Top 5 books of 2021

The top 5


Shortlisted for the Booker Prize, Maggie Shipstead’s Great Circle is a huge American novel set mainly between the 1920s and 1950s about the life of a female aviator but with a parallel modern story about the star making the movie of her life. Full of great characters, fascinating insights and well told drama.
Maria Dahvana Headley’s new translation of this ancient text full of monsters, bravado and heroics brings the story to visceral life and demonstrates its enduring appeal.
Emily Bitto’s second book Wild Abandon puts a young naive Australian into two very different American contexts in the early 2010s – hedonistic New York and an exotic animal zoo in the mid-west. This is an incisively observed, luminous and thematically resonant novel.
Nickolas Butler also explores modern American society through Godspeed, the story of the construction of an impossible building in the beautiful but unforgiving hinterland of Wyoming. A simple tale, well told with complex characters facing personal and moral challenges.
Silvia Moreno-Garcia delivers in yet another genre – this time a thriller with a touch of romance set around the 1971 crackdown on student demonstrations in Mexico City. Plenty of style, verve and insight delivered through two very distinct and fascinating main characters.


Honourable Mentions


Damon Galgut’s Booker Prize winner is a narrative delight that explores the last 20 years of South African history through the lives and deaths of an Afrikaner family.

Colson Whitehead also shows he can deliver in any genre – Harlem Shuffle is a heist novel with more in its mind, set in a vivd 1960s Harlem.

Graeme Macrea Burnet creates another meta-novel this one centring around a fraudulent psychologist in 1960s London and the woman who is intent on exposing him.

SA Cosby deals with issues of race, sexuality and family in the context of a propulsive and sometimes violent crime drama.

The wildest of the bunch – Laurant Binet’s counter-factual history in which the Incans get horses, steel and immunity early and go on to conquer 16th Century Europe.


Robert Goodman
For more of Robert’s reviews, visit his blog Pile By the Bed

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