The best village books

8 authors have picked their favorite books about villages and why they recommend each book.

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Letters To The Damned

By Austin Crawley,

Book cover of Letters To The Damned

Sometimes Fantasy can be dark or even cross into the realm of Horror. The concept of this book certainly would appeal to most Fantasy readers. An old, out-of-use post box in a small English village is reputed to be a conduit for local residents to ask for favours from dead relatives. Cris Lopez from California, mourning the loss of his estranged wife whom he still loves, sees a tabloid story about the box and decides a change of scene would do him good. His desire to have some hope of contact with his deceased wife is something he's not ready to admit to himself.

Rather than terrifying, this one moves into the weird, or I should say wyrd. It has all the earmarks of magical English villages and folklore brought to life.

Letters To The Damned

By Austin Crawley,

Why should I read it?

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


Who am I?

I've been an avid reader across many genres since I learned to read as a child and have wandered into all sorts of categories to find literature I love. Fantasy became my first love, but that didn't mean I had to abandon everything else. I like finding great books that don't make the big publisher lists with their generic output. Since the rise of indie publishing, I've developed a habit of sampling anything that sounds like it might be interesting and have found some amazing and very original stories!


I wrote...

Dance of the Goblins (The Goblin Trilogy)

By Jaq D. Hawkins,

Book cover of Dance of the Goblins (The Goblin Trilogy)

What is my book about?

The complete collection of the Fantasy trilogy that brought the Epic series to a new generation. World building based on the foundation of Traditional Fantasy.

The goblins lived unseen by man for many generations and were forgotten, consigned to legend, but a fluke sighting when a man wanders into the entrance of a forgotten underground transportation system revives an ancient war between the species, originated by misunderstanding and prejudice of a species which appears alien to the superstitious humans.

Harvest

By Jim Crace,

Book cover of Harvest

Another perfectly realised novel, in which the ancient traditions of an isolated English village are lovingly resurrected and described – before being savagely undermined by enclosure. Harvest has both a murder and plenty of mystery but it’s really about desperation in the face of unstoppable, inhuman change. Crace writes prose as if it's poetry, most movingly about the villagers’ bewilderment and fury in the face of incomprehensible threats – and the sheer speed at which an entire way of life can disappear. It’s enough to make you wonder what, if anything, will remain of our most cherished traditions.

Harvest

By Jim Crace,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Winner of the 2015 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award
Winner of the 2014 James Tait Black Prize
Shortlisted for the 2013 Man Booker Prize
Shortlisted for the 2013 Goldsmiths Prize
Shortlisted for the 2014 Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction

As late summer steals in and the final pearls of barley are gleaned, a village comes under threat. A trio of outsiders - two men and a dangerously magnetic woman - arrives on the woodland borders triggering a series of events that will see Walter Thirsk's village unmade in just seven days: the harvest blackened by smoke and fear, cruel…


Who am I?

People give me funny looks when I say my historical novels are autobiographical. Yes, I spend months doing research, but the idea for The Devil’s Library actually came from a motorbike trip through Europe (think horses for motorbikes) and the friendship at its heart is partly a homage to the Shane Black scripted buddy movies I grew up with (Lethal Weapon, The Last Boy Scout...). Every great historical novel is a journey from the present to the past, in other words. We take something with us when we crack the spine. And – when it works – find something life-changing to bring back home with us at The End. 


I wrote...

The Devil's Library

By Tom Pugh,

Book cover of The Devil's Library

What is my book about?

“Exiled soldier Matthew Longstaff and unpredictable physician Gaetan Durant fight their way south – from the snowfields of Muscovy to the sun-baked plains of Italy – where an aging scholar and his beautiful, young protégé hold the final clue to unlocking the secrets of the Devil’s Library. Can the four of them take on the might of the Roman Church and win?”

