G. K. Chesterton once said, 'there is a great deal of difference between an eager man who wants to read a book and a tired man who wants a book to read.' I'm pretty sure the entire literate (nerdy) human population can relate to this - men, women, and everyone in between. My attitude towards reading is always influenced by mood, time and expectation. If I'm sitting at the kitchen table after work, weary with a mouth full of crumpet, you'll usually find me reading a Waitrose Food magazine. If I'm lying in bed on a Saturday morning, having woken up early for the sole purpose of getting through the next chapter of a book, I'm probably enjoying said book. My intentions are clear. You never lose the reading spark - it's just a question of finding something worth reading... ...which brings us nicely on to the topic of new book releases! 2021 is an exciting time to be reading - lots and lots of good stuff is coming out, no doubt generated by a pretty uneventful 2020 during which many authors decided to knuckle down with their next big projects. I've put together a list of several books that I'm excited to get my hands on this year, and which maybe you'll be interested in, too...
Luster by Raven Leilani (Publication date: 21st of January 2021) This debut novel by NYU graduate Raven Leilani shot straight up the New York Times bestseller list when it was published in America last year, and here in the UK, everyone and their mother is talking about it. "Luster" is a play on the words "lust" and "lustre", which Leilani explains epitomises the theme of desire in the story, a story which focuses Edie, a 23-year-old publishing assistant. The book explores the likes of power, racism, sex and art, capturing the nuances of being a young black woman in today's society. It's had raving reviews from the likes of Zadie Smith and Candice Carty-Williams, whose novel, Queenie, I also thoroughly enjoyed. If it's got fraught relationships, sexy time and shifting politics rolled into one, them I'm all here for it.
Open Water by Caleb Azumah Nelson (Publication date: 4th of February 2021) Another extremely powerful debut. Nelson's Open Water follows the relationship between two Black British artists - he's a photographer, she's a dancer. Racism, police brutality, masculinity and trauma burst through the seams of this evocative love story, which raises questions about identity and opening yourself up to being vulnerable in a brutal world. I love that this book celebrates Black achievement, with references to a myriad of music artists and writers, and is set in London (I'm always gagging for stories set in London. I can't help myself.)
Bullet Train by Kotaro Isaka (Publication date: 1st of April 2021) The blurb for this novel on Google Books says, 'five killers find themselves on a bullet train from Tokyo competing for a suitcase full of money. Who will make it to the last station?' If that doesn't grab your attention, I don't know what will! I'm a sucker for Japanese fiction (shoutout to my bae, Murakami) and having experienced the style and velocity of Japan's bullet trains first hand, I can imagine how great a setting they'd be for the likes of a thriller. This is a bestselling novel in Japan, and is currently being made into a film starring Brad Pitt, so needless to say, I've got to get my mitts on it.
First Person Singular by Haruki Murakami (Publication date: 6th of April 2021) *segways perfectly into an upcoming collection of short stories from the master himself* I'm yet to get through every single Murakami masterpiece, but I'm particularly excited for First Person Singular as I'm imagining it will be written through a '20s lens. The eight short stories challenge the boundaries between our minds and the outside world and, as the title suggests, are all told by a mysterious narrator in the first-person singular - could it be Murakami himself? I've got a growing collection of short stories on my bookshelves, and they're perfect for diving into with a cup of tea and a work break.
How to Avoid a Climate Disaster: The Solutions We Have and the Breakthroughs We Need by Bill Gates (Publication date: 16th of February 2021) To top off the list we have Bill Gates' highly anticipated non-fiction book on climate change. This is the book we all need to read, and ASAP - it's an urgent, impactful guide to avoiding climate catastrophe. Gates has spent years and years researching the causes and effects of global warming, and brings in the wisdom of experts to deliver practical, sustainable solutions that we all can take on board for the future. A slightly more sober volume to add to the collection, to remind us that although escaping into other worlds is all well and good, we need to be proactive in keeping our own world habitable.
And so the to-read pile keeps growing steadily...