- the great escape
Lee's only book, based loosely on her youth in '30s Alabama, won the Pulitzer Prize in 1960.
PLOT Narrated by six-year-old Scout Finch, the story charts the fallout of her lawyer father, Atticus, agreeing to defend a black man accused of assaulting a white woman.
WHY WE LOVE IT: On one hand this is a tale of childhood innocence; on the other it's about violent racism. But its charm and warmth transcends genre and style.
A confessional novel from the woman whose films like When Harry Met Sally redefined romance.
PLOT This semi-autobiographical story follows cookery writer Rachel through the demise of her marriage. Desperately sad, searingly funny and refreshingly honest.
WHY WE LOVE IT: Crammed with wit and real laugh-out-loud anecdotes, this is moving and uplifting in equal measures, with some sensational recipes thrown in, too.
History, politics, redemption, love and morality are woven together in this 19th century fable.
PLOT The efforts of convict Jean Valjean to re-create himself under the suspicious eye of a fanatical police inspector will make your heart race, while the tragedy of single mother Fantine and daughter Cosette will break it.
WHY WE LOVE IT: Soap-opera drama and characters plus Hugo's lyrical prose equal one of the greatest stories ever written.
The barely fictionalized life story of former First Lady Laura Bush, with all the ingredients for a sweeping saga.
PLOT Smart, idealistic and reserved, Alice Lindgren's future veers into alien territory when she marries an ambitious republican.
WHY WE LOVE IT: This is not a political novel – it's about fate, choices and trying to stay true to your ideals. An instant classic.
A brilliant, malicious thriller that has created a Hollywood bidding frenzy for the film rights.
PLOT On her wedding anniversary, Amy Dunne disappears; predictably, husband Nick falls under suspicion. Yet chapter by chapter – written alternately from Nick and Amy's perspective – a mercurial story emerges.
WHY WE LOVE IT: This edge-of-your-seat story will keep you guessing right to the end.
The definitive biography of arguably the most impactful fashion designer in history.
PLOT The woman behind the myth is laid bare, yet Gabrielle Chanel's allure remains. Picardie deftly examines every detail of Chanel's life, from loveless youth to love affairs by way of the LBD.
WHY WE LOVE IT: A fascinating narrative makes this essential for any Chanel enthusiast.