100 books like The Stars Look Down

By A.J. Cronin,

Here are 100 books that The Stars Look Down fans have personally recommended if you like The Stars Look Down. Shepherd is a community of 11,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of David Copperfield

Eric Daniel Weiner Author Of The Famously Funny Parrott: Four Tales from the Bird Himself

From my list on children's books that you will want to read to your kids every night.

Why am I passionate about this?

When we were doing research for Dora the Explorer (I’m one of the show’s three creators), we read picture book versions of the episodes to preschoolers. The researcher would always begin by saying, “I’ve got a story to tell you.” The preschoolers would clap, cheer, and sometimes even hug the kid next to them. Then, my story would begin. At least with group 1, before we made a lot of changes, the children would invariably fall on their backs and beg to be taken back to class. Everyone longs to be told a great story. So, for my list, I picked some of the greatest read-aloud children’s books ever “told.” 

Eric's book list on children's books that you will want to read to your kids every night

Eric Daniel Weiner Why did Eric love this book?

This was Dickens’s personal favorite of all his books. It’s so good it makes me remember parts of my childhood–sensations, thoughts, feelings–I’d long forgotten. My wife and I read it to each other at bedtime, about five pages a night.

It’s pretty sophisticated prose, but I bet a kid as young as five could get into it in the same way they can enjoy someone reading Harry Potter books to them.

There’s something reassuring about how long the book is, too. You’ll want Dickens to keep telling you this story night after night.

By Charles Dickens,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked David Copperfield as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Now a major film directed by Armando Iannucci, starring Dev Patel, Tilda Swinton, Hugh Laurie, Peter Capaldi and Ben Whishaw

'The greatest achievement of the greatest of all novelists' Leo Tolstoy

In David Copperfield - the novel he described as his 'favourite child' - Dickens drew on his own experiences to create one of his most moving and enduringly popular works, filled with tragedy and comedy in equal measure. It is the story of a young man's adventures on his journey from an unhappy childhood to the discovery of his vocation as a novelist. Among the gloriously vivid cast of…


Book cover of The Case Book of Sherlock Holmes

Tom Tottis Author Of Retrospect

From my list on the struggles of a family over three generations.

Why am I passionate about this?

I felt compelled to write this story, not just because the eventful lives of myself and members of my family, but mostly because of its historical content. Until this day the West knows very little of what actually happened in the early 1940s and after 1945 to countries and people who, after the war, finished up behind the Iron Curtain. From Fascism to Communism, they had fallen “Out of the frying pan into the fire.” People in those European countries, who had lived through and experienced those events, are now very thin on the ground.

Tom's book list on the struggles of a family over three generations

Tom Tottis Why did Tom love this book?

A superior teller of yarns, his stories are beautifully written and the plots, details, along with conclusions, are fascinating. Reading his stories, e.g. The Hounds of Baskerville, The Firm of Girdlestone, or any of the Sherlock Holmes adventures, I find myself in another time, in another world. At times I needed that badly.

By Arthur Conan Doyle,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Case Book of Sherlock Holmes as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes contains Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's final twelve stories about his great fictional detective. Featuring crypts at midnight, strange bones in a furnace and a blood-sucking vampire, these tales explore the darker side of human nature and involve betrayal, violence and the terrible consequences of infidelity.

Part of the Macmillan Collector's Library; a series of stunning, clothbound, pocket-sized classics with gold foiled edges and ribbon markers. These beautiful books make perfect gifts or a treat for any book lover. This edition features an afterword by David Stuart Davies - a Fellow of the Royal Literary Fund…


Book cover of The Odessa File

Jim Carr Author Of Femme Fatale

From my list on Cold War spies and secret agents.

Why am I passionate about this?

When the war ended, we all felt the horrors of war were finally over. My cousins were back from Europe, and all seemed at peace once again. We were wrong. A few years later I was a young journalist editing stories about Soviet-held Berlin and how Russia stopped the West from sending food and even coal to residents in West Berlin. That was just the beginning.

Jim's book list on Cold War spies and secret agents

Jim Carr Why did Jim love this book?

ODESSA was a port-war organization established to re-establish the power of SS mass murderers throughout the world and carry out Hitler’s Final Solution 20 years after his death.

In researching for ODESSA Files, Forsyth talked to several former SS members and used their memories to enhance the atmosphere and feeling of reality throughout the book.

