The most recommended books about Northumberland

Who picked these books? Meet our 14 experts.

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

What type of Northumberland book?


Book cover of The Stars Look Down

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to write this story, not just because the eventful lives of myself and members of my family, but mostly because of its historical content.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?

The book describes various injustices in a coal mining community and gives an excellent description of working-class life of the time in the North of England.

The story portrays the different careers or paths of individuals against the odds: a miner's son who tries to defend his people from political pressure, a miner who turns into a businessman, and the mine owner's son in a clash with his overbearing father. Having had similar experiences in my own life, the story had jogged my memory.

By A.J. Cronin,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The Stars Look Down was A.J. Cronin's fourth novel, published in 1935, and this tale of a North country mining family was a great favourite with his readers.

Robert Fenwick is a miner, and so are his three sons. His wife is proud that all her four men go down the mines. But David, the youngest, is determined that somehow he will educate himself and work to ameliorate the lives of his comrades who ruin their health to dig the nation's coal. It is, perhaps, a typical tale of the era in which it was written - there were many…

Book cover of The Poison Diaries

L.M. Jorden Author Of Belladonna

From my list on mysteries with poison plants to please a gardener.

Why am I passionate about this?

As the author of the Dr. Josephine Plantae Paradoxes, a historical mystery series based on my grandmother, an early trailblazing woman doctor, I stay true to the facts. I remember entering her apothecary filled with strange bottles of little homeopathic white pills, giant stills, and finding poisonous plants in her atrium. In my novels, Dr. Josephine Reva fights for woman’s equality and practices a mix of botanical and modern medicine, and moonlights as a sleuth to solve paradoxical ‘poison cure’ crimes. An award-winning journalist, author, and former professor with an MS from Columbia University, I studied botany. I currently live between France and New England with my family, furry friends, and lots of plants.

L.M.'s book list on mysteries with poison plants to please a gardener

L.M. Jorden Why did L.M. love this book?

This is an illustrated novel that originated with an actual poison garden created by the Duchess of Northumberland at her estate in northern England.

This garden at Alnwick Castle is full of poisonous plants and served as the setting for scenes in several Harry Potter movies.

The Poison Diaries unfolds like a fable, about a teenage girl, Jessamine, daughter of a poison plant botanist, who must tend to the poison plants by herself. That is, until a boy named Weed appears.

The novel vividly describes the germination of Atropa Belladonna, with its deadly black berries. This beautifully illustrated book about a poison plant gardener is truly enchanting.

By Maryrose Wood, The Duchess of Northumberland,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Poison Diaries 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 dark, gothic tale of romance... and murder.

In the right dose, everything is a poison.

Jessamine has spent her whole life in a cottage close to her father's apothecary garden, surrounded by medicinal plants and herbs that could kill her - although her father has never allowed her into the most dangerous part of the grounds... the poison garden. And so she's never had reason to be afraid - until now. Because now a newcomer has come to live with the family, a quiet but strangely attractive orphan boy named Weed.

Though Weed doesn't say much in words, he…

Book cover of Death at Wolf’s Nick: The Killing of Evelyn Foster

Lindsay Allason-Jones Author Of Roman Woman: Everyday Life in Hadrian's Britain

From my list on how people in different periods or cultures lived their lives.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am an archaeologist, mostly working in the Roman period. Until I retired in 2011, I was the Director of the Centre for Interdisciplinary Artefact Studies and Reader in Roman Material Culture at Newcastle University, having previously been the Director of Archaeological Museums for the University. My working life started by specialising in identifying those small items which come out of every excavation, but more and more I became interested in what those artefacts told us about the people who lived on the site. Reading books about peoples’ lives in other cultures and periods provides insight into those people of the past for whom we have little documentary evidence.

Lindsay's book list on how people in different periods or cultures lived their lives

Lindsay Allason-Jones Why did Lindsay love this book?

Everybody who has read this extraordinary book seems to have an overwhelming urge to discuss it with other people. It tells the true story of the murder of a young woman in 1931 in northern England, a death for which no-one was ever brought to trial. This is not just an unsolved mystery but deftly reveals what life was like in a north Northumberland town in the 1930s, as well as exposing how chaotic and class ridden policing was at the time.

By Diane Janes,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Death at Wolf’s Nick as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In January 1931, on a lonely stretch of Northumberland road known as Wolf's Nick, flames rose up into the night sky from the neighbouring moorland.

