Friday 21 January 2022

5 Best Fiction Books I Read in 2021

 While my Storygraph has confirmed that I read more non-fiction in 2021, I still read some cracking fiction books too! Most of those were for my degree (particularly for the end of my undergrad), but most of the books I’ve included here aren’t ones I studied (although one is!). I would love to read some more fiction in 2022 (aside from the 1920s detective fiction and Victorian sensation fiction I’ll be reading for my university research), so if you have any novels you think I would like please recommend them in the comments! 

1. Home Stretch by Graham Norton

This is the first fiction book I read in 2021 and it set the bar high. I wasn’t sure what to expect from Graham Norton’s fiction but I heard lots of high praise for this book and asked for it for Christmas and I could not put it down. I will definitely be reading more by Graham Norton in the future!


This novel centres around a car crash that happens on the eve of the wedding of two people involved. It then follows those affected 20 years after the accident and truths unfurl. I got through Home Stretch so quickly and could neither wait to see what happened next or guess what was going to happen next. It is written with so much love and I would highly recommend it!

2. Lady Audley’s Secret by Mary Elizabeth Braddon

Ugh, I love this book so much. It’s my favourite of all the books I read in my undergraduate degree – I know, big claim for an English Lit and Politics student but what can I say – and it’s basically the reason I’m doing the research Master’s I’m doing. 


The story is a kind of murder mystery/detective story, following Robert Audley as he reunites with his old friend George then tries to track him down once he goes missing, with revelations coming out as he carries out his investigation. It didn’t feel like I was studying reading this book and honestly couldn’t put it down. Some of the ‘secrets’ weren’t really a surprise to me but I was still gripped the whole way through. There’s a whole lot you can say about prisons and gender in this book and I just love it. 

3. The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

Brit Bennett is great at worldbuilding, and brings colourism to the extreme in a town that has deliberately bred itself so that while Black in their heritage, its inhabitants can are so pale they can ‘pass’ as white outside of the town. The Vanishing Half follows the stories of twins Desiree and Stella as they run away from their home town to New Orleans as teenagers, and then as their lives diverge and they become wives and mothers but nevertheless estranged sisters and daughters. It is beautifully written, heartbreaking at times, funny at times, with characters who seem real. Bennett touches on so many issues such as colourism, classism, access to trans healthcare, hate crimes, and domestic abuse.


This book has been hyped up so much and it is definitely deserved. I Would highly recommend and can’t wait to see what Brit Bennet writes next! 

4. Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi

Kawaguchi uses a simple concept (limited time travel no less) to expand on the different characters who use or work in a small family-run coffee shop. The result is honestly gorgeous. This book is absolutely beautiful. It is so simple and so heartbreaking and all of the characters are so gorgeously human and felt so real. It’s short and easy to read, so won’t take long, and it could actually be treated almost like a collection of short stories, just all set in the same place. I’ve not read much Japanese fiction before, but after reading this I certainly want to explore the work of Kawaguchi and other Japanese writers more. I highly, highly recommend if you want something wholesome yet heartbreaking – in a good way!

5. Olive by Emma Gannon

I was addicted to this book. If I hadn’t had to sleep and work I would probably have read it in one sitting. Instead, it took me 2 days but I was glued to it whenever I had a spare minute (my flatmates can attest to this). I think Olive is my favourite fiction book of the year. Yep, you heard that right. I may have been slightly late to the game, but honestly Olive is SO good. 


Olive follows a group of friends as they leave their university shared house and grow through their 20s and 30s, focusing on a period in their early twenties where families and children are taking centre stage. It is told from the point of view of Olive (you may have guessed from the title) and her struggles around not wanting children in a friendship group where that seems the only topic of conversation. All of the characters are s beautifully written and I absolutely loved listening in on Olive’s thoughts. I have so many friends I want to specifically recommend this book to so if you’re my pal IRL don’t be surprised if you get this as a present from me at some point!   


What were your favourite novels of 2021?

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If you liked this post you might like: 10 Best Non-Fiction Books I Read in 2021

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