The Best of 2021 – Part 1

Possible Christmas Gift Ideas

Somehow it’s December again and we’re all contemplating the joy of seeing our families and friends once more for the festive season (that is if Boris doesn’t cancel everything again at the last minute). So for now let’s just pretend everything will go according to plan and that we can go home, eat far too much food and collectively not laugh at terrible cracker jokes. But December doesn’t just mean Christmas, it means the end of another year and time to reflect. So here’s a little list of my favourite reads from the year, that, if you choose to, can also be used as a little Christmas gift guide for your book-loving acquaintances.

Me and White Supremacy by Layla F. Saad

This book made me face some uncomfortable truths about my subconscious and conscious thoughts on race. I, like many others, want to believe that I am a good person and not part of the problem, but Saad made me realise that this is a major part of the problem. Anti-racism is not about me and it’s not a job that will ever be done, it’s not a list of books you can tick off but a constant effort to counter the anti-racist nature of our society. Saad does an amazing job of turning a hugely complex subject into daily reflections that are easy to follow if hard to face.

At first glance, you might not consider this a giftable book due to the serious nature of its content and the fact that by gifting it you are essentially saying that the receiver needs to re-review their relationship with race, but that’s the point! We all need to reassess how we talk, think and act regarding race. Basically, the more people that read this book the better. It may be uncomfortable to have open conversations with your family and friends about this topic, but giving them this book to start with may be a great gateway to future discussions.

Buy it here
And for younger readers, there is now a YA edition

A Life on Our Planet by David Attenborough

Attenborough lays out the facts on climate change in easy to understand irrefutable chapters, discussing land, sea and air, what we’re doing wrong, but more importantly how there is still hope. The climate crisis is one of the biggest issues, if not the biggest, we currently face and we are running out of time, this book is a great introduction to the science around climate change and a reminder of what we are fighting for. Reading A Life on Our Planet had a significant impact on my life. After watching the documentary and reading Attenborough’s deeper arguments I couldn’t ignore the fact that there was something very simple in my life that I could change for the benefit of the planet. I have drastically cut down the amount of meat I eat and essentially now only eat it when I go out for dinner (but not every time).

Ideal for nature-loving book readers, but also for anyone that has ever enjoyed a David Attenborough documentary, part autobiography, part criticism this is an enjoyable and highly educational read that I hope you decide to pick up.

Find it here

Natives by Akala

A fantastic combination of autobiography and polemic, in Natives Akala breaks down all of the stereotypical arguments casual racists use to defend themselves and attack POC. The type of comments you know in your heart are wrong but aren’t always quite sure how to confront. His use of statistics and personal anecdotes beautifully compliment each other, making his writing not only easy to understand but incredibly memorable.

A clear choice for fans of Akala and his music, but there are also plenty of sporting and political references in here that I thought my dad would appreciate too, so by no means a book only for the younger generation.

Get your copy here

The Light Fantastic by Terry Pratchett

The second of the Discworld series, The Light Fantastic is wonderfully funny, charming and odd all at the same time. I completely lost myself within the world and was overjoyed to be immersed once again in the magical mystery of Pratchett’s mind.

Part two in a series probably isn’t the best gift, so if they haven’t read any Discworld maybe go back to The Colour of Magic or try any other of the many wonderful works that Pratchett has written.

Explore Pratchett’s collection here

This is Going to Hurt by Adam Kay

Laugh out loud funny, Kay’s diary entries as a Junior Doctor are some of the most bizarre, disgusting and hilarious anecdotes I’ve ever read. Whilst reading, I would constantly interrupt my partner to repeat aloud what I had just read, mostly to a response of laughter but occasionally horror. The book also has a serious message about the stress that our health care system is under and does an excellent job of giving the reader an insight into the life of those that work every day to keep us alive.

Excellent for fans of comedy and the slightly gross as it will undoubtedly make them laugh and wince at the same time! However, I would not recommend you buy this for anyone who is pregnant as the majority of the stories are about giving birth, Kay was an Obs and Gynae doctor, and probably won’t give a mother to be a lot of comfort.

Click here to get yourself a copy

Noughts & Crosses by Malorie Blackman

I came to Noughts and Crosses a lot later than everyone else and after reading it I can certainly see why it has been so popular all these years. Blackman flips the switch on race in a dystopian world where POC are the ruling class and white people are treated as second class citizens. She eloquently highlights all of the injustices we as white people don’t seem to be able to recognise through our white gaze in a wonderfully written YA novel that is exciting and surprising.

A great pick for teenagers and adults who love YA dystopia and for newfound fans following the TV series released last year. Plus if they really like it you’ll have four more Christmases sorted with the rest of the series.

Start the series here

They Called Us Enemy by George Takei

Japanese internment is not a period of history that I knew a great deal about before picking up this graphic novel. Originally I bought They Called Us Enemy for my partner as a present. After he read it and raved about it I couldn’t not read it myself. As a history student, I was made to study the world wars over and over again, so I was incredibly surprised when I realised we had never covered the atrocities that happened to Japanese Americans during WWII. This graphic novel is beautifully illustrated and filled with heart and emotion. You have the advantage of seeing both through George’s eyes as a child and also his retrospective views of what happened, making the story wonderfully well rounded and reflective.

If you know any Star Trek fans then this is an easy choice, but equally, this book would be great for history lovers like me and graphic novel enthusiasts looking for less of the supernatural and more of a human feel.

Pick up yours here

If you found this little guide useful keep a lookout for part 2 in the next few days. I’d love to hear if you decide to pick up any of these, for yourself or as presents, or if you’ve already read them let me know what you thought.

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