Top Ten Tuesday: 2021 Releases I Was Excited to Read But Didn’t Get To

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.

Previous Top Ten Tuesday Topics

This week’s topic is one full of regret: those books we wanted to read, that we were excited for, but for whatever reason didn’t get around to. For me, as a very mood reader, I don’t always plan my reading, and for some reason there aren’t many series that I am reading at the moment. But I do try to follow a few book prize lists. So this week, we will be looking at books that I wanted to read from those long- and shortlists but didn’t get to. Which just means that they migrate to my tbr list for this year, so not many regrets!

The List

The Booker Prize 2021

The Promise, Damon Galgut

The Promise charts the crash and burn of a white South African family, living on a farm outside Pretoria. The Swarts are gathering for Ma’s funeral. The younger generation, Anton and Amor, detest everything the family stand for – not least the failed promise to the Black woman who has worked for them her whole life. After years of service, Salome was promised her own house, her own land… yet somehow, as each decade passes, that promise remains unfulfilled.

In this story of a diminished family, sharp and tender emotional truths hit home. Confident, deft and quietly powerful, The Promise is literary fiction at its finest.

I mean, this was the winning novel! But it is one that I keep procrastinating about for some reason.

Great Circle, Maggie Shipstead

From her days as a wild child in prohibition America to the blitz and glitz of wartime London, from the rugged shores of New Zealand to a lonely iceshelf in Antarctica, Marian Graves is driven by a need for freedom and danger.

Determined to live an independent life, she resists the pull of her childhood sweetheart, and burns her way through a suite of glamorous lovers. But it is an obsession with flight that consumes her most.

Now, as she is about to fulfil her greatest ambition, to circumnavigate the globe from pole to pole, Marian crash lands in a perilous wilderness of ice.

Over half a century later, troubled film star Hadley Baxter is drawn inexorably to play the enigmatic pilot on screen. It is a role that will lead her to an unexpected discovery, throwing fresh and spellbinding light on the story of the unknowable Marian Graves.

This one sounds great but it is a long beast! Currently waiting beside the bed…

An Island, Karen Jennings

 Elleke Boehmer Samuel has lived alone for a long time; one morning he finds the sea has brought someone to offer companionship and to threaten his solitude…

A young refugee washes up unconscious on the beach of a small island inhabited by no one but Samuel, an old lighthouse keeper. Unsettled, Samuel is soon swept up in memories of his former life on the mainland: a life that saw his country suffer under colonisers, then fight for independence, only to fall under the rule of a cruel dictator; and he recalls his own part in its history. In this new man’s presence he begins to consider, as he did in his youth, what is meant by land and to whom it should belong. To what lengths will a person go in order to ensure that what is theirs will not be taken from them? A novel about guilt and fear, friendship and rejection; about the meaning of home.

The Women’s Prize 2021

The Vanishing Half, Brit Bennett

The Vignes twin sisters will always be identical. But after growing up together in a small, southern black community and running away at age sixteen, it’s not just the shape of their daily lives that is different as adults, it’s everything: their families, their communities, their racial identities. Ten years later, one sister lives with her black daughter in the same southern town she once tried to escape. The other secretly passes for white, and her white husband knows nothing of her past. Still, even separated by so many miles and just as many lies, the fates of the twins remain intertwined. What will happen to the next generation, when their own daughters’ story lines intersect?

Weaving together multiple strands and generations of this family, from the Deep South to California, from the 1950s to the 1990s, Brit Bennett produces a story that is at once a riveting, emotional family story and a brilliant exploration of the American history of passingLooking well beyond issues of race, The Vanishing Half considers the lasting influence of the past as it shapes a person’s decisions, desires, and expectations, and explores some of the multiple reasons and realms in which people sometimes feel pulled to live as something other than their origins.

I have tried to start this a couple of times but have never felt quite in the right mood for it. I hate to say it but it feels very… American.

Unsettled Ground, Clare Fuller

When you live on the edge of society, it only takes one step to fall between the cracks.

Twins Jeanie and Julius have always been different from other people. At 51 years old, they still live with their mother, Dot, in rural isolation and poverty. Inside the walls of their old cottage they make music, and in the garden they grow (and sometimes kill) everything they need for sustenance.

But when Dot dies suddenly, threats to their livelihood start raining down. Jeanie and Julius would do anything to preserve their small sanctuary against the perils of the outside world, even as their mother’s secrets begin to unravel, putting everything they thought they knew about their lives at stake.

How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House, Cherie Jones

In Baxter’s Beach, Barbados, Lala’s grandmother Wilma tells the story of the one-armed sister, a cautionary tale about what happens to girls who disobey their mothers.

