Some of My Most Anticipated Releases of 2021

Although 120+ books that will be published in 2021 are already on my radar, I’ve limited myself to the 20 I’m most excited about. The modest number is a cheat in that I’ve already read a couple of books from this period in advance (and I’m currently reading another two), and I haven’t listed any that I already own as proofs or finished copies (pictured here) or have been promised. With a couple of exceptions, these books are due out between January and June.

I’m also not counting these three forthcoming books that I’ve sponsored via Kickstarter (the Trauma anthology) or Unbound:

Two that I read as U.S. e-books but would recommend that UK-based readers look out for in 2021 are Memorial by Bryan Washington (Jan. 7, Atlantic) and Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi (March 4, Penguin).

The following are in UK release date order, within sections by genre; the quoted descriptions are from the publisher blurbs on Goodreads. Much more fiction is catching my eye this time.

Fiction

The Living Sea of Waking Dreams by Richard Flanagan [Jan. 14, Chatto & Windus / May 25, Knopf] “In a world of perennial fire and growing extinctions, Anna’s aged mother … increasingly escapes through her hospital window … When Anna’s finger vanishes and a few months later her knee disappears, Anna too feels the pull of the window. … A strangely beautiful novel about hope and love and orange-bellied parrots.” I’ve had mixed success with Flanagan, but the blurb draws me and I’ve read good early reviews so far. [Library hold]

The Charmed Wife by Olga Grushin [Jan. 21, Hodder & Stoughton / Jan. 12, Putnam] “Cinderella married the man of her dreams – the perfect ending she deserved after diligently following all the fairy-tale rules. Yet now, two children and thirteen-and-a-half years later, things have gone badly wrong. One night, she sneaks out of the palace to get help from the Witch who, for a price, offers love potions to disgruntled housewives.” A feminist retelling. I loved Grushin’s previous novel, Forty Rooms. [Edelweiss download]

The Prophets by Robert Jones Jr. [Jan. 21, Quercus / Jan. 5, G.P. Putnam’s Sons] “A singular and stunning debut novel about the forbidden union between two enslaved young men on a Deep South plantation, the refuge they find in each other, and a betrayal that threatens their existence.” Lots of hype about this one. I’m getting Days Without End vibes, and the mention of copious biblical references is a draw for me rather than a turn-off. The cover looks so much like the UK cover of The Vanishing Half! [Publisher request pending]

Mrs Death Misses Death by Salena Godden [Jan. 28, Canongate] “Mrs Death has had enough. She is exhausted from spending eternity doing her job and now she seeks someone to unburden her conscience to. Wolf Willeford, a troubled young writer, is well acquainted with death, but until now hadn’t met Death in person – a black, working-class woman who shape-shifts and does her work unseen. Enthralled by her stories, Wolf becomes Mrs Death’s scribe, and begins to write her memoirs.” [NetGalley download / Library hold]

No One Is Talking About This by Patricia Lockwood [Feb. 16, Bloomsbury / Riverhead] “A woman known for her viral social media posts travels the world speaking to her adoring fans … Suddenly, two texts from her mother pierce the fray … [and] the woman confronts a world that seems to contain both an abundance of proof that there is goodness, empathy and justice in the universe, and a deluge of evidence to the contrary.” Lockwood’s memoir, Priestdaddy, is an all-time favorite of mine. [NetGalley download / Publisher request pending]

A Town Called Solace by Mary Lawson [Feb. 18, Chatto & Windus / Feb. 16, Knopf Canada] “It’s North Ontario in 1972, and seven-year-old Clara’s teenage sister Rose has just run away from home. At the same time, a strange man – Liam – drives up to the house next door, which he has just inherited from Mrs Orchard, a kindly old woman who was friendly to Clara … A beautiful portrait of a small town, a little girl and an exploration of childhood.” I’ve loved the two Lawson novels I’ve read. [Publisher request pending]

Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro [March 2, Faber & Faber / Knopf] Synopsis from Faber e-mail: “Klara and the Sun is the story of an ‘Artificial Friend’ who … is warned not to invest too much in the promises of humans. A luminous narrative about humanity, hope and the human heart.” I’m not an Ishiguro fan per se, but this looks set to be one of the biggest books of the year. I’m tempted to pre-order a signed copy as part of an early bird ticket to a Faber Members live-streamed event with him in early March.

Hot Stew by Fiona Mozley [March 18, Hodder & Stoughton / April 20, Algonquin Books] “The Soho that Precious and Tabitha live and work in is barely recognizable anymore. … Billionaire-owner Agatha wants to kick the women out to build expensive restaurants and luxury flats. Men like Robert, who visit the brothel, will have to go elsewhere. … An insightful and ambitious novel about property, ownership, wealth and inheritance.” This sounds very different to Elmet, but I liked Mozley’s writing enough to give it a try.

