The most recommended books about guilt

Who picked these books? Meet our 33 experts.

33 authors created a book list connected to guilt, and here are their favorite guilt books.
Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

What type of guilt book?


Book cover of Howard B Wigglebottom And The Monkey on His Back: A Tale About Telling The Truth

Victoria Talwar Author Of The Truth About Lying: Teaching Honesty to Children at Every Age and Stage

From my list on honesty you can read with children.

Why am I passionate about this?

Victoria Talwar, PhD, is a professor and the chair of the Department of Educational & Counselling Psychology at McGill University. She is a recognized leading expert on children’s deception and has published numerous articles on children’s honesty and lie-telling behaviors. Dr. Talwar has given workshops to parents, teachers, social workers, and legal professionals. Among other distinctions, she was awarded the Society for Research on Child Development Outstanding Early Career Contributions to Child Development Research award. She is a Fellow of the American Psychological Association (Division 7), a Fellow of the Association for Psychological Science, and a member of the College of the Royal Society of Canada. 

Victoria's book list on honesty you can read with children

Victoria Talwar Why did Victoria love this book?

The Wigglebottom books were a favourite in my house. This book was no exception.

Howard knows that lying is wrong, but he chooses to do it anyways. It is an excellent illustration of the negative emotions of guilt and worry that come from telling lies – it is like having a monkey on your back which just gets bigger and heavier with every lie. 

However, this is also an illustration of redemption when Howard makes the right choice to tell the truth and feels better. We read this book many times and it prompted many conversations about what it feels like to lie, to tell the truth, and why it is better to tell the truth.

By Howard Binkow, Susan Cornelison,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Howard B Wigglebottom And The Monkey on His Back as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

LISTEN BETTER to the little voice in your head, your intuition. Lying is wrong. Award-winning…educator endorsed. FREE download discussion ideas, poster, video, song and interactive questions.

The We Do Listen Foundation is helping millions of children listen better to others, their hearts, feelings, bodies, and to intuition, the little voice in the head. 15 Howard B. Wigglebottom books, animations, songs and lessons help ages 4-7 become better listeners, learn important life lessons and feel good about themselves.

No one ever gets in trouble for too much listening.

Have a good listening day or the day of your choice.

Book cover of Into the Sublime

Natasha Deen Author Of The Signs and Wonders of Tuna Rashad

From my list on kickbutt heroines.

Why am I passionate about this?

I grew up in the 1980s when there wasn’t consideration for representation or diversity in literature or media. If I wanted to read about a Girl of Color, inevitably, she was a slave. If I wanted to watch a TV show featuring women (of any color), they were inevitably rescued in the climactic moment by a man. As such, I grew into a reader who loves kickbutt girls of all stripes. Give me a chance to cheer on a female who’s looking for her happy ending and not about to let the world dictate how she finds that happiness (and with whom), and boy, you got me!

Natasha's book list on kickbutt heroines

Natasha Deen Why did Natasha love this book?

I love books that keep me guessing and leave me unsettled about character motivation and story truth, and Into the Sublime gets the gold on all of those requirements and more! Amelie, a member of a thrill-seeking group, heads out with three other girls—H, Gia, and Devon—to find a lake called “The Sublime,” that’s said to reveal your deepest fears. Much like the underground cave system the girls find themselves in, Into the Sublime takes readers on a twisting tale full of tension and changing alliances, and an ever-tightening noose of dread and unease. What happened in those caves? Why did four girls go in but only three come out—and whose blood is Amelie covered in? This is the kind of book you stay up late to finish...then spend the next few days sleeping with the lights on. Lovers of psychological suspense and horror won't be disappointed.

By Kate A. Boorman,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Into the Sublime 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?

"Gripping and breathless, Into the Sublime is equal parts terrifying, claustrophobic, psychological, and cunning." ―Wendy Heard, author of She's Too Pretty to Burn and Dead End Girls

A new YA psychological thriller from Kate A. Boorman, author of What We Buried, about four teenage girls who descend into a dangerous underground cave system in search of a lake of local legend, said to reveal your deepest fears.

When the cops arrive, only a few things are clear:
- Four girls entered a dangerous cave.
- Three of them came out alive.
- Two of them were rushed to the hospital.…

Book cover of Remarkables

Shelby King Author Of Forest of Realms

From my list on that transport you to another realm.

