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Bookstagram recommends

As you'll know, I do an annual wrap up of my reading year, and pick my favourite read of the year. I thought it would be fun to see what other bookstagrammers said was their favourite (or one of their favourites) of 2022 and why. Regardless of the genre, if a reader picks a book as their book of the year, it is almost definitely going to be worth a read.


So with no further ado, please find xx book recommendations and mini-reviews by some wonderful bookstagram friends. I've also put links to their bookstagram accounts below, so you can go and find them. The reviews are in no particular order. I wholeheartedly agree with the recommendations where it is a book I've read. Please do send your own recommendations and reviews of your 2022 favourite to andy@placesandbooks.com - hopefully there will be enough for another recommendations blogpost.


1. Pascale @borapmania recommends Nana, by Emile Zola


Pascale says "This is the ninth novel of Zola's Rougon-Macquart series. It depicts the rise and fall of Nana, Gervaise‘s daughter (heroine of L’Assommoir, eighth novel of the series).


Born in a working-class family, Nana soon understands the only way to escape her fate and live among the bourgeoisie is to sell her body.


Through his realistic and detailed depiction of the time, Zola shows us how working-class families had to struggle to survive. He also tries to explain how people seem to be doomed by birth.

Reading Nana and more widely, Zola’s novels, immerses yourself in the actual society he depicts so thoroughly."


2. Jeff @jeffstookey1923 recommends The Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler

(Jeff Stookey is the author of the Medicine for the Blues trilogy)


Jeff says "This book casts a powerful and terrifying spell. Set in 2024-2027 (more than 30 years after its publication), I see parallels with the world she creates as I drive around my city today: the drug addicts, the insane, the poor and homeless, the random gun violence, all taking over the streets.


The voice of the young first person narrator is compelling. She is likable and believable, she describes thing clearly and fully, not scrimping on details or leaving anything out."


3. Kate @bookclubreviewpodcast recommends When We Cease to Understand the World by Benjamin Labatut

(The Book Club Review is a wonderful bookish podcast)


Kate says "This amazing short novel consists of five interrelated sections each of which takes certain scientists or mathematicians as a jumping off point for a rich exploration of theories, inventions and societal changes that came about as a result of their work.


Philip Pullman called it ‘monstrous and brilliant’ and I think that sums up something of why it is so mesmerising. For me, the thread running through it is the idea that great knowledge and madness can go hand-in-hand. The scientists whose world Labatut explores were all scarred by their ability to see what no-one else could, to conceptualise a black hole, to understand that matter on a subatomic level is chaos, that a particle can exist in a state of possibility we can never fully understand.


Much like enjoying a thunderstorm while sitting warm and sheltered inside, Labatut’s book allows the reader to peer into the abyss while sitting comfortably turning the pages - an extraordinary and unsettling experience, but one that I absolutely loved."


4. Kahren @slightlyfoxedbooks recommends The Resurrection of Joan Ashby by Cherise Wolas


Kahren says "This book floored me (my bathroom floor actually!) So confident and many-lavered for a debut novel and enough ideas for several novels it took me on a fantastic ride.


The basic premise is very simple but the story is not. The voice it is told in evokes sympathy but also irritation. Sometimes it seems to have too much detail or too many stories within stories but it pulls you in anyway and astonishes."


5. Sophie @globalbookworm recommends The Island of Sea Women by Lisa See


Sophie says "The book is a historical fiction novel depicting the UNESCO world heritage culture of the haenyeo, female divers, on Jeju island in South Korea. Spanning from 1938 to 2008, this novel covers the period of the Japanese colonisation and the Korean war. It's a gripping story of maternity, sorority, friendship, and loss.


It covers topics of grief, guilt, redemption, forgiveness. The language is beautiful and gripping. Trigger warnings are domestic violence and war crimes. It's a read you will learn a lot from and not stop thinking about for a while. This book is history come to life."


