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There’s nothing better than a good book, so the saying goes. And in times of uncertainty, we often find relaxation in escaping our own lives and delving into somebody else’s.
This has never been more true these past few years, when getting some time to ourselves for a good read has never been more important or restorative.
But what are the best books to read this year? Well, luckily, the Women’s Prize for Fiction has announced its official shortlist, providing us with six must-reads for the year ahead.
The original longlist of 16 was released in March and narrowed down by an expert judging panel, comprising of Mary Ann Sieghart, Lorraine Candy, Dorothy Koomson, Anita Sethi and Pandora Sykes.
Here is the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2022 shortlist
1. THE BREAD THE DEVIL KNEAD by Lisa Allen-Agostini
BUY NOW: The Bread the Devil Knead (paperback) – Waterstones, £8.99
Alethea Lopez is about to turn 40. Fashionable, feisty and fiercely independent, she manages a boutique in Port of Spain, but behind closed doors she’s covering up bruises from her abusive partner and seeking solace in an affair with her boss. When she witnesses a woman murdered by a jealous lover, the reality of her own future comes a little too close to home. Bringing us her truth in an unsparing Trinidadian voice, Alethea unravels memories repressed since childhood and begins to understand the person she has become. Her next step is to decide the woman she wants to be.
2. THE SENTENCE by Louise Erdrich
BUY NOW: The Sentence by Louise Erdrich (hardback) – Waterstones, £17.99
A small independent bookstore in Minneapolis is haunted from November 2019 to November 2020 by the store’s most annoying customer. Flora dies on All Souls’ Day, but she simply won’t leave the store. Tookie, who has landed a job selling books after years of incarceration that she survived by reading ‘with murderous attention’, must solve the mystery of this haunting while at the same time trying to understand all that occurs in Minneapolis during a year of grief, astonishment, isolation and furious reckoning.
3. SORROW AND BLISS by Meg Mason
BUY NOW: Sorrow and Bliss by Meg Mason (paperback) – Waterstones, £8.99
Everyone tells Martha Friel she is clever and beautiful, a brilliant writer who has been loved every day of her adult life by one man, her husband Patrick. So why is everything broken? Why is Martha – on the edge of 40 – friendless, practically jobless and so often sad? And why did Patrick decide to leave? Forced to return to her childhood home to live with her dysfunctional, bohemian parents (but without the help of her devoted, foul-mouthed sister Ingrid), Martha has one last chance to find out whether a life is ever too broken to fix – or whether, maybe, by starting over, she will get to write a better ending for herself.
4. THE BOOK OF FORM AND EMPTINESS by Ruth Ozeki
BUY NOW: The Book of Form and Emptiness by Ruth Ozeki (paperback) – Waterstones, £8.49
After the death of his father, thirteen-year-old Benny Oh begins to hear the voices of objects around him: a broken ornament, a piece of lettuce, a pair of scissors. When his mother – struggling with grief, economic instability and life as a single parent – develops a hoarding problem, the voices grow ever louder. Benny retreats to his local library, where the books at least speak in whispers. There he meets a variety of others on the fringes of society who adopt him, including a teenage performance artist and a homeless, alcoholic philosopher – as well as encountering a rather special book: his book, the story of his life.
5. THE ISLAND OF MISSING TREES by Elif Shafak
BUY NOW: The Island of Missing Trees by Elif Shafak (paperback) – Waterstones, £7.49
It is 1974 on the island of Cyprus. Two teenagers, from opposite sides of a divided land, meet at a tavern in the city they both call home. The tavern is the only place that Kostas, who is Greek and Christian, and Defne, who is Turkish and Muslim, can meet in secret. It is where one can find the best food in town – the best music, the best wine. But there is something else to the place: it makes one forget, even if for just a few hours, the world outside and its immoderate sorrows.
6. GREAT CIRCLE by Maggie Shipstead
BUY NOW: Great Circle by Maggie Shipstead (hardback) – Waterstones, £14.99
From the night she is rescued as a baby out of the flames of a sinking ship to the day she joins a pair of daredevil pilots, the life of Marian Graves has always been marked by a lust for freedom and danger. In 1950,she embarks on a Great Circle flight, circumnavigating the globe. It is Marian’s life dream and her final journey. She crash lands into the Antarctic ice and is never seen again. Half a century later, Hadley Baxter, a traumatised actor beset by scandal, is drawn to play Marian Graves in her biopic, a role that will lead her to probe the mysteries of the vanished pilot’s life.
The 26th winner of the Women’s Prize for Fiction will be announced on Wednesday 15 June
Huge congratulations to all six shortlisted authors!