The Best Nonfiction Books of 2021, recommended by Sophie Roell

As the Covid pandemic gets another lease of life with the appearance of the omicron variant, those of us spending additional time at home may need a few more books to read. Here, Five Books editor Sophie Roell shares some of her favourite nonfiction books of the year, from history to economics, lessons on how to write like Chekhov to the part each of us can play in reducing political polarization.

The Best Fiction of 2021: The Booker Prize Shortlist, recommended by Maya Jasanoff

This year the Booker Prize finalists include new work from previous shortlistees Richard Powers and Damon Galgut, a sweeping historical novel by Maggie Shipstead, and a fragmentary account of a life lived ‘extremely online.’ Maya Jasanoff, Harvard historian and chair of the 2021 judging panel, talks us through the best fiction of the past year.

The Best Crime Fiction of 2021, recommended by Sophie Roell

If you’re into crime fiction as a form of relaxation, a wide range of books continue to be published, set in places around the world. Sophie Roell, editor of Five Books and a keen reader of the genre, picks out some of her favourites from 2021.

Best History Books of 2021, recommended by Paul Lay

Historical writing continues to shed new and interesting light on all manner of topics, including even much-written about subjects like Napoleon, who died 200 years ago this year. Paul Lay, the editor of History Today, offers his choices for the best history books published in 2021.

The Best China Books of 2021, recommended by Jeffrey Wasserstrom

Whether you want to read the entire history of China in 250 pages or find out what’s going on right now in Xinjiang, enjoy a new translation of a 16th-century fantasy novel or delve into contemporary short stories, 2021 has been another good year for books about China. Jeffrey Wasserstrom, Chancellor’s Professor of History at UC Irvine, recommends his favourite China books of 2021.

The Best Politics Books To Read in 2021, recommended by Larry Sabato

In many Western countries, citizens have long taken living in a democracy for granted. The last decade has changed all that, with fledgling democracies veering back to authoritarianism and even the most stable democracies being shaken by populist movements. Here, political scientist Larry J. Sabato turns the spotlight on the American republic, long a beacon for democracy around the globe, but now suffering its own internal turmoil. He recommends the best politics books to read in 2021, focusing on the United States.

The Best Economics Books of 2021, recommended by Diane Coyle

From the education of a Nobel Prize-winning economist to debates about privacy and the drawbacks of global supply chains, Professor Diane Coyle of Cambridge University’s Bennett Institute for Public Policy chooses the best economics books of 2021. These are highly readable books that also shed important light on the Covid pandemic and the world we live in.

The Best Thrillers of 2021, recommended by Tosca Lee

Looking for a fantastic new thriller to read? We asked Tosca Lee, the bestselling author, to talk us through the International Thriller Writers 2021 shortlist. With their amazing characters, palpable tension, unique voices and incredible plot twists these thrillers achieve what every reader is looking for: a book they can’t put down.

The Best Self Help Books of 2021, recommended by Emma Gannon

Lockdowns have forced many of us to pause and consider the way we are living our lives, says the podcaster and bestselling author Emma Gannon. Here she highlights five of the best self help books published in 2021, with a special focus on creativity and setting better boundaries to safeguard our time and energy.

The Best Art Books of 2021, recommended by Romas Viesulas

Which art, architecture, design and photography books have we added to our library in 2021? Romas Viesulas, art & architecture editor at Five Books, takes us through his personal choice of beautiful reference books to add visual and conceptual interest to any well-appointed bookshelf.

The Best Philosophy Books of 2021, recommended by Nigel Warburton

Nigel Warburton—the philosopher, broadcaster and creator of the popular Philosophy Bites podcast—selects five of the best public philosophy books published in 2021, including a defence of righteous rage, an examination of the concept of ‘time management,’ and an intellectual biography of the political philosopher and Holocaust survivor Hannah Arendt.

The Best Audiobooks of 2021, recommended by Robin Whitten

In 2021, as in previous years, AudioFile magazine picks out the very best audiobooks of the year, books that make great listening and where outstanding narration brings additional pleasure over and above reading the book in print with your eyes. Here, AudioFile editor and founder Robin Whitten picks out the best audiobooks of 2021 for us—out of the 2,300 books that she and her team listened to and reviewed.

The Best Business Books: the 2021 FT & McKinsey Book Award, recommended by Andrew Hill

Every year the Financial Times’s management editor, Andrew Hill, helps organize its ‘Business Book of the Year’ award, which celebrates outstanding books relating to business in the broadest sense. Here, he talks us through the 2021 shortlist, six books that will draw you in and open your eyes to how events happening in the world of business affect all of us–sometimes in very profound ways.

The Best Science Fiction of 2021: The Arthur C Clarke Award Shortlist, recommended by Tom Hunter

Every year, the director of the Arthur C Clarke Award talks us through their six book shortlist. The 2021 crop of the best science fiction books features a “deliciously pulpy” space opera, a time travel story for young adults, and a cacophonous tale of talking animals. What they all have in common is that they are by debut authors, says Tom Hunter: they represent a new generation of sci fi writing.

