9 books that will always spark joy, according to female authors

Posted by
Sarah Shaffi
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You might own 30 books or 300, but there will always be some that spark joy more than others.

There has been plenty of discussion about Marie Kondo’s thoughts on books, with some people lashing out at her comment about only owning 30 books.

The tidying guru has clarified her remarks, saying the idea she believes everyone should only own 30 books is a misconception, and fans have defended her, arguing that owning a lot of books should not be seen as a status symbol.

But wherever you stand on Kondo, and whether you own 30 books or 300, the idea that the joy-sparking books are to be valued is one we can all live by.

Marie Kondo

As a books journalist, I sometimes feel I’m drowning in a sea of books. I used to keep almost everything I was sent, with the promise that I would read it “someday”.

And then I realised that the mythical “someday” may never arrive, and all that the piles of books were doing was causing me endless anxiety. So now, while I still have a lot of books at any given time, I’m also better about giving away those that really don’t spark joy.

All of this means that, when I do sink into a book (especially if it’s an old favourite), I can be sure that I’ll love it. I’m not alone in this thinking: in fact, I reached out to nine authors and asked them to share the books that spark joy for them, resulting in a joyful and eclectic list of reads, each guaranteed to lift your spirits when you need it most.

Happy reading…

Layla AlAmmar, author of The Pact We Made, picks Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Namesake

The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri
The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri. Image: HarperCollins

This novel sparked so much joy for me that I used to take it with me (like a security blanket) on every trip I went on. It’s the first book I read where I thought: “This is what I want to do.” It’s where I realised I wanted to craft stories that made people feel the way this book makes me feel.

The Pact We Made is released on 7 March (The Borough Press, £12.99)

Harriet Tyce, author of Blood Orange, picks Jilly Cooper’s Rivals

Rivals by Jilly Cooper
Rivals by Jilly Cooper. Image: Transworld

Not a very spiritual choice but the moment I see the cover it makes me smile. Whatever mood I’m in it never fails to lift my spirits with its compelling storyline of competing TV companies and its dazzling array of characters, all of whom I either love or love to hate. Joyful indeed!

Blood Orange is out on 21 February (Headline, £12.99)

Beth O’Leary, author of The Flatshare, picks Rosie Walsh’s The Man Who Didn’t Call

The Man Who Didn't Call by Rosie Walsh. Image: Pan Macmillan
The Man Who Didn't Call by Rosie Walsh. Image: Pan Macmillan

Beneath its crisp, white cover, this book is jam-packed with joy. There’s the thrill of a good twist, the pleasure of great writing, and the age-old delight of seeing love battle against the odds. It’s one I’ll definitely re-read.

The Flatshare is out 18 April (Quercus, £12.99)

Stacey Halls, author of The Familiars, picks Janet and Allan Ahlberg’s The Jolly Christmas Postman

The Jolly Christmas Postman by Janet and Allan Ahlberg. Image: Puffin
The Jolly Christmas Postman by Janet and Allan Ahlberg. Image: Puffin

I loved this book as a child, and flipping through it when I’m visiting my parents still sparks joy for me, reminding me of cosy winters and the excitement of Christmas. There’s so much to enjoy in it and it’s made with such love and care, with little fold-out letters and maps. I’ll always cherish it, and I hope to pass it down to my own children one day.

The Familiars is out now (Bonnier Zaffre, £12.99)

Temi Oh, author of Do You Dream of Terra-Two?, picks Lydia Netzer’s Shine Shine Shine

Shine, Shine, Shine by Lydia Netzer
Shine, Shine, Shine by Lydia Netzer. Image: S&S

Shine Shine Shine is a book I love to re-read when I’m feeling sad or unlovable. It’s a sweet story about an astronaut who leaves earth when his bald wife is about to give birth. It’s about love and motherhood and embracing the parts of ourselves we are ashamed of.

Do You Dream of Terra-Two? is out 7 March (Simon & Schuster, £14.99)

Joanne Ramos, author of The Farm, picks Marilynne Robinson’s Home

Home by Marilynne Robinson
Home by Marilynne Robinson. Image: Virago

The precision and grace of Robinson’s language, and the quiet urgency with which she explores life and what constitutes a good life, are a marvel. Each time I read this book I feel a little more clarity, a little more openness (of heart, of mind), and, yes: joy. 

The Farm is out 7 May (Bloomsbury, £12.99)

Melanie Golding, author of Little Darlings, picks Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. Image: Vintage

Just the thought of Le Cirque des Rêves brings a smile, and a sense of yearning; I want it to be real. I imagine that the tents will appear without warning on the nearby common, that I will queue for entrance, browse the black-and-white attractions, see the acrobats, experience the smells, the sights, the wonders. Once the story has begun, I crave time between the pages, when the real world falls away. Morgenstern conjures something with this novel that remains long after you’ve finished it. A kind of fairytale you long to believe in, that – joy of joys – is yours to experience anew, whenever you take it down from the shelf.

Little Darlings is out 2 May (HQ, £12.99)

Lynn Enright, author of Vagina: A Re-Education, picks Edna O’Brien’s The Country Girls

The Country Girls by Edna O'Brien. Image: Faber & Faber
The Country Girls by Edna O'Brien. Image: Faber & Faber

It’s rare that you return to a novel after reading it, so generally non-fiction feels much more useful to have around but this slim little book is a keeper and will never, ever end up in the charity shop. As an Irish woman in London, it’s a link to my past and the past of my country. As a writer, it’s a masterclass. I’ll never stop re-reading it.

Vagina: A Re-Education is out 7 March (Atlantic, £14.99)

Samantha Shannon, author of The Priory of the Orange Tree, picks Zen Cho’s Sorcerer to the Crown

Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho
Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho

This comedy of manners is an absolute delight. Its whimsy and humour, its spot-on illustrations of the absurdity of Regency England, and its roasting of imperialism, racism and sexism make it impossible not to love. The sequel, The True Queen, is just as wonderful. 

The Priory of the Orange Tree is out 22 February (Bloomsbury, £16.99)

Images: Provided by publishers, Netflix


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Sarah Shaffi

Sarah Shaffi is a freelance journalist and editor. She reads more books a week than is healthy, and balances this out with copious amounts of TV. She writes regularly about popular culture, particularly how it reflects and represents society.

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