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Books, Competition

The Literary Lunch 2018 blog anniversary competition *now ended*


Thank you for all the shares, entries, and appreciation.  The winner is Zarina, who has a great blog of her own, Page to Stage, and I’m really looking forward to our lunch.  So many brilliant recommendations resulted from this year’s competition – including many I hadn’t heard of – that I’m going to do a post on them sometime soon.


Today I’m launching the (in theory) annual Literary Lunch competition to celebrate 7 years of blogging on the Literary Sofa and I’m very happy to be doing this. I didn’t run the competition last year because I was feeling a bit despondent about the blog.  A lot has changed in seven years, not just in terms of my writing career and schedule, but also the increasing competition for a slice of people’s attention and the way we use social media.  Twitter used to drive a lot of my traffic, which isn’t the case any more, so double gold stars and hearts to anyone who RTs this competition (although please note that entries must be made here, on the blog)!

You can probably guess what was going through my mind.  But actually, it’s no bad thing to ask yourself why you’re doing something, what you and others get out of it and what it is you’re trying to achieve.  These are questions my colleague Voula Tsoflias and I encourage writers to think about in our Resilient Thinking workshops, and so is the way we define success, which can look very different if you leave numbers out of it. (Tip: you’re also far more likely to encounter it!)

The fact is, running this blog is still a positive, feelgood thing for me.  Good books really are my favourite topic of conversation.  I’ve made lots of wonderful friends through the Sofa, both amongst my readers and guest authors, and it continues to attract interest and appreciation from readers, writers and publishers. I am very grateful to you all, and to the many other book bloggers who have supported me as an author.  Most of us are never going to get the lead title slot or the big marketing spend, so word-of-mouth (or blog) and having someone publicly believe in your book make a massive difference. I continue to be awed by the quality of the pieces contributed by my guests – it’s an honour to host them and always lovely to hear readers have discovered a book they may not have heard of before.

The new season has got off to a strong start with a two part round-up of the brilliant books I read in August and a lovely response to the Writers on Location on Japan by award-winning travel writer and short story expert Amanda Huggins. If you’d like to be notified of my weekly posts, enter your e-mail above to subscribe.

All in all, there’s plenty to celebrate in this competition comeback.  Past Literary Lunches have been very enjoyable for all concerned (or that’s what they said) – a few generous people have even paid for the pleasure in auctions. I don’t care if you read one book a year or a hundred – you only need one to enter this competition – I also love to talk writing (obviously), travel, box sets, art and I love meeting new people and catching up with friends!

LITERARY LUNCH COMPETITION – now closed.  See top of post for announcement of the winner.



About Isabel Costello

Writer (novels: Paris Mon Amour 2017; Scent 2021).Host of the Literary Sofa blog. Co-founder of Resilience for Writers with Voula Tsoflias. Perfume lover and Francophile.


59 thoughts on “The Literary Lunch 2018 blog anniversary competition *now ended*

  1. Le goût d’Emma by Julia Pavlowitch, because it’s about good food and French restaurants 😉

    Posted by cessiesjourney | September 21, 2018, 12:09
  2. I read The Return of the Soldier by Rebecca West this year and it was fabulous. I love short novels (AKA “novellas”) and this one was a beauty. BTW, I am off travelling tomorrow, heading to Portugal with my younger kids and some friends of ours. I rarely travel abroad so I’m really looking forward to it. Taking my Kindle of course, but not sure which book to read yet!

    Posted by louisewalters12 | September 21, 2018, 12:12
  3. Oh gosh, picking just one is hard. I’m going to go with Deborah Levy’s The Cost of Living. A book about starting again and resilience with tremendous insights for writers.

    Posted by alison | September 21, 2018, 12:13
  4. Territory of Light by Yukio Tsushima. A powerful, poetic, and unsettling story of a young woman, left by her husband, starting a new life with her daughter.

    Posted by Amanda Huggins | September 21, 2018, 12:33
  5. All Among The Barley – Melissa Harrison. Beautiful imagery of countryside and a changing world with a story that sucks you in slowly.

