Authors Choose Their Favourite Books of the Past 225 Years #WHS225Books

Authors Choose Their Favourite Books of the Past 225 Years #WHS225Books

An undercover mission beyond the Iron Curtain to recover a defected scientist goes disastrously wrong – a classic early Cold War thriller from the acclaimed master of action and suspense.

Lee Child picks ‘The Last Frontier’ by Alistair MacLean

‘The book I got the most enjoyment out of, and the book that I remember the best, which I probably bought from Smith’s or my brother did possibly, is The Last Frontier by Alistair MacLean, which was a really terrific thriller set in Budapest and I’ll never forget that book. And so I’m going to nominate that one.’

Lee Child is one of the world’s leading thriller writers. He was born in Coventry, raised in Birmingham, and now lives in New York. It is said one of his novels featuring his hero Jack Reacher is sold somewhere in the world every twenty seconds. His books consistently achieve the number-one slot on bestseller lists around the world, and are published in over one hundred territories. He is the recipient of many prizes, most recently the CWA’s Diamond Dagger for a writer of an outstanding body of crime fiction.

This definitive collection of Neil Gaiman’s short fiction will haunt your imagination and move you to the very depths of your soul.

Nick Knowles picks ‘Smoke and Mirrors’ by Neil Gaiman

‘I think probably from my point of view I have to pick someone like Neil Gaiman. I think in the end I’d plump for Smoke and Mirrors because it’s a real insight into how people write stories. There are lots of short stories in it, which are wonderful. It’s a real insight into how to write stories, and how a creative person’s mind works.’

Nick Knowles is the presenter of the hit BBC show DIY SOS. He also regularly presents various Saturday night quiz shows such as Judgemental, Who Dares Wins and 5 Star Family Reunion. His first cookbook Proper Healthy Food came out in 2017.

Jemima Jones is overweight. Treated like a slave by her thin and bitchy flatmates, lorded over at the Kilburn Herald by the beautiful Geraldine (less talented, better paid), her only consolation is food. That and a passion for her charming, sexy colleague Ben. Her life needs to change and soon. But can Jemima reinvent herself? Should she?

Giovanna Fletcher picks ‘Jemima J’ by Jane Green

‘Happy 225th birthday to @WHSmith! #WHS225Books My favourite fiction book has to be Jemima J by @JaneGreen. It changed my outlook on life! xx’

Essex born Giovanna is an actress, blogger, vlogger and presenter. She is married to Tom Fletcher from McFly/McBusted and is Mum to their two boys Buzz and Buddy. She spends far too much time on social media and/or talking about Nutella.

Victor Hugo’s tale of injustice, heroism and love follows the fortunes of Jean Valjean, an escaped convict determined to put his criminal past behind him.

B.A. Paris picks ‘Les Miserables’ by Victor Hugo

‘This is a difficult question to answer because the range is so vast. So I‘m going to narrow it down to the classics that I really enjoyed and cheat further by choosing two. Les Misérables by Victor Hugo and A Tale of Two Cities by Dickens. ’

B. A. Paris is from a Franco/Irish background. She was brought up in England and moved to France where she spent some years working as a trader in an international bank before re-training as a teacher and setting up a language school with her husband. They still live in France and have five daughters. Behind Closed Doors is her first novel.

Charlotte Bronte tells the story of orphaned Jane Eyre, who grows up in the home of her heartless aunt, enduring loneliness and cruelty. This troubled childhood strengthens Jane’s natural independence and spirit. 

Judy Finnigan picks ‘Jane Eyre’ by Charlotte Bronte

‘It’s a bit of a cliché but I just love Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, because to me it ticks every single box for the perfect women’s fiction. This wonderfully, passionate love affair – not consummated – but a very passionate love affair between Jane and Mr Rochester. It’s just an incredibly satisfying and wonderful book to read, and surprisingly sexual actually considering that nothing sexual ever happens. The passion behind it, you can sense what Charlotte Bronte was feeling like. And then that fantastic last line ‘reader, I married him’ which is the perfect last line to any book.’

Judy Finnigan is a bestselling author, television presenter and columnist. In 2004, Judy’s name became synonymous with discovering and sharing great fiction, through the Richard and Judy Book Club, where authors including Kate Mosse, Rosamund Lupton and Victoria Hislop were brought to the attention of millions of readers.

Middle-class, Jewish Hans finds himself charmed by Konradin, the young aristocrat in his class and they quickly become best friends. But it is 1932 and the boys live in a rapidly changing Germany.

Jeffrey Archer picks ‘Reunion’ by Fred Uhlman

‘Happy Birthday WHSmith. My favourite book would have to be Reunion by Fred Uhlman, an unsung masterpiece.’

