Whistles Book Club: The Best Books We Read In 2021
2021 was an exceptional year for new literature. Authors, both breakout and established, blessed us with titles that exposed us to new voices, taught us invaluable lessons and ultimately kept us up way past our regular bedtime. As the year draws to a close, we’ve rounded up just some of the titles that resonated with us most.
Somebody's Daughter by Ashley C Ford
Somebody’s Daughter steps into the world of growing up a poor Black girl in Indiana with a family fragmented by incarceration, exploring how isolating and complex such a childhood can be. As Ashley battles her body and her environment, she embarks on a powerful journey to find the threads between who she is and what she was born into, and the complicated familial love that often binds them.
His Only Wife By Peace Adzo Medie
Afi Tekple, a bright young seamstress from a small town in Ghana, is convinced by her family to marry a man she has never met. Elikem Ganyo is a wealthy businessman whose family has chosen Afi in the hope that she will distract him from a relationship with another woman they think is inappropriate. The fact that she doesn’t know Elikem seems a small price to pay for a marriage that offers her family financial security and provides the key to a lifestyle she has always wanted. But when Afi arrives in Accra, she realises her fairy-tale ending might not be all she had hoped for. His Only Wife is a life-affirming, comedy-of-manners about a young woman’s search for independence in a man’s world, and the rules she just might have to break along the way.
Detransition, Baby by by Torrey Peters
Navigating the complicated waters of family-making and motherhood in the modern day, Detransition, Baby follows the lives of three trans and cis women living in New York.The novel depicts what happens at the emotional, messy, vulnerable corners of womanhood that platitudes and good intentions can’t reach. Torrey Peters fearlessly navigates the most dangerous taboos around gender, sex, and relationships, gifting us a thrillingly original, witty, and deeply moving novel.
The Midnight LIbrary by Matt Haig
When Nora Seed finds herself in the Midnight Library, she has a chance to make things right.The books in the Midnight Library enable Nora to live as if she had done things differently. With the help of an old friend, she can now undo every one of her regrets as she tries to work out her perfect life. But things aren’t always what she imagined they’d be, and soon her choices place the library and herself in danger. Before time runs out, she must answer the ultimate question: what is the best way to live?
Things We Do Not Tell The People We Love by Huma Qureshi
Set between the blossoming countryside of England, the South of France and Tuscany, and the bustling cities of London and Lahore, Things We Do Not Tell The People We Love shines a light on the parts of ourselves we rarely reveal. A daughter asks her mother to shut up, only to shut her up for good; an exhausted wife walks away from the husband who doesn’t understand her; on holiday, lovers no longer understand each other away from home. Huma Qureshi’s tales intertwine underlying themes of loneliness, secrets, family and a yearning for love.
Call Us What We Carry by Amanda Gorman
Including ‘The Hill We Climb’, the stirring poem read at the inauguration of President Joe Biden, this poetry collection by Amanda Gorman captures a tumultuous moment in time and transforms it into a lyric of hope and healing. In Call Us What We Carry, Gorman explores history, language, identity, and erasure. Harnessing the collective grief of a global pandemic, these seventy poems shine a light on a moment of reckoning and reveal that Gorman has become our messenger from the past, our voice for the future.
Memorial by Bryan Washington
Benson and Mike are two young guys who have been together for a few years, but now they’re not sure why they’re still a couple. When Mike finds out his estranged father is dying in Osaka just as his acerbic Japanese mother, Mitsuko, arrives for a visit, he picks up and flies across the world to say goodbye. In Japan he undergoes an extraordinary transformation, discovering the truth about his family and his past, while back home, Mitsuko and Benson are stuck living together as unconventional roommates, an absurd domestic situation that ends up meaning more to each of them than they ever could have predicted.
The Other Black GIrl by Zakiya Dalila Harris
Half thriller, half social satire, The Other Black Girl reflects the story of Nella, the only Black woman working at a fictional publishing house until her co-worker Hazel joins. The narrative follows a complicated relationship between the two females, exploring the nuances of female friendship, as well as the difficulties navigating the Black experience in a predominantly white space, whilst both characters try to progress in their careers.
No One Is Talking About This by Patricia Lockwood
A woman known for her viral social media posts travels the world speaking to her adoring fans, her entire existence overwhelmed by the internet – or what she terms ‘the portal’. Are we in hell? The people of the portal ask themselves. Are we all just going to keep doing this until we die? Suddenly, two texts from her mother pierce the fray: ‘Something has gone wrong’ and ‘How soon can you get here?’ As real-life collides with the increasing absurdity of the portal, the woman confronts a world that seems to contain both an abundance of proof that there is goodness, empathy and justice in the universe and a a deluge of evidence to the contrary.
A Burning by Megha Majumdar
Set in contemporary India, A Burning is the story of three unforgettable characters, all dreaming of a better future, whose lives are changed for ever when they become caught up in the devastating aftermath of a terrorist attack. Taut, propulsive and electrifying, from its opening lines to its astonishing finale, the book confronts issues of class, fate, prejudice and corruption with a Dickensian sense of injustice, and asks us to consider what it means to nurture big ambitions in a country hurtling towards political extremism.
We Are Not Like Them by Christine Pride and Jo Piazza
Riley and Jen have been best friends since they were children, and they thought their bond was unbreakable. It never mattered to them that Riley is black and Jen is white; but when Jen’s husband, a Philadelphia police officer, is involved in the shooting of an unarmed black teenager, everything changes in an instant. This one act could destroy more than just Riley and Jen’s friendship. As their community takes sides, so must Jen and Riley, and for the first time in their lives the lifelong friends find themselves on opposing sides. We Are Not Like Them is about friendship and love; prejudice and betrayal; and standing up for what you believe in, no matter the cost.
PIRANESI BY SUSANNA CLARKE
Piranesi lives in the House. Perhaps he always has. In his notebooks, day after day, he makes a clear and careful record of its wonders: the labyrinth of halls, the thousands upon thousands of statues, the tides which thunder up staircases, the clouds which move in slow procession through the upper halls. Twice a week, Piranesi sees his friend, the Other. At other times he brings tributes of food and water lilies to the Dead. But mostly, he is alone. Messages begin to appear, scratched out in chalk on the pavements. There is someone new in the House. But who are they, and what do they want? Are they a friend, or do they bring destruction and madness as the Other claims?