The most recommended country life books

Who picked these books? Meet our 114 experts.

114 authors created a book list connected to country life, and here are their favorite country life books.
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What type of country life book?


Book cover of A Year Down Yonder

Susan Lubner Author Of Lizzy and the Good Luck Girl

From my list on characters in a unexpected living situation.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a writer my storylines almost always develop out of the characters and settings I first create. As a reader, I enjoy a book as much (sometimes more!) for the characters and setting in it as I do for the plot itself. My favorite reads have always featured a quirky or bigger-than-life character and a setting that in some instances may seem ordinary but the circumstances of how the character ended up there are far from that. I love the middle-grade novels on my list because the main characters are brave and resourceful and each has an unusual and intriguing path that has led them to where their story takes place.

Susan's book list on characters in a unexpected living situation

Susan Lubner Why did Susan love this book?

Two words. Grandma Dowdel. She is one of the many reasons I love this book. Fifteen-year-old Mary Alice is forced to leave her parents and her home during a difficult time in 1937. A city girl, it’s no easy feat moving from the big city of Chicago to a small town and in with her larger-than-life grandmother who will have you laughing out loud at her very un-granny-like antics. Peck’s punchy, smart, and often hilarious prose, parallels nicely with undertones of a more serious and difficult period of time for many families.  Mary Alice is easy to root for as she finds her footing in a year filled with many new adjustments in a place very different from home.  

By Richard Peck,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Year Down Yonder as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 8, 9, 10, and 11.

What is this book about?

A Newbery Medal Winner

Richard Peck's Newbery Medal-winning sequel to A Long Way from Chicago

Mary Alice's childhood summers in Grandma Dowdel's sleepy Illinois town were packed with enough drama to fill the double bill of any picture show. But now she is fifteen, and faces a whole long year with Grandma, a woman well known for shaking up her neighbors-and everyone else! All Mary Alice can know for certain is this: when trying to predict how life with Grandma might turn out . . . better not. This wry, delightful sequel to the Newbery Honor Book A Long Way…

Book cover of Hoodoo

Rachel Kolar Author Of Mother Ghost: Nursery Rhymes for Little Monsters

From my list on spooky middle grade audio for family car trips.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve loved scary stories ever since I was a kid thumbing through Goosebumps, and I’m delighted that my children enjoy them as much as I do. Since they’ve outgrown spooky picture books like mine, middle grade horror audiobooks are our favorite way to pass the half-hour drive to school—but not every excellent book has an equally excellent narrator. Some sound downright bored with the material; others have such engaging voices that I will never read the books again without hearing them in my head. These are five of the most deliciously creepy middle grade novels that we’ve discovered for those long car trips.

Rachel's book list on spooky middle grade audio for family car trips

Rachel Kolar Why did Rachel love this book?

A Southern Gothic historical horror, Hoodoo is a story of fair and foul folk magic in 1930s Alabama. Hoodoo Hatcher is the only person in his family without a knack for the hoodoo that gave him his name—and that’s a problem, because the evil Stranger is coming for him, and he’ll need all the courage and smarts he can summon to keep himself and his family safe. To me, the greatest joy of this wonderful book is Hoodoo’s distinctive, humorous voice, and Ron Butler brings him perfectly to life in his performance; it’s not easy for an adult to make a child’s voice sound authentic, but Butler knocks it out of the park. 

By Ronald L. Smith,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Hoodoo as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 9, 10, 11, and 12.

What is this book about?

Twelve year old Hoodoo Hatcher was born into a family with a rich tradition of practicing folk magic - hoodoo, as most people call it. But even though his name is Hoodoo, he can't seem to cast a simple spell. Then a mysterious man called the Stranger comes to town, and Hoodoo starts dreaming of the dead rising from their graves. Even worse, he soon learns the Stranger is looking for a boy. Not just any boy. A boy named Hoodoo. The entire town is at risk from the Stranger's black magic, and only Hoodoo can defeat him. He'll just…

Book cover of Give Us a Kiss

Brooks Blevins Author Of A History of the Ozarks, Vol. 1: The Old Ozarks

From my list on the Ozarks.