The Best Novels of 2021, recommended by Cal Flyn

It’s been another vintage year for fiction. As book sales continue to soar, Five Books deputy editor Cal Flyn talks us through her personal highlights: the best new novels to be released in 2021. Her recommendations include a workplace comedy that unfolds through the medium of Slack, a “darkly sardonic” story of a 17th-century witch trial, and a witty novel-of-ideas examining trans parenthood.

The Best Romance Books of 2021, recommended by Natasha Tomic

Romance is one of the most widely read and commercially successful genres, a literary haven for those seeking a happy ending. Here, the book blogger and self-confessed romantic fiction addict Natasha Tomic chooses her top five romantic novels of 2021, and explains why it's the perfect escapist genre.

The Best Baking Cookbooks of 2021, recommended by Becky Krystal

Every year Becky Krystal of the Washington Post and staff writer of “Voraciously”, a food column with a strong ‘how-to’ focus, chooses the best cookbooks of the year for us. In 2021, she’s focusing on books about baking, an activity she’s passionate about—and many of the rest of us have been doing more of in the past year or two.

The Best Biographies: the 2021 NBCC Shortlist, recommended by Elizabeth Taylor

Elizabeth Taylor, the author, critic and chair of the National Book Critics’ Circle biography committee, discusses their 2021 shortlist for the title of the best biography—including a revelatory new book about the life of Malcolm X, a group biography of artists in the 1960s, and a book built from a cache of letters written in Japan’s shogun era.

The Best Audiobooks: the 2021 Audie Awards, recommended by Michele Cobb

There are so many fantastic audiobooks being produced at the moment, across so many genres, that it’s hard to know where to start listening. Fortunately, every year, the judges of the Audie Awards pick out some of the very best. Here, Michele Cobb, Executive Director of the Audio Publishers Association, talks us through some of the 2021 winners, including the ‘audiobook of the year.’

The Best Climate Books of 2021, recommended by Sarah Dry

From the power of the individual to effect change to the large-scale government interventions needed, are we close to a tipping point in our efforts to combat climate change? Just in time to get up to speed for COP26, here’s a selection of the best climate books of 2021, selected for us by historian of climate science, Sarah Dry.

The 2021 British Academy Book Prize for Global Cultural Understanding, recommended by Patrick Wright

Through careful research and compelling argument, the books shortlisted for the British Academy Book Prize for Global Cultural Understanding cast light on globally significant problems, says Patrick Wright, chair of the 2021 jury and Emeritus Professor of Literature, History and Politics at King’s College London. Here he talks us through the books that made the 2021 shortlist as well as last year’s winner, works of nonfiction that “speak directly to the urgent challenges of the times in which we live”.

Notable Novels of Fall 2021, recommended by Cal Flyn

Five Books deputy editor Cal Flyn offers a round-up of the notable novels that need to be on your literary radar in Fall 2021, including the hotly anticipated new book from Sally Rooney—set to dominate bestseller lists in the coming weeks—as well as eagerly awaited follow-ups from Richard Osman and Elizabeth Strout, and a return to more traditional fiction from Karl Ove Knausgård.

Best Conservation Books of 2021, recommended by Charlotte Smith

Many of us are increasingly alarmed at the damage human beings have done—and continue to do—to the natural world and would love to be better informed about what we need to do to protect our precious environment. Fortunately, every year, the Wainwright Prize picks out the best writing on global conservation—books that are not only informative but highly readable. Here, British journalist Charlotte Smith, chair of the judging panel, talks us through the books that made the 2021 shortlist and why it’s worth reading all of them.

Notable New Novels of Summer 2021, recommended by Cal Flyn

Foreign holidays are still looking unlikely for most of us this summer, but that doesn’t mean we won’t be able to find a spot in a park or garden to relax in the sun with a good book. Here, author and Five Books deputy editor Cal Flyn highlights some of the most notable new novels of summer 2021 to help you narrow down your reading options.

Notable Novels of Spring 2021, recommended by Cal Flyn

Fiction fans can expect “an embarrassment of riches” in spring 2021, according to Cal Flyn, deputy editor of Five Books and author of the forthcoming Islands of Abandonment. From buzzed-about debuts to the latest novel from the Nobel laureate Kazuo Ishiguro, we are spoilt for choice this season.

The Best Essays: the 2021 PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award, recommended by Adam Gopnik

Every year, the judges of the PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay search out the best book of essays written in the past year and draw attention to the author’s entire body of work. Here, Adam Gopnik, writer, journalist and PEN essay prize judge, emphasizes the role of the essay in bearing witness and explains why the five collections that reached the 2021 shortlist are, in their different ways, so important.