A renaissance thriller, my book follows two sixteenth-century adventurers racing to prevent the contents of a fabled library from falling into the wrong hands. The book features plenty of sword fights and horse chases, but also explores the ideological chaos wrought in Europe by the rediscovery of ancient humanist texts by writers including Plato and Lucretius.

The Girl Who Speaks Bear

By Sophie Anderson,

Book cover of The Girl Who Speaks Bear

Yanka is a strong character with a deep love of the forest. I could relate to how she felt a bit different and out of place in her village. It was inspiring to me how she faced all sorts of perils in the forest on her quest. She is brave and unique. When she returns from the forest, she finds her place in the village...as herself. This book reminds me we have unique gifts and characteristics we should be proud of and embrace, not hide away.

The Girl Who Speaks Bear

By Sophie Anderson,

Why should I read it?

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


Who am I?

I was an avid reader from the age of six. Books inspired me and, as a shy girl, stories helped me find the confidence to be myself. I felt amazed and inspired by reading – finding out about parts of the world I had never been to. Especially as an adult, I’ve been blessed with wonderful, female friends. These are the themes I explore now in my books. I hope to inspire young readers to be themselves and celebrate friendship. I love travelling and nature. I've lived in various parts of the US and England. Through my writing, I hope to share the wonder of different cultures and natural settings.


I wrote...

Element Girls: The Lost Goddess

By Giulietta Maria Spudich,

Book cover of Element Girls: The Lost Goddess

What is my book about?

In this magical adventure set in Hawaii, four loyal friends discover they have the powers of the elements. 

Susie, Elizabeth, Tess, and Amelia have been together for as long as they can remember. When Amelia suddenly vanishes, they find themselves drawn into a world of magic they never knew existed. The amulets they wear as a symbol of their friendship give them elemental powers. Will these new powers be enough to save Amelia from dangers they didn’t even know existed outside of books?

The Hollow House

By Carlo Dellonte,

Book cover of The Hollow House

A man is driving to some oceanside cliffs to end his life. On the way, he stops for a night at a B&B in a small fishing village. He meets a girl, who has disappeared in the morning, and the man thinks, “What the heck. I’ll just stick around here and pretend I’m the girl’s boyfriend (who no one in the village has met before) and wait until she returns.” The villagers grow increasingly suspicious (about everything, it seems) and the man is soon caught in an uncontrollable deception of his own making.

This is a really odd, really well-written Gothic tale by an author I’d never heard of (who doesn’t seem to have written anything before or since), but I picked it up because its vagueness intrigued me. It’s the interplay of the main character trying his best to pretend he’s someone he’s not, for reasons even he’s…

The Hollow House

By Carlo Dellonte,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A gothic tale of dark longings and fragile fantasies 'I used to look across the street from my window through the windows of others, but none faced me directly so I could never see more than thin slices of rooms. People appeared from time to time, like pearl divers, briefly coming back to the surface for a breath of air...I was in love with life after dinner, beyond windows that weren't mine, of people I didn't know' As a young man drives hard through the night to reach the sea, he is stopped by the harsh wind and by a…

Who am I?

When I start a new book, my aim is to write something completely different from what I’ve written before. It’s challenging, but also important to keep things fresh. To me, a blank slate before each story is thrilling. To start with nothing, and end with something wholly original. This Never Happened, my third book, began with a feeling we’ve all had before: the feeling of not belonging. I asked myself, “What if I really didn't belong here, but was meant for somewhere else entirely?” From there, I created a character who grows increasingly unsure of his own identity and reality, themes that are also present in my selection of books below.


I wrote...

This Never Happened

By Ryan Tim Morris,

Book cover of This Never Happened

What is my book about?

Around Coney Island, Cepik Small is known as “Epic” but his life could not be less so. And no matter how hard he tries, he can’t shake the feeling that he was born in the wrong place, at the wrong time. The cocktail of drugs he takes daily doesn’t help and the face-blindness from which he suffers only adds to his feeling of isolation.

