These are the books that bookclub have nominated for next years reading list. There is a summary of each book taken from Goodreads. Choose your favourite 15 books and vote for them. This will form our final reading list for 2023-2024. To get the link to vote go to the HWC facebook page or email me at email@example.com. You must be a member of HWC to vote. Voting closes on the 20th May.
- Remarkably Bright Creatures by Shelby Van Pelt 369 pages
Taken from Goodreads ‘For fans of A Man Called Ove, a charming, witty and compulsively readable exploration of friendship, reckoning, and hope, tracing a widow’s unlikely connection with a giant Pacific octopus.
After Tova Sullivan’s husband died, she began working the night shift at the Sowell Bay Aquarium, mopping floors and tidying up. Keeping busy has always helped her cope, which she’s been doing since her eighteen-year-old son, Erik, mysteriously vanished on a boat in Puget Sound over thirty years ago.
Tova becomes acquainted with curmudgeonly Marcellus, a giant Pacific octopus living at the aquarium. Marcellus knows more than anyone can imagine but wouldn’t dream of lifting one of his eight arms for his human captors–until he forms a remarkable friendship with Tova.
Ever the detective, Marcellus deduces what happened the night Tova’s son disappeared. And now Marcellus must use every trick his old invertebrate body can muster to unearth the truth for her before it’s too late.
Shelby Van Pelt’s debut novel is a gentle reminder that sometimes taking a hard look at the past can help uncover a future that once felt impossible.’
2. This Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel 338 pages
Taken from Goodreads ‘This is how a family keeps a secret…and how that secret ends up keeping them.
This is how a family lives happily ever after…until happily ever after becomes complicated.
This is how children change…and then change the world.
This is Claude. He’s five years old, the youngest of five brothers, and loves peanut butter sandwiches. He also loves wearing a dress, and dreams of being a princess.
When he grows up, Claude says, he wants to be a girl.
Rosie and Penn want Claude to be whoever Claude wants to be. They’re just not sure they’re ready to share that with the world. Soon the entire family is keeping Claude’s secret. Until one day it explodes.
This Is How It Always Is is a novel about revelations, transformations, fairy tales, and family. And it’s about the ways this is how it always is: Change is always hard and miraculous and hard again, parenting is always a leap into the unknown with crossed fingers and full hearts, children grow but not always according to plan. And families with secrets don’t get to keep them forever.’
3. The Echo Chamber by John Boyne 432 pages
Taken from Goodreads ‘What a thing of wonder a mobile phone is. Six ounces of metal, glass and plastic, fashioned into a sleek, shiny, precious object. At once, a gateway to other worlds – and a treacherous weapon in the hands of the unwary, the unwitting, the inept.
The Cleverley family live a gilded life, little realising how precarious their privilege is, just one tweet away from disaster. George, the patriarch, is a stalwart of television interviewing, a ‘national treasure’ (his words), his wife Beverley, a celebrated novelist (although not as celebrated as she would like), and their children, Nelson, Elizabeth, Achilles, various degrees of catastrophe waiting to happen.
Together they will go on a journey of discovery through the Hogarthian jungle of the modern living where past presumptions count for nothing and carefully curated reputations can be destroyed in an instant. Along the way they will learn how volatile, how outraged, how unforgiving the world can be when you step from the proscribed path.
Powered by John Boyne’s characteristic humour and razor-sharp observation, The Echo Chamber is a satiric helter skelter, a dizzying downward spiral of action and consequence, poised somewhere between farce, absurdity and oblivion. To err is maybe to be human, but to really foul things up you only need a phone.’
4) Trespasses by Louise Kennedy 304 pages
Taken from Goodreads’ Set in Northern Ireland during the Troubles, a shattering novel about a young woman caught between allegiance to community and a dangerous passion.
Amid daily reports of violence, Cushla lives a quiet life with her mother in a small town near Belfast. By day she teaches at a parochial school; at night she fills in at her family’s pub. There she meets Michael Agnew, a barrister who’s made a name for himself defending IRA members. Against her better judgment – Michael is not only Protestant but older, and married – Cushla lets herself get drawn in by him and his sophisticated world, and an affair ignites. Then the father of a student is savagely beaten, setting in motion a chain reaction that will threaten everything, and everyone, Cushla most wants to protect.
As tender as it is unflinching, Trespasses is a heart-pounding, heart-rending drama of thwarted love and irreconcilable loyalties, in a place what you come from seems to count more than what you do, or whom you cherish.’
5) The Man on a Donkey by HFM Prescott 640 pages
Taken from Goodreads ‘ A powerful novel of England during the reign of Henry VIII. When the King’s men despoil the monasteries and divide the wealth among the royal favourites, rebellion begins to brew in the north–and for a few weeks, the leader held the fate of a nation in his hands.’
6) The Paris Apartment by Lucy Foley 360 pages
Taken from Goodreads ‘From the New York Times bestselling author of The Guest List comes a new locked room mystery, set in a Paris apartment building in which every resident has something to hide…
Jess needs a fresh start. She’s broke and alone, and she’s just left her job under less than ideal circumstances. Her half-brother Ben didn’t sound thrilled when she asked if she could crash with him for a bit, but he didn’t say no, and surely everything will look better from Paris. Only when she shows up – to find a very nice apartment, could Ben really have afforded this? – he’s not there.
The longer Ben stays missing, the more Jess starts to dig into her brother’s situation, and the more questions she has. Ben’s neighbours are an eclectic bunch, and not particularly friendly. Jess may have come to Paris to escape her past, but it’s starting to look like it’s Ben’s future that’s in question.
The socialite – The nice guy – The alcoholic – The girl on the verge – The concierge
Everyone’s a neighbour. Everyone’s a suspect. And everyone knows something they’re not telling.’
7) 1876 by Gore Vidal 362 pages
Taken from Goodreads ‘The centennial of the United States was celebrated with great fanfare—fireworks, exhibitions, pious calls to patriotism, and perhaps the most underhanded political machination in the country’s history: the theft of the presidency from Samuel Tilden in favour of Rutherford B. Hayes. This was the Gilded Age, when robber barons held the purse strings of the nation, and the party in power was determined to stay in power. Gore Vidal’s novel 1876 gives us the news of the day through the eyes of Charlie Schuyler, who has returned from exile to regain a lost fortune and arrange a marriage into New York society for his widowed daughter. And although Tammany Hall has faltered and Boss Tweed has fled, the effects of corruption reach deep, even into Schuyler’s own family.’
