There are so many things to love about #PickMePRIMER, our annual competition to find a new book reviewer.
There’s the joy of contacting one lucky reader to let them know they won, and will be reviewing books for us (paid) for a year. (This year the winner is Rain Francis, a dance teacher from Melbourne. Congratulations!)
Then there’s the delight of watching as PRIMER readers, including fellow competition entrants, post congratulatory comments on Instagram (while we quietly marvel at what a lovely community has evolved around PRIMER).
But the other brilliant aspect to #PickMePRIMER – which we didn’t consider when we launched it – is that it uncovers so many brilliant books to read. This year we had around 700 entries across the various social channels and email – and we’ve bookmarked many of the reviews so we can follow up and read (or re-read) the books ourselves.
You can, of course, type the hashtag #PickMePRIMER into Instagram yourself. However, we’ve pasted a few of the top reviews below. We also noticed a couple of books recommended again and again:
Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo
Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
The Lake House by Kate Morton
Call My By Your Name by Andre Aciman
And, of course, thank you to everyone who entered this year, as well as Booktopia who supported the competition.
Burial Rites by Hannah Kent
Natalia Smith described this book by Australian author Hannah Kent as one “my mind returns to frequently”. An historical novel about Iceland’s final execution – of Agnes Magnusdottir – Burial Rites included a “captivating cast of characters” and threaded “passion and dedication into every word, page, and chapter”.
Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi
Set in Iran’s capital Tehran, this memoir follows an underground women’s book club dedicated to dissecting Western literature “in a city with dwindling freedoms” writes Maddy Constantine. “This book makes me grateful to have the freedom to read whatever I choose without fear of persecution.”
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
“A feminist fable published under a male nom-de-plum – now if that isn’t depressingly relevant I don’t know what is” wrote @SiriLala, who described Jane Eyre as a “lifelong favourite”. “If you’ve ever wrestled with feeling “poor, obscure, plain and little”, while simultaneously asserting yourself as equal to any man living (we’ve all been there), then Jane is the hero you need.”
Lincoln In The Bardo by George Saunders
“I read this over the summer, and utterly adored it, start to finish” wrote Instagrammer Tilly Likes To Read, who described this Man Booker prizewinner as “lyrical, witty and vivid”. Set in the ‘bardo’ (the space between life and death), this novel was inspired by actual visits that Abraham Lincoln paid to his son Willie’s grave in the middle of the night.
Brick Lane by Monica Ali
“Nazneen lives her life according to the currents of fate,” writes Instagrammer Ms Thurston Is Reading of this Man Booker-shortlisted novel. “Her husband is kind and controls her with a velvet glove, allowing nothing of her self to emerge and take up space in the marriage.” A novel about identity and “the tension of the expat belonging to neither one world or another”. This one’s been on our list for a while, and now we’re even more keen to read it. Ms Thurston reads
The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
Kara Le first read The Secret Garden as a child, but as an adult the concept of rejuvenation that threads throughout the book has only become more relevant. “The heroine is wonderfully human – at times selfish and disagreeable, yet with a tender and curious heart. …It is as relatable today as it was when written decades ago.”
Meet Me At Lennon’s by Melanie Myers
This novel explores the impact of American soldiers on wartime Brisbane from the perspective of several female characters, and Alyssa MacKay described it as “meticulously researched”. She says: “Female experiences form the heart of this story, which holds a mirror up to these women’s lives, asking, how much has changed? How much remains the same? The answer is disquieting.”
Circe by Madeline Miller
This feminist retelling of Homer’s Odyssey “defies the notion that the ‘classics’ are perfect’, says Beverley Goh of BooksGoneWilde. She describes New York Times bestseller Circe as a “beautifully told story” that sees Circe look critically at the heroes who land on her shore.
What I Loved by Siri Hustvedt
“What I Loved masterfully fuses the cerebral and emotional,” says Tara Rivkin of Bookish Compulsive of this novel, which follows the friendship between an art historian and an artist living in New York and “the fateful intertwining of their families’ lives”. “Woven throughout is a fascinating exploration of art, madness and women’s bodies,” adds Tara.
The Five by Hallie Rubenhold
A “gripping” non-fiction account of the five victims of Jack the Ripper. “I loved it,” says Katie of BookPicsAndChill. “Apart from being a fantastically researched and in-depth piece, I loved it because it made me mad! Why have I never thought about those women. Why did I go along with the prostitute rhetoric? Why did I never question the focus on the killer rather than the victims? There’s a real theme for untold stories of women in the books I’m reading at the moment and I’m here🙌🏻for🙌🏻it.”
All Our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastai
“This book is 50% sci fi, 50% rom com, 100% amazing,” begins Sephora of The Antisocial Influencer in her post about All Our Wrong Todays, which tells the tale of time-travelling duo Penny and Tom. Sephora finishes her review with the unforgettable kiss-off line – “Hilarious. 5 out of 5 damage-causing penises” – which only made us want to read this BBC Radio 2 Book Club Choice even more.