100 books like Things in Jars

By Jess Kidd,

Here are 100 books that Things in Jars fans have personally recommended if you like Things in Jars. 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 Fingersmith

Rachel Cochran Author Of The Gulf

From my list on queer mystery and crime books.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a queer writer who lovers to read and write mystery and crime fiction. The history of these genres is often full of homophobic stereotypes and scapegoating of queer characters. While I think it’s important to show queer characters as flawed, I also want to make sure to celebrate the contributions of queer writers to these messy, wonderful genres.

Rachel's book list on queer mystery and crime books

Rachel Cochran Why did Rachel love this book?

Whenever I’m pressed to name a favorite novel of all time, this is the title I turn to.

It’s so many things all at once: a perfectly plotted slow-burn of a crime caper with several killer surprises, an absorbing lesbian romance that burns with passionate intensity, and a fully realized, deeply immersive historical drama that displays masterful research by leaning into the weirder, hidden corners of its familiar Victorian setting.

As a writer, this book fills me with delicious envy; as a reader, it bowls me over with tension and awe.

By Sarah Waters,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

“Oliver Twist with a twist…Waters spins an absorbing tale that withholds as much as it discloses. A pulsating story.”—The New York Times Book Review

Sue Trinder is an orphan, left as an infant in the care of Mrs. Sucksby, a "baby farmer," who raised her with unusual tenderness, as if Sue were her own. Mrs. Sucksby’s household, with its fussy babies calmed with doses of gin, also hosts a transient family of petty thieves—fingersmiths—for whom this house in the heart of a mean London slum is home.

One day, the most beloved thief of all arrives—Gentleman, an elegant con man,…


Book cover of Savage Her Reply

Celine Kiernan Author Of Resonance

From my list on supernatural books written by Irish women.

Why am I passionate about this?

I was a weird kid. Often accused of ‘thinking too much’, I cut my literary teeth on Stephen King, Ray Bradbury, Phillip K Dick, and Shirley Jackson. Raised on their dark milk, I grew up wanting more than hollow scares and mindless eviscerations. Don’t just give me a scary story, give me a scary story that resonates, one that raises a lens to our world, our history, the rules we’re asked to live by. Unsettle me, make me think. Most of all, give me characters worth my precious time. These are the kind of stories I endeavor to write and the ones I most enjoy reading. I hope you enjoy this small selection as much as I have.

Celine's book list on supernatural books written by Irish women

Celine Kiernan Why did Celine love this book?

The Children of Lir is one of Ireland’s best-known myths. Over the years it has been more than a little sanitized, and as a consequence almost entirely relegated to a children’s beloved fairytale. With her rich, poetic prose and unflinching honesty, Deirdre Sullivan brings the story right back into the adult sphere. Her characters emerge, flawed and seething, from the magical fog of myth to hurt and help each other, and to drag the enthralled reader with them through aeons of vengeance, loyalty, and, eventually, peace.

I can’t stress how beautiful this novel is. An epic poem almost, it satisfies my hunger for beautiful prose, and for thematic depth and emotional resonance. If you love gorgeous writing as much as I do, you will love this one.

By Deirdre Sullivan,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Savage Her Reply 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 dark, feminist retelling of The Children of Lir by the author of the multi-award-winning Tangleweed and Brine

'No-one else writes like Deirdre Sullivan. She is lyrical, poetic and thoroughly intoxicating.' Juno Dawson, author of Wonderland

'Unsettling, haunting, and darkly lyrical, Savage Her Reply is a beautiful thing.' Louise O'Neill, author of After The Silence

A retelling of the favourite Irish fairytale The Children of Lir. Aife marries Lir, a chieftain with four children by his previous wife. Jealous of his affection for his children, the witch Aife turns them into swans for 900 years.

Retold through the voice of…


Book cover of The Boughs Withered: When I Told Them My Dreams

Celine Kiernan Author Of Resonance

From my list on supernatural books written by Irish women.

Why am I passionate about this?

