The most recommended books about Wales

Who picked these books? Meet our 52 experts.

52 authors created a book list connected to Wales, and here are their favorite Wales books.
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What type of Wales book?


Claws and Contrivances

By Stephanie Burgis,

Book cover of Claws and Contrivances

Anne Rollins Author Of The Solitary Rose

From the list on Regency romances with a touch of magic.

Who am I?

I grew up an avid reader of children’s and YA fantasy, which is how I discovered the subgenre of Regency fantasy. When I stumbled across Wrede and Stevermer’s work in libraries and used bookstores, I absolutely loved it. As an adult, I enjoyed exploring the Regency romances of older authors like Georgette Heyer and Marion Chesney as well as more recent Regency writers. But when I began writing romance myself, I went back to the fantasies that were my first introduction to the Regency era. My Regency novels are primarily romance, with just a pinch of magic, but I hope both romantasy fans and historical romance readers can enjoy them.

Anne's book list on Regency romances with a touch of magic

Why did Anne love this book?

This is the second of Stephanie Burgis’s Regency Dragons books, but in my opinion, it can stand on its own.

The protagonist and viewpoint character, Rose Tregarth, is slowly emerging out of a fog of depression caused by the loss of her parents. She now lives with loving and somewhat eccentric cousins in Wales. Part of the charm of the book comes from the diverse cast of secondary characters, which includes a sapphic couple, a young girl with an anxiety disorder, and a young woman of color.

As an autistic reader, I very much appreciate that Rose’s love interest, a renowned dragon scholar, is coded as autistic, because it’s difficult to find good autistic representation in historical romance. Dragon fans take note: the book abounds with adorable miniature dragons with magical powers! 

By Stephanie Burgis,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A madcap Regency-era romantic comedy involving a most determined heroine, a baffled scholarly hero, and a surprising number of dragons.

Rose Tregarth may have been invited into her uncle's remote home in the heart of Wales as an act of kindness to a poor relation, but it doesn't take her long to realise that her newly-met family members are in need of all the help they can get. Between mysteriously appearing little dragons and a threatening new neighbour, Rose is soon up to her ears in plots and schemes to save the people and beasts she's come to love...with the…

The Last Light of the Sun

By Guy Gavriel Kay,

Book cover of The Last Light of the Sun

J.G. Harlond Author Of The Doomsong Sword

From the list on factual fantasy for coming-of-age Viking stories.

Who am I?

I grew up on a Viking battlefield, in an English coastal village once raided then occupied by Norsemen. We had ancestors who lived on the Isle of Orkney, and in the Celtic south-west. From a young age, I read Norse and Celtic myths and legends, and went on to study history and philosophy – and then became an author. Now, I have family in Sweden and grandchildren of Ash and Elm. My list offers pure escapism, but also shows how our ancestors lived in an age with no electricity or compulsory schooling. It’s the wonderful combination of the ‘other world’ myths and history that I believe makes us who we are. 

J.G.'s book list on factual fantasy for coming-of-age Viking stories

Why did J.G. love this book?

The publisher’s blurb for this novel says: "In the stirring tradition of Northern Europe's heroic sagas, Kay brings to life an unforgettable world balanced on the knife-edge of change."

The lives of three young people, a Celt, an Anglo-Saxon and a Viking, coincide in this unforgettable story full of action and elements of the supernatural. Kay mixes history and fantasy in his own special way to create a frightening yet tender coming-of-age tale.

A beautifully written page-turner.

By Guy Gavriel Kay,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Last Light of the Sun as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A powerful, moving saga evoking the Celtic, Anglo-Saxon and Norse cultures of a thousand years ago from the acclaimed author of The Fionavar Tapestry.

“A historical fantasy of the highest order, the work of a man who may well be the reigning master of the form.”—The Washington Post Book World

Bern Thorkellson, punished for his father’s sins, denied his heritage and home, commits an act of vengeance and desperation that brings him face-to-face with a past he’s been trying to leave behind...

In the Anglcyn lands of King Aeldred, the shrewd king, battling inner demons all the while, shores up…

The Hanged Man

By Robert Bartlett,

Book cover of The Hanged Man: A Story of Miracle, Memory, and Colonialism in the Middle Ages

R.I. Moore Author Of The War on Heresy

From the list on the real Middle Ages.

Who am I?

