12 books for 12 months of the year. If you’re wondering what to get stuck into in 2021, we’ve got you covered.
I have read a total of 56 books this year. I set myself a Good Reads challenge of 70, but with all the TV I’ve been watching I fell behind a little. However, I’m still quietly pleased with that number, as it means I have recommendations galore for you. If you’ve been tuning into our monthly podcast you may have heard us talk about some of these already, but for anyone who missed it, this is a round up of our favourites this year.
Never Greener – Ruth Jones
Ruth Jones’ debut novel is the kind of book anyone can read. Appealing to the masses with her brilliantly funny, down to earth relatable and heart wrenchingly emotional writing style Never Greener will leave you invested in the characters and devastated when it ends. Following the life of Kate and Callum and their respective partners and set in Scotland it’s a tale of ‘normal people’ the likes of you and I. The stark realisation is of course, that the grass, is Never Greener.
The Cows – Dawn O’Porter
In my opinion Dawny P is the absolute best there is at writing women. She gets it so right every time. In The Cows she beautifully depicts women at their most vulnerable, and at their most fierce. Cam, Tara and Stella, all lead very different lives. They each go through trauma and relationship issues, finding friendship in the most unlikely of places. If you’re looking for a read that’s endearing, tinged with sadness and laugh out loud funny The Cows needs to be number 1 on your reading list for 2021.
Relatable in the most cringeworthy of ways, it’s a genuine insight into being a twenty first century woman.
The Good Daughter – Karin Slaughter
From the Queen of American Thriller and author of the famous Grant County series, The Good Daughter is a horrifyingly brutal and beautifully compassionate story about a fractured family. Devastation is evident from the first page and carries you through right to the end of the book. A tale of two sisters, two daughters and a father who was unable to protect them. If thriller is your jam get your nose stuck into this. It’s a hard read in parts and shockingly graphic, but Slaughter writes every word with conviction, it’s a book you won’t be able to put down.
The Mother’s – Britt Bennet
Written in the third person by a group of church mothers the tale of Nadia Turner and Luke Sheppard, a teenage romance like you’ve never read before. Heartbreak, secrets, lies and broken promises are evident in every chapter. Britt Bennet’s sensational debut tells a story of California town devoted to the church and the devastating consequences of secrets kept and words unspoken.
The Best Of Friends – Lucinda Berry
Lucinda writes like nobody else, a former clinical psychologist and lead researcher in childhood trauma each of her books pack an emotional punch.
Best of friends tells the tale of mothers united and then torn apart after a tragedy involving their teenage sons destroys their friendship circle as they once knew it. Families divided, secrets kept and uncovered, this book promises to keep you hooked from the first chapter until the final page.
Blood Orange – Harriet Tyce
Tyce’s Debut was a favourite in book clubs everywhere including the popular Richard and Judy bookclub. In early 2020 it fast became a bestselling Ebook. Blood Orange tells tales of adultery, sexual assault, and sadism. It’s not for the faint hearted. Protagonist Alison has her fair share of issues, an overworked lawyer with questionable morals, she’s not very likeable in the beginning, but as her life unravels we learn the reasoning behind her choices. Fast paced, unputdownable and jam packed with action and suspense Blood Orange is the perfect tonic for thriller fans everywhere.
The Noughts & Crosses Series – Malorie Blackman
Anyone who listens to the House 21 Book Club Podcast knows just how much I adore the Noughts & Crosses series by Malorie Blackman. The first in the series, titled Noughts & Crosses, is my favourite book of all time. The premise is a thought-provoking reversal of racial power dynamics as we know them. In this world created by Blackman, it was Africa that invaded European countries, thus black people are the dominant race and it is the white people who are oppressed. Blackman takes racism in its worst forms, as well as every day microaggressions, and explores how these might look if the victims were European. Make no mistake, although the series is categorised as Young Adult Literature, this is no easy read. Blackman’s dive into power dynamics, privilege and how these can tear apart both romantic and familial relationships, hooked me from the turn of the first page.
I felt rather silly, having initially thought that I’d accidentally stumbled across a little known work of genius when – in actual fact – Blackman’s masterpiece has been revered for over a decade with fans such as Tinie Tempah and Stormzy. Not to mention the fact that it had been on school syllabuses for years.
The series as a whole is a work of art. I dare you to read the first book and not instantly dive into the next.
Daisy Jones & The Six – Taylor Jenkins-Reid
This refreshingly fun palette cleanser is an explosion of rock’n’roll, love, hate, drugs, sex, betrayal, devotion and glamour.
Written as the transcript of a music mockumentary driven entirely by dialogue, the story is fast-paced and easy to whizz through, even for occasional readers who might struggle to normally reach the end of a book.
