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    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?

    The Living Sea of Waking Dreams by Richard Flanagan (14 Jan)

    Booker Prize-winning author Richard Flanagan returns with a story of a family facing death against a backdrop of climate change and global catastrophe.

    Anna’s aged mother is dying, if her three children would allow her to do so. Condemned by their pity, she increasingly escape through her hospital window into visions of horror and light. When Anna’s finger vanishes, followed by her knee, she begins to see others are similarly vanishing, but no one else notices. This is a beautiful meditation on love, family and the world we live in.?

    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.?

    Some Body to Love by Alexandra Heminsley (14 Jan)

    In 2017, Alexandra Heminsley was told that her partner was going to transition. It was the latest in a series of events, including giving birth, that left Heminsley feeling more and more dissociated from her own body. In her open-hearted memoir, Heminsley talks about losing a husband but gaining a best friend, bringing up a baby in a changing world, and what it means to have a human body and feel connected and disconnected from it.?

    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.?

    Children's

    How To Change The World by Rashmi Sirdeshpande & Annabel Tempest (7 Jan)

    Be inspired to change the world in 2021. In Rashmi Sirdeshpande’s new book, you’ll learn about 15 phenomenal things people have achieved throughout history. Travel back to Ancient Egypt to hear how the craftsmen built the Great Pyramid or to when the Ancient Greeks first established democracy. In more recent times, discover how campaigners fought for women’s right to vote and how Rosa Parks helped initiate the US civil rights movement. It’s amazing what can be achieved when humans work together.

    The Worries: Sohal Finds a Friend by Jion Sheibani (14 Jan)

    It’s normal to feel worried from time to time but sometimes our worries can take over. Sohal worries about a lot of things; the dark, not having any friends, mutant sheep. So, to make himself feel better, Sohal draws his worries. And it works! Except, when Sohal wakes up the next morning, he finds that his worries have come to life as furry creatures; Hurt, Babs, Anger, Big, Fail and Alone. And unfortunately for Sohal, his worries start to get a little out of control… This is a great read for fans of Pixar film Inside Out.

    Ned and the Great Garden Hamster Race by Kim Hillyard (21 Jan)

    The day of the Great Garden Hamster Race has arrived and Ned the hamster is very excited. He’s been training super hard for this and is determined to win. Ned sets off and he’s already in first place! If he carries on at this pace, he’s sure to be champion. But then Ned comes across a few different creatures in dire need of some help. Will Ned realise that it’s more important to be kind than to win?

    What to Look For in Spring by Elizabeth Jenner & Natasha Durley (21 Jan)

    The What to Look For series – originally published in the 1960s – has had a 2020s update. Elizabeth Jenner and Natasha Durley show us what the natural world in the UK currently looks like throughout the year. From the blooming buds of spring to the long, dark nights of winter, these books are a great introduction to the seasons for little readers.

    February

    Fiction

    Open Water by Caleb Azumah Nelson (4 Feb)

    This stunning debut novel is about two Black British artists who meet at a pub in south east London. He is a photographer, she is an artist, and both are trying to make their mark in a city that celebrates and rejects them. Open Water follows the pair as they fall in love, but are threatened to be torn apart by fear and violence. Azumah Nelson has written a beautiful love story that also examines race and masculinity, and what it means to be a person in a world which only sees you as a Black body.?

    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

    Black is the Body by Emily Bernard (11 Feb)

    In these 12 interconnected essays, Emily Bernard looks at everything from surviving a random stabbing to inheriting a family name from a white man to her experiences being a Black woman teaching in a primarily white university. Ann Patchett has called the collection “really life-changing”.?

    The Panic Years?by Nell Frizzell (11 Feb)

    Nell Frizzell’s memoir looks at the panic years – the period between adolescence and menopause. ?Every decision a woman makes during this time is impacted by the urgency of the single decision that comes with a biological deadline; whether or not to have a baby. Frizzell’s funny and honest book is not only the story of her own experiences, but also a call to us all to start a conversation about a decision that touches us all.?

    How to Avoid a Climate Disaster by Bill Gates (16 Feb)

    In this book, Bill Gates consolidates more than a decade of work he has done with experts to investigate the causes and effects of climate change. In How to Avoid a Climate Disaster, he not only explains why we need to work towards a goal of net?zero emissions of greenhouse gases, but also lays out what we need to do to achieve that goal.

    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.?

    Children's

    Water World by Ben Rothery (4 Feb)

    Natural history illustrator Ben Rothery is back and this time he’s showing us all the wonders of the underwater world. From the frozen seas of the Antarctic to the weird and wonderful creatures that can be found in our all corners of our oceans, Rothery also addresses the impacts that global warming is having on these ecosystems and why we need to protect them.

    The Hatmakers by Tamzin Merchant & Paola Esconbar (18 Feb)

    This charming debut from actress Tamzin Merchant is set in a world where alchemy and enchantment can be weaved into clothing items. Known as Maker magic, it is a rare and ancient skill, and there are only a few Maker families remaining. Cordelia belongs to one of these families, a long line of magical milliners. Whilst travelling to collect some special hat ingredients, Prospero, Cordelia’s father, and his ship go missing at sea. Cordelia wants to go find him but then a longstanding family rivalry surfaces and a potential war begins to brew. Will Cordeila ever see her father again?

