What’s on my bookshelf #17

Welcome to this month’s what’s on your shelf challenge hosted by fellow bloggers DebSueDonna and Jo. The idea is to share what you’re reading, what you’ve enjoyed lately share – why they resonated with you, how they made you feel, who are your favourite authors and what you recommend.

For this month’s #whatsonyourshelf I’m going to do a round up of my favourite books of the year. I’ve chosen the same categories as last year, so without further ado, here we go. 

Favourite book by a New Zealand author

Two novels stuck out in this category: Laurence Fearnley’s Winter Time and Sue Orr’s Loop Track, both of which I have mentioned in past posts. I loved Orr’s book, set in Wellington during the lockdown of 2020, but it was pipped to the post by Fearnley’s Winter Time. Set in Mackenzie Basin in the South Island, it is a novel about family and friendship a, with a leading role also taken by the landscape. I loved this book and it will need to go into the ‘must read again’ pile.

Favourite novel

I should add ‘not by a New Zealand author’ to this heading to be completely accurate. Without a doubt, Louise Erdrich’s The Sentence, was a clear winner, with its tale of a ghost haunting a small independent bookshop in Minneapolis, Tookie, who has landed a job selling books after years in prison has to resolve this haunting while coming to terms with things in her own life, the pandemic and the riots after the death of George Floyd. This was a book full of so many strands and layers and I couldn’t put it down. A wonderful read. In second place comes Elisa Shua Dusapin’s Winter in Sockcho, new author to me, I enjoyed the two short books by her available in English. A lovely little gem. with well-drawn characters that came alive on the page.

Favourite detective novel

I read three books by Ann Cleeves, and enjoyed all of them, including her most recent one The Heron’s Cry. However, top of the list comes the latest Jane Harper, Exiles, which had me gripped from page one.

Favourite beach read (or rather one I read on the beach)

Back in January, I took Jonathan Franzen’s family saga Crossroads up to Hawke’s Bay on our summer trip. Another book that was hard to put down, it was a surprisingly excellent holiday read.

Favourite re-read

My favourite re-read was Barbara Pym’s A Glass of Blessings. I am a big fan of her writing, and whenever I am feeling a little blue or need a comfort read, out a work by her comes.

Favourite non-fiction

New Zealand born author Nina Mingya-Powles’ Small Bodies of Water is a wonderful collection of essays on water, and how it connects us and separate us. It is a mix of personal memories, words on nature and growing up between two cultures and how that has impacted on the nature of belonging.

The non-fiction work that probably made the most impact was Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner (thanks to Carol Ann for recommending it). Poignant, sad, uplifting – all these adjectives could be applied to this wonderful little book. It is a book about belonging and what that means, about coming to terms with death and our connections with our cultural identities. You can read the original New Yorker essay the book was based on here.

I also enjoyed new collections of essays from Ann Patchett and Siri Hustvedt (pictured in the featured image).

Favourite food/cookery books

I read Ella Risbridger’s first book earlier this year, about the death of her partner of cancer, and looked forward to picking up her follow up book of memoirs and recipes. I was not disappointed. This book follows a year in the author’s life as she moves on with life, deals with the pandemic and cooks and eats. I think the most popular new dish from a new cookbook this year was the salmon with tahini from Ottolenghi’s Test Kitchen’s Shelf, which I actually mentioned in a past blog post.

It was interesting to look back at the books I enjoyed this year, with common themes emerging of identity, belonging, cultural identity, loss and family. I guess these are things that all mean something to me on different levels.

Anyway, so…to pick the top book out of this list. On Tuesday evening, the book club I am part of met for Christmas drinks, and the theme was our favourite book of the year. I spent most of the day trying to decide between the books by Laurence Fearnley, Louise Erdrich and Michelle Zauner. Another member of the group picked Crying in H Mart, so in the end I decided on Louise Erdrich’s The Sentence, for its intriguing story and the fact it introduced me to some of the issues about being an indigenous person in the US.

