It is going to be a sizzling year for new books in 2021, from dazzling debuts and celebrity memoirs to tomes exploring diversity, as well as light-hearted reads and even a revisiting of Bridget Jones.
Many key titles were delayed due to the pandemic, so there should be a bumper crop of books to bag in 2021, but keep an eye on changing publication dates as the year progresses.
Caroline Sanderson, associate editor of trade publication The Bookseller, observes: “I suppose if there is a trend, in the wake of Black Lives Matter there are a lot of books looking at race and identity, with lots of interesting stories emerging.”
Bea Carvalho, fiction buyer at bookstore chain Waterstones, adds: “The publishing industry has a lot of work to do in representation and diversity, and publishers are getting better at finding talent from more diverse backgrounds.”
“Another trend which is continuing is the ‘locked room’ type mystery, where you have a group of people in a confined space and it’s got to be one of them, which we saw with Lucy Foley’s The Hunting Party,” says The Bookseller’s books editor Alice O’Keeffe.
Here are just some of the titles they suggest to look out for:
Can you believe it is 25 years since Helen Fielding introduced us to the wine-swilling 30-something singleton in London, trying to make sense of life and love in Bridget Jones’s Diary, played by Renee Zellweger in the films?
The new reissue (Picador, February 4th) features 100 pages of rare and previously unseen material, so publishers are predicting fans will grab a copy for old times’ sake.
Dipping her toes further into the water of crime novels, popular writer Adele Parks gives us Both Of You (HQ, May 27th), in which two women go missing in the same week and the investigating detective has a hunch the disappearances are connected.
— Faber Books (@FaberBooks) October 23, 2020
Waterstones is predicting Klara And The Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro (Faber & Faber, March 2nd), his first novel since winning the Nobel Prize for Literature, is going to be a big seller. It focuses on Klara, an Artificial Friend who watches customers come in the store to browse, and who remains hopeful they will choose her.
Other big names with new fiction out for 2021 include Haruki Murakami with First Person Singular (Vintage, April 6th), a collection of short stories, while Jon McGregor gives us Lean Fall Stand (Fourth Estate, April 29th), which tackles heroism and sacrifice when an Antarctic research expedition goes wrong, with far-reaching consequences.
There’s a buzz around Luster by Raven Leilani (Picador, January 21st), already a hit in the US. It sees a young black woman navigating life in New York begin a relationship with an older white man in an open marriage; she becomes embroiled in his family as she also gets to know his wife. Leilani’s voice is fresh, sharp and caustically funny.
LUSTER, the New York Times Bestseller by @ravenleilani is a razor-sharp, provocative, page-turning debut about sex, race, failing, and what it means to be young now. Pre-order your exclusive, signed, sprayed-edge edition at @Waterstones!
🔥21 January 2021https://t.co/wnOhckhAeX pic.twitter.com/gi2YehrP7H
— Picador Books (@picadorbooks) December 16, 2020
Another debut to keep an eye on is Girl A by Abigail Dean (HarperCollins, January 21st), which was sold in the UK after a nine-way auction – TV and film rights have already been sold.
It focuses on the eponymous Girl A, now an adult lawyer who survived a horrific upbringing in a house of horrors. When her mother dies in prison, she’s bequeathed the family home where she must come to terms with the past, alongside her six siblings.
Diversity, race and identity
— Quercus Books (@QuercusBooks) December 15, 2020
Watch out for The Prophets by Robert Jones Jr (riverrun, January 5th), set on a plantation in Mississippi, which tells of the forbidden love between two enslaved men who find in each other a refuge and hope in a world dominated by brutal masters.
Yaa Gyasi (author of phenomenal debut Homegoing) brings us Transcendent Kingdom (Viking, March 4th), a saga following a family of Ghanaian immigrants in Alabama, exploring faith, love and addiction in contemporary America.
Hello! my book RACELESS is finally ready for pre-orders! It's about identity, passing, family, DNA testing, black hair, love, loss, and healing, and took me to some interesting places (Vietnam, NYC, the Dominican Republic, therapy). please buy it? https://t.co/w5NS7s7x8N pic.twitter.com/Zl9t3hcTrN
— GEORGINA LAWTON (@GeorginaLawton) July 2, 2020
From Georgina Lawton comes Raceless (Sphere, February 4th), her story of being raised by white parents and her challenging journey of self-discovery as an adult as she tries to unravel her racial identity, and the deceit her parents wove around her.
