Book of the Month 2022

Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus

BOOK OF THE YEAR 2022 - Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus

Meet the unconventional, uncompromising Elizabeth Zott. She is not your average woman. In fact, Elizabeth Zott would be the first to point out that there is no such thing. But it's the early 1960s and her all-male team at Hastings Research Institute take a very unscientific view of equality. Except for one: Calvin Evans, the lonely, brilliant, Nobel-prize nominated grudge-holder who falls in love with - of all things - her mind. True chemistry results.

A few years later, Elizabeth finds herself not only a single mother, but the reluctant star of America's most beloved cooking show, Supper at Six. As her following grows, not everyone is happy. Because as it turns out, she isn't just teaching women to cook. She's daring them to change the status quo... 

Funny, smart and powerful, Garmus' debut spotlighting an unconventional woman with a game-plan to change the world was a stand-out festival favourite of 2022.

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Hay Festival Faces by Billie Charity

NOVEMBER 2022 - Hay Festival Faces by Billie Charity

Hay Festival returned in-person to Hay-on-Wye this year for the first time since 2019. Launching the best new fiction and non-fiction, while offering insights and debate around some of the biggest issues of our times alongside a vibrant programme of music, comedy and performance for all ages, the programme saw 500 speakers take part over 11 days, back to its pre-pandemic scale and attendance. 

Now the variety and vibrancy of these guests is brilliantly captured by local photographer Billie Charity in Hay Festival Faces, a new photo book from Graffeg. Character fills the pages of this publication – Britain’s favourite polymath Stephen Fry, musician Jarvis Cocker, Welsh Book of the Year-winner Caryl Lewis, His Dark Materials break-out star Amir Wilson, International Booker Prize-winner Geetanjali Shree, actress and singer Minnie Driver, politician Hillary Rodham Clinton – a full range of what the festival has to offer.

About the author

Billie Charity is an award-winning portrait and reportage photographer based in Hay-on-Wye. She has worked closely with David Hurn, John Bulmer and Niall McDiarmid. Her clients include the National Trust, the Big Lottery Fund, the Canal and River Trust, the Brecon Beacons National Park Authority, the Poets’ Society, Country Living and Faber. Her previous photo books, People of Hay, Colour and Lockdown Light were launched to critical acclaim.

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In Isolation by Stanislav Aseyev

OCTOBER 2022 - In Isolation by Stanislav Aseyev

In this collection of dispatches, Stanislav Aseyev attempts to understand the reasons behind the success of Russian propaganda among the residents of the industrial region of Donbas. For the first time, an inside account is presented here of the toll on real human lives and civic freedoms that the citizens of Europe’s largest country continue to suffer in Russia's hybrid war on its territory.

Aseyev focuses on the early period of the Russian-sponsored military aggression in Ukraine’s east, the period of 2015–2017. The author's testimony ends with his arrest for publishing his dispatches and his subsequent imprisonment and torture in a modern-day concentration camp on the outskirts of Donetsk run by lawless mercenaries and local militants with the tacit approval and support of Moscow.

About the authors

Stanislav Aseyev is a Donetsk-born Ukrainian writer and journalist. In addition to two books recounting his experience under Russian occupation in eastern Ukraine, he is the author of a collection of poetry, a play, and a novel. Under the pen name Stanislav Vasin, he published short reports in the Ukrainian press on the outbreak of Russian-sponsored military hostilities in Donbas. Arrested and unlawfully imprisoned by separatist militia forces for “extremism” and “spying,” Aseyev was held captive and subjected to intermittent torture. In 2021, he was awarded the prestigious Taras Shevchenko National Prize for In Isolation. 

Lidia Wolanskyj is a writer and translator. Her translated works include Survival as Victory by Oksana His and Ukraine's Nuclear Disarmament by Yuri Kostenko.

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Untold Microcosms

SEPTEMBER 2022 - Untold Microcosms edited by Sophie Hughes and Felipe Restrepo Pombo

The Central and South American collection at the British Museum collections contains approximately 62,000 objects, spanning 10,000 years of human history. The vast majority cannot be displayed, and those objects are the subject of Untold Microcosms, a collection of ten stories from ten Latin American writers, inspired by the narratives about our past that we create through museums, in spite of their gaps and disarticulations.

Featuring new original works by Yásnaya Elena Aguilar, Cristina Rivera Garza, Joseph Zárate, Juan Cárdenas, Velia Vidal, Lina Meruane, Gabriela Cabezón Cámara, Dolores Reyes, Carlos Fonseca and Djamila Ribeiro, Untold Microcosms forms part of a global Hay Festival project, inviting some of the best writers from Latin America today to interrupt the profiling of cultures, making space for narratives shaped by imagination. 