 Libertie by Kaitlyn Greenidge [March 30, Algonquin Books; April 29, Serpent’s Tail] “Coming of age as a free-born Black girl in Reconstruction-era Brooklyn, Libertie Sampson” is expected to follow in her mother’s footsteps as a doctor. “When a young man from Haiti proposes, she accepts, only to discover that she is still subordinate to him and all men. … Inspired by the life of one of the first Black female doctors in the United States.” I loved Greenidge’s underappreciated debut, We Love You, Charlie Freeman. [Edelweiss download]

An Ordinary Wonder by Buki Papillon [April 9, Dialogue Books] “Richly imagined with art, proverbs and folk tales, this moving and modern novel follows Oto through life at home and at boarding school in Nigeria, through the heartbreak of living as a boy despite their profound belief they are a girl, and through a hunger for freedom that only a new life in the United States can offer. … a powerful coming-of-age story that explores complex desires as well as challenges of family, identity, gender and culture, and what it means to feel whole.”

Great Circle by Maggie Shipstead [May 4, Doubleday / Knopf] “In 1940s London, after a series of reckless romances and a spell flying to aid the war effort, Marian embarks on a treacherous, epic flight in search of the freedom she has always craved. She is never seen again. More than half a century later, Hadley Baxter, a troubled Hollywood starlet beset by scandal, is irresistibly drawn to play Marian Graves in her biopic.” I loved Seating Arrangements and have been waiting for a new Shipstead novel for seven years!

The Anthill by Julianne Pachico [May 6, Faber & Faber; this has been out since May 2020 in the USA, but was pushed back a year in the UK] “Linda returns to Colombia after 20 years away. Sent to England after her mother’s death when she was eight, she’s searching for the person who can tell her what’s happened in the time that has passed. Matty – Lina’s childhood confidant, her best friend – now runs a refuge called The Anthill for the street kids of Medellín.” Pachico was our Young Writer of the Year shadow panel winner.

Filthy Animals: Stories by Brandon Taylor [June 24, Daunt Books / June 21, Riverhead] “In the series of linked stories at the heart of Filthy Animals, set among young creatives in the American Midwest, a young man treads delicate emotional waters as he navigates a series of sexually fraught encounters with two dancers in an open relationship, forcing him to weigh his vulnerabilities against his loneliness.” Sounds like the perfect follow-up for those of us who loved his Booker-shortlisted debut novel, Real Life.

Saturday Night at the Lakeside Supper Club by J. Ryan Stradal [USA only? Pamela Dorman Books; no cover or exact date yet, just “Summer 2021”] “Combines the comedic pathos of John Irving with the brilliant generational storytelling of Jane Smiley and the wildly rich and quirky characters of fellow Minnesotan Anne Tyler … set on a lake in Northern Minnesota, about a beloved but dying family restaurant and whether it can be saved.” I was disappointed by Stradal’s latest, but love Kitchens of the Great Midwest enough to give him another try.

Matrix by Lauren Groff [Sept. 23, Cornerstone / Riverhead; no cover yet] “Cast out of the royal court by Eleanor of Aquitaine, … seventeen-year-old Marie de France is sent to England to be the new prioress of an impoverished abbey, its nuns on the brink of starvation and beset by disease. … a mesmerizing portrait of consuming passion, aberrant faith, and a woman that history moves both through and around.” Yuck to medieval history in general as a setting, but I love Groff’s work enough to get hold of this one anyway.

Nonfiction

Islands of Abandonment: Nature Rebounding in the Post-Human Landscape by Cal Flyn [Jan. 21, William Collins; June 1, Viking] “A variety of wildlife not seen in many lifetimes has rebounded on the irradiated grounds of Chernobyl. A lush forest supports thousands of species that are extinct or endangered everywhere else on earth in the Korean peninsula’s narrow DMZ. … Islands of Abandonment is a tour through these new ecosystems … ultimately a story of redemption”. Good news about nature is always nice to find. [Publisher request pending]

 The Believer by Sarah Krasnostein [March 2, Text Publishing – might be Australia only; I’ll have an eagle eye out for news of a UK release] “This book is about ghosts and gods and flying saucers; certainty in the absence of knowledge; how the stories we tell ourselves to deal with the distance between the world as it is and as we’d like it to be can stunt us or save us.” Krasnostein was our Wellcome Book Prize shadow panel winner in 2019. She told us a bit about this work in progress at the prize ceremony and I was intrigued!

A History of Scars: A Memoir by Laura Lee [March 2, Atria Books; no sign of a UK release] “In this stunning debut, Laura Lee weaves unforgettable and eye-opening essays on a variety of taboo topics. … Through the vivid imagery of mountain climbing, cooking, studying writing, and growing up Korean American, Lee explores the legacy of trauma on a young queer child of immigrants as she reconciles the disparate pieces of existence that make her whole.” I was drawn to this one by Roxane Gay’s high praise.

