Culture

YOUR 2021 READING LIST

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28.12.2020

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Not to be pessimistic, but the shit show that is 2020 looks set to spill mercilessly into 2021. Who knows when we’ll next gather in groups larger than six without the cloud of Covid/Brexit/existential dread hanging over our weary heads? Some escapism is in order, I’m sure you’ll agree. So to take the edge off, here’s Buro’s round-up of the best books to look forward to in 2021 – from punchy essay collections to unputdownable debuts and everything in between.

Concrete Rose

Angie Thomas

Release date: January 12th

With his father in prison and his mother working two jobs, Maverick Carter turns to selling drugs to get by – until fatherhood comes knocking on his door, that is. Concrete Rose is set 17 years before The Hate U Give, Thomas’ 2017 debut, returning to Garden Heights to tell the story of Starr’s father. It is an uncompromising exploration of Black boyhood in the US, and a worthy prequel to Thomas’ award-winning novel.

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We Are All Birds of Uganda

Hafsa Zayyan

Release date: January 21st

The debut novel from Hafsa Zayyan, winner of the inaugural #Merky Books New Writers’ Prize, is a compelling dual narrative hinged around the 1972 expulsion of South Asians from Uganda. In 1960s Kampala, Hasan mourns the loss of his wife amid rising Indophobic sentiment in his home country. In present-day London, Sameer struggles to live up to his parents expectations and finds himself questioning his future plans. As both protagonists embark on journeys they never expected to take, We Are All Birds of Uganda is multigenerational exploration of race, identity, emigration and the concept of home.

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Luster

Raven Lelilani

Release date: January 21st

You’ve seen it in Vogue and you’ve seen it on Twitter; the hotly-anticipated debut from Raven Lelilani is finally hitting UK shelves this January. The protagonist, a Black woman called Edie, is a hapless millennial with hapless millennial problems. She wants to paint, but is stuck in a dead-end job in an office full of white people. She falls in and out of bed with the wrong type of men. Then, along comes Eric; a middle-aged white man in a sort of open marriage with an adopted Black daughter. It’s already topped various US bestseller lists and won the Kirkus Prize for fiction, so add to your shopping cart ASAP.

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Asylum Road

Olivia Sudjic

Release date: January 21st

When Anya and Luke return from a holiday in Provence engaged, Anya can’t seem to quell the deep anxiety she feels about their relationship. She escaped Sarajevo as a child, and the idea of security remains an unfamiliar one. When she is forced to return home, the past that she had tried to contain for so long inevitably begins to resurface. If positive reviews from the likes of Avni Doshi and Daisy Johnson don’t sway you, Sudjic’s unsettling, but nonetheless brilliant prose should.

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Empireland

Sathnam Sanghera

Release date: January 28th

In the same vein as Afua Hirsch’s Brit-ish and Akala’s Natives, Empireland looks at Britain through the lens of its colonial history. Be it the foundations of the NHS or the exceptionalism that imbued the Brexit campaign, Sanghera proves once again that as a nation, we are never far removed from our imperial past. His writing is caustic, humorous and personal – this is a subject he knows and cares about deeply – and will engage you from start to finish.

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The Librarian

Allie Morgan

Release date: February 4th

From the woman behind the viral Twitter thread, “Things I have learned about the general public whilst working at the library”, Allie Morgan’s debut book is part memoir, part short story collection. In it she recalls charming tales from her time behind the counter and explains how a job at the local library saved her when she hit rock bottom. The Librarian is a timely read highlighting the value of libraries and why, as many face the threat of closure, we need to work harder to protect them.

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Let Me Tell You What I Mean

Joan Didion

Release date: February 4th

A new collection of old essays from singular literary icon Joan Didion. These 12 pieces from early in her career revisit familiar Didion territory – California, the act of writing and her own star-studded exploits (filming TV documentaries and close encounters with Nancy Reagen, for example) – but in presenting them together for the first time ever, they are cast in a prescient new light. Basic book babes, this is one to whip out on the tube and thus prove your literary prowess.

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Before My Actual Heart Breaks

Tish Delaney

Release date: February 18th

As a child, Mary Rattigan dreamed of flying up and away from her small hometown – America, true love and Happily Ever After awaited her. But as a Catholic girl with an abusive mother and apathetic father, things didn’t go to plan. Set against the backdrop of a troubled Northern Ireland, Before My Actual Heart Breaks follows Mary into adult life when, after five children, 25 years and countless wakes and sandwich teas, she finds herself alone. Will she finally find the courage to ask for the love she deserves, or is it too late?

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Bernard and Pat

Blair James

Release date: February 4th

Their father is dead and their mother is out at work, so Catherine and her brother James are spending an increasing amount of time with their childminders, Bernard and Pat. Bernard and Pat have lots of rules, but Catherine only knows the rules when she is shouted at for breaking them. The book is told from the perspective of an adult Catherine who recalls muddled memories from her childhood, in her childhood voice. We find she was often scared and frequently humiliated by Bernard and Pat. As an adult, she is angry that no one protected her. A work of biographical fiction from new writer Blair James, Catherine’s voice will stay with you long after turning the final page.

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Klara and the Sun

Kazuo Ishiguro

Release date: March 2nd

The upcoming offering from Nobel Prize-winning author of The Remains of the Day and Never Let Me Go. True to form, Klara and the Sun plays with perspective, telling the story of an “Artificial Friend” called Klara who watches the world from her place on a shop shelf, awaiting the day a customer will choose her. But when the possibility emerges that her circumstances may change for ever, Klara is warned not to invest too much in the promises of humans.

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Acts of Desperation

Megan Nolan

Release date: March 2nd

Another addition to the Young Irish Writers club, Acts of Desperation tells the story of one love-addicted woman as she reflects on her past affairs. In particular, she is preoccupied by one intensely toxic relationship with “the most beautiful man” she had ever seen. A coming-of-age story, but not in the traditional sense, Megan Nolan’s literary debut should be on all good 2021 reading lists.

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Peaces

Helen Oyeyemi

Release date: April 6th

An enchanting novel following Otto and Xavier Shin’s journey on a sleeper train called The Lucky Day. The trip is gifted to them by Xavier’s aunt – a celebration of their “non-honeymoon honeymoon”. But when they board in Kent, accompanied by their pet mongoose, questions quickly begin to arise. Where are they going? Who is Ava Kapoor – the sleeper train’s sole full-time inhabitant? And what is her relationship to a man called Prem? Peaces is a characteristically surreal read from the prize-winning, bestselling author of Gingerbread.

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First Person Singular

Haruki Murakami

Release date: April 6th

If Corona has decimated your attention span, short stories are the way to go. And where better to start than Murakami’s upcoming collection of eight trippy tales? As the title suggests, each is written in the first person – what’s unclear is whether said person is Murakami himself or not. Between meditations on youth, music, baseball and more, readers are left to decide whether First Person Singular is a work of memoir or fiction, and it’s all the more intriguing for it.

PRE-ORDER HERE

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