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Booklist Isabel Ashdown recommends


The Novels that Shaped Our World: In Conversation with Isabel Ashdown

List of book recommendations


The audiobooks Isabel has been enjoying in lockdown:

Sally Rooney – Normal People

Gail Honeyman – Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine

Titles by Elly Griffiths



The books and authors Isabel read as a child:

The Rainbow Reading Scheme – ‘romped through it’ to get to books of her own choice

E. Nesbit – The Enchanted Castle

Dr. Seuss books

Frances Hodgson Burnett – The Secret Garden

Edward Lear

Spike Milligan – A Book of Milliganimals

Andrew Lang – Fairy Books


Books and reading were always part of my backdrop.”



The books Isabel enjoyed as a teenager:

Virginia Andrews – Flowers in the Attic (the subsequent titles in the Dollanganger series)

Novels by Stephen King

Stephen King – On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft


On Flowers in the Attic: “…the book that reignited me with reading.”

Recommended short story collections:

Pam Houston – Cowboys are my Weakness

Alice Munro – Open Secrets

Gothic horror titles by Shirley Jackson


“Short stories are like a photograph – a really rewarding photograph.”



Books that Isabel has been moved by:

Sebastian Faulks – Birdsong

Fred D’Aguiar – The Longest Memory


On Birdsong: “I felt like I was utterly immersed in this period…I wept.”



Books featuring female relationships:

Oyinkan Braithwaite – My Sister the Serial Killer

Dodie Smith – I Capture the Castle

Joan Lindsay – Picnic at Hanging Rock


On I Capture the Castle: “A comfort read.”



The books and authors that influenced Isabel:

Patrick Suskind – Perfume

Ian McEwan – The Cement Garden

Novels by Margaret Atwood


On Margaret Atwood: “I love the way that she presents other worlds.”




Extra books and authors that Isabel mentioned:

Staying Human – New Poems for Staying Alive edited by Neil Astley




Most of these titles (and all of Isabel’s novels) are available to order via our
library catalogue.

More from the conversation More from the conversation

Mentioned during the talk was one of Isabel's inspirations, Cynthia McAdams a feminist photographer working in the 1970s. 

Isabel recommends the following fascinating documentary, a trailer for which can be viewed through this link: Feminists: What Were they Thinking.


Apart from inspiration, authors need friends who can help and filling that role admirably is Leonard. Seen here 'helping' with the writing process :



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