6. Maureen @floydswirl recommends Pew by Catherine Lacey


Maureen says "An intricate analysis of the body in its many forms, the writing fluctuates between poetic yet unnerving. The physical, spiritual, and even metaphysical body is explored as a direct response to the main character’s unwillingness to embrace it. Remaining completely anonymous and ungendered, the main character, Pew, allows the reader to reflect and ultimately question their own preconceived notions and biases.


Much like Shirley Jackson’s works, Pew seeks to lift the veil of societal expectations so we can disentangle the truth of our existence, if somewhat uncomfortably."


7. Denise @_fourthtimereads Chronicles Volume One by Bob Dylan


Denise says "As a fan, I love this book because I appreciate how Bob Dylan described discovering Woody Guthrie and Robert Johnson for the very first time.


It always feels nice to read someone writing about the ways in which an artist inspires and changes the way they see things and approach their respective works."


8. Adam @teawithalmondmilk recommends The Gamekeeper by Barry Hines


Adam says "Poverty and privilege, gentleness and brutality, independence and subservience are just some of contradictions the novel delicately balances amid painfully explicit descriptions of animal control and hunting.


'George Purse never killed anything for fun. He only killed to protect his pheasants, which were then killed by other people for fun.'


Devoid of sentimentality, The Gamekeeper eventually becomes an even greater achievement than Hines's superb A Kestrel for a Knave. His writing is so fresh and so clean, reading it is as effortless as breathing."


9. Sue @booksbearsbotany recommends Things We Do Not Tell The People We Love by Huma Qureshi


Sue says "I absolutely loved this book. It's a collection of short stories that touched and often broke my heart. From the tragic events of 'Summer' to the loneliness and misunderstanding of 'Too Much':

'She didn't cry; she didn't request to follow or become a friend. But she couldn't help herself from reaching out ... touching the tiny circle of her daughter's face."


The poignancy of the relationships between mothers and daughters; friends and lovers; wives and their husbands - had me drawing breath, before reaching out for the next story.


Such beautiful, painful, honest and refreshing writing. This is my first read from the light touch of Huma Qureshi's pen, but it will definitely not be my last."


10. Matt @in.the.pages_ recommends Headhunters by Jo Nesbo.


Matt says "Headhunters is a cleverly written and intricately detailed standalone thrillride by Jo Nesbo that doesn't bore you for a second. All the characters are well-defined with crystal clear motives and Nesbo keeps the excitement and tension at an all-time high.


From the beginning to the explosive conclusion, Headhunters is a literal wild ride that absolutely can't be missed."


11. Jen @travels.along.my.bookshelf recommends Starling by Kirsten Cram


Jen says "Sometimes a book comes along that really touches your heart and Starling was one of those for me. A quietly strong, beautiful and emotional story about friendship and love. 


It tells the story of Alice Quinn who moves to Starling, a backwater Canadian town with her mother. Alice does not have a good time. The adults in her life are unpleasant but then she meets Remy and this is where the book takes flight and the real magic begins. Alice and Remy are best friends, ten year old kids written with honesty, taking solace in nature, walking the tightrope of childhood, living in a degree of poverty and with useless adults around,  they negotiate their feelings.


I really cared about these characters, Kirsten gets to the heart of them, there is depth and a real innocence about them that just made me want to hug and look after them both. It's not a whizz bang book, it's is just a treasure to squeeze your heart, make it flip and then fly."


12. Linda @lilus_library recommendsThe Wolf in Winter by Barbara Lennox


Linda says "The Wolf in Winter is the whole package that will have you reading with anticipation. It’s a tale of epic proportions taking root in long ago Scotland.  with multiple storylines intricately woven together and then suddenly ripped apart.  Now I must have the next book.  There’s a character and setting list and maps!


The Wolf in Winter is the first of a trilogy. I just started the second book, The Swan in Summer last night.  I was impressed there was a short prologue to get me back up to speed." 


(Barbara Lennox is on instagram)


13. Paula @pippinsbooks recommends The Education of a Gardener by Russell Page


Paula says "This was an absolutely perfect book for a gardener to read in Winter, when the snow is on the ground and the garden is hibernating. First published in 1962 it hasn't aged, his advice he gives is timeless.  Part One is all about the design process for small private gardens, large estates, town and roadside planting. Part Two talks about specific gardens he has worked on and he walks you through his whole thought process.