8) Sword Song by Bernard Cornwell 336 pages
Taken from Goodreads ‘The year is 885, and England is at peace, divided between the Danish kingdom to the north and the Saxon kingdom of Wessex in the south. Warrior by instinct and Viking by nature, Uhtred, the dispossessed son of a Northumbrian lord, has land, a wife and children—and a duty to King Alfred to hold the frontier on the Thames. But a dead man has risen, and new Vikings have invaded the decayed Roman city of London with dreams of conquering Wessex… with Uhtred’s help. Suddenly forced to weigh his oath to the king against the dangerous turning tide of shifting allegiances and deadly power struggles, Uhtred—Alfred’s sharpest sword—must now make the choice that will determine England’s future.
9) A Possible Life by Sebastian Faulks 287 pages
Taken from Goodreads ‘From the critically acclaimed, bestselling author of Birdsong, new fiction about love and war—five transporting stories and five unforgettable lives, linked across centuries.
In Second World War Poland, a young prisoner closes his eyes and pictures going to bat on a sunlit English cricket ground.
Across the yard of a Victorian poorhouse, a man is too ashamed to acknowledge the son he gave away.
In a 19th-century French village, an old servant understands – suddenly and with awe – the meaning of the Bible story her master is reading to her.
On a summer evening in the Catskills in 1971, a skinny girl steps out of a Chevy with a guitar and with a song that will send shivers through her listeners’ skulls.
A few years from now, in Italy, a gifted scientist discovers links between time and the human brain and between her lover’s novel and his life.
Throughout the five masterpieces of fiction that make up A Possible Life, exquisitely drawn and unforgettable characters risk their bodies, hearts and minds in pursuit of the manna of human connection. Between soldier and lover, parent and child, servant and master, and artist and muse, important pleasures and pains are born of love, separations and missed opportunities. These interactions – whether successful or not – also affect the long trajectories of characters’ lives.
Provocative and profound, Sebastian Faulks’s dazzling new novel journeys across continents and centuries not only to entertain with superb old-fashioned storytelling but to show that occasions of understanding between humans are the one thing that defines us – and that those moments, however fluid, are the one thing that endures.’
10. Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart 430 pages
Taken from Goodreads ‘Shuggie Bain is the unforgettable story of young Hugh “Shuggie” Bain, a sweet and lonely boy who spends his 1980s childhood in run-down public housing in Glasgow, Scotland. Thatcher’s policies have put husbands and sons out of work, and the city’s notorious drugs epidemic is waiting in the wings.
Shuggie’s mother Agnes walks a wayward path: she is Shuggie’s guiding light but a burden for him and his siblings. She dreams of a house with its own front door while she flicks through the pages of the Freemans catalogue, ordering a little happiness on credit, anything to brighten up her grey life. Married to a philandering taxi-driver husband, Agnes keeps her pride by looking good–her beehive, make-up, and pearly-white false teeth offer a glamourous image of a Glaswegian Elizabeth Taylor. But under the surface, Agnes finds increasing solace in drink, and she drains away the lion’s share of each week’s benefits–all the family has to live on–on cans of extra-strong lager hidden in handbags and poured into tea mugs.
Agnes’s older children find their own ways to get a safe distance from their mother, abandoning Shuggie to care for her as she swings between alcoholic binges and sobriety. Shuggie is meanwhile struggling to somehow become the normal boy he desperately longs to be, but everyone has realized that he is “no right,” a boy with a secret that all but him can see. Agnes is supportive of her son, but her addiction has the power to eclipse everyone close to her–even her beloved Shuggie.
A heartbreaking story of addiction, sexuality, and love, Shuggie Bain is an epic portrayal of a working-class family that is rarely seen in fiction. Recalling the work of Edouard Louis, Alan Hollinghurst, Frank McCourt, and Hanya Yanagihara, it is a blistering debut by a brilliant novelist who has a powerful and important story to tell.’
11. The Magician by Colm Toibin 498 pages
Taken from Goodreads ‘Colm Tóibín’s new novel opens in a provincial German city at the turn of the twentieth century, where the boy, Thomas Mann, grows up with a conservative father, bound by propriety, and a Brazilian mother, alluring and unpredictable. Young Mann hides his artistic aspirations from his father and his homosexual desires from everyone. He is infatuated with one of the richest, most cultured Jewish families in Munich, and marries the daughter Katia. They have six children. On a holiday in Italy, he longs for a boy he sees on a beach and writes the story Death in Venice. He is the most successful novelist of his time, winner of the Nobel Prize in literature, a public man whose private life remains secret. He is expected to lead the condemnation of Hitler, whom he underestimates. His oldest daughter and son, leaders of Bohemianism and of the anti-Nazi movement, share lovers. He flees Germany for Switzerland, France and, ultimately, America, living first in Princeton and then in Los Angeles.
The Magician is an intimate, astonishingly complex portrait of Mann, his magnificent and complex wife Katia, and the times in which they lived—the first world war, the rise of Hitler, World War II, the Cold War, and exile.’
12. Every Man for Himself by Beryl Bainbridge 224 pages
Taken from Goodreads ‘The sinking of the world’s greatest luxury liner, the invincible and magnificent S. S. Titanic, has captured people’s attention ever since that tragic April night in 1912, when 1500 people lost their lives. And no one has better dramatized this memorable event than Beryl Bainbridge in Every Man for Himself.’
13. Fiesta: The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway 216 pages
Taken from Good reads Paris in the twenties: Pernod, parties and expatriate Americans, loose-living on money from home. Jake is wildly in love with Brett Ashley, aristocratic and irresistibly beautiful, but with an abandoned, sensuous nature that she cannot change. When the couple drifts to Spain to the dazzle of the fiesta and the heady atmosphere of the bullfight, their affair is strained by new passions, new jealousies, and Jake must finally learn that he will never possess the woman he loves..
