The Book Club

One of The Directory readers suggested we create a Book Club which we agree is a brilliant idea. Below is a list of books Directory readers have read recently and recommend. Please do send us your recommendations and we will add them to the list.


The Year of Miracles Recipes About Love + Grief + Growing Things by Ella Risbridger  

This book was recommended to us and it charts a year in Ella's kitchen, including reflections on loss and love together with must-try recipes. As the cook Nigel Slater says 'An extraordinary, heartwarming book with gorgeous recipes. I loved it.' 

And as Waterstones say -'This cookbook is about a year in the kitchen (and in the garden under the fire-escape steps). A year of grief and hope and change; of fancy fish pie, cardamom-cinnamon chicken rice, chimichurri courgettes, quadruple carb soup, blackberry miso birthday cake, and sticky toffee Guinness brownie pudding.
A year of loss, and every kind of romance, and fried jam sandwiches. A year of seedlings and pancakes. A year of falling in love. A year of recipes. A year, in other words, of minor miracles.'


The People on Platform 5 by Clare Pooley

Nobody speaks to strangers on the train. But what would happen if they did? Every day Iona Iverson boards the train to go to work. Every day, she sees the same people and makes assumptions about them, even giving them nicknames. But they never speak. Obviously.

Then, one morning, Smart-but-Sexist-Surbiton chokes on a grape right in front of Iona. Suspiciously-Nice-New Malden steps up to help and saves his life, and this one event sparks a chain reaction...


Sorrow and Bliss by Meg Mason

Everyone tells Martha Friel she is clever and beautiful, a brilliant writer who has been loved every day of her adult life by one man, her husband Patrick. A gift, her mother once said, not everybody gets. So why is everything broken? Why is Martha – on the edge of 40 – friendless, practically jobless and so often sad? And why did Patrick decide to leave?
This book is highly recommended and has been shortlisted for the Women’s Prize For Fiction 2022.
Podcast - BBC Radio 4 - The Anatomy of Kindness
Using evidence from the BBC Kindness Test, neuroscientists and evolutionary psychologists, broadcaster, author and psychologist Claudia Hammond interrogates what it means to be kind, who we are kind to and the benefits of being a kind boss.
Listen HERE

The Exhibitionist  by Charlotte Mendelson

Recommended by Sunday Times journalist India Knight and has been long listed for the Women's Prize for Fiction 2022. As Waterstones say "The Exhibitionist is the extraordinary fifth novel from Charlotte Mendelson, a dazzling exploration of art, sacrifice, toxic family politics, queer desire, and personal freedom." It is definitely on our reading list...


Miss Benson's Beetle by Rachel Joyce

Like a caged bird who is desperate to fly, Miss Benson's Beetle is the story of a woman who breaks free from the confines of her ordinary, small life, in order to follow her dreams. 

Highly recommended by Directory Member Alex Pearson, owner of Manuka Direct Manuka Honey - Alex says... "Was a bit dubious at the start but I absolutely loved it, it's a delightful take on female friendship."  


The Friend by Sigrid Nunez

"A female English professor and writer loses her best friend and sometimes lover to suicide. A few days later she’s asked to take over the care of his dog, an enormous Great Dane. No small ask as the writer lives in a tiny flat in a Manhattan building where dogs are prohibited. This is the plot of the otherwise plotless but strangely mesmerising story about love, loss and being an artist, which, had my flight not been over, I would have read in one sitting." Reviewed by Julie of BookStoker




Afterlives by Abdulrazak Gurnah

This fascinating book is set in German East Africa at the beginning of the 20th century when the major European powers are fighting over the land. It focuses on 2 men who both fought in the German army and the impact it had on their lives and families. It won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2021 and is well worth a read. 


Violeta by Isabel Allende

"Telling the story of the most pivotal events of the last hundred years through the extraordinary life of one woman, Allende's sweeping epic of human resilience and social history ranks amongst her very finest works."

This new book by Isabel Allende is due out on 25th January and Waterstones are offering signed copies of the hardback at the special price of £14.99.


The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Recommended by Betsy Garrett.

Good Reads say "Young Hiram Walker was born into bondage. When his mother was sold away, Hiram was robbed of all memory of her — but was gifted with a mysterious power. Years later, when Hiram almost drowns in a river, that same power saves his life. This brush with death births an urgency in Hiram and a daring scheme: to escape from the only home he’s ever known."


Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner

Recommended by Betsy Garrett

Waterstones say "The indie music star known as Japanese Breakfast delivers a complex, thought-provoking memoir of growing up mixed-race and how her mother's death brought her to a reckoning with her own heritage."


Empress Dowager CIXI: The Concubine Who Launched Modern China by Jung Chang

Directory reader Susan Gallagher says... "a fascinating book to savour."

“Filled with new revelations, it's a gripping and surprising story of an extraordinary woman in power. Using Chinese sources, totally untapped by western books, this reappraises one of the great monstresses of modern history...” 

says Simon Sebag Montefiore, BBC History Magazine.

“If there is one woman who mattered in the history of modern China, it is the empress dowager Cixi. Her conventional image is queried in this detailed and beautifully narrated biography, which at long last restores the empress dowager to her rightful place...”

says Frank Dikotter, Sunday Times.


Former Thomas's Parent Betsy Garrett writes... "Here is a list of my most recent favourite reads... I really loved them all and please feel free to use them in The Directory."

Betsy suggested 4 books - 2 are below and we will feature the other 2 in the next couple of weeks.

  • Island of the Missing Trees by Elif Shafak
  • Seven Days in June by Tia Williams

As Daunt Books says about The Island of the Missing TreesTwo teenagers, from opposite sides of a divided land, meet at a tavern in the city they both call home. The tavern is the only place that Kostas, who is Greek and Christian, and Defne, who is Turkish and Muslim, can meet, in secret, hidden beneath the blackened beams from which hang garlands of garlic, chilli peppers and wild herbs.

This is where one can find the best food in town, the best music, the best wine. But there is something else to the place: it makes one forget, even if for just a few hours, the world outside and its immoderate sorrows. In the centre of the tavern, growing through a cavity in the roof, is a fig tree... Read more

And Waterstones summarises Seven Days in June as follows - Eva Mercy is a single mother and bestselling erotica writer who is feeling pressed from all sides. Shane Hall is a reclusive, enigmatic, award-winning novelist, who, to everyone's surprise, shows up unexpectedly in New York. When Shane and Eva meet at a literary event, sparks fly, raising not only their buried traumas, but also the eyebrows of the Black literati. What no one knows is that fifteen years earlier, teenage Eva and Shane spent one crazy, torrid week madly in love. While they may be pretending not to know each other, they can't deny their chemistry - or the fact that they've been secretly writing to each other in their books through the years... Read more


Beautiful World, Where Are You by Sally Rooney
Madeleine Ross of Oxford Students says..."Sally Rooney writes books about people. This could be the main message of her new novel: the protagonist Alice is a successful author who writes books about people. She’s very wealthy, and the toast of New York, but she doesn’t like being famous. Could this mean that Sally Rooney doesn’t like the media rounds and endless publicity that come with being the next 20-year-old-something? Do we really care as long as she churns out the next great work that someone fit can play on TV?"
To read the rest of the review click HERE

The Fortune Men by Nadifa Mohamed

Robbie Millen at The Times writes... “This was one of the surprise pleasures of the longlist. The Fortune Men is Nadifa Mohamed’s fictional take on a true crime. In 1952 Mahmood Mattan is accused of murdering a Jewish shopkeeper in Cardiff. Mattan, a Somali sailor who set up home in Tiger Bay, is a chancer, a no-good boyo, an occasional paternal presence in the lives of his two sons, born to his Welsh wife. The police soon alight on him as the likely suspect. Mohamed, with two previous novels under her belt, does a superb job of evoking the atmosphere of the shifting and occasionally shifty multicultural community of Cardiff’s docks. Sometimes the flashbacks get in the way of the forward momentum and jeopardy of the story — can he clear his name? Will he hang for the crime? — but as The Times reviewer Siobhan Murphy wrote, that Mohamed had created “an intriguing snapshot of an era and a complex main character you can’t help but root for”.”


Summer reads: The best new fiction books coming out this July 

Whether you’re lying on a beach or in your back garden, these are the new releases to read this summer:

  • Other People's Clothes by Calla Henkel
  • She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan
  • How to Kill Your Family by Bella Mackie
  • The Therapist by Helene Flood
  • Jane Is Trying by Isy Suttie
  • Songbirds by Christy Lefteri
  • The Reading List by Sara Nisha Adams
  • The Distant Shores by Santa Montefiore

Jess Kelham-Hohler from The Glossary writes...

