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There have been times in my life when there has only ever been one place that I can truly find refuge - and that’s always been deep within the pages of a good book. What I look for in a truly absorbing and transformative read is impeccable storytelling, nuanced characterisation and that authorial voice that you know you will follow, without hesitation. Here are six of the very best uplifting and wonderful stories I know.  

 

Sushi for Beginners by Marian Keyes

I love all of Marian’s work so much, especially her most recent novel The Break. Marian Keyes is a writer who keeps getting better, but I chose this book because it’s the first of hers I read. If you want a masterclass in infusing a book with unbridled joy and deep emotion then this is a good place to start. Marian never flinches when it comes to looking into the dark corners of our lives, but she also has a unique ability to find warmth and humanity there too, and reading her books is like homing in on a beacon that reminds you why life is ultimately good. 

 

The Girl You Left Behind by Jojo Moyes

What I love about this novel is that it contains all of Jojo’s trademark brilliance, but also great ambition and breadth. My favourite kind of read is one that takes you to places that you recognise, as well as places that you have never been. If it’s done really well, you are able to walk into a time and age you don’t know, and live and breathe it; it connects our lives in the present to those that came before. This book will sweep you off your feet, and when you have finished you’ll feel renewed by the healing power of the story.

 

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

Again, this was the first of Liane’s books that I read, and to say I was blown away by the complex and somehow effortless storytelling is an understatement. Within the pages of this book you will find friendship and the kind of deep resilience that is within all of us. It’s pacy and gripping, but it also reminds you where to look for that resilience within yourself. Not to mention it will keep you up until you have turned the very last page!

 

The Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon

I first read these books about twenty years ago. I had fallen ill and was confined to bed for two months. My then editor sent me these books and from the end of chapter one I was completely immersed and utterly invested. Jamie and Claire are two of my favourite people in fiction, characters that I love to revisit like old friends. Back then, reading from my sick bed, I felt so in love with Jamie, so wanted to be Claire and was so spellbound by the deep and rich storytelling that whilst I was reading I forgot everything else. They were exactly what I needed then, and still need from time to time - a breath of fresh air. 

A Vintage Wedding by Katie Fforde

In the years that I’ve been lucky enough to know Katie, I have seen her generosity, kindness and belief in the human spirit. It’s this wonderful personality that is present in the beautiful warm embrace of every one of her novels. Katie writes about people like us; her heroines are real, imperfect and utterly relatable. But in these engaging characters, like Lindy and Rachel in A Vintage Wedding, we see how ordinary people can become extraordinary when transformed by friendship, community and love. This book will give you a great big hug. You’ll read it, and you’ll fall in love with the story. 

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

Is there any better remedy to a bad day than some top notch fantasy adventure? Not as far as I’m concerned. To pull off an epic story like the All Souls novels and ensure the reader comes with you heart and soul (pun intended) your world building has to be on point. What makes it so easy to become fully absorbed in this world of witches, vampires and demons is the wonderfully rich and detailed universe that makes the impossible seem possible. The age-old story of good against evil is told with such gusto and passion that as a reader you truly believe it.

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