The books that shaped Annie Macmanus

Photo of Annie Mac

Annie Macmanus returns to the Women’s Prize for Fiction’s Bookshelfie Podcast with a special collaborative episode with her own Changes with Annie Macmanus. Sitting in the host’s seat rather than as the guest this time, Annie will interview superstar author Elizabeth Gilbert at the Women’s Prize LIVE festival on the 13th June 2023. Join the live audience as Elizabeth shares her five books written by women that have sparked change in her life, in an inspiring conversation between the two writers.

Ahead of the event, we re-visit the five picks that have influenced Annie throughout her life and journey as a novelist. Annie’s latest novel The Mess We’re In is out now.

Annie Macmanus five books that shaped me:


Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume

It’s a of coming of age story that really reflects, quite powerfully, a lot of what I was going through at the time. You know, it’s such a mad time, isn’t it? It’s so sensory, your body is changing, everything is changing, your hormones are going wild. I remember it being really scary and frightening, the physicality of it, what it looked like and what it felt like.


Peig: The Autobiography of Peig Sayers of the Great Blasket Island by Peig Sayers

Peig Sayers was not remarkable at all, as a woman. But what was remarkable is that she told the story of her life to her son, who then dictated it in in Gaelic. And it became a huge book on the Irish language curriculum for a lot of Irish people. To a lot of Irish people this brings back  the struggle of learning Irish, but for me, personally, it means a lot because it reminds me that at the age of kind of 17, I was pretty much fluent in the Irish language.


Unless by Carol Shields

It’s an angry book. It’s from the perspective of a 44-year-old woman who’s a writer, entering into middle age and starting to feel frustration and anger at the patriarchy, about the of miniaturising of women. I read it when I had just turned 40, and was having all these reassessments of my life, and what I’ve been doing, my motivations, my choices over the years – and I really felt an urge to learn something new. And I started a writing course, which started me off on my journey to writing [my debut novel] Mother Mother.


The Green Road by Anne Enright

I love everything about this book. It is so powerful. I’m sure this was not Anne Enright’s intention, but it feels like it’s so exceptionally good, that it feels like she’s showing off. How good is it basically a book about a family and Irish family. I love that how Irish it is, and I relate to so much of it. I learned so much from it. I often find myself having to stop and reread things over and over again, there’s such deftness to it, there’s never an extra word when there doesn’t need to be, everything is told in such a kind of condensed and unvarnished way.


The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

The context is that this is Sylvia Plath’s only book and she took her own life just a few months after it was published. It’s desperately, desperately sad. But I find her writing style so light, and so fresh, and entertaining. Obviously, she’s a poet, and you can really hear her poetry in the writing, but it never feels forced or over done or over lyrical in that way.


Don’t miss the opportunity to hear more from Annie on the 13th of June at the Women’s Prize LIVE with podcast guest Elizabeth Gilbert. Tickets are here

The Women's Prize Podcast

Tune into host Vick Hope and a line-up of incredible guests on our weekly podcast full of unmissable book recommendations.