I am a historian primarily of western Europe in the eleventh and twelfth centuries. My leading interest has shifted over many years from the people who were persecuted as heretics at that time to their persecutors, as it dawned on me that whereas scepticism about the teachings of the Roman (or any) church was easily understandable, the persecution of mostly rather humble people who presented no real threat to that Church or to wider society was not, and needed to be explained.

R.I.'s book list on the real Middle Ages

Why did R.I. love this book?

In 1307 the pope charged three commissioners to decide whether the survival of a Welshman hanged for murder some years previously had or had not been a miracle. Bartlett’s masterly and compulsively readable microhistory draws from their report a brilliantly illuminated miniature (less than 200 pages) of an entire world, from the family life of the highest nobility to the grisly details of hanging and what they symbolised, and of the struggle for power in many forms, from the marches of Wales to central Italy.

By Robert Bartlett,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Seven hundred years ago, executioners led a Welsh rebel named William Cragh to a wintry hill to be hanged. They placed a noose around his neck, dropped him from the gallows, and later pronounced him dead. But was he dead? While no less than nine eyewitnesses attested to his demise, Cragh later proved to be very much alive, his resurrection attributed to the saintly entreaties of the defunct Bishop Thomas de Cantilupe. The Hanged Man tells the story of this putative miracle--why it happened, what it meant, and how we know about it. The nine eyewitness accounts live on in…

The Girl Who Left

By Jenny Blackhurst,

Book cover of The Girl Who Left

Bryony Best Author Of The Girl from Pompey: Bloodshed in the Hampshire Cabin

From the list on thrillers that aren't predictable or snail-paced.

Who am I?

I have a wealth of knowledge and experience for living through tragic situations from my young adult life. I have overcome a traumatic childhood, alcoholism, drug addiction, and mental health. I find psychology fascinating; I have personally had many attempts by others to take my life. I have survived violent attacks, stalkers, and abuse. I love thriller books that have psychology embedded alongside many life lessons.  

Bryony's book list on thrillers that aren't predictable or snail-paced

Why did Bryony love this book?

Jenny Blackhurst is a beautiful writer who is known for different POVs and timelines.

This book is addictive and the author will have you turning more pages into the night to finish just one more chapter. The book is based in Wales which is not too far from where I live so that was interesting for me.

The MC is the daughter of a killer who is in prison for murdering her childhood best friend. Many years later another child is abducted with the same signature/patter as the MCs best friend from the past. The MC is compelled to investigate this further.  

By Jenny Blackhurst,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Twenty-five years ago, a local girl went missing. Now, another girl comes back...

When five-year-old Elsie Button was snatched from a garden in a sleepy town on the Welsh island of Anglesey, and a local man later confessed, it sent shockwaves through the tight-knit community. How could one of their own do such a thing? Especially when his own little girl was the same age - and the victim's best friend.

Kathryn and her family left under the cloak of darkness one night, unable to bear the shame, and the anger of their neighbours. She hardly remembers that time. Now,…


By Gwyn A. Williams,

Book cover of Madoc: The Making of a Myth

Andrew Hadfield Author Of Amazons, Savages, and Machiavels: Travel and Colonial Writing in English, 1550-1630: An Anthology

From the list on early English travel writing.

Who am I?

I am a Professor of English at the University of Sussex. I have worked on a wide range of subjects over the years, mainly about the English Renaissance. I have a long-standing interest in travel and colonial writing, the ways in which the English interacted with other peoples and other places, which started with my interest in Ireland where I studied and which was the subject of my early books. I have broadened my perspective as I have read more on the Americas, Africa, Europe, and Asia, over the years and am committed to uncovering the truth of the uncomfortable, challenging, and fascinating history of the early British Empire.

Andrew's book list on early English travel writing

Why did Andrew love this book?

The Madoc legend claimed that a Welsh prince discovered America long before Columbus, the traces remaining in a few words and through some later accounts.

The Welsh historian Gwyn Williams shows how the myth was used to establish racist genealogies through the myth of ‘white Indians’, detailing how dangerous and offensive an apparently confused and confusing legend could be. A magnificent piece of hard-headed historical analysis.

By Gwyn A. Williams,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This examination of the story of Madoc, the Welsh prince alleged to have sailed to America centuries before Columbus, is a work of historical detection which not only tracks down strange stories and beliefs to their factual origins, but shows how myth can actually shape history. Readership: all those interested in Wales, Welsh history, overseas colonization, especially of America

More Harm Than Good

By Jean Grainger,

Book cover of More Harm Than Good

Kay Watkins Author Of Family of the Heart

From the list on women's struggles with reproduction issues.

