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16 Books to Add to Your Must-Read List for 2021

We hope you’re excited for a new year of reading because 2021 is delivering the goods when it comes to must-reads.

There are brand new books from Bed Threads favourites (think: Lisa Taddeo, Sally Rooney and Liane Moriarty) and debut novels from exciting new talents galore.

Here’s a rundown of the books that team Bed Threads can’t wait to read this year.

16 best books to read in 2021

1. Outlawed by Anna North 

This novel is set in the past the 19th century, to be precise and in some ways, it might feel very foreign. But there’s a crucial message for modern audiences in every single chapter.

Outlawed follows a young woman living in a society where child-free women are shunned and feared. When she discovers that she can’t fall pregnant, she is forced to go on the run with a band of outlaws, fellow child-free women like herself, who are trying to make a new and safe world for women.

There are shades of The Handmaid’s Tale to this frontier Western, and it’s both thrilling and immersive to read. It also has the Reese Witherspoon seal of approval, having been chosen for her book club. Get this on your bedside table, pronto.

Available: Now

Where to buy: Hachette

2. Open Water by Caleb Azumah Nelson  

This stunning love story, about two young Black creatives in South East London one a photographer, and the other a dancer is a truly phenomenal read.

This book is tender and delicate and perfectly formed, with insights into what it’s like to be young and Black in a modern society, as well as being just a beautiful tale of romance and togetherness. You will fall in love with this book, we promise you. 

Available: Now

Where to buy: Penguin

3. Acts of Desperation by Megan Nolan 

The buzz around this debut novel, from Irish writer Megan Nolan, couldn’t be higher. Pandora Sykes has already raved about it, and Nolan’s prose has received comparisons to Sally Rooney and Nora Ephron.

The story, about a toxic relationship and the woman caught in the middle of it, is exactly the kind of story we’re going to want to sink our teeth into the second it’s released in March. 

Available: March 2

Where to buy: Penguin 

4. Who Is Maud Dixon by Alexandra Andrews  

Florence Darrow’s job as assistant to Maud Dixon, celebrated and, crucially, anonymous writer, seems perfect. She’s travelling the world with her on research trips and living in luxury in the country. Until one day, she wakes up from a car accident and Maud is nowhere to be found. What happened to her? And might this be the chance Florence always dreamed of to finally, finally be a writer?

Smart, elegant and with a fantastic plot, this book is set to be one of the big releases of the year. We can’t wait to read it. 

Available: March 9

Where to buy: Hachette

5. Watch Her Fall by Erin Kelly

Black Swan meets Killing Eve in this thriller set in the competitive ballet world by author Erin Kelly, the woman who brought you the gripping page turner He Said She Said.

Quite frankly, that’s all we need to know to get excited for this one, but if you want a bit more, here’s some plot details. A young and talented ballerina has dreamed her whole life of playing the lead in Swan Lake. But how far will she go to make a name for herself? And what will she do in service of her goal? 

Available: March 30

Where to buy: Hachette

6. Milk Fed by Melissa Broder  

Did you read The Pisces? Beloved of everyone from Dolly Alderton to Claire Foy, who has just signed on to star in the movie adaptation, it was author Melissa Broder’s previous book, a riotous romance between a listless 30 something and, um, a merman. Yes, you read that correctly.

Broder trafficks in the strange and fairytale-esque, and her new novel Milk Fed has similar overtones, weaving a mystical story in which knife-sharp observations about how we live now, as well as her trademark awkward sex scenes, so relatable they’ll make you cringe. 

Available: March 30

Where to buy: Bloomsbury

7. The Truth About Her by Jacqueline Maley 

Jacqueline Maley is one of Australia’s most prolific journalists this is her debut novel. Following Suzy Hamilton, a single mother and writer who becomes the target of a smear campaign after a tragic end to one of her stories, Suzy is forced to reckon with her work and her life as she tries to make amends.

Maley’s book is already being compared to the work of Ann Patchet and Anne Tyler, two of the great writers on marriage and identity. 

