The Victorian Chaise-Longue, by Marghanita Laski

This is a novella about a young woman recovering from tuberculosis who lies down on a chaise-longue and wakes up imprisoned in the body of a dying woman from 90 years earlier. I loved this terrifying short novel that combines elements of science-fiction and horror to capture the sense of entrapment and isolation experienced by both women. 

Isobel Randall, Customer Services Assistant


Small Bodies of Water, by Nina Mingya Powles

In these interconnected lyrical essays, Nina Mingya Powles traces her life through bodies of water, from the pools of Borneo, to the ponds of London, to the coastline of New Zealand. Her ability to tie in themes of culture and identity with nature writing never fails to impress me. This is a book that I keep returning to, and can’t stop recommending! 

Rosie Catcheside, Admin Assistant


Klara and the Sun, by Kazuo Ishiguro

Kazuo Ishiguro’s eighth novel follows Klara, a solar-powered Artificial Friend, who is chosen by Josie, a young girl with a mysterious illness, to be her companion. I loved experiencing the world through Klara’s point of view, especially her relationship with Josie. It’s both heart-warming and heart-breaking – and maybe because I read it at altitude on a plane, the end had me in tears!

Kay Hadden, Admin Manager


Harrow, by Joy Williams 

It’s a deliciously deadpan cli-fi novel that follows a gifted teenager, who discovers a resort on the edge of a lake, where residents are plotting revenge against the corporations responsible for eco-catastrophe. Like much of Williams’ fiction, it’s a challenging read – razor-sharp and bitterly funny, bordering on a fever dream, and leaning heavily into the absurd – but the rewards are worth it!

Maxine Davies, Production Editor


All About Love: New Visions, by bell hooks

This is a forthright and persuasive examination of hooks’ realisation and experience of love, and she expertly applies psychological and philosophical ideas to enrich her argument. I ate this book up! She challenged my narrow conception of love and gave me a framework to think concretely, ‘What does love mean to me?’.

Lucy Crimmens, Marketing & Sales Manager


Savage Tales, by Tara Bergin

It’s an expansive poetry collection that asks questions about the creative process and what it is to make (among other things). These intelligent and often witty poems drew me in – the act of turning the page to discover the next layer of the text was so pleasurable. This book encourages you to devour it, then read it again, embracing the space it creates for reflection.

Kris Johnson, Editorial & Outreach Co-ordinator


The Wonky Donkey, by Craig Smith and Katz Cowley

It’s been such a busy year, all I’ve managed to read recently is a scuba-diving handbook and bedtime stories for my granddaughter. She loved The Wonky Donkey best, which involves increasingly ridiculous rhyming descriptions, starting with, ‘I was walking down the road and I saw a donkey, heehaw...’

Isabel Smales, Finance Director


Olive Kitteridge, by Elizabeth Strout

It’s about brusque big-boned Olive Kitteridge, a retired schoolteacher in small-town Maine in the US – and the effect she has on the people she interacts with. It was my introduction to Elizabeth Strout, and I have been working through her entire backlist ever since. Her writing is so tender, so perceptive, so poised – so deserving of her Pulitzer Prize.

Debbie Taylor, Editorial Director


Sea of Tranquility, by Emily St John Mandel

This novel follows multiple characters who live centuries apart – from 1912 to 2203 and beyond – as they each experience a ‘glitch’ in time, and the impact this has on them and the world around them. It uses futuristic notions of time travel, alongside themes of love, hope and survival, to explore what it is to be human – and made me think about it for days afterwards.

Lauren Wilson, Production Editor


Wide Sargasso Sea, by Jean Rhys

Inspired by Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre, it’s about a Creole heiress who is drawn into a marriage with an Englishman after which  disturbing rumours begin to circulate. I return to this book again and again, because it’s sinister, beautiful and richly evocative. 

Claire Hynes, Mslexia Trustee


Where the Crawdads Sing, by Delia Owens

It’s about solitary young ‘marsh girl’ Kya, who becomes a suspect when a man is found dead. I loved the beautiful descriptions of landscape and wildlife combined with the sadness of Kya’s circumstance and her ability to overcome unbelievable challenges – with the added intrigue of the murder mystery at the start of the book.

Fiona Newborough, Mslexia Trustee


Undrowned: Black Feminist Lessons from Marine Mammals, by Alexis Pauline Gumbs

This is a book-length meditation for social movements, and our whole species, based on the subversive and transformative guidance of marine mammals such as whales and dolphins. This has become one of my frequent references every year since it was published. 

Foluke Taylor, Mslexia Trustee


Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times, by Katherine May

It’s about May’s year-long journey through winter, and how she found inspiration when life felt frozen. Part memoir, part exploration of a human condition, this is a must-read for anyone struggling with the darker days of the season, or who finds themselves facing darkness in life – perhaps suffering a loss: of someone loved or of themselves. It’s a hug in a book!

Julie Farrell, Mslexia Trustee


The Golden Thread: How Fabric Changed History, by Kassia St Clair

It traces the history of thread-making and weaving. It’s fascinating to see how humans discovered ways of turning plants and insect larva cases into cloth. I loved they way the book traced women’s history too, and how women have always sat together: weaving, sewing and knitting and telling stories. 

Laure Brooks, Mslexia Trustee


White Women: Everything You Already Know About Your Own Racism and How to Do Better, by Regina Jackson and Saira Rao

It’s about how white women’s conditioning to be ‘nice’ and ‘polite’ means we hesitate to confront sexism and racism. I found it a really hard read, because I recognised the power of their argument – but in the end it was liberating to see how my perfectionism was supporting the status quo. 

Lucy Nichol, Mslexia Trustee


Tunnel 29: Love, Espionage and Betrayal: the True Story of an Extraordinary Escape Beneath the Berlin Wall, by Helena Merriman

Set in 1962, it’s about a student in West Berlin who digs a tunnel under the Wall to help people in East Berlin escape to the West. It’s a fat book with tiny print, but I literally couldn’t put it down. It’s like reading a thriller, with the added frisson that it’s really recent history. 

Sophie O’Neill, Mslexia Trustee


My Brilliant Friend, by Elena Ferrante

It’s about two girls growing up in Naples, who take very different paths in life. I’m very late to the party with this book, but she’s such a brilliant writer and I loved her descriptions of the city at that time. I’d look forwards to reading it a bit at a time and being transported to Naples at the end of every day.

Alex Westwood, Mslexia Trustee


The Dictionary of Lost Words, by Pip Williams

Set in the suffragist era, it’s about the daughter of the man who wrote the Oxford English Dictionary. She used to hide under the table and pick up the words that were excluded from his dictionary – and used them to create a dictionary of her own. There are two strands to the story, one about the suffragists, one about the words, and I couldn’t wait to get back to each one. 

Lucy Smyth, Treasurer of Board of Trustees


The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt

It’s about a 13-year-old boy who’s taken in by a wealthy New York family and becomes obsessed with a painting that reminds him of his mother. I found myself thinking, ‘I have no idea how you are doing this, taking us to these places, describing these characters’. It really is the novel at its best and restored my confidence in the form. 

Victoria Bazin, Mslexia Trustee


The Island of Sea Women, by Lisa See

It’s about a friendship between two young girls who belong to a traditional community of free-diving women in Korea, who are the main breadwinners of the family. It’s phenomenal, harrowing, wonderful – about a whole way of life under threat. I stayed up until two in the morning reading it.

Audrey Macnaughton, Chair of Board of Trustees


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