"Longer, warmer days are perfect for diving into a new read. Whether you’re heading out of the city on a staycation, going abroad on holiday or lounging in a park, this month’s new fiction books offer a much-needed dose of escapism. From Killing Eve-esque murderous satires to romantic dramas, July is packed with impressive debuts and follow-ups from bestselling authors. Here, we’ve rounded up the best new fiction books to add to your reading list this month." 

Read a review of each book HERE

The Sea Is Not Made of Water: Life Between The Tides by Adam Nicolson


Few places are as familiar as the shore - and few as full of mystery and surprise.

How do sandhoppers inherit an inbuilt compass from their parents? How do crabs understand the tides? How can the death of one winkle guarantee the lives of its companions? What does a prawn know?

In The Sea is Not Made of Water, Adam Nicolson explores the natural wonders of the intertidal and our long human relationship with it. The physics of the seas, the biology of anemone and limpet, the long history of the earth, and the stories we tell of those who have lived here: all interconnect in this zone where the philosopher, scientist and poet can meet and find meaning.

In this blend of fascinating, surprising ecology and luminous human history, Adam Nicolson gives an invitation to the shoreline. Anyone who chooses can look beyond their own reflection and find the marvellous there, waiting an inch beneath their nose.

"Essential seaside reading from Adam Nicolson. The beautiful illustrations by artist Kate Boxer can also be bought as limited editions from @cricketfineart."

Recommended by Directory Member and Owner of CK Rock, Liz Berman.


Standard Deviation by Katherine Heiny

New Yorkers Graham and Audra have a life that looks pretty perfect from the outside. He’s an attorney. She’s a part-time graphic designer and full-time mom to their gifted ten-year-old son, Matthew. Their apartment is lovely, their schedules are full, and they even seem to (mostly) find each other charming after twelve years of marriage.

But, of course, in Katherine Heiny’s novel Standard Deviation, it doesn’t take long to discover that all is not, in fact, perfect.

Recommended by Directory Reader Karen (@phenecakes) 


Recommendations for Father's Day include:

Operation Pedestal by Max Hastings
The Power of Geography by Tim Marshall and 
Alexandria by Dr Edmund Richardson.
For more Father's Day ideas visit Waterstones - click HERE

Frostquake by Juliet Nicolson and her 3 current reads... 

"A vivid and fascinating account of the freezing winter of 1962, Frostquake taps into a watershed moment in British social, political and cultural history through both an exceptional breadth of research and Nicholson’s personal experience." - Waterstones

"A brilliant concept transformed into a brilliant and revelatory book. Completely fascinating and engrossing" 

- William Boyd

"Juliet Nicolson has done something incredibly clever in her book Frostquake. She has written living history. It is stunning." - Joanna Lumley

....and Juliet Nicolson's 3 current reads and what she says about them...

My Wild and Sleepless Nights by Clover Stroud
"The most amazing book about motherhood I have ever read."

- I Couldn't Love You More by Esther Freud
"A breathtakingly beautiful story about generational love and the secrets we keep." 

- Featherhood by Charlie Gilmour
"An amazing memoir that challenged my perception of creatures of the wild, celebrates romantic commitment, and patriarchal love." 


Hamnet by Maggie O'Farrell


A stunning new departure for Maggie O'Farrell's fiction, Hamnet is the heart-stopping story behind Shakespeare's most famous play.

On a summer's day in 1596, a young girl in Stratford-upon-Avon takes to her bed with a fever. Her twin brother, Hamnet, searches everywhere for help. Why is nobody at home?

Their mother, Agnes, is over a mile away, in the garden where she grows medicinal herbs. Their father is working in London. Neither parent knows that one of the children will not survive the week.

Hamnet is a novel inspired by the son of a famous playwright. It is a story of the bond between twins, and of a marriage pushed to the brink by grief. It is also the story of a kestrel and its mistress; a flea that boards a ship in Alexandria; and a glovemaker's son who flouts convention in pursuit of the woman he loves. Above all, it is a tender and unforgettable reimagining of a boy whose life has been all but forgotten, but whose name was given to one of the most celebrated plays ever written.


The Soul of a Woman by Isabel Allende

The great Chilean writer discusses her own lifelong feminism and the understanding that it has brought about what women really desire, alongside hard-won life lessons for the current generation of young women finding their voices.