Why am I passionate about this?

My love of realms and fantastic imagination comes from growing up in the backwoods of Alabama. The woods inspired me and beckoned me to dance and build and imagine among the trees. I created characters and worlds and could be a witch, a fairy, a troll, or a girl lost in time. I owe my love of creating characters to the woods that built me and one day I will go back and thank them for the beautiful life they gave me.

Shelby's book list on that transport you to another realm

Shelby King Why did Shelby love this book?

This book is a great stand-alone but thankfully is a series. It is a story about moving away and learning to integrate but also a young girl discovering strange things in the woods and finding herself immersed in a mystery you will not believe. I read this to my boys but I found myself more intrigued every chapter 

By Margaret Peterson Haddix,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Remarkables 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?

New York Times bestselling author Margaret Peterson Haddix, the master of cliffhangers, delivers a pulse-pounding mystery perfect for fans of Jacqueline West and Kat Yeh, full of secrets, surprises, and the power of family.

One minute they’re there: laughing and having fun at the house next door. The next minute, the teens are gone. Like magic. Marin can’t believe her eyes. Who are they? Can anyone else see them? What makes them so happy?

Marin is lonely in this new town of hers and eager to figure out more. Then she meets Charley, who reveals that he knows about them,…

Book cover of The Unmade World

Julia Glass Author Of Three Junes

From my list on surviving inconsolable heartbreak.

Why am I passionate about this?

I grew up in a woodsy Massachusetts town, then spent the first decade of my adult life striving to succeed as a painter in New York--while reading fiction as if inhaling another form of oxygen. In my thirties I traded paintbrush for pencil, persevering until I published my first novel at 46. I've now written six novels and a story collection about the volatile bonds of modern families, through marriages, births, betrayals, illnesses, deaths, and shifting loyalties. I love to tell a single story from multiple perspectives, ages, and genders; to inhabit a different vocation in each new character: bookseller, biologist, pastry chef, teacher. Like actors, fiction writers love slipping into countless other lives.

Julia's book list on surviving inconsolable heartbreak

Julia Glass Why did Julia love this book?

Like Three Junes, this richly peopled and plotted novel takes place over ten years and in far-flung locales (Poland, California's Central Valley, and upstate New York among them), told through the eyes of two very different men involved in a terrible accident. Richard, a journalist visiting Poland, survives a car crash in which his wife and daughter die; Bogdan, a small-time thief responsible for the collision, flees the scene. As Richard, haunted by the face of the man who fled, tries to find solace in his work, and as Bogdan's life and marriage collapse, we travel with them through numerous twists of fate on both sides of the Atlantic, including a murder-suicide case that Richard must help solve.

What astonished me most was how deeply I grew to care for both the "good guy" and the "bad guy"--and how much suspense I felt as I followed them over so…

By Steve Yarbrough,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Set against a backdrop of the current political and cultural upheaval in the US and Eastern Europe, The Unmade World is a thoughtful, scope-y literary novel with a dose of suspense that moves from Poland to California to the Hudson Valley and back to Poland. It covers a decade in the lives of an American journalist and a Polish small businessman turned petty criminal and the wrenching aftermath of an accidental, tragic encounter between these two on a snowy night in 2006 on the outskirts of Krakow. The accident costs the lives of the American journalist Richard Brennan's wife and…

Book cover of Trip Through Your Wires

Tara Lynn Masih Author Of My Real Name Is Hanna

From Tara's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Editor Nature lover Imaginative Bookworm

Tara's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Tara Lynn Masih Why did Tara love this book?

This novel surprised me. Now and then, I read a small press book that I think should have been published by a major publisher. It’s exquisitely crafted, with gorgeous sentences that push the movement ever forward and keep readers on the edge of their seats.

Layden depicts an exotic Mexican locale that beautifully captures the setting and the culture (I’ve been to the same area of Mexico, so I know she is spot on). She explores a fascinating romance through the memory of a bright but unreliable narrator. There is also a mysterious disappearance and a love triangle, and the reader is kept guessing till the end. It is an enthralling literary novel with genre appeal.

I won’t ever forget this story or Carey, the flawed but realistic narrator.

