Bookmarked for 2021
BENGALURU: We will soon run out of movies and OTT series to watch. Not only are we suffering from digital fatigue but Covid-19 restrictions have also dramatically curtailed their production. With more time at hand, people are reaching out for books. Despite publishers facing challenging times, writers are churning out books like there’s no tomorrow. Peeping into the pipeline, one glimpses a bumper year ahead for authors and readers alike.
So what are the book trends for 2021? The pall of 2020 gloom will continue to hover over the New Year, making apocalyptic fiction a dominant theme — the likes of the 2020 titles The Pull of the Stars by Emma Donoghue, and The Silence by Don DeLillo. In the same vein, sci-fi dystopian novels will resonate more with readers and will probably see a whole new set of readers gravitating towards this genre. I am looking forward to the next book of science fiction and fantasy author N K Jemisin who has taken the world by storm. The three books of her Broken Earth series made her the first author to win the Hugo Award for Best Novel for three consecutive years, and for all the novels of a trilogy.
George Floyd’s murder created a huge demand for books on anti-racism. We can expect many ‘minority’ authors making their debut in 2021. One of my 2020 favourites was Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Isabel Wilkerson which examines racism in the US as an aspect of the caste system.
There has been a rapid growth of my favourite genre: Narrative non-fiction. If there is one person we can trust to give us an honest, objective point of view on climate change, it can only be Bill Gates. I am looking forward to his How to Avoid a Climate Disaster in February 2021, while Jenny Offill’s Weather is an entertaining and thought-provoking read in this category. The Code Breaker by Walter Isaacson, a book on gene editing and the future of the human race, is a likely contender for a spot on the bestsellers list.
I wouldn’t be surprised if more women authors get feted (and rightly so) next year. Two highly anticipated books by women and with women forming their powerful centre are, in fiction, Jhumpa Lahiri’s Whereabouts, and in non-fiction, The Daughters of Kobani by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon. With the upcoming Georgia senate elections that could be decisive, voting rights activist and politician Stacey Abrams’ next book While Justice Sleeps will be timely.
When it comes to memoirs, the highlight of 2020 was Barack Obama’s A Promised Land. Pranab Mukherjee’s memoir, The Presidential Years, will be released in January 2021, offering a rare glimpse into the life of one of the most important and admired politicians of contemporary India.
The interest in comfort reading, self-care, and health titles will continue. In this time of social distancing, two titles most sought for in 2020 were How to Love by Thich Nhat Hanh and Big Friendship: How We Keep Each Other Close by Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman. Similar books are being promoted in the winter/spring 2021 catalogues, promising trending themes of love, healing, friendship, nature, and self-care, not to mention bread-baking (New World Sourdough by Bryan Ford and Rage Baking by Katherine Alford) and romance (Beach Read by Emily Henry).
Based on some of the publishers and booksellers I spoke to, the current buying trend reflects some optimism and hope for normalcy. Therefore I hope my own book on disability and inclusion (to be released in 2021) is uplifting and resonates with readers!