Beyond help, Evelyn Foster lay engulfed in flames near her burning car, desperately hoping to be found by a passing vehicle.

With her last breath, she described her assailant: a mysterious man with a bowler hat who had asked her to drive him to the next village, then attacked her and left her to die.

What followed was a remarkable effort by some members of the police to track down Evelyn's killer while other members…

Book cover of One Girl & Her Dogs

Kate Wells Author Of Murder on the Farm

From my list on taking you into the world of farming.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have loved the Malvern Hills my whole life, first living on a sheep farm at their foot and then in my great-grandparents’ old house at the very top. As a teenager I fell for a farmer’s son (now my husband) and spent all my time on his Herefordshire farm. My upbringing firmly engrained a deep love of rural life into me, so it was natural it became integral to my writing. To write with authenticity about a way of life I am so passionate about, I immerse myself in farming research and keep my hand in on a local farm when it comes to busy times such as lambing.

Kate's book list on taking you into the world of farming

Kate Wells Why did Kate love this book?

Having watched shepherdess Emma Gray on the BBC, I was so taken by her farming passion and charismatic personality that I was keen to read her memoirs.

One Girl and Her Dogs is the first of two installments and it’s a wonderful mix of wit, grit, and refreshing honesty. Whilst reading it I was totally immersed in her world and found myself in awe of her gumption and determination to make the best out of whatever her farm, her animals, and Mother Nature decided to throw at her.

When casting characters for my own murder series, I decided to lend Jude, my female farmer, Emma’s surname to try and channel some of her tenacity and drive.

By Emma Gray,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked One Girl & Her Dogs as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


What happens when you swap 'I do' for pastures new?

When twenty-three-year-old shepherdess Emma Gray breaks off her engagement, the chance to take over an isolated Northumberland farm seems just the fresh start she needs. But while the beautiful scenery certainly offers plenty of scope for contemplation, a night out with an eligible bachelor soon seems more remote than the farm itself. And once you add fugitive sheep and freak blizzards into the mix, Emma's dreams of a happy future…

Book cover of The Ivy Tree

Muna Shehadi Author Of The First Wife

From my list on knocking you off your ass-umptions.

Why am I passionate about this?

People either love or hate surprises, but in a book, done well, they’re always welcome—whether we race to the last page to find them or they hip-check us along the way. I started my career writing comedy romance—comfort reads but with few surprises. Now in my novels, I make sure to give readers plenty they don’t expect, whether it’s a character who isn’t what s/he seems, a contradictory situation gradually made clear, or a jaw-dropping twist. Pulling off a successful surprise is one of my favorite parts of writing—therefore my love of books that take me somewhere I didn't expect.

Muna's book list on knocking you off your ass-umptions

Muna Shehadi Why did Muna love this book?

This is the only book I reread regularly (life is short, so many titles!) because it is gobsmackingly brilliant. The story is about a woman visiting an English country town who’s mistaken for a former resident and convinced to take that person’s place. It’s beautifully written, with great characters, typically compelling plot, but the twist! I gasped out loud the first time and have never failed to get chills on every reread. You don’t see the surprise coming, and yet it is absolutely logical and perfect. I keep trying to find someplace where Stewart trips up or gives it away, and there’s nothing. I bow down.

By Mary Stewart,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Mary Stewart, one of the great British storytellers of the 20th century, transports her readers to rural Northumberland for this tale of romance, ambition, and deceit - a perfect fit for fans of Agatha Christie and Barbara Pym.

'There are few to equal Mary Stewart' Daily Telegraph

'Mary Stewart is magic.' New York Times

Whitescar is a beautiful old house and farm situated in Roman Wall country. It will make a rich inheritance for its heirs, but in order to secure it, they enlist the help of a young woman named Mary who bears remarkable resemblance to missing Whitescar heiress,…

Book cover of Napoleon Surrenders

Gareth Williams Author Of Needing Napoleon

From my list on getting inside Napoleon Bonaparte’s head.

Why am I passionate about this?

I taught about Napoleon for thirty years, having studied history at Cambridge. I’ve been fascinated by the Corsican outsider, who, thanks to the French Revolution, rose to dominate Europe, since I saw a china bust of him in his green Chasseurs uniform on my maternal grandparents’ sideboard. I always loved historical fiction and having retired into a locked-down world, I put my time on the Isle of Skye to good use and set about researching and writing the novel I had always said I would write. Re-reading old favourites and encountering new interpretations was a joy and certainly made compiling this list an enjoyable challenge!