I was a weird kid. Often accused of ‘thinking too much’, I cut my literary teeth on Stephen King, Ray Bradbury, Phillip K Dick, and Shirley Jackson. Raised on their dark milk, I grew up wanting more than hollow scares and mindless eviscerations. Don’t just give me a scary story, give me a scary story that resonates, one that raises a lens to our world, our history, the rules we’re asked to live by. Unsettle me, make me think. Most of all, give me characters worth my precious time. These are the kind of stories I endeavor to write and the ones I most enjoy reading. I hope you enjoy this small selection as much as I have.

Celine's book list on supernatural books written by Irish women

Celine Kiernan Why did Celine love this book?

Reminiscent of Ray Bradbury at his very finest, this absorbing collection of supernatural tales has it all: fascinating characters, palpable atmosphere, and delicious, chewy plots. McHugh brings the uncanny into the every day, most often through the experiences of women, and often using a distinctly Irish lens. From the Irish countryside, in all its windswept, boggy, or tangled forms, to modern office life, this is a glorious kaleidoscope of experiences that feel real even as the surface of human experience is punctured to expose the void beneath.  Each story in this collection has a lot to offer, and - another thing this writer has in common with Bradbury - you’ll find yourself returning time and again for rereading 

By Maura McHugh,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The Boughs Withered is the debut collection from accomplished Irish author Maura McHugh. It includes twenty tales - four of them original to the volume - which represent the best strange visions from an award-winning writer of fiction, non-fiction, comic books and plays. Among the featured stories is "Bone Mother", which was adapted into the award-winning stop-motion animated short film by See Creature in Canada.

In her horror and dark fantasy stories, Maura McHugh explores her love of the uncanny, delves into the eerie past, and evokes weird landscapes that might just co-exist with our own.

"These stories [are] made…


Book cover of All the Bad Apples

Celine Kiernan Author Of Resonance

From my list on supernatural books written by Irish women.

Why am I passionate about this?

I was a weird kid. Often accused of ‘thinking too much’, I cut my literary teeth on Stephen King, Ray Bradbury, Phillip K Dick, and Shirley Jackson. Raised on their dark milk, I grew up wanting more than hollow scares and mindless eviscerations. Don’t just give me a scary story, give me a scary story that resonates, one that raises a lens to our world, our history, the rules we’re asked to live by. Unsettle me, make me think. Most of all, give me characters worth my precious time. These are the kind of stories I endeavor to write and the ones I most enjoy reading. I hope you enjoy this small selection as much as I have.

Celine's book list on supernatural books written by Irish women

Celine Kiernan Why did Celine love this book?

More beautifully written magic realism, with compelling characters and a fascinating plot. Fowley-Doyle uses the obliqueness of the supernatural and the compelling tropes of a mystery story to explore Ireland's troubled history with women and children. There's something of the road trip to this one, with a warm, supportive, found-family providing kindness and companionship to the main character in a story that otherwise might be too bleak to bear. Release yourself to the prose and to the experience, let the book carry you. It’ll be worth the journey.

By Moïra Fowley-Doyle,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked All the Bad Apples 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?

The stunning new novel about silenced female voices, family secrets and dangerous truths from the author of The Accident Season.

'Exquisite . . . This is a book to hold tightly to your chest' Irish Times

'Lyrical . . . Compelling' Guardian

'Beautiful, visceral . . . A primal scream' Louise O'Neill

'Uncompromising, raw, devastating' Publishers Weekly

'I am in absolute awe of it' Melinda Salisbury

On Deena's seventeenth birthday, the day she finally comes out to her family, her wild and mysterious sister Mandy is seen leaping from a cliff. The family is heartbroken, but not surprised. The women…


Book cover of The Treachery of Beautiful Things

Celine Kiernan Author Of Resonance

From my list on supernatural books written by Irish women.

Why am I passionate about this?

I was a weird kid. Often accused of ‘thinking too much’, I cut my literary teeth on Stephen King, Ray Bradbury, Phillip K Dick, and Shirley Jackson. Raised on their dark milk, I grew up wanting more than hollow scares and mindless eviscerations. Don’t just give me a scary story, give me a scary story that resonates, one that raises a lens to our world, our history, the rules we’re asked to live by. Unsettle me, make me think. Most of all, give me characters worth my precious time. These are the kind of stories I endeavor to write and the ones I most enjoy reading. I hope you enjoy this small selection as much as I have.

