The Book List 2021

A PROMISED LAND by Barack Obama

The honours for my first finished book of 2021 goes to none other than Barack Obama. It’s fair to say that most of the 700+ pages were actually read in 2020, but it’s not a bad volume start this year’s list off.


LESS by Andrew Sean Greer

A novel about a failing writer on the run. It is pacey and quirky with plenty of ironic humour. It felt lightweight, both physically and metaphorically after Obama’s opus.


MOTHERWELL – A GIRLHOOD by Deborah Orr

A gorgeously written memoir of childhood from an extraordinary writer. There have been tears, many tears, a few giggles and occasional turning away from the pain on the page. Extraordinary.


THE PAINTED VEIL by W.W. Maugham

Fulfilling my manifesto pledge to read at least 6 books published more than 10 years during 2021. This certainly fitted the bill! A page turning exploration of love of status from the 1920’s.


STRANGE FLOWERS by Donal Ryan (see my review)

Could. Not. Put. It. Down.



THE GOD DELUSION by Richard Dawkins

I’ve often picked this book up and put it back over the years. I saw it in a second hand shop (back when such things were open) and thought it was time I found out what all the fuss was about. A cracking read for much of it, a bit science heavy for me to completely follow occasionally. Glad I read it, but also glad I’ve finished it!



BEASTINGS by Benjamin Myers

Myers has featured heavily in both Nicky’s and my reading this last year. This has all the poetic majesty we’ve come to expect, albeit cut through with an ever growing tale desperate and brutality.



LET IN THE LIGHT by Gerard Nugent (see my review)

My first ever advanced copy of a book. It is a good honest page turner, a study of humanity and redemption told through the story of a reluctant rock star. Looking forward to writing a full review as part of the paperback’s launch and blog tour.

DOMINICANA by Angie Cruz (see my review)

Powerful and insightful tale of what it’s like to be a young woman bullied into immigration. Set to the back drop of turmoil in The Dominican Republic as well as the aftermath of the killing of Malcom X.

REASONS TO STAY ALIVE by Matt Haig (see my review)

A pocket rocket of a book. A soul baring memoir combined with a survival guide to living with our individual mental health challenges.



THIS IS MEMORIAL DEVICE by David Keenan (see my review)

Absolutely indescribable. Although I’m going to try in my review. The most bizarre piece of fiction I’ve read in a long time.






WE by Yevgeny Zamyatin (see my review)

Approaching its centenary, it was certainly about time I read this iconic anti-utopian novel. This is the 1993 translation by Clarence Brown. Any fictional dystopian future is at its most fearful when you find yourself beginning to imagine it as reality!


THE HUMAN SON by Adrian J. Walker (see my review)

Quite a long read by one of my favourite dystopia fiction authors. Although this is set in a future where the humans are no longer on earth, it is more like a love story than a terrifying vision of some future hell on earth. Quite lovely.

THE MOTEL LIFE by Willy Vlautin (see my review)

A book of living on the rough edges of American society, painful but gorgeous in its delivery.

FRANCIS PLUG: HOW TO BE A PUBLIC AUTHOR by Paul Ewan (see my review)

A sideways look at the world of literary events through the eyes of fictitious author Francis Plug. A rollicking read with plenty of belly laughs.

RECORD PLAY PAUSE by Stephen Morris (see my review)

A musicians memoir of the highest calibre. A joy for those of us who’s musical education came at the hands of punk, new wave and John Peel but so much more than a musical who’s who. A cracking read.

THE LIES YOU TOLD by Harriet Tyce (see my review)

A thriller with a big hearted story running through it. I’ve been lucky enough to have been asked to write a review for the book’s blog tour. Watch this space.

A MEAL IN WINTER by Hubert Mingarelli (see my review)

A challenging and poignant novella following three German soldiers over the course of a day in the depths of a Polish winter during WWII. Will stay with me this one.

JEWS DON’T COUNT by David Baddiel (see my review)

Another small book with a huge message. A timely reminder that lazy racism and blinkered ‘progressive’ attitudes are all too prevalent.

GODS WITHOUT MEN by Hari Kunzru (see my review)

Definitely not a small book! Nor is it a quick read. But, oh my, what a book. Deep, challenging and provocative prose. I feel richer for reading it.


DISGRACE by J.M. Coetzee (see my review)

Gorgeously crafted tale of what it means to be male, white and middle aged in turn of the century South Africa. Deeply personal.

THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD by Colson Whitehead (see my review)

Powerful, urgent, painful, brutal, gorgeous….. What a book!



RAINBOW MILK by Paul Mendez

What’s not to like about this? A love story scattered with the pains of racism, homophobia and the brutal horrors with which AIDS ravaged the homosexual community. Compelling stuff.

THE F*CK IT LIST by John Niven

Face paced and furious. There is an all too real feeling in this near future dystopia.






PIRANESI by Susanna Clarke

A glorious splash of other worldliness to colour my literary journey. I’m reading all 6 of the Women’s Prize shortlist, as is my gorgeous wife Nicky, and we will pick our winners before the official announcement.

TRANSCENDENT KINGDOM by Yaa Gyasi

Another contender for the Women’s Prize. Probably sitting in 2nd place of the two I’ve read!


HOW THE ONE-ARMED SISTER SWEEPS HER HOUSE by Cherie Jones

I’m now halfway through the six shortlisted books for the Women’s Prize. This evocative and poignant novel is probably at no. 2 so far.


UNSETTLED GROUND by Claire Fuller

A beautiful novel. Gorgeous prose, a cracking story and definitely a contender for the Women’s Prize for fiction.


THE VANISHING HALF by Brit Bennet

A truly exquisite tale of belonging, ‘other’ and raises so many questions about how we live our personal truths or lies. I’m struggling to look past this as my tip for the Women’s Prize.


MALES TEARS by Benjamin Myers

Quite a diverse selection of short works by one of my absolute favourite authors. Some poignant, some challenging, some violent, some darkly humourous, but ALL offering Myers’ gorgeous, uncompromising prose.

THE YEAR OF THE RUNAWAYS by Sunjeev Saha

Another book found through Radio 4’s A Good Read. Quite a hefty book, but what a joy. This is my sort of novel – gritty and real. I’m enjoying getting away from ‘middle class white boy uses daddy’s money to take a year out to ponder life.’ and into the desperate lives of those just trying to survive.

BURNT SUGAR by Avni Doshi

Gorgeously written exploration of culture, our memories, family and even dementia. Quite a literary read in that I felt I was grasping at imagined events and the timeline is quite fractious. Yet I couldn’t wait to pick it up whenever I got the chance.

IN IT FOR THE LONG RUN (breaking records and getting FKT) by Damian Hall

A glorious, witty, revealing romp through the world of an ultra marathon devouring, record breaking, climate change campaigning, trail running legend. A great read for anyone but an absolute MUST read for fans of the sport.

ONE NIGHT, NEW YORK by Lara Thompson

I’m afraid I skim read this, simply to find out what happened! It didn’t grab me at all, I just couldn’t buy into the characters. I was hoping to get under the skin of America and New York in particular, during the tough times of the 1930s. Never mind. I need to read from a varied range of styles and genres if I want to improve as a writer.

Check out last years list, or my favourite reads of 2020 too.

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