14. Winter Solstice by Rosamunde Pilcher 262 pages
Taken from Goodreads ‘Raise one last glass with the Quinn Family at the Winter Street Inn.
It’s been too long since the entire Quinn family has been able to celebrate the holidays under the same roof, but that’s about to change. With Bart back safe and sound from Afghanistan, the Quinns are preparing for a holiday more joyous than any they’ve experienced in years. And Bart’s safe return isn’t the family’s only good news: Kevin is enjoying married life with Isabelle; Patrick is getting back on his feet after paying his debt to society; Ava thinks she’s finally found the love of her life; and Kelly is thrilled to see his family reunited at last. But it just wouldn’t be a Quinn family gathering if things went smoothly. A celebration of everything we love–and some of the things we endure–about the holidays, WINTER SOLSTICE is Elin Hilderbrand at her festive best.’
15. Sorrow and Bliss by Meg Mason 352 pages
Taken from Goodreads ‘ This novel is about a woman called Martha. She knows there is something wrong with her but she doesn’t know what it is. Her husband Patrick thinks she is fine. He says everyone has something, the thing is just to keep going.
Martha told Patrick before they got married that she didn’t want to have children. He said he didn’t mind either way because he has loved her since he was fourteen and making her happy is all that matters, although he does not seem able to do it.
By the time Martha finds out what is wrong, it doesn’t really matter anymore. It is too late to get the only thing she has ever wanted. Or maybe it will turn out that you can stop loving someone and start again from nothing – if you can find something else to want.’
16. The Promise by Damon Galgut 293 pages
Taken from Goodreads ‘The Promise charts the crash and burn of a white South African family, living on a farm outside Pretoria. The Swarts are gathering for Ma’s funeral. The younger generation, Anton and Amor, detest everything the family stand for — not least the failed promise to the Black woman who has worked for them her whole life. After years of service, Salome was promised her own house, her own land… yet somehow, as each decade passes, that promise remains unfulfilled.
The narrator’s eye shifts and blinks: moving fluidly between characters, flying into their dreams; deliciously lethal in its observation. And as the country moves from old deep divisions to its new so-called fairer society, the lost promise of more than just one family hovers behind the novel’s title.
In this story of a diminished family, sharp and tender emotional truths hit home. Confident, deft and quietly powerful, The Promise is literary fiction at its finest.’
17. Children of Paradise by Camilla Grudova 200 pages
Taken from Goodreads ‘When Holly applies for a job at the Paradise – one of the city’s oldest cinemas, squashed into the ground floor of a block of flats – she thinks it will be like any other shift work. She cleans toilets, sweeps popcorn, avoids the belligerent old owner, Iris, and is ignored by her aloof but tight-knit colleagues who seem as much a part of the building as its fraying carpets and endless dirt. Dreadful, lonely weeks pass while she longs for their approval, a silent voyeur. So when she finally gains the trust of this cryptic band of oddballs, Holly transforms from silent drudge to rebellious insider and gradually she too becomes part of the Paradise – unearthing its secrets, learning its history and haunting its corridors after hours with the other ushers. It is no surprise when violence strikes, tempers change and the group, eyes still affixed to the screen, starts to rapidly go awry…’
18. Cursed Bread by Sophie Mackintosh 304 pages
Taken from Goodreads ‘From the Man Booker-nominated author of The Water Cure comes an elegant and hypnotic new novel of obsession that centres on the real unsolved mystery of the 1951 mass poisoning of a French village.
Still reeling in the aftermath of the deadliest war the world had ever seen, the small town of Pont-Saint-Esprit collectively lost its mind. Some historians believe the mysterious illness and violent hallucinations were caused by spoiled bread; others claim it was the result of covert government testing on the local population.
In that town lived a woman named Elodie. She was the baker’s wife: a plain, unremarkable person who yearned to transcend her dull existence. So when a charismatic new couple arrived in town, the forceful ambassador and his sharp-toothed wife, Violet, Elodie was quickly drawn into their orbit. Thus began a dangerous game of cat and mouse – but who was the predator and on whom did they prey?
Audacious and mesmerising, Cursed Bread is a fevered confession, an entry into memory’s hall of mirrors, and an erotic fable of transformation. Sophie Mackintosh spins a darkly gleaming tale of a town gripped by hysteria, envy like poison in the blood, and desire that burns and consumes.’
19. Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver 546 pages
Taken from Goodreads ‘”Anyone will tell you the born of this world are marked from the get-out, win or lose.”
Set in the mountains of southern Appalachia, this is the story of a boy born to a teenaged single mother in a single-wide trailer, with no assets beyond his dead father’s good looks and copper-coloured hair, a caustic wit, and a fierce talent for survival. In a plot that never pauses for breath, relayed in his own unsparing voice, he braves the modern perils of foster care, child labour, derelict schools, athletic success, addiction, disastrous loves, and crushing losses. Through all of it, he reckons with his own invisibility in a popular culture where even the superheroes have abandoned rural people in favour of cities.
Many generations ago, Charles Dickens wrote David Copperfield from his experience as a survivor of institutional poverty and its damages to children in his society. Those problems have yet to be solved in ours. Dickens is not a prerequisite for readers of this novel, but he provided its inspiration. In transposing a Victorian epic novel to the contemporary American South, Barbara Kingsolver enlists Dickens’ anger and compassion, and above all, his faith in the transformative powers of a good story. Demon Copperhead speaks for a new generation of lost boys, and all those born into beautiful, cursed places they can’t imagine leaving behind.
20. Fire Rush by Jacqueline Crooks 352 pages
Taken from Goodreads Set amid the Jamaican diaspora in London at the dawn of 1980s, a mesmerizing story of love, loss, and self-discovery that vibrates with the liberating power of music
Yamaye lives for the weekend, when she goes raving with her friends, the “Tombstone Estate gyals,” at The Crypt, an underground dub reggae club in their industrial town on the outskirts of London. Raised by her distant father after her mother’s disappearance when she was a girl, Yamaye craves the oblivion of sound – a chance to escape into the rhythms of those smoke-filled nights, to discover who she really is in the dance-hall darkness.