Celine's book list on supernatural books written by Irish women

Celine Kiernan Why did Celine love this book?

Beneath the surface of this beautifully written old-style fairytale there lies a compelling examination of free will. This thematic depth adds a delicious, chewy meat to what is already an enjoyable romantic read. I loved the characters here. Jenny’s repeated struggle to overcome the fairytale roles that are imposed upon her, and the properly dark consequences of failure in the fairy realm, make this an excellent YA romance adventure that's hard to forget.

By Ruth Francis Long,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Treachery of Beautiful Things as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 12, 13, 14, and 15.

What is this book about?

A darkly compelling mix of romance, fairy tale, and suspense from a new voice in teen fiction

The trees swallowed her brother whole, and Jenny was there to see it. Now seventeen, she revisits the woods where Tom was taken, resolving to say good-bye at last. Instead, she's lured into the trees, where she finds strange and dangerous creatures who seem to consider her the threat. Among them is Jack, mercurial and magnetic, with secrets of his own. Determined to find her brother, with or without Jack's help, Jenny struggles to navigate a faerie world where stunning beauty masks some…


Book cover of The Sealwoman's Gift

Melanie Golding Author Of The Hidden

From my list on folklore of the sea.

Why am I passionate about this?

I love the idea that much of folklore is based on universal human stories that are still true today. Selkies may be mystical creatures but they are also women treated badly by men, then judged for their response by wider society. Because of this universality, as well as the compelling magical element, there are many modern novels that make use of selkie folklore, which in several ways shares roots with the folklore of mermaids. I’ve picked out a few that spoke to me. I hope many more readers will discover these sea-faring, shape-shifting, magic-realist tales.

Melanie's book list on folklore of the sea

Melanie Golding Why did Melanie love this book?

I love this book for many reasons. The Sealwoman is a passenger on the slave ship that takes our protagonist form her beloved homeland, and the ‘gift’ of the title is the story she tells of her shapeshifting roots. The voyage is hellish, and contains a terrifying birth scene among other unspeakable, unimaginable, only just survivable events. It’s based on a true story, which makes it all the more powerful, and it makes me wonder about the hidden truths in the folklore contained within it, especially the sealwoman’s story. 

By Sally Magnusson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'A remarkable feat of imagination... I enjoyed and admired it in equal measure' Sarah Perry, author of The Essex Serpent
'An extraordinarily immersive read, that emphasises the power of stories, examining themes of motherhood, identity, exile and freedom ... a journey that not only crosses continents, but encompasses tragedy and rich sensuality' Guardian
'A powerful tale of Barbary pirates ... richly imagined.' Sunday Times
'Engrossing' Sunday Express 'Fascinating ... a really, really good read' BBC R2 Book Club
'The best sort of historical novel.' Scotsman 'A lyrical tale' Stylist
'A poetic retelling of Icelandic history.' Daily Mail 'Compelling stuff' Good…


Book cover of Orkney

Melanie Golding Author Of The Hidden

From my list on folklore of the sea.

Why am I passionate about this?

I love the idea that much of folklore is based on universal human stories that are still true today. Selkies may be mystical creatures but they are also women treated badly by men, then judged for their response by wider society. Because of this universality, as well as the compelling magical element, there are many modern novels that make use of selkie folklore, which in several ways shares roots with the folklore of mermaids. I’ve picked out a few that spoke to me. I hope many more readers will discover these sea-faring, shape-shifting, magic-realist tales.

Melanie's book list on folklore of the sea

Melanie Golding Why did Melanie love this book?

This exquisite novel begins with a university lecturer (Too old? Too deluded?) in love with student forty years his junior. She’s an ethereal, white-haired creature, but at first, their love seems mutual, and plausible. They honeymoon in Orkney, where selkie legends begin to encroach on his state of mind. He’s obsessed with her, and she’s obsessed with the sea. The reader is never quite sure if she’s a selkie or not, which resonates with me as I love books where ambiguity is an integral part of the narrative. 

