Ruth Ozeki: ‘Writing is a collaboration between a writer and a reader’

For this very special episode of Bookshelfie, the Women’s Prize for Fiction podcast, we welcomed our 2022 winner, Ruth Ozeki who blew our judges away with The Book of Form and Emptiness. A year later, our brilliant host Vick Hope catches up with Ruth to talk about her five favourite books by women and all things from being a Zen Buddhist priest to why books are such a powerful tool for empathy and representation, and of course what it meant for her to take home the Bessie last year.

You can listen to the episode with Ruth Ozeki in full here.

The Pillow Book

The Pillow Book is a fascinating, detailed account of Japanese court life in the eleventh century. Written by a lady…

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‘It’s an account by Sei Shōnagon of court life at that time, and it’s just filled with little anecdotes and memories, small descriptions of the ornate, elaborate rituals of the court. A lot of gossip, it’s just absolutely fascinating. I used to be a documentary filmmaker and, and so I remember thinking of her as a kind of proto-documentarian, you know, as a somebody who had that kind of documentarian’s eye and would record all of her observations.’

A Little Life

A Little Life

When four classmates from a small Massachusetts college move to New York to make their way, they’re broke, adrift, and…

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‘[Hanya Yangihara] is not writing from a place of identity, or at least overt identity, the way, that we the way that we often define identity these days. She’s not writing from a female point of view or an Asian point of view. She’s writing about four men. And even today, I think that is a fairly unusual and fairly bold literary move. I wish I had known that that was possible when I was a high school student, because I think I would have wasted a lot less time.’

Harriet the Spy

Sixth-grader Harriet attends school on the New York’s Upper East Side along with her two best pals, Sport and Janie….

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‘I was obsessed with books about girls who wanted to be writers, or in this case, I mean, Harriet very much identified as a writer. […] She had this spy route in New York that she would go on and observe people and write down all of her observations and her opinions about things. And this just spoke to me.’

A Writer’s Diary

An invaluable guide to the art and mind of Virginia Woolf, drawn from the personal record she kept over a…

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‘I was having this experience of deja vu of having read the diary, back in high school […] Then decades later, coming back to the book, and reading it, having just published my third novel […] I was able to appreciate things that she wrote about writing and particularly about publishing that, that I never could have appreciated back when I was 15, 16 years old. And it was a feeling of almost coming home in a very profound way.’


Winner of Women’s Prize for Fiction 2021 Piranesi lives in the House. Perhaps he always has. In his notebooks, day…

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‘When I finally got to the end of the book […] I didn’t want to leave the world and even now, when I think about it, I’m not even sure why exactly, but I just get choked up. It’s a very emotional book for me. And I kind of understand why; there’s something so amazing about the narrative voice, Piranesi’s voice, it’s just exquisitely naive, and trusting and honest, and guileless, and completely unironic.’

Listen to Ruth Ozeki’s illuminating episode here. Want more incredible book recommendations? Explore our podcast archives with more interviews with Women’s Prize-winning authors like Madeline Miller and Maggie O’Farrell.

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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.