The Notebook might be one of the greatest love stories of our time and hardly ever fails to bring a tear to the eye of those who read it.
Nicholas Sparks has a gift that we are so grateful he shares with the world. His books epitomize what a love story looks like. The characters are everyday people who often have to deal with difficult, but real-life, circumstances. This makes his stories relatable and only means we are more invested in his characters. We feel their pain, their heartache but also their love and elation.
His books take the reader on a breath-taking journey that leaves us emotional and very often, red-nosed and teary-eyed. Compiling a list of the best Nicholas Sparks books is no easy feat.
How do you choose?
That really is the magic of Nicholas Sparks though. He has the ability to capture the imagination of his reader no matter their age, gender, or romance preference. His characters always feel familiar and readers are quickly immersed in their lives. His devastating plot lines mean that readers turn each page with a mixture of anticipation and anxiety.
So, without giving too much away, here is our list of the 20 best Nicholas Sparks books.
1. The Notebook
There was no way we could start this list with any other story but The Notebook. It is by far one of the best Nicholas Sparks books. Set in North Carolina, the love story between Noah Calhoun and Allie Nelson is possibly the most beautiful we have come across.
Noah and Allie met as teenagers and fell in love, the way you can only do when it is the first love. Their circumstances were very different though and their passionate relationship ends.
Allie moves on with her life but Noah, returning from World War 2, has not forgotten the girl he gave his heart to.
Cut to an old man reading a story to a quiet woman and you know that the puzzle of this story is more complicated and beautiful than originally thought.
Sparks intricately weaves romance, loss, heartbreak, and hope in this story of enduring love.
2. The Lucky One
When U.S Marine Logan Thibault finds a picture of a beautiful woman in the sands of war, he unsuccessfully tries to find the owner. He keeps the picture with him and vows to find the woman if he returns home alive.
This is how he meets Elizabeth Green. She is not what he expects, but everything he needs. A divorced mother, Beth is vulnerable but endearing and Logan falls in love with her and her son.
They begin a passionate love affair but Logan doesn’t reveal the photo, how he found it or the luck it brought him.
This secret not only threatens to destroy the relationship they have built but also their lives.
This book is Sparks at his best–making us love, laugh, and cry.
3. The Longest Ride
The love story of Ira and Ruth Levinson that unfolds through old letters runs parallel to that of Sophia and Luke. Both are beautiful but fraught with challenges and missteps.
This story takes its reader into a world of art and bullfighting and explores the way past and present meet. Ira is found in a car wreck by Sophia and Luke and so begins the friendship that will change the course of their lives.
Sophia had a very different plan for her life until Luke arrived and they dove headfirst into a passionate relationship. Luke has a secret, however, one that could have serious repercussions for their relationship but also his life.
The intersection of past and present is a poignant reminder of the fragility of life and love.
4. A Walk to Remember
Jamie Sullivan was the last person that Landon Carter ever thought he would fall in love with but fate had other plans.
Landon was a bad boy and Jamie was the minister’s daughter, more concerned with volunteering and taking care of her father than joining the local teenagers. But in an unexpected twist, she and Landon are forced together and Sparks begins to weave his magic.
This story makes us believe in true love. The kind that changes the course of your life in an irrevocable way. It also reminds us of the fleeting fragility of time and to treasure every moment with those we love.
5. The Best of Me
Nicholas Sparks does it again in this book, tugging at our heartstrings as only he can. In 1984, Amanda Collier and Dawson Cole fall deeply in love. Amanda comes from a prominent family while Dawson’s family are criminals.
The star-crossed lovers ignore their different circumstances and spend a year and a half together. When Amanda has to choose between college and Dawson, Dawson chooses for her and they separate.
25 years later they are brought together again by an old friend as his dying wish. Amanda is unhappily married and grieving after the death of her daughter while Dawson has served time in prison.
Having to relive the past and question their choices, Amanda and Dawson are forced to make some difficult decisions that will irrevocably change their lives.
6. Safe Haven
A beautiful story of love and trust, Safe Haven tells the story of Erin and her search for safety. Fleeing from an abusive husband, Erin arrives in Southport, North Carolina. She changes her identity and calls herself Katie.
As she slowly starts to build a life for herself, she reluctantly becomes friends with her neighbour, Jo, and Alex, who runs the general store. Alex, a widowed dad of two sweet kids, and Katie realize they have feelings for each other and begin a romantic relationship.
Katie still has a dark secret and lives in fear that her abusive husband will find her. With Jo’s help, she tells Alex but little does she know that it will not be enough. As her past comes back to haunt her, it will take love and courage to save the life she has created for herself.