    Antiracist Baby by Ibram X. Kendi & Ashley Lukashevsky (18 Feb)

    How To Be an Antiracist author Ibram X. Kendi has used his extraordinary storytelling gifts to create this picture book for young children. The bold illustrations and playful rhymes introduce little ones to the concept of antiracism and provide the tools parents need to start those critical conversations. A must-have for readers of all ages, antiracism is bred, not born.

    March

    Fiction

    Dangerous Women by Hope Adams (4 Mar)

    Set in 1841, Dangerous Women follows three women as they board a ship in London that will take them on a three-month voyage to the other side of the world. The women are are all convicts, being transported for petty crimes. Except for one, who is a secret killer fleeing justice. When a women on the ship is mortally wounded, the hunt is on for the culprit.?

    Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi (4 Mar)

    Yaa Gyasi’s second novel is the story of Gifty, who as a child would ask her parents to tell her the story of their journey from Ghana to Alabama. Years later, Gifty turns to science to understand the opioid addiction that destroyed her brother’s life. But when her mother comes to stay, Gifty learns that the roots of their tangled traumas reach further back than she thought.?

    Double Blind by Edward St Aubyn (18 Mar)

    The internationally acclaimed author of the Patrick Melrose novels returns with a major new book about three close friends during a year of extraordinary transformation. Set between London, Cap d’Antibes, Big Sur and Sussex, the book follows Olivia, who meets a new lover, Francis, as she welcoming her dearest friend Lucy back from New York. As the trio become unusually close, more people are pulled into their orbit, and no one will emerge unchanged.?

    The Absolute Book by Elizabeth Knox (18 Mar)

    Already a bestseller in New Zealand, The Absolute Book is described as a cross between Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, American Gods and His Dark Materials. The book follows Taryn Cornick, who believes her sister Bea was deliberately run down and killed, so much show that she allows a man called the Muleskinner to exact justice and take an eye for an eye. But the police begin to suspect Taryn in the death, while in a faraway place are those that seek Taryn’s help in tracking down the mysterious book of the title.?

    Non-fiction

    Why Women Are Poorer Than Men and What We Can Do About It by Annabelle Williams (3 Mar)

    The gender pay gap is well documented, but it’s not just salaries that are rigged unfairly. In this book, journalist Annabelle Williams looks at everything from the tampon tax to bringing up children to boardroom bullying, painting a picture of a society which conspires to limit a woman’s wealth. By revealing how we got to our current position, Williams also lays out how we can fix it.?

    A Walk from the Wild Edge by Jake Tyler (18 Mar)

    After coming terrifyingly close to suicide, Jake Tyler left his home town of Maldon, armed only with a pair of walking boots and a backpack. During the subsequent 3,000-mile walk around the British mainland, Tyler was helped on the road to recovery by the kindness of strangers and the power of human connection. In A Walk from the Wild Edge, Tyler recounts his journey, both mental and physical.?

    The Nightingale by Sam Lee (25 Mar)

    Conservationist and musician Sam Lee tells the story of the nightingale in this beautiful book, which not only looks at the bird’s song and habitat, but is also a call to action to change the behaviours which threaten the nightingale’s livelihood.

    Lee delves into the ways in which we have celebrated the nightingale through literature, music and more over the years. The Nightingale is the perfect way to herald the arrival of spring.

    A Little Devil in America by Hamid Abdurraqib (25 Mar)

    Hanif Abdurraqib is the author of Go Ahead in the Rain: Notes to A Tribe Called Quest, and he returns with this examination of Black performance in America. Looking at the collision of race, history, culture, entertainment and lived experience, this is an essential read from an exciting new voice.?

    Children's

    Bees: A Lift-the-flap eco book by Carmen Saldana (4 Mar)

    Protecting our planet has never been more important and these fun, lift-the-flap books are perfect for mini eco-warriors. Made from recycled board and plant-based inks, this new series introduces children to the importance of Bees, Trees and Seas. Each book contains interesting facts and tips on how even the littlest readers can help.

    Shipwreck Island by Struan Murray & Manuel Sumberac (4 Mar)

    In the sequel to Orphans of the Tide, Ellie and Seth continue on their action-packed adventure to uncover the truth behind Seth’s lost memories. The pair have fled the City after battling the Enemy and the Inquisition, and after crossing the ocean they find themselves on the shores of a tropical island ruled by an enigmatic queen. But all is not as it seems and they soon find themselves caught up in another struggle for power.

    Pablo Goes Shopping (4 Mar)

    Pablo and his friends are off to the supermarket aka the Super Place! There are so many different sights and sounds – Tang really loves it here. But Wren finds it too bright and too loud. Luckily Pablo and the others know what to do to help Wren enjoy the Super Place in a different way that suits her. Written by the creators of the hit TV series Pablo who are all on the autistic spectrum, all Pablo books give an insight into what life can feel like for those who are autistic.

