2021 Books of the Year

Posted on 10/12/2021

In the run up to Christmas, publications have been sharing their favourite reads of 2021 and it has filled us with festive cheer to see so many authors we represent on their lists. Made up of recommendations from critics and writers, we hope our compilation below provides some inspiration for cosy fireside reading or a last-minute Secret Santa gift. Happy winter hibernation reading and Merry Christmas from us all at FBA!

The Fall of Robespierre, Colin Jones – ‘Jones, an authority on 18th-century French history, tells the story in an hour-by-hour, minute-by-minute narrative packed with colour and insight’.

The Promise Audiobook, Damon Galgut – ‘Vivid and suggestive, moving and often very funny, its jump-cut structure and bravura set pieces work particularly well in the audio version; Noble does an excellent job of capturing its cast of characters (especially the grim aunt)’.

The Promise, Damon Galgut – ‘A dazzling feat of kaleidoscopic storytelling that follows an Afrikaner family through four funerals across four decades as they repeatedly fail to honour a promise to their black maid to give her the rights to her house’.

How to Love Animals, Henry Mance – ‘An attempt to untangle the contradictions in our relationship with them and “plot a path to a society that treats animals considerately”’.

Conversations on Love, Natasha Lunn – ‘I underlined passages on almost each page and was moved by the tiny moments of love she recorded’, chosen by Marianne Power.

The Fall of Robespierre, Colin Jones – ‘The melodramatic story of Robespierre’s fall has been told many times, but never in such gloriously sensual detail’, chosen by Gerard DeGroot and Dominic Sandbrook.

The Library, Andrew Pettegree and Arthur der Weduwen – ‘This sweeping bookish history has something for everyone… it is a glorious reminder that libraries are priceless, in all senses’, chosen by Lucy Atkins.


The Promise, Damon Galgut – ‘The Promise (Chatto) by Damon Galgut is a remarkable tale of four generations of one South African family and of the country itself. Like his earlier books, which I also enjoyed, it reveals him as a master of human complexity’, chosen by Joan Bakewell, Fintan O’Toole and Elizabeth Day.

Miss Austen, Gill Hornby – ‘She reconstructs in beautifully simple detail the story of Jane Austen’s sister, Cassandra, and her struggle to protect Jane in life and death’, chosen by Ferdinand Mount.

Noble Ambitions, Adrian Tinniswood – ‘A vastly entertaining account of the crisis that befell England’s stately homes after the Second World War – and how tourists, safari animals and pop stars aided their recovery’.

How to Love Animals, Henry Mance – ‘Effortlessly earning its place on a list of books that offer food for thought, it will kindle the true spirit of Christmas goodwill at the expense of the usual Christmas dinner’.

The Promise, Damon Galgut – ‘A white South African family fail to keep a promise to their black servant; we follow their moral decline across four decades in this year’s Booker prize-winner’.

The Promise, Damon Galgut – ‘The most worthy winner of the Booker prize we’ve seen for many years… The book trembles in the hand with its political relevance’, chosen by Rose Tremain.

Middle England, Jonathan Coe – ‘Nothing has yet surpassed Coe’s evocation of the sour, restless, resentful mood that, in contrast to the spirit of the 1960s, led Britain to turn inwards’, chosen by Peter Wilby .

Burning the Books, Richard Ovenden – ‘In a digital age that abounds with snippets of information, this is a glorious celebration of physical libraries and nuanced knowledge’, chosen by Elif Shafak.

The Promise, Damon Galgut – ‘A sobering allegory, to be sure, but also a giddy pleasure, thanks to Galgut’s restlessly acrobat voice, which darts and zooms unpredictably around the action’, chosen by Anthony Cummins.

The Girl Who Talked to Trees, written by Natasha Farrant and Illustrated by Lydia Corry – ‘Tree-loving Olive’s attempts to save her beloved ancient oak takes her on an imaginative journey across centuries and continents, as inter-linked stories emphasise the vital role trees play in our lives’, chosen by Sally Morris.

The Promise, Damon Galgut – ‘What makes it special is the humanity with which it is written and Galgut’s cinematic prose, which shifts seamlessly from one perspective to the next’, chosen by Elizabeth Day.


The Promise, Damon Galgut – ‘This novel follows a white South African family from the final years of apartheid to the present. A long-deferred vow to their Black housekeeper becomes a stand-in for the nation’s moral bankruptcy’.

Mr Wilder and Me, Jonathan Coe – ‘A beautifully elegiac novel told by a young woman in 1970s Greece hired as an interpreter for the great Billy Wilder as he struggles to make what he suspects will be his final film, still haunted by the horrors of 20th-century Europe that he fled decades earlier’, chosen by Kazuo Ishiguro.


The Greeks, Roderick Beaton – ‘This year is the 200th anniversary of the Greek revolution and has seen a clutch of excellent books on the history of Greece’, chosen by Mary Beard.

The Fall of Robespierre, Colin Jones – ‘An hour-by-hour reconstruction of the circumstances in which the man most associated with the Terror was himself pushed under the guillotine’, chosen by Ruth Scurr.

Somebody Loves You, Mona Arshi – chosen by Juliet Jacques.

Fifty Sounds, Polly Barton – chosen by Daniel Medin.


The Fall of Robespierre, Colin Jones – ‘A thrilling blow-by-blow account of that fateful day in the summer of 1794. One can almost hear the ticking of the clock, minute by minute, second by second, counting down to the guillotine’, chosen by Joseph Hone.

The Promise, Damon Galgut – ‘It is a deeply serious but firmly playful book, swooping in and out of the minds of its desperate subjects with aplomb, leaping great distances and always landing on its feet’.