It’s a brand-new year and while certain elements are unfortunately familiar (such as the four walls of our living rooms), there is still plenty to be excited about. The coming spring, viable vaccines, and some truly incredible books are at the top of our list. To quote Oprah, “for the price of a book, you get to explore the world, be intrigued by new people, be fascinated by new ideas, be dazzled, held in suspense, thrilled.” It sounds like exactly what we’ve been craving.

Below is our list of must-reads for the new year.

From the River to the Sea: Aquitaine, A Place for Me by Basia Gordon

“It’s not really about the house, it’s about the people who spent time with us there, who mean so much to me,” says Basia, “My grandfather, who walked across Siberia to escape during the war; my family, my friends – all of their stories are there too.

Be swept around the world by Basia’s joie de vivre, from Glasgow to Poland, the Great Wall of China and of course Aquitaine, France with other travels peppered throughout. This memoir is essentially about a couple’s journey restoring an old family farmhouse in rural France on a shoestring budget, but trust us it’s so much more than just that! A true memoir of life being well lived – with ups and downs, politics, humour & tragedy but always on with a light-hearted note.

Our Sahara community might recognise the author’s name from our ‘Let’s Talk’ Facebook group. We wish her all the best on her debut and can’t recommend it enough.

The Neapolitan Novels by Elena Ferrante

Chronicling the journey of two girls, Elena and Lila, author Elena Ferrante captures Naples in the ’50s. Experience the sights and sounds of the vibrant Italian backdrop alongside the ebb and flow of two lives intertwined by friendship. The best thing about it? There are four novels in the series. Each book documents one gripping phase of their lives.

People Like Her by Ellery Lloyd 

We’ve all heard of mommy bloggers. Whether on the periphery of your awareness or something you follow closely, there’s an underbelly to the phenomenon that hadn’t been explored until this book by Ellery Lloyd. Her main character, Emmy Jackson, is popular online. So popular, that she continues to bend the truth of her modern parenting life to protect her following. The trouble is that someone knows she’s lying. Discover this thrilling take on the world of influencers and social media.

East by Meera Sodha 

Vegetarian and vegan food that really delivers on complex flavours can be challenging to make at home. Enter East by Meera Sodha. This stunning book details recipes inspired by Asian cuisine from countries such as Japan, India, China, Thailand and Vietnam. The delicious, perfectly spiced and complex flavours will lead to many repeat dishes.

Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts 

A classic epic, Shantaram follows Lin, an escaped convict with forged documents who has fled a maximum-security prison in Australia. He’s looking to disappear, and the slums of Bombay are the perfect place to do it. Richly detailed and wonderfully immersive, this book is a cultural touchstone you won’t be able to put down.

Open Water by Caleb Azumah Nelson 

What better way to chase away the lockdown ennui than with this beautiful love story? To set the scene, two Black British artists meet at a pub in south-east London. The novel follows their creative journeys, their experience of race and masculinity, and the inevitable challenges that threaten their relationship. Caleb Azumah Nelson’s debut novel is touching and honest.

Milk Blood Heat by Dantiel W. Moniz 

Comprised of eleven stories of life and how it’s lived in northern Florida, Dantiel Moniz’z debut collection is eclectic, considered, and uncompromising. Each Sunshine State story is unique, though they all deal with vital human themes of death, friendship, love, family, and womanhood.