Discover more from Well Read with Anna Bonet
My favourite novels published in 2021
Five brilliant books that I can't stop thinking about.
As *the situation* out there gets ever more disconcerting, I’m finding it increasingly comforting to escape under a blanket and into novels. Anyone else?
At the moment, I’m already well into my 2022 books, and it’s going to be such a good year for reading. From buzzy, hotly-tipped debuts (Wahala by Nikki May; Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus), to a new Nina Stibbe, a new Anne Tyler, and even a new Hanya Yanagihara, I can’t wait to carry on writing this newsletter next year.
But first, a look back on what’s been out in 2021. It’s been difficult to narrow it down to my five favourites books, but here they are. I hope this list gives you a bit of inspiration for your festive period, I’ve-eaten-too-much-and-can’t-move-from-the-sofa reading.
The five best novels that came out this year*
*According to my very subjective opinion.
Everyone is Still Alive by Cathy Rentzenbrink
When Juliet’s mother dies, she, her husband Liam and their young son Charlie move into her house on Magnolia Road in a leafy area of west London. Here, the family become interwoven in the lives of their neighbours; their quirks, their secrets, their jealousies and all.
Everyone is Still Alive lulls you in with its lyrical writing, its warmth and its perfectly-drawn characters until events come to a page-turning crescendo. I adored this book.
Read it if you like: books by Elizabeth Strout or Katherine Heiny.
The Fortune Men by Nadifa Mohamed
This novel is based on the true story of 28-year-old Mahmood Mattan, who was living in 1950s Cardiff when he was wrongfully charged of murder - and put on trial to be hanged - and it is possibly one of the most powerful books I’ve ever read.
There’s one particular scene where Mahmood arranges to wave to his wife Laura and their two young children from the tiny window in his prison cell, and to me that encapsulates this heartbreaking, yet tender, and compelling book.
Read it if you like: An American Marriage by Tayari Jones or Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood.
Fault Lines by Emily Itami
This novel is the story of Mizuki, a Japanese housewife living in a beautiful apartment in a Tokyo hi-rise - but is utterly bored of picking up her two young children’s toys and sorting her husband’s laundry.
So when she meets Kiyoshi, a successful restauranteur, an affair with him becomes a portal into a world of excitement and freedom, where she remembers how to feel alive again. But at some point she needs to chose which life to lead in this brilliantly enticing modern love story.
Read it if you like: Naoise Dolan’s Exciting Times or Luster by Raven Leilani.
Watch Her Fall by Erin Kelly
Ava Kirilova is a prima ballerina about to take on the role of her life as the lead in her father’s production of Swan Lake, but something sinister is afoot and all is not as it seems.
Darkly atmospheric and filled with duplicity, this novel has all the ingredients to my perfect psychological thriller. Best of all, the twist is a real jaw-dropping, ‘wait what’, head f*ck - but it’s cleverly done and deliciously satisfying.
Read it if you like: books by Paula Hawkins, Gillian Flynn, Clare Mackintosh - and the film Black Swan.
Sorrow and Bliss by Meg Mason
There has been a huge amount of hype around this novel: I think I’ve seen it on practically every ‘Best of 2021’ list, it’s being likened to Fleabag and it has been dubbed Sally Rooney for Gen X.
It follows narrator Martha, who has been dealing with a mental illness since her teens, and who is approaching 40 when her husband Patrick leaves her. Although that sounds like it might make for a pretty miserable read - and for that reason I actually avoided picking up this book for quite a while - the sadness is outweighed by the humour, the compassion, the brilliant one liners, the family relationships, and it all comes together to be strangely life-affirming. Believe the hype - it’s an absolutely brilliant book.
Read it if you like: The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath, or books by Sally Rooney, Maria Semple, or Melissa Broder. Or the TV show Fleabag. I totally get why that comparison has been made.
I want to hear from you! I’d love to know:
a) what your favourite books have been this year…
and b) what you’d like to see from Well Read in 2022. Are there any themes you’d like me to cover? Any upcoming books you want to know about? I’m all ears!
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A big thank you to all of you for subscribing and supporting the newsletter over these last couple of months, and for every one of your emails, messages and comments.
Well Read will return on Sunday 9th January. Until then, I’m wishing everyone who celebrates a very Merry Christmas.