Available: April 9

Where to buy: Harper Collins

8. My Inner Sky by Mari Andrew  

You already know Mari Andrew as the evocative illustrator whose drawings went viral last year during lockdowns, given their subject matter of connection, kindness and loneliness.

This book is part illustrations and part essays, an insight into Andrew’s life and the way she sees the world. A gorgeous gift, and also one to hold onto yourself.

Available: April

Where to buy: Allen and Unwin

9. Animal by Lisa Taddeo

Lisa Taddeo’s Three Women was the book that everyone on team Bed Threads read when it was first released in 2019, so to say we’re excited for the author’s debut novel is a serious understatement.

Three Women spoke to themes of desire, sex and what it means to be a woman in the world, and we are sure that Animal will do the same. 

Available: June

Where to buy: TBC

10. Filthy Animals by Brandon Taylor 

This author’s novel Real Life was so phenomenally and heartbreakingly gorgeous it earned him a Booker Prize nomination last year. He’s back in 2021 honestly!

The work ethic of this man with a collection of short stories that promises to be just as evocative. Taylor writes about sexuality, race and masculinity like few others right now, and we can’t wait to read this collection. 

Available: June

Where to buy: TBC

11. The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris 

Bought at auction for a huge advance, this debut novel is going to be all over Instagram when it’s released in June.

A cross between Get Out and The Devil Wears Prada, this book follows a 26-year-old publishing assistant who is one of only two Black employees in her company. One day, when aggressive notes to leave her job start arriving on her desk, she starts to wonder just what is going on and how much might be at stake.

It’s already being called this year’s Such A Fine Age, with fans including Emily St John Mandel. Get your pre-orders in now. 

Available: June

Where to buy: TBC

12. 100 Days by Alice Pung 

Australian author Alice Pung is one of our favourite writers nobody tells a story with as much clear-eyed precision, yet warm empathy, like her. 100 Days is a mother-daughter fable about 16-year-old Karuna who falls pregnant and is confined to the apartment by her mother.

There’s an air of the fairytale (Rapunzel, anyone?) to this story, which is equal parts searing as it is full of humour. Count us in. 

Available: June

Where to buy: Black Inc Books

13. The Wife of Willesden by Zadie Smith 

A brand new Zadie Smith book is always cause for celebration. The Wife of Willesden is a reimagining of The Wife of Bath, a poem by Geoffrey Chaucer, taking the story of the original and setting it in London in the 21st century.

This isn’t a novel per se, but a play the author’s first. Read it in book form before we can, hopefully, see it in theatres soon. 

Available: June

Where to buy: TBC

14. Brains by Bri Lee 

Very little is known about this book, other than the fact that author Bri Lee has confirmed that it is coming in 2021, and that it is a follow up to her phenomenally successful and insightful non fiction work Eggshell Skull, one of team Bed Threads’ favourite books. We’ll read anything Lee writes, and we already have this on our must-read list for the year. 

Available: Later in 2021

Where to buy: TBC

15. Beautiful World, Where Are You By Sally Rooney 

Four words: new Sally Rooney book. That’s all we need to know. OK here’s a bit more: it’s confirmed for release in September, the story will follow four friends writer Alice, her best friend Eileen, and their romantic partners Felix and Simon as they make sense of relationships, the future, the environment and the planet. September can’t come soon enough. 

Available: September

Where to buy: TBC

16. Apples Never Fall by Liane Moriarty 

Not only are we being blessed with a new Sally Rooney book this year, we’re getting a new Liane Moriarty book, too. The Australian queen of the page-turner is back with a brand new novel in September.

Apples Never Fall is about a mum who goes missing, and her four adult children who are left wondering if their childhood was as perfect as it seemed. The author of Big Little Lies and Nine Perfect Strangers is never to be missed this one is going to be huge.  

Available: September

Where to buy: Pan Macmillan

Join our book club! It's full of recommendations and reviews of new best-sellers as well as classic reads.

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