Who am I?

Although I have never been faced with an unwanted pregnancy, I lived through an era when women did not have easy choices available to them. Abortions were illegal while there was also tremendous stigma attached to those who choose to give their babies up for adoption or even decided to raise their babies without a male involved. Many times, the family of origin refused to support these women, turning their back on them. Most often, the men were not held accountable and disappeared with no further responsibilities.

Kay's book list on women's struggles with reproduction issues

Why did Kay love this book?

This series deeply involves an Irish family during World War II. A young woman finds herself in love with the town gentry but when she discovers she is pregnant, the young man’s father convinces him that she is a whore, a loose woman, and not solely in love with him. She goes to a family friend’s home in Wales to have the baby and finds herself in love with the son of the family, a Jewish doctor who immigrates to her home and serves as the town doctor. There are many complications and prejudices to overcome in this moving tale.

By Jean Grainger,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked More Harm Than Good as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Kilteegan Bridge, Ireland 1974

For each member of the O’Sullivan family there are turbulent times ahead.

Eli’s need to do his best for his patients is a cause for a bitter divide in the community. Emmet seems hell bent on going down a path in life his parents dread but they’re unable to stop him. Jack’s life and liberty are in grave peril as his secret faces exposure, while Emily’s troubles are, it seems only just beginning with the return of someone she would much rather had disappeared forever. And Maria must decide, is blood really thicker than water, and…

The Song of Heledd

By Judith Arnopp,

Book cover of The Song of Heledd: At the Hall of Cynddylan

Theresa Tomlinson Author Of A Swarming of Bees

From the list on throwing light into the Dark Ages.

Who am I?

I spent much of my childhood living close to Whitby Abbey and heard many stories of the famous Saint Hilda. As a mother of three, I began writing stories, initially to entertain my children, and eventually published many historical stories for children and young adults – twice shortlisted for the Carnegie Medal. I moved back to the Whitby area in my 60s determined to write for an older age group and indulge my lifelong fascination for the Anglo-Saxon period. I took the half pagan Fridgyth character from my Young Adult adventure mystery – Wolfgirl - and developed her role as a warm, curious, flawed, investigator. I'm working on a third Fridgyth the Herbwife novel.

Theresa's book list on throwing light into the Dark Ages

Why did Theresa love this book?

This is another historical novel set in my favourite time period AD 600’s, this time in Powys. The main character is Heledd – a peace-weaver bride, she is human, flawed, compelling, and courageous. The background detail is vivid and well researched, but what I love most about this book is the lyrical style of writing, which may almost give the reader the sense that the story is being sung,  reflecting with feeling and humanity, the real Anglo-Saxon poetry that has come down to us. Here is a powerful sense of sadness, regret, and gathering doom, lifted by moments of pure joy – a true lament!

By Judith Arnopp,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In seventh century Powys at the hall of King Cynddylan of Pengwern, the princesses, Heledd and Ffreur attend a celebratory feast where fifteen-year-old Heledd develops an infatuation for a travelling minstrel. Their illicit liaison triggers a chain of events that will destroy two kingdoms and bring down a dynasty. Set against the backdrop of the pagan-Christian conflict between kings Penda and Oswiu The Song of Heledd sweeps the reader from the ancient kingdom of Pengwern to the lofty summits of Gwynedd where Heledd battles to control both her own destiny and those around her. Judith Arnopp has carried out lengthy…

Gerald of Wales

By Robert Bartlett,

Book cover of Gerald of Wales: A Voice of the Middle Ages

Charity L. Urbanski Author Of Writing History for the King: Henry II and the Politics of Vernacular Historiography

From the list on medieval historians and history writing.

Who am I?

I’m a historian of medieval Europe who specializes in twelfth-century England and France. I’ve been fascinated with history since childhood and distinctly remember being obsessed with a book on English monarchs in my mom’s bookcase when I was young. In college, I took a class on Medieval England with a professor whose enthusiasm for the subject, along with the sheer strangeness of the medieval world, hooked me. I’ve been exploring medieval Europe ever since, and deepening my understanding of how our own world came into being in the process. 

Charity's book list on medieval historians and history writing

Why did Charity love this book?