Jeffrey Archer, whose novels and short stories include Kane and Abel, A Prisoner of Birth and Cat O’ Nine Tales, has topped the bestseller lists around the world, with sales of over 275 million copies. He is the only author ever to have been a number one bestseller in fiction, short stories and non-fiction (The Prison Diaries). He is married to Dame Mary Archer, and they have two sons and two grandsons.

Tolstoy’s enthralling epic depicts Russia’s war with Napoleon and its effects on the lives of those caught up in the conflict.

Rosamund Lupton picks ‘War and Peace’ by Leo Tolstoy

‘Has to be War & Peace #WHS225Books’

Rosamund Lupton is the author of Sister, a Sunday Times and New York Times bestseller and a bestseller in Europe. Published in the UK by Little, Brown Book Group, Sister has been translated into over thirty languages and has international sales of over 1.5 million copies. It was the fastest-selling debut of 2010 by a British author, a BBC Radio 4, Book at Bedtime and was winner of the Richard and Judy Best Debut Novel of 2011 award and the Strand Magazine Critics First Novel Award.

George Orwell’s dystopian masterpiece, Nineteen Eighty-Four is perhaps the most pervasively influential book of the twentieth century, making famous Big Brother, newspeak and Room 101.

Robert Harris picks ‘Nineteen-Eighty Four’ by George Orwell

‘I think the book that changed me the most was George Orwell’s Nineteen-Eighty Four, and I would probably pick that as the book that I most enjoyed. I think that it’s a book that changed the world in a way, and nailed certain things about the way totalitarian governments behaved, but it’s also a fantastic story and a thriller with huge importance and ideas. And I think of all the novels published in the 20th century, it’s the one that had the most impact.’

Robert Harris is the author of ten bestselling novels: the Cicero Trilogy – Imperium, Lustrum and Dictator – Fatherland, Enigma, Archangel, Pompeii, The Ghost, The Fear Index, and An Officer and a Spy, which won four prizes including the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction. 

 Through the eyes of Scout and Jem Finch, Lee explores the issues of race and class in the Deep South of the 1930s with compassion and humour. 

Jojo Moyes picks ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ by Harper Lee and ‘Pride and Prejudice’ by Jane Austen

‘I’m going to be so boring and say, I have two, and one is To Kill a Mockingbird, which is basically everybody’s favourite book, and the other one is Pride and Prejudice. Because, for me, a classic book is one that you can re-read every five years and you get something new out of it and it never gets stale. And those two books I could read probably on a weekly basis and still find something new in them.’

Jojo Moyes is a novelist and journalist. Her novels include the bestsellers The Girl You Left Behind, The One Plus One, Me Before You and After You. She is one of the few authors to have had three novels on the New York Times bestseller list at the same time. Me Before You has now sold over 8 million copies worldwide and Jojo adapted the novel into a screenplay which was released in summer 2016. 

Whisked from glamorous Monte Carlo to his brooding estate, Manderley, on the Cornish Coast, the new Mrs de Winter finds Max a changed man. And the memory of his dead wife Rebecca is forever kept alive by the forbidding Mrs Danvers …

Clare Mackintosh picks ‘Rebecca’ by Daphne du Maurier

‘My favourite book from the last 225 years is Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier. Which is one of the first psychological thrillers that I read, and the first book that got me really interested in that sort of genre. I think it stands the test of time, it’s brilliantly written, it’s really evocative, and I could read it countless times and not get bored.’

Clare’s debut novel, I Let You Go, is a Sunday Times bestseller, has been translated into thirty languages and was the fastest-selling title by a new crime writer in 2015, selling over half a million copies to date. It was selected for both the Richard and Judy Book Club, where it was the winning title of the readers’ vote for the summer 2015 selection, and ITV’s Loose Women’s Loose Books. I Let You Go also won the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year in 2016.

A plane crashes on an uninhabited island and the only survivors, a group of schoolboys, assemble on the beach and wait to be rescued. By day they inhabit a land of bright fantastic birds and dark blue seas, but at night their dreams are haunted by the image of a terrifying beast. 

Jackie Copleton picks ‘Lord of the Flies’ by William Golding

‘#WHS225Books WHSmith want to know your favourite book? Such a tough call but today I’ll go for Lord of the Flies’

Jackie Copleton lived in Nagasaki and Sapporo where she taught English before returning to England and becoming a journalist. A Dictionary of Mutual Understanding is her first novel, and was longlisted for the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction and chosen for the Richard & Judy Book Club.