About the editors

Sophie Hughes has been translating Spanish and Latin American literature for a decade, including works by Fernanda Melchor, Alia Trabucco Zerán, José Revueltas and Enrique Vila-Matas. In 2020 she co-edited the Hay Festival anthology Europa28: Writing by Women on the Future of Europe.

Felipe Restrepo Pombo is a journalist, author and editor. In 2017 he was selected by Hay Festival as one of the best young Latin American authors of the decade. His work has been translated into English, French and Italian. He is the author of Retrato de una pesadilla, Nunca es fácil ser una celebridad, 16 retratos excéntricos, Formas de evasión, Perfiles anfibios and Ceremonia.

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All the Lovers in the Night by Mieko Kawakami

AUGUST 2022 - All the Lovers in the Night by Mieko Kawakami

From international literary sensation Mieko Kawakami comes All The Lovers In The Night, an extraordinary, deeply moving and insightful story set in contemporary Tokyo, translated from the Japanese by Sam Bett and David Boyd.

Fuyuko Irie is a freelance proofreader in her thirties. Living alone, and unable to form meaningful relationships, she has little contact with anyone other than Hijiri, someone she works with. When she sees her reflection, she’s confronted with a tired and spiritless woman who has failed to take control of her own life. Her one source of solace: light. Every Christmas Eve, Fuyuko heads out to catch a glimpse of the lights that fill the Tokyo night. But it is a chance encounter with a man named Mitsutsuka that awakens something new in her. And so her life begins to change...

All The Lovers In The Night is acute and insightful, entertaining and captivating, pulsing and poetic, modern and shocking. It’s another unforgettable novel from Japan’s most exciting writer.

About the author 

Mieko Kawakami is the author of the internationally best-selling novel Breasts and Eggs, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year and one of TIME’s Best 10 Books of 2020, and the highly-acclaimed Heaven, her second novel to be translated and published in English, which Oprah Daily described as written “with jagged, visceral beauty.” Born in Osaka, Japan, Kawakami made her literary debut as a poet in 2006, and in 2007 published her first novella, My Ego, My Teeth, and the World. Known for their poetic qualities, their insights into the female body, and their preoccupation with ethics and modern society, her books have been translated into over twenty languages. Kawakami’s literary awards include the Akutagawa Prize, the Tanizaki Prize, and the Murasaki Shikibu Prize. She lives in Tokyo, Japan.

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Regenesis by George Monbiot

JULY 2022 - Regenesis by George Monbiot

Farming is the world's greatest cause of environmental destruction - and the one we are least prepared to talk about. We criticise urban sprawl, but farming sprawls across thirty times as much land. We have ploughed, fenced and grazed great tracts of the planet, felling forests, killing wildlife, and poisoning rivers and oceans to feed ourselves. Yet millions still go hungry.

Now the food system itself is beginning to falter. But, as George Monbiot shows us in this brilliant, bracingly original new book, we can resolve the biggest of our dilemmas and feed the world without devouring the planet. Regenesis is a breathtaking vision of a new future for food and for humanity. 

About the author 

George Monbiot is an author, Guardian columnist and environmental campaigner. His best-selling books include Feral: Rewilding the Land, Sea and Human Life and Heat: How We Can Stop the Planet Burning; his latest is Out of the Wreckage: A New Politics for an Age of Crisis. George cowrote the concept album Breaking the Spell of Loneliness with musician Ewan McLennan, and has made a number of viral videos. One of them, adapted from his 2013 TED talk, How Wolves Change Rivers, has been viewed on YouTube over 40 million times. Another, on Natural Climate Solutions, which he co-presented with Greta Thunberg, has been watched over 60 million times.

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Drift by Caryl Lewis

JUNE 2022 - Drift by Caryl Lewis

Moving between the wild Welsh coast and war-torn Syria, Drift is a love story with a difference and debut English novel from the acclaimed Welsh writer Caryl Lewis.

Nefyn has always been an enigma, even to her brother Joseph with whom she lives in a small cottage above a blustery cove. Hamza is a Syrian mapmaker, incarcerated in a military base a few miles up the coast. A violent storm will bring these two lost souls together - but other forces will soon try to tear them apart... Drift is a hypnotic tale of lost identity, the quest for home and the wondrous resilience of the human spirit.

About the author 

Caryl Lewis is a multi-award-winning Welsh novelist, children's writer, playwright and screenwriter. Her breakthrough novel Martha, Jac a Sianco (2004) is widely regarded as a modern classic of Welsh literature, and sits on the Welsh curriculum. The film adaptation - with a screenplay by Lewis herself - went on to win six Welsh BAFTAS and the Spirit of the Festival Award at the 2010 Celtic Media Festival. Lewis's other screenwriting work includes BBC/S4C thrillers Hinterland and Hidden. Lewis is a visiting lecturer in Creative Writing at Cardiff University, and lives with her family on a farm near Aberystwyth. Drift is her debut novel in the English language.

