100 books like Vanity Fair

By William Makepeace Thackeray,

Here are 100 books that Vanity Fair fans have personally recommended if you like Vanity Fair. 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 Jane Eyre

Lynn Shurr Author Of Lady Flora's Rescue

From my list on historical novels picked by a librarian.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a reference librarian, I love doing research for myself and others. By reading a well-written historical novel, we can learn about the past and compare and contrast it to our present. All but the last of my choices have strong female characters who must overcome the customs of their time. The struggle goes on today. Let these books remind you of how far we have come and how far we have to go.

Lynn's book list on historical novels picked by a librarian

Lynn Shurr Why did Lynn love this book?

When I was fifteen, I stayed up reading the end of this book under the covers with a flashlight because I could not put it down.

A scandalous bestseller in 1847, this was the first romance to feature an antihero. Mr. Rochester is far from pure and kind. He mocks Jane, who describes herself as small and plain and stands up to him. He has an immoral secret and when Jane learns of it, she leaves him. I doubt I would have.

By Charlotte Brontë,

Why should I read it?

36 authors picked Jane Eyre 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?

Introduction and Notes by Dr Sally Minogue, Canterbury Christ Church University College.

Jane Eyre ranks as one of the greatest and most perennially popular works of English fiction. Although the poor but plucky heroine is outwardly of plain appearance, she possesses an indomitable spirit, a sharp wit and great courage.

She is forced to battle against the exigencies of a cruel guardian, a harsh employer and a rigid social order. All of which circumscribe her life and position when she becomes governess to the daughter of the mysterious, sardonic and attractive Mr Rochester.

However, there is great kindness and warmth…

Book cover of The Talented Mr. Ripley

Tim O'Leary Author Of Men Behaving Badly

From my list on characters you love to hate.

Why am I passionate about this?

My name is Tim O’Leary and two of my books, Dick Cheney Shot Me in the Face–And Other Tales of Men in Pain and Men Behaving Badly, emanate from the minds of protagonists trying to do the right thing the wrong way or evil characters doing the wrong thing they believe to be right. I’m particularly drawn to those wonderful literary psychopaths that draw you in with compelling personalities, while reviling the reader with their heinous actions. 

Tim's book list on characters you love to hate

Tim O'Leary Why did Tim love this book?

Ripley is iconic, with multiple film adaptations, including a very good current series on Netflix that takes a few liberties with the original book yet makes it work well.

The book is a perfect example of how a talented writer can create a “slow burn” via a character that grows more compelling, even as their true evil is unmasked.

By Patricia Highsmith,

Why should I read it?

22 authors picked The Talented Mr. Ripley as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

It's here, in the first volume of Patricia Highsmith's five-book Ripley series, that we are introduced to the suave Tom Ripley, a young striver seeking to leave behind his past as an orphan bullied for being a "sissy." Newly arrived in the heady world of Manhattan, Ripley meets a wealthy industrialist who hires him to bring his playboy son, Dickie Greenleaf, back from gallivanting in Italy. Soon Ripley's fascination with Dickie's debonair lifestyle turns obsessive as he finds himself enraged by Dickie's ambivalent affections for Marge, a charming American dilettante, and Ripley begins a deadly game. "Sinister and strangely alluring"…

Book cover of The Woman in White

Sam Hepburn Author Of The Mistake I Made

From my list on troubled women struggling to hold it together.

Why am I passionate about this?

Growing up as the child of a damaged, resentful mother certainly took its emotional toll and led me to embark on some pretty destructive early relationships. After a series of painful personal losses I spent time as a single mum, struggling to parent, deal with grief and hold down a job as a TV producer. I tried self-help books, therapy, and nicotine to get by, but it was the support and humour of women who had survived their own ordeals which enabled me to come out the other side. But as a writer and a reader I'm intrigued by troubled women, the traumas that shape them, and the things they do to survive.

Sam's book list on troubled women struggling to hold it together

Sam Hepburn Why did Sam love this book?

My long-held obsession with Victorian sensationalist fiction is probably why I write psychological thrillers.

