21 Books I’m Reading in 2021

  1. The Night Tiger by Yangsze Choo

In 1930s colonial Malaya, a dissolute British doctor receives a surprise gift of an eleven-year-old Chinese houseboy. Sent as a bequest from an old friend, young Ren has a mission: to find his dead master’s severed finger and reunite it with his body. Ren has forty-nine days, or else his master’s soul will roam the earth forever.

Ji Lin, an apprentice dressmaker, moonlights as a dancehall girl to pay her mother’s debts. One night, Ji Lin’s dance partner leaves her with a gruesome souvenir that leads her on a crooked, dark trail.

As time runs out for Ren’s mission, a series of unexplained deaths occur amid rumours of tigers who turn into men. In their journey to keep a promise and discover the truth, Ren and Ji Lin’s paths will cross in ways they will never forget.

2. Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto

Kitchen juxtaposes two tales about mothers, transsexuality, bereavement, kitchens, love and tragedy in contemporary Japan. It is a startlingly original first work by Japan’s brightest young literary star and is now a cult film.

3. Orlando by Virginia Woolf

As his tale begins, Orlando is a passionate young nobleman whose days are spent in rowdy revelry, filled with the colourful delights of Queen Elizabeth’s court. By the close, he will have transformed into a modern, thirty-six-year-old woman and three centuries will have passed. Orlando will not only witness the making of history from its edge, but will find that his unique position as a woman who knows what it is to be a man will give him insight into matters of the heart.4.

4. The Collected Stories of Eudora Welty

Eudora Welty wrote novels, novellas, and reviews over the course of her long career, but the heart and soul of her literary vision lay with the short story, and her National Book Award-winning Collected Stories, written when it was first published, confirmed her as a master of short fiction. With a new introduction by best-selling author Ann Patchett, the forty-one pieces collected in this new edition, written over a period of three decades, showcase Welty’s incredible dexterity as a writer. Her style seamlessly shifts from the comic to the tragic, from realistic portraits to surrealistic ones, as she deftly moves between folklore and myth, race and history, family and farce, and the Mississippi landscape she knew so well, her wry wit and keen sense of observation always present on the page.

5. The Boy, the Mole, the Fox, and the Horse by Charlie Mackesy

Enter the world of Charlie’s four unlikely friends, discover their story and their most important life lessons.

The boy, the mole, the fox and the horse have been shared millions of times online – perhaps you’ve seen them? They’ve also been recreated by children in schools and hung on hospital walls. They sometimes even appear on lamp posts and on cafe and bookshop windows. Perhaps you saw the boy and mole on the Comic Relief T-shirt, Love Wins?

Here, you will find them together in this book of Charlie’s most-loved drawings, adventuring into the Wild and exploring the thoughts and feelings that unite us all.

6. A Fatal Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum: Murder in Ancient Rome by Emma Southon

In Ancient Rome all the best stories have one thing in common – murder. Romulus killed Remus to found the city; Caesar was assassinated to save the Republic. Caligula was butchered in the theatre, Claudius was poisoned at dinner and Galba was beheaded in the forum. In one fifty-year period, twenty-six emperors were murdered.

But what did killing mean in a city where gladiators fought to the death to sate a crowd? Emma Southon examines real-life homicides from Roman history to explore how perpetrator, victim and the act itself were regarded by ordinary people. Inside Ancient Rome’s unique culture of crime and punishment, we see how the Romans viewed life, death, and what it means to be human.

7. From Blood and Ash by Jennifer L Armentrout

A Maiden…

Chosen from birth to usher in a new era, Poppy’s life has never been her own. The life of the Maiden is solitary. Never to be touched. Never to be looked upon. Never to be spoken to. Never to experience pleasure. Waiting for the day of her Ascension, she would rather be with the guards, fighting back the evil that took her family, than preparing to be found worthy by the gods. But the choice has never been hers.

