Book Group Readers' Recommendations 2023

At the end of each year, members of the Book Group meet together to share their favourite titles and offer ideas for gifts for friends and family, and for new authors to try ourselves. Listed below are the titles that were mentioned.

Also: recommendations at the end of 2022

A Bird in Winter
by Louise Doughty
Recommended by Neil

I read around 10 thrillers a year and this is my favourite this year. I picked it after seeing a review in the Financial Times. The bird is the nickname for the secret service and the action takes place in Scandinavia where the descriptions of the landscape are breathtaking. 

Black Butterflies
by Priscilla Morris
Recommended by Sarah

This is set in the Siege of Sarajevo which I've never read about before. I love reading about real events. The city falls and people are pitted against each other, tension builds. But there is hope. 

Date with Death
by Julia Chapman
Recommended by Jane

My brother recommended this series to me and he's a serious reader so he surprised me, and I wouldn't have picked them out. They're cosy crime and, if you can get past the characters names (Samson and Delilah!), are a great read. There's warmth, humour, mystery, and a bit of romance. Each one is self-contained but there is an ongoing story in the series. 

Demon Copperhead
by Barbara Kingsolver
Recommended by Sarah

This is my book of the year. Told in the first person as a young boy becomes a man and deals with an awful hand in life but takes responsibility for his actions. It doesn't feel like a big book, and I was completely lost in it. It will stay with me forever.

by Marilynne Robinson
Recommended by Alison

I decided to reread this book when I moved house recently but was worried that I wouldn't enjoy it as much. But I loved it. And it won the 2005 Pulitzer Prize so... It's written as a letter by a preacher at the end of his life, reaching out to his young son. 

He Used Thought as a Wife
by Tim Key
Recommended by Graham

Funny, silly, stimulating and brilliantly observed account of surviving lockdown by the actor, stand-up comedian and performance poet, Tim Key.

The Binding
by Bridget Collins
Recommended by Kathy

A very beautifully packaged book to reflect its theme of bookbinding. It's a gothic mystery and a romance. Characters could have the mistakes they'd made in life bound up in a book, so that they might start afresh. A friend gave me this book and I very much enjoyed it.

The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek
by Kim Michele Richardson
Recommended by Jill

This was recommended to me by a friend. It's based on a true story - how Eleanor Roosevelt launched a scheme to take books to people in remote rural areas. It's well written and atmospheric, and I love being introduced to real events through a novel like this.

The Collector
by John Fowles
Recommended by Maria

This is an old book but I was reminded of it recently because I've been told that for someone with aspergers, this book tells them everything they need to know about empathy... The craft of the narrative voice is incredible. Even though you know what is going on, you are still sucked in. 

The House of Doors
by Tan Twan Eng
Recommended by Christine

This is my book of the year. I knew it wouldn't make the Booker shortlist because it's too good! I love reading books where I learn something new and this brilliantly describes colonial Malaysia and led me to go on to read books by W Somerset Maugham.

The Marriage Portrait
by Maggie O'Farrell
Recommended by Caroline

A friend gave me this book to read and I wasn't interested in it, but I had to read it in order to give it back. And it's brilliant. Not what I was expecting. You know Lucrezia is going to die but the story goes back and forth and you're willing her on. It's incredibly clever.

Wandering Souls
by Cecile Pine
Recommended by Sarah

This is the author's debut. It tells of a family journeying from Vietnam to Hong Kong, seeking a new life. Their boat capsizes, there's life in settlement camps. It's harrowing and poignant, and it's a great read.