Our favourite books from the last year.
As the year draws to a close we're taking the time to reflect on the best reads of 2021. For some it was an inspiring or informative non-fiction title, for others the escapism of fiction hit the spot. Take a look at our staff picks below and then let us know on Facebook or Instagram what was at the top of your list this year?
Great Circle by Maggie Shipstead
There’s a reason this novel was nominated for the Man Booker Prize in 2021! Great Circle is a transporting read that will take you from the page straight into 1950s America. When you’re there you’ll be barracking for Marian Graves, a young female pilot who is determined to circumnavigate the globe by flying over the North and South poles. She is a tenacious character whose place in the world is not defined by her gender, but often by her defiance of it. That’s why decades later actress Hadley Baxter is so keen to play the role in an upcoming movie about Marian. As Hadley does her research about Marian’s life the reader jumps between the two timelines to fall in love with two inspirational women who are determined to achieve great things. Great Circle is a wonderful read with a clear sense of time and space that shows just how far the world has come in 50 years. – Belinda, sales
Anything But Fine by Tobias Madden
It was such a joy to read Tobias Madden’s Anything But Fine. Growing up, I didn’t have access to any LGBTQIA+ storylines, let alone authentically Australian ones. But Madden’s novel, with relatable and diverse characters accompanied by the young, queer romance between Luca and Jordan, made even my adult heart flutter. The book is an important asset to LGBTQIA+ Australian fiction and will hold an important place in many young people’s hearts for years to come. It warms my heart to see how diverse and inclusive literature for young adults has become and it’s one that I will certainly be recommending to readers young and old. – Connor, publicity
The Power of the Dog by Thomas Savage
A brilliantly dark psychological western with one of the most compelling and complex villains in all of literature – and an absolutely killer twist at the end. This book packs a massive punch. It’s an absolutely stone-cold American classic that is deservedly now getting the acclaim it should have got when it was published in 1967. Read it before you see the film and Benedict Cumberbatch picks up his Oscar. – Justin, publishing
American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld
If your response to non-fiction is to say ‘…but what if it was fiction?’ then do I have the book for you. American Wife is about Alice Blackwell, who is a fictionalised version of Laura Bush. (Make sure you have the Google search for ‘how much of American Wife is real’ cued up for the moment that you finish reading.) It humanises the story of a figure (whether you’re thinking specifically of Laura Bush, or more generally of the concept of any First Lady) who we can sometimes forget is a real person with real feelings. At its heart, it’s a book about an ordinary person who ends up in an extraordinary situation, which is basically the premise for every good story ever. – Chris, sales
You’re Doing it Wrong is an outrageous tour through the centuries of bonkers and bad advice handed down and foisted upon women, told as only Kaz Cooke can – with humour and rage, intelligence and wit.
You're Doing it Wrong by Kaz Cooke
Kaz Cooke’s You’re Doing it Wrong is hilarious, thought-provoking and most of all, outrageous. For centuries women have been given downright bad advice, which Kaz calls out with her intelligence and wit. From rules about how to please a man, to health advice about ‘wandering wombs’, Kaz’s book is an empowering must-read for all women. – Olivia, marketing
Four Thousand Weeks by Oliver Burkeman
Sometimes we need to be reminded that every choice we make is also a choice to not do the infinite amount of other options available to us. It's good to actively think about what we fill the limited time in our days, weeks and lives with and to feel happy with our selections and commit to what is rewarding and meaningful. – Ashleigh, sales
Think Again by Adam Grant
I read the extract on our website and ordered a copy straight away – I was instantly hooked! Adam Grant shows us how to examine our knowledge and opinions to see if our views are still serving us well, and provides heaps of real-life stories to show why this is an important and valuable thing to do. For a non-fiction title, this book is hard to put down. However, I did have to keep putting it down – not because it wasn’t interesting, because it’s one of the most interesting and engaging books I’ve read in recent times – but because there was just so much great content I had to keep stopping to think (and rethink!) about everything I was reading. This is my favourite book from 2021 and I’ll probably be recommending it to people forever, it’s too good to miss. – Lucy, United Book Distributors
Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Set in 1983, the story revolves around a day in the lives of the Riva siblings – Nina, Jay, Hud, and Kit – as they prepare for Nina’s infamous end-of-summer party. The annual event is the hottest invitation in Malibu, as everyone vies to be near the famous progeny of renowned singer, Mick Riva. (Yes, the same Mick Riva who was once married to Evelyn Hugo. Just in case you’re wondering.)
As the story unfolds across the day of the party we go back in time to unravel the lives of the four Riva kids and how they got to this point in time.