Why am I passionate about this?

I can’t say that I was even conscious of having grown up in the Ozarks until stumbling upon a regional geography book in college. Once I learned that the rural community of my childhood was part of a hill country stretching from the outskirts of St. Louis into the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, I dedicated my life’s work to explaining (and demystifying) the Ozarkers – a people not quite southern, not quite midwestern, and not quite western.

Brooks' book list on the Ozarks

Brooks Blevins Why did Brooks love this book?

Woodrell is best known for the ominous, lyrical Winter’s Bone, but I’m such a fan that my favorite Woodrell novel is always the most recent one I’ve re-read. So here’s Give Us a Kiss, his first foray into the wild and rural Ozarks of West Table and Howl County. The novel is also a hard-charging, nuanced look into the life of a mostly unsuccessful writer facing an inner struggle over just how far, if at all, he should get above his raising. It’s a concern for anyone caught between different worlds, and we are fortunate that the autobiographical sinews between author and protagonist were severed before Doyle Redmond spun out of control.

By Daniel Woodrell,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Give Us a Kiss as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"My imagination is always skulking about in a wrong place." And now Doyle Redmond, thirty-five-year-old nowhere writer, has crossed the line between imagination and real live trouble. On the lam in his soon-to-be ex-wife's Volvo, he's running a family errand back in his boyhood home of West Table, Missouri -- the heart of the red-dirt Ozarks. The law wants his big brother, Smoke, on a felony warrant, and Doyle's supposed to talk him into giving up. But Smoke is hunkered down in the hills with his partner, Big Annie, and her nineteen-year-old daughter, Niagra, making other plans: they're about to…

Book cover of Major Pettigrew's Last Stand

Irene Wittig Author Of The Best Thing About Bennett

From my list on uplifting contemporary novels.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have always found that uplifting stories—in which kindness is more powerful than cruelty, and love and friendship blossom in unexpected and even tragic circumstances—give one hope, and hope is the foundation of resilience. Such stories can be set in familiar, comforting places, or new adventurous locales. My own experiences in Uganda, and my husband’s anti-corruption work were the inspiration for one of the locales of my novel about Bennett.

Irene's book list on uplifting contemporary novels

Irene Wittig Why did Irene love this book?

Major Pettigrew, a staunchly traditional Englishman struggling with an ungrateful son and the changes caused by the death of his brother, is unexpectedly drawn to the intelligent and cultured shopkeeper, Mrs. Jasmina Ali. Their friendship grows as they share their love of literature and the loss of their spouses, but rattles family and villagers' sense of what is proper and acceptable. This charming and witty love story is set in a small English village, where obligations, societal pressure, and cultural differences challenge but fail to defeat their budding romance.

By Helen Simonson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Major Pettigrew's Last Stand as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Major Ernest Pettigrew is perfectly content to lead a quiet life in the sleepy village of Edgecombe St Mary, away from the meddling of the locals and his overbearing son. But when his brother dies, the Major finds himself seeking companionship with the village shopkeeper, Mrs Ali. Drawn together by a love of books and the loss of their partners, they are soon forced to contend with irate relatives and gossiping villagers. The perfect gentleman, but the most unlikely hero, the Major must ask himself what matters most: family obligation, tradition or love?

Funny, comforting and heart-warming, Major Pettigrew's Last…

Book cover of The Life of Rebecca Jones

Victoria MacKenzie Author Of For Thy Great Pain Have Mercy On My Little Pain

From my list on short historical novels that pack an emotional punch.

Why am I passionate about this?

Understanding history is essential for understanding ourselves as human beings – for recognising where we’ve come from and why we live as we do. What I love about historical fiction is that it can take tumultuous times and show their effects on the individuals who lived through them. As a historical novelist, I try to bring history back to a tangible, human level. These short novels show that if a writer’s prose is fresh, witty, and moving, then historical novels don’t need to be enormous tomes to give us a new slant on the past and allow us to inhabit lives utterly different from our own.

Victoria's book list on short historical novels that pack an emotional punch

Victoria MacKenzie Why did Victoria love this book?