    Posted by Peter Domican | September 21, 2018, 12:35
  6. John Boyne’s ‘The Heart’s Invisible Furies’ – moving and beautifully written.

    Posted by Harriet Angell | September 21, 2018, 12:59
  7. Together
    (Julie Cohen)

    This is a love story that goes backwards and, even though you know how it ends, what you really want to know is… how did it start?

    Posted by Jackie Kightly | September 21, 2018, 13:15
  8. Happiness by Aminatta Forna.

    Posted by Benedicta Norell | September 21, 2018, 13:20
  9. Wonderful, love this, Isabel, what a lovely idea! It was my new year’s resolution to read a short story every day in 2018, so I’ve had a brilliant time dipping into collections that have been on my shelves for a while, but that I’d not got round to reading yet… so many brilliant authors, but the one that really stands out as a surprise for me was a slim collection called Natural Histories by a Mexican writer, Guadalupe Nettel. She is incredible and all her stories evoke a weird and wonderful world that I could sink into again and again. I’d highly recommend it, and it has sparked my interest in reading more short stories in translation…

    Posted by Sophie Haydock (@SophieHaydock) | September 21, 2018, 13:37
  10. I loved The Sealwoman’s Gift by Sally Magnusson. Based on a true story from the 17th century about a minister and his wife who were part of a party of 400 Icelandic islanders kidnapped by pirates and taken to Algiers. The impact on the family and the resilience required is really gripping. This is a debut novel by someone who happens to be both a well known TV journalist – and it turns out also a brilliant writer.

    Posted by janesimpsonandersonauthorpage | September 21, 2018, 13:49
  11. A Gentleman in Moscow because it gave me so much pleasure and because Count Rostov still lingers on in my mind.

    Posted by Emma Curtis | September 21, 2018, 14:12
  12. An almost impossible task but I will go with Bitter by Francesca Jakobi. It’s an exceptional tale of mother/child relationships and how we are treated in our youth affects how we act as adults. The main character, Gilda, is unforgettable and has stayed in my mind since reading her story.

    Posted by Lucille Grant | September 21, 2018, 14:17
  13. It has to be Transatlantic by Colum McCann for his verve in fictionalising actual people and events with the imagined and all that with an historical weave that ranges from 1845 through to 1998, criss-crossing the Atlantic Ocean between the United States – before they were – and Ireland south and north. I learned much about the craft of writing as well as history.

    Posted by coachingwithintent | September 21, 2018, 15:12
  14. (KEEP BLOGGING!) All the Hidden Truths by Claire Askew – a why done it crime thriller. Clever, brilliant on parenting and grief. Five stars.

    Posted by Damhnait | September 21, 2018, 16:23
  15. Jon McGregor’s Reservoir 13. It was an utter joy to read.

    Posted by Rachael Dunlop (@RachaelDunlop) | September 21, 2018, 16:31
  16. Great to join you in celebrating seven years of your wonderful blog. My list of favourite reads of the year is ever increasing, but plumping for the latest addition: Esi Edugyan’s Man Booker Prize shortlisted Washington Black, a page-turning adventure story of a boy’s journey from the brutal sugarcane plantations of Barbados to the icy wastes of the Arctic to London’s first aquarium and the Moroccan desert, embracing science and innovation as well as the horrors of slavery.

    Posted by Annecdotist | September 21, 2018, 16:42
  17. It would have to be Putney by Sofka Zinovieff which I read about on your blog! It has left an imprint on me, so intense, beautifully written and delicately handled, I am now reading her other books, a terrific author. Thank you for introducing me to her. Jenny

    Posted by Jenny | September 21, 2018, 17:28
  18. ‘The Good People’ by Hannah Kent. This talented lady creates such truthful stories, capturing a sense of community and life beautifully. This is her second novel – I hope she writes more!

    Posted by Emma De Vito | September 21, 2018, 18:10
  19. I loved Imogen Hermes-Gowar’s The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock. Such joyous fun to read but with wonderful historical accuracy and convincing language. Highly recommended.

