As the summer nights draw to a close and the sweet, sticky residue of sun cream becomes but a wistful memory, our gears inevitably begin shifting back into that first day of school mode.

Whether it’s a new job, new opportunity, kids back to school, or coming back from a holiday you didn’t want to end, these titles from the Women’s Prize Library will help to ease that transition. Filling your September evenings with themes of hope, opportunity, friendship, education and self-discovery, these 6 titles offer a little taste of that back to school feeling that is impossible to shake, no matter how many years you’ve been out of the classroom!

Normal People by Sally Rooney

Normal People

by Sally Rooney

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Longlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2019

A coming-of-age tale set at first in a small town in rural Ireland, where we meet Marianne and Connell; two teenagers existing in entirely different social stratospheres, and yet bonded by a secret romance. Both frozen by the cruel and complicated social rules of adolescence, their love for each other is never quite in sync. As both drift apart and come back together, later as University students in Dublin, we are confronted by issues of class and privilege and anxiety, alongside the interesting ways we view ourselves compared to how we are viewed by others.

On Beauty by Zadie Smith

On Beauty

by Zadie Smith

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Winner of the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2006

Deeply funny and intelligent, On Beauty follows an East Coast liberal family, as the children begin to seek out their own space and identity in the world. When the Belsey family’s lives become entwined with the infamous Kipps family, the political and personal becomes blurred, and the families are forced to confront their own assumptions about their lives. Questions about life and love and the way politics can intertwine with and complicate our relationships run through this novel, spurred on by the catalysts of infidelity, death and a legacy…

Hamnet by Maggie O'Farrell


by Maggie O'Farrell

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Winner of the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2020

Winner of the 2020 Women’s Prize, Hamnet is a modern classic that deserves as many opportunities to reread as possible. A nod to Shakespeare lessons at school, and a taste of Shakespeare’s own foray into teaching, Hamnet is a heartbreakingly beautiful novel transporting the reader into the world of Agnes (Anne) Hathaway, Shakespeare’s wife. Although little is known about Agnes, O’Farrell’s thorough research and deeply poetic writing style fleshed out a woman of unmistakable strength and intelligence – in touch with nature in a way that so few of us are. Go back to school, but this time consider Agnes and the life that Shakespeare often had to leave behind to bring us the plays we so cherish today.

A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers

by Xiaolu Guo

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Shortlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2007

When 23 year old Zhuang moves to London to learn English, she finds herself embroiled in a love affair with an older man and has to contend with the complexities of love along with the challenges of conflicting cultural attitudes. Zhuang creates a Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers – a product of her improving language skills, but also of her coming to terms with cultural differences surrounding the eternally complicated concept of love. This is a story of self-discovery, perfectly capturing the excitement and anticipation of being in a new city, with the isolation of being surrounded by people but feeling utterly alone. This is not simply a romance novel; this is a novel about identity, sexuality, family and cultural expectations.

Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld


by Curtis Sittenfeld

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Longlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2006

Exploring themes of class, race, gender and classic adolescent ennui, Prep is the perfect back-to-school novel. Set in the prestigious Ault School, Massachusetts, Sittenfeld drew on her own experiences as a writer-in-residence at a private school to inspire this thoughtfully hilarious coming of age story, following 14 year old scholarship student, Lee Fiora, as she tries to navigate the complex social ecosystem of the elite private school she has found herself in. If you were a fan of Gossip Girl, Prep will fill that void perfectly. Follow Lee as she becomes enveloped and entangled in the intimidating yet mesmerising world of her peers…

Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie

Home Fire

by Kamila Shamsie

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Winner of the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2018

A reimagining of Sophocles’ Antigone, Shamsie’s Home Fire is a story of love, both romantic and familial, and the deep and devastating power of loss. After the death of their mother, Isma spent years looking after her twin siblings, Aneeka and Parvais, but is now able to travel and learn a bit more about herself, and her own wants and desires. At the same time, Aneeka and Parvais are discovering their own identity, and battling with their own understanding of who they are and where they fit in a society that rejects them. A beautiful, tragic and important tale, putting a contemporary spin on a Greek Tragedy.