The 5 Books I've Enjoyed The Most So Far In 2021

For the third year, I’m making an effort to read more books and keeping a record of what I manage to get through on my Instagram Stories as a highlight (which you can see here). These five are the best books I’ve read so far in 2021. 


1. Empire of Pain by Patrick Radden Keefe

This magisterial, enraging account of the Sackler family’s role in the American opioid epidemic is proper hubristic American anti-epic. 

 I’ll read anything by Patrick Radden Keefe (his history of The Troubles, Say Nothing, was one of my favourite books of 2020), and in his expert hands this sorry tale is compulsive stuff. More here.


2. Humankind by Rutger Bregman

In which Dutch thinker Bregman takes on one of the biggest questions of all - are humans predisposed towards aggression or cooperation? 

In Rutger’s telling, human history is a story of cooperation and community. Although I wasn’t 100% percent convinced by his argument, at he’s least making it. A timely, thought-provoking and ultimately very hopeful book. More here.


3. This Thing of Darkness by Harry Thompson

This immersive Victorian-era ship-set doorstop about Darwin and Fitzroy’s questing voyages around the world might have been custom-created for me by some fiendish algorithm. 

Like all the best novels, I couldn’t put it down and it made me look at the world slightly anew. Yep, I liked it. More here.


4. The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey

One of the most influential crime novels of the twentieth century is also one of the strangest, in which the hero doesn’t leave his hospital bed and the prime suspect is the long dead (and universally hated) Richard III. 

Short, clever, and tighter than a drum skin. More here.


5. Ahab’s Rolling Sea: A Natural History of Moby Dick, by Richard J. King

I love Moby-Dick, and try and read it once a decade. So this affectionate, picaresque natural history of the novel was right up my watery boulevard. 

A beautiful, accessible primer to one of the greatest and most challenging novels of them all. More here.


Click here for my favourite books of 2020 and here for the 2019 version.