It’s difficult choosing a book that typifies an entire genre, but here English Literature with Creative Writing graduate Kelly Pells does her best to pick the books that no library is complete without.

The Crucial Classic

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

First published under the pseudonym Currer Bell in 1847, Jane Eyre has been adapted for film and TV four times in the last twenty years. The book’s enduring appeal stems from the titular character as she transforms from bullied and neglected young girl to a woman confident in her own worth. Her love for the ultimate Byronic character Mr Rochester leads to heartbreak and uncertainty, with plenty of twists and turns along the way. Just when you think Jane might finally have found happiness, something disastrous happens.

Don’t let the length of the novel put you off; Jane is constantly changing and evolving as she grows into adulthood. She has no stable sense of identity, so is incessantly searching for it. It is this journey of trying to discover who you are that speaks to so many of the novel’s readers and marks it as truly ahead of its time. If you remember Jane Eyre only as one of those novels you were forced to read at school, pick it up again as an adult and you will experience something completely different. Find out why it is often included in the 100 best novels lists. A book of great detail and depth, simmering passions and barely-disguised lust, this is one not to miss out on.

The Essential Biography

Boy and Going Solo by Roald Dahl

This one was pretty easy to pick, as it’s the only biography I’ve ever read. Given a choice of fiction or non-fiction, I will always go with the former. However, this book is the one exception. Boy details Dahl’s childhood, while Going Solo deals with his adult life, including his time as an RAF fighter pilot. The story of his life is written with as much humour and bizarre detail as any of his books. One particularly memorable chapter describes the time when he crashed his fighter plane in the middle of a desert during WWII. He received such severe burns that he could not see for a month following the accident. It was apparently this ‘monumental bash on the head’ (Dahl’s words) that led directly to him becoming a writer.

This is a biography for all ages to enjoy, from children who will giggle at Dahl’s childhood exploit involving a mouse in a sweet jar, to adults who will gasp at his brushes with death. Dahl was a brilliant man with a fascinating life. Written with his trademark wit, this is a truly enjoyable book.

The Vital Crime Thriller

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

Many books that win awards and receive fantastic reviews from every critic going aren’t worth the hype. There are a few, however, that make it through all that hyped-up nonsense and still manage to be genuinely good books. The Girl on the Train is one such book. It is a situation that may seem familiar: sitting on the train on the way to work, staring out the window at the houses beside the tracks and wondering what kind of lives those people live. This is a typical daily commute for Rachel, who sees the same couple – who she has nicknamed ‘Jess and Jason’ – eating breakfast every morning. They seem utterly perfect, until Rachel sees something she was never meant to see, and she finds herself drawn into a mystery that hits far too close to home for comfort.

Rachel is the best unreliable narrator since Amy in Gone Girl. Comparisons are unfortunately going to be made to Gillian Flynn’s bestseller, but The Girl on the Train is a little more subtle, and also has a brilliant twist towards the end. Rachel is a brilliantly written damaged woman, struggling to fight an alcohol addiction and to pull herself together after a difficult past. Brilliantly paced, with one hell of a showdown to look forward to towards the end, this is a clever psychological thriller not to be missed.

If you like crime novels in which nothing is as it seems and different perspectives vie to convince you of the real truth, then this is the book for you. Find out why it recently broke the record for longest time at number one in the UK hardback charts (20 weeks!).

The Necessary Fantasy

Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

I’m sure you’re probably sick of hearing about Game of Thrones after the phenomenal success of the TV show, but if you haven’t experienced the book series you are seriously missing out. With so much more depth and detail than a TV show could ever offer (plus, completely different storylines for some of the characters), the chapters are told in a variety of POVs from different characters. If you love characters like Cersei and Arya on the show, just wait till you get inside their heads.

The A Song of Ice and Fire series is set in the fantasy world of the Seven Kingdoms. It is a world where several kings believe themselves to be the rightful monarch, where peasants care nothing for war as long as they and their children are fed, and where a dark supernatural force is growing behind the great Wall of ice in the North. Martin takes the best of Tolkien – the world building, the brilliant characters, the compelling storylines – and improves upon it by adding a degree of realism. No character is entirely good or bad; everyone has varying shades of grey within them. If the idea of fantasy puts you off, it isn’t all dragons and huge battle scenes. To survive in the Seven Kingdoms, you need to be cunning; you need to know how to plot and scheme. There is as much back-biting politics as there is fantasy elements.

This is a great book to get your friends reading as well, and once they do there will be no end to the discussions you can have. Who will sit the Iron Throne in the end? How many will survive the next bloody battle? And what will happen when the White Walkers arrive?

The Key Historical Fiction

The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory

I’m a massive fan of Gregory. She is the queen of historical fiction, writing about both real people and fictional characters. The Other Boleyn Girl was a number one bestseller and was made into a film starring Natalie Portman and Scarlett Johansson. However, as always, the film skips over much of the detail and favours dramatic moments over solid fact. The book is better by far.

It begins with Mary Boleyn arriving at court as a girl of fourteen, where she catches the eye of Henry VIII and becomes his mistress. When he gets bored and his attention begins to wander, he puts Mary aside for her younger sister, Anne. But Anne is not content to be just another of the King’s mistresses. Both sisters must take their fates into their own hands if they are to be happy and safe.

Gregory’s writing brings the Tudor world to life – the claustrophobic castle passageways, the tight-laced dresses, the very reality of being a sixteenth century woman. The tension builds with every chapter; no conversation is safe from spies and no one is immune from Henry’s wrath. Gregory brings these important historical events back down to a human level, with three-dimensional characters battling sisterly rivalry as they struggle to be more than just pawns in a dangerous game.

Kelly Pells graduated Brunel University with a first in English with Creative Writing. She has had her short stories published by magazines and runs the book review blog