Here are the top 5 fiction and non-fiction books out of the 73 I’ve read this year.
Beloved by Toni Morrison
Beloved is a masterpiece of a book. From the opening line to the last page, every word and every comma is perfectly chosen. The touch of magical realism makes the story of Sethe and her daughters seem all the more real. Instead of veiling historical truth, the ghosts and magic in this novel reveal it.
The Secret History by Donna Tartt
I did not expect to love this book as much as I did, but I have officially entered the Donna Tartt fanclub. The autumnal, academic atmosphere is the perfect world to sink into. Turning the whodunnit into a whydidtheydoit results in a true page-turner but the characters alone would have enticed me to read these 560 pages, just to spend some time with their flawed, but brilliant minds.
Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
Yaa Gyasi’s debut novel is beautifully crafted and written. This tale spanning multiple generations and two continents shows how past and future are forever linked. Tender towards her characters, but unyielding in her condemnation of colonialism and slavery, Yaa Gyasi has struck a perfect balance and written a powerful novel.
Great Circle by Maggie Shipstead
Great Circle was a positive surprise for me, my Booker Shortlist favourite that I had the least expectations for. Historical fiction at its finest, with characters that grew on me more and more with every page I read and an adventurous book that I could not put down.
White Teeth Zadie Smith
My last read of 2021 was one of my favourites and another debut, albeit a slightly older one. I knew and loved Zadie Smith’s writing from some of her short stories and essays, but they could not have prepared me for the masterclass writing of this novel about 20th century London and its cultural landscape. Every sentence was on point and the witty humour made me laugh out loud on more than one occasion.
Review coming soon.
Revolting Prostitutes by Molly Smith and Juno Mac
Revolting Prostitutes is not only a must-read for everyone who calls themselves a feminist, but an eye-opening account of all sorts of social and political issues and a stark reminder to be wary of any dichotomies or black-or-white solutions proposed by activists and politicians. Succinct and convincing.
Second Nature by Michael Pollan
Second Nature is the philosophical encounter between a man and his garden. Michael Pollan, featured twice on this short list, is quickly becoming one of my favourite writers. Not only his brilliant philosophical and sociological – as well as horticultural – observations convince, but his charming writing makes his books a pleasure to read.
The Omnivores Dilemma by Michael Pollan
That is also true for The Omnivores Dilemma, in which Pollan follows the industrial, the organic and the hunter-gatherer food chains to understand the way we eat and produce our food. Thought-provoking but could potentially ruin your appetite!
Humankind by Rutger Bregman
Amidst all the gloom and doom, all the horrible news and grim predictions of human behaviour it is helpful to shine some light on the positive. Rutger Bregman does just that in his “hopeful history” and reminds us that we are not simply evil and self-interested, but also capable of great solidarity and compassion – and we need more of that.
I’m Supposed to Protect You From All This by Nadja Spiegelman
Nadja Spiegelman (daughter of Maus creator Art Spiegelman) has written a memoir that is perhaps my favourite book of the 2021, it has touched me deeply and has stayed with me throughout the year. Spiegelman explores complex relationships between mothers and daughter with disarming honesty and compassion.