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Ask a Bookseller: Steve, Claire, Tasha and Madelaine from P&G Wells Booksellers

Bookshops are the very best places to go for book recommendations – and booksellers are the friendliest, most knowledgeable of readers!

Steve, Claire, Tasha and Madelaine from P&G Wells Booksellers in Winchester have joined us to answer your questions and share their favourite picks.

Want a recommendation of your own? Submit a question for our guest booksellers and if it's answered, we'll send you a £15/€20 National Book Token to spend in your local bookshop.

P&G Wells Bookshop exterior

What makes P&G Wells Booksellers a great place to visit?

"We are a traditional bookshop, arguably the oldest in Britain, still providing excellent customer service in the 21st century." Steve

I want something that will really scare the bejeezus out of me please! Seriously, I want to be unable to sleep. An element of the supernatural would be preferred but I’m open to suggestions for anything that booksellers know has creeped out their customers. – Ruth

You would never expect it from the covers but several books by Barbara Erskine have really, really scared me. One night I was reading House of Echoes in bed and had to wake my husband because I was too frightened to keep reading, and too frightened to go to sleep. Ostensibly historical novels Erskine's books weave in local myths and characters, family history and ghosts… very believable ghosts. The novels are inspired by places and people and the stories they hold. Erskine believes in ghosts herself which must be what makes the writing so real and gives you moments when your hair really does stand on end. - Madelaine 

House of Echoes by Barbara Erskine

How do you tell which new releases (especially which new authors) will appeal to you since more and more blurbs don't contain a synopsis? – Roisin

Not having a synopsis on a book is one of my bugbears. It is great to have quotes from reviewers but that still doesn’t tell me what a book is about. I use clues from the cover design to give me a feeling of the genre and what other books it might be like. I open the book up and start reading. If I like what I read I then flick through the pages, look at the chapter structure (I am very much in favour of short chapters!). Terrible confession but I have also been known to read the final paragraph! You can get a feeling for the story, the writing style and if the book is for you or not. Not exactly judging a book by its cover, but what else is a cover for? - Madelaine

Ask a Bookseller

I love crime novels by Linda Green, James Patterson, Gillian Flynn, K.L. Slater and more recently discovered Louise Candlish. I also like some horror, mostly Willow Rose, Stephen King and the occasional Virginia Andrews book. Please can you suggest an author that would do a general mix, by an author that would suit my style of reading? – Jeanette

Crime is a fantastic genre because there are so many styles. I personally am a fan of Agatha Christie style "cosy" crime, and Sophie Hannah has done a wonderful job of emulating the master herself in her authorized Poirot novels, but she also writes her own original stories too. Anthony Horowitz has been putting a metafictional spin on the crime genre he knows well from his TV credits recently, with his The Word is Murder series and duology Magpie and Moonflower Murders, which kept me guessing to the very end. JD Robb might appeal; her crime novels are set in a futuristic America which adds a fun twist on the standard murder mystery formula. If you want a bit more thriller in your crime, maybe try Karen Hamilton, L.V. Matthews or Louise Scarr. - Claire

The Killings at Kingfisher Hill by Sophie Hannah

I really enjoyed reading Michael Grant's Gone series, not realising at first that it is aimed at young adults. What other young adult series, in a similar vein, do you think I would enjoy? – Linda

YA has been soaring recently in my opinion. A decade – five years ago it was stuck in a bit of a loop where only one genre at a time would be popular (supernatural romance, then dystopia, then contemporary romance), but lately it has become a lot more diverse – in genre, setting and characters – so there’s something for everyone. Even if you haven't read The Hunger Games trilogy, Suzanne Collins' prequel The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes offers a slightly more mature look at the early years of the dystopian Panem. Karen M. McManus and Holly Jackson write compelling high-school murder mysteries with plenty of intrigue, whilst on the fantasy side, The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna uses West African folklore as its inspiration. Frances Hardinge and Patrick Ness also have fantastic books you can really sink your teeth into! - Claire

The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna

Please could you recommend a book inspired by ancient myths? – Megan

I personally loved The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller. I was reading it during a holiday away with family and I could not put it down. I've always been a big fan of Greek myths, so this book, set during the Trojan War, was perfect. Miller's creative use of metaphors paints such a beautiful picture of the surrounding landscapes, and its characters. Other recommendations would include Pat Barker, Neil Gaiman and Joanne Harris, or Maz Evans for children. - Tasha & Steve

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

I love reading, but seem to keep reading the same books and would like to branch out a bit. Any new fiction books that do not centre around a love story that you could recommend? – Nuthana

There are so many novels that deal with other types of relationship. I have enjoyed Unsettled Ground by Claire Fuller, or one of her three previous novels. I'd also recommend Lapvona by American author Ottessa Moshfegh. Or visit your local independent bookshop, have a good browse and ask the staff. - Steve

Lapvona by Ottessa Moshfegh

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