Our favourite reads of 2021 so far

We asked staff to let us know which book stands out as exceptional amongst everything they’ve read so far this year. Below are the books they’ve loved the most and you can browse our more extensive collection of favourites here.

Nightbitch by Rachel Yoder

nightbitch-2021-so-far I haven’t yet stopped thinking about Nightbitch by Rachel Yoder. Its dry humour and refreshing weirdness was just what I needed.

— Alison Huber, head book buyer

Wild Abandon by Emily Bitto


Happily for me, my favourite read of 2021 so far has also been the book I have most looked forward to reading! Stella prize winner Emily Bitto has delivered an exceptional second novel. Wild Abandon is an unflinching exploration of toxic masculinity, the politics of war and heartbreak, mental health and the astonishing human arrogance of attempted dominion of the lives of majestic, wild animals. A MUST read.

— Tye Cattanach, bookseller at Readings Carlton

Signs and Wonders by Delia Falconer


Like so many of us, my ability to concentrate this year has been knocked around. Flattened, even. To that end, I have turned to writing that is concise, kind and reflective to be my saviour. Delia Falconer’s collection of essays, Signs and Wonders arrived at the perfect time. Here she meanders through her streets, her reading and her dismay with an empathetic eye. I have thought long and hard about her ability to conjure a collective crisis with a snippet from her own life. Somehow her writing has given me some solace and most importantly an avenue for expressing my deep unease at where we all are now. Her work has not allowed me to escape my reality, but rather define it.

— Chris Gordon, programming & events manager

The Project by Courtney Summers


As a sucker for a cult-thriller, I completely ate up Courtney Summers', The Project. Dark and imbued with suspense, it was everything I love about the thriller genre without resorting to over-done gimmicks.

— Xiao-Xiao Kingham, bookseller at Readings Kids

Terminal Boredom by Izumi Suzuki


This collection of short stories by a long-departed icon of Japanese literature offers English-language readers a rare peek into this author’s unique approach to speculative science-fiction. These are approachable, digestible little worlds that resonated with me long after I had put them down, filling my head with notions of extended life and alternate consciousness, among other curious things.

And also, The Woman In The Purple Skirt by Natsuko Imamura. Reading this novel was like reading the diary of someone I shouldn’t have - but very much like that, I read it in one setting, very eager to find out where this bizarre little story would lead.

— Nico Callaghan, Readings Podcast producer and bookseller at Readings Carlton

Earthlings by Sayaka Murata


Earthlings by Sayaka Murata took me by surprise and I loved it. It was heartbreaking, bizarre and captivating all at the same time.

— Megan Wood, HR manager

Exit Through the Gift Shop by Maryam Master


Ana’s story covers some intense and challenging topics, but it is all handled with such humour and heartfelt kindness. Exit Through the Gift Shop is a book children and adults can both learn from, and Ana is a character that I personally came to admire. For ages 8+.

— Claire Atherfold, manager at Readings SLV

Consent by Annabel Lyon


I was devastated when this book, by my fellow Canadian, didn’t make it on to the 2021 Women’s Prize for Fiction shortlist. Dark and challenging, it’s the perfect read if you feel like leaning into the lockdown blues.

— Tristen Brudy, bookseller at Readings Carlton

Real Estate by Deborah Levy


I’ve been sending copies of this book to every woman I know who is approaching 60 and having a birthday. Sometimes I send all three of the books that make up her memoir; Things I Don’t Want to Know, The Cost of Living and Real Estate. The perfect gift showing women of a certain age how to live.

— Louise Ryan, manager at Readings Carlton

The Lincoln Highway by Amor Towles


I travelled alongside the characters through America within Lincoln Highway. Immersive, nostalgic and wonderful - lockdown disappears with novels such as this.

— Carolyn Watson, bookseller at Readings Doncaster

We Run the Tides by Vendela Vida


This novel, set in the 80s subverts the genre of the ‘missing girl’. The naive narrator is pulled into a dark drama when her best friend goes missing. Intriguing and beautifully written.

— Annie Condon, bookseller at Readings Hawthorn

Freedom Day by Rosie Smiler, Thomas Mayor and Samantha Campbell


We will never stop needing books to teach our children about how hard Australia’s First Nations people have fought to be recognised in their own country and Freedom Day is a perfect book for it. Full of honest language and gorgeous illustrations it’s perfect for kids 5+

As well as, Murderbot Diaries: All Systems Red by Martha Wells. Murderbot is a security robot who’s broken its programming and has gained autonomy. But instead of going crazy and killing all humans, it continues doing its job while binging space-Netflix and bitching about humans. Perfect escapism for 2021.