It’s a look at what Hitler and the SS had in mind for the world. Almost every chapter bristles with suspense and excitement when a journalist starts to expose them. It’s cleverly plotted and has you on edge from start to finish.

By Frederick Forsyth,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Odessa File as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The  suicide of an elderly German Jew explodes into  revelation after revelation: of a Mafia-like  organization called Odessa ...of a real-life fugitive known as the  "Butcher of Riga"..of a young German journalist  tumed obsessed avenger.......and, ultimately, of brilliant, ruthless plot  to reestablish the worldwide power of SS mass  murderers and to carry out Hitler's chilling  "Final Solution."


Book cover of The Notebook

Tom Tottis Author Of Retrospect

From my list on the struggles of a family over three generations.

Why am I passionate about this?

I felt compelled to write this story, not just because the eventful lives of myself and members of my family, but mostly because of its historical content. Until this day the West knows very little of what actually happened in the early 1940s and after 1945 to countries and people who, after the war, finished up behind the Iron Curtain. From Fascism to Communism, they had fallen “Out of the frying pan into the fire.” People in those European countries, who had lived through and experienced those events, are now very thin on the ground.

Tom's book list on the struggles of a family over three generations

Tom Tottis Why did Tom love this book?

It is a novel about an elderly man reading a romantic story to a woman in a nursing home. 

Actually, the man is reading to his wife, who suffers from Alzheimer's disease and does no longer know who he is. He is also seriously ill, battling cancer, suffering from heart disease and kidney failure. He knows he is dying, but his wife, not even recognising him, is unaware of it. Yet he carries on reading the book to entertain her.

A heartbreaking story of true love.

Although in my case it was totally different from Alzheimer’s, I had experienced the never-ending, painful difficulties, with a disturbed loved one.

By Nicholas Sparks,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Celebrating 25 years of The Notebook - the classic novel which became the heart-wrenching film.

*

Once again, just as I do every day, I begin to read the notebook aloud...

Noah Calhoun has returned from war and, in an attempt to escape the ghosts of battle, he sets his mind and his body to restoring an old plantation home to its former beauty.

But he is haunted by memories of the beautiful girl he met there years before. A girl who stole his heart at the funfair, whose parents didn't approve, a girl he wrote to every day for…


Book cover of Town Is by the Sea

Wendy Orr Author Of Cuckoo's Flight

From my list on to bring history to life.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve always been fascinated by history, and when I dreamed of being an author, imagined I’d write historical fiction. However, it took many writing detours to arrive there. (Nim’s Island, by the way, has no basis in historical fact!). When I first imagined the story that led to the Minoan Wings trilogy, I fell in love with researching this era, which is particularly intriguing because there are virtually no written records. Visiting the ruins of a four-thousand-year-old town on Crete under the guidance of an archaeologist who had not only excavated there but had become passionately involved with my imaginary characters, was an absolute highlight of my life. 

Wendy's book list on to bring history to life

Wendy Orr Why did Wendy love this book?

This is a picture book, but not for very young children. The quiet, almost understated text and art add to the power of the story: a small boy’s experience of coal mining in Nova Scotia in the 1950s. (Though it wasn’t written till 2017). Reading it as an adult, and despite having lived in Nova Scotia as a teenager, I was completely rocked and almost disorientated as I began to grasp the reality of it. I’m not sure which aspect I found more disturbing – imagining the men in the long dark tunnels under the sea, or the boy’s complete acceptance that he would follow this way of life in his turn.  

By Joanne Schwartz, Sydney Smith (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Town Is by the Sea as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 5, 6, 7, and 8.

What is this book about?

While a young boy enjoys a summer's day, his thoughts constantly return to his father, who is digging for coal deep under the sea.

"An atmospheric, haunting story" - The Bookseller

Stunning illustrations by Sydney Smith, the award-winning illustrator of Footpath Flowers, show the striking contrast between a sparkling seaside day and the darkness underground where the miners dig. This beautifully understated and haunting story brings a piece of mining history to life. The ever-present ocean and inevitable pattern of life in a mining town will enthral children and move adult readers, as a young boy wakes up to the…


Book cover of The Shadow of the Mine: Coal and the End of Industrial Britain

Stefan Berger Author Of History and Identity: How Historical Theory Shapes Historical Practice

From my list on why identity issues are so hot in history.

Why am I passionate about this?