When Yamaye meets Moose, a soulful carpenter who shares her Jamaican heritage, a path toward a different kind of future seems to open. But then, Babylon rushes in. In a devastating cascade of violence that pits state power against her loved ones and her community, Yamaye loses everything. Friendless and adrift, she embarks on a dramatic journey of transformation that takes her to the Bristol underworld and, finally, to Jamaica, where past and present collide with explosive consequences.
The unforgettable story of one young woman’s search for home, animated by a ferocity of vision, electrifying music, and the Jamaican spiritual imagination, Fire Rush is a blazing achievement from a brilliant voice in contemporary fiction.
21. Glory by NoViolet Bulawayo 416 pages
Taken from Goodreads ‘From the award-winning author of the Booker-prize finalist We Need New Names, a blockbuster of a novel that chronicles the fall of an oppressive regime, and the chaotic, kinetic potential for real liberation that rises in its wake.
Glory centres around the unexpected fall of Old Horse, a long-serving leader of a fictional country, and the drama that follows for a rumbustious nation of animals on the path to true liberation. Inspired by the unexpected fall by coup, in November 2017, of Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe’s president of nearly four decades, Bulawayo’s bold, vividly imagined novel shows a country imploding, narrated by a chorus of animal voices who unveil the ruthlessness and cold strategy required to uphold the illusion of absolute power, and the imagination and bullet-proof optimism to overthrow it completely.
As with her debut novel We Need New Names, Bulawayo’s fierce voice and lucid imagery immerses us in the daily life of a traumatized nation, revealing the dazzling life force and irrepressible wit that lies barely concealed beneath the surface of seemingly bleak circumstances. At the centre of this tumult is Destiny, who has returned to Jidada from exile to bear witness to revolution–and focus on the unofficial history and the potential legacy of the women who have quietly pulled the strings in this country.
The animal kingdom–its connection to our primal responses and resonance in the mythology, folktales, and fairy tales that define cultures the world over–unmasks the surreality of contemporary global politics to help us understand our world more clearly, even as Bulwayo plucks us right out of it. Glory is a blockbuster, an exhilarating ride, and crystalizes a turning point in history with the texture and nuance that only the greatest of fiction can.’
22. Homesick by Jennifer Croft 356 pages
Taken from Goodreads ‘The coming of age story of an award-winning translator, Homesick is about learning to love language in its many forms, healing through words and the promises and perils of empathy and sisterhood.
Sisters Amy and Zoe grow up in Oklahoma where they are homeschooled for an unexpected reason: Zoe suffers from debilitating and mysterious seizures, spending her childhood in hospitals as she undergoes surgeries. Meanwhile, Amy flourishes intellectually, showing an innate ability to glean a world beyond the troubles in her home life, exploring that world through languages first. Amy’s first love appears in the form of her Russian tutor Sasha, but when she enters university at the age of 15 her life changes drastically and with tragic results.’
23. I’m a fan by Sheena Patel 207 pages
Taken from Goodreads ‘In I’m A Fan, a single speaker uses the story of their experience in a seemingly unequal, unfaithful relationship as a prism through which to examine the complicated hold we each have on one another. With a clear and unforgiving eye, the narrator unpicks the behaviour of all involved, herself included, and makes startling connections between the power struggles at the heart of human relationships and those of the wider world, in turn offering a devastating critique of access, social media, patriarchal hetero-normative relationships, and our cultural obsession with status and how that status is conveyed.
In this incredible debut, Sheena Patel announces herself as a vital new voice in literature, capable of rendering a range of emotions and visceral experiences on the page. Sex, violence, politics, tenderness, humour—Patel handles them all with both originality and dexterity of voice.
24. Memphis by Tara M Stringfellow 252 pages
Taken from Goodreads A spellbinding debut novel tracing three generations of a Southern Black family and one daughter’s discovery that she has the power to change her family’s legacy.
Summer 1995: Ten-year-old Joan, her mother, and her younger sister flee her father’s explosive temper and seek refuge at her mother’s ancestral home in Memphis. This is not the first time violence has altered the course of the family’s trajectory. Half a century earlier, Joan’s grandfather built this majestic house in the historic Black neighbourhood of Douglass—only to be lynched days after becoming the first Black detective in the city. Joan tries to settle into her new life, but family secrets cast a longer shadow than any of them expected.
As she grows up, Joan finds relief in her artwork, painting portraits of the community in Memphis. One of her subjects is their enigmatic neighbour Miss Dawn, who claims to know something about curses, and whose stories about the past help Joan see how her passion, imagination, and relentless hope are, in fact, the continuation of a long matrilineal tradition. Joan begins to understand that her mother, her mother’s mother, and the mothers before them persevered, made impossible choices, and put their dreams on hold so that her life would not have to be defined by loss and anger—that the sole instrument she needs for healing is her paintbrush.
Unfolding over seventy years through a chorus of unforgettable voices that move back and forth in time, Memphis paints an indelible portrait of inheritance, celebrating the full complexity of what we pass down, in a family and as a country: brutality and justice, faith and forgiveness, sacrifice and love.
25. Pod by Laline Paul 272 pages
Taken from Goodreads ‘An astonishing and immersive new novel, Pod takes the reader into the depths of the ocean—and into the world of its fascinating inhabitants—through the eyes of the beautiful Ea, a spinner dolphin.
Laline Paull returns with an immersive and transformative new novel of an ocean world—its extraordinary creatures, mysteries, and mythologies—that is increasingly haunted by the cruelty and ignorance of the human race.
Ea has always felt like an outsider. As a spinner dolphin who has recently come of age, she’s now expected to join in the elaborate rituals that unite her pod. But Ea suffers from a type of deafness that prevents her from mastering the art of spinning. When catastrophe befalls her family and Ea knows she is partly to blame, she decides to make the ultimate sacrifice and leave the pod.
As Ea ventures into the vast, she discovers dangers everywhere, from lurking predators to strange objects floating in the water. Not to mention the ocean itself seems to be changing; creatures are mutating, demonic noises pierce the depths, whole species of fish disappear into the sky above. Just as she is coming to terms with her solitude, a chance encounter with a group of arrogant bottlenoses will irrevocably alter the course of her life.