 Everybody: A Book about Freedom by Olivia Laing [April 29, Picador / May 4, W. W. Norton & Co.] “The body is a source of pleasure and of pain, at once hopelessly vulnerable and radiant with power. …  Laing charts an electrifying course through the long struggle for bodily freedom, using the life of the renegade psychoanalyst Wilhelm Reich to explore gay rights and sexual liberation, feminism, and the civil rights movement.” Wellcome Prize fodder from the author of The Lonely City.

Rooted: Life at the Crossroads of Science, Nature, and Spirit by Lyanda Lynn Haupt [May 4, Little, Brown Spark; no sign of a UK release] “Cutting-edge science supports a truth that poets, artists, mystics, and earth-based cultures across the world have proclaimed over millennia: life on this planet is radically interconnected. … In the tradition of Rachel Carson, Elizabeth Kolbert, and Mary Oliver, Haupt writes with urgency and grace, reminding us that at the crossroads of science, nature, and spirit we find true hope.” I’m a Haupt fan.

 

Which of these do you want to read, too?

What other upcoming 2021 titles are you looking forward to?

31 responses

  1. I’ve read Memorial, Mrs Death Misses Death (whose title I couldn’t resist) and No One is Talking About This, all of which I enjoyed very much. Joining you in anticipation of Hot Stew, A Town Called Solace and, hoping that it will be published here in the UK, Saturday Night at the Lakeside Supper Club.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I requested the Lockwood multiple times but nothing has arrived. Is Ella Harold the right contact?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. She is and I thought I saw her offering spare copies on Twiter a week or so ago.

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    2. Hmm, I’ll try again!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Please review Women on Nature when you’ve read it!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I certainly will, on Goodreads if nothing else. I’ve been hanging on nearly three years for it now, so I hope it is worth the wait!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Most excited about Mrs Death (which I have on Kindle, just need to get round to reading it), Olga Grushin and the Olivia Laing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m terrible about letting NetGalley and Edelweiss downloads languish on my Kindle, so I’m much more likely to actually read Mrs Death if I get it out from the library!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. So many exciting books here, hoping we can get hold of the Krasnostein!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know Text have a UK publishing arm, but for now nothing is showing up on Waterstones.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I am looking so much forward to reading Transcendent Kingdom and Klara and the Sun! 2021 sounds like an amazing year in terms of new books! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think it will be a bumper year because of all the books that were pushed back from 2020.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Very excited to hear about a new J. Ryan Stradal. I loved Lager Queen (though I know some didn’t.) Also very excited about Brandon Taylor’s collection!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I was disappointed with Lager Queen, but Kitchens is a favorite, so I’m more than willing to try him again.

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  7. Some really interesting titles! I haven’t heard of most of these and a few have landed on my reading list – like Libertie.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad I had something to pique your interest 🙂

      Like

  8. Very keen to read Mrs Death Misses Death – sounds so intriguing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m determined to read it, so I’ve made a triple-pronged approach: library hold, publisher request, NetGalley download 😉

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’ve requested it via Netgalley but haven’t been approved…yet…fingers crossed!

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  9. Very much looking forward to the Grushin and Ishiguro. Plenty of others in your list to look out for too.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. A Charmed Wife is my next read on my TBR. It is a little out of my wheelhouse, but I liked the concept so I asked for the ARC. We shall see…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I haven’t heard many reactions yet, so I’ll be looking out with interest.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Ooh, Islands of Abandonment sounds like the one for me!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It sounds great, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, my requests have been ignored thus far.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. What an interesting list! I did not know Krasnostein had a new one coming out – I am very excited. Thank you for putting that one on my radar!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for stopping by! There were sooooo many more books I could have included, and more I’m becoming aware of each day.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. How I loved Transcendent Kingdom!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. She’s one of our best young writers at the moment.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. You might have spotted me making this comment on Susan’s blog, but I have loved all of Mary Lawson’s books. She has that knack of making a story very readable, but including an underlayer for those readers who love to pick away and find something more beneath the surface. As for other 2021 expectations (you put 2020 by mistake–I keep doing that too, for the first couple of weeks at least), I’ve got a long hold list already, but I think I”m more g-e-n-e-r-a-l-l-y excited than specifically excited. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve read 2 of her 3 previous and I was holding out on reading the last one (The Other Side of the Bridge) as I knew it was the only one left … but now I’m not sure whether to read it quickly before the new one (hoping there’s a copy on the way), or to wait.

      Ha ha, that’s what I get for copying the previous year’s post as a template!

      Liked by 1 person

  15. […] yesterday. This conversation with Alex Clark also functioned as its launch event. It’s one of my most anticipated books of the year, so I pre-ordered a signed copy along with my ticket and look forward to it arriving soon. Klara is […]

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