By Sarah Layden,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Trip Through Your Wires as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"Trip Through Your Wires is compulsively readable."-Porter Shreve, author of Drives Like a Dream A clue to her boyfriend's murder draws Carey back into the mystery that led to his death, forcing her to re-examine her own culpability and the self-delusion that blinded her to the dangers of his world. As she follows the clues and searches her memory, searing loss and guilt take over her life.

Book cover of Life After

Ashley Nikole Author Of Fallout

From my list on suspense novels with emotionally intelligent characters.

Why am I passionate about this?

I love studying the ins/outs of humanity and our interactions, but especially, EI (emotional intelligence). A lot of emphasis is put on being “smart” and analytical (think IQ), but EI is largely ignored. Relationships thrive (and die) on EI! In the novels I write, I explore the emotional side of relationships and how, if we pay attention to this other side of intelligence, beautiful interactions happen. Typically, I don’t find riveting EI in books—and so when I do, I gobble the book up once, then twice, and possibly a third time, then tell everyone I know to GO READ THAT BOOK!

Ashley's book list on suspense novels with emotionally intelligent characters

Ashley Nikole Why did Ashley love this book?

The sole survivor of a train wreck, Autumn Manning lives crippled with guilt. When she meets the husband of one of the women who died in the wreck, sparks fly, and Autumn’s guilt only increases. And, while very likely the saddest book I’ve recommended thus far, Life After paints a beautiful, cathartic picture of grief that few authors have. Grief is part of life, but people don’t like to talk about what happens to our hearts/psyches when it descends. While Life After may elicit a few tears, it is a stunning, beautiful book that I highly recommend.

By Katie Ganshert,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

It could have been me.

Snow whirls around an elevated train platform in Chicago. A distracted woman boards the train, takes her seat, and moments later a fiery explosion rips through the frigid air, tearing the car apart in a horrific attack on the city’s transit system. One life is spared. Twenty-two are lost.
A year later, Autumn Manning can’t remember the day of the bombing and she is tormented by grief—by guilt. Twelve months of the question constantly echoing. Why? Why? Why? Searching for answers, she haunts the lives of the victims, unable to rest. 
Paul Elliott lost his…

Book cover of A Simple Plan

Ken Jaworowski Author Of Small Town Sins

From my list on everyday people in arduous circumstances.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a kid I found myself watching cop shows and wondering “These cops seem to be on duty all day and all night. Don’t they have families?” And when I’d read dramas in which characters took lavish vacations and bought expensive cars, I’d think “Doesn’t anyone worry about money?” While I certainly don’t believe that fiction should always strive toward perfect realism (I love fantasy and sci-fi stories!) I do think that adding everyday problems and concerns makes a character much more relatable and interesting. A detective chasing a serial killer is exciting. A detective suffering from an excruciating toothache while chasing a serial killer adds another layer of delicious tension.

Ken's book list on everyday people in arduous circumstances

Ken Jaworowski Why did Ken love this book?

I disagreed with almost every action by every character in this book. I’d find myself saying to them: “Don’t do that!” But they did do that. And it kept me reading nonstop.

It’s a strange feeling, to watch characters spin out of control, yet be unable to look away. It's also the mark of terrific storytelling, and writing that I greatly admire.

By Scott Smith,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked A Simple Plan as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

“Spectacular. . . . Ten shades blacker and several corpses grimmer than the novels of John Grisham. . . . Do yourself a favor. Read this book.” —Entertainment Weekly

Two brothers and their friend stumble upon the wreckage of a plane–the pilot is dead and his duffle bag contains four million dollars in cash. In order to hide, keep, and share the fortune, these ordinary men all agree to a simple plan.

Book cover of Wintergirls

Emily Kazmierski Author Of Don't Look Behind You

From my list on YA that will haunt your dreams tonight.

Why am I passionate about this?

Since I was a child, stories steeped in secrets have fascinated me. I spent many hours devouring books about detectives and spies, shadows and deceit. As an adult, it is a rare treat to discover one that is so engaging I must know how it unfolds as soon as possible, and is told in a way that leaves me surprised by how it ends. Each of these books is deliciously tricky, inspiring me to read quickly, before the ghosts between the pages could escape to haunt me. 

Emily's book list on YA that will haunt your dreams tonight

Emily Kazmierski Why did Emily love this book?