In her terrifying, propulsive novel, Laline Paull explores the true meaning of family, belonging, sacrifice—the harmony and tragedy of the pod—within an ocean that is no longer the sanctuary it once was, and which reflects a world all too recognizable to our own.’
26. Stone Blind by Natalie Haynes 373 pages
Taken from Goodreads ‘A fresh take on the story of Medusa, the original monstered woman.
They will fear you and flee you and call you a monster.
The only mortal in a family of gods, Medusa is the youngest of the Gorgon sisters. Unlike her siblings, Medusa grows older, experiences change, feels weakness. Her mortal lifespan gives her an urgency that her family will never know.
When the sea god Poseidon assaults Medusa in Athene’s temple, the goddess is enraged. Furious by the violation of her sacred space, Athene takes revenge–on the young woman. Punished for Poseidon’s actions, Medusa is forever transformed. Writhing snakes replace her hair and her gaze will turn any living creature to stone. Cursed with the power to destroy all she loves with one look, Medusa condemns herself to a life of solitude.
Until Perseus embarks upon a fateful quest to fetch the head of a Gorgon…
In Stone Blind, classicist and comedian Natalie Haynes turns our understanding of this legendary myth on its head, bringing empathy and nuance to one of the earliest stories in which a woman–injured by a powerful man–is blamed, punished, and monstered for the assault. Delving into the origins of this mythic tale, Haynes revitalizes and reconstructs Medusa’s story with her passion and fierce wit, offering a timely retelling of this classic myth that speaks to us today.’
27. The Bandit Queens by Parini Shroff 352 pages
Taken from Goodreads ‘Geeta’s no-good husband disappeared five years ago. She didn’t kill him, but everyone thinks she did–no matter how much she protests.
But she soon discovers that being known as a “self-made” widow has some surprising perks. No one messes with her, no one threatens her, and no one tries to control (ahem, marry) her. It’s even been good for her business; no one wants to risk getting on her bad side by not buying her jewellery.
Freedom must look good on Geeta, because other women in the village have started asking for her help to get rid of their own no-good husbands…but not all of them are asking nicely.
Now that Geeta’s fearsome reputation has become a double-edged sword, she must decide how far to go to protect it, along with the life she’s built. Because even the best-laid plans of would-be widows tend to go awry.’
28. The Dog of the North Elizabeth McKenzie 336 pages
Taken from Goodreads ‘From the National Book Award-longlisted author of The Portable Veblen
Penny Rush has problems. Her marriage is over, and she’s quit her job. Her mother and stepfather went missing in the Australian outback five years ago; her mentally imbalanced father provokes her; her grandmother, Dr. Pincer, keeps experiments in the refrigerator and something worse in the woodshed. But Penny is a virtuoso at what’s possible when all else fails.
The Dog of the North follows Penny on her quest for a fresh start. There will be a road trip in an old van with gingham curtains, a piñata, and stiff brakes. There will be injury and peril. There will be a dog named “Kweecoats” and two brothers who may share a toupée. There will be questions: Why is a detective investigating her grandmother, and what is “the scintillator”? And can Penny recognize a good thing when it finally comes her way?
This slyly humorous, thoroughly winsome novel finds the purpose in life’s curve balls, insisting that even when we are painfully warped by those we love most, we can be brought closer to our truest selves.’
29. The Marriage Portrait Maggie O’Farrell 355 pages
Taken from Goodreads ‘The author of award-winning Hamnet brings the world of Renaissance Italy to jewel-bright life in this unforgettable fictional portrait of the captivating young duchess Lucrezia de’ Medici as she makes her way in a troubled court.
Florence, the 1550s. Lucrezia, third daughter of the grand duke, is comfortable with her obscure place in the palazzo: free to wonder at its treasures, observe its clandestine workings, and devote herself to her own artistic pursuits. But when her older sister dies on the eve of her wedding to the ruler of Ferrara, Modena and Reggio, Lucrezia is thrust unwittingly into the limelight: the duke is quick to request her hand in marriage, and her father just as quick to accept on her behalf.
Having barely left girlhood behind, Lucrezia must now enter an unfamiliar court whose customs are opaque and where her arrival is not universally welcomed. Perhaps most mystifying of all is her new husband himself, Alfonso. Is he the playful sophisticate he appeared to be before their wedding, the aesthete happiest in the company of artists and musicians, or the ruthless politician before whom even his formidable sisters seem to tremble?
As Lucrezia sits in constricting finery for a painting intended to preserve her image for centuries to come, one thing becomes worryingly clear. In the court’s eyes, she has one duty: to provide the heir who will shore up the future of the Ferranese dynasty. Until then, for all of her rank and nobility, the new duchess’s future hangs entirely in the balance.
Full of the beauty and emotion with which she illuminated the Shakespearean canvas of Hamnet, Maggie O’Farrell turns her talents to Renaissance Italy in an extraordinary portrait of a resilient young woman’s battle for her very survival.’
30) Souls Wandering by Cecile Pin 240 pages
Taken from Goodreads ‘A luminous, boldly imagined debut novel about three Vietnamese siblings who seek refuge in the UK, expanding into a sweeping meditation on love, ancestry, and the power of storytelling.
There are the goodbyes and then the fishing out of the bodies—everything in between is speculation.
After the last American troops leave Vietnam, siblings Anh, Thanh, and Minh begin a perilous journey to Hong Kong with the promise that their parents and younger siblings will soon follow. But when tragedy strikes, the three children are left orphaned, and sixteen-year-old Anh becomes the caretaker for her two younger brothers overnight.
In the years that follow, Anh and her brothers resettle in the UK and confront their new identities as refugees, first in overcrowded camps and resettlement centres and then, later, in a modernizing London plagued by social inequality and raging anti-immigrant sentiment. Anh works in a clothing factory to pay their bills. Minh loiters about with fellow unemployed high school dropouts. Thanh, the youngest, plays soccer with his British friends after class. As they mature, each sibling reckons with survivor’s guilt, unmoored by their parents’ absence. With every choice they make, their paths diverge further, until it’s unclear if love alone can keep them together.