Any book by Robert Bartlett is worth reading (check out The Hanged Man and Trial by Fire and Water as well), but I love this one because it examines one of the most interesting and entertaining historians of the twelfth century, Gerald of Wales.

Gerald was famously opinionated, prejudiced (mainly against the Irish – check out his History of Ireland), and gossipy. Bartlett explores Gerald’s attitudes, experiences, and works to paint a compelling picture of the wider world around him. Much like Chibnall’s book on Orderic, this is a fascinating portrait of an important historian and the complicated world he lived in.

By Robert Bartlett,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This study of Gerald discusses the political path he had to tread and portrays him as an example of the medieval world.

The Arthur of the Welsh

By Rachel Bromwich (editor), A.O.H. Jarman (editor), Brynley F. Roberts (editor)

Book cover of The Arthur of the Welsh: The Arthurian Legend in Medieval Welsh Literature

Helen Fulton Author Of A Companion to Arthurian Literature

From the list on sensible stories about King Arthur.

Who am I?

I came to the Arthurian legends through the medium of medieval Welsh literature, a subject that had intrigued and challenged me since I was an undergraduate. I found the language impenetrable and yet beautiful, while the literature it encoded was fascinatingly unlike the literary traditions of England and France. I wanted to connect with a version of Arthur that preceded the romance traditions of France and England and bears witness to a much older culture and social organisation. Though I've learned to love other versions of Arthur, and indeed I teach the Arthurian legends as part of my academic work, the stark drama of the Welsh poems and tales continues to intrigue me.

Helen's book list on sensible stories about King Arthur

Why did Helen love this book?

For any serious Arthurian fan, an understanding of the Welsh origins of Arthur is essential, and yet unpicking these early threads of Arthurian material can be difficult.

This book provides the perfect guide, a series of accessible articles about the various stories and poems that circulated in Wales before the fourteenth century. As someone who has studied medieval Welsh literature in depth, I enjoy sharing knowledge of this fascinating culture with others, and this book opens a door into the world of early Wales where Arthur first took shape as a legendary battle warrior.

Arthur’s Welsh origins have perhaps attracted more extremist views than any other part of the legends, so this book, based on documentary evidence, is a welcome corrective to the more far-fetched speculations about the origins of Arthur.

By Rachel Bromwich (editor), A.O.H. Jarman (editor), Brynley F. Roberts (editor)

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Arthur of the Welsh as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Little, if anything, is known historically of Arthur, yet for centuries the romances of Arthur and his court dominated the imaginative literature of Europe in many languages. The roots of this vast flowering of the Arthurian legend are to be found in early Welsh tradition, and this volume gives an account of the Arthurian literature produced in Wales, in both Welsh and Latin, during the Middle Ages.

The distinguished contributors offer a comprehensive view of recent scholarship relating to Arthurian literature in early Welsh and other Brythonic sources. The volume includes chapters on the 'historical' Arthur, Arthur in early Welsh…

The White Road

By Sarah Lotz,

Book cover of The White Road

T.L. Bodine Author Of Neverest

From the list on to read instead of going out in the elements.

Who am I?

I've often lived around the fringes of nature, from late-night cross-country road trips through forested backwoods, to living off-grid in New Mexico's high desert. As much as I've lived in the shadow of mountains and extreme environments, I've never dared to venture up into them – and I'm endlessly fascinated by the people who do. What is it that drives people toward extreme sports and outdoor challenges, even understanding the risks? Why do people risk life and limb to venture into places where man isn't meant to be? It's a question I don't think I'll ever stop finding fascinating. 

T.L.'s book list on to read instead of going out in the elements

Why did T.L. love this book?

Lotz's book is an intense character study, painting a portrait of her protagonist in masterful strokes.

Simon Newman is complex – simultaneously thrill-seeking but lazy, ambitious but anxious, traumatized but desperate to hide his weakness.

He has no business searching for bodies in the notoriously dangerous Cwm Pots, and he takes away exactly the wrong lessons from his survival. He certainly has no business on Mount Everest, and knows it. But now he's haunted by the (possibly literal) ghosts of his own bad choices, and he's in too deep now.

This book is a journey in its own right. 