7. Nights in Rodanthe
A novel reminding us that love is timeless, Nights in Rodanthe is about redemption and forgiveness. Adrienne Willis is struggling with her recent divorce, her sick father, and raising three kids. In an effort to escape, she offers to look after her friends B&B for a weekend.
It is here in Rodanthe, that she meets her only guest, Paul Flanner. Paul is also in emotional turmoil, being estranged from his son and being sued for malpractice after a surgery. As a violent storm blows in, Adrienne and Paul explore their tumultuous feelings about life, but also each other.
As the storm clears, they have to face the reality of their lives and make decisions that will have long-lasting consequences.
8. The Guardian
Julie understands heartache intimately, having been widowed at a young age. Her husband, who was dying of a brain tumor, organized to have a Great Dane puppy delivered on his death, along with the promise that he would always be watching over Julie.
Four years later, Julie feels ready to give romance another try. She is attracted to Richard as he is different from the other men in her life. Sophisticated and completely devoted to her, he charms his way into her life.
On the other hand, there is Jim, her dead husband’s best friend. He is sweet and caring and the complete opposite of Richard.
A seemingly innocent choice leads to a situation of danger, jealousy, and deceit that Julie might not survive.
9. The Return
This has been heralded as one of the best Nicholas Sparks books 2020. All of the usual elements we love from his books are there but with the added element of mystery.
Trevor Benson is an orthopaedic surgeon who was injured in a mortar blast in Afghanistan. He discovers his grandfather has died and left his cabin to him. Thinking that the small town of New Bern would be a good place to recover from his injuries and PTSD, Trevor moves in.
He is immediately drawn to Natalie Masterson, the deputy sheriff but she is distant and has a secret. He also meets Callie, a young girl who knows more about his grandfather’s mysterious death than she is letting on.
In his quest for answers, Trevor learns about true forgiveness and the importance of going back to the beginning.
10. The Rescue
This touching story will have you turning the pages faster than you can read them, particularly if you are a parent.
As a volunteer firefighter, Taylor McAden is used to risks and dangerous situations. One risk he has never been willing to take though is with his heart.
When Denise Holton and her 4-year-old son are swept off the road during a serious storm, it is Taylor who comes to the rescue. Nothing about this rescue is normal, however.
Denise’s son Kyle was not in the car and is now missing. With severe learning disabilities, Kyle is not equipped to be on his own. Denise is understandably hysterical, and Taylor is forced to accept that this could be the rescue that changes everything.
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11. The Wedding
If you loved The Notebook, then The Wedding is a must-read! Here you see Wilson Lewis, Noah, and Allie Calhoun’s son-in-law at a crossroads in his own marriage.
When he forgets his 29th wedding anniversary, his wife Jane does not respond the way he expected and makes him think she might not be invested in their marriage.
With Noah’s help and inspirational 50-year romance, Wilson decides to try and make his wife fall in love with him again. When his daughter says she wants to get married in a week, Wilson realizes it is the perfect opportunity to try to win back the heart of his soul mate.
12. See Me
Another romance that is littered with intriguing plot twists, mystery and action is See Me.
Colin Hancock is a flawed character, but that only makes him more relatable. He has had some problems in his past, frequently getting into trouble with his violent temper. On a rain-swept road one night, he meets Maria Sanchez and his life is changed forever.
Maria is a successful lawyer and leads a very structured, introverted life. She is surprised by her attraction to Colin but soon falls for the soft-hearted man underneath the temper. When shady elements from her past begin to surface, Maria is worried that Colin will lose control.
Colin and Maria have to trust each other to overcome the past threatening their future.
13. Every Breath
This was a book Nicholas Sparks wrote after a 2-year hiatus and it doesn’t disappoint. Set in Sunset Beach, North Carolina, the whirlwind romance of Hope Anderson and Tru Wall takes readers on an emotional rollercoaster.
36-year-old Hope has gone to Sunset Beach to ready her family’s house for sale and make some tough decisions about her 6-year relationship. 42-year-old Tru has arrived in Sunset Beach from Zimbabwe, searching for his biological father.
They form an instant connection and fall deeply in love. By the end of the weekend, Hope heartbreakingly realizes that she has dreams for her life that she can’t leave behind for Tru.
In true Sparks fashion, we are taken on a journey of love that spans time and distance and leaves you breathless.
14. Two by Two
This book is a departure from Spark’s usual style. The romance is secondary to the beautiful relationship that develops between a father and his daughter.
It tells the story of Russell Green, a man who had it all and lost it. His life was close to perfect, with a successful job, a beautiful wife, and a young daughter. He begins to have difficulties at work and soon leaves to start his own business. This is where things start to fall apart.