8. Murderbot by Martha Wells

All Systems Red by Martha Wells begins The Murderbot Diaries, a new science fiction action and adventure series that tackles questions of the ethics of sentient robotics. It appeals to fans of Westworld, Ex Machina, Ann Leckie’s Imperial Raadch series, or lain M. Banks’ Culture novels. The main character is a deadly security droid that has bucked its restrictive programming and is balanced between contemplative self discovery and an idle instinct to kill all humans. In a corporate dominated s pa cef a ring future, planetary missions must be approved and supplied by the Company. Exploratory teams are accompanied by Company supplied security androids, for their own safety. But in a society where contracts are awarded to the lowest bidder, safety isn’t a primary concern. On a distant planet, a team of scientists are conducting surface tests, shadowed by their Company-supplied ‘droid – a self aware SecUnit that has hacked its own governor module, and refers to itself (though never out loud) as ‘Murderbot.1 Scornful of humans, all it really wants is to be left alone long enough to figure out who it is. But when a neighbouring mission goes dark, it’s up to the scientists and their Murderbot to get to the truth.

9. Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata

Keiko isn’t normal. At school and university, people find her odd, and her family worries she will never fit in. To make them happy, Keiko takes a job at a newly opened convenience store where she finds peace and purpose in simple daily tasks.

But in Keiko’s circle it just won’t do for an unmarried woman to spend her time stacking shelves and ordering green tea. As the pressure to find a new job – or worse, a husband – increases, Keiko is forced to take desperate action… 

10. Tyll by Daniel Kehlmann

He’s a trickster, a player, a jester. His handshake’s like a pact with the devil, his smile like a crack in the clouds; he’s watching you now and he’s gone when you turn. Tyll Ulenspiegel is here!

In a village like every other village in Germany, a scrawny boy balances on a rope between two trees. He’s practising. He practises by the mill, by the blacksmiths; he practises in the forest at night, where the Cold Woman whispers and goblins roam. When he comes out, he will never be the same.

Tyll will escape the ordinary villages. In the mines he will defy death. On the battlefield he will run faster than cannonballs. In the courts he will trick the heads of state. As a travelling entertainer, his journey will take him across the land and into the heart of a never-ending war.

A prince’s doomed acceptance of the Bohemian throne has European armies lurching brutally for dominion and now the Winter King casts a sunless pall. Between the quests of fat counts, witch-hunters and scheming queens, Tyll dances his mocking fugue; exposing the folly of kings and the wisdom of fools.

11. The Bees by Laline Paull

Enter a whole new world, in this thrilling debut novel set entirely within a beehive.

Born into the lowest class of her society, Flora 717 is a sanitation bee, only fit to clean her orchard hive. Living to accept, obey and serve, she is prepared to sacrifice everything for her beloved holy mother, the Queen.

But Flora is not like other bees. Despite her ugliness she has talents that are not typical of her kin. While mutant bees are usually instantly destroyed, Flora is removed from sanitation duty and is allowed to feed the newborns, before becoming a forager, collecting pollen on the wing. She also finds her way into the Queen’s inner sanctum, where she discovers secrets both sublime and ominous.

But enemies are everywhere, from the fearsome fertility police to the high priestesses who jealously guard the Hive Mind. And when Flora breaks the most sacred law of all her instinct to serve is overshadowed by an even deeper desire, a fierce love that will lead to the unthinkable . . .

12. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

Welcome to New London. Everybody is happy here. Our perfect society achieved peace and stability through the prohibition of monogamy, privacy, money, family and history itself. Now everyone belongs.

You can be happy too. All you need to do is take your Soma pills.

Discover the brave new world of Aldous Huxley’s classic novel, written in 1932, which prophesied a society which expects maximum pleasure and accepts complete surveillance – no matter what the cost.

 13. Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse

n the holy city of Tova, the winter solstice is usually a time for celebration and renewal, but this year it coincides with a solar eclipse, a rare celestial even proscribed by the Sun Priest as an unbalancing of the world.

Meanwhile, a ship launches from a distant city bound for Tova and set to arrive on the solstice. The captain of the ship, Xiala, is a disgraced Teek whose song can calm the waters around her as easily as it can warp a man’s mind. Her ship carries one passenger. Described as harmless, the passenger, Serapio is a young man, blind, scarred, and cloaked in destiny. As Xiala well knows, when a man is described as harmless, he usually ends up being a villain.