By Sarah Lotz,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

*****From the author of The Three, coming soon to your screen as a major BBC adaptation by Golden Globe winner Peter Straughan*****

Adrenaline-junky Simon Newman sneaks onto private land to explore a dangerous cave in Wales with a strange man he's met online. But Simon gets more than he bargained for when the expedition goes horribly wrong. Simon emerges, the only survivor, after a rainstorm trap the two in the cave. Simon thinks he's had a lucky escape.

But his video of his near-death experience has just gone viral.

Suddenly Simon finds himself more famous than he could ever have…

The Mabinogion

By Sioned Davies (translator),

Book cover of The Mabinogion

Helen Fulton Author Of The Cambridge History of Welsh Literature

From the list on Wales and Welsh culture.

Who am I?

I was lucky enough to be introduced to medieval Welsh literature when I was an undergraduate, and the Welsh language mesmerised me. It is so unlike any other language that I had come across and translating texts from Welsh into English was as absorbing as code-cracking. My apprenticeship as a scholar was long and hard and I soon realised that my particular contribution was to make Welsh literature accessible to non-Welsh speakers, not simply through translations, but by aligning the Welsh tradition with the wider literary cultures of Europe. I want Wales and its two literatures to take their place as two of the great literatures of Europe.

Helen's book list on Wales and Welsh culture

Why did Helen love this book?

I first read the tales of The Mabinogion when I was an undergraduate and their amazing otherness helped to propel me towards a career researching medieval Welsh literature.

These prose tales were composed in Welsh between 1100 and 1300. Four of the tales are linked together and are known as ‘The Four Branches of the Mabinogi’. Other tales include two original Arthurian stories, a dream vision set in the Roman British past, and three tales based on the French Arthurian romances of Chrétien de Troyes.

In this rich mixture of genres, otherworldly women marry heroic men, warfare between Wales and Ireland destroys a generation, and Arthur strides the land as the king of the whole island of Britain. Sioned Davies’s translation is the latest and best, capturing all the drama and apparent simplicity of the original Welsh texts.

By Sioned Davies (translator),

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Mabinogion as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'I cannot be killed indoors,' he said, 'nor out of doors; I cannot be killed on horseback, nor on foot.' 'Well,' she said, 'how can you be killed?'

Celtic mythology, Arthurian romance, and an intriguing interpretation of British history - these are just some of the themes embraced by the anonymous authors of the eleven tales that make up the Welsh medieval masterpiece known as the Mabinogion. They tell of Gwydion the shape-shifter, who can create a woman out of flowers; of Math the magician whose feet must lie in the lap of a virgin; of hanging a pregnant mouse…

Here Be Dragons

By Sharon Kay Penman,

Book cover of Here Be Dragons

E.L. Daniel Author Of All the Gold in Abbotsford

From the list on where the damsel is not always the one in distress.

Who am I?

I am a strong, independent woman (*snaps fingers through the air*), yet I adore a soul-sucking romance. Many might think this is a contradiction, but it’s not! A woman can be both loving and stubborn…both enamored by her partner yet still strong enough to speak up for herself. Sadly, I think historical fiction often defaults to portraying dependent and subjugated women, and this isn’t necessarily wrong—in fact, it’s probably more accurate. However, when I’m getting lost in the magic of a novel, I want to experience the all-consuming love without sacrificing the resiliency and independence of the women involved, and these books spin stories where both outcomes are possible!

E.L.'s book list on where the damsel is not always the one in distress

Why did E.L. love this book?

I seriously enjoy a good “between-a-rock-and-a-hard-place” romance, especially when the female heroine is able to navigate it while staying true to herself. In this one, King John weds his illegitimate but beloved daughter Joanna to his bitter enemy, Llewelyn, Prince of North Wales, in an effort to take Wales under his control. But Joanna loves both of them—father and husband—and is forced time and again to prove her loyalty to one side or the other, until neither faction supports her in return. While this definitely portrays the helplessness that many medieval women faced, often experiencing a forced marriage for some political purpose or other, Joanna’s courage, bravery, and sense of self in the face of so much conflict were inspiring and so addicting to read about.

By Sharon Kay Penman,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Here Be Dragons as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An absorbing historical novel of power and betrayal, loyalty and political intrigue in thirteenth-century England, Wales and France, centring on King John of England, younger brother to the brilliant Richard Lionheart, Joanna, his illegitimate but recognised daughter and Llewellyn Ab Iowerth, Prince of Gwynedd, a bitter opponent of English ways, laws and encroachment into Wales who becomes Joanna's husband.

