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7 from (literary) heaven – the best books of 2021

You know we’re an office full of bookworms, so here are our favourite reads from the last 12 months.

Written by Beth Williams
Published 30.12.2021

Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro

Longlisted for this year’s Booker Prize, Klara and the Sun was one of the most highly anticipated books of the year – and boy, did it deliver.

Ishiguro’s novel tells the story of Klara, an ‘Artificial Friend’ who observes the comings and goings of the humans that browse the store she is displayed in. Running on solar power, she has been created to be a companion and she spends her days waiting to be chosen by a child to fulfil this purpose.

Positioned within an uncomfortably-near future, the uncanny observations Klara makes of love and life put us all closer to understanding what it means to love right here, right now.

 

 

Beautiful World, Where Are You by Sally Rooney

From the best-selling author of Normal People and Conversations with Friends, Beautiful World, Where Are You follows the same formula as its predecessors – with young adults in Ireland caught up in a convoluted friendship/love situation. This time, the tryst plays out between four friends as they navigate the complexities of love, friendship and the world as we know it.

Alice, a novelist, meets Felix (who works in a warehouse), and asks him if he’d like to travel to Rome with her. In Dublin, her best friend Eileen is getting over a breakup and slips back into flirting with Simon, a man she has known since childhood…

That’s all we’re telling you, so you’ll just have to read the rest yourself!

The Island of Missing Trees by Elif Shafak

This is a story of a second-generation teenage immigrant struggling with her identity in the present day, and her parents finding love amongst the violence of Cyprus in the 1970s.

For the festive glutton, there are alcoholic and gastronomic delights in a Cypriot bar that centres on a fig tree and acts as a microcosm of the island itself. For the green-fingered, there are wonderful descriptions of the tree climbing through the brickwork of the bar and surviving to grow in suburban London. For parents (and their teenagers), there is the complexity of a father-daughter relationship laid bare. For the romantic, the love stories that wind between the branches of the tree are wholly enchanting and entirely heart-warming.

A complete package, if you ask us.

 

 

A Slow Fire Burning by Paula Hawkins

A young man is found brutally murdered in a London houseboat and three women, all separately connected to the victim, have questions to answer. Laura is the troubled one-night-stand, last seen in the victim’s home. Carla is his grief-stricken aunt, already mourning the recent death of yet another family member. And Miriam is the nosy neighbor clearly keeping secrets from the police.

If you’re a fan of Girl on the Train or Gone Girl, this will be right up your street. A Slow Fire Burning is a brilliant, fast-paced thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat.

Open Water by Caleb Azumah Nelson

Two young people meet in a pub in South London and instantly hit it off when they find they share similar histories and backgrounds. He is a photographer and she is a dancer, and their undeniable chemistry is tested by the dancer’s romantic history with the photographer’s close friend. However, this will they/won’t they isn’t just a story about love.

Caleb Azumah Nelson’s beautiful and heartwrenching debut novel tells the story of two Black, British artists falling in and out of love, but also provides an important insight into race and masculinity in Britain. At just 176 pages, we only wish it could’ve been longer.

 

 

The Man Who Died Twice by Richard Osman

The eagerly-anticipated second instalment in The Thursday Murder Club series, The Man Who Died Twice begins the Thursday after all the action that ended the first novel.

Elizabeth has received a letter from an old colleague, who says he’s made a big mistake and needs her help. There are stolen diamonds and a violent mobster involved and he finds himself in grave peril.

As the bodies start piling up, Elizabeth enlists the help of Joyce, Ibrahim and Ron in the hunt for the murderer – but this time, they’re up against an enemy more terrible and dangerous than they can begin to imagine.

Warm and witty, Richard Osman manages to prove that The Thursday Murder Club wasn’t just a one-hit-wonder.

Luster by Raven Lelani

Having been tipped early on by Dolly Alderton and Pandora Sykes as one to watch for 2021, our spidey senses were tingling when Luster was finally released. And it certainly lived up to the hype.

The story follows a young black woman, Edie, who is coasting through life making all the wrong decisions. We meet her at what appears to be rock-bottom: in a dead-end admin job, in an all-white office, hooking up with men that are all no good. Then, she meets Eric – and soon becomes entangled in an open marriage with a middle-aged white couple who have an adopted black daughter.

The page-turning plot is totally addictive and the sharp, scathing prose makes this novel such a treat to read.

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