The Woman in White has always been an inspiration and for me one of its most intriguing characters is Laura Fairlie, whose emotional frailty, like that of so many women, makes her prey to the hideous machinations of abusers who seek to control her. Unlike modern women however, she is not merely at the mercy of people, she is at the mercy of the restrictive laws of the society in which she lives.

And yet, with the help of determined friends, her extraordinary stoicism, and some pretty outlandish coincidences she manages to survive against the odds. Hurrah!

By Wilkie Collins,

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked The Woman in White as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

HarperCollins is proud to present its range of best-loved, essential classics.

'The woman who first gives life, light, and form to our shadowy conceptions of beauty, fills a void in our spiritual nature that has remained unknown to us till she appeared.'

One of the earliest works of 'detective' fiction with a narrative woven together from multiple characters, Wilkie Collins partly based his infamous novel on a real-life eighteenth century case of abduction and wrongful imprisonment. In 1859, the story caused a sensation with its readers, hooking their attention with the ghostly first scene where the mysterious 'Woman in White'…

Book cover of Persuasion

Anne Brooke Author Of Where You Hurt The Most

From my list on couples working through a challenging relationship.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a writer, I’m fascinated by relationships, what makes them work and what might make them fail. And I’ve always been gripped by the power of two people who try to love each other, no matter how different they may be or what obstacles they face. I honestly believe that two people in love are far more than the sum of their parts and can create something magical that wouldn’t have been there without them. So, yes, I’m a romantic at heart but, even in these cynical times, I don’t think that’s a bad thing. I hope you love the books on this list as much as I do.

Anne's book list on couples working through a challenging relationship

Anne Brooke Why did Anne love this book?

I love this book so much because it’s about two people giving their relationship a second chance.

At first it made me feel sad because the heroine Anne Elliot could so easily have been happy with Captain Wentworth when he first proposed. It’s only when he returns to the area years later that she begins to listen to her heart rather than her head.

The years have changed them and they need to rediscover each other before they can be truly happy. It’s a quiet and deeply moving love story.

By Jane Austen,

Why should I read it?

9 authors picked Persuasion as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 17.

What is this book about?

'In Persuasion, Jane Austen is beginning to discover that the world is larger, more mysterious, and more romantic than she had supposed' Virginia Woolf

Jane Austen's moving late novel of missed opportunities and second chances centres on Anne Elliot, no longer young and with few romantic prospects. Eight years earlier, she was persuaded by others to break off her engagement to poor, handsome naval captain Frederick Wentworth. What happens when they meet again is movingly told in Austen's last completed novel. Set in the fashionable societies of Lyme Regis and Bath, Persuasion is a brilliant satire of vanity and pretension,…

Book cover of Middlemarch

Fathali Moghaddam Author Of The Psychology of Revolution

From my list on why revolutions fail.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have a deep passion for the psychology of revolution because my family has experienced revolution in our country of birth, and I have expertise on this topic because, as a psychologist, I have extensively studied revolutions for decades. This is a topic seldom studied by modern psychologists, perhaps because most research psychologists live in Western countries and have not experienced revolutions. Western psychologists have no experience with revolutions. The last book published with the title of my book, The Psychology of Revolution, came out in 1894! I am very enthusiastic about putting together this diverse reading list, which is made up of research books, novels, and a poetry collection.

Fathali's book list on why revolutions fail

Fathali Moghaddam Why did Fathali love this book?

I am recommending George Eliot’s novel (published in parts 1871-72) because I believe it is as good as any of the great Russian novels and probably the best novel written in English. Eliot (real name Mary Ann Evans) was herself a revolutionary person. In 19th century England, she worked as an independent woman, lived with a married man (she eventually married him), and later married a man a lot younger than herself. Her novel is set in the early part of the 19th century when the aftereffects of the French Revolution were strongly felt in England, and there was even fear of revolution among the English aristocracy. The 1832 parliamentary reforms gave political power to the new middle class, and change was underway. Middlemarch is a fictional town, where the banker, mayor, and other middle-class professionals are rising in influence.