Russ suddenly finds himself thrust into the uncertain world of single-parenting. Overwhelmed by his sudden change in circumstances and caught in a vicious custody battle, he finds solace with his ex-girlfriend.
When tragedy strikes the family, Russell is forced to pull on an emotional reserve he didn’t know he had.
15. A Bend in the Road
This aptly named book is another emotional sinkhole that will leave you swimming through the murky waters of past hurts and possible futures.
Miles Ryan loses his wife in a hit-and-run accident and it shatters his world. He is left caring for their young son and obsessed with justice for his wife.
It is only when he meets his son’s second-grade teacher that he considers opening his heart again. Sarah Andrews was recovering from a messy divorce and was surprised at her feelings for Miles.
Soon after they get together, however, their fledgling relationship is put to the test when new evidence in his wife’s case comes to light.
This is a story of sorrow, hope, and redemption, but most importantly, the ability to forgive.
16. Message in a Bottle
Possibly one of the best Nicholas Sparks books of all time, Message in a Bottle will leave you in tears but hopeful about the enduring quality of true love.
The love letters Garrett Blake writes to his dead wife are the stuff of dreams. He pours his grief into his letters and then sends them in a bottle out to sea.
Theresa Osborne, recovering from a devastating divorce, serendipitously finds one of his letters, and the wheels of fate begin to turn.
When the two meet, the chemistry is instant, and their intense love affair begins. But life has a way of forcing them to make tough decisions and the past is a constant shadow.
When Theresa receives a fateful phone call, she knows she will never be the same again.
17. The Choice
In this powerful story of true love and the lengths we will go to save it, The Choice looks at the decisions we make in life.
The book starts in 2007 with Travis Parker taking flowers to his wife at the hospital she works at. This is meant to be an apology for an argument they had and he alludes to the choices that have got them to this point.
We then dive into the intense chemistry of their early years, where Gaby leaves her long-time boyfriend for Travis. Gaby and Travis marry, have two daughters, and live a seemingly perfect life.
Until a fateful accident leaves Travis with a heart-breaking choice that he can’t find the strength to make.
The Choice is definitely one of the best Nicholas Sparks books as it deftly explores the difficult decisions, we hope we will never have to make.
18. True Believer
If you are needing a break from Nicholas Sparks’ usual tear-jerkers then True Believer is a great option. Still filled with heart-stopping romance and difficult decisions, it won’t leave you in a sobbing mess.
Jeremy Marsh is a successful media personality who has made his name debunking ghostly phenomena. When he arrives in the small town of Boone Creek to investigate ghostly graveyard lights, he assumes he will be in and out in a week.
Enter Lexie Darnell, the beautiful librarian who was orphaned as a child and raised by her eccentric grandmother. Lexie and Jeremy are drawn to each other despite their differences and soon they each need to decide if their love is worth fighting for and what they are willing to sacrifice.
19. At First Sight
The same can’t be said of the sequel to True Believer. At First Sight will leave you devastated as it continues with Jeremy and Lexie’s story.
They are now engaged, buying a house, and having a baby. Yes, it was a busy few weeks.
But just as they are adjusting to their new lives together, Jeremy receives a mysterious email that shakes the foundation of their relationship.Fraught with tension and distrust, the story questions the strength of their feelings for each other.
Throw into this a dangerous development with Lexie’s pregnancy and this young couple and their love is put to the test.
20. The Wish
Finally, this much-anticipated book is only due for release in September 2021 but already it is promising to be a classic.
Maggie Dawes is grounded over Christmas due to scary health circumstances and has time to reflect on the decisions that got her to that point.
Surrounded by the photos that made her famous, and her young assistant, she tells the love story that changed her life. In 1996, 16-year-old Maggie, harboring a secret, is sent to the small town of Ocradoke to stay with her aunt. Here she meets Bryce Trickett, the boy who introduces her to photography and changes the course of her life.
This story asks the question, “if you had one wish, what would you ask for?”. For Maggie, is it seeing Bryce again? Or are their secrets in her past that matter more than her first love?
And There You Have It…….20 of the Best Nicholas Sparks Books (With Minimal Spoilers!)
There is no denying that Nicholas Sparks is a master of his craft. He has the unique ability to leave us heartsore yet wanting more.
It is like an addiction! You know coming down off the high of true love will leave you broken but it hurts too good to stop.
Maybe it’s because we see ourselves in his characters?
They are people with flaws who risk it all for a chance at something spectacular. They are willing to take a chance and make difficult decisions for love.
And isn’t that what we all want?
To love and be loved?