Welcome to Shelf Life, ELLE.com’s books column, in which authors share their most memorable reads. Whether you’re on the hunt for a book to console you, move you profoundly, or make you laugh, consider a recommendation from the writers in our series, who, like you (since you’re here), love books. Perhaps one of their favorite titles will become one of yours, too.
A pair of Louboutins changes the course of two women’s lives in Jojo Moyes’s 17th novel, Someone Else’s Shoes (Pamela Dorman Books; audiobook narrated by Daisy Ridley), though the fashion item the international bestselling author may be better known for is a pair of bumblebee-striped tights. They figure in Moyes’s 2012 hit Me Before You, which she adapted for the big screen starring Emilia Clarke that took in more than $200 million at the box office. Her books have sold more than 40 million copies, and two others were made or will be made into movies including The Last Letter from Your Lover and The Giver of Stars. She’s also at work on a television comedy pilot.
Though the London-based Moyes (given name Pauline Sara Jo, nickname from the Beatles’s “Get Back”) wanted to be a blacksmith and bought her first horse at 14 with money earned working stables, she ended up in journalism, including at the South China Morning Post in Hong Kong and The Independent in London.
She has two Bosnian rescue dogs named Sisu and Pablo, a cat, Eric, and horses Joey, Mabel, Fred, and Strider; started an online antiques auction habit during lockdown collecting portraits of “Women Who Have Had Enough of Your Shit”; keeps bees; runs, boxes, and scuba dives; and can tell in five minutes whether a film is directed by a man or woman.
Likes: Molecules and Chanel perfumes, leather jeans, Frenchie Covent Garden restaurant, her massage chair, online Scrabble. Dislikes: Utility companies. Good at: Maintaining friendships. Bad at: DMs. Slide into her book recs below.
The book that:
…helped me through a breakup:
When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chodron. I recommended this tentatively to a Hollywood actress and she said, “Oh honey, I was given 28 copies of this when I got divorced.”
…made me miss a train stop:
My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult. It was the final chapter, and I remember sobbing so hard that half the train carriage was watching.
…made me weep uncontrollably:
Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin. I had not expected to be moved by a book about computer game creation.
…I recommend over and over again:
Three Women by Lisa Taddeo. It was fascinating pressing it on friends and seeing if they loved or hated it.
…shaped my worldview:
National Velvet by Enid Bagnold. It made me believe that slightly weedy little girls can achieve anything given enough willpower.
…I swear I’ll finish one day:
Ulysses by James Joyce. I’m not sure I will though.
…I read in one sitting, it was that good:
Lisa Jewell’s The Family Remains. I read it by a pool one sunny day, and when I closed it at the end it was like having had an entire vacation.
…currently sits on my nightstand:
Shrines of Gaiety by Kate Atkinson. I don’t think there’s a book of hers I haven’t enjoyed.
…I’d pass on to my kid:
The Young Visiters by Daisy Ashford. But none of my kids liked my favorite childhood books. It was crushing.
…made me laugh out loud:
Standard Deviation by Katherine Heiny. The laughter was occasionally nervous because I felt the heroine had somehow scooped the thoughts and behavior out of my own head.
…I’d like turned into a television show:
Mennonite in a Little Black Dress by Rhoda Janzen. A rom-com with Mennonites – who could resist that?
…I first bought:
The Black Stallion by Walter Farley. I think 85 per cent of my book choices were horse-related.
…I last bought:
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Notes on Grief. Her perception and clarity of thought is extraordinary.
…I consider literary comfort food:
Anything by Liane Moriarty. I sit back and enjoy the ride and know I’m going to be entertained.
…has the best opening line:
“Dr Weiss, at forty, knew that her life had been ruined by literature.” Anita Brookner, A Start in Life.
…broke my heart:
A Heart That Works by Rob Delaney. Only to be read if you are feeling robust.
…has a sex scene that will make you blush:
Kate Davies – In At the Deep End. So filthy that I found myself surreptitiously checking nobody could see what I was reading on public transport.
…helped me become a better writer:
Behind the Scenes at the Museum by Kate Atkinson. This is the book that made me finally understand the importance of voice.
…features the coolest book jacket:
Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams. Just an iconic cover.
The literary organization I support:
Quick Reads, which creates shortened versions of great books in a way that encourages adult literacy.
Riza Cruz is an editor and writer based in New York.