The story has serious Fleetwood Mac vibes, so it is no surprise that Jenkins-Reid cites Stevie Nicks as one of her muses for the novel. In this regard, the author explores how society glamorizes ‘broken’ women, fetishizing their addictions, mental illnesses and vulnerabilities. Furthermore, it shines a light on how we will elevate these women to vertiginous heights of success, only to enjoy watching them stumble and fall. Get ready to rethink that Daily Mail side-bar-of-shame habit of yours.
If you’re in need of a gripping read that you’ll find yourself cancelling plans for, then this is it.
Love In Colour – Bolu Babalola
Bolu Babalola’s debut novel is a collection of short folk stories and myths, retold with a razor sharp, modern spin.
These are not the same old love stories that are reeled out again and again in British / American culture or retold in Disney remakes – these are ancient folk stories and myths originating from cultures from all around the world, from India, to Nigeria, to Greece to name but a few. Some stories stay true to the original, whilst others disregard the misogynist and abusive tropes often found in old ‘love’ stories, instead swapping them with progressive and relatable alternatives.
If you find yourself with only 20 minutes between getting into bed and falling asleep with your book on your face, then one of these stories a night might be just the ticket!
Ghosts – Dolly Alderton
If you haven’t read Alderton’s memoir Everything I Know About Love, then where have you been? Alderton’s skill for penning a blazingly relatable read is second to none and instantly recognisable in this, her first fictional novel.
With an abundance of fans and loyal readers, the expectations were high for Ghosts. It did not disappoint!
The novel explores the culture of dating apps as a late-twenty / early-thirty something, specifically the culture of ghosting and how it has been adopted wholesale as a perfectly normal way of ending a relationship. Along with the trials and tribulations of app dating and getting ghosted, the protagonist also rides the rollercoaster of losing one friend after another to marriage, parenthood and the biggest villain of all – suburbia.
Ghosts was a perfectly timed read for me, as one of my closest friends became a parent this year and whilst I was of course delighted for their happiness, it raised so many questions as to how the dynamics of our friendship would shift. Alderton explores the very thoughts that were bouncing around my head: Will they have time for me anymore? Will there be any chance of us just simply going to the pub at any point in the next four years? Will we have anything in common in six months’ time when they’re up to their eyeballs in nappies and I’m still snogging boys in the backs of their Corsas?
Alderton articulates the fears and excitements that come with crossing the bridge between young-adult and serious, responsible adult, in a way that will capture the heart of every millennial reader. Get ready to feel seen, understood and dissected.
Little Fires Everywhere – Celeste Ng
I had heard so much raving about the Little Fires Everywhere TV series that I was itching to give it a binge. However, I knew that if I was going to read the book then I definitely had to do that first.
In a year where we’ve had more discussions about privilege and power than we have in decades combined, this was the perfect read to encapsulate those sentiments and demonstrate their impact. It would be a disservice to cite race as the only imbalance of privilege explored, as wealth, fertility, motherhood, education and marital privileges are also themes which perhaps raise more questions than they answer.
I loved the TV series and thought it was a fantastic screen adaptation of NG’s gripping, thought-provoking novel, however if you’re complete Little Fires virgin, then I whole-heartedly recommend reading before watching.
Quite – Claudia Winkleman
I normally can’t stand a celebrity book which poses as a memoir but is, in reality, an I-know-what-I’m-doing-you-should-be-exactly-like-me self help book. I cannot think of a single celebrity or person of the moment who qualifies as an oracle with worthwhile advice, or whose advice I would give a second’s notice. Especially given that most celebrities would not have a shred of their success if they weren’t so beautiful.
So, when I saw that Winkleman had a memoir, I was not exactly chomping at the bit to give it a read. But then I thought, why would a woman who normally just oozes coolness fall down the trap of penning a self-aggrandizing look-at-me-I-know-everything-unlike-you-common-little-peasants book? So I gave it a go. I did not regret it!
Upon first scanning the book, it is jam-packed with advice. But when you actually drill down into what Winkleman is saying, it is very much “I’ve got a successful career, a great family and have managed to keep my children alive but frankly I’m still just winging it, so don’t worry if you don’t have a clue what you’re doing either”. It spoke to my impostor syndrome like a big sister, mother and drunken aunt all rolled into one.
You might just think of Winkleman as the orange woman off the telly with the messy makeup and even messier fringe, but that was exactly what she intended. Her commitment to her niche speaks to her undeniable intelligence and foresight which is why she has landed a presenting role on not only the country’s most-watched TV show, but also on Europe’s most listened-to radio station. She might be a fast-talking mop of hair with panda-like eyeliner, but the woman knows precisely what she is doing.
If you want to kickstart the New Year with an alternative style of motivation – one which encourages you on the basis that we’re all just making it up as we go along – then give Winkleman’s Quite a whizz through. Thank me later.