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Best Books of 2021 • Episode #109 Part 2

It’s time for our best books of 2021. In Part 2 of our special end-of-year double-episode we’re looking back over the books we’ve read outside of book club this year. The ones we got to pick and choose for ourselves. The ones that didn’t feel like homework (although don’t get us wrong, we love our book club reading – and for more on that don’t miss Part 1). Which books were our favourites? Which would we recommend? Listen in as we each run through our longlists before picking out our top three.

We also hear from our book club members as they give us their best books of 2021. And we’re joined by Chrissy Ryan of London’s most social bookshop, Bookbar, and Elizabeth Morris of the fabulous Cribnotes, the newsletter for new and busy mothers. These two women are always ahead of the reading curve so listen out for their top picks.

And we look ahead to 2022. What books are we waiting for? Listen in to find out.

No time to listen to the show and just want to know our best books of 2021? Read on.

Kate’s top three books from 2021

Don’t Touch My Hair, Emma Dabiri

A Ghost in the Throat, Doireann ní Ghríofa

Lean, Fall, Stand, Jon McGregor

Laura’s top three books from 2021

A Life’s Work, Rachel Cusk

Miss Iceland, Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir

Indian Horse, Richard Wagamese

Kate’s longlist of favourite reads in 2021

The Moth and the Mountain, Ed Caesar

Writers and Lovers and Euphoria, Lily King

Real Estate, Deborah Levy

The Library Book and The Orchid Thief, Susan Orlean

All My Friends are Superheroes, Andrew Kaufman

Owls of the Eastern Ice, Jonathan C. Slaght

Don’t Touch My Hair, Emma Dabiri

Fun Home, Alison Bechdel

Parisan Lives, Deidre Bair

Nightbitch, Rachel Yoder

Early Morning Riser, Katherine Heiny

Love Letters, Virginia Woolf and Vita Sackville-West (Alison Bechdel, ed.)

A Ghost in the Throat, Doireann ní Ghríofa

Re-Educated, Lucy Kellaway

Pew, Catherine Lacey

Happy All the Time, Laurie Colwin

Whereabouts, Jhumpa Lahiri

Sorrow and Bliss, Meg Mason

Lean, Fall, Stand, Jon McGregor

Assembly, Natasha Brown

The Stranding, Kate Sawyer

The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, Carson McCullers

Empire of Pain, Patrick Radden-Keefe

Matrix, Lauren Groff

The See-Through House, Shelley Klein

Laura’s longlist of best books in 2021

His Only Wife, Peace Adzo Medie

Miss Iceland, Hotel Silence and Butterflies in November, Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir

Indian Horse, Richard Wagamese

On Earth We Are Briefly Gorgeous, Ocean Vuong

Homeland Elegies, Ayad Akhtar

No-One is Talking About This, Patricia Lockwood

Great Circle, Maggie Shipstead

D: A Tale of Two Worlds, Michael Faber

Graceling, Kristin Cashore

A Deadly Education and The Last Graduate by Naomi Novik

The Annals of the Western Shore, Ursula Le Guin

The Book of Hidden Things, Francesco Dimitri

Frederica, Georgette Heyer

Conundrum, Jan Morris

A High Wind in Jamaica, Richard Hughes

The Rules of Civility, Amor Towles

Chrissy Ryan’s best books of 2021

Open Water, Caleb Azumah Nelson

Assembly, Natasha Brown

Detransition Baby, Torrey Peters

Elizabeth Morris’ best books of 2021

Nightbitch, Rachel Yoder

Book club best books of 2021

The Summer Book, Tove Jansson

The Mermaid of Black Conch, Monique Roffey

Whereabouts, Jhumpa Lahiri

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, Anne Brontë

A Dance to the Music of Time, Anthony Powell

The Siege of Krishnapur, J. G. Farrell

The Line of Beauty, Alan Hollinghurst

Isaac Steele and the Forever Man, Daniel Rigby

Braiding Sweetgrass, Robin Wall Kimmerer

Albert and the Whale, Philip Hoare

Trieste or the Meaning of Nowhere, Jan Morris

The Bass Rock, Evie Wyld

Autumn, Ali Smith

The Underground Railroad, Colson Whitehead

Small Things Like These, Claire Keegan

The Offing, Benjamin Myers

Circe, Madeleine Miller

Three Women, Lisa Taddeo

My Dark Vanessa, Kate Elizabeth Russell

Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Upcoming books in 2022

We also discussed our inordinate desire for The Doors of Stone by Patrick Rothfuss to finally be published, and Sea of Tranquility by Emily St. John Mandel, and mentioned The Island of Missing Trees by Elif Shafak.


‘Pole’ or ‘Pow-ell’? Read all about it

Lightly grind your teeth while watching Patrick Rothfuss putter around on Minecraft in this six-hour twitch video. Don’t get us wrong, though, the man is a genius. Despite our pod grumbles, in reality we will wait patiently until the day we die.

Over to you

Comment below and let us know your favourite reads of 2021. What books did we miss?




  • Margery
    February 24, 2022 at 9:25 pm  - Reply

    Absolutely love your podcast which has got me out of a reading block. Looking forward to working my way through some of these

    • Kate
      February 25, 2022 at 10:50 pm  - Reply

      So pleased you’re enjoying the shows and happy to hear you’re out of your reading slump. I’ve been stuck on The Magic Mountain for weeks – having just finished it I now have this thrilling sense of all the other books I can now dive into!

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