What was your favourite book of the year?

Thistles and Kiwis is a Wellington, New Zealand based blog written by Barbara, who likes cats, summer, good food and pretends to garden.

You can find Thistles and Kiwis on Facebook, and also on Instagram @thistlesandkiwis.  As for Twitter….am totally inactive these days.  If you want to get in touch, email me on thistlesandkiwis@gmail.com


  1. It was you who reminded me of Ann Cleaves and I have bought several of her novels as well as scoured secondhand shops for them: a delight to read when one is feeling a bit harassed or weighed down by things. I find the themes you have picked out rather intriguing for they are all topical. My favourite book of the year was “The Miracle of Crocodile Flats: an affectionate satire” by South African author, Jenny Hobbs. It is a delightful potpourri of the people, beliefs, the politics and the situations that make up South Africa: in this rundown town in the middle of nowhere, a young black girl believes she has seen a vision of a brown Virgin Mary – all hell breaks loose after that as the word spreads and everyone converges on Crocodile Flats. It is funny, it is poignant, it is annoying at times, but is is South Africa 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I so agree re Ann Cleeves – good stories, well written and a delight to read as you say.

      That book sounds fascinating – wonder if it is available here? I will keep my eyes open.


  2. Thank you for all the book suggestions. I just finished Educated by Tara Westover. I was a little late to the game reading this but it was amazing. A true story. I have watched several interviews with Tara. It really had a hold on me. I just put a hold on Crying In H Mart through my online library so maybe I will get that one soon. A great list and I can’t wait to get to more of them.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi, Barbara – Thank you for joining us for “Whatsonyourbookshelfchallenge”. I haven’t yet read any of the books that you have shared here. I have repeatedly heard great things about ‘Crying in H Mart’. From your description, I think that I would also greatly enjoy ‘The Sentence’. Your declaration of your favourite book of 2022 made me wonder what mine was. I went through my list on Goodreads and truly couldn’t decide. It would be like choosing a favourite child or grandchild. If forced, I would say that my favourite classic read this past year was Pride and Prejudice with Bleakhouse as a close second. My favourite non-fiction was Nomadland. I simply could not choose a favourite modern day fiction.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Hi, Barbara – Yes, Nomadland was made into a film which is based on the book and reality but is fiction. One of the cool things about the fillm is that many of the real life people from the book appear as actors in the movie. I highly recommend both the book and the movie (in that order). 😀

        Liked by 1 person

  4. What a great round-up. I really need to find the Sally Orr book, but did read Wintertime on your suggestion. A Year of Miracles was indeed beautiful. Thanks for linking up.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I don’t recognise many of those but usually read Jane Harper. I’m yet to read Exiles though. I’ve also never read any Johnathan Franzen though really must!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Some good books to add to my shelf. Cute reviews by the two boys who clearly know what they like
    Merry Christmas to you 🤶


  7. I’m embarrassed to say I haven’t read any of the books you listed, though some sound intriguing. I skimmed over the books I’ve read this year and struggled to identify a single favorite. I read a lot of good books this year, but no single one stands out as being over-the-top amazing.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I’ve not read many books this year but I’m just starting to get back into the swing of reading. I was lucky enough to meet Ann Cleeves at a local book event a few years back.

    Merry Christmas!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Hi Barb, I like your categories and admire your broad reading! Jane Harper’s Exiles was a great story, I’ve enjoyed all of her books so far. It’s hard to choose a book of the year so I broke my post into ‘most’ categories and enjoyed looking back at what I’ve read during 2022 – a lot of books!!! Thanks for joining us, I always enjoy seeing what others are reading and what they think of books I may have read. We’re all different and unique in our reading styles which is a good thing! Hope to see you back in 2023.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I have autobiographies of Andrew Lloyd Webber, Boy George, Jacques Tati and Cronenberg. A book on the history of Japan, art illustration books and a book on printing.


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