While we’re all stuck inside for the foreseeable future, there is no better reason not to settle down and work away at the hours with a good book. Whether you prefer an honest non-fictitious retelling of war, a twisted drama, encapsulating crime thriller, perspective poetry or want to discover an overlooked ‘classic’, we’ve got you covered with Age Space’s Top 15 Books of 2021 so far – across genres (we may have included some slightly older books too but who can blame us!)
1. Redhead by the Side of the Road: A Novel
The latest release from Anne Tyler takes us back to Baltimore to meet Micah Mortimer, a middle-aged man who lives a self-inflicted lonely sort of life – a result of his aversion to change. “Thursday is Kitchen Day”. Micah lives a comfortable routine-oriented life, which starts tip off kilter when a teenager turns up at his door claiming to be his son. What follows is a witty, heartfelt, and joyous journey from a proven writer with over 20 novels to her name including Pulitzer Prize-winning Breathing Lessons.
2. In Five Years
Built on the ideas of fate and destiny, Dannie has her answer to “Where do you see yourself in 5 years” meticulously thought out. As a newly-engaged, high-flying New York lawyer, her life seems like it will work out exactly as planned. Then, for a moment, she wakes up in a different apartment, with a different man, with a different ring on her finger, 5 years in the future. After coming back to present day and shaking off this visceral “dream”, her life progresses as planned again, until four-and-a-half years later when the same man from the vision appears in her life.
3. The Fire and the Darkness: The Bombing of Dresden 1945
From the author of The Secret Life of Bletchley Park comes a individual-account-led, compelling and overwhelmingly haunting recounting of one of the most devastating bombings of WWII. McKay reconstructs this chilling event from both sides, the ordinary people living there, and the Allied bombers. The Fire and Darkness not only details the events and emotions of the turmoil but highlights the cultural devastation of a vibrant city burnt out by a calculated but vicious act of war.
4. All The Rage
Hunter presents an enjoyable and layered mystery revolving around DI Fawley, his team, a serial attacker and a potentially wrongly-convicted person from Fawley’s past. All The Rage delves deeper into the lives through which this story is told than just the mystery itself; we get an insight into the troubles and intricacies of the characters’ family lives, helping to flesh out the world in which this mystery is set. A beautifully paced and gripping addition to your crime-fiction bookshelf and a great introduction to Hunters work.
5. Eight Perfect Murders
A crime thriller for crime thriller enthusiasts, Swanson constructs this suspenseful novel around some of the classic intricate mysteries from Agatha Christie’s A. B. C. Murders , to James M. Cain’s Double Indemnity . Malcolm, an honest bookseller, is asked to advise on a series of unsolved murders that bear a strange similarity to a list he had previously made of Eight Perfect Murders. Peter Swanson is the author of Before She Knew Him, Her every Fear , and the New England Society Book Award-winning The Kind Worth Killing .
Based on a legend from German folklore, Tyll, a travelling performer, is an entity all to his own. A personification of freedom and a master of charm and mischief, he holds a strange hypnotic power over those whom he encounters. Kehlmann’s translated (by Ross Benjamin) fantastical story follows the adventures of Tyll and his talking donkey through 17th century Europe and his interactions with all measure of intricate characters and historical figures.
7. Wow, No Thank You
This collection of essays from Samantha Irby bring an honest and humorous perspective to parts of her life in a way that many will find relatable. She does this by not focussing so much on the subject but the feelings associated to the things she writes on. We don’t have to know any of the songs from her “Late-1900s Time Capsule” because we know the emotion of listening to a long forgotten song. This is Irby’s third book after Meaty and New York Times bestselling We Are Never Meeting in Real Life .
8. The Mirror & the Light
This recommendation is a three-in-one, as The Mirror & the Light is the 3rd and final book in Hilary Mantel’s Thomas Cromwell Trilogy. This final instalment follows Cromwell’s later life from his newly elevated position as Baron. Mantel’s work is meticulously researched and forms the foundation from which she posits Cromwell’s psyche and creates one of the most understanding portrayals of this historical villain. The Mirror & the Light is a refreshing way through which we can experience British history.
Not a light read by any means, but if you’re looking for something a little more serious, Anna Burns’ Man Booker Prize-winning novel follows a young girl in the middle of the Irish Troubles. Having recently come of age, the story revolves around various men vying for her attention, all under the shadow of guerrilla warfare when you can’t be sure for which side your friends fight for.
10. Darling Rose Gold
This twisted tale sees Rose Gold Watts find out that she has not been sickly her entire life, but was being poisoned by her mother (Patty) the whole time. After Patty is released from prison some 5 years later, much to everyone’s surprise, it is Rose Gold that takes her in. However, Rose Gold’s intentions aren’t as charitable as they first appear. Wrobel plays with this circling mother-daughter relationship and in turn with us as the story unfolds, and we anxiously continue to find out who wins this battle.
11. The Poetry Pharmacy Returns: More Prescriptions for Courage, Healing and Hope
An anthology of remedies in a poetry-shaped pill for all of life’s maladies. In this sequel, Sieghart once again compiles a collection of poems from his past books, new finds and readers’ favourites to help us see life’s problems from new perspectives, focusing especially in this book on family relations and living with others. The Poetry Pharmacy Returns is not only perfect for your shelf but for also for other’s, as a perfect gift.
12. House of Glass: The Story and Secrets of a Twentieth-Century Jewish Family
The product of over a decade of research into her family’s past and their life through war-torn Europe. Stemming from Hadley Freeman finding a shoebox belonging to her grandmother containing, among other mysterious artefacts, a signed Picasso drawing. Freeman unravels the lives of her grandmother and her three brothers in a “truly remarkable family saga”.
Ones Not to Miss
The following may not be as recent as the previous members of this list, but are included as books that if you’ve overlooked, we think you should give them another chance!
13. Take Nothing With You
Patrick Gale adds onto previous bestselling works like A Place Called Winter , drawing from his childhood to construct this novel published in 2018. We are introduced to an ageing Eustace reminiscing on his life and past adventures, particularly focussing on the pivotal movement in his adolescence when his mother makes him take up cello lessons. This well-received piece is exceptionally crafted so that we experience everything a young Eustace does, from hero worship to heart-break, and the poignant recollections of a wiser man.
14. The Citadel
A. J. Cronin
First published in 1937, The Citadel has truly earned the title of ‘Classic’. Cronin presents a young, idealistic doctor, Andrew Manson, and his journey through life in which his struggles to maintain the morals and values he entered the profession with while pursuing the false treasures of fame and fortune. The Citadel doesn’t ask as it spins you throughout and into its 368 pages of emotional turmoil and has earned it several film and TV adaptations including an Oscar-nominated film.
15. Homo Deus
Yuval Noah Harari
As a sequel of sorts to Sapiens , the critically-acclaimed, New York Times bestselling, and 21st pick for The Guardian’s Top 100 books of the last 2 decades, Homo Deus may have been overlooked by many. However, this 2017 book, self-dubbed “A History of Tomorrow”, is equally original, expertly researched and wonderfully argued. Harari lays out for us, in his trademark thorough, concise, and ultimately persuasive style, the next challenges that may face the human race. Now that the previous trio of factors that have limited us thus far have been overcome – famine, war, and plague – how might our species look in the next 100 to 1000s of years, as we make the evolution from Homo Sapien to Homo Deus .