• Isabelle Osborne

'Mid Year Freakout Tag' 2022

The 'Mid Year Freakout Tag' is a popular Q&A amongst book-lovers. Tasked with answering a series of questions about your reading so far in 2022, it's a nice way to reflect on what you've read so far, and which shelf you'd like to head to in the remaining months of the year.

The best book you’ve read so far in 2022?

My favourite read of this year so far has to be Go Tell It On The Mountain by James Baldwin. It is beautifully written, desperately heartbreaking and a genuinely unparalleled contribution to literature. This was my first Baldwin novel and I'm itching to pick up more of his work.

The best sequel you've read so far in 2022?

Unfortunately, I haven't read any sequels this year. However, I'm looking forward to reading Jessie Burton's The House of Fortune, which is the sequel to The Miniaturist, one of my favourite reads of 2020.

A new release you haven't read yet, but want to?

I'd love to pick up Jonathan Freedland's The Escape Artist: The Man Who Broke Out of Auschwitz to Warn the World, which was released earlier this month. It tells the true story of Rudolf Vrba and Fred Wetzler, who were the first Jews to break out of Auschwitz Concentration Camp. Vrba created a thirty-two-page report that exposed the horrific realities of the camps to world leaders. It promises to be a profound and important read.

The most anticipated release for the second half of the year?

I've pre-ordered Burton's The House of Fortune, which is due to be released in July. I can't wait to return to 18th century Amsterdam for what has been described as '[elegant], atmospheric, [and] compelling' (Marian Keyes).

Biggest disappointment?

Djuna Barnes' Nightwood was very disappointing at the start of this year. I felt a though the characters were being kept at a distance from us, the plot was confusing and empty, and overall I couldn't wait to get to the end so I could place it on my shelf and forget about it.

Biggest surprise?

I was surprised how much I loved Brick Lane by Monica Ali. It tells the story of Nazneen, who lives in Tower Hamlets with her husband and two daughters. Bored, unfulfilled and desperate for a life she can call her own, she has an affair with the charismatic Karim. I'd heard reviews that suggest this novel is a drawn-out, uneventful read, but I was drawn into Nazneen's world and felt myself not wanting to put it down.

Favourite new author (debut or new to you)?

I read Lionel Shriver's We Need To Talk About Kevin in June and I was enamoured by her writing style, having never read any of her novels before. She packs so much detail into her pages in a way that makes it feel completely relevant, and the plot was fantastic. I'm keen to read more of her work, particularly her latest novel, Should We Stay or Should We Go.

Newest fictional crush?

I wouldn't say I have developed a 'fictional crush', however all of the characters in Before The Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi have stayed with me since I closed the book, Kohtake and Kei in particular. Though they have such heartbreaking stories to tell, they are lovely, caring and kind people who you can't help but love.

Newest favourite character?

Queenie Jenkins, the titular character of Candice Carty-Williams' debut, is a strong woman. She's also a flawed woman who is not without her struggles, and it is because she is a raw, unfiltered representation of a young woman trying to find her feet both personally and professionally that makes you love her. By the time you close the final page, you feel as though Queenie is a friend who you want to squeeze and tell her you're there to support her. And, I'd love to be a member of 'The Corgis' group chat, too.

A book that made you cry?

Many books have a profound emotional impact on me, make me feel a whole host of feelings deeply, and their characters stay with me for a long, long time, but I can't remember a book that made me cry physically. However, I am expecting A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara to make me cry, given that I haven't met someone who didn't cry whilst reading it.

A book that made you happy?

I listened to Claudia Winkleman's Quite at the start of the year and I loved it. It's a laugh-out-loud medley of stories and thoughts, and every page is guaranteed to put a smile on your face.

The most beautiful book you've bought so far this year (or received)?

I bought Great Circle by Maggie Shipstead last month, and it is definitely the most stunning cover I've purchase this year. The blur of blues, purples and pinks to create the sky on the front cover makes a beautiful palette.

Another favourite is Before The Coffee Gets Cold, as the textured blue-silver strip above the minimalist design of the table and chairs is simple but as charming as the story it contains.

What books do you need to read by the end of the year?

Myself and my friend Erin have created a challenge to read one book from each decade of Queen Elizabeth II's reign, as facilitated by The Big Jubilee Read. We've chosen our books from the list, and we're reading one book each month until the end of 2022. Our first book was Joan Lindsay's Picnic at Hanging Rock (1967), and here are the six other reads we've chosen that we'll be reading across the remainder of the year:

- In The Castle Of My Skin, George Lamming (1953)

- The Nowhere Man, Kamala Markandaya (1972)

- Schindler's Ark, Thomas Keneally (1982)

- The Stone Diaries, Carol Shields (1993)

- The Book of Night Women, Marlon James (2009)

- Shuggie Bane, Douglas Stuart (2020)

I'd also like to get to Great Circle and A Little Life, as well as Three Sisters by Heather Morris and Educated by Tars Westover.