12 Great Books To Read This Year

12 Great Books To Read This Year

The coming year is full of hotly awaited new titles. From a collection of short stories by one of the best writers out there to autobiographies and thrillers to curl up with, we’ve picked some of our favourite books to hit the shelves over the next few months. Happy reading!

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Burning Questions, 2004-2021 by Margaret Atwood

From cultural icon Margaret Atwood comes this brilliant collection of essays which seek answers to ‘burning questions’ such as: Why do people everywhere, in all cultures, tell stories? How much of yourself can you give away without evaporating? And what do zombies have to do with authoritarianism? In over 50 pieces, Atwood aims her intellect and impish humour at our world and reports back on what she finds. The rollercoaster period covered in the collection covers the financial crash, the rise of Trump and a pandemic. From debt to tech, the climate crisis to freedom; from when to dispense advice to the young (answer: only when asked) to how to define granola, there’s almost no better questioner of the many and varied mysteries of the human universe.
 
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The Raptures by Jan Carson

It is late June in Ballylack. Hannah Adger anticipates eight long weeks away from school, but when her classmate Ross succumbs to a violent and mysterious illness, it marks the beginning of a summer like no other. As others fall ill, questions about what – or who – is responsible pitch the village into conflict and fearful disarray. Hannah is haunted by guilt as she remains healthy while her friends are struck down. Isolated and afraid, she prays for help. Elsewhere in the village, tempers simmer, panic escalates and long-buried secrets threaten to emerge. Bursting with Jan Carson's wit, empathy and imagination, The Raptures explores how tragedy can unite a small community – and tear it apart.
 
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Again, Rachel by Marian Keyes

We can’t wait for Marian Keyes’ newest deep dive back into the lovable Walsh family. Twenty-five years after the iconic, 1.5 million-copy bestseller Rachel's Holiday burst onto the scene, Rachel is back. In the 90s, Rachel Walsh was a mess, but a spell in rehab transformed everything, and life became very good, very quickly. These days, Rachel has love, family, a great job as an addiction counsellor – she even gardens. Her only bad habit is a fondness for expensive trainers. But with the sudden reappearance of a man she'd once loved, her life wobbles. She'd thought she was settled, fixed forever. Is she about to discover that no matter what our age, everything can change?
 
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To Paradise by Hanya Yanagihara

From the author of the classic A Little Life, Hanya Yanagihara’s To Paradise is a bold novel spanning three centuries and three different versions of the American experiment, about lovers, family, loss and the elusive promise of utopia. In an alternate version of 1893 America, New York is part of the Free States, where people may live and love whomever they please (or so it seems). In a 1993 Manhattan besieged by the Aids epidemic, a young Hawaiian man lives with his much older, wealthier partner, hiding his troubled childhood and the fate of his father. And in 2093, in a world riven by plagues and governed by totalitarian rule, a powerful scientist’s damaged granddaughter tries to navigate life without him – and solve the mystery of her husband’s disappearances. These three sections come together, as recurring notes and themes deepen and enrich one another. What unites these characters are their reckonings with the qualities that make us human: fear, love, shame, need and loneliness.
 
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Free Love by Tessa Hadley

From Tessa Hadley, bestselling author of Late in the Day and The Past, comes a compulsive new novel about one woman's sexual and intellectual awakening in 1960s London. While London comes alive with the new youth revolution, the suburban Fischer family seems to belong to an older world of conventional stability: pretty, dutiful homemaker Phyllis is married to Roger, a devoted father with a career in the Foreign Office. Their children are Colette, a bookish teenager, and Hugh, the golden boy. But when the 20-something son of an old friend pays the Fischers a visit one summer evening, and kisses Phyllis in the dark garden after dinner, something in her catches fire. Newly awake to the world, Phyllis makes a choice that defies all expectations of her as a wife and a mother. Nothing in these ordinary lives is so ordinary after all, it turns out, as the family's upheaval mirrors the dramatic transformation of the society around them. Daring and sensual, Free Love is a compulsive exploration of love, sexual freedom and living out the most meaningful version of our lives.
 
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The Maid by Nita Prose

Nita Prose’s new novel is already set to be a film starring SL favourite Florence Pugh, so it’s safe to say we’re looking forward to getting stuck into the book. Molly is all alone in the world. She's used to being invisible in her job as a maid at the Regency Grand Hotel. But Molly is thrown into the spotlight when she discovers an infamous guest, Mr Black, very dead in his bed. This isn't a mess that can be easily cleaned up. And so, Molly becomes embroiled in a hunt for the truth, learning who to trust as she navigates the secret underbelly of the Regency Grand Hotel. Escapist, charming and featuring a truly original heroine, The Maid is a story about how everyone deserves to be seen, and how the truth isn't always black and white.
 