Charlotte Bronte tells the story of orphaned Jane Eyre, who grows up in the home of her heartless aunt, enduring loneliness and cruelty. This troubled childhood strengthens Jane’s natural independence and spirit

Tracy Rees picks ‘Jane Eyre’ by Charlotte Bronte

‘Favourite books include Gone with the Wind, David Copperfield, Lonesome Dove, Cloud Atlas, Jamaica Inn, The Snow Child, Dracula… But I think my overall favourite if I HAVE to pick one… is Jane Eyre’

Tracy Rees was born in South Wales. A Cambridge graduate, she had a successful eight-year career in nonfiction publishing and a second career practising and teaching humanistic counselling. She was the winner of the Richard and Judy Search for a Bestseller Competition with her debut novel Amy Snow, and the 2015 LoveStories ‘Best Historical Read’ award.

After running away from the workhouse and pompous beadle Mr Bumble, Oliver finds himself lured into a den of thieves peopled by vivid and memorable characters – the Artful Dodger, vicious burglar Bill Sikes, his dog Bull’s Eye, and prostitute Nancy, all watched over by cunning master-thief Fagin. 

Tony Parsons picks ‘Oliver Twist’ by Charles Dickens

‘My favourite book of the last 225 years, I’d probably say Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens. Because everything that you want as a writer and a reader – plot, character, great dialogue, a storyline that stays in the memory forever – is in that book. I loved the musical, the Lionel Bart musical, but the novel is far darker, far blacker. And Fagin doesn’t walk off into the sunset singing a happy tune with the Artful Dodger at the end of the novel. He gets hung at Newgate. And Fagin’s execution at Newgate haunts my dreams. It’s a book that I think as a writer you aspire to that level of greatness. I think that’s where the bar is. ’

Tony Parsons is an award-winning journalist and bestselling novelist whose books have been translated into more than forty languages. The Murder Bag, the first novel in the DC Max Wolfe series, went to number one on first publication in the UK. The Slaughter Man was also a Sunday Times top ten bestseller.

Wuthering Heights is the tale of two families both joined and riven by love and hate. Cathy is a beautiful and wilful young woman torn between her soft-hearted husband and Heathcliff, the passionate and resentful man who has loved her since childhood. 

Louise Doughty picks ‘Wuthering Heights’ by Emily Bronte

‘I think my favourite book of the last couple of centuries probably has to be Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. I know that’s not a very original choice but to me that’s a book that has absolutely everything. I suppose nowadays we would call it domestic noir, but it’s a fantastic love story. It’s not cosy, it’s not romantic, it’s quite violent, it’s quite strange, but I love the Brontes’ work. To me, Wuthering Heights is just a perfect novel. It’s absolutely compulsive; it’s got wonderful characterisation. I think that’s the one that gets the vote for me.’

Louise Doughty is the author of five novels, CRAZY PAVING, DANCE WITH ME, HONEY-DEW, FIRES IN THE DARK and STONE CRADLE. CRAZY PAVING was shortlisted for four awards including the John Llewelyn Rhys Prize and FIRES IN THE DARK won awards from the Arts Council of England and the K.Blundell Trust.

Whisked from glamorous Monte Carlo to his brooding estate, Manderley, on the Cornish Coast, the new Mrs de Winter finds Max a changed man. And the memory of his dead wife Rebecca is forever kept alive by the forbidding Mrs Danvers …

Amanda Brooke picks ‘Rebecca’ by Daphne du Maurier

‘When I’m asked about my favourite novel, I tend to cheat a bit and give different answers each time because I don’t want to pick a favourite. There are too many to choose from, but since you’ve asked me, I think I’d pick Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier. I have quite fond memories of my dad buying me a big volume of her work, I’m pretty sure from WHSmith. That was my favourite story.’

Amanda Brooke lives in Liverpool with her daughter, Jessica, two cats and a laptop within easy reach. Her debut novel, Yesterday’s Sun, was a Richard and Judy Book Club pick.

 Dickens’s haunting late novel depicts Pip’s education and development through adversity as he discovers the true nature of his ‘great expectations’.

David Nicholls picks ‘Great Expectations’ by Charles Dickens

‘My favourite book of the last 225 years… If I had to choose one now, today, I would say Great Expectations by Charles Dickens, which was the first great classic novel that I read as a younger teenager. And I was a bit intimidated by the idea of a classic book, but it completely swept me away and it just really struck a chord with how I felt at that difficult age between childhood and adulthood, where you’re trying to work out who you are and what you want to be, and I found myself identifying with it hugely. I really loved it then and I must have read it twenty times since and I love it every time.’

David Nicholls writes for film and TV as well as writing novels, and he has twice been nominated for BAFTA awards. His books include One Day, The Understudy and Starter for Ten.