Brown Baby: A Memoir Of Race, Family Home by Nikesh Shukla (Bluebird, February 4th), is an inspiring memoir about how to find hope and even happiness in a world of grief and racism, explored from Shukla’s perspective as a father.
In spring, social media influencer and Instagram star Sophie Williams brings us Millennial Black (HQ, April 15th) a much-needed roadmap for young black women striving to progress in the workplace in 2021 and beyond, together with actionable steps to succeed in what can often be hostile environments.
Reflections on Covid
Legendary children’s author Michael Rosen brings us Many Different Kinds Of Love (Ebury, March 18th), an account of his battle with Covid-19, in a sort of prose and poetry format.
For those who want to look at the UK government’s handlings of the pandemic, Failures Of State by Jonathan Calvert and George Arbuthnott (HarperCollins, March 18th) offers the findings of the Insight investigative team from the Sunday Times and their reflections on the situation, publishing to coincide with the anniversary of the first lockdown.
There’s a flurry of offerings from celebrity names in 2021, from Mel Giedroyc’s debut novel The Best Things (Headline Review, April 1st), a big-hearted story about a family on the brink; to The Beauty Of Living Twice, the memoir of Sharon Stone (Allen & Unwin, April 1st); and an uplifting, empowering guide from Louise Redknapp called You’ve Got This (March 4th, Piatkus).
For those who love pet stories, check out broadcaster Nicky Campbell’s One Of The Family (Hodder & Stoughton, February 18th), as he recounts how his faithful labrador, Maxwell, helped him come to terms with his difficult journey as an adopted child.
And there’s a heartfelt read from Reverend Richard Coles, whose partner of 12 years, Reverend David Coles, died last year unexpectedly. Coles now gives us The Madness Of Grief (April, Weidenfeld), writing about how he has come to terms with his loss.
Hello English language readers, wheresoever you might be. The lovely folk at @panmacmillan have put together this trailer about #TheBurningChambers and #TheCityofTears ahead of worldwide publication in January 2021 … https://t.co/qZWflbO70d
— Kate Mosse (@katemosse) December 16, 2020
Familiar names who always deliver include Kate Mosse, whose new novel The City Of Tears (Pan Macmillan, January 21st), the second historical epic in The Burning Chambers series, is a story of love and loss, war and displacement sweeping from Carcassonne to South Africa.
The hugely popular Elly Griffiths brings us Nighthawk (Quercus, February 4th), another tale involving forensic archaeologist Dr Ruth Galloway that finds her investigating the death of a boy whose body is found by a group of metal detectorists.
And Slough House (John Murray, February 4th), the seventh book in Mick Herron’s Sunday Times bestselling award-winning series, finds Diana Taverner on the warpath a year after a calamitous blunder by the Russian secret service left a British citizen dead. It’s being adapted into a TV series starring Gary Oldman.
We are so excited to finally introduce to you THE PUSH by @audrain. This psychological family drama will be your next one-sit read, and you won't want to miss it when it comes out January 5th. Learn more here: https://t.co/ksFMZPNZH3 pic.twitter.com/6MratcQczB
— Viking (@VikingBooks) December 12, 2020
There’s a huge publicity campaign for The Push by Ashley Audrain (Penguin Michael Joseph, January 7th) which charts the experiences of a new mother who finds motherhood isn’t what she hoped for. She starts to fear something is wrong with her daughter but also that there’s something terrifyingly wrong with her.
Meanwhile, acclaimed author Belinda Bauer brings us Exit (Bantam, January 21st), her first thriller since her Booker Prize long-listed Snap, in which an old man, part of a network called the Exiteers, keeps a dying man company as he takes his final breath – until something goes wrong and he finds himself on the run.
When you're competing to be the best, you need KILLER instincts. We're excited to share the trailer for @AuthorAllieR's debut novel #Shiver – the most exhilarating thriller of 2021. Pre-order your copy now: https://t.co/TKMdvrUNNg pic.twitter.com/6uejAin0t2
— Headline Books (@headlinepg) October 23, 2020
And former freestyle snowboarder Allie Reynolds brings us Shiver (Headline, January 21st) a debut set in the world of high stakes snowboarding, in which a woman accepts an invitation for a reunion in a deserted lodge in the French alps with four fellow athletes she has not seen for a decade.
Soon, buried secrets come to light with dangerous consequences. This one sold after a 10-publisher auction and the TV rights have already been sold.