Gareth's book list on getting inside Napoleon Bonaparte’s head

Gareth Williams Why did Gareth love this book?

As I fingered a copy of Napoleon Surrenders in a second-hand bookshop, a passing stranger said to me, "Read anything by Martineau, it’s all good, and that one is brilliant." Encouraged, I willingly paid £2 for my copy. Well, I have never spent so well! This detailed account whisks us from the evening after Waterloo to HMS Northumberland under sail for St Helena. Until I read this book, it was too easy to see Bonaparte’s story as over once he was defeated by the Duke of Wellington. But Martineau changed my mind. He crafts the story of those agonising months in which Napoleon has to say goodbye to his family, his soldiers, his home, and his country. He relinquishes his title for a second time and throws himself at the mercy of London. Martineau conjures the historical actors as real people confronting an impossible dilemma: what to do with Napoleon?

Book cover of Hadrian's Wall

Douglas Jackson Author Of Hero of Rome

From my list on Hadrian’s Wall and the soldiers who manned it.

Why am I passionate about this?

Douglas Jackson is the author of eleven historical novels, including the 9-book Valerius Verrens series, which involves his Hero of Rome in conspiracies, battles, and intrigues from the Boudiccan rebellion in 60AD to the battle of Mons Graupius in 84AD. His next book, appropriately titled The Wall, will be published in 2022. His first job when he left school at sixteen was helping to restore one of Julius Agricola’s marching camps in the Cheviot Hills. The Romans have fascinated him ever since, to the point where he's managed to make a living out of writing about them. With Hadrian’s Wall almost on his doorstep, there was never any doubt he'd set a book there.

Douglas' book list on Hadrian’s Wall and the soldiers who manned it

Douglas Jackson Why did Douglas love this book?

Last, but certainly not least, the iconic landmark captured through the lens of a master. Despite the sub-title to my previous book, Mike Bishop’s preferred route along Hadrian’s Wall is from west to east, with the prevailing wind at his back. Derry Brabbs obviously agrees, because this beautifully illustrated book takes us from the Solway Coast to Wallsend in a series of stunning photographs that capture the Wall in the kind of breathtaking detail that perfectly illustrates why Brabbs is one of the UK’s most highly regarded photographers. It’s not just about the amazing vistas and moody landscapes, there is a very readable narrative, but it’s the photographs that will draw you back time and time again.

By Derry Brabbs,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Hadrian's Wall as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Hadrian's Wall has been designated a World Heritage Site since 1987 and in 2005 was also incorporated into a wider UNESCO category - the Frontiers of the Roman Empire.

It is also the basis for an 84 mile National Trail.

The book will cover not only the full length of Hadrian's Wall from the Solway Firth to Wallsend on Tyneside, but also other places of historical, landscape or architectural merit to the north and south of the actual Wall itself.

Chapter One Background and History

Chapter Two The Solway Coast

Chapter Three Carlisle to Birdoswald

Chapter Four Birdoswald to Cawfields…

Book cover of The Lighthouse Keeper's Daughter: A Novel

Cindy Thomson Author Of Grace's Pictures (Ellis Island)

From my list on Irish immigrant historical fiction.

Why am I passionate about this?

I love exploring the theme of family legacies and learning the stories, even if fictionalized, of our ancestors who helped build America for future generations. I explored this theme with my Ellis Island series, but truly it influences everything I write. It began with my interest in my own genealogy and my love of research. Along with writing my own books, I host a blog on historical fiction called Novel PASTimes and am co-founder of the Faith & Fellowship Book Festival with the aim of connecting readers with really good books.

Cindy's book list on Irish immigrant historical fiction

Cindy Thomson Why did Cindy love this book?

This book is so well written. It draws the reader into the story quickly with rich historical details and compelling characters. In 1838 in England a young woman helps her father, a lighthouse keeper, rescue survivors of a shipwreck. A century later a young Irish woman is sent to America to have her baby while living with a relative who is a lighthouse keeper. The 1938 woman learns family history that takes us back to the previous story. I love stories of family legacies and mysteries that come to us from the past.

