1. 'The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency" is both a book and a gentle mystery series by Alexander McCall Smith - written by an Englishman, and take place in Africa. I have read most of them and recommend them personally. I like very much the lady who owns the Detective Agency. Best to read the title above first, but after that order doesn't matter very much.
2. Jean M. Auel has written a series of books - the one I have read is "The Clan of the Cave Bear." These books are placed in prehistoric time, but the characters seem like someone I might know.
3. "The Help" is by Katherine Stockett. This is a new book and is being made into a movie. It is about African-American women in Mississippi in the 1960's who do housework for white women. The Black women know all the secrets of the house(s) in which they work or have worked which makes life complicated for everyone.
4. "The Secret Life of Bees" by Sue Monk Kidd is also about the American South, but is about a strong African-American woman who provides shelter and wisdom to two very young and very lost white girls. She does this while all in the household tend to the bees which provide honey that is sold to support the family and guests. It has been made into a movie.
5. The Harry Potter books. There are at least seven of these, and they are best read in order. They were written as books for children, but the parents of children who read them also like them. These too have been made into movies. There is fanciful magic and some tips on how to deal with problems, with growing up, with relating to people who like you and others who do not. Written by J.K. Rowling, a very interesting woman who started writing these in order to support herself and her son. She now enjoys enormous wealth and lives in an English castle.
6. "Cleopatra: A Life" by Stacy Schiff. An educated guess about what the real Cleopatra of Egypt was like and what her relationships with Caesar and with Mark Antony were like. The author is a historian, and her guesses provide a well-argued portrait of Cleopatra as a woman, as a head of state and as a remarkable leader.
7. Agatha Cristy was an English writer of mysteries. These books are not new, but they are timeless. They are classics in English casual reading, great fun and do not insult one's intelligence. The one titled, "The Orient Express" is a great place to start, but if that isn't available, take whatever you can get. There are two entertaining series of books with main characters who are smart, strong and very good (if eccentric) detectives. Their names are: Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple. There are many movies of the various stories.