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Welsh (Plural): Essays on the Future of Wales, edited by Darren Chetty, Hanan Issa, Grug Muse and Iestyn Tyne

MAY 2022 – Welsh (Plural): Essays on the Future of Wales, edited by Darren Chetty, Hanan Issa, Grug Muse and Iestyn Tyne

What does it mean to imagine Wales and “The Welsh” as something both distinct and inclusive?

For many people, Wales brings to mind the same old collection of images – if it’s not rugby, sheep and rolling hills, it’s the 3 Cs: castles, coal, and choirs. Heritage, mining and the church are indeed integral parts of Welsh culture. But what of the other stories that point us toward a Welsh future?

In Welsh (Plural), some of the foremost current Welsh writers offer imaginative, radical perspectives that take us beyond the clichés and binaries that so often shape thinking about Wales and Welshness. Conceived when three of the collection's editors - Darren Chetty, Grug Muse and Hanan Issa - met on the Hay Festival Writers at Work programme in 2019, the collection is timely look at the diverse and modern country around us.

About the editors

Darren Chetty is a writer from Swansea. He is the author of What Is Masculinity? Why does it Matter? And Other Big Questions and How To Disagree: Negotiate Difference In A Divided World.

Hanan Issa is a writer, poet, and artist who lives and was raised in Cardiff. Her debut pamphlet My Body Can House Two Hearts was published by Burning Eye Books in 2019.

Grug Muse is a writer, editor and researcher from Dyffryn Nantlle. Her first poetry collection, Ar Ddisberod, was published by Barddas in 2017.

Iestyn Tyne is a writer and musician based in Caernarfon. He has published three volumes of poetry and is the National Eisteddfod’s poet in residence.

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Fernanda Melchor's Paradais

APRIL 2022 – Fernanda Melchor's Paradais

"Fernanda Melchor explores violence and inequity in this brutal novel. She does it with dazzling technical prowess, a perfect pitch for orality, and a neurosurgeon’s precision for cruelty. Paradais is a short inexorable descent into Hell" — Mariana Enríquez, author of Things We Lost in the Fire.

Inside a luxury housing complex, two misfit teenagers sneak around and get drunk. Franco Andrade, lonely, overweight, and addicted to porn, obsessively fantasizes about seducing his neighbor – an attractive married woman and mother – while Polo dreams about quitting his gruelling job as a gardener within the gated community and fleeing his overbearing mother and their narco-controlled village. Each facing the impossibility of getting what he thinks he deserves, Franco and Polo hatch a mindless and macabre scheme. 

Written in a chilling torrent of prose by one of our most thrilling new writers and translated by Sophie Hughes, Paradais explores the explosive fragility of Mexican society – fractured by issues of race, class and violence – and how the myths, desires, and hardships of teenagers can tear life apart at the seams.

About the author

Fernanda Melchor is widely recognized as one of the most exciting new voices of Mexican literature. In 2018, she won the PEN Mexico Award for Literary and Journalistic Excellence and in 2019 the German Anna-Seghers-Preis and the International Literature Award for Hurricane Season. Her translated works include Hurricane Season and Paradais.

Sophie Hughes has translated novels by several contemporary Latin American and Spanish authors, including Best Translated Book Award 2017 finalist Laia Jufresa (Umami). Her translations, reviews and essays have been published in The Guardian, The White Review, the Times Literary Supplement and elsewhere. She has been the recipient of a British Centre for Literary Translation mentorship and residency, a PEN Heim Literary Translation grant, and in 2018 she was shortlisted for an Arts Foundation 25th Anniversary Fellowship. Her translation of Alia Trabucco Zerán’s The Remainder was shortlisted for the 2019 Man Booker International Prize.

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Amy Liptrot's The Instant

MARCH 2022 – Amy Liptrot's The Instant

The new book from the bestselling and multi-award-winning author of The Outrun – on the ecology of love and heartbreak, the urban environment and the digital age.

Wishing to leave the quiet isolation of her Orkney island life, Amy Liptrot books a one-way flight to Berlin. Searching for new experiences, inspiration and love, she rents a loftbed in a shared flat and looks for work. She explores the streets, nightclubs and parks and seeks out the city's wildlife - goshawks, raccoons and hooded crows. She looks for love through the screen of her laptop.