This exquisite book tells the story of the one family in the remote Maesglasau valley in Wales, and the ferocious changes that the twentieth century brings to their traditional rural way of life.

Originally written in the Welsh language and beautifully translated into lyrical English, this is a poignant and unforgettable story. I love how the language is simple, but it delicately renders the lives of the family members, giving them dignity and beauty despite sorrow and hardships. It feels old-fashioned yet also timeless.

By Angharad Price, Lloyd Jones (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"The most fascinating and wonderful book" JAN MORRIS

"A restrained, lyrical tour de force" OWEN SHEERS

In the early years of the last century, Rebecca is born into a rural community in the Maesglasau valley in Wales; her family have been working the land for a thousand years, but the changes brought about by modernity threaten the survival of her language, and her family's way of life.

Rebecca's reflections on the century are delivered with haunting dignity and a simple intimacy, while her evocation of the changing seasons and a life that is so in tune with its surroundings is…

Book cover of Blackberry Wine

Maureen Thorpe Author Of Tangle of Time

From my list on how magic can change your life.

Why am I passionate about this?

Maureen's book list on how magic can change your life

Maureen Thorpe Why did Maureen love this book?

I read this book many years ago in 2000. This book with magic realism awoke my love of magic (buried since a child). Five bottles of homemade wine hold powerful but subtle magic which transform the hero’s life. I love the concept that there is always hope; that there is something out there if we just reach out and believe. The setting is in France which also awoke a desire to travel–and I love making homemade wine! 

By Joanne Harris,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This captivating and charming novel from international multi-million copy seller Joanne Harris takes us back to the French village we first discovered in Chocolat. Seamlessly interweaving the past and the present, magic and memory, it is a sensual rollercoaster that will appeal to fans of Victoria Hislop, Fiona Valpy, Maggie O'Farrell and Rachel Joyce.

'Thickly sensuous, wildly indulgent, magical escapism: Chocolat lovers will drink deeply' --GUARDIAN
'Joanne Harris has the gift of conveying her delight in the sensuous pleasures of food, wine, scent and plants... Blackberry Wine has all the appeal of a velvety scented glass of vintage wine' --…

Book cover of Station Life in Australia: Pioneers and Pastoralists

Patsy Trench Author Of The Worst Country in the World

From my list on the beginnings of colonial Australia.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a Pom, as Aussies would say, born and bred in England to an Australian mother and British father. I emigrated to Australia as a ten-pound Pom way back when and though I eventually came home again I’ve always retained an affection and a curiosity about the country, which in time led me to write three books about my own family history there. The early days of colonial Australia, when around 1400 people, half of whom were convicts, ventured across the world to found a penal colony in a country they knew almost nothing about, is one of the most fascinating and frankly unlikely stories you could ever hope to come across. 

Patsy's book list on the beginnings of colonial Australia

Patsy Trench Why did Patsy love this book?

I’m a townie, but early colonial Australia is all about the land and how some early colonial pioneers made their fortunes from it. (Many didn’t, needless to say.) This book is all about them: the squatters, the stock riders, the drovers, the station hands, etc. The long and perilous journeys into remote New South Wales looking for land—officially and unofficially; how early pioneers coped with droughts, floods, disappearing stock, financial uncertainty, and not least, relationships with local Aboriginal people. There are hilarious accounts of the strange habits of cows, and of the “new chums”—wide-eyed young men who migrated to the colony with money but no farming experience hoping to make their fortunes, and how the (colonial) locals took the mickey out of them. Readable, witty, and again, written with great authority and in-depth knowledge.

Book cover of Village School

Angela Hodgkins Author Of Strength-based Practice with Children and Families

From my list on why working with young children is awesome.

Why am I passionate about this?

My professional background is in working with children, my career began as an NNEB nursery nurse and I did many jobs (nanny, childminder, preschool, reception class, after school club, primary school, special school, and in learning support). I then trained as a teacher of adults and went on to be a college lecturer. I am now a senior university lecturer, but my heart has always been in the early years. I am passionate about highlighting the incredible work that is going on in the early years and in schools and have a strength-based, empowering, and optimistic view, which I try to instill in my students. Working with young children is a privilege and a joy.

