In case you haven’t heard of the Women’s Prize for Fiction, it’s a literary award that celebrates female voices and diversity. Which is super awesome. You can visit their website, and read more here. I am a massive book nerd (shocking, I know) and like to follow a lot of the literary awards every year. The Women’s Prize for Fiction (along with the Booker) is one of the two I follow most closely, because they tend to give awards to books I personally enjoy.
They recently announced this year’s longlist, and I see a lot of amazing books there. I am not planning to read all of them (some of them just don’t seem like my cup of tea, and that’s fine). But a lot of them were already on my (unofficial) reading list for this year. And after exploring the other books on this list a bit more, there are a couple I wasn’t interested in, but might pick up now.
Today, I wanted to talk about the books on this list I am planning on reading. I haven’t read any of them yet, so these are not recommendations, just what I’m personally interested in. I also wanted to encourage all of you to check out the list and maybe find some amazing new books written by women. I have actually read four of the most recent five winners (and am currently in the middle of the fifth – which I may have finished by the time you read this). And while I didn’t love all of them, I will say they are all very important and impactful reads and I am glad to have read them. Especially since last year’s winner – Piranesi by Susanna Clarke – was probably my favorite book of 2021. And I have a feeling Hamnet might end up on a favorites list for this year once I finish it.
I divided the list into four sections. First, the books I already own and was planning on reading this year (two of them are even on my 2022 reading list). Next are the books I already knew about and wasn’t planning to read, but might pick up now. Then the books I had no idea existed until the longlist came out and am maybe interested in. And finally, the books I don’t plan on reading. I decided to include these because they do sound like great books that are worth talking about, just not for me (I’ll explain why).
Enough intro – let’s get into the list!
Already on my reading list
Great Circle by Maggie Shipstead
This is a historical fiction novel about a daredevil female aviator and the actress hired to portray her half a century later. I really love historical fiction about badass women, so I was immediately interested in this one. This is one of the books that made my reading list for 2022, so I definitely plan on reading this (it’s tentatively on my list for May). The other book on the longest that made my reading list for the year is…
The Sentence by Louise Erdrich
Somehow, I haven’t read anything by Louise Erdrich yet. I’ve definitely seen her books around – she’s won both the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize, among a ton of other awards, so I’d definitely heard of her. But for some reason just wasn’t very inclined to read her books. Until I saw this one. It’s about a bookstore that is being haunted by the ghost of their most annoying customer, and that just sounds so interested. I need to know what happens in this story. I actually did start this, but just wasn’t feeling it, so I’m going to give it another shot in a few weeks. My brain just hasn’t been into reading more literary things at the moment, so I’ll definitely wait until I’m more in the mood to pick this up.
The Book of Form and Emptiness by Ruth Ozeki
I read and really enjoyed A Tale for The Time Being by Ruth Ozeki back in 2018, but for whatever reason I never really looked more into Ozeki’s other work. But this one seems so very up my alley, I have to read it. It’s about a boy who, after the death of his father, starts to hear inanimate objects – a shoe, a book, lettuce – talk to him. Which reminds me a bit of all of the weird (in a good way) Japanese literature I’ve been into lately, but also gives me Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close vibes. I already picked up a copy and definitely plan on reading it soon-ish.
Books I wasn’t planning on reading, but am more interested in now
The Final Revival of Opal & Nev by Dawnie Walton
I’ve sene this one around and it looked interesting, but books about rock bands are not typically my thing, so I didn’t pay much attention. But after seeing it on the longest, I looked a bit more into it and am actually kind of interested now. It seems vaguely Daisy Jones and The Six-like, but has some darker things going on. There are secrets unearthed, and I think it also deals with race and feminism, so I’m kind of intrigued now.
The Island of Missing Trees by Elif Shafak
Here’s another author I’d seen around a lot, but just never really felt interested enough to pick up. This one did catch my eye back when it came out, but I just wasn’t too sure about it. Honestly, for some reason my brain has not been doing well with books with multiple POVs lately (still recovering from burnout and my concentration abilities are not the best at the moment). This one is about a tree and a war and two teenagers who come together and also the story of one of their descendants years later, living in the house with the tree. It definitely sounds interesting, so I think I’m going to keep this on my radar for when my brain is back to normal.
Build Your House Around My Body by Violet Kupersmith
Now this one, I am very intrigued by. It’s set in Vietnam and follows two women who go missing decades apart. According to the synopsis, this is “part puzzle, part revenge tale, part ghost story” which is really what piqued my interest. I can’t quite tell if this is a fast read, or a super complicated story that will take me a month to get through, but I’m very curious about this one. It’s been getting mixed reviews, and it’s a debut, so I kind of have no idea what I’d be getting into with this one, but it’s caught my eye a bunch of times while I was browsing for books, so I think it’s one I will probably end up reading.