Just as he begins seeing a new and unorthodox therapist, Epic also meets the bold and blithe Abigail Ayr. And when a novel found on the subway begins to strangely mirror events in his own life, the mysteries of Epic Small’s dreams quickly and uncontrollably begin to unravel.

The Forest

By Julia Blake,

Book cover of The Forest: A Tale of Old Magic

Set in a small English village by an ancient forest, this book is unlike any story I have ever read. 

And after reading it, you’ll probably never look at forests the same way again. 

Masterfully written, filled with intricate immersive descriptions, The Forest takes you on a wild ride, dark and rather spooky at times. The ancient forests reveals its old tales and legends to the main characters, and we get to watch the story of an old curse unfold along with them. The curse that affected generations. The story that is full of secrets, betrayal, countless, heartbreaking moments; yet at the same time, the light of hope and faith shines through, all the way to the beautiful tear-jerking ending.

The Forest

By Julia Blake,

Why should I read it?

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


Who am I?

I have a crazy theory. I believe that the worlds and characters created by writers are much more than just a product of someone’s imagination. We all possess unlimited creative power (something that most of us take for granted). So what if I told you that all the characters, worlds, realities, and dimensions, ever created in writing or other forms of art, came to life somewhere in this endless Universe? That’s what I write about. Fascinating worlds and realms that exist out there. Lucky travelers that were granted a chance to visit those worlds. It’s what I’m most drawn to as a reader. Because it makes me one of those lucky travelers.


I wrote...

Follow the Hummingbird

By Elena Carter,

Book cover of Follow the Hummingbird

What is my book about?

Tina Thompson, a young and disillusioned widow, finds a pathway to different worlds and realms through her dreams. Using magical amulets entrusted to her, she must find the courage to face a dark and menacing ancient force that threatens to consume her soul.

Water, Stone, Heart

By Will North,

Book cover of Water, Stone, Heart

I was pleasantly surprised at how sweet and truly romantic Will North's Water, Stone, Heart turned out to be. I wandered lazily through the Cornish countryside with the main character, meeting quirky locals, becoming fascinated by the mystery of the artist who had settled in a seaside village. And at the conclusion I felt comfortably satisfied. A lovely read. Who says men can't write romance?

Water, Stone, Heart

By Will North,

Why should I read it?

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


Who am I?

I freely admit to reading romances―"Nurse Janes," as one of my teachers used to call them―whenever I need a break from heavier material or just from life. While I have some favorite authors (who doesn't?), I do not limit myself to any particular era or style of romance. To me, romance has many shades and flavours, and I enjoy them all. Believe you me, choosing just five to recommend was no piece of cake.


I wrote...

Propositions and Proposals

By Allison M. Azulay,

Book cover of Propositions and Proposals

What is my book about?

Some men run from marriage, others long for it with little hope of finding love. This book's Twin Tales, Graymere Gambit and Falworth Folly, offer both perspectives, along with intrigues among the English aristocracy of the Regency period.

Book cover of Chickens, Mules and Two Old Fools

Besides being delighted by the title, I was keen to read this highly-recommended book about moving to Spain. Victoria and her long-suffering husband really did up sticks and buy a home in a tiny mountain village in Andalucía. I was dying to know how they got on.

What a treat. This exquisitely written book is packed with hilarious tales about their property restorations, the local folks, and the battles they have with a psychotic cockerel. Really, it’s true! I learned about the region, loved Victoria’s character descriptions and finished wanting more. Rumour has it that many folks wanted to dash over to Spain to join them after reading this gem – and I’m not surprised. Happily, ‘Chickens’ is the first in a best-selling series from this award-winning author. I have read every book so far, and each has been an absolute winner.

Chickens, Mules and Two Old Fools

By Victoria Twead,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Chickens, Mules and Two Old Fools as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

★ Wall Street Journal Top 10 bestseller ★

★ New York Times Bestselling author ★


If Joe and Vicky had known what relocating to a tiny mountain village in Andalucía would REALLY be like, they might have hesitated... 

