10 photos of book covers, arranged as a colourful grid, with the numbers 2021 overlaid in black.
Reading lists

Books that shaped 2021

From conversation-starting non-fiction to novels that changed the game, here's a list of books that defined the past 12 months.

Every year, a handful of books tend to dominant the cultural conversation, either by capturing the world around us or offering the perfect escape from it. 

Here we round up ten of those very titles, from issue-led non-fiction to innovative novels to poetry collections that defined a moment and helped illuminate the future.

The best-sellers

Was Sally Rooney’s third novel perhaps the most anticipated of the year? With a marketing campaign that spread from tiny proofs to entire buildings painted with the cover and blanket review coverage, it was difficult not to suspect that Rooney’s character – a novelist hiding out in coastal Ireland from sudden fame – was somewhat drawn from experience. Beautiful World, Where Are You? examines how relationships can exist in an increasingly fractured world, a theme that is all the more pertinent in light of the pandemic.

The thought-provokers

The voices of the future

What did you think of this article? Email editor@penguinrandomhouse.co.uk and let us know.

Sign up to the Penguin Newsletter

For the latest books, recommendations, author interviews and more