what it means. She must track down her former best friend Dot, who she hasn’t seen since she suddenly left more than sixty years ago. But how?

Fortunately, savvy helpers turn up, thoughtfully arranged by Arthur before he died, and they all become unlikely friends. Did Arthur know her better than she knew herself? Did he love her more than she loved herself or him? Well-drawn characters make this an intriguing, uplifting story. It’s never too late!   

By Laura Pearson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Last List of Mabel Beaumont as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

THE NUMBER ONE BESTSELLERThe list he left had just one item on it. Or, at least, it did at first...

Mabel Beaumont's husband Arthur loved lists. He'd leave them for her everywhere. 'Remember: eggs, butter, sugar'. 'I love you: today, tomorrow, always'.

But now Arthur is gone. He died: softly, gently, not making a fuss. But he's still left her a list. This one has just one item on it though: 'Find D'.

Mabel feels sure she knows what it means. She must track down her best friend Dot, who she hasn't seen since the fateful day she left more…


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