Charlotte Bronte tells the story of orphaned Jane Eyre, who grows up in the home of her heartless aunt, enduring loneliness and cruelty. This troubled childhood strengthens Jane’s natural independence and spirit

Jessie Burton picks ‘Jane Eyre’ by Charlotte Bronte

‘My favourite book of the last 225 years is Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, and that’s a difficult decision because I’ve got lots of favourite books, but I think that one probably is my top favourite. Partly because the story of this young girl who succeeds against all odds is such a powerful one, and the prose is so beautiful and it’s so atmospheric and gothic, and it’s something I read when I was fairly young but I always go back to it whenever I need some comfort and whenever I need to remember how to write good books.’

Jessie Burton was born in 1982. She studied at Oxford University and the Central School of Speech and Drama, and has worked as an actress and a PA in the City. She now lives in south-east London, not far from where she grew up. Her novels include The Muse and The Miniaturist.

Wuthering Heights is the tale of two families both joined and riven by love and hate. Cathy is a beautiful and wilful young woman torn between her soft-hearted husband and Heathcliff, the passionate and resentful man who has loved her since childhood. 

Liz Nugent picks ‘Wuthering Heights’ by Emily Bronte

Oh gosh, 225 years of books and I have to pick my favourite. I think I would have to go back a bit to Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. The character of Heathcliff is so repulsively attractive that I think every woman wants a bit of Heathcliff, not necessarily to marry or live with, but somebody who is as tormented, sexily tormented, I think is very attractive.’

Before becoming a full-time writer Liz Nugent worked in Irish film, theatre and television. In 2014 her first novel, Unravelling Oliver, was a No.1 bestseller and won the Crime Fiction prize in the 2014 Irish Book Awards. Her second novel, Lying in Wait, went straight to No 1 in the Irish bestseller charts, remained there for nearly two months and won her a second IBA. She lives in Dublin with her husband.

Whisked from glamorous Monte Carlo to his brooding estate, Manderley, on the Cornish Coast, the new Mrs de Winter finds Max a changed man. And the memory of his dead wife Rebecca is forever kept alive by the forbidding Mrs Danvers …

SJ Watson picks ‘Rebecca’ by Daphne du Maurier

I always find it really difficult to answer questions about my favourite book of any time period, but the last 225 years is a lot to choose from. Because it changes all the time, I think. I could say something like The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, which is definitely one of my favourites, it would be up there, and it’s particularly appropriate at the moment. But today I’ll go for Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier, because I think it’s a great book obviously, it’s a classic, a psychological thriller, it’s beautifully written, and it’s something that I go back to again and again. So today, it’s Rebecca.’

S. J. Watson’s first novel, Before I Go To Sleep, became a phenomenal international success. A bestseller around the world, it won the Crime Writers’ Association Award for Best Debut Novel and the Galaxy National Book Award for Crime Thriller of the Year. 

Charlotte Bronte tells the story of orphaned Jane Eyre, who grows up in the home of her heartless aunt, enduring loneliness and cruelty. This troubled childhood strengthens Jane’s natural independence and spirit

Sophia Tobin picks ‘Jane Eyre’ by Charlotte Bronte

‘I have many favourite books, and the list will change with time, I’m sure. But I will never cease to love Jane Eyre. I have read and re-read it at every stage of my life, and found something new each time.’

Sophia Tobin worked for a Bond Street antique dealer for six years, specialising in silver and jewellery. Inspired by research she made into a real life eighteenth-century silversmith, Tobin began to write The Silversmith’s Wife which was shortlisted for the Lucy Cavendish College Fiction Prize, judged by Sophie Hannah. She is currently Library Secretary for the Worshipful Company of Goldsmith’s and lives in London with her husband. 

George Orwell’s dystopian masterpiece, Nineteen Eighty-Four is perhaps the most pervasively influential book of the twentieth century, making famous Big Brother, newspeak and Room 101.

Abir Mukherjee picks ‘Nineteen-Eighty Four’ by George Orwell

‘It was a difficult read for a ten year-old. Since then, however, I have read it many more times, at all stages of my life, as often as once every few years. It is, quite simply, my favourite novel and one which has shaped our collective consciousness over the last seventy years in a way few other fictional works have. It has given us words such as Newspeak, doublethink, thoughtcrime, and of course, Big Brother. As I write this, it is once again number one in the bestsellers lists.’

Abir Mukherjee was born in London, but grew up in the West of Scotland. Married, with two small children, he now lives in London and has spent the last twenty years working in finance. A Rising Man is his first novel and the first in a new series starring Captain Sam Wyndham and ‘Surrender-Not’ Banerjee.

Click here to find out more about joining in with our favourite books of the last 225 years discussions, and check out our 20 Best-Loved Novels of the Last 225 Years.

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