Beauty might be in the eye of the beholder, but when it comes to beautifully-written books, it’s unlikely anyone will question the appeal of those included in this collection. These are novels that have got under our skin. Made us hold our breath and pause to take in the power of words made profound by their authors. These are novels whose characters we become deeply invested in. Whose worlds we might pine for when we reach the end. Yet their sway lingers long. Their impact remains. Their beauty doesn’t fade, whether it stems from bold lyricism or quiet lucidity.
Often the most beautifully written books are those that tackle the most heartrending subjects, with characters struggling to survive and restore humanity to the most terrible situations. Their beauty might be borne of the deepest pains, the most challenging circumstances, as in Khaled Hosseini’s Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns, Madhuri Vijay’s The Far Field, Anthony Doerr’s All The Light We Cannot See, and Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale.
Then there are beautifully-written books that have almost otherworldly impact, as if conjured by their authors, such as Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane with its burrowing bittersweet exploration of childhood memories, and the haunting Marsh Girl of Where The Crawdads Sing. A personal favourite of this kind is Tuck Everlasting, ostensibly written for children, but a genuine speaks-to-all-ages, timeless tale about eternal life and forming lifelong friendships.
Our beauty-themed collection also highlights books charged with the power of ancient mythology, like Madeline Miller’s Circe, and the women-centred Trojan settings of Pat Barker’s The Silence of the Girls and Natalie Haynes’s A Thousand Ships. Mesmerising mythic writing set in more modern times comes courtesy of A Tall History of Sugar, The Shadow King and An Orchestra of Minorities.
We’ve also loved novels whose richly evoked social settings seep deep into the soul, such as the Shakespearean Hamnet, The Floating Theatre, and Zora Neale Hurston’s unforgettable American classic Their Eyes Were Watching God.
For clear contemporary writing with potent impact, try Edgar and Lucy, Montpelier Parade and The Heart’s Invisible Furies. Then there’s the raw, elemental power of The Innocents, Days of Anger and The Choke, while Lagos-set Black Sunday explores the nature and impact of beauty itself: “Beauty was a gift, but what was I to do with it?” Talking of gifts, the novels in this collection showcase a host of hugely gifted writers. What’s more, they’re also a gift to those who discover them…