The Missing Sister by Lucinda Riley is in sixth place. On the right, Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro was seventh
1. Matt Haig’s Midnight Library (2020)
Event Magazine reviews: Olympic swimmer, pop star, glaciologist – just three of the many dreams Nora Seed could live if she weren’t trapped in a drab reality. At 35, newly unemployed and in mourning for her cat, she even botches her own suicide, waking up in a void filled with books that acts as a gateway to parallel lives.
Multiverse leaps ensue, all casually attributed to quantum physics and interwoven with philosophy. Fiction meets therapy in a life-affirming fable that is Haig’s epitome.
2. Harry Potter Children’s Collection: The Complete J. K Rowling Collection (2014)
3. Where the Crayfish Sing by Delia Owens (2019)
Fanny Blake for the Daily Mail: The body of Chase Andrews, local football legend and womanizer, is found in the swamp outside a small town on the North Carolina coast with no indication of how which he got there.
The immediate suspect is Kya Clark, a girl who grew up savagely in the swamps.
Abandoned by her mother at the age of six, then by her siblings, Kya finds herself with her father, an unreliable drunkard who disappears for days. Rejected by the local community as “swamp waste,” she turned to the swamp for protection and company.
Half murder mystery, half coming-of-age novel, her evocation of the swamp and its inhabitants is as unforgettable as Kya herself. A story of loneliness, survival and love as captivating as it is moving.
Where The Crawdads Sing is now adapted for cinema by Reese Witherspoon
4. Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell (2020)
Jane Shilling for the Daily Mail: Among the few historical details of Shakespeare’s life is the fact that he married Anne Hathaway, aged 18-26, with whom he had three children: Susanna and the twins Judith and Hamnet. Hamnet died of unknown causes at the age of 11 in 1596, and Hamlet was written about three years later.
Maggie O’Farrell’s haunting novel imagines Hamnet as he was during his brief life: a sturdy, curious, blond boy. And he explores the aftershocks of his death: the beloved boy swept away from his family by the plague, leaving a void that his father fills with words, his mother with inconsolable grief.
Maggie O’Farrell’s award-winning novel is a haunting study of love, heartbreak, and the power of storytelling.
5. Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart (2020)
Ciara Dossett for the Daily Mail: This Booker Prize-winning debut album tells the story of Suggie Bain, a child growing up in a dysfunctional family in the 1980s in Glasgow.
The harshness of the environment leaves its mark on everyone who lives there: Shuggie’s mother, Agnes, once a bubbly girl, is now a ruined alcoholic, crushed by her husband’s violence and infidelity.
Shuggie’s older siblings, Catherine and Leek, escape the family home, leaving Shuggie to care for his mother in her heartbreaking and inexorable decline.
Poverty-stricken Glasgow is a dark place, especially for Suggie, who is bullied for his sensitivity and difference: “Wid you get a load o” that. Liberace is moving in, ”a neighbor shouts as the Bain family move to a Perimeter Trench village in a doomed attempt to make a fresh start.
Human and beautifully written, Shuggie Bain is a tender elegy for damaged lives.
6. Lucinda Riley’s Missing Sister (2021)
Wendy Holden for The Daily Mail: I loved the Seven Sisters from the start and this latest one in the series is just as awesome as the rest. Apliese’s glamorous daughters are on the hunt for their lost brother to complete the family ensemble.
They think New Zealander Mary McDougal could be the one and rush to investigate. Merry, Mary’s mother, shaken by visiting strangers, flees on a world tour. But what is she hiding?
As always, there is a brilliant historical plot, in this case the Ireland of the 1920s, rocked by the Civil War. Young Nuala, from a Fenian family, feels a forbidden sympathy for hated Britons, but after the death of her young husband the seeds of hatred and violence are sown. But what does all of this have to do with Merry? The next and final volume will tell us.
7. Klara and the sun by Kazuo Ishiguro (2021)
Kazuo Ishiguro’s first novel since winning the Nobel Prize in 2017 returns to the sci-fi territory of Never Let Me Go in 2005.
Lee Child’s Better off Dead is eighth
It’s told by Klara, an unusually intelligent robot who was bought as an artificial friend for Josie, a sick teenager whose sister died of the same disease (unspecified) a few years ago.
Klara – a classic Ishiguro narrator, watching from the margins – must quickly learn human ways and emotions as she becomes more integrated into Josie’s family.
But she also has to learn more about Josie herself when it becomes clear that Josie’s grief-stricken mother fearing the daughter will die too is turning the sincere, conscientious, and well-meaning Klara into a possible replacement.
8. Better off Dead by Lee Child (2021)
9. American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins (2020)
Wendy Holden for the Daily Mail: This amazing book is about Mexican migrants trying to reach America. They may not be the people you imagine. Lydia is the owner of a bookstore in Acapulco whose journalist husband criticizes local drug traffickers. They lead a comfortable middle-class life until a family birthday party ends in a massacre.
Lydia’s husband annoyed a powerful cartel. He is dead, and now his wife and young son must flee for their lives. But the cartel is everywhere.
To achieve safety in the United States, Lydia and Luca must go underground, walk the migrant route, forever look over their shoulders, and trust no one.
A nightmare ensues; desperate alliances and split-second decisions risking instant death. The two cling to the roofs of freight trains and face rape, murder, theft and brutality of all kinds.
And yet, in the midst of all the horror, there are moments of hope, friendship, kindness and love. An absolutely unforgettable read.
American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins and Beautiful World, Where Are You by Sally Rooney complete the list
10. Beautiful people, where are you by Sally Rooney (2021)
Stephanie Cross for the Daily Mail: Rooney fans will be delighted to know she hasn’t changed the formula for this highly anticipated third outing. In the end, they might wish she had.
At the heart of the novel are two young friends – one an author, the other an editorial assistant – who exchange long emails theorizing about life, love and the contemporary novel while negotiating on / off deals.
Alice, who is dating warehouse worker Felix, is stuck in the unenviable position of trying to keep up with a blockbuster book. Seems familiar?
For Eileen, Alice’s best friend based in Dublin, the thorny question is how to negotiate a not always platonic relationship with the practicing Catholic Simon, a former childhood friend.
Thoughts of Rooney’s hyper-intelligent Millennials – whose remarkable intelligence would put an end to lesser novels – here, as always, flow naturally. And Alice’s scathing take on literary stardom and her defense of her art seems to belong to Rooney.
But it’s unfortunate that one of the thorny issues this novel raises – the ethics of caring for fictitious people – presupposes emotional involvement, because my heart was not engaged at all.