They have no idea of the culture shock in store. No idea they'll become reluctant chicken farmers and own the most dangerous cockerel in Spain. No idea they'll help capture a vulture or be rescued by a mule. 

Will they stay, or return to the relative sanity of England?

Includes Spanish recipes donated by the village ladies and a link to FREE…


Who am I?

Beth Haslam grew up on a farm in Wales and was mostly seen messing around with her beloved animals. When she and her husband, Jack, bought a second home in France, their lives changed forever. Computers and mobile phones swapped places with understanding French customs and wrestling with the local dialect. These days, Beth is occupied as never before raising and saving animals, writing, and embracing everything their corner of rural France has to offer. And she loves it!


I wrote...

Fat Dogs and French Estates, Part 1

By Beth Haslam,

Book cover of Fat Dogs and French Estates, Part 1

What is my book about?

Buying a country estate in France seemed such a simple thing to accomplish. When Beth, her irascible husband Jack, and their two fat dogs set off, little do they know that it will become such an extraordinary adventure. Surviving near-death experiences, they drive thousands of kilometres around French estates steeped in history and crazy aristocrats. Will they find their dream home, or return to Britain defeated?

Swann's Way

By Marcel Proust, Lydia Davis (translator), Christopher Prendergast (editor)

Book cover of Swann's Way: In Search of Lost Time, Vol. 1

Where to begin? Proust’s gigantic masterpiece is the proverbial gift that keeps giving, none more so than in its explication and then repeated “demonstration” of the very thing it describes, the sensory triggers of what Proust calls involuntary memory but that here become the emotional propulsion for this book about writing the very beautiful book (or books—it comes in six volumes) you are reading.

Swann's Way

By Marcel Proust, Lydia Davis (translator), Christopher Prendergast (editor)

Why should I read it?

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


Who am I?

The author of more than a dozen books and hundreds of magazine and newspaper pieces, I taught writing for many years as a lecturer at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. My passion for learning to write is lifelong, beginning in a musical childhood that led me from notes to words. A voracious reader, I set my ambition early-on to create stories that worked like the music I love, articulated most fully in recent books that take off from the many years I spent traveling with the iconic jazz musician Wynton Marsalis, with whom I also collaborated on Jazz in the Bittersweet Blues of Life. My focus in both learning and doing is the intersection of memory and experience in a process that is ongoing in the intertwining of life and work.


I wrote...

October Calf

By Archibald MacLeish, Carl Vigeland,

Book cover of October Calf

What is my book about?

Accidental neighbors half a century ago, a young writer and an old poet begin a correspondence that continues through the last decade of the poet’s life and echoes years later in the memory and short stories of his final student. Beginning with a portrait of the poet and the western Massachusetts hilltown where he and the young would-be author lived, October Calf crosses practical advice with wisdom and offers as well many suggestions for other reading.

The book reaches its dramatic climax with the eponymous title story--the subject of several of the poet’s letters and the product of numerous revisions—and closes with a single, short evocation set in the present and called “Covid Blues.”

Village in the Vaucluse

By Laurence Wylie,

Book cover of Village in the Vaucluse

An absolute classic, this book has had two subsequent editions since its first publication in 1957, each with a new foreword and epilogue. It depicts the pre-Peter Mayle Provence, primitive and resourceful, naïve and worldly wise, generous and hard-working, that Wylie discovered when he spent a year observing life in the village of Roussillon (disguised as Peyrane) in 1950-51. A typical Provençal village, Peyrane—population just over 300, one café-tabac, one hotel, two general stores, and one butcher—was still largely self-sufficient in terms of food, many families owning chickens and rabbits and cultivating a garden. Wylie writes with humour, warmth, and genuine affection for its inhabitants; I loved his account of the firemen's banquet, the attention to detail in the planning process, the banquet itself, and the post-banquet meditations.

