Best books of Book and Brew

This month, the Book and Brew book club celebrated its fifth birthday. We took the chance to look back on the books we’ve read since 2015 and pick our favourites from a crop of over 60 classic and modern titles.

In January 2015, I launched the Book and Brew book club from my sofa with just a Twitter account and hope that other bookworms would find me. And, they did.

Five years later, we still meet every month to discuss a book and go home with a list of many more recommendations of new books we’d like to try.

We celebrated our birthday with a relaxing two-day reading retreat in Northumberland that featured plenty of book chat, the biggest afternoon tea we’ve ever seen and a roaring fire. Bookish bliss!

During the retreat, we reflected on the more than 60 books we’ve read as a group. Some of those were chosen by our members, many were sourced from the Reading Agency’s wonderful Reading Groups for Everyone noticeboard, and others were provided as part of our duties as shadow judges for the Women’s Prize for Fiction, Man Booker Prize and Man Booker International Prize (twice). Oh, and we also read The Girl with a Pearl Earring for our appearance on the BBC Radio Two Book Club in February 2019.

We’ve certainly been busy.

The books we’ve read were published between 1932 and 2019. They were written by women and men, Britsh and international authors. They were dominated by our favourite genre – literary fiction – but also included sci-fi, historical fiction, dystopian novels and translated fiction.

Here is our longlist of the 15 books that we loved the most:

(These are in no particular order).

  • His Bloody Projects
  • The Starless Sea
  • The Nightingale
  • The Handmaid’s Tale
  • The Power
  • Life After Life
  • An American Marriage
  • A Long Way to Small Angry Planet
  • The Immortalists
  • Little Fires Everywhere
  • How to Stop Time
  • Brave New World
  • All the Light we Cannot See
  • The Fifth Season
  • Fever Dream

And, here are our top five books:

  • How to Stop Time

  • The Starless Sea

  • Life After Life

  • The Immortalists

  • An American Marriage

These five books were our favourites because they surprised us, entertained us and stayed with us long after reading.

Thanks to all of the publishers who’ve given us books to review, to The Reading Agency for letting us be part of so many fantastic reading projects – and to the team at Tyneside Coffee Rooms who keep us supplied with hot beverages and sweet treats every month at our meetings.

If you’d like to know more about setting up your own book club, read my tips here. You can also find five free resources to support your book club.

Here are all of the books we’ve read since 2015 if you’d like to read anything from our back catalogue:


  • The Fifth Season by NK Jemisin
  • The Shadow in the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
  • The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary
  • Vox by Christina Dalcher
  • The Shape of the Ruins by Juan Gabriel Vasquez (Man Booker International Prize judging)
  • The Blue by Nancy Bilyeau
  • The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley
  • An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
  • The Testaments by Margaret Atwood
  • The Furies by Kate Lowe
  • The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern
  • The Girl with the Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier (BBC Radio Two Book Club)


  • The Good People by Hannah Kent
  • Labyrinth by Kate Mosse
  • A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles
  • Red Clocks by Leni Zumas
  • The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gowar
  • Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
  • The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin
  • Lullaby by Leila Slimani
  • Transcription by Kate Atkinson
  • The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters
  • The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah


  • The Life of Elves by Muriel Barbery
  • The Versions of Us by Laura Barnett
  • Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood
  • Swimming Lessons by Claire Fuller
  • The Power by Naomi Alderman
  • The Other Mrs Walker by Mary Paulson Ellis
  • The Girls by Emma Cline
  • How to Stop Time by Matt Haig
  • The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
  • The Pagoda Tree by Claire Scobie
  • Reading with Patrick by Michelle Kuo
  • Cragside by LJ Ross
  • The Lost Girl by Carol Drinkwater
  • The Beguiled by Thomas Cullinan
  • Fever Dream by Samantha Schweblin (Man Booker International Prize judging)
  • Greatest Hits by Laura Barnett (choosing book cover for Hachette)


  • Landfalls by Naomi J Williams
  • Disclaimer by Renee Knight
  • Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
  • The Life and Death of Sophie Stark by Anna North
  • The Portable Veblen by Elizabeth McKenzie (Women’s Prize for Fiction shadow judging)
  • Summer of Broken Stories by James Wilson
  • The Invisible Man of Salem by Christoffer Carlsson
  • Fate and Furies by Lauran Groff
  • Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegh
  • His Bloody Projects by Graham Macrea Burnett (Man Booker Prize shadow judging)
  • The Invitation by Lucy Foley
  • The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers
  • The African Equation by Yasmina Khadra


  • The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton
  • Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey
  • Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
  • The Goldfinch by Donna Tart
  • Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
  • Outline by Rachel Cusk
  • The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
  • Herring Girl by Debbie Taylor
  • All the Light we Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
  • The Bees by Laline Paull
  • Animals by Emma J Unsworth

2 thoughts on “Best books of Book and Brew

  1. Pingback: Read my new book column in Luxe magazine – Strategic communications consultant

  2. Pingback: Five minutes with Book and Brew to talk about how I researched and wrote Widdershins – Helen Steadman

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