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Most anticipated titles of 2021
Photograph: Kashmira Kasmuri

15 new books we're excited to read in 2021

Clear a space on your bookshelves for some of the most anticipated releases of the year

Cheryl Sekkappan
Written by
Cheryl Sekkappan

There is a bumper crop of amazing new books in 2021, spanning comedy of manners trans fiction, soft sci-fi from heavyweight Kazuo Ishiguro, and even a handy roadmap to avoid climate catastrophe. We spoke to a handful of local indie bookstore owners and publishers to get their most anticipated books of the year, and sussed out more titles for you to add to your reading list.  

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Insider picks

Raffles Renounced

Edited by Alfian Sa'at, Faris Joraimi and Sai Siew Min

"Raffles Renounced is as reformative as its title gets. Edited by Alfian Sa'at, Faris Joraimi and Sai Siew Min, it aims to deconstruct myths about Singapore and interrogate the power play at work within our history books. As Ethos' first title for 2021, it's our clarion call to readers and Singaporeans alike to decolonize the mind – and then, we may start to see and do things in refreshing, freer ways." – Suning K., Editorial Manager, Ethos Books

Order at Ethos Books, BooksActually and Littered with Books


By Jhumpa Lahiri, expected April 27

"Whereabouts by Jhumpha Lahiri is my choice for most anticipated title of 2021.  Following her sojourn in Italy, brilliantly captured in In Other Words, Whereabouts is another first for this Pulitzer Prize winner. Written in Italian and translated to English, the author brings readers through an introspective of the character’s life over the span of a year.  The title promises a layered and illuminating introspective against the changing seasons in an Italian city.  The creative process shares equal, if not more praise, than the product.  The title will surely exceed on both counts and more." – Sheela Moorthy, Founder, Littered with Books

Order at Littered with Books and Amazon


Ulirát: Best Contemporary Stories in Translation from the Philippines

Edited by Tilde Acuña, John Bengan, Daryll Delgado, Amado Anthony G. Mendoza III, and Kristine Ong Muslim, expected in early March 

It's impossible for us to choose just one book. We have three! Ulirát: Best Contemporary Stories in Translation from the Philippines is a ground-breaking anthology of stories translated from seven languages from the Philippines, to be released in March. This is a project of love and justice as it brings marginalised languages and literature from the country to the forefront of international attention.

We also recommend Object Permanence by Filipina poet Nica Bengzon, selected by Singaporean poet Cyril Wong for our third Gaudy Boy Poetry Book Prize. And, finally, we have the great honour of publishing a Singaporean edition of Monique Truong's The Sweetest Fruits in June." – Jee Leong Koh, Publisher and Editor-in-Chief, Gaudy Boy of Singapore Unbound

Order at Gaudy Boy

More 2021 releases

The Flesh Hunters

By Jocelyn Suarez, now available

Fans of murder mysteries can expect plenty of thrills and spills in The Flesh Hunters, which includes a series of killings by a suspected Hunter, a bloodthirsty hybrid between man and animal with a predilection for human flesh. We follow forensic psychologist Walter Kirino who goes on the serial killer's trail, and along the way is forced to explore the question: where is the line between Hunter and human? Jocelyn Suarez tells us more about the The Flesh Hunters and the fascinating local folklore that informs her work

Buy at Epigram Books

The Keepers of Stories

By Suffian Hakim, now available

From the bestselling author of Harris bin Potter and the Stoned Philosopher, this new book by Suffian Hakim follows two siblings who come across Anak Bumi, a group of people who practise a storytelling ritual that invokes – as Suffian puts it – “the spirits of the land". Dive into the strange and mysterious world of local folklore, a far cry from the hyper-modernity we are used to today. Read more about the inspiration behind The Keepers of Stories in our interview with Suffian

Buy at Epigram Books


Detransition, Baby

By Torrey Peters, now available

Detransition, Baby dives into the tangled relations of Reese, Amy (now detransitioned to Ames), and Katrina, who are thrown together by an unexpected pregnancy. From the author of vengeful, queer apocalyptic novella Infect Your Friends and Loved Ones and dark transgender erotica The Masker, this debut novel is witty, sexy, and ultimately illuminating – of our deepest desires around gender, sex and motherhood. 

Buy at Kinokuniya

We Make Spaces Divine

By Pooja Nansi, now available

What does it mean to take up space? For whom is it more acceptable to do so? In her third work We Make Spaces Divine, Pooja Nansi explores the marginalised experience but imbues it with power. The new poems touch on familiar themes of discrimination and belonging we’ve seen in previous works, particularly Stiletto Scars (2007) – with a promise to resist, renew and reclaim, and above all to “laugh in the face of those who try to stop others from taking up space”. 