I've been working on questions of identity and history for more than thirty years. It's a very personal topic for me, as I come from a working-class background – something that I was acutely aware of throughout my school and university education, where people of my background were comparatively rare. History in my view has the power to construct essentialist identities that exclude and are potentially deadly. But history also has the power to critically question this essentialism and contribute to a more tolerant, open-minded, and self-reflective society. Hence, as a historian, I've been trying to support and strengthen an engaged and enlightened historiography that bolsters a range of progressive identifications without leading to essentialist constructions of collective identities.

Stefan's book list on why identity issues are so hot in history

Stefan Berger Why did Stefan love this book?

Powerful class identities were formed over the course of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries in a range of industrial countries. In the motherland of the industrial revolution, in Britain, those constructions of class were particularly strong among particular occupations. Miners were often seen as the vanguard of class-conscious proletarians the closely-knit mining communities in different parts of the UK seemed to many observers to represent an alternative solidaristic society in the making. This book traces the ruthless destruction of these mining communities in Britain by the neoliberal governments of Margaret Thatcher and is in many respects a tribute to these communities and their values.

By Huw Beynon, Ray Hudson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

No one personified the age of industry more than the miners. The Shadow of the Mine tells the story of King Coal in its heyday - and what happened to mining communities after the last pits closed. Coal was central to the British economy, powering its factories and railways. It carried political weight, too. In the eighties the miners risked everything in a year-long strike against Thatcher's shutdowns. Defeat foretold the death of their industry. Tens of thousands were cast onto the labour market with a minimum amount of advice and support. Yet British politics all of a sudden revolves…


Book cover of Tower of Strength: The Story of Tyrone O'Sullivan and Tower Colliery

Luke Hildyard Author Of Enough: Why It's Time to Abolish the Super-Rich

From my list on wanting to eat the rich.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am the Director of the High Pay Centre, a London-based think tank researching the causes and consequences of economic inequality. In most major economies, the richest 1% of the population now take up to a fifth of all income and something like a quarter to a third of all wealth. These rich jerks aren’t necessarily bad people, at least not in all cases, and we don’t literally need to eat them all. However, such extreme concentration of income and wealth is undeserved and unnecessary, and it should definitely be an overriding priority to share it in a fairer and more even way.

Luke's book list on wanting to eat the rich

Luke Hildyard Why did Luke love this book?

After the UK Miners’ Strike was defeated in 1984, the coal mining industry across the country gradually shut down. At the Tower Colliery in South Wales, however, Miners led by Union official Tyrone O’Sullivan used their redundancy cheques to buy the mine and run it as a co-operative until the coal ran out.

It’s an incredible tale of the spirit and ingenuity that exist but are too rarely nurtured in post-industrial communities and of how badly so many mining towns in Britain were let down by so-called free market economics.

By Tyrone O'Sullivan, John Eve, Ann Edworthy

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Tyronne O'Sullivan is the chairman of Tower Colliery, Hirwaun, South Wales. He led the team of miners that fought to buy the pit from British Coal in 1995. He and 238 miners each paid 8,000 from their own redundancy settlement to become shareholders and borrowed a further GBP2 million. This was, and still is, a unique achievement - no other mine, in the history of British Coal, has been bought by the workforce. For over 20 years Tyronne was the National Union of mineworkers branch secretary, leading a radical group of men in what had to be a militant colliery.…


Book cover of Strange as This Weather Has Been

Jane Harrington Author Of In Circling Flight

From my list on transporting readers to the Appalachian Mountains.

Why am I passionate about this?

I live in the southern Appalachians, a place that boasts some of the most beautiful views on earth and laments some of the most ravaged landscapes. As a fiction writer who is passionate about nature and human rights, I’ve taken up my pen to craft a novel with regular people at its heart, all living regular lives that are disrupted by tragedies all too common to the region. This is the general throughline in the books I am recommending, although the themes differ. I’ve offered a variety of genres, as well, which best reflects my own bookshelf at my home in the hills. 

Jane's book list on transporting readers to the Appalachian Mountains

Jane Harrington Why did Jane love this book?

This is the novel I can only wish I had written. Pancake’s expansive story of a family in a desperate struggle to save their homes and hollows from the ravages of mountaintop removal mining gives voice to modern-day Appalachians in the same way The Grapes of Wrath spoke for the displaced farmers of the Dustbowl era. (As one who loves Steinbeck’s epic, I don’t make this connection lightly!) Another heartrending masterwork that I couldn’t stop thinking about as I read this book is Barbara Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible because of its centering on motherhood, its similar structure, and its ability to pull the reader into the lives of the characters. This is storytelling at its best. I couldn’t put it down. 