This is my 3rd Taylor Jenkins Reid book and like Daisy Jones I highly recommend you pop on your list for a great beach read this Christmas. – Janine, sales
A Glasshouse of Stars by Shirley Marr
A Glasshouse of Stars is a beautiful way for children to understand some of the big issues in life. The way Shirley writes about forced migration, cultural traditions, racism, death, bereavement and parentification with the escapism of magical realism is gentle and profound. I adored Meixing and her new friend Kevin – who is so misunderstood even to himself. My heart broke for them and then rejoiced. It is a sweet book about friendship and family love and filled with the quiet determination of Meixing. It belongs in every classroom and library.’ – Jane, sales
The Spy's Wife by Fiona McIntosh
If there ever was a year to crave an escapist read it is 2021, and Fiona McIntosh’s latest blockbuster The Spy’s Wife delivers above and beyond in the escapism department. Readers will become besotted with Evie, the feisty main character who falls in love with a German spy but all is not as it seems… the couple travel across pre-war Europe in search of the truth and racing against time to stop the unthinkable from happening. This book is a historic, edge of your seat adventure, highly recommended! – Heidi, marketing
The Deep by Kyle Perry
Thrilling, compelling, jaw-dropping and a whole host of other powerful adjectives – The Deep by Kyle Perry is a must-read. Just like the ocean itself, this story sweeps you in from the very first page and you won’t be able to stop reading. It contains high-stakes action – at sea and on land – as well as an intriguing family drama that will have you switching allegiance from one character to the next as you delve further and further into the machinations of the Dempsey family. A perfect read for your commute, your summer holiday or for the night owls, something to keep you up way past your bedtime. – Holly, publishing
The Paper Palace by Miranda Cowley Heller
I feel like with all the hype around this book there really is little for me to say aside from, believe it. This book is THAT good. The Paper Palace takes place on a single summery day on Cape Cod but at the same time across one woman’s history of fifty years. Miranda Cowley Heller delicately interweaves flashbacks to a chaotic childhood, finding love and a terrible incident, with the present day and a decision her main character, Elle, may live to regret. I’m finding myself continuously distracted, all the time thinking about this book. The writing is almost poetic and the dialogue is some of the best I’ve ever read. I implore everyone to read it. – Hannah, publicity
Never Saw Me Coming by Vera Kurian
I picked up Never Saw Me Coming one night after work and devoured this book. I forwent dinner and an episode of The Bachelorette to finish it – it was SUCH a wild ride! Killing Eve meets The Secret History in this wildly intelligent and engaging thriller. This book truly sucks you right in with a compelling anti-heroine and self-confessed psychopath. Hands down one of my favourite books of the year. – Abby, marketing
Bear and Rat by Christopher Cheng and Stephen Michael King
'Bear and Rat is a stand-out favourite for me. The story follows two quite different yet complementary characters – a rat and a panda bear – who are best of friends. Through the four seasons, the pair battle their way through all sorts of terrain and weather on a long and difficult journey. When it comes time for Rat to leave Bear to continue the journey on his own, the story just cracks my heart wide open every time as it conveys a powerful message about grief, loss and love. The illustrations are also gorgeous and captivating with something new to spot in each read. It is one that will remain close to my heart for a long time.’ – Laura, marketing
Always by Morris Gleitzman
In Always, we see a beautifully crafted and satisfyingly realised end to the story of Felix Salinger. What a life this character has led! Through war, deprivation, unimaginable pain and enduring heartache, he retains his heart and his humanity. I, like so many readers, met Felix when he was a young boy, and I loved reconnecting with him as an old man. His final journey is equally dramatic and emotional – and surprising – as he finally finds his way home. This story is anything but predictable, a rollercoaster that had me wanting to turn each page but also dreading the moment Felix would say goodbye. – Claire, publishing
The Prison Healer by Lynette Noni
YA fantasy is my jam, and Lynette Noni does not disappoint. Magic, rebels, intrigue, a death prison!? This book is dark yet full of hope, with all your favourite YA features. Lynette is the master of twists and as a result The Prison Healer is, quite simply, unputdownable. – Adelaide, sales
Escape from Manus by Jaivet Ealom
Man’s inhumanity to man is showcased in this powerful, shocking book – but if the journey ended there, incarcerated indefinitely, at the whims of the madhouse, we’d also be left with nowhere to go. But walking along with Jaivet on his long road to freedom, experiencing his bravery and conviction through the elegance of his storytelling, it’s impossible not to come out the other side changed. At the end of the year, when we’re taking stock and trying to get our perspective right, reading Escape from Manus will remind you where compassion, grace and courage fits in the world. – Brandon, publishing
A New York Times Bestseller!
An Instant Indie Bestseller!
'This dark, deliciously twisted novel has everything you could hope for as a reader – a brilliant concept, glamorous characters with secrets to hide, immersive world-building, and some of the finest writing I’ve seen in YA fiction. I’ll put it like this – I am obsessed with House of Hollow.’ Louise O'Neill, author of Printz Honor Book, Asking For It
House of Hollow by Krystal Sutherland
I was totally obsessed with this book. I devoured it. Grey, Vivi and Iris Hollow weave their magic and draw the reader into a strange, dangerous and intoxicating world. Beautifully written. Magically unsettling. Heartbreaking and brutal. Krystal Sutherland has delivered a remarkable and addictive story and I didn’t want it to end. – Mary, publishing
Cutters End by Margaret Hickey
Cutters End was one of my favourite books to read. I do hope Margaret has a new one on the way [editor’s note: she does mid-2022]. She writes real characters, this one has a brilliant plot and an ending I just wasn’t expecting. You can just feel the heat and taste the dust of the setting. I loved it! – Deb, sales
Pony by R J Palacio
A beautiful boy’s journey in search of his Dad set against the canvas of the epic American west. Extraordinary cast both living and lost and his mount a pony brimming with wonder. A stunning and authentic new work that will not disappoint, outstanding. – Clive, sales