2021 in books: what to look forward to this year – The Guardian

Posted: January 2, 2021 at 6:49 pm


4 Winners of five Costa category awards announced.8 The Father released Florian Zeller directs an adaptation of his own play, starring Anthony Hopkins.11 TS Eliot prize for poetry.19 Centenary of the birth of Patricia Highsmith, queen of psychological suspense.22 Netflix adaptation of Aravind Adigas Booker winner The White Tiger.Release of film Chaos Walking, based on first book of Patrick Nesss eponymous trilogy.26 Costa awards ceremony, with book of the year announced.


Luster by Raven Leilani (Picador)In the years buzziest debut, a black American millennial tackles the difficulties of work, love, sex and being seen for who you really are.

The Living Sea of Waking Dreams by Richard Flanagan (Chatto & Windus)A family grapples with mortality while Australia burns, in a magical realist fable about extinction and Anthropocene despair from the Booker-winning author of The Narrow Road to the Deep North.

Memorial by Bryan Washington (Atlantic)His story collection Lot won last years Dylan Thomas prize; this deft debut novel explores the complications of family and a gay relationship on the rocks.

A Burning by Megha Majumdar (Scribner)Three lives entangle in contemporary India, in a debut about class and aspiration that has been a sensation in the US.

The Art of Falling by Danielle McLaughlin (John Murray)Debut novel about a woman rebuilding her marriage, from the celebrated Irish short story writer.

A River Called Time by Courttia Newland (Canongate)Ambitious speculative epic set in an alternate London where slavery and colonialism never happened.

People Like Her by Ellery Lloyd (Mantle)Smart, gobble-at-a-sitting thriller about life as a yummy mummy influencer and the dark side of Instagram.

Girl A by Abigail Dean (HarperCollins)Incendiary, beautifully written thriller debut about siblings living with the emotional legacy of childhood abuse in a House of Horrors.

The Stranger Times by CK McDonnell (Bantam)Pratchettesque romp set around a Manchester newspaper dedicated to the paranormal whose reporters get sucked into a battle between good and evil.

Childrens and teen

Amari and the Night Brothers by BB Alston (Egmont)Film rights have been snapped up for the first in a new supernatural adventure series with a black heroine.

Concrete Rose by Angie Thomas (Walker)From the US YA sensation, this hard-hitting prequel to the award-winning The Hate U Give focuses on Starrs father as a young man.


Living Weapon by Rowan Ricardo Phillips (Faber)The award-winning American essayist and poets first collection to be published in the UK combines civic awareness with an interrogation of language and self.


A Swim in a Pond in the Rain by George Saunders (Bloomsbury)The Booker-winning author of Lincoln in the Bardo considers the art of fiction through seven classic Russian short stories by Chekhov, Turgenev, Tolstoy and Gogol.

Francis Bacon: Revelations by Mark Stevens and Annalyn Swan (William Collins)A definitive biography, written with the full cooperation of the Bacon estate and with unrivalled access to the artists personal papers.

Begin Again: James Baldwins America by Eddie S Glaude Jr (Chatto & Windus)Exemplifying the resurgence of interest in Baldwin, this blend of biography, criticism and memoir with the novelist at its heart is an indictment of racial injustice in Trumps America.

Empireland: How Imperialism Has Shaped Modern Britain by Sathnam Sanghera (Viking)One of a new wave of books on British imperialism, this study, from the likable journalist and author of The Boy With the Topknot, looks at the legacy of empire from the NHS to Brexit and Covid.

Breathtaking: Inside the NHS in a Time of Pandemic by Rachel Clarke (Little, Brown)The palliative care doctor who scored a hit with her book Dear Life gives an insider account of hospital life as Covid-19 changed everything.

Saving Justice by James Comey (Macmillan)The former FBI director and author of A Higher Loyalty looks into how institutions of justice in the US were eroded during the Trump presidency.

The Unusual Suspect by Ben Machell (Canongate)The remarkable story of how a British student with Aspergers became obsessed with Robin Hood following the global financial crash, and began to rob banks.

4 Centenary of the birth of Betty Friedan, author of The Feminine Mystique.23 Bicentenary of the death of John Keats in Rome.


Light Perpetual by Francis Spufford (Faber)The author of Golden Hill imagines the lost futures of children killed in the blitz, in a sparkling, humane panorama of miraculous everyday life.

No One Is Talking About This by Patricia Lockwood (Bloomsbury)Following her acclaimed comic memoir Priestdaddy, a fast and furious debut novel about being embedded deep in the digital world.

Mother for Dinner by Shalom Auslander (Picador)Outrageous comedy about identity politics and family ties centred on the Cannibal-American Seltzer clan.

We Are Not in the World by Conor OCallaghan (Transworld)Delayed from 2020, the examination of a father-daughter relationship by a rising Irish star.

Maxwells Demon by Steven Hall (Canongate)Long-awaited follow-up to ultra-inventive cult hit The Raw Shark Texts features a man being stalked by a fictional character.

Open Water by Caleb Azumah Nelson (Viking)Black British artists fall in love in an intense, elegant debut.