Over the course of a year Amy makes space hoping for the unexpected. And it comes with an erotic jolt, in the form of a love affair that obsesses her.

The Instant is an unapologetic look at the addictive power of love and lust. It is also an exploration of the cycles of the moon, the flight paths of migratory birds, the mesmerising power of Neolithic stonework and the trails followed by a generation who exist online.

About the author

Amy Liptrot has published her work with various magazines, journals and blogs and she has written a regular column for Caught by the River out of which The Outrun has emerged. As well as writing for major newspapers including the Guardian and the Observer, Amy has worked as an artist’s model, a trampolinist and in a shellfish factory. The Outrun was awarded the 2016 Wainwright Prize and was shortlisted for the 2016 Wellcome Prize. 

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James Joyce's Ulysses

FEBRUARY 2022 – James Joyce's Ulysses

"The most important expression which the present age has found; it is a book to which we are all indebted, and from which none of us can escape" - T.S. Eliot.

On 2 February 1922, James Joyce's Ulysses was first published in its entirety by bookseller Sylvia Beach, founder of Shakespeare & Company bookshop in Paris. 100 years on, we're celebrating the modernist masterpiece as our Book of the Month and partnering the world-famous bookshop in a free global read-along. 

Following the events of one single day in Dublin, the 16th of June 1904, and what happens to the characters Stephen Dedalus, Leopold Bloom and his wife Molly, Ulysses is a monument to the human condition. It has survived censorship, controversy and legal action, remaining an undisputed modernist classic: ceaselessly inventive, garrulous, funny, sorrowful, vulgar, lyrical and ultimately redemptive. It confirms Joyce's belief that literature "is the eternal affirmation of the spirit of man."

About the author

James Joyce was born on 2 February 1882 in Dublin. He studied modern languages at University College, Dublin. After graduating, Joyce moved to Paris for a brief period in 1902. In 1904 Joyce met Nora Barnacle, with whom he would spend the rest of his life and they moved to Europe and settled in Trieste where Joyce worked as a teacher. His first published work was a book of poems called Chamber Music (1907). This was followed by Dubliners (1914), A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916) and the play Exiles (1918). In 1915 the First World War forced Joyce and Nora and their two children to move to Zürich. Joyce's most famous novel, Ulysses, was published in Paris in 1922. In the same year he started work on his last great book, Finnegan's Wake (1939). James Joyce died in Zürich on 13 January 1941.

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Tessa Hadley's Free Love

JANUARY 2022 – Tessa Hadley's Free Love

From Tessa Hadley, bestselling author of Late in the Day and The Past, comes a compulsive new novel about one woman's sexual and intellectual awakening in 1960s London.

1967. While London comes alive with the new youth revolution, the suburban Fischer family seems to belong to an older world of conventional stability: pretty, dutiful homemaker Phyllis is married to Roger, a devoted father with a career in the Foreign Office. Their children are Colette, a bookish teenager, and Hugh, the golden boy.

But when the twenty-something son of an old friend pays the Fischers a visit one hot summer evening, and kisses Phyllis in the dark garden after dinner, something in her catches fire. Newly awake to the world, Phyllis makes a choice that defies all expectations of her as a wife and a mother. Nothing in these ordinary lives is so ordinary after all, it turns out, as the family's upheaval mirrors the dramatic transformation of the society around them.

With scalpel-sharp insight, Tessa Hadley explores her characters' inner worlds, laying bare their fears and longings. Daring and sensual, Free Love is a compulsive, irresistible exploration of romantic love, sexual freedom and living out the truest and most meaningful version of our lives.

"Tessa Hadley recruits admirers with each book. She writes with authority, and with delicacy: she explores nuance, but speaks plainly; she is one of those writers a reader trusts" - Hilary Mantel.

About the author

Tessa Hadley is the author of seven highly praised novels, Accidents in the Home, which was longlisted for the Guardian First Book Award, Everything Will Be All Right, The Master Bedroom, The London Train, Clever Girl, The Past, Late in the Day and three collections of stories, Sunstroke, Married Love and Bad Dreams. She won a Windham-Campbell prize for Fiction in 2016, The Past won the Hawthornden Prize for 2016, and Bad Dreams won the 2018 Edge Hill Short Story Prize. Her stories appear regularly in the New Yorker.

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About Hay Festival's Book of the Month

Hay Festival's Book of the Month is our monthly recommendation of a title we love and think holds particular resonance today. This is our chance to celebrate great works of fiction, non-fiction and poetry – new and old.

Throughout the month, we'll share interesting links and articles relating to our selection on social media using #HBOTM and invite you all to get involved with your questions and comments.

If you'd like to recommend a book for consideration, please share on social media using #HBOTM.

Happy reading!