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52 Must-Reads for 2022

Wondering what to read this year? Or, if you're anything like us, you probably have a to-read pile so large it's developing structural integrity problems - which also means that you're a magpie for a book recommendation! Our list is... a little eclectic. There are some very fresh titles on there, but there are also plenty of classics, plus a good number of popular fiction books that the discerning writer isn't always supposed to admit to enjoying...


The books on our list all have two things in common: they are rollicking good reads and you, as a writer, will learn something to help develop or support your craft from each and every one of them.



Spring Reads

 

Darkly Dreaming Dexter - Jeff Lindsay

Darkly Dreaming Dexter

Jeff Lindsay You’ve probably watched the TV series but have you read the books? Darkly Dreaming Dexter is a vastly entertaining yet uncomfortable read, as you find yourself rooting for a violent serial killer. Lindsay offers a masterclass in writing likeable anti-heroes.




Lanny - Max Porter

Lanny

Max Porter Meet Dead Papa Toothwort, part Green Man, part Bogeyman, as he stalks an English village feeding on the voices that arise around him, searching for a young boy who seems to have a mysterious connection with nature - Lanny. Porter paints pictures with language, both figuratively and physically, as the words Dead Papa Toothwort hears wind around the pages, and the spirit of rural England past and present is brought to life.



Naked In Death - JD Robb

Naked In Death

JD Robb Book one of the bestselling ‘In Death’ series, JD Robb takes us into the future for a grisly murder investigation in a New York which walks the dystopian line. If you thought modern day New York was gritty, you’ve got a real surprise coming your way; Robb gives us a finely tuned plot set in a city which she brings to life with such panache that it almost feels like a suspect itself.



Where The Crawdads Sing - Delia Owens

Where The Crawdads Sing

Delia Owens A bestselling fiction novel of 2018, this beautifully-written book focuses on survival, resilience and the constancy of nature. It will challenge the automatic assumptions you make about others and leave an unforgettable impression. A book like no other, it's not to be missed.




A Life on Our Planet - David Attenborough

A Life on Our Planet

David Attenborough All inhabitants of the planet Earth should read this book! From a writer's perspective, it's a powerful look at how societies grow, flow, ebb and function. Attenborough covers early existence, moving right through to what our future might look like; writers specialising in historical, current and future fiction all have something to learn about world-building from this incredible read.


If Only They Could Talk - James Herriot

If Only They Could Talk

James Herriot The popularity of the new television adaptation of James Herriot’s classic memoir will hopefully drive fans back to the books, which are hilarious, heart-warming, and brilliant examples of how dialect can be used to enrich rather than dominate your writing. The Yorkshire dialect is almost a character in itself in Herriot’s capable hands, adding a warmth and humour all of its own, yet never slipping into parody. A masterclass.


Mr Loverman - Bernadine Evaristo

Mr Loverman

Bernadine Evaristo This novel is a breath of fresh air, exploding cultural stereotypes every way it turns: of the UK’s Caribbean community; of the older generation, and of the LGBTQ community. It’s a novel about love, family, secrets, and the importance of being true to oneself. If you want to learn how to explore sensitive issues with humour and grace, read this firework of a novel.



Citizens - Ian Parks

Citizens

Ian Parks Yorkshire poet Ian Parks latest collection delves into class, identity and place, exploring sites around the world that hold strong, often painful, cultural significance. Parks isn't just a Yorkshire poet, he's a Yorkshire poet, and those roots always shine through in his collections. Read, immerse, lose yourself, and enjoy.



Shuggie Bain - Douglas Stuart

Shuggie Bain

Douglas Stuart Stuart creates characters that are multi-layered, multi-faceted, deeply-flawed, but always sympathetic, which is no easy task. There’s also great humour in this tragic tale of a boy growing up in 1980s Glasgow under the twin shadows of Thatcherism and alcoholism.




Death on the Nile - Agatha Christie

Death on the Nile

Agatha Christie From the queen of murder mystery herself, join Christie's Hercule Poirot as he guides us through motives, clues, suspects and plot twists, plus one of the most engaging settings on the planet. If you have big plans to write a mystery plot then Christie is a fantastic place to start. Why not give it a quick read before the new file comes out this year?



Piranesi - Susanna Clarke

Piranesi

Susanna Clarke Spring is the perfect time for something new, and we pretty much guarantee you’ve never read anything like Susanna Clarke’s brilliant novella. You will have no idea what’s going on, but it will soon become clear that you’re not alone in that. Just surrender to the brilliance, and let Clarke’s imagination give wings to your own, and maybe encourage you to try something new.



