Lockdown Lit: Top 10 Books of 2021
It’s hard for me to believe that it’s already time for another yearly round-up of my top ten books from 2021, but time apparently flies when you spend half the year in lockdown. Whilst I usually place my top ten books in order, I decided this year that this was too mammoth a task. 2021, for all its challenges and tribulations, was a stand-out year where my bookshelf was concerned. I started to branch out into new authors, genres, and styles, as well as sticking with my long-time favourites, too (hello, dystopian feminist fiction).
This non-exhaustive list of incredible novels I read in 2021 contains heartbreak, anger, love, laughter, lessons, and so many other emotions I wouldn’t even know where to start. What I do know, however, is that you should make sure these books are quickly added to your TBR pile for the coming year. You won’t regret it.
*Drum roll*. So, without further ado, here are my top 10 books of 2021 (not in order). I hope they bring you as much joy as they did me.
The Paper Palace
Miranda Cowley Heller | @mirandacowleyhellerauthor
A novel loaded with longing and nostalgia for what could have been, The Paper Palace takes place on the picturesque lakes of Cape Cod, where Elle and her family are spending the summer in her family’s holiday home. Although the timeline of the novel spans just 24 hours, the book is peppered with memories and flashbacks, unravelling the carefully woven threads of the characters’ complicated relationships.
The Paper Palace explores the messiness of human relationships, the pitfalls of love, and the complexities of family life.
Taylor Jenkins Reid | @tjenkinsreid
Every year, Nina Riva throws a star-studded party in her mansion on the crashing Malibu coastline. But this year, things get a little out-of-control, as the past of each guest rushes to catch up with them. Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid delves beneath the sequin-studded surface of fame and fortune, brusquely revealing the humanity beneath. Family values lie at the heart of this novel, as well as the true price of wealth and celebrity.
Rosa Rankin-Gee | @rosarankingee
I had high hopes for dystopian novel Dreamland as soon as I laid eyes on its haunting cover – and it didn’t disappoint. Set in a terrifyingly-not-so-distant future in a British seaside town, Chance is a girl whose prospects are not looking particularly bright. With global warming quickly sweeping up British working-class coastal towns, the UK class divide is only getting bigger. Her life is characterised primarily by rising sea levels, and by days spent looking after her family. And then she meets Franky: the new girl in town.
A novel about class, love, climate change, and family ties, Dreamland is one of the most heart-wrenchingly and beautifully written novels I read last year.
K.M. Szpara | @kmszpara
In a not-so-far-flung reality, where people’s lives and freedom are governed by their debt, Elisha tries to help his family financially by signing himself up to become a ‘docile’ to trillionaire pharmaceutical heir Alex. Docile is a novel which touches on the ideas of love and liberation, and how free we can *actually* be in a capitalist society, you’ll find yourself falling in love with Szpara’s characters. It’s haunting, unnerving, but somehow hopeful, too.
Looking for more reading inspo? Take a look at our Top 10 Novels of 2020
The Great Alone
Kristin Hannah | @kristinhannahauthor
By the author of Netflix-famous Firefly Lane, The Great Alone is a coming-of-age story which follows thirteen-year-old Leni as her family move to Alaska to start anew. Swept up in the aftershock of her parents’ passionate, fiery, and violent relationship, she believes that Alaska could be the perfect place for a new beginning, but her father’s stormy past begins to catch up with them. With characters as turbulent as the wilderness around them, The Great Alone is a story about survival, loss, and loyalty.
Susie Yang | @susieyyang
A novel which shines a light onto the life of an immigrant in the United States, White Ivy is part thriller, part coming-of-age story. The novel tells the story of a Chinese girl, Ivy, whose family moves over to the USA. It’s a tale of the difficulties of young adulthood, the strengths and weaknesses of family ties, and the pressures of being an immigrant in modern-day America.
Fredrik Backman | @backmansk
When I was first recommended Beartown, I was intrigued: I would probably never have picked out a book which is largely about ice hockey for myself. But you can’t help but be immediately drawn in by the characters of this overlooked forest town in rural Sweden, which is torn apart by tragedy yet united by hope. This is a novel which will speak to anyone who feels they don’t quite belong. Oh, and it’s translated, too – incredibly well!
Torrey Peters | @torreyadora
Probably one of the most talked-about novels of the past year, Detransition, Baby is a work of art which doubtlessly lives up to its hype. Following the lives of a number of different characters, Detransition, Baby is an emotional rollercoaster, drawing you in and connecting you deeply with each of them. It speaks eloquently and beautifully about the trans experience, the concept of motherhood, and the importance of our relationships with others.
The Nine Lives of Rose Napolitano
Donna Freitas | @donnafreitas.writer
An eloquent exploration of motherhood and femininity, The Nine Lives of Rose Napolitano is as unique as it is heart-wrenching. When Rose has an argument with her husband about trying for a baby, her life splits off into nine potential paths, each outcome altering the course of her future in ways she couldn’t imagine. The Nine Lives of Rose Napolitano leaps from timeline to timeline, but never confuses or loses the reader. I literally *inhaled* this book in one sitting.
Scenes of a Graphic Nature
Caroline O’Donoghue | @czaronline
When two old filmmaker friends take a trip to a tiny island off the West coast of Ireland, they accidentally uncover a secret that was probably best left alone. A story of friendship, relationships, growing up, and the general messiness of life, Scenes of a Graphic Nature is a beautifully-written novel that you’ll devour in a number of hours. Trust me.