    Posted by sofkazinovieff | September 21, 2018, 18:19
  20. I thoroughly enjoyed Every Light in the House Burning by Andrea Levy. I loved the writing e.g description and characters. The book led me to both laugh and reflect.

    Posted by Jacqueline Robinson | September 21, 2018, 22:24
  21. The Three Sisters of Stone
    A Novella in flash by Stephanie Hutton
    Incredibly moving and so well written

    Posted by jonzeywriter | September 22, 2018, 08:34
  22. Graham Swift ‘s Mothering Sunday – how one event that changes a life is never only that. Keep blogging – you’ve a great presence Isabel

    Posted by Rachel Malik | September 22, 2018, 09:27
  23. I loved The Parentations by Kate Mayfield. A chase through the centuries, the price of immortality – what’s not not like! Please keep blogging, I look forward to the posts each time

    Posted by Sue Bassett | September 22, 2018, 10:27
  24. Hi Isobel. The book which surprised me the most this year (in a good way!) is one I picked up recently by chance – The Age of Miracles by Karen Thomspon Walker – it’s not new by the way but something about it really appealed – coming-of-age novel with unusual and utterly credible MC set against a world crisis for which no one is to blame but in which everyone is trapped. Sort of dystopian with a difference. Beautifully written.

    Posted by Ali Bacon | September 22, 2018, 15:47
  25. White Noise by Don Delillo

    Posted by sallyaharris | September 22, 2018, 20:54
  26. Had to go away and think about this because there are three books I’ve read this year currently sharing the top spot… Decided to recommend Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge. A must-read that made me think about, question and examine my own prejudices, while opening my eyes to a lot of stuff I didn’t have a clue about. A well-overdue education!

    Posted by Mandy Berriman | September 23, 2018, 11:33
    • I’m really interested in the issues too, and keen to educate myself (in Part One of my Summer Reading posts I wrote about reading AMERICANAH, which is brilliant on all this) – however, I must admit to finding the confrontational title off-putting.

      Posted by Isabel Costello | September 23, 2018, 11:41
  27. Ah, such a difficult question to answer. I have read many ace books over recent times. The one that sticks happens to be set in the 6th Arrondissement “I Love you Too Much by Alicia Drake” – one of those books that deserves a wider audience!

    Posted by TripFiction | September 23, 2018, 11:33
  28. A man called Ove by Fredrik Backman has stayed with me. Beautiful.

    Posted by Penny-sue Wolfe | September 23, 2018, 12:15
  29. Not just one book a series of novels by Scott Mariani of an ex SAS hero who helps people, very edge if your seat thrillers!

    Posted by Elaine Guymer | September 23, 2018, 12:53
  30. The summer of impossible things – the kind of book I wish I could write

    Posted by thegreekurn | September 23, 2018, 13:19
  31. Dan Brown’s Origin. Loved all his books and this didnt disappoint.

    Posted by Lisa O'Hara | September 23, 2018, 14:28
  32. Sir, it would be wrong of me not to mention my annual entry of James Dyson’s CLASSIC autobiography ‘Against the Odds’ but I must this year also enter THE BIGGEST book I have ever read in my life (save for the Bible which we had to at school but then, to be honest like the way we pretended to have a shower after PE but actually just wet our hair I didn’t really read the Bible, more just listen to music on a Sony Walkman hidden between me and a partner with earphone wires strategically rooted up blazer sleeves anyway I digress the book in question is the EPIC (and I do not use this word lightly) ‘I am Pilgrim’ by Terry Hayes. At 888 pages I am pleased to say every one was a masterpiece. It took me 9 months to read but was well worth it. Please do give the prize to me for reading this many pages (stop pretending you have some random number selector and just do the honourable thing). If you could invite Terry along as well that would be great. James Dyson would be more than welcome but please do not invite Mr Longton who was in charge of all that Bible reading he would not be happy with me still after all these years.
    So, in summary:
    Ben Blackman – Private Dining room at The Ivy – early December time please.
    You’ve got my number. Thanks in advance.