— Dani Solomon, manager at Readings Kids

Still Life by Sarah Winman


This is a book that must be embraced. Read it, hug it, and thank it for bringing pure, unadulterated joy into your life.

— Kate McIntosh, bookseller at Readings Doncaster

Crossroads by Jonathan Franzen


Crossroads is Epic in every way, the most perfect novel I’ve read all year. And the best part — it is the first of a trilogy!

— Danielle Mirabella, bookseller at Readings Hawthorn

Perfect on Paper by Sophie Gonzales


This novel is definitely at the top of my favourite reads for 2021 so far! It was such a fun and diverse read. Enemies to lovers is my weakness and I just couldn’t put it down. I see a reread happening in the near future.

— Lucie Dess, marketing assistant

One Hundred Days by Alice Pung


There’s something about Alice Pung’s writing that feels tender and bracingly honest at once, like a friend who gives you the advice you need, even if you’d rather not hear it. I particularly linger over the character of the mother, who viciously lashes out even as she tries to protect. Pung has created a deeply complicated figure – one you rarely see in Australian fiction, who demands to be understood on her own terms.

— Jackie Tang, editor of Readings Monthly

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett


This beautifully written book explores themes including class, violence, gender, and identity with a delicate sensibility that never puts a foot wrong. It’s a lyrical, heartbreaking, unexpectedly witty, and thought-provoking book that invites readers to examine what it is that defines us to others and to ourselves.

— Lian Hingee, digital marketing manager

A Feather on the Breath of God by Sigrid Nunez


Listed as fiction but very much based on Nunez’s real life, this book is a raw, beautiful exploration of family, of the life parents live before they meet each other and destroy each other. Of the child they raise and how the circumstances a person is born into impacts in so many ways. It’s also a stunning exploration of ballet (I’ll never watch a performance in the same way ever again); of falling in love with the wrong person; of bad decisions and riding taxis in New York. Astonishing!

— Gabrielle Williams, bookseller at Readings Malvern

How to Make a Basket by Jazz Money


I can’t stop thinking about How to Make a Basket by Jazz Money. The way that Money beautifully and lyrically protests the violence of settler-colonialism is incredible.

— Clare Millar, bookseller at Readings online

The Gaps by Leanne Hall


I still can’t forget my reading (twice!) of Leanne Hall’s The Gaps earlier this year. It broke my heart into a million little pieces and then put it back together again. It is a book that shows us the violence perpetuated against young women and how it changes them. It is feminist, ferocious and beautiful, artfully depicting the nuances and layers of our society. Most importantly, it’s an absolutely gripping psychological thriller that is literally unputdownable. I can’t recommend it highly enough and I want to put it in the hands of every person I see.

— Angela Crocombe, children’s and YA specialist for Readings online

Coal Black Mornings and Afternoons with the Blinds Drawn by Brett Anderson


Nostalgia is powerful medicine, and even more so during times of crisis, so this year I’ve found myself seeking comfort in the music I loved most when I was 20 and life was arguably simpler. The two memoirs by Suede’s frontman, Brett Anderson, have been the standout reads for me so far this year. Both are beautifully written, bravely honest, elegantly constructed accounts not only of his heady, triumphant life in a band, but of his impoverished childhood, his mistakes, and ultimately, like his songs, a document of England in the 80s and 90s and beyond. I don’t say this often about autobiography or biography, but I can imagine returning to these books often. They are simply wonderful, for fans not only of Suede, but of good writing. I hope he writes me another one.

— Joanna Di Mattia, bookseller at Readings Carlton

Gunk Baby by Jamie Marina Lau


If you’ve worked long days in an air-conditioned nine-to-five-thirty shopping centre, you understand how the most consequential action plays out almost imperceptibly. Each day a comfortable autopilot ensues and, with predictability’s warm embrace, your day begins. Gunk Baby begins here too, but don’t be fooled; this book is taking you places and has a lot to say. I find my thoughts returning to this uncanny narrative often – it’s a novel that demands your full attention – in the best way – and has an ending that doesn’t disappoint. A subversive story from a unique voice, and unquestionably my favourite read so far this year.

I’ve also enjoyed a number of dynamic short story collections this year, but an absolute stand out that everyone should pick up is Adam Thompson’s electric debut, Born Into This.

— Jessica Strong, digital marketing coordinator



Rachel Yoder

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