All of a Winter's Night

By Phil Rickman,

Book cover of All of a Winter's Night

Kate Charles Author Of Desolate Places

From the list on murder and mayhem in English churches.

Who am I?

One of my favourite reviews described my book as ‘a bloodstained version of the world of Barbara Pym.’ Perfect! I write crime novels set in the Church of England. I also read mysteries with churchy connections—lots of them. My shelves hold hundreds, featuring clerical sleuths (and even a few clerical murderers), books set in churches, cathedrals, and monasteries (past and present). I love to explore the questions I am so often asked when talking about the books I love: why is there such a plethora of them, and why does the Church, which represents ‘goodness,’ appear so often in novels which feature unspeakable crimes?

Kate's book list on murder and mayhem in English churches

Why did Kate love this book?

Set in the evocative, spooky borderlands known as the Marches, between England and Wales, this is part of a series by Phil Rickman. Through the novels we follow the trials and tribulations of Merrily Watkins, a parish priest and the official exorcist for the Hereford diocese of the Church of England—thus introducing a strong element of the supernatural. Merrily is a believable and sympathetic protagonist, with her share of human weaknesses, and she’s surrounded by a rich, unforgettable cast of ongoing supporting characters: daughter Jane, musician Lol, and the wonderful Gomer Parry. It was difficult to choose one book from this fine series, but I settled on this one because it features one of my own favourite churchesKilpeck, in the wilds of Herefordshire.

By Phil Rickman,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked All of a Winter's Night as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

When Aidan Lloyd's bleak funeral is followed by a nocturnal ritual in the fog, it becomes all too clear that Aidan, son of a wealthy farmer, will not be resting in peace.

Aidan's hidden history has reignited an old feud, and a rural tradition begins to display its sinister side.

It's already a fraught time for Merrily Watkins, her future threatened by a bishop committed to restricting her role as diocesan exorcist for Hereford. Suddenly there are events she can't talk about as she and her daughter Jane find themselves potentially on the wrong side of the law.

In the…

Book cover of The Valley of Lost Secrets

Kate Albus Author Of A Place to Hang the Moon

From the list on England’s World War II evacuations.

Who am I?

I’ve been fascinated by England’s World War II evacuations since I was a child. Appropriately enough, I first learned of this extraordinary historical event in a story: it’s the reason the Pevensies are sent to the Professor’s house in C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. In the dark days of World War II, more than a million English children boarded trains, buses, and ships, to be picked up and cared for by strangers, in some cases for the duration of the war. It’s a historical event that is as astonishing to me now as it was when I first read of it all those years ago. 

Kate's book list on England’s World War II evacuations

Why did Kate love this book?

Not only is this a heartfelt evacuee story, it’s also a brilliant mystery. When Jimmy and his brother, Ronnie, are sent to the Welsh countryside to escape the bombings, Jimmy is angry at the adults responsible – “They think they know everything but all they do is leave or make wars or send their children away.” The boys eventually warm to their kind foster parents, but some of the villagers aren’t so welcoming. When Jimmy finds a skull in a hollow tree, he has no idea how it’s tied to an unsolved mystery, and the reader has no idea how it will figure in this story’s gripping, satisfying, and emotional conclusion. 

By Lesley Parr,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"Beautifully told. This appealing book is about losses healed, lies uncovered, cruelty defeated and goodness rewarded." The Sunday Times

September 1939.

When Jimmy is evacuated to a small village in Wales, it couldn't be more different from London. Green, quiet and full of strangers, he instantly feels out of place.

But then he finds a skull hidden in a tree, and suddenly the valley is more frightening than the war. Who can Jimmy trust? His brother is too little; his best friend has changed.

Finding an ally in someone he never expects, they set out together to uncover the secrets…

Physick and the Family

By Alun Withey,

Book cover of Physick and the Family: Health, Medicine and Care in Wales, 1600-1750

Jennifer Evans Author Of Maladies and Medicine: Exploring Health & Healing, 1540-1740

From the list on early modern medicine.

Who am I?

I’m a lecturer in history at the University of Hertfordshire where I teach early modern history of medicine and the body. I have published on reproductive history in the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. The history of medicine is endlessly diverse, and there are so many books on early modern medicine, some broad and others more specific, it’s this variety that I find endlessly intriguing. Some conditions from the era, like gout and cancer, are familiar, while others like, greensickness, aren’t recognized any longer. Thinking about these differences and about how people’s bodies ached and suffered helps me to appreciate their relationships, struggles, and triumphs in a whole new dimension.