At the center of the novel is a medical doctor…

By George Eliot,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

One of the BBC's '100 Novels That Shaped Our World'

'One of the few English novels written for grown-up people' Virginia Woolf

George Eliot's nuanced and moving novel is a masterly evocation of connected lives, changing fortunes and human frailties in a provincial community. Peopling its landscape are Dorothea Brooke, a young idealist whose search for intellectual fulfilment leads her into a disastrous marriage to the pedantic scholar Casaubon; Dr Lydgate, whose pioneering medical methods, combined with an imprudent marriage to the spendthrift beauty Rosamond, threaten to undermine his career; and the religious hypocrite Bulstrode, hiding scandalous crimes from his…

Book cover of Gone Girl

Natasha Bell Author Of His Perfect Wife

From my list on complicated female protagonists.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve always been drawn to complex female characters in both reading and writing. Even in the 21st century, there are so many expectations placed on girls and women to conform to society’s narrow concepts of femininity. As a queer woman who grew up under the UK’s Section 28, I’ve always struggled to fit myself into these pre-assigned boxes, which is why I’m fascinated by those who step so firmly out of them. I teach as well as write and one of the most satisfying things about both is the time I get to spend examining character. I hope you’re as captivated by these difficult women as I am!

Natasha's book list on complicated female protagonists

Natasha Bell Why did Natasha love this book?

I don’t think any top 5 thrillers list would be complete without a Gillian Flynn title. In all her books, I love how Flynn combines twisty, edge-of-your-seat plotting with deep psychological observations about her characters, but I think Gone Girl does this the best.

I was shocked by the big reveal on a first read, but that’s only one of many pleasures I keep finding in this novel as I return to it repeatedly. Nick and Amy are the ultimate dysfunctional couple and, in many ways, completely unlikable characters–yet I secretly love them both!

By Gillian Flynn,

Why should I read it?

27 authors picked Gone Girl as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


Who are you?
What have we done to each other?

These are the questions Nick Dunne finds himself asking on the morning of his fifth wedding anniversary, when his wife Amy suddenly disappears. The police suspect Nick. Amy's friends reveal that she was afraid of him, that she kept secrets from him. He swears it isn't true. A police examination of his computer shows strange searches. He says they weren't made by him. And then there are the persistent calls on…

Book cover of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes

Joy Lanzendorfer Author Of Right Back Where We Started From

From my list on ruthless social climbers.

Why am I passionate about this?

My novel, Right Back Where We Started From, is about greed. I wanted to see what it would look like if women in history pursued their goals with the same relentless intensity as the men who came to the California Gold Rush. I love reading about social climbing because ambition is so baked into the fabric of the United States, and is such a big part of our lives. The books on this list are unafraid to show you the ugly, unpleasant side of ambition—and the exciting, captivating side as well. 

Joy's book list on ruthless social climbers

Joy Lanzendorfer Why did Joy love this book?

This novel is hilarious. When I first read it, I was jealous that I hadn't written itwhich is a silly feeling to have about a book that came out in the 1920s, I admit. It's a diary written by a blonde showgirl named Lorelei Lee, who uses her feminine wiles to get wealth from the gentlemen callers who want to "educate" her. Loralei isn't very smartthe diary is riddled with misspellings and confused assumptionsbut she has a kind of innocence and practicality that keeps you rooting for her throughout. With her friend Dorothy, a brunette, she arranges it so that everything always works out in her favor, which usually includes lots and lots of diamond jewelry. 

By Anita Loos,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes: The Intimate Diary of a Professional Lady (1925) is a novel by Anita Loos. Adapted from a series of stories written for Harper's Bazaar, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes was an astounding success for Loos, who had mired for over a decade as a screenwriter in Hollywood and New York. An immediate bestseller, the novel earned praise from leading writers and critics of its time, and has been adapted several times for theater and film. Recognized as a defining text of the Jazz Age, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes is an absolute classic dubbed "the great American novel" by Edith Wharton.…

Book cover of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Ken Wells Author Of Swamped!

From my list on coming of age survival and adventure.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a child, all I wanted to read were books about adventure. I also had an adventurous childhood, growing up in the Louisiana swamps with a father who actually hunted alligators and took me with him. As I came of age, I longed to tell stories, and, as they say, it’s best to write about what you know. To date, I’ve penned six novels, all set in the exotic wetlands of Cajun, Louisiana. I feel missionary about this—that my writing gifts allow me to decode my homeplace in a way that makes it easier for outsiders to see the singular niche it occupies on the American landscape. 