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The Twyford Code by Janice Hallett 

Forty years ago, Steven Smith found a copy of a famous children's book, its margins full of strange markings and annotations. He took it to his English teacher, Miss Isles, who became convinced it was the key to solving a puzzle, that a message in secret code ran through all Edith Twyford's novels. Then Miss Isles disappeared on a class field trip and Steven's memory won't allow him to remember what happened. Now, out of prison after a long stretch, Steven decides to investigate the mystery that has haunted him for decades. Was Miss Isles murdered? Was she deluded? Or was she right about the code? And is it still in use today? Desperate to recover his memories and find out what really happened to his teacher, Steven revisits the people and places of his childhood. But it soon becomes clear Twyford wasn't just a writer of forgotten children's stories. ‘The Twyford Code’ has great power and he isn't the only one trying to solve it.
 
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In The Margins: On the Pleasures of Reading & Writing by Elena Ferrante

In The Margins is a new collection of essays exploring reading and writing from the internationally acclaimed author of My Brilliant Friend and The Lying Life of Adults. Elena Ferrante's novels have sold millions and been translated into many languages as well as adapted for TV internationally. In The Margins contains her latest reflections on literature, and the works and authors that have influenced her throughout her career. Via four essays, Ferrante offers a rare look at the origins of her literary powers. She writes about her influences, her struggles and her formation as both a reader and a writer; she describes the perils of “bad language” and suggests ways in which it has long excluded women’s truth; she proposes a choral fusion of feminine talent as she brilliantly discourses on the work of Emily Dickinson, Gertrude Stein, Ingeborg Bachmann and many others. A must for fans of her Neapolitan novels.
 
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Violeta by Isabel Allende 

Violeta comes into the world on a stormy day in 1920, the first daughter in a family of five boisterous sons. From the start, her life is marked by extraordinary events, for the ripples of the Great War are still being felt, even as the Spanish flu arrives on the shores of her South American homeland almost at the moment of her birth. Through her father's foresight, the family comes through the crisis unscathed, only to face a new one as the Great Depression transforms the city life she has known. Her family loses all and is forced to retreat to a wild and beautiful but remote part of the country. There, she comes of age and her first suitor comes calling, as we hear about Violeta’s life over her full 100 years. Through the eyes of a woman whose passion, determination and sense of humour will carry her through a lifetime of upheaval, Isabel Allende has created an epic that is both fiercely inspiring and deeply emotional.
 
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Five Tuesdays in Winter by Lily King

From the award-winning, New York Times bestselling author of Writers & Lovers and Euphoria comes a new collection of short stories. Told in the intimate voices of complex, endearing characters, Five Tuesdays in Winter intriguingly subverts expectations as it explores desire, loss, jolting violence and love at all costs. A reclusive bookseller begins to feel the discomfort of love again. Two college roommates have a devastating middle-aged reunion. A proud old man rages powerlessly in his granddaughter's hospital room. And a writer receives a visit from all the men who have tried to suppress her voice. Romantic, hopeful, raw and honest, this wide-ranging collection of selected stories by Lily King is a must-read for those looking to dip their toe into a book this month. 
 
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The Candy House by Jennifer Egan

It's 2010. Staggeringly successful and brilliant tech entrepreneur Bix Bouton is desperate for a new idea. He's 40, with four children, and restless when he stumbles into a conversation with mostly Columbia professors, one of whom is experimenting with downloading or "externalising" memory. Within a decade, Bix's new technology, Own Your Unconscious – which allows you access to every memory you've ever had, and to share every memory in exchange for access to the memories of others – has seduced millions. But not everyone. In linked narratives, Egan spins out the consequences of Own Your Unconscious through the lives of multiple characters whose paths intersect over several decades. Intellectually dazzling and extraordinarily moving, The Candy House is a bold, brilliant imagining of a world that is likely only moments away.
 
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One Day I Shall Astonish The World by Nina Stibbe

Susan and Norma have been best friends for years, at first thrown together by force of circumstance (a job at The Pin Cushion, a haberdashery shop in 1990s Leicestershire) and then by force of character (neither being particularly inclined to make friends with anyone else). But now, 30 years later, faced with a husband seeking immortality and Norma out of reach on a wave of professional glory, Susan begins to wonder whether she has made the right choices about life, love, work, and, most importantly, friendship. Nina Stibbe's new novel is the story of the wonderful and sometimes surprising path of friendship: from its conspiratorial beginnings, along its irritating wrong turns, to its final gratifying destination. 
 
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