Essential Reading Guide

I posted recently about the Top 100 Books in the UK, a list commissioned by the website where they scoured forums and websites to discover a list of the UK’s best-loved books.

Some of you had read a good number of books in the top 100, but several commented about the methods of creating the list. I agree that you should ASK people about their favourite books, their best-loved books they recommend everyone else should read. Not trawl the sites and see what people are commenting on.

So as today is the E day in the A to Z Challenge I thought of the Essential Reading list. If you wouldn’t mind leaving a comment with some of your favourite books you recommend as essential reading, I’ll compile a list after the end of the challenge. Hopefully the best books will be voted on by more people so we can have a proper numerical list.

I think I’ll restrict this Essential Reading to Fiction, no Highway Code please (read my previous post for an explanation of that one) and please DON’T suggest your own work 🙂

You can pick individual books or a series if you would prefer. I will leave that to you.

My list, in no particular order is:

  1. Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh
  2. One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovitch by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
  3. The Intruders by Michael Marshall
  4. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
  5. Tom Thorne Novels by Mark Billingham
  6. Odd Thomas Novels by Dean Koontz
  7. The Camel Club series by David Baldacci
  8. Dexter by Jeff Lindsay

I admit to not being that well read. Five of my selections are series so at least when I find something I like, I go with it 🙂

What are your favourite books, ones you class as Essential Reading?



This is my E post for the A to Z Blogging Challenge. A list of all my A to Z Blogging Challenge posts are to be found here.

My pictures today are from the Evesham in Worcestershire. A nice little market town we visited once when we were staying in Stratford.

Evesham (6)

Evesham (8)

Evesham (4)

About Pete Denton

I'm a writer working my way through the redrafts of a British crime novel. I also write short stories, flash fiction and some screen writing. Check out my blog for more.
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40 Responses to Essential Reading Guide

  1. My essential reads are;

    The Forever War by Joe Haldeman
    The Gaunt’s Ghosts books by Dan Abnett
    Anything by Scott Sigler
    Labyrinth by Kate Mosse
    The 7th Son trilogy by J.C. Hutchins
    Rainbow Six by Tom Clancy

    Good post Sir 😀

  2. djpaterson says:

    My favourite book has been The Stand by Stephen King for as long as I can remember. Pure, epic story, but with great character development.

    • elwoodcock says:

      I’m reading The Stand at the moment (and have been for some weeks – the extended version). I’ve never read a Stephen King novel before. It is so much better than I thought it was going to be, and I can’t even pin-point why – it is slow and rambling and full of minutiae, but somehow it is also gripping, fascinating, page-turning. I think a lot of it must be to do with voice. His writing sounds so true and right. Very few writers can manage that so well.

      • bronbloxham says:

        Agree the Stand was a knock out… read it while I had the ‘flu which sort of made it slightly more eerie for me!

        • elwoodcock says:

          yikes! The slow build of dread in the first third of the book is so creepy. I’ve been reading it in my lunch hours at work. If someone happened to sneeze close by me I would flinch and think, Oh no. It begins…

  3. elwoodcock says:

    My favourite books are all fantasy and sci fi (and steam-punk):

    The Lies of Locke Lamorra by Scott Lynch
    The Gone-away World by Nick Harkaway
    The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie
    Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve
    Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones
    Stardust by Neil Gaiman

    It’s odd, cuz all my favourite books are about magical other-worlds, but what I like best about them is their grim, grounded realism (see particularly the top four)

  4. bronbloxham says:

    Great to see some interesting new books to add to my summer reading list!
    My Top 5 would include and not in order:
    The Road by Cormack McCarthy
    Dracula by Bram Stoker
    The Lord of the Rings by Tolkien
    Persuasion by Jane Austen
    His Dark Material Series by Phil Pullman.

    Sorry Pete, no crime fiction there but I do read it!

  5. At the top of my list is We Need to Talk About Kevin (Lionel Shriver). Others are: Blood Safari (Deon Meyer), Things Fall Apart (RIP Chinua Achebe). I’m currently reading The Round House (Louise Erdrich). -Belinda (A – Z participant) – hope to see you at MROP some time; today I’m talking about Expression.

