photos COURTESY OF WELLREAD
If there’s one thing better than curling up in your favourite nook with a page-turner of a book, it’d be gushing about your latest read with your closest friends. As JD Salinger’s protagonist says in The Catcher in the Rye, “What really knocks me out is a book that, when you’re all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it. That doesn’t happen much though.”
With the idea of promoting good books, good reading and good conversations, we’ve decided to start a Peppermint Book Club – a space where each month we ask one of our favourite independent bookstores to curate a list of recommendations and tell us why they love them.
WellRead is a curated book subscription and gifting service dedicated to delivering the very best new literary titles direct to your door. Co-founder Laura Brading is a former bookseller and publishing professional who has set herself up in the enviable position of reading mountains of new releases in order to cherry-pick the most interesting and exciting books to share.
The thing that connects these books is their shared quality of being highly readable, high-quality and hard to put down. They will (re)ignite your love for literature, make you stay up late finishing them (plans will be cancelled), and simply remind you how damn good it feels to read a book. I’m not much of a goal-setter when it comes to reading and always promote quality and connection over quantity, but if you simply want to read more in 2023, then these 10 books will ensure that happens.
We All Want Impossible Things by Catherine Newman
Would you believe me if I told you that this book is both the funniest I’ve read in a long time and also a book set in a hospice? The New York Times review said it belongs to a category called “really too sad for my taste, but so good I couldn’t put it down, and now I have to tell everyone I know they have to read it” (exactly how I felt which is why it was January’s WellRead selection). As well as being heartbreaking, We All Want Impossible Things is a joyful, generous and whip-smart story of female friendship. Be prepared for hysterical laughing followed by guttural sobbing and staying up late finishing it.
The Cazalet Chronicles by Elizabeth Jane Howard
Is there any better feeling than finishing a book you adored only to discover it’s the first in a five-book series? This was my experience reading Elizabeth Jane Howard’s The Light Years – the first instalment of The Cazalet Chronicles. Set around World War II, these domestic sagas tell the story of an upper-middle-class family in charming, juicy, glorious details. Totalling nearly 3000 pages, this series is like going on literary autopilot for the year.
An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
The definition of a literary page-turner, Tayari Jones’ fourth book is an emotional story about family, love and marriage with a terrible miscarriage of justice at its centre. I love a book that asks big questions without ever compromising on the storytelling. As one reviewer wrote, An American Marriage “is a gripping, masterfully crafted message in a bottle”. You’ll miss it when it’s over.
Dept of Speculation by Jenny Offill
I’m always going on about how reading begets reading. Sometimes you just need a succession of short, punchy books to remind yourself how good it feels to read. Start with this brief but brilliant novel about the politics of marriage and the minutiae of everyday life with children. It is honest and unsentimental and very funny.
The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett
Brit Bennett’s second novel is a multigenerational family saga that follows twins, inseparable as children, who ultimately choose to live in two very different worlds: one black and one white. Both a riveting, emotional drama and an astute exploration of the American history of passing, I’ll bet you’re hooked already.
Anything by Nora Ephron
Really, anything by Nora Ephron is a joy to read, but perhaps start with her autobiographical novel Heartburn, a roller coaster of love, betrayal, loss and – most satisfyingly – revenge.
Writers & Lovers by Lily King
A rare kind of novel that is at once unputdownable and that also elicits a deeply pensive mood, Writers & Lovers follows Casey in the last days of a long youth, a time when everything – her family, her work, her relationships – comes to a crisis. It is a novel about love and creativity and that leap between the end of one phase of life and the beginning of another. Oh, and it completely nails that near-impossible task of writing well about writing.
Luster by Raven Leilani
Provocative, subversive, sometimes stressful but equally sensual and surprising, if you missed the hype when Luster was published back in 2021 then add it to your list this year. The novel follows Edie, a 23-year-old Black woman who meets an older white man on a dating site and ends up in a slightly surreal and muddled open marriage. But this is not just another book about adultery, there is so much more at play here. Raven’s writing is sharp and witty, and she uses dark humour to tell this most intriguing and complicated story.
What We Talk About When We Talk About Love by Raymond Carver
I know I sound like the clichéd creative-writing student I once was when I recommend Raymond Carver, but his writing showed me that stories could be told quietly and gently, that less is often more, and that a good writer can reveal emotional truths in very few words. If you’ve already been through your Carver phase, may I recommend Lorrie Moore and reading short stories generally (the literary palate cleanser we all need from time to time).
They’re Going to Love You by Meg Howrey
If you like your novels to have a masterfully revealed secret at their heart, then do I have a recommendation for you? They’re Going to Love You is a coming-of-age story that alternates between present-day LA and the professional ballet world of 1980s NYC. And no, I didn’t get that wrong. Coming-of-age takes longer for some: “I can’t, at my age, still be becoming a person, can I?” Carlisle, our protagonist, wonders in her forties. As the reader, we get a front-row seat to Carlisle’s emotional and creative evolution. She is alive to the reader in a way that only truly great characters are. We see how love, ambition and art combine to shape the person she becomes, and the price she pays to have these things in her life. Nothing short of exquisite!