Told through lyrical narrative threads, historical research, voices from lost family, and notes by an unnamed narrator determined to chart their fate, Wandering Souls captures the lives of a family marked by war and loss yet relentless in the pursuit of a better future. With urgency and precision, it affirms that the most important stories are those we claim for ourselves, establishing Cecile Pin as a masterful new literary voice.’
31) Enchantment awakening wonder in an anxious age by Katherine May 212 pages
Taken from Goodreads ‘From the New York Times-bestselling author of Wintering, an invitation to rediscover the feelings of awe and wonder available to us all.
Many of us feel trapped in a grind of constant change: rolling news cycles, the chatter of social media, our families split along partisan lines. We feel fearful and tired, on edge in our bodies, not quite knowing what has us perpetually depleted. For Katherine May, this low hum of fatigue and anxiety made her wonder what she was missing. Could there be a different way to relate to the world, one that would allow her to feel more rested and at ease, even as seismic changes unfold on the planet? Might there be a way for all of us to move through life with curiosity and tenderness, sensitized to the subtle magic all around?
In Enchantment, May invites the reader to come with her on a journey to reawaken our innate sense of wonder and awe. With humor, candor, and warmth, she shares stories of her own struggles with work, family, and the aftereffects of pandemic, particularly feelings of overwhelm as the world rushes to reopen. Craving a different way to live, May begins to explore the restorative properties of the natural world, moving through the elements of earth, water, fire, and air and identifying the quiet traces of magic that can be found only when we look for them. Through deliberate attention and ritual, she unearths the potency and nourishment that come from quiet reconnection with our immediate environment. Blending lyricism and storytelling, sensitivity and empathy, Enchantment invites each of us to open the door to human experience in all its sensual complexity, and to find the beauty waiting for us there.
32) The Island Of Missing Trees by Elif Shafak 368 pages
Taken from Goodreads ‘A rich, magical new book on belonging and identity, love and trauma, nature and renewal, from the Booker shortlisted author of 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World.
Two teenagers, a Greek Cypriot and a Turkish Cypriot, meet at a taverna on the island they both call home. In the taverna, hidden beneath garlands of garlic, chili peppers and creeping honeysuckle, Kostas and Defne grow in their forbidden love for each other. A fig tree stretches through a cavity in the roof, and this tree bears witness to their hushed, happy meetings and eventually, to their silent, surreptitious departures. The tree is there when war breaks out, when the capital is reduced to ashes and rubble, and when the teenagers vanish. Decades later, Kostas returns. He is a botanist looking for native species, but really, he’s searching for lost love.
Years later, a Ficus carica grows in the back garden of a house in London where Ada Kazantzakis lives. This tree is her only connection to an island she has never visited – her only connection to her family’s troubled history and her complex identity as she seeks to untangle years of secrets to find her place in the world.
A moving, beautifully written and delicately constructed story of love, division, transcendence, history and eco-consciousness, The Island of Missing Trees is Elif Shafak’s best work yet.’
33) The Paper Palace by Miranda Heller 400 pages
Taken from Goodreads ‘It is a perfect July morning, and Elle, a fifty-year-old happily married mother of three, awakens at “The Paper Palace”—the family summer place which she has visited every summer of her life. But this morning is different: last night Elle and her oldest friend Jonas crept out the back door into the darkness and had sex with each other for the first time, all while their spouses chatted away inside.
Now, over the next twenty-four hours, Elle will have to decide between the life she has made with her genuinely beloved husband, Peter, and the life she always imagined she would have had with her childhood love, Jonas, if a tragic event hadn’t forever changed the course of their lives.
As Heller colors in the experiences that have led Elle to this day, we arrive at her ultimate decision with all its complexity. Tender yet devastating, The Paper Palace considers the tensions between desire and dignity, the legacies of abuse, and the crimes and misdemeanors of families.’
34) The Flight Portfolio by Julie Orringer 576 pages
Taken from Goodreads The long-awaited new work from the best-selling author of The Invisible Bridge takes us back to occupied Europe in this gripping historical novel based on the true story of Varian Fry’s extraordinary attempt to save the work, and the lives, of Jewish artists fleeing the Holocaust.
In 1940, Varian Fry—a Harvard-educated American journalist—traveled to Marseille carrying three thousand dollars and a list of imperiled artists and writers he hoped to rescue within a few weeks. Instead, he ended up staying in France for thirteen months, working under the veil of a legitimate relief organization to procure false documents, amass emergency funds, and set up an underground railroad that led over the Pyrenees, into Spain, and finally to Lisbon, where the refugees embarked for safer ports. Among his many clients were Hannah Arendt, Franz Werfel, André Breton, Max Ernst, Marcel Duchamp, and Marc Chagall.
The Flight Portfolio opens at the Chagalls’ ancient stone house in Gordes, France, as the novel’s hero desperately tries to persuade them of the barbarism and tragedy descending on Europe. Masterfully crafted, exquisitely written, impossible to put down, this is historical fiction of the very first order, and resounding confirmation of Orringer’s gifts as a novelist.
35) Gilead by Marianne Robinson 247 pages
Taken from Goodreads ‘Nearly 25 years after Housekeeping, Marilynne Robinson returns with an intimate tale of three generations, from the Civil War to the 20th century: a story about fathers and sons and the spiritual battles that still rage at America’s heart. In the words of Kirkus, it is a novel “as big as a nation, as quiet as thought, and moving as prayer. Matchless and towering.” GILEAD tells the story of America and will break your heart.
36) Housekeeping by Marianne Robinson 219 pages
Taken from Goodreads ‘A modern classic, Housekeeping is the story of Ruth and her younger sister, Lucille, who grow up haphazardly, first under the care of their competent grandmother, then of two comically bumbling great-aunts, and finally of Sylvie, their eccentric and remote aunt. The family house is in the small Far West town of Fingerbone set on a glacial lake, the same lake where their grandfather died in a spectacular train wreck, and their mother drove off a cliff to her death. It is a town “chastened by an outsized landscape and extravagant weather, and chastened again by an awareness that the whole of human history had occurred elsewhere.” Ruth and Lucille’s struggle toward adulthood beautifully illuminates the price of loss and survival, and the dangerous and deep undertow of transience.’