My Monticello - Jocelyn Nicole Johnson

My Monticello

Jocelyn Nicole Johnson Set in the near future, Johnson’s novella puts you in Naisha's shoes; a descendant of Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings, a woman he kept as a slave and fathered several children with. The tension is kept as tight as a violin string, as Naisha and a band of survivors take refuge from a white supremacist mob in Monticello, Jefferson’s home. Stunning writing, a perfect example of how place and character can be created through dialogue.


Holy Island - LJ Ross

Holy Island

LJ Ross LJ Ross’ adoration for the North of England shines from every page of her books, as she brings real places to life and creates loveable and believable characters with a distinctly local feel. Ross’s Max Ryan books are a great place to start to see dialect done right. The ideal read for lovers of crime, character and the North of England.




Summer Reads

 

Dune - Frank Herbert

Dune

Frank Herbert The first word that springs to mind is 'epic'. Dune is one of those books that really should be a challenging read but the story and characters are so terribly well crafted, that you will be jerked off your feet and sucked onto the surface of Arrakis. You will journey across the desert with Paul Atreides, fly in thopters, learn the true value of water and fall in love with a people, a planet, a destiny and, of course, a girl.


Supertoys Trilogy - Brian Aldiss

Supertoys Trilogy

Brian Aldiss A short collection of three short stories, the Supertoys trilogy is a short but enthralling read. Aldiss gives us a glimpse of a future where humans have become the ultimate consumers, and AI the consumed. Despite the grim setting, Aldiss tells the story of David, a young boy with sad parents who is not exactly what he seems, with an unexpected tenderness.



Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen

Pride and Prejudice

Jane Austen When you look beneath the cover, Pride and Prejudice is a story of feminine rebellion, packed with early 19th century sass. There's a love story in there somewhere, but Austen's playful cynicism, sharp wit and willingness to smack her characters on the wrist are a genuine pleasure. Once you're inside the language, Pride and Prejudice is, somewhat ironically, a real pleasure.


How We’ll Live on Mars - Stephen Petranek

How We’ll Live on Mars

Stephen Petranek This non-fiction exploration of how humanity will achieve and survive the red planet is a must-read for sci-fi writers. Petranek builds on scientific principle, and existing and developing technologies, to predict the future of the space race. Although this is non-fiction, Petranek demonstrates beautifully how a believable future can be woven from threads of existing truth.


The Fortnight In September - R.C. Sherriff

The Fortnight In September

R.C. Sherriff One of those books in which nothing happens, but everything happens. Ostensibly following a lower-middle class family on their annual summer holiday, Sherriff’s timeless 1930s novel is an examination of family, love, class, and endings that happen when we’re not looking. It’s also a perfect reminder that plot isn’t everything.


The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 and ¾ - Sue Townsend

The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 and ¾

Sue Townsend A masterclass of characterisation through voice. Townsend somehow perfectly captures the voice of a 13 year old boy, and manages to make us care deeply about him, even as we weep with laughter at his pretensions. Steeped in the 1980s, as is so much film and TV at the moment - Adrian’s back on the crest of the zeitgeist. It’s a perfect time to revisit.



The Bicentennial Man - Isaac Asimov

The Bicentennial Man

Isaac Asimov What defines us as 'human'? Where do our rights begin and end? What rights should be shared with other sentient beings? Asimov's famous novelette follows the story of Andrew throughout his two hundred year life, as he transforms from a robotic domestic assistant into something much more complicated. Death is the ultimate price of humanity - but is it a price worth paying?


Circe - Madeline Miller

Circe

Madeline Miller This is a fascinating adaption of Greek myths, as told from the perspective of the witch, Circe. Offering a new angle on a tale that's been told many times and full of gorgeous imagery and description, it's a must read for anyone with a taste for mythology.




Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep - Philip K. Dick

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep

Philip K. Dick It's interesting that sometimes the best examinations of the concept of humanity come from stories about non-humans. The inspiration for 'Blade Runner', Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep' follows the story of Rick Deckard, who dreams of one achieving the social status of owning a real animal, as he hunts androids.



The Whitsun Weddings - Philip Larkin

The Whitsun Weddings

Philip Larkin Larkin manages to create a strong sense of time and place in this collection, and applies his scalpel-sharp observation without sentiment, yet not without emotion.






Ready Player One - Ernest Cline

Ready Player One

Ernest Cline This is one of those books that gives you something new every time you read it. At its heart, Ready Player One is a quest story - and who doesn't love a quest? This book is brimming with so many pop culture references that it really doesn't matter if you miss 90% of them, you'll still delight in the ones you do get. Set in a virtual reality obsessed dystopian future, now is a grimly ideal time to discover this novel...


The Best of Richard Matheson - Richard Matheson

The Best of Richard Matheson

Richard Matheson The horror-writer’s horror writer. This collection of short stories takes horror out of the castles and graveyards, and puts it into the urban landscapes we think we know. Matheson encourages writers to reconsider settings, and think about how to keep genre fiction fresh by avoiding the well-worn paths.