14. The Girls I’ve Been by Tess Sharpe

Meet Nora. Also known as Rebecca, Samantha, Haley, Katie and Ashley – the girls she’s been.

Nora didn’t choose a life of deception – she was born into it. As the daughter of a con artist who targeted criminal men, Nora always had to play a part. But when her mother fell for one of the men instead of conning him, Nora pulled the ultimate con herself: escape.

For five years Nora’s been playing at normal – but things are far from it when she finds herself held at gunpoint in the middle of a bank heist, along with Wes (her ex-boyfriend) and Iris (her secret new girlfriend and mutual friend of Wes … awkward). Now it will take all of Nora’s con artistry skills to get them out alive.

15. The Fires of Vengeance (The Burning Book 2) by Evan Winter

Desperate to delay an impending attack by the indigenous people of Xidda, Tau and his queen craft a dangerous plan. If Tau succeeds, the queen will have the time she needs to assemble her forces and launch an all-out assault on her own capital city, where her sister is being propped up as the ‘true’ Queen of the Omehi.

If the city can be taken, if Tsiora can reclaim her throne and reunite her people, then the Omehi might have a chance to survive the coming onslaught.

16. The Bone Shard Emperor (The Drowning Empire Book 2)by Andrea Stewart

17. The Lake House by Kate Morton

Living on her family’s gorgeous lakeside estate in Cornwall, England, Alice Edevane is a bright, clever, inquisitive, innocent, and precociously talented 14-year-old who loves to write stories. But the mysteries she pens are no match for the one her family is about to endure….

One midsummer’s eve, after a beautiful party drawing hundreds of guests to the estate has ended, the Edevanes discover that their youngest son, Theo, has vanished without a trace. What follows is a tragedy that tears the family apart in ways they never imagined, leaving their estate as empty as their broken hearts.

Nearly 60 years later, having enjoyed a long, successful career as an author, Alice is now 80 years old and living in London. Theo’s case has never been solved, though Alice still harbours a suspicion as to the culprit.

Miles away, Sadie Sparrow, a young detective in the London police force, is staying at her grandfather’s house in Cornwall. While out walking one day, she stumbles upon the old estate – now crumbling and covered with vines, clearly abandoned long ago. Her curiosity is sparked, setting off a series of events that will bring her and Alice together and reveal shocking truths about a past long gone…yet more present than ever.

18. The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle

It is meant to be a celebration but it ends in tragedy. As fireworks explode overhead, Evelyn Hardcastle, the young and beautiful daughter of the house, is killed.

But Evelyn will not die just once. Until Aiden – one of the guests summoned to Blackheath for the party – can solve her murder, the day will repeat itself, over and over again. Every time ending with the fateful pistol shot.

The only way to break this cycle is to identify the killer. But each time the day begins again, Aiden wakes in the body of a different guest. And someone is determined to prevent him ever escaping Blackheath…

19. The Kind Worth Killing by Peter Swanson

Delayed in London, Ted Severson meets a woman at the airport bar. Over cocktails they tell each other rather more than they should, and a dark plan is hatched – but are either of them being serious, could they actually go through with it and, if they did, what would be their chances of getting away with it?

Back in Boston, Ted’s wife Miranda is busy site managing the construction of their dream home, a beautiful house out on the Maine coastline. But what secrets is she carrying and to what lengths might she go to protect the vision she has of her deserved future?

A sublimely plotted novel of trust and betrayal, The Kind Worth Killing will keep you gripped and guessing late into the night.

20. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

What was lost in the collapse:
almost everything, almost everyone, but there is still such beauty.

One snowy night in Toronto famous actor Arthur Leander dies on stage whilst performing the role of a lifetime. That same evening a deadly virus touches down in North America.
The world will never be the same again.

Twenty years later Kirsten, an actress in the Travelling Symphony, performs Shakespeare in the settlements that have grown up since the collapse.
But then her newly hopeful world is threatened.

If civilization was lost, what would you preserve?
And how far would you go to protect it?

21. A pick by any of my blog readers on YouTube followers

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xnWSafdiGsU21 Books I’m Reading in 2021 – YouTube

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