In the year my debut novel, Single Bald Female, was published, I became part of an amazing community of writers, so I found myself supporting their work and reading lots of debut fiction. I didn’t read as much as I did in 2021, but that was because I was single and in lockdown for five months of last year, so I had a bit more time on my hands (it feels like a lifetime ago).
I’ve read a huge amount of brilliant books this year and it was very hard to whittle it down, so if a book isn’t listed below, it doesn’t mean I didn’t love it – I’ve been sharing recommendations on Twitter and Instagram throughout the year too. But I’ve rounded up 10 that I wanted to share with you so, in no particular order, here are my faves:
Wahala by Nikki May
You’ll love this if you like: Sex and the City, Girls, I May Destroy You.
Show me a novel with food laced through its pages and I’m there in a shot, so Nikki May’s Wahala was top of my reading list for 2022. Inspired by a meal the author had with her girlfriends, it follows three British-Nigerian thirty-somethings as they navigate their careers, relationships and motherhood. So far, so Sex and the City, but ‘wahala’ is a Nigerian word for ‘trouble,’ so you can expect a dark twist.
This was one of those books I couldn’t put down; it’s compulsive and readable, and makes you want to be part of the girl gang. But mostly it made me want to eat all of the food, so I interviewed Nikki for my podcast, about Food and Friendship.
The Seawomen by Chloe Timms
You’ll love this if you like: The Handmaid’s Tale, The Shape of Water, The Mercies.
Chloe Timms’s debut novel is a dark, dystopian tale of a woman tethered to a bleak island with a deeply religious society. It’s an astonishing literary achievement that punches you in the gut, pulls you under the water and keeps you gasping for air until the very end. The Seawomen is not just a story about love and survival but also about women's empowerment and the idea that no one's life is worth more than another.
Chloe also runs Confessions of a Debut Novelist, a truly excellent podcast for any writers or would-be writers. (You can listen to my episode here.) She’s also a disability campaigner and activist, and I interviewed her for Life in Food about Food and Disability.
Careering by Daisy Buchanan
You’ll love this if you like: Ugly Betty, The Bold Type, The Devil Wears Prada.
Daisy Buchanan is an ‘auto-buy’ author for me, as I loved her debut novel Insatiable. I gobble up anything about magazine journalists so a young woman’s love story with her career sounded right up my street. And, well, I didn’t want Careering to end. Daisy’s writing is so smart and funny and I won’t spoil it but the book contains one of the most beautiful scenes about love I’ve ever read.
Sadly I haven't yet interviewed Daisy for my podcast, but if she's reading this: Daisy, I'd love to talk to you about Food and Sex!
At the Table by Claire Powell
You’ll love this if you like: Anything by Sally Rooney or Naoise Dolan.
I saw At the Table on Instagram and rushed to buy it immediately, sucked in by the concept of a family drama where every scene takes place over a different meal. It starts at the iconic London restaurant The Wolseley, with the Maguire parents telling their son and daughter they're getting a divorce. I loved that the protagonist was deeply flawed and that it wasn't necessarily a happy-ever-after kind of book. Claire's writing feels deeply real and rooted in London, and the food is just delicious.
I was fortunate enough to snag Claire for an episode on Food and Family.
Black Cake by Charmaine Wilkerson
You’ll love this if you like: The Vanishing Half or anything by Taylor Jenkins Reid.
A favourite or both Barack Obama and Oprah Winfrey, Black Cake is being made into a TV series for Hulu, so you probably don’t need me to tell you it’s an extremely special book. It’s about estranged siblings Byron and Benny, who are brought back together when their mother, Eleanor, dies in California and leaves them with a puzzling inheritance: a traditional Caribbean black cake, and a voice recording that will help them to unravel their pasts.
Yup, you guessed it, I’ve interviewed Charmaine for my podcast! We spoke about Food and Roots.
Hush by Kate Maxwell
You’ll love this if you like: Anything by Leila Slimani.
Hush is a stunning debut from Kate Maxwell about a woman who mourns the loss of her former life as a high-flying career woman after having a baby. It’s set between London and New York and depicts the vibrancy of the two cities perfectly. It’s beautifully written, and brilliant on careers, motherhood and the conflict between the two. It had me hooked throughout and made me nostalgic for New York.
In at the Deep End by Kate Davies
You’ll love this if you like: Fleabag, Sex Education.
Without doubt the funniest book I've read in years, In at the Deep End is a tale of a woman exploring her sexuality after three years without sex. It’s extremely funny but it also has real depth and poignancy, exploring controlling relationships. The perfect balance, the perfect book, with a very deep insight into, erm… fisting!
I would recommend this to anyone who needs a good laugh, but be warned, it is FILTHY.
Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin
You’ll love this if you like: A Little Life.
I mentioned this in my list of brilliant books for when the going gets tough and I’ve included it here because it really is as special as they say. It’s a friendship love story centred around gaming, and it’s heart-wrenching, nostalgia-filled and joyous. Tomorrow x 3 has been mentioned on pretty much every books round-up I’ve seen for 2022 and it fully deserves its spot on those lists!
One Good Thing by Alexandra Potter
You’ll love this if you like: The Holiday, Bridget Jones’s Diary, anything by Marian Keyes.
Alexandra Potter’s smash-hit novel Confessions of a Forty-Something F##k Up is being made into a TV show starring none other than Cece from New Girl, but in my humble opinion, her latest book is even better. One Good Thing is about newly divorced and loveable Liz, who moves to a Yorkshire village on a whim to rebuild her life with the help of a lonely old man, a mistreated dog and an adorably anxious little boy. It brought to mind Cameron Diaz in The Holiday and reminded me very much of my Yorkshire home. A proper cosy comfort read that's perfect for the winter months.
Cat Lady by Dawn O’Porter
You’ll like this if you like: Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, and cats (the animal, not the show).
Dawn O'Porter is another auto-buy author for me, and Cat Lady may be her best book yet. It follows Mia, an introverted and at times antisocial woman who has a separate bedroom from her husband in order to sleep with her cat. She's going through some pretty deep stuff so the book is spit-your-tea-out funny and sob-your-heart-out sad in equal measure. I really related to Mia and would recommend this book to all cat lovers, but honestly I think if you don't love cats, you shouldn't bother!
You can find all the podcast episodes I mentioned here:
And, of course, my *favourite* book of the year
I couldn’t write this post without mentioning the novel that changed my life, could I?! Single Bald Female is the book I wrote – my book baby, the thing I have now poured seven years of love into. It’s about breast cancer, sure, but it’s also a book about love, friendship and family, and I’m hugely grateful to all the readers who have told me how much it resonated with them.
You can buy the hardback with its beautiful bold cover until January, and after that there’s a brand new sunshiney paperback cover and some exciting surprises in store!
If you’d like to buy any of the books I’ve mentioned in this post while also supporting independent book shops and authors, you can visit my page on Bookshop.org.
Have you read and loved any of these? What are you looking forward to reading in 2023? Let me know in the comments below, and be sure to subscribe for more news and recommendations next year.
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Laura writes exceptionally well and is always so positive. Its inspirational.