Buy at BooksActually


My Year Abroad

By Chang-Rae Lee, now available

With travel restrictions still in place, you might find some relief in award-winning author Lee Chang Rae's new novel, A Year Abroad. The book focuses on a young American student, Tiller, his Chinese-American entrepreneur mentor, Pong Lou, and their rollercoaster of a trip across Asia. As with all journeys, the real destination is the self – and we witness how Tiller is unravelled and put back together by lessons of love, loss and betrayal picked up on his wild year abroad. 

Buy at BooksActuallyKinokuniya and Littered with Books

How to Avoid a Climate Disaster

By Bill Gates, now available

There's no need to introduce Bill Gates. The billionaire entrepreneur is, among other things, a voracious reader whose book lists are news events in themselves. This time he's picked up the pen for a subject close to his heart. How to Avoid a Climate Disaster is just what it sounds like – a study of our most urgent climate issues, and a practical handbook for governments, businesses and individuals to reach zero emissions and avoid outright catastrophe. This is essential reading. 

Buy at BooksActuallyKinokuniya and Littered with Books


The Committed

By Viet Thanh Nyugen, now available

In this sequel to the Pulitzer Prize winner The Sympathizer, the eponymous protagonist finds himself as a refugee in Paris, forced to peddle drugs for a Chinese gangster known as The Boss. He's haunted by his time in a Vietnamese reeducation camp, and coming apart as he grapples with competing loyalties and ideals. As the Sympathizer struggles to survive in a disorienting and at times hostile France, readers are taken on a thought-provoking journey of ideas on colonialism, racism, ideological repression and selfhood. 

Buy at Kinokuniya and Littered with Books

Klara and the Sun

By Kazuo Ishiguro, now available

Klara and the Sun is Kazuo Ishiguro’s first novel since receiving the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2017, which is a pretty big deal. Ishiguro returns to sci-fi with this new release, about an intelligent robot called Klara, who observes the comings-and-goings of humans from a store where she fervently hopes to be bought one day. If you love sci-fi, mythology, and musing on what it means to love and to be human, then this is the book for you.

Buy at BooksActuallyKinokuniya and Littered with Books 


First Person Singular: Stories

By Haruki Murakami, now available

In true Murakami fashion, First Person Singular: Stories brims with mystery, ambiguity and enchantment. Told from the perspective of a lonely man, the eight stories in this new book take a slightly more grounded approach, traversing memories from youth, love of music and baseball as well as various dreamlike scenarios. Some of the pieces have been published in literary magazines before, but fans will appreciate having these beautiful works in one place to savour and meditate upon. 

Buy at BooksActually

The Nature of Middle-Earth

By J.R.R. Tolkien, now available

It's been nearly 50 years since J.R.R. Tolkien's passing, and even longer since The Lord of the Rings was first published, yet it seems that we haven't fully plumbed Middle-earth's magic, or Tolkien's imagination. While previously unpublished works from the high fantasy epic have seen the light in The History of Middle-earth, The Children of Húrin and more, The Nature of Middle-earth will cover yet more material that is expected to settle some long-running debates among Tolkien fans. Get ready to be delighted and intrigued by the extraordinary world of Middle-earth all over again. 

Preorder at Amazon


Filthy Animals

By Brandon Taylor, now available

Scientist-turned-novelist Brandon Taylor shot into the literary consciousness with his debut novel Real Life (2020), a part-autobiographical campus novel that portrays a queer, black doctoral student in an overwhelmingly white PhD programme. In no short order, he's produced another blistering body of work in Filthy Animals. These linked short stories revolve around a group of young creatives in the American Midwest, excavating the simmering tensions between them to lay bare a picture of desire, pain and longing. 

Preorder TBA

Harlem Shuffle

By Colson Whitehead, now available

American author Colson Whitehead is the fourth – and the only Black, and living – author to have won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction twice, once for Underground Railroad in 2017 and again for The Nickel Boys in 2020. That helps a little to explain why his next book Harlem Shuffle is so hotly anticipated. Where his previous two works were wrenching tales of racism, slavery and segregation in America, this one is billed as "a playful tale of heists" set at a Harlem hotel in the 1960s. Nevertheless, expect Whitehead to explore the dynamics of race and power in this new release in the same stark and clear-eyed fashion he has before. 

Preorder at Amazon

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