Jaws - Peter Benchley

Jaws

Peter Benchley The beauty of the film is that you rarely actually see the shark. The beauty of the book, which is not shy about showing you the shark, is the totally detached dispassion which which the attacks are written. There is something utterly horrifying and almost genius in the almost clinical way 'The Fish' hunts, stalks and executes, lending those parts of the narrative a sense of dread. A shudderingly excellent example of predator fiction.



Autumn Reads

 

Ok, Mr Field - Katherine Kilalea

Ok, Mr Field

Katherine Kilalea Kilalea goes all in with the narrative devices to tell the story of an ex-concert pianist who moves into his dream villa abroad, shortly before going into a steep decline as both his environment and mental state start to fall apart. For interesting narrative structure, excellent use of timeline devices and some brilliant use of depictive imagery, this is an odd but interesting read.



The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien

The Hobbit

JRR Tolkien When the evenings start to get longer and a chill begins to cling to the air, climb under a blanket, pull up your favourite hot drink and discover Middle Earth. The Hobbit is one of those rare reads which holds truly universal appeal, delighting any and all age groups. The least challenging of the Middle Earth books, The Hobbit is a great place to begin a Tolkien addiction.



Thank You, Jeeves - P.G. Wodehouse

Thank You, Jeeves

P.G. Wodehous

I could have picked any one of the Jeeves books. Seriously, if you wish to learn how to construct a perfectly-balanced sentence, with sparkling wit and a deceptive lightness of touch, literally any prose written by PG Wodehouse will teach you.





The Martian - Andy Weir

The Martian

Andy Weir How do you write a gripping and vastly entertaining novel which, for most of the narrative, just has one character in it? Andy Weir will show you how. The Martian is an advanced lesson in voice, characterisation and narrative structure; plus a stunningly enjoyable read. When Mark Watney gets left behind, two things will keep him alive on this barren planet: a love of botany and his sense of humour.


Beekeeper - Blake Auden

Beekeeper

Blake Auden British poet Blake Auden is well known for his themes of mental health and broken hearts. His prose are stripped back and exposed, which is only fitting for the subject matter, relying instead on powerful, resonating imagery. Auden's work tells a story of self-discovery and the realisation of truth. These are poems you will read again and again.


Leonard & Hungry Paul - Ronan Hession

Leonard & Hungry Paul

Ronan Hession A feel-good novel, in the truest sense. Leonard and Hungry Paul is a beautiful examination of character and friendship, and a balm to the soul. Not much of any great import happens, but because we care deeply about the characters, their little triumphs and disasters become ours.



The Books of Earthsea - Ursula K. Le Guin

The Books of Earthsea

Ursula K. Le Guin Dragons and wizards - and a school of magic. Sound familiar? The sorely underrated Ursula K Le Guin did it first. For an example of world-building, you’d struggle to beat this - completely absorbing, and if you look beyond the surface, full of important messages about the way we live.




The Once and Future Witches - Alix E. Harrow

The Once and Future Witches

Alix E. Harrow This is a really fantastic fantasy book. It has incredible, strong, female characters, with very real and believable personalities. The narrative covers groundbreaking events in history and entwines them with magic, making it the perfect book to read on an autumn afternoon. Once you start, you'll find it almost impossible to put down.



The Halloween Tree - Ray Bradbury

The Halloween Tree

Ray Bradbury Bradbury is a master storyteller and The Halloween Tree is no exception. The narrative follows a group of trick or treaters as they are whisked around the world and shown that Halloween means so much more than knocking on doors for sweet treats. Wiser and perhaps a little more grown up than when they started, the journey ends with a chilling decision.



Misery - Stephen King

Misery

Stephen King This is pretty much a two-hander, and if you’re looking for dialogue that pretty much crackles off the page, you won’t do much better. Among the moments of true horror, King manages to insert a wry humour and a commentary on how a writer can be the victim of his or her own success. Read it and wince.




Practical Magic - Alice Hoffman

Practical Magic

Alice Hoffman If you've seen the film (which we love) then you have a flavour of this book but the written narrative is a far richer tapestry. At it's heart, this book isn't really about magic, it's about family ties and relationships, and it's done really, really well. We adore the aunts, who fulfil their wise women trope to perfection; and the narrative imagery is beautifully done. An excellent (one might say 'magical') read.


Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone - J.K. Rowling

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

J.K. Rowling This is the series that really thrust fantasy back into the mainstream, capturing the imagination of most of the world. If you haven't read Harry Potter yet, get this one on your list and prepare to be enchanted; this is another title that effortlessly demonstrates timelessness, being as popular with adults as it is with children.