Jennifer's book list on early modern medicine

Why did Jennifer love this book?

So many history books about medicine in the early modern period focus on London and other English urban centers. Withey’s book allows readers to move beyond the metropolis and glimpse sickness, disease, and medicine in a largely rural setting. It challenges readers to move beyond the concept that rural medicine was dominated by folklore and magic, Wales was not insular or remote but connected to broader medical trends in both Britain and Europe. This book illuminates how the ‘Welsh’ body was perceived: strong, robust, possessed of a hot choleric temperament, and a fondness for toasted cheese. And paints a clear picture of the men who made their living treating these bodies.

By Alun Withey,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Physick and the family offers new insights into the early modern sickness experience, through a study of the medical history of Wales.

Newly available in paperback, this first ever monograph of early modern Welsh medicine utilises a large body of newly discovered source material. Using numerous approaches and methodologies, it makes a significant contribution to debates in medical history, including economies of knowledge, domestic medicine and care, material culture and the rural medical marketplace. Drawing on sources from probates to parish records, diaries to domestic remedy collections, Withey offers new directions for recovering the often obscure medical worldview of the…

Sea Haven

By J. M. Simpson,

Book cover of Sea Haven

Jane McParkes Author Of A Deadly Inheritance

From the list on UK mysteries that make you think outside the plot.

Who am I?

I love mystery novels that both entertain and inform the reader. These books usually conform to the expected tropes of the mystery genre, but have that extra something that makes the reader carry on thinking long after they have finished reading. In my own novels I enjoy including positive eco-friendly role-models, ideas, and solutions all embedded within a traditional mystery, that readers can think about, and then perhaps adopt, in their own lives. I am always delighted when readers tell me that my story has made them look at their own lives and businesses to see what they can do to make them more sustainable

Jane's book list on UK mysteries that make you think outside the plot

Why did Jane love this book?

This is the first of the Castleby series which are thrilling reads filled with action, mystery, suspense, alongside a touch of humour and romance.

What I love about this book is that the author chose the unusual setting of a RNLI station on the Welsh coast for this series, which brings a unique slant to the story. The well-drawn characters and vivid descriptions quickly draw you into a thrilling and fast-paced read.

I will never walk past a RNLI station again without thinking about the lives of the people who volunteer there.

By J. M. Simpson,

Why should I read it?

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

Please Take Me Home

By Clare Campbell,

Book cover of Please Take Me Home: The Story of the Rescue Cat

Celia Haddon Author Of Being Your Cat: What's really going on in your feline's mind

From the list on cat lovers and cat rescuers.

Who am I?

I adore cats and am anxious to improve their welfare. Late in life, I took a second degree and a masters in animal behaviour to learn more about feline welfare. People are now researching cats’ needs and discovering more about their welfare. I passionately want to get the message out there to ordinary cat lovers. Purrlease, the more you learn about cats, the more your cats will benefit. 

Celia's book list on cat lovers and cat rescuers

Why did Celia love this book?

I chose this book because it is a history of cat rescue. Rescuing cats was, and still is, a complex and difficult task. The book deals with the struggle to get cat rescue organised in a way that could benefit not just cat rescuers but also cats!

Individual cat lovers have always fed cats on the street, with the resulting increase in feline numbers! At one point, rescuers thought the only answer was to euthanase all street cats,  but nowadays, a concerted effort is being made to neuter and spay feral cats rather than try to turn them into unsatisfactory pets. The book deals with the growth of Trap, Neuter, and Return schemes, as well as the growing effort to get more cats adopted.

By Clare Campbell,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Please Take Me Home as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In Please Take Me Home, Clare Campbell takes us on a journey with the nation's rescue cats, from being treated as pests throughout history to being the pet of choice today.

For a long time, stray cats in Britain were seen as a nuisance and hunted down as vermin. Having invited this wild, independent creature into our homes, humans did not extend their welcome for long. Over time, thousands of cats were subsequently abandoned and left to live on the margins of survival.

There were, however, the kind few who sought to help. But these good spirited people were often…

Book cover of Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children

S.B. Norton Author Of Dave Bi-Plane Fights the Red Winged Death Command

From the list on wildly worldly invention in fantasy and steampunk.