37) The Feast of the Goat by Mario Vargas Llosa 475 pages
Taken from Goodreads ‘Haunted all her life by feelings of terror and emptiness, forty-nine-year-old Urania Cabral returns to her native Dominican Republic – and finds herself reliving the events of 1961, when the capital was still called Trujillo City and one old man terrorized a nation of three million people. Rafael Trujillo, the depraved ailing dictator whom Dominicans call the Goat, controls his inner circle with a combination of violence and blackmail. In Trujillo’s gaudy palace, treachery and cowardice have become the way of life. But Trujillo’s grasp is slipping away. There is a conspiracy against him, and a Machiavellian revolution already underway that will have bloody consequences of its own. In this ‘masterpiece of Latin American and world literature, and one of the finest political novels ever written’ (“Bookforum”), Mario Vargas Llosa recounts the end of a regime and the birth of a terrible democracy, giving voice to the historical Trujillo and the victims, both innocent and complicit, drawn into his deadly orbit.
38) Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker 325 pages
Taken from Goodreads ‘The ancient city of Troy has withstood a decade under siege of the powerful Greek army, which continues to wage bloody war over a stolen woman—Helen. In the Greek camp, another woman—Briseis—watches and waits for the war’s outcome. She was queen of one of Troy’s neighbouring kingdoms, until Achilles, Greece’s greatest warrior, sacked her city and murdered her husband and brothers. Briseis becomes Achilles’s concubine, a prize of battle, and must adjust quickly in order to survive a radically different life, as one of the many conquered women who serve the Greek army.
When Agamemnon, the brutal political leader of the Greek forces, demands Briseis for himself, she finds herself caught between the two most powerful of the Greeks. Achilles refuses to fight in protest, and the Greeks begin to lose ground to their Trojan opponents. Keenly observant and coolly unflinching about the daily horrors of war, Briseis finds herself in an unprecedented position, able to observe the two men driving the Greek army in what will become their final confrontation, deciding the fate not only of Briseis’s people but also of the ancient world at large.
Briseis is just one among thousands of women living behind the scenes in this war—the slaves and prostitutes, the nurses, the women who lay out the dead—all of them erased by history. With breathtaking historical detail and luminous prose, Pat Barker brings the teeming world of the Greek camp to vivid life. She offers nuanced, complex portraits of characters and stories familiar from mythology, which, seen from Briseis’s perspective, are rife with newfound revelations. Barker’s latest builds on her decades-long study of war and its impact on individual lives—and it is nothing short of magnificent.’
39) Family Lexicon by Natalia Ginsburg – 294 pages
Taken from Goodreads ‘Natalia Ginzburg wrote her masterful, Strega Prize winning novel Family Lexicon while living in London in the 1960s. Homesick for her big, noisy Italian family, she summoned them in this novel, which is a celebration of the routines and rituals, in-jokes and insults and, above all, the repeated sayings that make up every family.
The father, Giuseppe Levi, is a Jewish scientist, consumed by his work and a mania for hiking. Impatient and intractable, he is constantly at odds with his impressionable and wistful wife Lidia – yet he cannot be without her. Together they preside over their five children in a house filled with argument and activity, books and politics, visitors, friends and famous faces. But as their children grow up against the backdrop of Mussolini’s Italy, the Levi household must become not only a home – but a stronghold against fascism.
Intimate, enchanting and comedic, Family Lexicon is an unforgettable novel about memory, language, and the lasting power that family holds over all of us.
40) A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseni 372 pages
Taken from Goodreads ‘Mariam is only fifteen when she is sent to Kabul to marry the troubled and bitter Rasheed, who is thirty years her senior. Nearly two decades later, in a climate of growing unrest, tragedy strikes fifteen-year-old Laila, who must leave her home and join Mariam’s unhappy household. Laila and Mariam are to find consolation in each other, their friendship to grow as deep as the bond between sisters, as strong as the ties between mother and daughter.
With the passing of time comes Taliban rule over Afghanistan, the streets of Kabul loud with the sound of gunfire and bombs, life a desperate struggle against starvation, brutality and fear, the women’s endurance tested beyond their worst imaginings. Yet love can move people to act in unexpected ways, lead them to overcome the most daunting obstacles with a startling heroism. In the end it is love that triumphs over death and destruction.
“A Thousand Splendid Suns” is a portrait of a wounded country and a story of family and friendship, of an unforgiving time, an unlikely bond, and an indestructible love
41) Free Food for Millionaires’ by Min Jin Lee 577 pages
Taken from Goodreads ‘The daughter of Korean immigrants, Casey Han has refined diction, a closeted passion for reading the Bible, a popular white boyfriend, and a magna cum laude degree in economics from Princeton, but no job and an addiction to the things she cannot afford in the glittering world of Manhattan. In this critically-acclaimed debut, Min Jin Lee tells not only Casey’s story, but also those of her sheltered mother, scarred father, and friends both Korean and Caucasian, exposing the astonishing layers of a community clinging to its old ways and a city packed with struggling haves and have-nots.’
42) Sea of Tranquillity’ by Emily St John Mandel 259 pages
Taken from Goodreads ‘A novel of art, time travel, love, and plague that takes the reader from Vancouver Island in 1912 to a dark colony on the moon five hundred years later, unfurling a story of humanity across centuries and space.
Edwin St. Andrew is eighteen years old when he crosses the Atlantic by steamship, exiled from polite society following an ill-conceived diatribe at a dinner party. He enters the forest, spellbound by the beauty of the Canadian wilderness, and suddenly hears the notes of a violin echoing in an airship terminal–an experience that shocks him to his core.
Two centuries later a famous writer named Olive Llewellyn is on a book tour. She’s traveling all over Earth, but her home is the second moon colony, a place of white stone, spired towers, and artificial beauty. Within the text of Olive’s best-selling pandemic novel lies a strange passage: a man plays his violin for change in the echoing corridor of an airship terminal as the trees of a forest rise around him.