Books I discovered from the list and might check out
Careless by Kirsty Capes
This was really not on my radar at all, mostly because I read very little contemporary YA these days. It’s just not my jam. This is also a debut, so I know pretty much nothing about the author. However, that’s part of why I’m interested now – it’s kind of unusual for a YA novel to make the longlist (looks like there have only been about three in the past five years). Also, the synopsis seems a little bit weird, which we all know is my thing. But also, it’s about a teen in the foster care system, which I don’t think is something I’ve read before, and this book seems like a good place to start.
Creatures of Passage by Morowa Yejidé
I honestly can’t quite get a good sense of this book from the synopsis, but I feel like that’s maybe the point. It’s magical realism horror that also deals with grief and race, which sounds like something I might like. There is also a taxi with a ghost in the trunk, and I need to know more. I am a bit hesitant about this one because I really haven’t enjoyed books that weave together multiple stories (not sure why, but they don’t work for me for some reason), and I’m not sure how I’d do with this one. It’s a maybe.
Salt Lick by Lulu Allison
This is cli-fi (or climate science fiction) that addresses food production and farming and how that affects population movement, etc. Which does seem interesting, and I do want to explore cli-fi a bit more as that becomes a more significant genre, but it also just doesn’t seem like something I want to read right now. Dystopian books are just not that fun to read when they are a bit too similar to what’s actually going on in the world. So it’s kind of on my radar, but it’s not something I want to read with a literal war going on.
Sorrow and Bliss by Meg Mason
This is about a woman who is struggling with her mental health and can’t figure out what is wrong with her. For some reason, the synopsis reminded me of something in between My Year of Rest and Relaxation and The Vegetarian, though maybe less weird. Which is something I might like to read, but I’m not really sure about it at the moment. It feels like it might be a little too close to my own experience, and I can’t decide if that’s going to be hard to read for that reason, or if it’ll be kind of a cathartic experience. I might wait for some more reviews to come in on this one.
This One Sky Day by Leone Ross
Reading the synopsis of this one is almost disorienting in a way that reminds me of the feeling I had reading Piranesi (which, coincidentally, was last year’s winner). It’s a fantasy where everyone has been gifted something that is “magic, but more than magic”. I honestly hadn’t heard of this one before the longlist came out, so I kind of keep forgetting it exists, but it seems intriguing. I might have to read it just to see what it’s about, because I’m a little confused right now and I kind of want to know more.
Books I don’t plan on reading
The Exhibitionist by Charlotte Mendelson
Quite honestly, this one does sound really good. It’s about art and family and finding your own place. However, I am often triggered by books about family, just due to my own experiences and trauma. And the synopsis specifically says this is at least partly about “toxic family politics” which I think it just something I would not be okay reading. So not the book for me, but it sounds interesting.
Flamingo by Rachel Elliott
I kind of think it’s the way the synopsis of this one was written, but it’s just not doing it for me. It’s about two families, a woman who is in love with two people, and a boy with trauma. Also the flamingos are very symbolic apparently. Which just reminds me of the flamingos in Leave the World Behind, which I did not get at all and really didn’t enjoy. This just doesn’t seem like something I’d like, and I wouldn’t bet on this one to win or even make the shortlist, so I have no reason to read it.
The Paper Palace by Miranda Cowley Heller
Another book about family that sounds interesting (though not as much as The Exhibitionist), but I’m not personally interested in reading. I can’t quite tell if this one would be triggering for me, personally, but it honestly doesn’t sound good enough for me to want to risk it. I also just don’t care for books that involve cheating, which seems to be a big plot point of this book.
Remote Sympathy by Catherine Chidgey
This is one of those books that sounds like it should be right up my alley – WWII historical fiction, female protagonist… but I’ve read the synopsis several times and kind of just feel “meh” about it. I’m not sure if it’s because it involves some kind of futuristic machine that maybe cures cancer or because it’s sort of about illness and a lot about suffering, but I am just not that interested in reading it. If this happens to win, I might check it out, but I’m not banking on this one coming out on top. It has good ratings, but it only has about four-hundred and thirty ratings on Goodreads, so this book doesn’t seem to be doing that well. Maybe I’m not alone in thinking that it just doesn’t sound all that good.
The Bread The Devil Knead by Lisa Allen-Agostini
The synopsis for this book reminds me quite a bit of Luster by Raven Leilani, which was on the longlist last year. So if you loved Luster, this might be a great pick from this year’s list. Unfortunately, I did not. Which is making me a little hesitant with this one. It does involve a murder, which Luster did not, so that might be interesting. But it also deals a lot with abuse and trauma and I just personally don’t do well reading about those topics, so I don’t see myself enjoying this one.
The Women’s Prize for Fiction shortlist will be released next week (on April 27th) and I am very curious to see what makes that list. I haven’t read any of the books on this list yet, but based on previous shortlists and winners, I’m kind of betting on the books I am interested in reading as one of the winners this year. I’m just going off of the synopsis and the hype (if you look at previous winners, they’re kind of the ones that were already popular), so I could be completely wrong here. Have you read any of these? Which one would you like to see win this year? And are there any I am not planning on reading that you think I should reconsider?
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