Books I Enjoyed in 2021 (that make great gifts!)

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How are you spending your Black Friday? Hopefully in a turkey coma and not getting trampled at a Walmart–and if you’re in the UK like me, probably wondering why the hell Black Friday exists outside of America at all. Christmas (and Hanukkah!) shopping is upon us. Why not finish some of your gift shopping on Bookshop.org, which supports indie bookstores with every purchase? Here’s a collection of books I particularly enjoyed in 2021 – that all make great gifts. Read on below! (Affiliate links below – I may make a small commission if you make a purchase using these links.)

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The Lying Life of Adults by Elena Ferrante

Ferrante always delivers, and this is a great gift for those who might not have the patience for the four-volume Neopolitan Novels series. It focuses on narrator Giovanna, uncovering deep family secrets and drama as she navigates life as a teenager. It’s deeply emotional and sometimes cringe-inducing, with Ferrante’s trademark sense of place and precise language. If you’re buying for an audiobook lover, this is also a standout, with sublime narration by Marisa Tomei.

Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi

I was hesitant to start this one as I couldn’t get into Gyasi’s first book, Homegoing, and DNF’d it not once, but twice. But Transcendent Kindgom is a book that lives up to its title, exploring religion, the immigrant experience, racial identity, and mother-daughter relationships. A great gift for any woman in your life who you’d love to start a book club with!

Skint Estate by Cash Carraway

This absolutely phenomenal book explores the devastation of the Conservative party’s ongoing austerity programme, gutting benefits and affecting the author, pregnant by an abusive partner when David Cameron took power in 2010 and turned to sex work to make ends meet. It’s a hard read, but made more enjoyable by the author’s humour and frank tone. It might make for some interesting holiday-meal political debates – but hey, it’s not really the holidays until there’s an alcohol-tinged arguement about welfare!

Last One at the Party by Bethany Clift

This might be one you can only give as a gift to someone with a really, really good sense of humour–as the plot revolves around an unnamed narrator trying to make her way through a deserted London, ravaged by a deadly pandemic. Think of it as 28 Days Later by way of Bridget Jones, with a gleefully selfish anti-heroine evaluating her life choices at the end of the world. A quick read and a fun one!

The Push by Ashley Audrain

If you’re buying for someone who loves a good thriller, The Push will keep them up at night–a story of a mother and her daughter, who may be a bad-seed murderer or maybe it’s all in the mother’s head. Despite its familiar themes, debut author Ashley Audrain takes it to exciting new places. Just please don’t buy this for anyone due to become a parent in 2022.

The Listeners by Jordan Tannahill

This is a beautiful and poetic examination of gaslighting and our political moment. Focusing on Claire, who descends into madness after starting to hear a low-pitched hum, it’s a literary fiction gem with commentary on everything from mental health to the state of the American left. And the gorgeous cover makes this a giftable work of art.

House of Earth and Blood by Sarah J. Maas

2021 was the year I finally dipped my toes back into fantasy and sci-fi, having left it mostly behind in 6th grade along with Harry Potter and misguided Bonne Bell purchases. House of Earth and Blood is YA superstar Sarah J Maas’ first foray into adult fantasy, the start of an epic series about Bryce Quinlan, an anti-heroine living in a world not too unlike our own, but with magical touches and a strict hierarchy that puts her, a half-human half-Fae office grunt, at the bottom. It has many of the hallmarks that makes Maas popular–quick pacing and lots of will-they-or-won’t-they romantic tension–with really touching emotional elements that made this fantasy-averse reader wanting more. And with the sequel due to drop in 2022, this is a great gift option.

Or, let them choose! You can purchase a Bookshop.org e-gift card here.

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