  6. I’m a weird reader, not dedicated to any genre and not compelled to read things just because they’re “classics”, but I would list the books that inspired me most as a writer:

    Beloved by Toni Morrison
    A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley
    Motherless Brooklyn by Jonathan Lethem
    I Know This Much is True by Wally Lamb
    Anything written by Kurt Vonnegut

  7. Kate says:

    One of my favorite books (as well as one that I would recommend for anyone’s essential reading list) is Margaret Atwood’s A HANDMAIDS TALE. It seems that this book inspires almost everything I write!

  8. Here are a few that I enjoy, in no particular order

    Les Miserables – Victor Hugo
    War and Peace – Tolstoy
    Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh (one of my favourite writers)
    Siddharta – Hermann Hesse
    Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
    On the Road – Jack Kerouac
    The Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas
    Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky

    I look forward to seeing the compiled list.

  9. Top five (no particular order) would include:

    1. Mistborn Trilogy by Brandon Sanderson
    2. Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
    3. Jack Reacher series by Lee Child
    4. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
    5. Wool by Hugh Howey

    Slightly biased towards sci-fi, but I’ll read pretty much anything.

    • elwoodcock says:

      I just read the Mistborn books earlier this year. Loved them! The first book reminded me a little of The Lies of Locke Lamorra – just in terms of its impossible caper set-up.
      I was worried it was going completely bonkers esoteric nonsense in the final book (bringing back troubled memories of the final episodes of Battlestar Galactica!), but then he managed to bring it all together and tie it up properly. I was impressed.

      • Totally know what you mean. I remember thinking about halfway through the last book that there was no way he was going to be able to tie up the loose ends, but you’re right, he did a good job. I think Sanderson has some of the cleanest storytelling around. Definitely one of my favorite authors. 🙂

  10. elegsabiff says:

    I’d like to suggest Christopher Brookmyre – his style is described as Tartan Noir and his books are violently funny, or maybe hilariously violent. I’m not usually a buckets-of-blood fan, I started reading him because he’s Scottish but after the shock of the first few pages I got addicted, he’s absolutely brilliant. My favourite is One Fine Day In The Middle Of The Night, which combines a school reunion weekend on a converted oil rig with some misguided terrorists. He’s political, opinionated (STRONGLY opinionated) and such a superb writer you forgive him for it. Definitely out of the common way. Don’t go on my say-so, but check him out, you’ll thank me.

  11. Great pictures once again. From your list, I read The Hunger Games (first book). One of the best books I’ve ever read (a recent addition) is Shantaram at almost 1000 pages (based on the true story of Australia’s most wanted criminal). Sounds daunting, given the length, but is well worth the effort.

  12. In no particular order, and just off the top of my head…

    Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
    Silas Marner – George Elliot
    For Esme With Love and Squalor (the whole anthology, not just the short story by that name) – J.D.Sallinger
    Selected Stories – E.M. Forster
    Dead Famous – Ben Elton
    The Time Traveler’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger

  13. ocdreader says:

    Enders Game – Orson Scott Card
    Coyote Blue & A Dirty Job – Christopher Moore
    Newsflesh trilogy – Mira Grant
    Count of Monte Cristo
    The Paris Wife – Paula McLain
    The Vampire Chronicles – Anne Rice
    Harry Potter! 🙂
    His Dark Materials trilogy – Phillip Pullman

    Great idea!! Looking forward to the final list

  14. jmlibby says:

    My essentials (mostly) came at times in my life when I needed something. They spoke to me in a way that affected me deeply and helped me out of whatever was going on at that point..

    Age of Misrule series – Mark Chadbourn
    Eat, Pray, Love – Elizabeth Gilbert
    Nights in Rodanthe – Nicholas Sparks
    HP Lovecraft in general – dude was a genius, fine line included

  15. Sue says:

    Back at you re: the pics 😀 Went to Nottingham in the winter (duh) so Newstead was open between christmas and new years. Intersting blog and I’ll get back to you – thanks very much for the comment

  16. I love reading about the books others like/love, and I’ve found some here that I agree with, some I don’t recognize so will add to my “to be read” list, and so begins my list:

    Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
    The Time Traveler’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger
    The Zookeeper’s Wife – Diane Ackerman
    Emma – Jane Austen
    House Behind the Cedars – Charles W. Chesnutt
    The Book Thief – Markus Zusak
    Loving Frank – Nancy Horan
    Called Out of Darkness – Anne Rice

  17. I’ve read Hunger Games and Odd Thomas (and love Dean Koontz’s work). I think it must be hard to come up with an essential list, there’s so many great book out there. 🙂 I’d have to add Everything Stephen King ever wrote, Alice in Wonderland, A Knight in Shining Armor by Jude Deveraux, and Shakespeare’s plays an sonnets. 🙂

  18. robincoyle says:

    Oh boy. I won’t mention the classics as those are a given.