Angela's book list on why working with young children is awesome

Angela Hodgkins Why did Angela love this book?

Reading this book, and others in the series, is like a warm hug! It details a view of a small village school in the 1960s and it is just such a joy to read.

The stories about the school and the children are touching, funny and emotional. This book is a great example of social history and it just makes you want to work in a tiny village school and to be around children like these. It’s such a fulfilling read. Village Christmas is wonderful too, I read it in December every year.

By Miss Read,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The very first Miss Read novel - set in 1950s England, perfect nostalgia for fans of CALL THE MIDWIFE or Gervase Phinn.

'An affectionate, humorous and gently charming chronicle ... sometimes funny, sometimes touching, always appealing' New York Times

Fairacre is a village of cottages, a church and the school - and at the heart of the school, its headmistress, Miss Read.

Through her discerning eye, we meet the villagers of Fairacre and see their trials and tribulations, from the irascible school cleaner Mrs Pringle, to the young schoolchildren with their scraped knees, hopeful faces and inevitable mischief.

Miss Read…

Book cover of The Greatcoat

Chris Turnbull Author Of The Planting of the Penny Hedge

From my list on fiction with an historical twist.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a Yorkshire writer with a passion for historical fiction. My love of history came as a surprise to me in my late teens, as I had originally thought history was not my thing. However, I soon discovered the incredible stories throughout history, and how many authors carve fictional stories around these time periods or historical events. I love researching for my own historical writing, whether it be to find out what kind of jobs people did, or what they ate for breakfast. I love reading and writing historical fiction in multiple eras, such as WW2, Victorian times, and further back to the Romans and ancient Egyptians. 

Chris' book list on fiction with an historical twist

Chris Turnbull Why did Chris love this book?

This was a book I just could not put down. Originally I was interested in this book because it was set in Yorkshire, but it quickly became one of my favourite reads of all time. Set in 1952 it tells the story of a young lady named Isobel, who moves to the East Riding of Yorkshire with her husband. There is an innocent romance to this book, with an ending I didn’t see coming at all  

By Helen Dunmore,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In the winter of 1952, Isabel Carey moves to the East Riding of Yorkshire with her husband Philip, a GP. With Philip spending long hours on call, Isabel finds herself isolated and lonely as she strives to adjust to the realities of married life.

Woken by intense cold one night, she discovers an old RAF greatcoat hidden in the back of a cupboard. Sleeping under it for warmth, she starts to dream. And not long afterwards, while her husband is out, she is startled by a knock at her window.

Outside is a young RAF pilot, waiting to come in.…

Book cover of Atonement

Victor Lodato Author Of Honey

From my list on packing an emotional punch.

Why am I passionate about this?

In addition to writing novels, I’m also a playwright. Whatever form I work in, I’m drawn to character, drama, and emotion. I aspire to write literary page-turners that feel as rich and complicated as real life.  Also, I want the endings of my books to slay readers and break their hearts. Of course, when I say that, I’m not necessarily speaking of sorrow; sometimes your heart breaks from expanding, from a surfeit of feeling. Your heart breaks only to grow larger.

Victor's book list on packing an emotional punch

Victor Lodato Why did Victor love this book?

This novel is a shattering tale of how a child’s error in judgment changes the lives of everyone around her. When I finished reading it, I was so shocked I started trembling.

The novel is a magic trick—it inspires you with its art, while at the same time making you weep for the fate of its characters.

By Ian McEwan,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

On the hottest day of the summer of 1934, thirteen-year-old Briony Tallis sees her sister Cecilia strip off her clothes and plunge into the fountain in the garden of their country house. Watching her is Robbie Turner, her childhood friend who, like Cecilia, has recently come down from Cambridge. By the end of that day, the lives of all three will have been changed for ever. Robbie and Cecilia will have crossed a boundary they had not even imagined at its start, and will have become victims of the younger girl's imagination. Briony will have witnessed mysteries, and committed a…