“My theory and practice is to say yes to life and then I’ll see how I manage along the way.” 
Part memoir, part manifesto of a fiercely independent spirit; intelligent and lyrical.

Review by John Sandoe Books and listed as one of its 'Books of the Year 2021'.


Winston's Spy: Carlton Chronicles 1 by Robert Webber

"1939. The storm clouds of war are gathering over Europe and the conundrum faced is whether the Soviet Union will reach a peace concord with Nazi Germany. 

How can Britain plan for war with Germany without knowing Stalin's intentions? The Baltic States hold the key and in particular Russia's old Grand Duchy, Finland. One man can make a difference and Alex Carlton is recruited by MI2 (the division of Military Intelligence that deals with Russia and Scandinavia) to go undercover in Finland to gain insight into Finnish intentions; but will Alex's past be a help or hindrance? As he progresses through training and prepares for his mission, Alex's life becomes complicated by love and intrigue that nearly derails his assignment and that would upset Winston Churchill himself!"

Easter Reading Review by Book Luver


Square Haunting by Francesca Wade

"A lovely non-fiction book about women who lived in different periods in a square in Bloomsbury." 

The Three-Body Problem by Liu Cixin

"This book is by a Chinese science fiction writer and is about to be made into a Netflix series by the guys who did Game of Thrones."

Both Square Haunting and The Three-Body Problem are former Tatler Editor, Gavanndra Hodge's favourite lockdown reads - as published by Sloane Square Magazine.

On Chapel Sands by Laura Cumming

"A gentle book  I couldn’t put down about the author’s family secrets, the answers to which are uncovered only by forensically looking through old  black and white photos. The pre-war Lincolnshire coast was so vividly described I almost felt the sand between my toes and it’s remoteness echoed the submissive isolation of one of the  central characters."

Review by Directory Member Caroline Marston, Chairman,  Marston Properties.


Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver

"My recommendation is ‘Prodigal Summer’ by Barbara Kingsolver, who also wrote ‘The Poisonwood Bible’, another great book. I particularly loved the former where the author creates vivid pictures of the surroundings based in the Appalachian mountains and brings the characters to life equally as vividly - a great read!"

Reveiw by Directory Member Nicky Whiteford, Lotte Berk Barre.


The Beekeeper of Aleppo by Christy Lefteri

Beautifully written; a moving and heartbreaking story which gives a real and human insight into the plight of refugees and this beautiful country. It is a powerful reminder of how peaceful and ordinary lives can be turned upside down. An easy, fascinating and thought provoking read. Highly recommend.

Reveiw by Directory Member Alex Pearson, Manuka Direct.

The Duch House by Ann Patchett

Rich in metaphor and flawless in tone, The Dutch House sees one of the world’s finest living novelists at the top of her game. Shimmering with melancholy, this extraordinary book takes a scalpel to family dynamics and the irretrievable loss of youthful pride. A novel of jewel-like beauty and emotional insight. (Waterstones)

"I’ve never read anything by Ann Patchett before but it was definitely one of the best books I read in 2020."

Reveiw by Directory reader and former Thomas's parent Min Wegulin.


Machines Like Me by Ian McEwan

"Machines Like Me is set in an alternative 1980s London where Britain has lost the Falklands war. The book is about Adam, an artificial human who's personality is designed by his owners Charlie and Miranda, and the impact he has on their lives and especially the way in which he deals with Miranda's secret. It is beautifully written and leaves us thinking about what makes us human."

Review by Sarah Lacaille, Silks PR & Marketing


Away with the Penguins by Hazel Prior

"...just what we need now... I don’t know whether it was just timing i.e. I needed a book to transport me away from 2021 but Away with the Penguins made me soar. A good book is meant to do that, isn’t it? The weather was grey, everywhere was flooded and the news was as gloomy as ever so last weekend I curled up on the sofa and read this book."

This year’s Eleanor Oliphant . . . Funny, bittersweet and wholly original.’ Daily Express

Read Annabel's full review at Annabel & Grace


American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins

"I loved American Dirt - the portrayal of a woman and her son pursued by a drug cartel in Mexico shocked me, the beauty, kindness and strength of their characters sucked me into their story. Their treacherous journey humbled me with my comfortable life. 
Such a great read, couldn’t put it down, hands down my fiction book of 2020."

