2021 written in block numerals on a black background, with various book covers above and below it.

Image: Ryan MacEachern/Penguin

January

Fiction

The Push by Ashley Audrain (7 Jan)

Ashley Audrain’s debut novel is a compulsive and addictive read about motherhood, which looks at what happens when women are not believed. It follows Blythe Connor, whose first child Violet is demanding and fretful, to the point where Blythe thinks there is something wrong. But Blythe’s husband, Fox, thinks she’s imagining everything, and doesn’t understand how Blythe’s childhood experiences have shaped her. What if, asks Audrain, motherhood is everything you feared instead of everything you hoped for?

We Are All Birds of Uganda by Hafsa Zayyan (21 Jan)

This debut novel moves between 1960s Uganda and present-day London, exploring the lives over several generations over two continents.

In Uganda widower Hasan is struggling to run his family business. Just as he thinks he’s found his way, a new regime seizes power, threatening what he has built. In London, Sameer is a high-flying young lawyer who is called back home after an unexpected tragedy.

Hafsa Zayyan was co-winner of the inaugural winner of the #Merky Books New Writers’ Prize.  

Non-fiction

Happy Planning by Charlotte Plain (7 Jan)

When we filled out our 2020 planners and bought our diaries for the year, we never imagined how the year would turn out. And 2021 may prove to be as unexpected. 

But Charlotte Plain’s Happy Planning will help you plan any aspect of your life, from the weekly shop and meal planning to budgeting and getting ready for big occasions. 

Plain is behind the Instagram account @princess.planning, which has more than 190,000 followers, and this book promises to be a practical guide to bring order to the chaos. 

Empireland by Sathnam Sanghera (28 Jan)

Journalist Sathnam Sanghera’s new book is an essential addition to Britain’s debate about its colonial past. Sanghera takes a look at how so much of what we consider to be modern is rooted in its imperial past, from the foundation of the NHS to the nature of our racism and the exceptionalism that was a core part of the campaign for Brexit and the government’s early dealing with coronavirus.

Empireland urges readers to look at the contradictions in a Britain that both celebrates empire and doesn’t want us to look at it too closely. It’s only by seeing where we come from that we can being to understand out present, and Empireland is key to that understanding. 

February

Fiction

Before My Actual Heart Breaks by Tish Delaney (18 Feb)

With praise already in from Roddy Doyle, Before My Actual Heart Breaks is a book to watch for in 2021. It follows Mary Rattigan, whose childhood dreams of leaving troubled Northern Ireland behind never materialised. Instead, she’s got five children yet is alone, having learned plenty of hard lessons and missed turns to the life she always hoped for. Now, will she finally ind the courage to ask for the love she deserves? 

Non-fiction

What It Feels Like for a Girl by Paris Lees (25 Feb)

In her debut book, journalist Paris Lees tells her story, from being a child sick of being beaten up by boys at school to a rollercoaster ride of hedonism and the discovery of the Fallen Divas Project and the mesmerising Lady Die. But when the comedown finally kicks in, Byron arrives at a shocking encounter that will change life forever. Unflinching and honest, this is sure to cement Lees’ reputation as one of Britain’s most exciting young writers.

The Librarian by Allie Morgan (4 Feb)

Allie Morgan, who is behind the @grumpwitch Twitter account, is a librarian whose part-time job turned into a passionate battle for survival, for her and the library. In The Librarian, Morgan shares stories from her daily life to illustrate the importance of libraries in our society. She recounts how the library saved her, why libraries are falling apart at the seams, and why we need to start caring before it’s too late. 

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