For Wilma, it’s the story of a wilful adventurer, who ignores the warnings of those around her, and suffers as a result.

When Lala grows up, she sees it offers hope – of life after losing a baby in the most terrible of circumstances and marrying the wrong man.

And Mira Whalen? It’s about keeping alive, trying to make sense of the fact that her husband has been murdered, and she didn’t get the chance to tell him that she loved him after all.

Hugo Awards

The City We Became, N.K. Jemisin

Five New Yorkers must band together to defend their city in the first book of a stunning new series by multi Hugo award-winning and New York Times bestselling author N. K. Jemisin.

Every city has a soul. Some are as ancient as myths, and others are as new and destructive as children. New York City? She’s got five.But every city also has a dark side. A roiling, ancient evil stirs beneath the earth, threatening to destroy the city and her five protectors unless they can come together and stop it once and for all.

Black Sun, Rebecca Roanhorse

In the holy city of Tova the winter solstice is usually a time for celebration and renewal, but this year it coincides with a solar eclipse, a rare celestial event proscribed by the Sun Priest as an unbalancing of the world.

Meanwhile, a ship launches from a distant city bound for Tova and set to arrive on the solstice. The captain of the ship, Xiala, is a disgraced Teek whose song can calm the waters around her as easily as it can warp a man’s mind. Her ship carries one passenger. Described as harmless the passenger, Serapio, is a young man, blind, scarred, and cloaked in destiny. As Xiala well knows, when a man is described as harmless, he usually ends up being a villain.

Not on Prize Lists

The Love Hypothesis, Ali Hazlewood

As a third-year Ph.D. candidate, Olive Smith doesn’t believe in lasting romantic relationships but her best friend does, and that’s what got her into this situation. Convincing Anh that Olive on her way to a happily ever after was always going to be tough, scientists require proof. So, like any self-respecting woman, Olive panics and kisses the first man she sees.

That man is none other than Adam Carlsen, a young hotshot professor and well-known ass. Which is why Olive is positively floored when he agrees to keep her charade a secret and be her fake boyfriend. But when a big science conference goes haywire and Adam surprises her again with his unyielding support (and his unyielding abs), their little experiment feels dangerously close to combustion.

This one piqued my interest when it cropped up on your various TTT lists… and it looks just fun! Echoes of The Rosie Project, perhaps?

Beautiful World, Where Are You, Sally Rooney

Alice, a novelist, meets Felix, who works in a warehouse, and asks him if he’d like to travel to Rome with her. In Dublin, her best friend Eileen is getting over a break-up and slips back into flirting with Simon, a man she has known since childhood.

Alice, Felix, Eileen and Simon are still young – but life is catching up with them. They desire each other, they delude each other, they get together, they break apart. They worry about sex and friendship and the world they live in. Are they standing in the last lighted room before the darkness, bearing witness to something? Will they find a way to believe in a beautiful world?

I read chapter one as a teaser from NetGalley… and loved it! When I feel in the right frame of mind, I am sure I will love this, too… but I’m not there yet!

The Island of Missing Trees, Elif Shafak

It is 1974 on the island of Cyprus. Two teenagers, from opposite sides of a divided land, meet at a tavern in the city they both call home. The tavern is the only place that Kostas, who is Greek and Christian, and Defne, who is Turkish and Muslim, can meet, in secret, hidden beneath the blackened beams from which hang garlands of garlic, chilli peppers and wild herbs. This is where one can find the best food in town, the best music, the best wine. But there is something else to the place: it makes one forget, even if for just a few hours, the world outside and its immoderate sorrows.

In the centre of the tavern, growing through a cavity in the roof, is a fig tree. This tree will witness their hushed, happy meetings, their silent, surreptitious departures; and the tree will be there when the war breaks out, when the capital is reduced to rubble, when the teenagers vanish and break apart.

Decades later in north London, sixteen-year-old Ada Kazantzakis has never visited the island where her parents were born. Desperate for answers, she seeks to untangle years of secrets, separation and silence. The only connection she has to the land of her ancestors is a Ficus Carica growing in the back garden of their home.

I was blown away by Shafak’s 10 minutes and 38 Seconds in This Strange World and the concept and imagery of this one looks fantastic.

Shards of Earth, Adrian Tchaikovsky

Idris has neither aged nor slept since they remade his mind in the war. And one of humanity’s heroes now scrapes by on a freelance salvage vessel, to avoid the attention of greater powers.

