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10 books to fall in love with from the British Book Awards 2021 shortlist

Updated: May 11

Britain has a long history of fantastic storytellers, and a new generation of authors have filled this year’s British Book Awards shortlist with excellent reads. If you’re looking for some new books to read as the weather warms up, there are some fantastic options to choose from.

The British Book Awards is an annual celebration of the best books, bookshops, and publishers, with a history going back 30 years. Despite the rise of technology, we’re still a nation of book lovers, preferring a paperback over an e-book, according to a YouGov poll. Two in five (43%) of Brits say they read for pleasure at least once a week, and a fifth (19%) read every day.


If you’re looking for a new read, these authors featured on the British Book Awards’ shortlist could capture your interest.


Fiction


1. The Evening and the Morning by Ken Follett


Fans of Ken Follett will be thrilled to return to Kingsbridge in his latest novel, The Evening and the Morning. This prequel is set at the end of the dark ages as England faces attacks from the Welsh and the Vikings. The book follows a similar format as other books in the series, charting the journey of three young people as they navigate a time of chaos and bloodshed to create an epic tale. It’s been 30 years since the release of the first Kingsbridge novel, The Pillars of the Earth, and now the latest addition takes us back to where it began.


2. The Midnight Library by Matt Haig


The Midnight Library is a unique novel about hope and regret. Between life and death, there is a library that gives you a chance to see how your life would be different if you’d made other decisions. This is where we find Nora Seed, who has been living with regret and now has the chance to see the life she could have had. But it becomes clear that in trying to undo the “wrong” decisions, things don’t always work out the way you want them to. Is any life perfect?


Fiction: Crime & Thriller


3. The Guest List by Lucy Foley


Following up her debut novel, The Hunting Party, Lucy Foley brings us another “whodunnit” thriller. This time the story takes you to a wedding hosted on an island off the Irish coast, and will leave you wondering until the final pages not only “Who’s the murderer?”, but “Who’s been murdered?” As you discover past grudges, jealousies and marital problems, everyone is a suspect with a motive.


4. The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman


TV presenter Richard Osman gives a new twist to the detective genre. In a sleepy retirement village, four friends meet up every week to investigate unsolved murders but find themselves entangled in a live case. Filled with witty one-liners and twists, can the unorthodox murder club discover the story behind the murder of a local property developer before it’s too late? Fans of the novel will be pleased to hear the second book in the series is due to be published later this year.


Fiction Debuts


5. The Girl with the Louding Voice by Abi Daré


Adunni is a Nigerian girl sold into slavery at the age of 14. She battles to find her “louding voice” that will give her a life that she’s in control of and enable her to speak out for the girls who came before her. While the book tackles challenging issues and hardship, Adunni finds joy in the unlikeliest situations as she goes from a small village to the wealth of Lagos. The main character uses non-standard English language and imagery, giving the book a vivid, original twist.


6. Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart


Douglas Stuart’s journey to reach the shortlist is a story in itself. Twelve British publishers rejected Shuggie Bain before it was picked up and then went on to secure a Booker Prize – just one of five debut novels that have won the award. Shuggie Bain tells the story of a boy’s attempt to save his alcoholic mother from addiction. Set in Glasgow when Margaret Thatcher was prime minister, it’s a compelling story of poverty and love.


Non-fiction: Lifestyle


7. Nadiya Bakes by Nadiya Hussain


If you prefer a book that can boost your skills, why not learn to bake with the 2015 winner of The Great British Bake Off? Unsurprisingly, it’s packed with beautiful recipes, whether you want to make yourself a treat or are planning a family celebration. The easy step-by-step guide makes it the perfect addition to all kitchens, even if you’re a beginner baker. Taste-testing the strawberry and clotted cream shortcakes or the honey cake with a salted hazelnut crumb will delight the whole family.


8. Think Like a Monk by Jay Shetty


Jay Shetty rose to fame by hosting a podcast where he shares the wisdom he learned as a practising monk. Now Think Like a Monk brings you practical steps you can use in your life. It’s part modern self-help book, part entertainment that aims to help readers live a more meaningful life. With a social media following of more than 32 million, his advice and exercises have already had an impact on many, and the book makes the lessons more accessible than ever.


Non-fiction: Narrative


9. A Life on Our Planet by David Attenborough  


National treasure David Attenborough secures a shortlist spot with his latest book, which accompanies a Netflix film of the same name. It’s a mix of David’s extraordinary memoir and an urgent climate message calling on readers to preserve our precious ecosystem for future generations. Mixed in throughout the text are pictures of David’s iconic travels across the world, bringing his story to life. A Life on Our Planet is a powerful and truly inspiring read.


10. Tomorrow Will Be a Good Day by Captain Sir Tom Moore


It was just a year ago that Captain Sir Tom Moore rose to international fame at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. The second world war veteran raised money for the NHS by walking laps around the garden to mark his 100th birthday. As his challenge went viral, Tom’s efforts raised a staggering £32 million. His memoirs, from a childhood in the Yorkshire Dales to travelling to India during the war, have now become a bestseller thanks to Tom’s can-do attitude and uplifting spirit.

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