    A few from my list would be

    Olive Kitteridge -Elizabeth Stout
    The Egg and I – Betty MacDonald
    Let the Great World Spin – Colum McCann
    The Kite Runner -Khaled Hosseini
    The Life of Pi – Yann Martel
    The School of Essential Ingredients – Erica Bauermeister

    My reading tastes are all over the map.

  19. Shar says:

    The Hunger Games Trilogy is one of my favorites.

  20. Trisha says:

    Dean Koontz is one of my fave authors of all time, but I haven’t read any of the Odd books! I have read the Hunger Games which I really enjoyed, but haven’t read any of the other books on this list.

  21. Rosie Amber says:

    Some great pictures! I put a link to your blog on my “F” post today, thanks for stopping by my blog.

  22. cassmob says:

    Like you when I find an author I enjoy I tend to read them all.Would have to think what would make my Essential Reading list…food for thought. There are some new-to-me books in your list as well as your commenters.

  23. This is hard for me. I believe Cat’s Cradle, The Stand, The Bell Jar, Frankenstein, To Kill a Mockingbird, and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy are a few essentials. There are more I can add.

  24. Hmmm this is going to be hard to pick!

    1. The Oz Series – L. Frank Baum
    2. Seeing – Jose Saramago
    3. Wicked – Gregoire Maguire
    4. It – Stephen King
    5. Coma – Robin Cook
    6. The Andromeda Strain – Michael Crichton
    7. This Present Darkness – Frank E. Peretti

    That’s just to name a few!

  25. Beth Lapin says:

    I love that so m any different books are being suggested — good thing we have so many choices!
    And, Pete, I’m not taking tomorrow off — you’ll have to come by again to see!


  26. Ana says:

    I can think of two at the moment: A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini and To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Lots of good suggestions so far! I should take notes! 🙂

  27. Joyce says:

    I’ve read Day in the Life of Ivan… & The Hunger Games. I haven’t read the others, but I did meet Suzanne Collins before she’d written The Hunger Games Series. Her sister was a kindergarten teacher at the same school I worked at, so she got her little known author sister to come in for a visit and discuss Gregor the Overlander.

    There are so many other great books that I don’t know where to start. Plus, tastes are so individual. I recently read “The Chocolate War” and suggested it to my son, who didn’t like it.

  28. auntyamo says:

    Not 50 Shades then ? Good! 😀


  29. EllaDee says:

    I love a book list, so I’m looking forward to your compilation. The first that came to mind for me, a mix, in no particular order but with a few Aussie* authors included:

    1. The Night Circus – Erin Morgenstern
    2. The Time Traveler’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger
    3. A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth
    4. The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox – Maggie O’Farrell
    5. The Lacuna – Barbara Kingsolver (anything by BS)
    6. Hannah and Emil – Belinda Castles*
    7. Time Machines Repaired While-U-Wait – K.A. Bedford*
    8. Paint – John Honey*
    9. Cloudsplitter by Russell Banks (anything by RB)
    10. Franky Furbo by William Wharton (anything by WW)

  30. Kourtney Heintz says:

    I so envy you living in a land with castle–Evesham is gorgeous. Intriguing essential reads. I’d say Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King, Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold, The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd, Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys. Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher.

  31. The Color Purple, I know why the caged bird sings and Othello, oh and Rebecca and Jane Eyre oh and of course Birdsong…stop now! oh and…NO! Leave it x

  32. Deb Mc. says:

    Some of my favorites, in no particular order:
    Pride & Prejudice
    The Hunger Games
    Shiver trilogy (with Linger, and Forever) by Maggie Stiefvater
    Lord of the Rings
    Startide Rising by David Brin
    Assassin’s Apprentice [etc] by Robin Hobb
    Anybody Out There? by Marian Keyes. and This Charming Man. And etc. 😉

    I could go on….and on….but I’ll refrain ;-D

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