    Posted by benmblackman | September 23, 2018, 17:53
  33. The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery

    Posted by Csaba B. | September 23, 2018, 23:17
  34. Terrible dilemma so I hope you will allow me to share one suggestion in French and one in English: Alice Zeniter’s l’art de Perdre and Heart Berries, a Memoir by Terese Marie Mailhot.

    Posted by Delphine BENEZET | September 24, 2018, 09:09
    • I will let you off as L’art de perdre is one of the best novels I’ve ever read – made an incredibly deep impression on me and I continue to hope it will be published in English.

      Posted by Isabel Costello | September 24, 2018, 10:44
      • Thanks, I do hope it finds a publisher/translator for English language readers. I am re-reading it for our next French book club meeting and it is just great.

        Posted by bookish parent | September 25, 2018, 13:41
      • I’ve tried drawing attention to it on Twitter several times and so far I’m not aware of any publisher having acquired it. I fear it may be considered too francocentric, whereas having read it you and I know it has very strong universal relevance!

        Posted by Isabel Costello | September 25, 2018, 20:38
  35. I read The Idea of You by Robinne Lee and I could not put it down. I fell in love with the characters and just goes to show when you aren’t looking for something it finds you and shakes you to your core and are reminded that anything is possible.

    Posted by Rita Mistry | September 24, 2018, 09:21
  36. I recently read eleanor oliphant is completely fineand just loved it!

    Posted by sfancy | September 24, 2018, 09:38
  37. Rosewater by Tade Thompson. Simply brilliant. I’ve read nothing like it before.

    Posted by Volequeen | September 24, 2018, 10:23
    • I’ve been sent this – doesn’t sound remotely like my normal kind of read (or anything I’ve ever heard of!) but I’m definitely curious now…

      Posted by Isabel Costello | September 24, 2018, 10:46
      • It really does challenge you as a reader. And speculative fiction is never an easy ride but you finish it and feel extraordinary – like you’ve achieved something spectacular. You do have to trust the author because there are times when you may think he’s taken a wrong turn but no, he’s just a brilliant plotter & storyteller.

        Posted by Volequeen | September 24, 2018, 10:53
  38. Just finished reading The Survival game by Nicky Singer. Not usually what I would read basically a fiction story set in the future when there is a scarcity of resources. Great conversation piece.

    Posted by Anne McCauley | September 24, 2018, 10:26
  39. The Mother of All Questions by Rebecca Solnit — this year (and the last two years, in all honesty!) have been so politically fraught and this book of essays has been a comfort, a galvanising force, and an inspiration to keep the pressure on to craft the safe world that we all deserve to live in. Her writing is so incredibly well crafted and when I first started reading her (with ‘Hope in the Dark’ several years ago) I found myself wanting to highlight just about every other sentence because of its succinct relevance. It takes enormous self control to not shout ‘YES, EXACTLY THAT!’ after some of her paragraphs!

    Posted by Valerie | September 24, 2018, 10:32
  40. So difficult to choose! (And yes, to echo others, keep on blogging!) I’m going to recommend Oysterlight, a debut collection of poetry by Cheryl Pearson. I love it when you come across a book entirely by happenstance, and you find magic. The poems in this collection are very readable and she manages to find those words that always seem to be hovering at the back of my mind but never make it onto the page – the words that turn the mundane into the extraordinary.

    Posted by diana brighouse | September 24, 2018, 11:18
  41. Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders. I’ve admired and taught his short fiction for many years and his first novel does not disappoint.

    Posted by Vinita Joseph | September 24, 2018, 11:33
  42. What an incredible opportunity! As a book blogger I read a lot of books and it’s hard to recommend just 1 but if I have to pick it has to be When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi an incredibly moving and heartwrenching account of a terminal illness while also being surprisingly educational and fascinating due to Paul being a neurosurgeon himself. Incredible.

    Posted by Zarina | September 24, 2018, 11:53

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