Voices of the Lost by Hoda Barakat, translated by Marilyn Booth (Oneworld)In a war-torn country, six characters share their secrets, in this international prize for Arabic fiction winner.

Childrens and teen

How to Change Everything by Naomi Klein with Rebecca Stefoff (Penguin)A guide to climate change billed as the young humans guide to protecting the planet and each other.


Fall by John Preston (Viking)The author of A Very English Scandal turns his attention to the last days of disgraced media tycoon Robert Maxwell.

What Does Jeremy Think? by Suzanne Heywood (William Collins)A set of revealing insider political accounts, written up by the author after conversations with her husband, the former cabinet secretary Lord Heywood, who died of cancer aged 56 in 2018.

Consent: A Memoir by Vanessa Springora, translated by Natasha Lehrer (HarperCollins)The memoir, by the director of one of Frances leading publishing houses, of her sexual relationship as a teenager with a leading writer.

Bessie Smith by Jackie Kay (Faber)The national poet of Scotland has written a new introduction to her study of the American blues singer, whom she idolised as a young black girl growing up in Glasgow.

Keats by Lucasta Miller (Cape)A new biography in nine poems and an epitaph by the author of The Bront Myth, to coincide with the bicentenary of the poets death.

Brown Baby by Nikesh Shukla (Bluebird) A memoir from the Bristol-based editor of The Good Immigrant, which is also an exploration of how to raise a brown baby in an increasingly horrible world.

Karachi Vice by Samira Shackle (Granta) An impressive account of the inner workings of the Pakistani city, as exposed by the stories of five individuals.

The Code Breaker by Walter Isaacson (Simon & Schuster)The biographer of Leonardo da Vinci and Steve Jobs returns with a book about Crispr, the revolutionary tool that can edit DNA.

How to Avoid a Climate Disaster by Bill Gates (Allen Lane)The co-founder of Microsoft discusses the tools needed to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions.

Raceless by Georgina Lawton (Sphere)Reflections on identity along with recollections of growing up as a mixed-race girl raised by two white parents who pursued the untruth that the authors darker skin was the product of a so-called throwback gene.

Aftershocks by Nadia Owusu (Sceptre)A descendant of Ashanti royalty recounts growing up without a mother, travelling from country to country and feeling an absence of home her experience told through the metaphor of earthquakes.

19 Bicentenary of the birth of the explorer, linguist and author Richard Burton, who translated The One Thousand and One Nights and the Kama Sutra into English.


Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro (Faber)An Artificial Friend considers humanity and the meaning of love in Ishiguros first novel since winning the Nobel literature prize.

Double Blind by Edward St Aubyn (Harvill Secker)The author of the Patrick Melrose books investigates themes of inheritance, knowledge and freedom through the connections between three friends over one tumultuous year.

Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi (Viking)This follow-up to her debut Homegoing, focusing on an immigrant Ghanaian family in the American South, has been a huge hit in the US.

Painting Time by Maylis de Kerangal, translated by Jessica Moore (MacLehose)The French author took the Wellcome science prize for her bravura novel about a heart transplant, Mend the Living; this new book is set in the world of trompe lil painting.

Hot Stew by Fiona Mozley (John Murray)Her debut Elmet made the Booker shortlist; this followup tackles money and class through the inhabitants of Londons Soho.

Kitchenly 434 by Alan Warner (White Rabbit)The Sopranos authors tale of a rock stars butler at the fag end of the 1970s promises to be Remains of the Day with cocaine and amplifiers.

The Committed by Viet Thanh Nguyen (Corsair)In the sequel to Pulitzer winner The Sympathizer, that novels conflicted spy finds himself in the underworld of 80s Paris.

The Absolute Book by Elizabeth Knox (Michael Joseph)From the New Zealand writer, a propulsive parallel-worlds fantasy epic about the power of stories and storytelling.

The Mysterious Correspondent by Marcel Proust, translated by Charlotte Mandell (Oneworld)Nine previously unseen stories illuminate a young writers development.

Names of the Women by Jeet Thayil (Cape)From Mary of Magdala to Susanna the Barren, women whose stories were suppressed in the New Testament.

Redder Days by Sue Rainsford (Doubleday)Twins in an abandoned commune prepare for apocalypse, in the follow-up to her standout debut Follow Me to Ground.

The Last House on Needless Street by Catriona Ward (Viper)A woman believes she has found the monster who snatched her younger sister as a child Full of twists and turns, this high-concept gothic horror is going to be huge.

Childrens and teen

The Wild Before by Piers Torday (Quercus)Can one hare change the world? A prequel to the Guardian prize-winning The Last Wild.


Too Young, Too Loud, Too Different, edited by Maisie Lawrence and Rishi Dastidar (Corsair)An anthology celebrating 20 years of writers collective Malikas Poetry Kitchen, featuring work by now well-known alumni including Warsan Shire, Inua Ellams, Roger Robinson and Malika Booker herself.