Who am I?

I have been drawn toward tales and stories of the bizarre since childhood. As a reader, I look for works that will surprise me. The real world in general, I find very unsurprising (lord yes, I do!). When I read, when I enter the fictional world (my favorite!) I want to be inspired to read on. I have put down many a book through boredom. I am not a plough. If I am uninterested, I stop. These books have inspired me in my own craft. Currently writing my sixth novel of the unpredictable, I feel I have experienced enough to forward on some irregular reads of the pure and the awesome.  

S.B.'s book list on wildly worldly invention in fantasy and steampunk

Why did S.B. love this book?

Ransom Riggs has created quite the extraordinary book here. It also reads like a graphic novel of sorts as there are a lot of odd photos to accompany the text. It crosses genres rather seamlessly as well, between Urban YA to Fantasy to Horror to a Speculative fictional realm where Miss Peregrines' home resides. It is a rare read with well-developed characters and plot. The children are all quite odd, though strangely likable. If you want different, this is as different as it gets. Gave me chills of the good and ill-feeling variety. That’s what you want, yes? I do.   

By Ransom Riggs,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A mysterious island. An abandoned orphanage. And a strange collection of very curious photographs. It all waits to be discovered in Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, an unforgettable novel that mixes fiction and photography in a thrilling reading experience. As our story opens, a horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that the children who once lived here - one of whom was his own grandfather…

The Tell Tale

By Clare Ashton,

Book cover of The Tell Tale

A. L. Brooks Author Of Make Her Wish Come True

From A. L.'s 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Who am I?

Author Reader Advocate Supporter

A. L.'s 3 favorite reads in 2023

Why did A. L. love this book?

As with all of Ashton’s books, the characterization goes deep, and even more so in this one as glimpses of the past hint at the troubles obvious in the present.

The mystery that weaves through the story has an edge of darkness that’s deliciously paced, and the love story and its queer representation is sublime. Set in her beloved Wales, Ashton portrays without remorse some of the less pleasant aspects of a small community, where everyone knows (or thinks they do) everyone else’s business.

There are fantastic twists and turns, and the ending is beyond satisfying. The audio version is impossible to stop listening to – the narrator, Lucy Rayner, captures every nuance, grabbing hold of your imagination as the drama unfolds and not letting it go.

By Clare Ashton,

Why should I read it?

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

Feet in Chains

By Kate Roberts, Katie Gramich (translator),

Book cover of Feet in Chains

Lucienne Boyce Author Of The Fatal Coin: A Dan Foster novella

From the list on historical stories about the common people.

Who am I?

I write historical fiction, non-fiction, and biography. My historical fiction is set in the eighteenth century, which is often pictured as a time when people swanned about in fancy clothes, lived on country estates, travelled in gleaming carriages, and dined and danced their nights away in glittering assembly rooms. But most people didn’t live like that at all, although they are the ones who made the clothes, worked on the estates, drove the carriages, cooked the food, and cleaned the rooms. The books on my list focus on history from their point of view. In my own work – fiction and non-fiction – I’m also interested in telling the stories of so-called “ordinary” people.

Lucienne's book list on historical stories about the common people

Why did Lucienne love this book?

My father was Welsh, and so I’m drawn to Welsh stories and history. Feet in Chains is about Jane and Ifan Gruffydd’s struggle to keep body and soul together on their small holding near Caernarfon, and raise their children. Ifan is a quarryman, at the mercy of powerful employers who can lower wages or increase hours at will. Kate Roberts was herself the daughter of a quarryman and was brought up on her parents’ smallholding in Caernarfonshire. Like two of the Gruffydd children, she won a scholarship enabling her to attend school. She became a teacher, but had to give up her career when she married because of the marriage bar on women. Her personal experiences give the novel much of its power. 

By Kate Roberts, Katie Gramich (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Snowdonia, 1880, and Jane Gruffydd is a newcomer to the district, dressed to the nines and almost fainting in the heat of the interminable prayer meeting out on the mountainside...In the pages of this classic 1936 novel, we see the passionate and headstrong Jane grow up and grow old, struggling to bring up a family of six children on the pittance earned by her slate-quarrying husband, Ifan. Spanning the next forty years, the novel traces the contours not only of one vividly evoked Welsh family but of a nation coming to self-consciousness; it begins in the heyday of Methodist fervour…