Spoon Fed by Tim Spector

"My favourite non fiction - a really interesting and accessible book on nutrition, cutting through the myths and fads that circulate. He references the science to back up all his theories and opinions, points out the lack of science behind many government backed food policies, and the scandalous relationship between food industry and policy makers too. He manages to make this into an engaging and entertaining read, should be read by everyone, government included!"

Reviews of American Dirt and Spoon Fed by Directory Member Caroline Davies. 
The Woman in the Polar Night by Christiane Ritter

"This book could not be written today as too much progress has been made in conditions, clothing, communications, food storage and necessities of life. Global warming has changed the landscape since 1934 when Christiane, an artist, recorded her extraordinary year in the Arctic with her husband, Hermann and his assistant Karl.
She arrived on the ferry to Spitsbergen where the captain of the ship tried to persuade her not to disembark on to this grey forbidding frozen landscape. The ferry would not return for a year. Christiane learns how to live in the hut provided, cooking and eating seal, day after day battling with the stove and the fuel pile outside. Snow frequently covers the whole hut. The men go off on trapping expeditions leaving Christiane with no human contact, alone in the polar night.
My Book Club found it one of the best of 2020." 

Review by Directory Reader, Elizabeth English


The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne

"Most people will know John Boyne from his hard-hitting book The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, but this book is something else entirely. A big, sweeping novel about love, identity and acceptance. One of my favourite books." 

“I loved this book. Honest, sad, laugh-out-loud funny, touching.” Author, Sandra Danby

“A masterpiece”. Goodreads


Daisy Jones and The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid 

"A gripping novel about the whirlwind rise of an iconic 1970s rock group and their beautiful lead singer, revealing the mystery behind their infamous break up."

“incredible, intoxicating, unforgettable”. Goodreads

“The characters were beautifully layered and complex”. Reece Witherspoon

Reviews of The Heart's Invisible Furies and Daisy Jones and The Six by Directory reader, Annabel Dearlove

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

This book is a Sunday Times Bestseller and is recommended by HRH The Duchess of Cornwall who says... "All is not as it seems in this beautifully written, heart-breaking coming-of-age novel. I couldn't put (or my handichief) down!"

Delia Owens describes her first novel as “A nature-immersed mystery and love story with an ending that you’ll never guess, and never, ever forget.”

Fiona Clare, one of the Duchess's favourite designers also likes this book. See Fiona Clare on The Directory


Authenticity Project by Clare Pooley

If you are looking for something heartwarming to read how about trying this story which is set in London and is full of hope, community and the kindness of strangers. Clare Pooley says... "My debut novel - The Authenticity Project, was inspired by my own experience of exposing the rather grubby truth about my own seemingly perfect life, and is being published in twenty-nine territories in 2020. I’ve written a book about my own life, The Sober Diaries."

"Clare and I were at school together and she was forever clutching a red A4 folder which she filled with stories, observations and no doubt tales of our antics!" Katie Barkshire, Silks PR & Marketing

The Autumn of the Ace by Louis de Bernières

The third in a series of historial fiction novels by Louis de Bernières, the author of Captain Correlli's Mandolin, was released earlier this year and is every bit as good as its forerunners, The Dust that Falls from Dreams and So Much Life Left Over.

"A moving account of an extraordinary life in extraordinary times. Daniel is a flawed but captivating hero, and his coming-of-age story illuminates both the effect of two World Wars on a generation and the irrepressible spirit and love that can connect people despite great obstacles."

No One Is Talking About This by Patricia Lockwood

A woman known for her viral social media posts travels the world speaking to her adoring fans, her entire existence overwhelmed by the internet – or what she terms 'the portal'. Are we in hell? the people of the portal ask themselves. Are we all just going to keep doing this until we die?

Suddenly, two texts from her mother pierce the fray: 'Something has gone wrong,' and 'How soon can you get here?' As real life and its stakes collide with the increasing absurdity of the portal, the woman confronts a world that seems to contain both an abundance of proof that there is goodness, empathy and justice in the universe, and a deluge of evidence to the contrary.

Recommended by former Thomas's pupil Alex.

'I really admire and love this book. Patricia Lockwood is a completely singular talent and this is her best, funniest, weirdest, most affecting work yet.’ Author and screenwriter Sally Rooney 


Please try and buy books at your local bookshop Many of them are currently doing delivery and click & collect.


Please send your book recommendations and reviews to:

Katie and Sarah