Our Books of the Year 2023

Each member of our team chooses their favourite book of the year, the book that we loved so much it deserves an award – in our humble opinion!

Alex’s Book of the Year:

The Bandit Queens by Parini Shroff

I loved this book! Whilst dealing with issues of abuse and coercive control it still manages at times to be genuinely hilarious. A powerful testimony to the power of women united in a common goal. Absolutely wonderful!

Denise’s Book of the Year:

Small Worlds by Caleb Azumah Nelson

‘A wonderfully lyrical work of prose that brought me to tears nearly every page. Nelson’s delicate portrayal of his characters, and their close-knit relations with one another is so beautiful and tender. This book follows Stephen, an 18 year old son of Ghanaian immigrants living in South East London, on the precipice of adulthood… Throughout this journey, we as readers come to appreciate the joys of music and the small intimate worlds we ourselves have created with others. As someone who is Ghanaian and from SE london, this novel felt so familiar and illuminating to me in ways I couldn’t explain. A must read! Heart aching and brilliant!’

Elle’s Book of the Year:

Our Wives Under the Sea by Julia Armfield

A haunting, profound and incredibly memorable story of a married couple facing the unprecedented. A heart-wrenching story of selflessness, and a tender exploration of queer love and what it means to be a partner. It has everything I love in a book – it builds atmosphere delicately and deliberately, it’s weird, it has horror elements, and the characters are so incredibly authentic – they leap off of the page. 

Grace’s Book of the Year:

Masters of Death by Olivie Blake

The type of book you overload onto friends with a ridiculous summary of “It’s vampire real-estate agents!” purposely not delving into the absolute sparkling prose, paragraphs you read over and over again until they’re polished like sea glass by your eyes and you’re seething with envy.

Harry’s Book of the Year:

Close to Home by Michael Magee

‘A novel about belonging told from a vulnerable working class perspective that I feel is too rare in publishing. It is by far the best book I’ve read in years and it’s a debut! Magee’s prose is tender and true. Sean’s voice has stayed with me being so fully realised, funny and pained in equal parts… A perfect Irish debut. Like the best of Sally Rooney, Dubliner’s Joyce, Shuggie Bain, etc. I adore this book. Unforgettable.’

Helena’s Book of the Year:

Legends and Lattes by Travis Baldree

This might just be the cosiest book I have ever read. In a fantasy world of orcs, gnomes and succubi, Viv decides to hang up her sword and fulfil her dream: opening a coffee shop. With colourful characters and wonderfully vivid descriptions, this is the perfect book for any fantasy fan looking to escape the battlefield and have a nice hot coffee on a cold winter’s night.

Immy’s Book of the Year:

I’m a Fan by Sheena Patel

Our narrator, a young and slightly unhinged young woman working in South London, writes of her obsessive, intense, and unequal affair with an unavailable man.

Written in short punchy chapters with an urgent voice, this interesting and powerful debut is a savage deconstruction of social media, sex, politics, race, and what it means to be a woman in 2023.

Julie’s Book of the Year:

Western Lane by Chetna Maroo

This quiet, softly spoken first person narrative hooked me in, clean, taut writing, cuts through the noise and places you at the heart of this story of family each dealing with their grief and loss and how to navigate the future.

A wonderful debut novel so sensitively written and with such empathy, the author uses both what is said and what remains unsaid so effectively, both in conversation and narrative.

Nick’s Book of the Year:

Fifteen Wild Decembers by Karen Powell

It’s a brave novelist who seeks to enter the mind of Emily Bronte, to be a ventriloquist to such strange genius, but this book is a triumph in its psychological acuity and wonderful use of language. (And Emily’s bull mastiff Keeper should now be in any list of best dogs in fiction.)

Fleur’s Book of the Year:

Roman Stories by Jhumpa Lahiri

‘In this incredible book Jhumpa Lahiri manages something I imagine so many writers strive their whole careers to achieve – capturing life, setting down some of the essence of our humanity onto the page; making a reader care intensely not just for the characters in the book, or even our own loved ones, but for all people whoever they are, wherever they are, wherever they’ve come from.

Roman Stories is a series of spotlights shone on different inhabitants of contemporary Rome, all connected by a series of steps in the city. A grieving couple,  a migrant family looking for a permanent place to settle, wealthy ex-pats, brothers, teenagers – secrets, inner lives, public faces. The insights into the characters in the stories are so deeply affecting, making me (as a reader) on the one hand feel seen, and on the other hand  wonder/worry – who else sees me like this? Are my own secrets actually not secret at all, and are really on view for the world to know?

In our time of constant change – shifting powers, ideals and opinions – books can be invaluable in letting us through other doors to see alternatives to the way things are portrayed in the mainstream media.

This book is subtle and quiet, clear and a force. It moved me more than I’m capable of satisfyingly putting into words (I’m no Jhumpa Lahiri). So all I can do is urge you to read it and see for yourself.’

Valerie’s Book of the Year:

Shot with Crimson by Nicola Upson

Nicola Upson is on superb form in Shot With Crimson, her 11th crime novel featuring the real life Scottish crime writer and playwright Josephine Tey as her detective. Set in 1940,  Josephine makes a risky crossing  over the Atlantic to be in Hollywood with her partner who is working on the iconic Hitchcock film Rebecca then being shot in Hollywood.  Josephine is caught up in a crime which had its origins in an English country house during the First World War and has links to the story of Rebecca. The real characters and true events surrounding the making of the film interwoven with the layered  fictional crime story make for a dramatic and sophisticated homage to golden age crime fiction.