Beyond Order: 12 More Rules for Life by Jordan Peterson (Allen Lane)Having spent a year in rehab, the controversial Canadian psychologist, self-styled professor against political correctness follows up his global bestseller 12 Rules for Life.

Under a White Sky by Elizabeth Kolbert (Bodley Head)The Pulitzer prize-winning writer of The Sixth Extinction meets scientists and researchers and asks: can we change nature, this time to save it?

The Soul of a Woman: Rebel Girls, Impatient Love, and Long Life by Isabel Allende (Bloomsbury)An autobiographical meditation from the bestselling novelist on feminism and what women want.

New Yorkers by Craig Taylor (John Murray) The sequel to Taylors bestselling Londoners is another work of oral history, 10 years in the writing and drawing on hundreds of interviews.

The Diaries of Chips Channon, Volume 1: 1918-1938 edited by Simon Heffer (Hutchinson)The unexpurgated version of the often-quoted diaries of Henry Channon, social climber and Tory MP, who liked to gossip about politics and London society.

A Little Devil in America by Hanif Abdurraqib (Allen Lane)From Josephine Baker to Beyonc reflections on black performance from the author of a superb book on A Tribe Called Quest.

Inventory of a Life Mislaid by Marina Warner (William Collins)A memoir from the writer known for her books on feminism, myth and fairytales, which is structured around objects, from her mothers wedding ring to a 1952 film cylinder.

Friends by Robin Dunbar (Little, Brown)An exploration of friendship by the anthropologist and evolutionary psychologist known for the Dunbar Number, his theory that we can have meaningful relationships with only 150 people.

The Gun, the Ship and the Pen by Linda Colley (Profile) The historian best known for Britons retells modern history by considering the spread of written constitutions.

Failures of State by Jonathan Calvert and George Arbuthnot (Mudlark) Investigative journalists explore all the things the British government got wrong over Covid.

9 Bicentenary of the birth of the influential French poet, translator and critic Charles Baudelaire, author of Les Fleurs du Mal.


Lean Fall Stand by Jon McGregor (4th Estate)An inquiry into the meaning of courage in the aftermath of a disastrous Antarctic research expedition, following the Costa-winning Reservoir 13.

My Phantoms by Gwendoline Riley (Granta)Fearless, darkly witty novel anatomising a toxic mother-daughter relationship.

Civilisations by Laurent Binet, translated by Sam Taylor (Harvill Secker)A counterfactual history of the modern world from the author of HHhH, examining the urge for power across time and space.

The High House by Jessie Greengrass (Swift)Sight was shortlisted for the Womens prize in 2018; in Greengrasss second novel, an ordinary family prepares for climate catastrophe.

This One Sky Day by Leone Ross (Faber)Set on a magical archipelago, a big, carnivalesque novel that takes on desire, addiction and postcolonialism, but is also a celebration of food, love and joy.

First Person Singular by Haruki Murakami, translated by Philip Gabriel (Harvill Secker)A new collection of eight stories that play with the boundary between memoir and fiction.

Hummingbird Salamander by Jeff VanderMeer (4th Estate)A climate change conspiracy thriller about ecoterrorism and extinction.

The Republic of False Truths by Alaa Al Aswany (Faber)A polyphonic novel about the 2011 Egyptian revolution.

Male Tears by Benjamin Myers (Bloomsbury)Farmers, boxers, ex-cons Short stories about men and masculinity.

Monsters by Barry Windsor-Smith (Cape)The US army runs a secret genetics programme in this epic graphic novel from the Marvel and Conan artist, 35 years in the making.

You Love Me by Caroline Kepnes (Simon & Schuster) The latest in the thriller series behind Netflix stalker blockbuster You.

Childrens and teen

Weirdo by Zadie Smith and Nick Laird, illustrated by Magenta Fox (Puffin)This first picture book from the husband and wife writers celebrates the quiet power of being different through the story of a guinea pig in a judo suit.

Bone Music by David Almond (Hodder)The Skellig authors new novel focuses on a young girl who moves from Newcastle to rural Northumberland and finds herself rewilded.


A God at the Door by Tishani Doshi (Bloodaxe)The witty, wise and clear-eyed novelist, dancer and poet deploys both rage and sharp analysis covering issues from the precarious state of the environment to the treatment of women.

A Blood Condition by Kayo Chingonyi (Chatto & Windus)The second collection from the Dylan Thomas prize-winner explores both the personal and cultural influences of inheritance.


Philip Roth: The Biography by Blake Bailey (Jonathan Cape)Renowned biographer Bailey was appointed by the American novelist, who died in 2018, and granted independence and complete access to the archive.

Go Big: How To Fix Our World by Ed Miliband (Bodley Head)Inspired by his Reasons to be Cheerful podcast, the shadow cabinet member investigates 20 transformative solutions to problems as intractable as inequality and the climate crisis.

How to Love Animals in a Human-Shaped World by Henry Mance (Jonathan Cape)Tapping into new thinking about animals and our changing perception of them, the FT journalist works in an abattoir, talks to chefs and philosophers and looks to a better future.

The rest is here:
2021 in books: what to look forward to this year - The Guardian

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