By Ann Pancake,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Strange as This Weather Has Been as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A West Virginia family struggles amid the booms and busts of the Appalachian coal industry in this “powerful, sure-footed, and haunting” environmental novel from an author with echoes of John Steinbeck (The New York Times Book Review)

Set in present day West Virginia, this debut novel tells the story of a coal mining family—a couple and their four children—living through the latest mining boom and dealing with the mountaintop removal and strip mining that is ruining what is left of their hometown. As the mine turns the mountains “to slag and wastewater,” workers struggle with layoffs and children find adventure…


Book cover of Boundaries Undermined: the Ruins of Progress on the Bangladesh/India Border

Sayeed Ferdous Author Of Partition as Border-Making: East Bengal, East Pakistan and Bangladesh

From my list on South Asian history and culture.

Why am I passionate about this?

I teach anthropology but find my niche in the blurred zone of history and anthropology. My research interests include South Asian Studies; Historiography; Memory/Forgetting, and Postcolonial Nation, State, and Nationalism. My book Partition as Border-Making draws upon ethnographic details, using oral historical accounts from the Bengal borderland and archival materials. Focusing upon the significance of the mundane in history and its presentness, this research contributes to understanding postcolonial South Asia beyond “indocentrism.” At present, I am co-editing a Bangladesh Reader. In 2021, I jointly conducted a research project on the Partition migrants to Dhaka in partnership with Goethe Institute, Bangladesh.

Sayeed's book list on South Asian history and culture

Sayeed Ferdous Why did Sayeed love this book?

Delwar Hussein, an anthropologist, conducted his research along the north-eastern borderline of Bangladesh. He has been fascinating in depicting the transformation of the borderland from a site of evolving nation-states to the catchment area of cross-border neoliberal capitalism.

Hussein crafted the minute details of how the cement factory had changed the communities, lives, and livelihoods at that margin. The marginality of the Borderlanders is central in this work; however, as often, Borderland studies surprise us, this book also talks about opportunities and hopes. It would enable its readers to look into the postcolonial nation-states with an unorthodox approach.

By Delwar Hussain,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

When anthropologist Delwar Hussain arrived in a remote coal mining village on the Bangladesh/India border to research the security fence India is building around its neighbour, he discovered more about the globalised world than he had expected. The present narrative of the Bangladesh/ India border is one of increasing violence. Not so long ago, it was the site of a monumental modernist master-plan, symbolic of a larger optimism which was to revolutionise post-colonial nations around the world. Today this vision and what it gave rise to lies in spectacular ruin; the innards of the decomposing industrial past are scattered across…


Book cover of Germinal

Deborah Lincoln Author Of An Irish Wife

From my list on the glittering gilded age and its seamier side.

Why am I passionate about this?

I write historical fiction based on the lives of my ancestors: Agnes Canon’s War is the story of my twice-great grandparents during the Civil War. An Irish Wife is based on their son. I write about the Gilded Age, which is only now drawing the attention of historical novelists and the wider public: the vast wealth of industrialists contrasted to the poverty of the lower classes, scandalous politics, environmental degradation, fear of and prejudices about immigrants. My ancestors lived through those days; I want to imagine how that tumultuous society affected them, how they managed, what they lost and gained, and to memorialize those stories as a way to honor them.

Deborah's book list on the glittering gilded age and its seamier side

Deborah Lincoln Why did Deborah love this book?

No glitter here. Though Germinal takes place in the 186os, it was written in 1884, and Gilded Age sensibilities haunt this tale of the crushing lives of French coal miners whose labor, hardships, and deaths fuel the excesses of Gilded Age lives. Zola’s masterpiece, with several movie adaptations to choose from.

By Emile Zola, Peter Collier (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Zola's masterpiece of working life, Germinal (1885), exposes the inhuman conditions of miners in northern France in the 1860s. By Zola's death in 1902 it had come to symbolise the call for freedom from oppression so forcefully that the crowd which gathered at his State funeral chanted 'Germinal! Germinal!'.
The central figure, Etienne Lantier, is an outsider who enters the community and eventually leads his fellow-miners in a strike protesting against pay-cuts - a strike which becomes a losing battle against starvation, repression, and sabotage. Yet despite all the violence and disillusion which rock the mining community to its foundations,…


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