    The Runaway Girls by Jacqueline Wilson (18 Mar)

    Jacqueline Wilson is back with another Victorian novel and this one follows two girls from two very different backgrounds. Kitty Fisher lives on the streets and performs tumbling to earn her meals. Her only friend is Gaffer but he’s now gone leaving Kitty completely alone. Lucy Locket on the other hand is from a well-to-do family but all is not rosy. The arrival of a new stepmother, new sibling and a mean governess has left Lucy feeling very lonely so she runs away and meets Kitty. The two become fast friends and begin to work together to survive on the dangerous streets of London.

    April

    Fiction

    Bullet Train by Kotaro Isaka, trans. by Sam Malissa (1 Apr)

    A bestseller in Japan, Bullet Train is about five assassins – Satoshi, Kim, Nanao, Tangerine and Lemon – who find themselves on a bullet train to Tokyo competing for a suitcase full of money. Who will get off alive at the last station? Bullet Train is currently being made into a film starring Brad Pitt for release in late 2021, so read the book in advance.

    Another Life by Jodie Chapman (1 Apr)

    Jodie Chapman’s debut novel is a sweeping love story about Nick and Anna, who worked the same summer job at their local cinema. Anna has grown up preparing for the end of days, living a tightly controlled existence where Christmas, getting drunk and more are off-limits. So when Anna falls in love with Nick, she’s too afraid to give up everything she’s ever loved, and walks away. Years later, a tragedy draws Anna back into Nick’s life and the pair has the chance to rekindle their love.

    Tall Bones by Anna Bailey (1 Apr)

    Set in a small town in Colorado, Tall Bones begins 17-year-old Abi going?missing?after a party in the woods. Abi’s disappearance rocks Whistling Ridge, and stirs up long-held grudges, including among Abi’s family. Her older brother Noah still resents Abi for betraying him, her younger brother Jude has already seen too much for someone his age, her mother Dolly’s suffering is ignored by the town, and her father Samuel holds the whole family in his threatening grasp. Whistling Ridge is a tinder box waiting to?explode, and what happened to Abi is the spark.

    First Person Singular by Haruki Murakami, trans. by Philip Gabriel (6 Apr)

    This collection of eight short stories are all told by a mysterious narrator, one who may or may not be Haruki Murakami himself. From meditations on music to a love of baseball to invented jazz albums, these?stories challenge the boundaries between our minds and the outside world, and are all?told in Murakami’s inimitable style.

    Fragile Monsters by?Catherine Menon (8 Apr)

    In this debut Catherine Menon traces the story of one Malaysian family from 1920 to the present.?When Durga visits her difficult grandmother Mary in rural Malaysia, the pair become stuck in the rising heat. There, both women must?figure out the truth to questions that haunt the family, from what happened to Durga’s mother after she gave birth to why so many family members disappeared during the war to who is to blame for the childhood tragedy that haunts Durga to this day. Spellbinding, this is a novel about homecoming and the past that haunts our present.

    Non-fiction

    Peter 2.0 by Peter Scott-Morgan (1 Apr)

    Peter Scott-Morgan has Motor Neurone Disease, and has been told by doctors that it will destroy his nerve cells and, within a few years, take his life. But Scott-Morgan is trying to navigate a new path, but combining his?humanity with artificial intelligence and robotics. This book is the true story behind the Channel 4 documentary about Scott-Morgan, Peter: The Human Cyborg.

    The Hard Crowd by Rachel Kushner (8 Apr)

    Rachel Kushner is well known for his fiction, and she brings her originality to this first essay collection. In her 20s, Kushner went to Mexico to compete in the notorious and deadly?motorbike race, Cabo 1000. Soon after, she decided to leave her controlling boyfriend and embark on a new, freer life. The Hard Crowd is about that life. Through 19 essays, Kushner explores friendship, loss, a Palestinian refugee camp, the American prison system and more.

    The Green Barbecue by Rukmini Iyer (29 Apr)

    Rukmini Iyer’s cookbooks have saved many a lunch and dinner (and breakfast, and dessert, and snack time), earning her a fan base known as the #TinLads. The newest in the series contains 75 meat-free recipes that are?perfect for?cooking outdoors or in the oven. From griddled papaya and charred?tender stem to crispy barbecue tofu and dill-soused feta, this is the ultimate vegetarian?cookbook.

    Children's

    My Daddies! by Gareth Peter & Garry Parsons (1 Apr)

    Follow the adorable family in My Daddies! as they go on all kinds of adventures. From dragon fighting and running away from dinosaurs, to soaring around the world in a hot air balloon. This lovely picture book is perfect for showing children that all different kinds of families are wonderful.

    Weirdo by Zadie Smith, Nick Laird & Magenta Fox (15 Apr)

    Veteran writers Zadie Smith and Nick Laird have come together with debut illustrator Magenta Fox to create this wonderful tale about the power of being different. Maud is a guinea pig; a guinea pig who loves judo. Given as a birthday present to a little girl named Kit, things get off to a rocky start when she meets Kit’s other pets. But a friendly encounter with a neighbour shows Maud that it’s ok to be a little weird.

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