By Amy Sackville,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

On a remote island in Orkney, a curiously matched couple arrive on their honeymoon. He is an eminent literature professor; she was his pale, enigmatic star pupil. Alone beneath the shifting skies of this untethered landscape, the professor realises how little he knows about his new bride and yet, as the days go by and his mind turns obsessively upon the creature who has so beguiled him, she seems to slip ever further from his yearning grasp. Where does she come from? Why did she ask him to bring her north? What is it that constantly draws her to the…


Book cover of The Mermaid of Black Conch

Therese Down Author Of The Estate Agent

From my list on lighting up your imagination and your soul.

Why am I passionate about this?

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

Therese's book list on lighting up your imagination and your soul

Therese Down Why did Therese love this book?

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

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

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

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

By Monique Roffey,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

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

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

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

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


Book cover of Deep Water

Melanie Golding Author Of The Hidden

From my list on folklore of the sea.

Why am I passionate about this?

I love the idea that much of folklore is based on universal human stories that are still true today. Selkies may be mystical creatures but they are also women treated badly by men, then judged for their response by wider society. Because of this universality, as well as the compelling magical element, there are many modern novels that make use of selkie folklore, which in several ways shares roots with the folklore of mermaids. I’ve picked out a few that spoke to me. I hope many more readers will discover these sea-faring, shape-shifting, magic-realist tales.

Melanie's book list on folklore of the sea

Melanie Golding Why did Melanie love this book?

In this prize-winning novel for older teenagers, Hersey recreates a story of Selkie lore which, in terms of the magical element, remains largely faithful to the original folklore. Teenager Danni’s mother has disappeared, so her daughter sets out to find her. Danni finds herself in her mother’s small Cornish hometown, and soon discovers secrets about her family that are so surprising and hard to believe, they threaten to blow her world apart. What follows is an adventure that enthralls deeply, incorporating fantasy elements into a satisfyingly emotional, realistic story. Stylistically, the sea, selkies, the coastline, and the landscape play important parts, providing an atmospheric backdrop to this fast-moving thrill ride. 

By Lu Hersey,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

When her mum vanishes, Danni moves to a tiny Cornish fishing village with Dad - where the locals treat her like a monster. As the village's dark, disturbing past bubbles to the surface, Danni discovers that she's not who - or what - she thought she was. And the only way to save her family from a bitter curse is to embrace her incredible new gift.


Book cover of The Silent Companions

Tonya Mitchell Author Of The Arsenic Eater's Wife

From my list on historical fiction books with gothic vibes that will give you the creeps.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve loved Gothic fiction since I was a teen, though back then, I didn’t know it was Gothic. I just liked the creepiness, the often-isolated heroine, and the things-aren’t-what-they-seem murkiness of the stories. One of my first reads was Jane Eyre, which has remained a favorite. Though I didn’t like history in school (too much memorization!), I read several historical fiction books from different eras that fascinated me. These things, combined with another genre favorite—mystery/thriller, led to my first book. It turns out that all those things I’d gravitated to in my decades of reading became the things I most wanted to write about - mystery/thriller historical fiction with elements of Gothic. 

Tonya's book list on historical fiction books with gothic vibes that will give you the creeps

Tonya Mitchell Why did Tonya love this book?

When I first read the back of this book I thought, "How frightening can wooden, life-sized figures tucked away in a remote mansion be?" Answer: A lot.

When the book opens, Elsie Bainbridge’s husband has died (mysteriously). When she discovers the strange totems the servants are terrified of locked away in the attic, something is definitely…not right. Once the figures’ eyes appear to move and Elsie finds them in different places in the house as if they move of their own accord, her piece of mine starts to unravel. And so did mine.

By Laura Purcell,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"[An] extraordinary, memorable and truly haunting book." -Jojo Moyes, #1 New York Times bestselling author

Laura Purcell's THE SHAPE OF DARKNESS is now out from Penguin!

Some doors are locked for a reason.

When Elsie married handsome young heir Rupert Bainbridge, she believed she was destined for a life of luxury. But pregnant and widowed just weeks after their wedding, with her new servants resentful and the local villagers actively hostile, Elsie has only her late husband's awkward cousin for company. Or so she thinks. Inside her new home lies a locked door, beyond which is a painted wooden figure-a…


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