Eighty years ago, Earth was destroyed by an alien enemy. Many escaped, but millions more died. So mankind created enhanced humans ­such as Idris – who could communicate mind-to-mind with our aggressors. Then these ‘Architects’ simply disappeared and Idris and his kind became obsolete.

Now, Idris and his crew have something strange, abandoned in space. It’s clearly the work of the Architects – but are they really returning? And if so, why? Hunted by gangsters, cults and governments, Idris and his crew race across the galaxy as they search for answers. For they now possess something of incalculable value, and many would kill to obtain it.

I guess I am waiting for more time to devote to entire worlds and new species… though that is probably one of those things that you can wait for for ever!

Ariadne, Jennifer Saint

As Princesses of Crete and daughters of the fearsome King Minos, Ariadne and her sister Phaedra grow up hearing the hoofbeats and bellows of the Minotaur echo from the Labyrinth beneath the palace. The Minotaur – Minos’s greatest shame and Ariadne’s brother – demands blood every year.

When Theseus, Prince of Athens, arrives in Crete as a sacrifice to the beast, Ariadne falls in love with him. But helping Theseus kill the monster means betraying her family and country, and Ariadne knows only too well that in a world ruled by mercurial gods – drawing their attention can cost you everything.

In a world where women are nothing more than the pawns of powerful men, will Ariadne’s decision to betray Crete for Theseus ensure her happy ending? Or will she find herself sacrificed for her lover’s ambition?

I really should read this one soon, as I have her next queued up on my Kindle from NetGalley!

The Last House on Needless Street, Catriona Ward

This is the story of a murderer. A stolen child. Revenge. This is the story of Ted, who lives with his young daughter Lauren and his cat Olivia in an ordinary house at the end of an ordinary street.

All these things are true. And yet some of them are lies. An unspeakable secret binds the family together, and when a new neighbour moves in next door, the truth may destroy them all. Because there’s something buried in the dark forest at the end of Needless Street. But it’s not what you think…

The Living Sea of Waking Dreams, Richard Flanagan

In a world of perennial fire and growing extinctions, Anna’s aged mother is dying―if her three children would just allow it. Condemned by their pity to living she increasingly escapes through her hospital window into visions of horror and delight.

When Anna’s finger vanishes and a few months later her knee disappears, Anna too feels the pull of the window. She begins to see that all around her others are similarly vanishing, but no one else notices. All Anna can do is keep her mother alive. But the window keeps opening wider, taking Anna and the reader ever deeper into a strangely beautiful novel about hope and love and orange-bellied parrots.

What a title! Even without more, that was enough to get me excited! And the disappearing body parts… sign me up. I have no idea why I have not read this yet!



I could have added so many more as well, but these are probably the novels that I was most excited for but never got around to reading last year. And I am delighted to have had the chance to remind myself of why I was excited and to re-kindle that enthusiasm to pick them up again now!

Let me know in the comments what you would recommend!


Upcoming Top Ten Tuesday Themes

  • January 25: New-to-Me Authors I Discovered in 2021
  • February 1: Books with Character Names In the Titles (Submitted by BookLoversBlog and Lucy @ Bookworm Blogger)
  • February 8: Love Freebie (come up with your own topic having to do with love)
  • February 15: Books Too Good to Review Properly (I have no words!) (Submitted by Dedra @ A Book Wanderer)
  • February 22: Dynamic Duos (Submitted by Elley @ Elley the Book Otter)

26 thoughts on “Top Ten Tuesday: 2021 Releases I Was Excited to Read But Didn’t Get To”

  1. Great list! I absolutely loved The Love Hypothesis and Shards of Earth! Can’t wait to read a few others on here and I also had Beautiful World on my TTT today. I hope you enjoy all of these whenever you get to them! 😊

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I loved Unsettled Ground. It was one of my favourite books of 2021 and I enjoyed The Vanishing Half as well (it was book club pick). I have How The One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House on my list too. The title is fantastic and I love a Caribbean setting.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I see that you have several award winners on your list. I, too, like to read award books feeling that someone who knows more about literature than me has already vetted it and can attest for its fine qualities. It doesn’t always work. Sometimes award books about just odd or quirky and I don’t understand the motivations of the author at all.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I was very disappointed in “The Vanishing Half.” It started out with promise, then meandered and lost its way. The only reason I kept reading was that it was for Book Club and I wanted to be able to discuss it intelligently.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Yes, lots of regret I didn’t get to many books last year I would have liked to, including several on your list. Ariadne and The Vanishing Half included. I have been eyeing my copy of Black Sun and will definitely be fitting that in to read at some point. I hope you get to all of these and enjoy them!

    Liked by 1 person

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