13 Books Everyone Should Read at Least Once

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Including Jane Austen's Persuasion and Sally Rooney's Normal People

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The Country & Town House team reveal their favourite tomes of all time in the ‘Books Everyone Should Read’ edit…

“A book is not only a friend, it makes friends for you. When you have possessed a book with mind and spirit, you are enriched. But when you pass it on you are enriched threefold.”
Henry Miller, The Books in My Life

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13 Books Everyone Should Read at Least Once

Lucy Cleland, Editor

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

Wuthering Heights

‘The sense of place and character transports you out of your everyday existence.’ Penguin Classics, £4.49,

The Neapolitan Quartet by Elena Ferrante

‘Quite possibly the most visceral, honest and compelling view of a friendship ever, spread over four equally absorbing novels.’ Europa Editions, £12.99,

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

‘For the utter desolateness of it.’ Pan Macmillan, £8.99,

Rebecca Cox, Online Editor

Delirium by Lauren Oliver

Delirium by Lauren Oliver

‘Young adult dystopian fiction is my guilty pleasure, but the teenage melodrama and end-of-the-world plots aside, never has a book so perfectly described the delicious, heart-wrenching pain of falling madly in love for the first time.’ Hodder, £6.99,

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd

‘This unflinching depiction of the brutality of slavery in the deep south tells the story of 19th-century abolitionist and women’s rights pioneer Sarah Grimké and the slave-girl Handful she is given for her 11th birthday. A powerful novel and a moving story about one of America’s early suffragettes.’ Headline Publishing Group, £8.99,

Ellie Smith, Online Writer

Heartburn by Norah Ephron


‘A semi auto-biographical tale based on Ephron’s marriage to Watergate journalist Carl Bernstein, Heartburn tells the story of food writer Rachel Samstat, who, at seven months pregnant, discovers her husband Mark is in love with another woman. Yet Heartburn is as hilarious as it is heart-breaking: Ephron manages to turn her personal tragedy into one of the most relatable comedies of all time. It’s no surprise this is Nigella Lawson’s favourite book: cooking is one of the novel’s central themes, and there are recipes peppered throughout the narrative – a unique feature that adds to its charm. Bursting with quotes that demand to be underlined, Heartburn is the kind of book that yearns to be read in one sitting.’ Little, Brown Book Group, £9.99,

Amy Wakeham, Managing Editor

Persuasion by Jane Austen


‘Snide, hilarious and heart-wrenchingly romantic, Persuasion is Jane Austen at her best. Although others may be drawn in by Lizzie Bennett’s razor-sharp wit, or Emma Woodhouse’s lovable snobbishness, quiet and overlooked Anne Elliot will always be the Austen heroine for me. Plus, Captain Wentworth. Need I say more?’ Penguin Classics, £5.99,

A Moveable Feast, by Ernest Hemingway

A Moveable Feast

‘A memoir about his young, pre-fame years as a struggling expat writer in Paris, Ernest Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast transports you to Paris in the 1920s, with its cafes, bars, racecourses and apartments. Household names often make appearances; play literary bingo with F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald (who Hemingway loathed), James Joyce, Gertrude Stein… the list goes on. It’s also a great insight into how the writer developed his much-admired form.’ Vintage Classics, £6.55,

On Love by Charles Bukowski

On Love

‘This collection of poems is, for me, the very best of Charles Bukowski. You wouldn’t think his coarse, colourful style would make for good love poems – but you’d be very wrong. On Love is a beautiful, begrimed meander through love in all its facets: tough love, romantic love, unrequited love, passionate love – and also paternal love, which emerges after Bukowski’s daughter is born. A book to keep on your bedside table for insomniac nights.’ Canongate Books Ltd, £9.99,

Dina Nagapetyants, Online Intern

Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell

Down and Out in Paris and London

‘Hunter S Thompson who? Gonzo journalism was perfected in Orwell’s autobiographical account of the author’s time living in abject poverty in the underbelly of the two cities. Part buddy comedy (the author’s loveable, hapless friend Boris is one of the book’s unforgettable characters), part scathing social commentary, it follows Orwell as he goes from working as aplongeur [French dishwasher] at a series of doomed Parisian establishments, to tramping around London in search of cigarette butts with his fellow down-and-outs. Both hilarious and gut-wrenching – often within the space of a few pages – my first read (incidentally, on a train from Paris to London) had me intermittently snorting with laughter and weeping.’ Penguin Classics, £8.99,

Sofia Tindall, Features Assistant

Three Women by Lisa Taddeo

Three Women

‘Over an eight-year period, journalist Lisa Taddeo interviewed three real-life women about their love lives. The result is Three Women, her debut novel and Sunday Times No 1 bestseller. Disclaimer: if you’re looking for fairytale endings, this isn’t the book for you (real life, after all, has very few). But Taddeo’s exquisite writing dives into the tricky topic of love with unflinching honesty. The universal pains and agonies, ecstasies and crushing disappointments of love (all of which we will have at some point likely been acquainted), are uncompromisingly laid bare, and Taddeo leaves no facet of the human heart unexplored. This is a perfect read for a cosy evening by the fire on a windy night, the type of book which will stay with you for many weeks after you’ve turned the last page.’ Bloomsbury, £16.99,

Circe by Madeline Miller


‘Largely overlooked in Greek mythology, Circe, the daughter of sun-god Helios and nymph Perse is brought to life by Madeline Miller in her second novel. Rejected by her father, and subsequently banished by Zeus to a deserted island after her talent for witchcraft is discovered, Circe must gather all her skills in order to survive. Her passionate love of mortal beings and the natural world is beautifully depicted by Miller throughout, who conjures the abundant and luscious climes of Aiaia conjured so that you can almost see, taste and hear it. Additionally, the exploration of Circe as a character of proto-feminism, is fresh, modern and inquisitive. Circe leads the reader on a profound journey calling us to explore our internal worlds, and question the human condition itself in a new way. The ultimate book for escapism, transporting you to the sultry heat and dramas of ancient Greece – especially if you’re UK-bound for the summer.’ Bloomsbury, £17.49,

Daniella Saunders, Online Assistant

Normal People by Sally Rooney

Normal People

‘This revered literary romance – ‘Best Novel’ winner at the 2018 Costa Book Awards – is utterly absorbing, so much so that I felt entirely dispirited once I’d turned the final page. Luckily, the BBC adaptation of the book (available now on iPlayer) was announced shortly after – I simply can’t get enough. For those who haven’t yet read the novel, Normal People follows Sligo-born Marianne and Connell as they undergo a complex and all-consuming on-and-off-again relationship, beginning at school and enduring through university, including an Italian summer and a difficult year abroad. But whilst this might appear a conventional tale of boy-meets-girl, the novel offers so much more. From its raw illustration of male depression and masochism, to the subtle depiction of social status and socio-economic inequalities, Rooney has devised what The Guardian heralds ‘a future classic’. There is something about Connell and Marianne’s relationship that is so irresistibly intense, compellingly addictive and relatable to anyone who has experienced the kind of fervent romance which embodies young love. An unconventional representation of impassioned and life-altering romance, this contemporary love story is a must-read.’ Faber & Faber, £6.99,

Featured image: GettyImages

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