By Hazel Gaynor,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Lighthouse Keeper's Daughter as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From The New York Times bestselling author of The Girl Who Came Home comes a historical novel inspired by true events, and the extraordinary female lighthouse keepers of the past two hundred years.

“They call me a heroine, but I am not deserving of such accolades. I am just an ordinary young woman who did her duty.”

1838: Northumberland, England. Longstone Lighthouse on the Farne Islands has been Grace Darling’s home for all of her twenty-two years. When she and her father rescue shipwreck survivors in a furious storm, Grace becomes celebrated throughout England, the subject of poems, ballads, and…

Book cover of The Moon-Spinners

Pauline Baird Jones Author Of Relatively Risky

From my list on thrilling, chilling, romantic, blush-free reads.

Why am I passionate about this?

I feel like I’ve read all of my life—though I know at some point someone had to teach me—but stories and storytelling are in my DNA. The first four books were my writing “primers.” I learned more about storytelling from them than any how-to book. They also fueled my passion to write in different genres. You will notice the words “blush free” in some of my recommendations. That is because I love well-told stories that live between prim and steamy, books where I don’t have to flip past the steamy stuff to get back to the story. I hope you enjoy them as much as I have!

Pauline's book list on thrilling, chilling, romantic, blush-free reads

Pauline Baird Jones Why did Pauline love this book?

I found The Moon-Spiners through a Disney movie of the same name (book was better). When I found out it was also a book, I went hunting at my local library and fell in love with the way Stewart immediately pulled me into her stories, evoking awe, fear, laughter ,and romance. She wafted me away to exotic places, and into exciting and romantic adventures with strong female characters. I went on to read all her books, even the Arthurian ones, but her romantic suspense books remain my favorites and the ones I turn to when I need a comfortable visit with old fictional friends. 

By Mary Stewart,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Impetuous and attractive, Nicola Ferris has just arrived in Crete for a holiday when she sees an egret fly out of a lemon grove. On impulse, she follows the bird’s path into the White Mountains. There she discovers a young Englishman who, hiding out in the hills and less than pleased to have been discovered, sends Nicola packing with the order to keep out of his affairs. This, of course, Nicola is unable to do, and before long events lead to a stunning climax among the fishing boats of Agios Georgios Bay.

            In this bestselling novel, first published in 1963…

Book cover of The Darkest Evening

Yvonne Rediger Author Of Condo Crazy

From my list on discovering which type of mystery fits you.

Why am I passionate about this?

I've read mysteries of all types since I was young. Unfortunately for my publishers, I like to write in several different genres too. Everyone loves a mystery, a puzzle, sussing out the hidden. If you think you don’t like mysteries, then I think you just haven’t found your genre yet. Reading a mystery is like treasure hunting, we all want to find the gold. I love clever dialogue, characters you want to meet in real life, and accompany them while solving a mystery. All the books I have recommended have an overarching mystery element. I write like that too, also, one element links all my books regardless of genre. Happy treasure hunting!

Yvonne's book list on discovering which type of mystery fits you

Yvonne Rediger Why did Yvonne love this book?

Detective Chief Inspector Vera Stanhope, while driving home during a blizzard, becomes disorientated and loses her way on the backcountry roads of Northumberland in England. Off the beaten track she finds a car abandoned, one door open, and a baby in the back seat. I can’t imagine anything more alarming. Where are the mother and father? When she takes the child with her, Vera realizes she is mere feet from her father’s ancestral home. Hector was the black sheep of the Stanhope Clan. The place is lit up and welcoming but Vera’s cousin was not expecting her, but invited guests for a dinner party and certainly not a baby. Then to discover the child’s mother murdered on their grounds. I fell in love with Vera in the first book and want to be just like her when I grow up. I like the police procedural rhythm of these books and…

By Ann Cleeves,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

DCI Vera Stanhope returns in The Darkest Evening, the ninth novel in No. 1 Sunday Times bestseller Ann Cleeves's phenomenally popular crime series.

The darkest nights can hide the deadliest secrets . . .

Driving home during a swirling blizzard, Vera Stanhope's only thought is to get there quickly.

But with the snow driving down heavily, she becomes disorientated and loses her way, eventually stumbling on another car abandoned on the road. With the driver's door open, Vera assumes the driver has sought shelter but is shocked to find a young toddler strapped in the back seat.

Afraid they will…