12 Best Catherine Cookson Books For Avid Readers

Discover the best of British romance and historical fiction writer Catherine Cookson in our guide. Here are the best Catherine Cookson books.

While she’s now known as one of the best authors of historical fiction, Catherine Cookson’s life began similar to that of many of her tough-luck protagonists. Born in 1906, Catherine Cookson’s life didn’t have an easy start. The author was born to a single mother who lived in poverty, and the two struggled to make ends meet.

When Cookson was just 13 years old, she left school to work as a maid. Eventually, she opened an apartment hotel and fell in love with one of her tenants. After a difficult start to adult life, Cookson began writing to handle some of her trauma and found that putting her feelings into stories on paper was a helpful way to move forward with her life.

Many of Cookson’s novels are set in England in the 1800s. Her protagonists often come from a life of poverty, similar to the environment in which Cookson grew up. She enjoyed writing stories in which the female main character overcame difficult circumstances by gaining an education.

Known as one of the best romance authors of all time, Cookson received several awards throughout her career, including the Freedom of the Borough of South Shields and the Royal Society’s of Literature Award for the Best Regional Novel of the Year. Cookson passed away in 1998, but her legacy lives on with her fans through her 90+ novels.

1. The Fifteen Streets

Published in 1952, The Fifteen Streets was Cookson’s first novel. The story gave way to her often-used themes of poverty, struggling to survive, and depending on love to make it through to the other side of tricky situations.

“It was close on five o’clock and John would be in at half past. She’d have to get on with the tea…Thank God they fought in here and not in the kitchen. They might have knocked the pan of broth off the hob, and there was nearly fourpennorth of vegetables in besides a twopenny scrag end…Well, if you searched hard enough there was always something to be thankful for.”

Catherine Cookson
The Fifteen Streets: A Novel
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • Cookson, Catherine (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 264 Pages - 04/12/2011 (Publication Date) - Simon & Schuster (Publisher)

2. The Mallen Streak

Cookson’s 1999 novel contains three volumes, all of which explain the “Mallen Curse” that seems to have been cast upon the Mallen family. The first book in the series, The Mallen Streakfollows the story of Thomas Mallen and takes place in the mid-19th century.

“Her mother did not sustain the shock of her husband’s improvement but Anna did. When she buried her mother she also buried her father. When she applied for her first post of governess she said she was an orphan; and she actually was an orphan when, at twenty-four, she entered the service of Mr. Thomas Mallen of High Banks Hall in the County of Northumberland, there to take charge of his two nieces.”

Catherine Cookson
The Mallen Streak (The Mallen Trilogy Book 1)
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • Cookson, Catherine (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 244 Pages - 11/10/2013 (Publication Date) - Peach Publishing (Publisher)

3. A Dinner of Herbs

Cookson’s 1985 novel A Dinner of Herbs details the difficulty that a life filled with hate can have on a person’s heart. Readers love how Cookson manages to transport them to the early 1800s while still making the characters wildly relatable.

“Something happened to me then, although I wouldn’t face up to it. I thought, you can’t stop lovin’ somebody just like that, you’ve got to go on lovin’ them, if you’ve always loved them, you can’t change.”

Catherine Cookson
A Dinner of Herbs
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • Cookson, Catherine (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 622 Pages - 03/24/2011 (Publication Date) - Peach Publishing (Publisher)

4. The Wingless Bird

Published in 1990, The Wingless Bird follows the plight of Agnes Conway, a 22-year-old woman who is dealing with managing her father’s shop and helping her younger sister through an unexpected pregnancy. Love, mystery, and a deep sense of family loyalty all help readers relate to the Conway family.

“Then she would be comforted by the thought that, once married, lovers lived happily ever after. But from when she had been sixteen and had left the Dame School and stepped right into the home life above the shop, it had been borne into her that marriage was a humdrum affair: two people lived together, apparently happy, yet went their own ways, as shown by her parents, the didn’t think alike, yet they didn’t argue; they never laughed at the same things, nor did local or national events affect them in the same way.”

Catherine Cookson
The Wingless Bird
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • Cookson, Catherine (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 516 Pages - 03/24/2011 (Publication Date) - Peach Publishing (Publisher)

5. The Harrogate Secret

This historical fiction novel The Harrogate Secret follows the story of Freddie Musgrove, a young messenger who is forced to decide how to proceed after being faced with witnessing a horrific scene. Readers relate to the 1988 novel’s questions of morality and self-preservation.

“I can be a tolerable friend but a very bad enemy.”

Catherine Cookson
The Harrogate Secret
  • Hardcover Book
  • Cookson, Catherine (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 352 Pages - 11/27/1988 (Publication Date) - Simon & Schuster (Publisher)

6. The Dwelling Place

Royalty, farm life, and living in the wild make up Cookson’s 1993 novel, The Dwelling Place. Readers love getting to know the Brody family and are amazed at how Cookson transports readers to Victorian English society.

“Parson Hedley watched the small procession come towards him and he shook his head at the sight of the children. But then he thought Joe would have wanted it this way and she, better than anyone, would know that. But it still wasn’t right.”