Ken's book list on coming of age survival and adventure

Ken Wells Why did Ken love this book?

Twain’s classic may be out of favor in certain circles, but it is a big, imaginative, sprawling narrative that slyly deals with the thorny issues of race relations in the antebellum South while being, I believe, one of the greatest and fondest depictions of boyhood ever penned.

I love how Twain captured not just the regional southern vernacular but painted a picture of a world now lost to us. To be clear, Twain’s portrayal of Jim, the black protagonist, and his friendship with Huck, a young white boy, is an arch sendup of the racism of the day, for at the end of the day, Jim and Huck are the moral centers of the story—truly, the only gentlemen in the book.

Book cover of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Bruce Stachenfeld Author Of Faythe of North Hinkapee: The Saga of a Young Woman’s Quest for Justice and Love in Colonial America

From my list on irrepressible, exciting and heroic female lead characters that you will never forget.

Why am I passionate about this?

I made up Faythe of North Hinkapee by being a jerk! I was ranting about how bad a "best seller" book I had read was. My wife looked at me and said, "So, could you write a bestseller?" I was challenged, and then, somehow, this book just tumbled out. It was about a girl in Colonial Timesher family burned as witchesvowing vengeance and how she gets it. My wife looked at me and said: “My God, that could be a bestseller!’ My kids also loved the story. For about twenty years, I planned to write it, and after a ton of work, I finally finished.

Bruce's book list on irrepressible, exciting and heroic female lead characters that you will never forget

Bruce Stachenfeld Why did Bruce love this book?

This book blew me away! 

Lisbeth Salander, the lead female character, is one of the most beautifully drawn, exciting, indomitable, and powerful women I have ever read about in a story. She is not just strong, she is also brilliant – as a super-hacker on the internet to boot.

Thankfully there were two sequels as I could read book after book with her in it.  

By Stieg Larsson,

Why should I read it?

23 authors picked The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Forty years ago, Harriet Vanger disappeared from a family gathering on the island owned and inhabited by the powerful Vanger clan. Her body was never found, yet her uncle is convinced it was murder - and that the killer is a member of his own tightly-knit but dysfunctional family.

He employs disgraced financial journalist Mikael Blomkvist and the tattooed, truculent computer hacker Lisbeth Salander to investigate. When the pair link Harriet's disappearance to a number of grotesque murders from forty years ago, they begin to unravel a dark and appalling family history.

But the Vangers are a secretive clan, and…

Book cover of The Warden

Janet McNaughton Author Of Flame and Ashes: The Great Fire Diary of Triffie Winsor

From my list on Victorian novels for complete beginners.

Why am I passionate about this?

In my childhood in the 1960s, girls still read novels like Jane Eyre and Black Beauty, and one of my grandmothers was a Victorian herself, born in Scotland in the 1880s, so my connection to that time feels organic. Even today, a new Victorian novel is my idea of vacation reading. Victorian writers looked deeply into the hearts of their imagined characters, leaving us with a vivid record of a world that is now gone. These novels help us understand the past with all its flaws and problems, giving us a way to think about how far we have come, perhaps, even, how much farther we need to go.

Janet's book list on Victorian novels for complete beginners

Janet McNaughton Why did Janet love this book?

A short book even by our standards, The Warden was Trollope’s first novel. He went on to write forty-seven more, as many short stories and nonfiction books as well, all while working as an important official with the Royal Mail. I love Trollope’s books because he was a master at creating life-like characters who may be filled with flaws, but are always portrayed with loving humour. While The Warden is about a controversy over how the Church of England manages a poor house, the story is carried by the complex people and relationships at the centre of the squabble. This is the first book in the Chronicle of Barsetshire series which spins out the lives of these characters across decades.

By Anthony Trollope,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The Warden introduces us to the lives of some of the most beloved characters in all literature.

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 has an introduction by Margaret Drabble and illustrations by F. C. Tilney.

Scandal strikes the peaceful cathedral town of Barchester when Septimus Harding, the warden of charitable foundation Hiram's Hospital, is accused of financial wrongdoing. A kindly and naive man, he finds himself caught between the forces…

5 book lists we think you will like!

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