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Need A Book To Lose Yourself In?

We may have the answer

By Anna Saunders

When we launched a competition to find a book reviewer, we nervously considered what to do in the event that our hashtag #PickMePRIMER only attracted one or two lonely entries. (Post some ourselves? Convince our mums to post?!)

In the end, with nearly 500 entries sent to us via social media and email, our biggest problem wasn’t dealing with too few entries – but reading and evaluating so many!

Now that the competition has closed and the winner has been announced (Sheree from Keeping Up With The Penguins Online), we realised we were sitting on a goldmine of brilliant book reviews. So we’ve compiled a list of some of the entries we loved – though there are plenty (plenty) more that can be found on Instagram using the hashtag #PickMePRIMER.

Shiny New Releases

The Van Apfel Girls Are Gone, Felicity McLean
Kayla from @carsncouture “devoured” this book, saying “the moment you open Felicity McLean’s debut novel about the sweltering Summer the three Van Apfel girls went missing, you will be glued to the book until the final page is turned. The addiction not only lies in the mystery, but the way Felicity captures a nostalgic Australian childhood (hot seatbelts and handstand comps in the pool and all!)”

Daisy Jones And The Six, Taylor Jenkins Reid
“My new favourite” said @Alana_Kaye_, who described it as a “fantastic, clever evocation of the glamour and grunge of 1970’s rock’n’roll”.

On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, Ocean Vuong
“I’m still reckoning with what this book meant to me,” says @TinyBookseller of this highly anticipated debut novel that she describes as “an immigrant novel/coming of age story” that exposes “the struggles that pave the road to becoming an American.” This is a book about “intergenerational trauma, the unutterably sad opioid epidemic, masculinity, homosexuality, violence and America’s class system. It’s unflinching and beautiful and, quite simply, one of the most affecting books I’ve ever read”. Wow.

Frank Kiss Stein, Jeanette Winterson
Billed as a modern retelling of Mary Shelley’s classic, Frank Kiss Stein is “packed full of relevant discussions placed within historical, present and future contexts,” says @ReviewWithAView. Gender, technology, sex and science not to mention “the stories that we tell” and the “question of humanity’s purpose” are all themes in this ambitious book by one of Britain’s best known literary authors.

Saltwater, Jessica Andrews
This debut shot to the top of our reading lists when @chloe.cooper described it this way: “When her grandfather dies, Lucy – unhappy and lost – leaves her life in London to move into his cottage in Ireland. There, she pieces together her history and the events in her life that have led her to this moment. Beautiful and understated, ‘Saltwater’ is a life told in fragments.”

Memories of the Future Siri Husdvedt
In this “wonderfully reflective” memoir/novel, Husdvedt looks back at one her most formative years. A book that examines “the perils of big city life, loneliness and relationships”, says @pertiwi6. (This one has been on our To Be Read List for a while.)

Oldies, But Goodies

The Secret History, Donna Tartt
“A book that stays with you,” says @catgetslit. “The plot, about a group of college students covering up a murder, is secondary to the power of Donna Tartt’s beautifully controlled writing.” We couldn’t agree more.

A Constellation of Vital Phenomena, Anthony Marra
“A marvel,” says @tash_reads2manybooks of this story of war and love in Chechnya. “There are books you read for entertainment and to escape. Then there are books that matter. This book matters.”

A Thousand Splendid Suns, Khaled Hosseini
“With extraordinarily poetic and vivid imagery Hosseini opened a window into a world I would have never seen or understood otherwise and taught me to recognise my own privilege,” says @InezPlayford of this 2007 novel set in Afghanistan.

The Time Traveller’s Wife, Audrey Niffenegger
“Expertly crafted” says @moreghostthangirl of this novel that “charts the love story between artist Clare and librarian and involuntary time traveller Henry… Niffenegger creates characters that stick with you.”

Braving The Wilderness, Brene Brown
“Changing jobs, homes, cities and friendship circles is fast becoming “normal” within society,” says Sarah of @se5pe. “Has this impacted our capability to belong? Sharp-shooter Brene Brown unpacks this question with insight and wit.”

The Mothers, Britt Bennett
This is a novel about “the pressure of being a teenager, growing up and making life decisions before you’re ready” says @litwithtegan. “The sentences are beautifully crafted and utterly readable. Kerry @linesiunderline pegged it as ‘quietly heartbreaking’ which sums it up perfectly.”

The Sound of Waves, Yukio Mishima
“This was such a delicately crafted tale, providing a window into the lives of two sweet young people, as well as a look at the culture of a small Japanese island,” said @somebookspam, who quoted these beautiful lines from the book: “The work fit both his body and his soul perfectly, like a well-tailored suit, leaving no room for the intrusion of other worries.”

Classics To Catch Up On

Rebecca, Daphne Du Maurier
“A masterpiece of gothic fiction,” says @babblingbooks (whose Instagram feed is a thing of beauty btw). “The unnamed narrator struggles with life in the shadow of her husband’s first wife. Rebecca, who gives the book its title is dead, but the mysteries of her life still linger, creating an intimate kind of tension as everything unravels.”

The Glass Castle, Jeanette Walls
Says @lauraahayden: “When I discovered The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls I felt… found. For anyone from a family that marches to the beat of their own drum, this book addressess all the beauty and the sorrow that comes from trying to reconcile growing up left-of-centre with life in the ‘real world’. ”

Catch 22, Joseph Heller
“Catch 22 revolutionised the way I thought about fiction, humour, storytelling and life,” said @sirilala77. “Heller’s deft weaving of satire and history highlights uncomfortable truths about modern society that keep me pondering the book even now, a decade later.”

The Good Terrorist, Doris Lessing
This is a book that “makes you understand the world a little better” says @emmaatleena of this novel that folllows radical communist squatters in London in the ’80s. “Doris Lessing mastered the art of building characters… A truly transformative novel.”

1984 George Orwell
“Every time I re-read this book, I put it down thinking “Finally! I understand everything Orwell was trying to say!”… and the next year, the next day, the next minute, something will happen in this crazy world and I’ll turn to his dystopian classic again, invariably uncovering some new wisdom,” says @keepingupwiththepenguinsonline.


BY Anna Saunders

Anna is the co-founder of PRIMER and her "to be read" book stack just got bigger.

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