Good Omens - Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman

Good Omens

Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman Mind-bendingly good, Good Omens is, quite honestly, obligatory reading for anyone who professes to even remotely enjoy fiction. This is a dream collaboration, with both authors tempering each other's off-the-wallness into an absolutely masterpiece. Good Omens brings together multiple story threads like discordant threads which crescendo together into a stunningly well orchestrated finale.



Winter Reads

 

A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens

A Christmas Carol

Charles Dickens One of Dicken's best known works, A Christmas Carol has everything. Brilliant characterisation, social commentary, humour, tragedy… there’s a reason Scrooge has become a popular Christmas trope in his own right. You'll get both a masterclass in character presentation and a heartwarming tale of redemption and festive spirit (no pun intended) all rolled into one.



The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe - C.S. Lewis

The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe

C.S. Lewis Step through the wardrobe with the Pevensie children and discover the frozen land of Narnia, where it is always winter but never Christmas. This book is evergreen, perfect for children and adults alike. What might at first appear to be a straightforward battle between good and evil, delves with an expert touch into the complexities of sibling dynamics and redemption.



The Five People You Meet in Heaven - Mitch Albom

The Five People You Meet in Heaven

Mitch Albom This is an absolutely beautiful book, with a gorgeous perspective on what happens after we die. It's a book that is good for the soul so everyone should read this at least once in their life. Although, fair warning, it will make you ugly cry so prepare several boxes of tissues before you commit to it.




The Haunting of Hill House - Shirley Jackson

The Haunting of Hill House

Shirley Jackson Shirley Jackson’s masterclass in psychological horror provides the most unsettling opening to a novel, setting the scene for what’s to come. Jackson uses an unreliable narrator in this classic haunted house tale, to devastating effect… or does she?





The Great Alone - Kristin Hannah

The Great Alone

Kristin Hannah Set in Alaska, this is a tale of community strength and surviving the darkest winters. Brutally honest and sometimes cruel, this book also makes sure to highlight the beauty that can be found in the most unlikely circumstances. Not for the faint hearted, but absolutely worth the read.




Beloved - Toni Morrison

Beloved

Toni Morrison A searing novel, gothic literature in the truest sense, which avoids any tropes or clichés of the genre. A visceral book, that tells the story of a haunting - both literal and metaphorical. Stunning.






Whispering to Witches - Anna Dale

Whispering to Witches

Anna Dale The perfect comforting winter read this YA novel is all about friendship and magic. When Twiggy and Joe form an unlikely alliance to stop evil witches, they manage to get into all kinds of trouble and fun adventures. Light-hearted, sweet and exactly what you need on a snowy afternoon.




Frankenstein - Mary Shelley

Frankenstein

Mary Shelley A science experiment gone wrong or hideously right? The classic monster tale, it's been read by the masses. If you want to give yourself a gothic scare, or even some inspiration, this is definitely the book for you.





The Woman in Black - Susan Hill

The Woman in Black

Susan Hill For a narrative that checks most of your quintessential ghost story boxes, The Woman in Black packs in plenty of suspense and the occasional uppercut to the gut of dread. As well as being an excellent read, this book is a handbook of haunting tropes and any aspiring gothic or horror writer would benefit from adding it to their reading list!



Little Women - Louisa May Alcott

Little Women

Louisa May Alcott Louisa M Alcott’s classic is often dismissed as saccharine, but is a perfect ensemble piece, in which all the characters are beautifully drawn and play off each other perfectly to reveal their hidden hopes, desires and weaknesses. It’s also a distinctly feminist piece of writing, way ahead of its time. Last but not least, it’s an early example of the fashionable autofiction genre.


Flowers in the Attic - V.C. Andrews

Flowers in the Attic

V.C. Andrews A twisted story of abuse and neglect, more horrific and shocking as the pages go on. If you're interested in keeping your reader's attention, even when they don't want you to, this is the ideal example. Be warned though, the topics are difficult and may be upsetting.




Dark Matter - Michelle Paver

Dark Matter

Michelle Paver Michelle Paver’s ghostly period novella shows us how a strong sense of place can create terror among the bravest of us. Set in the eternal night of the snowy Arctic, Paver examines the tricks that a creeping sense of isolation can play on a human being. Read with the curtains closed.




The Hogfather - Terry Pratchett

The Hogfather

Terry Pratchett When the Hogfather goes mysteriously missing, Death, conscientious of the balance, steps into his boots. This alternative seasonal mystery goes all over the map, giving us a peek at the roots of Christmas through the shrewd, sometimes cynical, and more often than not hilarious, spectacles of the infamous Sir Terry.



Happy New Year, from the Writing Voices editorial team! Now get reading!


 

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