When Gaspery-Jacques Roberts, a detective in the black-skied Night City, is hired to investigate an anomaly in the North American wilderness, he uncovers a series of lives upended: The exiled son of an earl driven to madness, a writer trapped far from home as a pandemic ravages Earth, and a childhood friend from the Night City who, like Gaspery himself, has glimpsed the chance to do something extraordinary that will disrupt the timeline of the universe.
A virtuoso performance that is as human and tender as it is intellectually playful, Sea of Tranquility is a novel of time travel and metaphysics that precisely captures the reality of our current moment.’
43) ‘Hello Beautiful’ by Ann Napolitano 416 pages
Taken from Goodreads ‘From the New York Times bestselling author of Dear Edward comes an emotionally layered and engrossing story of a family that asks: Can love make a broken person whole?
William Waters grew up in a house silenced by tragedy, where his parents could hardly bear to look at him, much less love him. So it’s a relief when his skill on the basketball court earns him a scholarship to college, far away from his childhood home. He soon meets Julia Padavano, a spirited and ambitious young woman who surprises William with her appreciation of his quiet steadiness. With Julia comes her family; she is inseparable from her three younger sisters: Sylvie, the dreamer, is happiest with her nose in a book and imagines a future different from the expected path of wife and mother; Cecelia, the family’s artist; and Emeline, who patiently takes care of all of them. Happily, the Padavanos fold Julia’s new boyfriend into their loving, chaotic household.
But then darkness from William’s past surfaces, jeopardizing not only Julia’s carefully orchestrated plans for their future, but the sisters’ unshakeable loyalty to one another. The result is a catastrophic family rift that changes their lives for generations. Will the loyalty that once rooted them be strong enough to draw them back together when it matters most?
Vibrating with tenderness, Hello Beautiful is a gorgeous, profoundly moving portrait of what’s possible when we choose to love someone not in spite of who they are, but because of it.’
44) The Hummingbird’ by Sandro Veronesi 304 pages
Taken from Goodreads ’Marco Carrera is “the hummingbird,” a man with an almost supernatural ability to remain still amid the chaos of an ever-changing world. Though his life is rife with emotional challenges—suffering the death of his sister and the absence of his brother; caring for his elderly parents; raising his granddaughter when her mother, Marco’s own child, is no longer capable; loving an enigmatic woman—Marco carries on with a noble stoicism that belies an intensity for living. As the years pass and the arc of his life bends, Marco finds himself filled with joy for the future as the baton passes from him to the next generation.
A beautiful and compelling journey through time told in myriad narrative styles, The Hummingbird is a story of suffering, happiness, loss, love, and hope—of a man who embodies the quiet heroism that defines daily life for countless ordinary folk. A thrilling novel about the need to look to the future with hope and live with intensity to the very end, Sandro Veronesi’s masterpiece—eminently readable, rich in insight, and filled with interesting twists and revelations—is a portrait of human existence, the vicissitudes and vagaries that propel and ultimately define us. ‘
45) Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow’ by Gabrielle Zevin 416 pages
Taken from Goodreads ‘In this exhilarating novel, two friends–often in love, but never lovers–come together as creative partners in the world of video game design, where success brings them fame, joy, tragedy, duplicity, and, ultimately, a kind of immortality.
On a bitter-cold day, in the December of his junior year at Harvard, Sam Masur exits a subway car and sees, amid the hordes of people waiting on the platform, Sadie Green. He calls her name. For a moment, she pretends she hasn’t heard him, but then, she turns, and a game begins: a legendary collaboration that will launch them to stardom. These friends, intimates since childhood, borrow money, beg favors, and, before even graduating college, they have created their first blockbuster, Ichigo. Overnight, the world is theirs. Not even twenty-five years old, Sam and Sadie are brilliant, successful, and rich, but these qualities won’t protect them from their own creative ambitions or the betrayals of their hearts.
Spanning thirty years, from Cambridge, Massachusetts, to Venice Beach, California, and lands in between and far beyond, Gabrielle Zevin’s Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow is a dazzling and intricately imagined novel that examines the multifarious nature of identity, disability, failure, the redemptive possibilities in play, and above all, our need to connect: to be loved and to love. Yes, it is a love story, but it is not one you have read before.
46) One Hundred Years of Solitude’ by Gabriel Garcia Marquez 416 pages
Taken from Goodreads The brilliant, bestselling, landmark novel that tells the story of the Buendia family, and chronicles the irreconcilable conflict between the desire for solitude and the need for love—in rich, imaginative prose that has come to define an entire genre known as “magical realism.”
47) Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner 256 pages
Taken from Goodreads ‘A memoir about growing up Korean American, losing her mother, and forging her own identity.
Michelle Zauner tells of growing up one of the few Asian American kids at her school in Eugene, Oregon; of struggling with her mother’s particular, high expectations of her; of a painful adolescence; of treasured months spent in her grandmother’s tiny apartment in Seoul, where she and her mother would bond, late at night, over heaping plates of food.
As she grew up, moving to the East Coast for college, finding work in the restaurant industry, and performing gigs with her fledgling band–and meeting the man who would become her husband–her Koreanness began to feel ever more distant, even as she found the life she wanted to live. It was her mother’s diagnosis of terminal cancer, when Michelle was twenty-five, that forced a reckoning with her identity and brought her to reclaim the gifts of taste, language, and history her mother had given her.
48) Nightcrawling’ by Leila Mottley 277 pages
Taken from Goodreads ‘Kiara and her brother, Marcus, are scraping by in an East Oakland apartment complex optimistically called the Regal-Hi. Both have dropped out of high school, their family fractured by death and prison. But while Marcus clings to his dream of rap stardom, Kiara hunts for work to pay their rent–which has more than doubled–and to keep the nine-year-old boy next door, abandoned by his mother, safe and fed.
One night, what begins as a drunken misunderstanding with a stranger turns into the job Kiara never imagined wanting but now desperately needs: nightcrawling. Her world breaks open even further when her name surfaces in an investigation that exposes her as a key witness in a massive scandal within the Oakland Police Department.