The first uninterrupted year of publishing since pre-pandemic times has made it a bumper year for brilliant books including hotly anticipated returns from well-established authors to exciting debuts from new literary voices. Having recently shared some of our most-loved books, I decided to speak to some of TNMA’s favourite authors and booksellers about the books they’ve enjoyed reading this year. Besides being excellent writers, they are all avid readers, too. From life-affirming memoirs to unputdownable page-turners and tantalising cookbooks, here they share their top titles to add to your bedside table:
Recommended by Julie Own Moylan, author of That Green Eyed Girl (May 2022) and 73 Dove Street (July 2023)
Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver (fiction)
An epic retelling of David Copperfield set in the Appalachian Mountains. This is a heart-rending tale of young Demon, born into a world of poverty, opioid addiction and his struggles to find a place in this world. Not only my book of the year but one of the best books I’ve ever read! Utterly brilliant.
A poignant story of love and friendship set in the world of computer gaming. We follow Sadie and Sam from their first meeting in a hospital waiting room in 1987, throughout their lives, as they share an unbreakable bond. It is a truly compelling read and the characters stay with you long after you’ve finished reading.
Recommended by Adele Geras, author of books for children, teens and adults, including Dangerous Women (2021) under her pseudonym Hope Adams
This novel is both a family story and a mystery. It’s set in the world of wealthy New Yorkers and tells the tale of siblings who have more than the usual problems to deal with. The whole family is fascinating, engaging, horrifying and unusual in various ways. It also has one of the best endings ever. Unputdownable.
Ducks, Newburyport by Lucy Ellmann (fiction)
You need stamina for this one. It’s almost a thousand pages long but they fly by, especially if you’re reading on a Kindle and don’t have to lug it about in your handbag. You inhabit the head of a woman in Ohio, following her thoughts as they happen. Take the plunge on this helter-skelter ride. Don’t be intimidated by stream of consciousness, it’s brilliant!
Left on Tenth by Delia Ephron (memoir)
Delia is the sister of Nora Ephron and a wonderful novelist (try Siracusa). In her memoir Left on Tenth, Delia tells us about suffering from cancer and falling in love after the death of her husband. It is the opposite of a misery memoir: uplifting, moving and above all, life affirming.
Soundings by Doreen Cunningham (memoir, travel, nature writing)
Doreen, a BBC climate science journalist, spends three months in Utqiagvik (the northern-most town in Alaska) learning how climate change is affecting indigenous whaling communities. Years later, with her career in tatters, she finds herself suddenly in poverty as a newly single parent escaping an abusive relationship. She takes her toddler son on a journey from Mexico to Alaska, following the grey whale migration, as she returns to the Unupiaq family who had taken her under their wing. Doreen weaves the two incredible journeys together in this memoir about womanhood, climate change and our ability to adapt in a crisis. Astoundingly beautiful storytelling.
Factory Girls by Michelle Gallen (fiction)
It’s 1994: Maeve and her two best friends have a summer to kill while waiting to see if their A-level results are good enough to get them out of their shitty, Northern Irish border town. As they count down to results day, they work in a shirt factory alongside Protestants for the first time in their lives. Will they survive their sleazy boss, the tit-for-tat paramilitary action and the rising tensions at home and on the streets? Or will they get stuck in the endless cycle of ironing shirts in a dying town forever? Hilariously funny and heartbreakingly sad. Don’t read this book in public if you don’t like howling with laughter, or weeping, in front of strangers.
Free Love by Tessa Hadley (fiction)
In 1967, in a London suburb, housewife Phyllis’ world is shifted and awakened when she is kissed by the 20-something son of an old friend. She begins to make choices that defy her middle-class status and safe, closeted society. An absolute delight on every page, I was completely transported to another time.
Reccomended by Fleur Sinclair, owner of Sevenoaks bookshop
Shrines of Gaiety by Kate Atkinson (fiction)
This is exactly the sort of novel I’d dream of unwrapping – perfect to read on a cold winter’s evening, glass of wine to hand, snuggled by a fire. Against a richly created backdrop of London in the aftermath of the Great War, dubious nightclub supremos mix with wannabe starlets, dodgy coppers and heroic, liberated librarians. The peril and intrigue is told with Kate Atkinson’s trademark spiky, wry humour. It’s an incredibly satisfying read to the very last page.
Motherland by Melissa Thompson (cookbook)
My cookbook of the year – it is packed with mouthwatering accessible recipes, all beautifully photographed. This wonderful book is also a celebration of Jamaican culture; full of stories and histories that give proper context and insight into much-loved dishes.
The Only Woman by Immy Humes (non-fiction)
Oscar-nominated director Immy Hughes has compiled an utterly compelling portrait gallery of trailblazing women in men’s worlds. Spanning 1860 to the present day, it shows singular women among groups of artists, scientists, servants, movie stars, metal workers, and more. This is a perfect gift for daughters, nieces, sons, nephews… or a superior loo book, if you like! It really should have a place on all home bookshelves, everywhere.
And one more for luck… recommended by TNMA contributor Antonia Cunliffe Davis and recently named Waterstones Book of the Year:
The Story of Art Without Men by Katy Hessel (non-fiction)
This accessible guide by art historian, curator and broadcaster Katy Hessel aims to redress an imbalance. The Story of Art Without Men alludes cheekily to the seminal art history text by EH Gombrich, The Story of Art – whose first edition (1950) contained no female talent – and so, this book focuses on the careers of forgotten or lesser-known female artists over the last five centuries. ‘The goal is for equality; it’s not to shun men out of our history at all,’ Hessel says, ‘The book does that in a way that’s just celebrating women.’
We also have a brilliant online store set up with Bookshop, which lists our previous book recommendations, and helps to support independent bookshops in the UK. You can shop the edit HERE.
And, as usual, please do share your book recommendations in the comments below.