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Books That Are a Must-Read

Marisa holds a stack of books in front of her bookshelf.
My top 10 favourite novels (so far!).

I have a special ‘shelf’ on Goodreads (let’s be friends!) that is just for books I deem favourites. I am very particular with the books that I put under this label, so it’s a short list. They are usually books that have blown me away: surprised me, brought out emotions, or were so creative I couldn’t help but love them.


I thought I’d share some of the highlights from my list to give you some reading inspiration! These are books I consider must-reads and I have recommended, gifted, and lent them to friends. The list below is not in any order of preference, just a great list of novels to encourage your own reading and add to your TBR.

Click on any of the titles below to read the book blurb and buy the book.


I read this well before the TV show came out and it absolutely stunned me. As someone who grew up on the Harry Potter series, Grossman’s take on a magical school/world that is gritty, dark, and unnerving absolutely uprooted the warm-and-fuzzies I expected from a wizarding world.


This is the first book in the Century Trilogy by Follett and I think the strongest in the series. Not only was I impressed by Follett’s ability to weave real events from World War I with the fictional lives of his characters, the way he created a number characters in different geographic locations to reflect the war was astounding. He then goes on to follow these family lines through to the Cold War in the final book, so as readers we get attached to various families.


Another one I read before they made it into a show. As a Canadian, I feel it is a necessity to love Atwood, but my exposure to her in my university days were for works I didn’t enjoy. However, as I grew out of my YA phase I was looking for books that had weight to them, that I could engage with intelligent themes (the crux of my business!) and I found myself buying The Handmaid’s Tale. It gave me exactly what I was looking for—smart, sharp fiction—and now I am an Atwood devotee.


I am in need of a re-read of this one! The novel flips back-and-forth between past and present, unravelling a mystery as you go. I could not put it down, nor did I figure out the ending before it was revealed—my measure for a good thriller or mystery. Looking back: this is probably where my interest in stories about writers and love for Gothic elements began.


This is the book I recommend to EVERYONE! It was on my TBR list for years before I found it in a used bookstore and it felt like kismet. I devoured this book. I always enjoy historical fiction, but this book’s focus on female friendship makes it stand apart from others of the genre (published before the Kate Quinn craze and, I would argue, better than The Alice Network).


My go-to Dark Academia recommendation for anyone looking to dip their toe into the genre. While this book won’t be for everyone—it heavily quotes from Shakespeare—if you love theatre, literature, and drama, this is for you. Plus: it is a reverse whodunnit, so you know the accused right off the bat, but not how you get there… And the reveal is worth your reading time!


This book was the first time I read a true-to-Gothic novel written by a modern author. It has all the elements you’d come to expect of classic English Gothic novels like an isolated woman, big/cold/old house, a cemetery nearby, creepy history. This novel alone made me a Purcell fan and I will now read anything by her.


Another novel that convinced me to read anything an author writes. Bunny was my introduction to Canadian writer Mona Awad (who I was lucky enough to meet!) and I have since gifted it to friends. This book makes you question what is really happening in the novel, a delicious experience.


Absolutely heartbreaking. Although published in 1996, I didn’t get around to reading it until recently. MacDonald gives us a complex family dynamic with the Pipers that is impossible to put down. At equal turns it will frustrate you, have you swell with sympathy, and leave you thinking about it long after the final page—that is a true writer’s craft.


A tweet conversation between Marisa and author Stuart Turton.
I tweeted @stu_turton as soon as I finished The Devil in the Dark Water!

This book is the equivalent of the Always Sunny in Philadelphia meme: a complex web of a narrative all crammed into a locked-room type mystery. This unique cast of characters must solve the crime—is it supernatural?—before things get too grim aboard a ship bound for Amsterdam. An incredibly addictive read.

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