We sat down the most prolific readers we know: Exberliner books editor, Alexander Wells, and with culture journalist and critic Eve Lucas and got them to share their top 10 best books of 2021.
My Top 10 Books – Alexander Wells
- No One Is Talking About This Patricia Lockwood. More than an “internet novel”, this experimental treatment of the online (American) mind is hilarious, word-drunk and surprisingly moving.
- Harlem Shuffle Colson Whitehead. A genuinely suspenseful heist story with a retro Harlem setting, enriched with social and psychological insight. What’s not to like?
- Before the Ruins Victoria Gosling. This full-length fiction debut from a fixture of Berlin’s lit scene is gripping, tender, and perfectly paced.
- Ghosts Edith Wharton. A fine collection of spooky tales by one of the 20th century’s top prose stylists. Spoiler: the monster’s inside us.
- In Memory of Memory Maria Stepanova. (Trans. Sasha Dugdale). Russia’s rising star delivers with this genre-bending work about her family history, modern art, social media, oblivion – and more.
- Love in Five Acts Daniela Krien. (Trans. Jamie Bulloch). A thoughtful literary exploration of gender, love and friendship in contemporary Germany, artfully composed from five different women’s perspectives
- The Passenger Ulrich Alexander Boschwitz. (Trans. Phillip Boehm) One of the year’s great rediscoveries was this harrowing 1938 novel about a Jewish Berliner on the run after Kristallnacht.
- The Dead Girls’ Class Trip Anna Seghers. (Trans. Margot Bettauer Dembo). Legendary Berliner*in, Seghers demonstrates the depth of her humanism and creativity in this 1925-1965 prose collection.
- Aftermath Harald Jähner. (Trans. Shaun Whiteside) A colourful and nuanced portrait of (West) Germany’s rise from the moral and physical rubble after WW2.
- Land Simon Winchester. Mixing travelogue, history and personal reflection, this sprawling exploration of global land ownership is skilfully woven – and utterly timely
My Top 10 Books – Eve Lucas
- The Promise Damon Galgut. For history infused with irony and slapstick, this South African tale of false promises—and blasted lives—fascinates and amuses.
- A Passage North Anuk Arudpragasam. Invokes and upends E.M. Forster in a searing exploration of desire, satisfaction and memory post Sri Lankan civil war.
- How Beautiful We Were Imbolo Mbue. Pits African village life against the corporate interests of a US oil giant. Timely, compelling and yes, nuanced story-telling.
- Two Besides: A Pair of Talking Heads Alan Bennett. Two more monologues that revisit precarious lives tee- tering on the volcano’s edge of middle-class despair.
- The Lamplighters Emma Stonex. A (non-)whodunnit that delves into the elemental forces without and within as three lighthouse-keepers mysteriously disappear.
- Field Work: What Land Does to People & What People Do to Land Bella Bathurst. Shines a light into the lives of farmers, knackermen and butchers et al. If you eat, you should read this.
- Aftershocks Nadia Owusu. An unfiltered memoir of an African-American childhood and barely-survived adolescence that crosses generational and continental divides.
- Real Estate Deborah Levy. Volume 3 of an autobiography celebrating the conscious act of writing as a panacea for all forms of loss.
- Dark, Salt, Clear: Life in a Cornish Fishing Town Lamorna Ash. Takes a debut writer back to her roots and an exploration of extreme life-choices.
- Memory Rose Into Threshold Speech: The Collected Earlier Poetry Paul Celan. (Trans. Pierre Boris)—A navigational aid through the lyrical tripwires of a 20th century icon.