Village in the Vaucluse

By Laurence Wylie,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Village in the Vaucluse as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Laurence Wylie's remarkably warm and human account of life in the rural French village he calls Peyrane vividly depicts the villagers themselves within the framework of a systematic description of their culture. Since 1950, when Wylie began his study of Peyrane, to which he has returned on many occasions since, France has become a primarily industrial nation-and French village life has changed in many ways. The third edition of this book includes a fascinating new chapter based on Wylie's observations of Peyrane since 1970, with discussions of the Peyranais' gradual assimilation into the outside world they once staunchly resisted, the…

Who am I?

Since first stepping off a train at Nice I've felt an affinity with southern France, but it was a chance encounter with the local shepherd who, speaking a version of the Provençal language, alerted me to the proud past of this region and its individual identity. (I've written about this time in my book Wild Asparagus, Wild Strawberries.) A serendipitous opportunity to study ancien Provençal led me down a meandering path to a PhD that eventually became The Original Mediterranean Cuisine, and on to a career researching and teaching culinary history. My next book looks at the roots of Provençal cuisine in the eighteenth century. 


I wrote...

The Original Mediterranean Cuisine: Medieval Recipes for Today

By Barbara Santich,

Book cover of The Original Mediterranean Cuisine: Medieval Recipes for Today

What is my book about?

Before tomatoes, before peppers, before polenta, the Mediterranean fringe of Europe shared a common culinary culture that was distinctively different than that of northern Europe. Despite the prominence these new introduced foods now enjoy, older traditions still persist in dishes such as Sicilian maccu and Catalan bunyols. Fascinated by the languages of the Mediterranean, I set out to research this earlier, pre-Columbus cuisine and discovered roots in both Roman and Arabic cultures. The Original Mediterranean Cuisine describes how these influences came together in the medieval era and illustrates their intersection in a selection of recipes, sourced from medieval Italian and Catalan manuscripts and adapted to modern kitchens.  

Pancakes and Corpses

By Agatha Frost,

Book cover of Pancakes and Corpses: A Cozy Murder Mystery

The first book, in a really long series, pulled me in with its baking charm and the relatable main character. Set in a little village called Peridale, Julia is making her way on her own as a newly divorced woman who has shaky self-esteem and a lot of determination. I love the banter with the other characters, particularly the grandmother and the way Julia is back home but it all feels new because she’s been away for so long. I loved watching the relationship between Julia and Barker, the police inspector, develop and grow. I’m a hardcore romantic and watching them become a solid couple was a real joy. 

Pancakes and Corpses

By Agatha Frost,

Why should I read it?

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


Who am I?

As a romance, romantic comedy, and cozy mystery writer, I not only have a passion for the swoon-worthy moments when I’m creating them but crave them as a reader. There are so many great books out there but chemistry, particularly between a main character and her love interest, is what really makes me want more of a series. It’s not always easy to create that sigh-worthy-make-you-smile element of romance and love in a book that is geared toward solving a murder so I really appreciate when it’s done well. It’s not only enjoyable for me as a reader but a great example for me as a writer. 


I wrote...

Home Is Where the Body Is

By Jody Holford,

Book cover of Home Is Where the Body Is

What is my book about?

When graphic designer and true crime fan Annie Abbott agrees to house sit her parents’ home for a year, she’s convinced that even though the small town has ten coffee shops, nothing exciting will happen. But that’s before a seemingly feral cat gives birth in her garage, prompting a call to the very handsome, very single town vet. It’s a dream meet-cute, but just as their romance blooms, Annie discovers the bloody body of her grumpy neighbor. And despite the fact that she passes out at the sight of blood, the police suspect her.

To clear her name, Annie will need to put her years of watching police procedurals and reading mysteries to good use. She’ll also need to rely on her new friends but is one of them the killer?

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