The final chapter, though. Oh my. Simply titled My Garden, he takes you on a word painting exploration of the garden he would like to have when he eventually gets a place of his own, and honestly, I want to live there too. A lifetime of knowledge and experience shared unstintingly."


Letty @cleoandbooks recommends Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert


Letty says "Books can be poisonous. O dear Emma! Your very name an oxymoron, trying to reconcile the contradictory designs that could never merge into a conventionally satisfying yet utterly depressing humdrum of a life.


Irony is sprinkled everywhere. After all, isn’t Emma the embodiment of privilege despite her limited feminine condition? Decades after my first read, I could still remember the agricultural show episode, where the empty flirting of Emma’s lover is abruptly interspersed with the official’s discourse, turning the amorous dialogue into ridicule by contrast but also creating unexpected echoes. This mix of tonalities creates a very unique and grotesque type of musicality, a delectable polyphony. Style is Flaubert’s forte. He wanted to give narrative prose as much recognition as verse. He honed his skills shouting his sentences at the top of his lungs to gauge if the rhythm and sonorities worked."


14. Sarah @sarahsbegonias recommends Ain’t Burned All The Bright by Jason Reynolds and Jason Griffin


Sarah says "Powerhouse author/illustrator duo and best friends, Jason Reynolds and Jason Griffin worked together during the pandemic to create  Ain’t Burned All The Bright.  This Young Adult book is weighty both in a physical sense and in subject matter. With over 350 pages of glossy, mesmerizing illustrations and spare text that becomes part of the artwork on each page, Ain’t Burned All The Bright  makes quite an impact.


The story is centered around one black family during the Covid 19 pandemic and at a time of racial violence. In very few words, Reynolds tells a deep, layered, and memorable story. Griffin’s textured, collage-style artwork gives simple and sincere impressions of complex events and feelings. 


The audiobook version of Ain’t Burned All The Bright is equally impactful. Author Jason Reynolds deftly narrates 'Take One' of the story and a full cast of young voices performs 'Take Two'.  Also included is a conversation between Reynolds and Griffin."


15. Debora @classic_lit_lover recommends La Reine Margot by Alexandre Dumas


Debora says "Set during the reign of King Charles IX in the French Renaissance, it narrates the political and religious intrigues that dominated the French court. Dumas is a master in narration and La Reine Margot is no exception. The suspense that he keeps us in while we anxiously read which group will achieve their plots is brilliantly written.


As always, Dumas's character are brought to life with his narration, and you find yourself pitying, admiring or detesting the various characters. La Reine Margot is amongst the best of Dumas novels, a most read for any fan of his work."


16. Michaela @Tiquismicky recommends Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

Michaela says "This book was a true discovery and simply unputdownable. The main character completely gripped me. I felt with her, was proud of her way of mastering the hard life in abject poverty, starting at a very young age, the harsh, but beautiful environment, her illiteracy at the beginning of the book so well that she even became a writer.


The nature descriptions were wonderful. I absolutely agree with the end of the book, as it also confirmed my suspicions. Absolutely worth reading - which has also been confirmed by all the people to whom I recommended the book!"


17. Linda @lindabookmania recommends A Master of Djinn by P. Djelí Clark

Linda says "I haven't seen near enough yelling about this one. Setting, characters, magic system. Check, check, check. I think this felt wholly original and fresh. First, steampunk 1912 Egypt. Yes, please. A huge magical library? Oh yes. Different levels of magical beings, a mass murder, and (literally) tearing up the town.


This was a fun, wild ride. Fatma is the perfect heroine, and the stakes couldn't be higher. Arabian Nights meets Wild Wild West. You know it's a good story when you feel the need to hunt for anything else this author has written."


___________


Let me know if you try any of these, and what you think. Or if you have already read them, do you agree with the recommendation?


If you have your own review of a favourite book, please do send them to me andy@placesandbooks.com and I'll include them in a second recommendations blog later in the year.


TTFN, Andy xx

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