The Duchess of Cornwall names her all-time favourite books

An avid reader, The Duchess of Cornwall has long promoted the importance of literacy via her patronages of the National Literacy Trust and BookAid International — among many other bodies — as well as her popular literary hub, The Reading Room. Here, she selects her three favourite books.

Where the Crawdads Sing

By Delia Owens (G. P. Putnam’s Sons, published 2018)

This coming-of-age novel kept me alternately on the edge of my seat and wiping many a tear. I defy any reader not to be completely beguiled by the mysterious Kya and her relationship with Nature.

As a side note — and perhaps unusually, for a story set in North Carolina — this book now always reminds me of Northern Ireland. Last year, I received a lovely letter from a lady in Kilcooley, telling me about her book club, which had been, in part, inspired by my Reading Room. I was deeply touched that they had called the book club ‘The Camilla Club’.

To mark International Women’s Day, The Camilla Club had chosen to read Where the Crawdads Sing. When my husband and I were in Northern Ireland last May, I was delighted to meet some members of The Camilla Club and to have a chat about this superb book.

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The Cazalet Chronicles

By Elizabeth Jane Howard (Pan Macmillan, 1990–2013)

This is a multi-generational saga of a British family before, during and after the Second World War. If I were sent to a desert island with one book, this would be my choice — although there are five in the series.

I have never met anyone who did not enjoy Elizabeth Jane Howard’s incredibly evocative writing, which immediately conjures up the long-gone days of rationing, telegrams that brought either great joy or utter devastation and agonising dental care. Every reader will find at least one character with whom they can identify in these often-underestimated, wonderful novels.

Travels on my Elephant

By Mark Shand (Eland, 1991)

My beloved late brother’s book charts his remarkable journey from the Bay of Bengal to the world’s largest elephant bazaar at Sonepar on the Ganges, on the back of a 30-year-old elephant called Tara. His love for Tara inspired him to found The Elephant Family (page 138), a charity that protects the Asian elephant from extinction in the wild, a legacy of Mark’s passion for these noble creatures. His book reminds us all that elephants can cry — so keep a handkerchief handy…

For more details of The Reading Room, visit