Best of 2021
What books, movies, and music have you loved this year?
Bringing together the best of 2021 – from the picks of our staff and customers, to Best of the year lists published by magazines, newspapers and booksellers. Have your say!
The best of homegrown titles for 2021.
Best New Zealand reads
Donna's best read of 2021
Crying in H Mart: A memoir by Michelle Zauner
I am a fan of Japanese Breakfast's music. And now of her writing. Am still reeling after reading Crying in H Mart. It made me feel so much; I bawled myself silly. It's overwhelming. What a gift to share your truth like this. Book of the Year!
Jesse's best read of 2021
Beautiful world, where are you by Sally Rooney
Rooney's latest novel tells the story of Alice, a novelist; as well as Felix, Eileen, and Simon. The themes cover relationships, existentialism, friendship, social class and climate change. "Beautiful world, where are you?" is the question that the characters grapple with; their struggles to figure out how they should live in a world that has become increasingly unviable in many ways - ethically, economically, ecologically, and even emotionally. A complex and divine novel that feels more mature than Rooney's previous work. Pick this one up ASAP if you haven't already.
Jane's best read of 2021
Sorrow and bliss by Meg Mason
Martha is very unwell, she is often in the depths of depression, she is destructive, angry, defeated at times, can’t hold down a job and pushes most people away. But, she is funny. She is charismatic, she is loved, but she can’t see much beyond the end of her nose. The whole book creates a roller coaster of emotions, fast falling frustration to an ascent of understanding and compassion only to tumble over the top into annoyance and dislike. Slowly understanding and health starts to appear, but nothing is straightforward, the dark becomes funny and the funny becomes painfully uncomfortable.
Library selectors choose the best titles from 2021 for children, with fiction for preschoolers, to beginner readers and older children, picture books and graphic novels, as well as non-fiction titles about science, nature, art, and more.
Best of lists for kids
Your 2021 favourites!
- Felicite won a copy of Lockdown: Tales from Aotearoa
- Charlotte won a copy of Year's Best: Aotearoa New Zealand Science Fiction and Fantasy Volume III
Read all the submissions and favourites from 2021 below.
Adrianne's best reads
I'm Still Here: Black Dignity in A World Made for Whiteness by Austin Channing Brown
An eye opening account of a black women growing up in white America. The accounts give the reader examples of how our desire to embrace diversity often falls short and what to do about it.
In Bloom by Clare Nolan
Beautiful photos and plenty of detail to make growing flowers at home do able. References to growing seasons are in seasons rather than months, which is helpful when in NZ.
Adam's best read
After the Tampa by Abbas Nazari
Extraordinary tale that detailed the first-hand experience of a refugee fleeing his homeland. Provides an experience which allows for an understanding of what those who are currently fleeing the Middle East are living through.
Barbara S's best read
No. 1 ladies detective agency series by Alexander McCall Smith
Precious Ramotswe, traditionally built, a wise and perceptive judge of character and an expert listener, is the founder of the detective agency. She is happily married to Mr J.L.B. Matekoni, owner of the garage next door, and is colleague and boss of Grace Makutsi, who considers herself an associate detective of equal standing. These characters are portrayed with great skill and humour in a delightful laid-back style. For example, when someone is referred to as having passed away, they are described as 'late'. So 'Don't cross the road without looking, or you may become late.'
In the mid-1970s my husband and I spent three and a half years in Africa at a mission station. So the wide expanse of Botswana sky and the typical changing seasons of Africa are very reminiscent of our time there. You can taste the dust, smell the wind that blows in from the Kalahari Desert and feel the blazing heat that beats down upon the characters.
Ursula's best read
Woman with the iceberg eyes: Oriana F. Wilson by Katherine Mcinnes
It was a really fascinating read. I am a polar historian and I was intrigued by the way the author has captured the time, background, and circumstances of a polar hero's wife/widow. The story of the women around the explorers is often overlooked and this book helps to highlight one of these fantastic women.
Frances's best of 2021
All of these artists used their medium to make me feel emotions I rarely experience.
Fave book: We have always lived in the castle by Shirley Jackson - extreme anger and disbelief
Fave movie: The killing of two lovers - super uncomfortable and on edge
Fave album: Leave love out of this by Anthonie Tonnon - awe and inspiration
Fave TV show: Squid Game - anxiety and fear
Geoffrey E's best reads
To the River: A Journey Beneath the Surface by Olivia Laing
"To the River" is a beautifully written account of the authors exploration of the River Ouse.
"Tea with Hitler" is a historical revelation.
Dinner With Lenny: The Last Long Interview With Leonard Bernstein by Jonathan Cott
"Dinner With Lennie" is pure delight: two men of artistic substance talking over dinner for hours, dissecting theirs and others art.
Tim B's best reads and music
Believe in Magic: 30 Years of Heavenly Recordings by Robin Turner
Awesome retrospective of acid house/Madchester/Brit Pop era. Great writing and graphic design to boot.
Tenement Kid by Bobby Gillespie
Primal Scream frontman's autobiography. An interesting insight into 80s/early 90s indie music that stops with the release of the classic album 'Screamadelica'
Liberation Through Hearing by Richard Russell
XL Records boss talks covers how his record label went from the early 90s hardcore scene went from discovering The Prodigy to discovering Adele. A hard to put down.
Sound Ancestors by Madlib
Madlib teams up with Four Tet. This is the perfect album for short attention spans!
Mordechai (Remixes) LP by Khruangbin
Excellent set of remixes of their 2020 album release
Holiday (Single Release) by Confidence Man
A complete contrast to the doom and gloom of 2021. A 4 minute party!
Soft Energy (Single Release) by Mermaidens
Best New Zealand track I've heard this year.
Wine EP by Soul Mass Transit System
Amazing bassline house/garage release from the UK. Sounds like 1998 all over again!
Flock by Jane Weaver
If Stereolab and Stevie Nicks ever made a record together this is what it might sound like.
Curb Your Enthusiasm, Season 11.
Larry David is back from lockdown - and this is some of his best writing to date.
Pam's bests of 2021
Book: The real Antony Fauci by Robert F. Kennedy, jr.
Reveals the truth and corruption about the pharmaceutical industry
TV: Money Heist (Netflix)
Psychologically clever with also a lot of action and drama.
2021 best book lists
- NZ Listener Best 100 Books of 2021
- Best books 2021 Academy of New Zealand Literature Te Whare Mātātuhi o Aotearoa
- Otago Daily Times’ book reviewers top 10
- Top 100 booklists Auckland Libraries
- The best novels of 2021 [NZ] ReadingRoom
- The year's 10 best books of non-fiction [NZ] ReadingRoom
- The year's best illustrated books [NZ] ReadingRoom
- The best kids books of 2021 [NZ] ReadingRoom
- Your Weekend's best books of 2021
- Whitcoull's Top 100