Catherine Cookson
The Dwelling Place
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • Cookson, Catherine (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 418 Pages - 03/24/2011 (Publication Date) - Peach Publishing (Publisher)

7. The Mallen Girl

Another installment in the Mallen series, Cookson’s 1999 novel The Mallen Girl, follows the story of Barbara Mallen, a beautiful woman who is slowly becoming more and more deaf, working to solve mysteries before her world becomes completely silent.

“When he looked toward her it seemed almost as if he had no hair, a fading shaft of light had caught it as in a single beam. She gazed so entranced she wasn’t aware that he had moved toward her.”

Catherine Cookson
The Mallen Girl (The Mallen Trilogy Book 2)
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • Cookson, Catherine (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 324 Pages - 03/24/2011 (Publication Date) - Peach Publishing (Publisher)

8. The Silent Lady

Published in 2001, The Silent Lady follows the story of Irene Baindor, a woman who married into a wealthy family and loved young motherhood. Readers are shocked to learn the truth about Irene’s not-so-cushy life.

“No; it appeared that they went to the manor and saw him, and he said the woman in question was his wife. Had she made any complaint? And when they said no, he had asked about the other person: had he taken up the case? And again the answer was no. He said it was a family affair, quite private. It was nothing to do with them.”

Catherine Cookson
The Silent Lady: A Novel
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • Cookson, Catherine (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 354 Pages - 07/05/2011 (Publication Date) - Simon & Schuster (Publisher)

9. The Round Tower

Published in 2008, The Round Tower explores class, society, and young pregnancy themes. Readers love how Cookson takes the timeless pains of being a teenager to create relatable characters that are deeply flawed, lovable, and human.

“Vanessa was sixteen years old and she was at the turbulent, unrestful stage of adolescence. For weeks now she had been irritated by her family, her girl friends, and everyone about her; what was more, she was expecting a feeling that both frightened and intrigued her. She knew what it was all about but could do nothing. They talked about it at school, but that didn’t help, only tended to make it worse.”

Catherine Cookson
The Round Tower
  • Used Book in Good Condition
  • Catherine Cookson (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 416 Pages - 01/01/1998 (Publication Date) - Transworld Publishers (Publisher)

10. The Man Who Cried

The story of a single father who decided to leave an unhappy marriage and take his young son with him, The Man Who Cried provides readers with an interesting, unusual glimpse into the life of a man who deals with secrets and mystery in an attempt to create a better life for himself and his child.

“She was a tall woman, and wisps of hair from under the battered trillby hat showed her to be fair, or was she white? Her face was long, lean, and weather-beaten, yet his first impression was of a delicate etherealness.”

Catherine Cookson
The Man Who Cried
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • Cookson, Catherine (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 384 Pages - 03/24/2011 (Publication Date) - Peach Publishing (Publisher)

11. The Tide of Life

This 1976 novel The Tide of Life follows the story of the McGilby family and their maid, sixteen-year-old Emily Kennedy. After two of the McGilbys pass away, Emily and the McGilby daughter are forced to leave home to find work–and quickly learn that they must find strength in their friendship.

“It had been a strange week-end. Her position in the house had changed from Saturday night. It was because of Sep’s manner to her she supposed. He acted towards her like a young lad might. He’d put his arms around her waist, or around her shoulders, and when he did things he rushed at them, as when he brought in the coal, or took the ashes down the yard; and he went round the house talking about the alterations he was going to have made.”

Catherine Cookson
The Tide of Life
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • Cookson, Catherine (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 399 Pages - 03/24/2011 (Publication Date) - Peach Publishing (Publisher)

12. Katie Mulholland

This 1967 novel Katie Muholland follows the story of Katie Mulholland, a woman who got her start as a young maid and was treated unthinkably by the man of the house. The story follows Katie as she decides how to overcome her fear, manage her love of power, and find financial security.

“There was a pattern about him that reminded her of her master, and his sons, but she did not include his voice in that pattern, for it was rough-sounding. In the brief space of time that she looked at the man there came over her a feeling that she couldn’t understand, only that it was in a way a betrayal of her own kind, for why should she feel sorry for a keeker.”

Catherine Cookson
Katie Mulholland
  • Audible Audiobook
  • Catherine Cookson (Author) - Susan Jameson (Narrator)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 08/11/2016 (Publication Date) - Audible Studios (Publisher)

FAQs About The Best Catherine Cookson Books

How many of Catherine Cookson’s books were made into films?

There’s no doubt about it–fans of Cookson’s work love seeing her words come to life on the big screen. Twenty-three of the author’s stories have been made into feature-length motion pictures, including The Black Velvet Gown (1991) and The Cinder Path (1994).

How many books are in the Catherine Cookson collection?

Including her autobiographies and best-selling books written under other names, the Catherine Cookson collection contains 102 books, from early works like The Fifteen Streets (1952) to later works like The Nice Bloke (1969) and The Silent Lady (2002).

What was Catherine Cookson’s first novel?

Catherine Cookson’s first book was The Fifteen Streets, published in 1952. The book was later made into a full-length made-for-TV feature film in 1989. The movie was nominated for an Emmy Award in 1990.

Looking for more books to add to your library? Check out our round-up of the best Agatha Christie books!

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