Wintergirls is heart-wrenching and repulsive. Laurie Halse Anderson uses evocative, jarring language to tell a story about deadly friendship and an almost insurmountable eating disorder. This book pried open my eyes to the harsh struggles of people who live with eating disorders, teaching me about a reality I have mercifully never had to face. My heart ached for the main character as she descended farther into her illness, but left me with that cruel but vital ingredient: hope.

By Laurie Halse Anderson,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Wintergirls 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?

"Dead girl walking," the boys say in the halls.
"Tell us your secret," the girls whisper, one toilet to another.
I am that girl.
I am the space between my thighs, daylight shining through.
I am the bones they want, wired on a porcelain frame.

Lia and Cassie are best friends, wintergirls frozen in matchstick bodies, competitors in a deadly contest to see who can be the skinniest. But what comes after size zero and size double-zero? When Cassie succumbs to the demons within, Lia feels she is being haunted by her friend's restless spirit.

In her most emotionally wrenching,…

Book cover of The Girl Who Lived

Elizabeth Flann Author Of Beware of Dogs

From my list on humans fighting for survival in dangerous situations.

Why am I passionate about this?

Elizabeth Flann is a history and literature major who worked for over twenty years in the publishing industry in England and Australia before moving into teaching literature, scriptwriting and editing to postgraduate students at Deakin University, Melbourne. She is a co-author of The Australian Editing Handbook and was awarded a PhD in 2001 for her thesis entitled Celluloid Dreaming: Cultural Myths and Landscape in Australian Film. Now retired, she is able to give full rein to her true love—writing fiction. Her first novel, Beware of Dogs, was awarded the Harper Collins Banjo Prize for a Fiction Manuscript. She now lives in a peaceful rural setting in Victoria, Australia, close to extended family and nature.

Elizabeth's book list on humans fighting for survival in dangerous situations

Elizabeth Flann Why did Elizabeth love this book?

In another story that combined the two elements of memoir/non-fiction, Berg’s turmoil began because of the adventure. The sole survivor of a family tragedy, in which she performed heroically trying to seek help, she was stricken with survivor’s guilt as well as enormous personal loss. The first part of her story conveys the physical adventure of saving her own life. The second part conveys with devastating honesty the mental adventure of surviving all the self-torture and heart-rending loss that entailed. This book also manages to negotiate the line between fiction and non-fiction with delicacy and strength.

By Susan Berg,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The Girl Who Lived is the true story of Susan Berg, the sole survivor of a boating accident that claimed the lives of her parents and brother, and what it took for her to love life again.At fifteen, Susan was on a boat trip with her parents and brother when their vessel began to sink. Desperate to find help, she swam ahead, struggling through darkness and rough sea. After nearly four hours, Susan, exhausted and barely able to walk, finally made it ashore. Her family did not.
Wracked by survivor guilt, Susan began to rebel against the world. Looking for…

Book cover of I Just Ate My Friend

Simon Philip Author Of You Must Bring a Hat!

From my list on unexpected endings & terrific twists.

Why am I passionate about this?

Simon is obsessed with picture books: reading them, writing them, buying them, smelling them. His own have been published in more than 20 languages. You Must Bring a Hat won the Sainsbury’s Children’s Book of the Year, and I Really Wany the Cake was shortlisted for the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize. He particularly enjoys funny, deadpan picture books. After gaining a 1st class degree in History, he put his skills to use as a barman at a local pub, grew tired of the owner calling him Andy, left to fail a teaching degree, then turned to writing. He lives in England, although occasionally leaves to buy milk.

Simon's book list on unexpected endings & terrific twists

Simon Philip Why did Simon love this book?

The title and cover of this brilliant picture book called out to me as soon as I saw it, and I was pleased to discover that the rest of the book lived up to my high expectations.

The main character is wonderfully, comically expressive, and, despite the sparse text, experiences a range of emotions; guilt, remorse, frustration, desperation, despair.

Despite its abundance of humour, this book touches on several themes, including friendship and the notion of belonging, and the importance of impulse control. And, like all of my favourite picture books, it ends with a delicious twist. 

By Heidi McKinnon,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked I Just Ate My Friend as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 4, 5, 6, and 7.

What is this book about?

SHORT-LISTED: CBCA Book of the Year, Crichton Award for New Illustrators, 2018

I just ate my friend. He was a good friend. But now he is gone. Would you be my friend?

A hilarious story about the search for friendship and belonging... and maybe a little bit about the importance of impulse control... from an amazing new creator.