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The Best Non-Fiction Books to Look Forward to in 2021

Posted on 28th December 2020 by Mark Skinner

A new year requires a brand new 'to be read' pile and, if you are a lover of non-fiction, this is where we can really help. Covering everything from climate change to vegan cookery and World War II to Francis Bacon, here is our pick of the non-fiction highlights of 2021.

 

Biography

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Merging new poems with nurses’ medical diaries and his own reflections, this intensely powerful account of the beloved poet’s desperate struggle with Covid-19 is a resounding tribute to the NHS and the human spirit.

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The indie pop icon and bestselling author of Bedsit Disco Queen and Another Planet gifts the reader with a window into her friendship with Go-Betweens drummer Lindy Morrison in this characteristically witty and affectionate volume.
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Emotionally charged yet clear-sighted and reflective, the Reverend Richard Coles's account of grief in the wake of his partner’s sudden death provides much comfort and profound insight into the nature of life, death, religion and community.
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Exploring both mental and physical empowerment, Stronger is an inspiring blend of memoir and manifesto, shaking off long-held, mistaken ideas about women and strength.
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£30.00 £26.99
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Written with access to Bacon’s letters and papers and drawing from extensive new research material, this definitive new biography paints an unforgettable picture of one of the twentieth century’s most extraordinary artists.
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£25.00
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Illuminating the glitterati of the post-war world from Princess Margaret to Grace Kelly, these extracts from Vickers’s diaries from his years spent researching his former employer, the notorious photographer Cecil Beaton, are a wickedly indulgent immersion in a now vanished world.
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£25.00 £21.99
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The author of the groundbreaking Londoners transplants his distinctive brand of oral history to the Big Apple, and a series of wonderfully revealing portraits of New York during a troubled twenty-first century.
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By turns shocking, inspiring and deeply moving, Coker Burks account of caring for men with HIV and AIDS in conservative 1980s America affirms the ignorance and prejudice with which the condition was treated and the courage and determination displayed by those willing to defy the strictures of authority.

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Equally riveting and heartbreaking, The Secret Life of Dorothy Soames charts one woman’s journey as she traces her origins back to London’s Foundling Hospital and discovers the story of her birth mother.
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Tracing the astonishing lives of the author’s mother and two aunts, How to Be a Refugee illuminates an element of the Holocaust seldom discussed – the individual’s suppression of Jewish heritage in order to evade the Nazi genocide.
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£18.99
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An incisive and deeply moving meditation on identity and belonging, Lawton’s memoir fearlessly seeks answers to questions that are both highly personal and acutely political.
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The definitive life of the profoundly influential early-Georgian satirist, Hogarth paints a vivacious portrait of a complex, larger-than-life figure and the bustling, corrupt and degenerate London that he so savagely documented.
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Food & Drink

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Pioneering and endlessly inventive, the award-winning Anna Jones is one of the nation’s most respected cooks and, in the sleek, gorgeously produced One, she provides a broad range of exotic global cuisine, all vegetarian and vegan, geared to minimise waste and maximise taste.

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Making the most of Asia’s rich heritage of meat-free cuisine, Ching-He Huang provides a mouthwatering selection of vegan dishes from the continent, from Peking mushroom pancakes to Chinese black bean seitan tacos.
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The global love affair with the Italian delicatessen is explored with passion and authority by world-renowned chef Theo Randall, in this sumptuously produced and illustrated volume.
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£17.99
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The bestselling author of the Roasting Tin series turns her attention to summer cooking vegetarian-style with this accessible book of delicious plant-based recipes, perfect for the barbecue.
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History

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The master historian of the Second World War produces another nail-biting volume that reads with the pace and style of fiction, this time spotlighting the brutal battle of attrition that secured Malta’s survival.

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With his customary swashbuckling elan, Jones embarks upon a thunderous new history of the Middle Ages that thrillingly chronicles the tensions between East and West that shaped the modern world.
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An urgent, incisive account of how the depredations of its imperial past dog Britain’s view of itself today, Empireland is provocative, meticulously researched writing of the highest order.
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The bestselling author of The Hare with Amber Eyes paints a fascinating portrait of the eminent French art collector Count Moise de Camondo and sheds light on the hitherto hidden layers of his family history.
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Through the prism of the famous Innsbruck Café Schindler, this immersive slice of family history unspools a compelling panorama of Europe in the first half of the twentieth century and the oft neglected fate of Austria-Hungary’s Jewish population.
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£35.00
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From the author of The Medici comes a rigorously researched and absorbingly chronicled study of the all-powerful dynastic rulers and patrons of the arts in Renaissance Italy.
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Subtly devastating in it’s clear-headed and measured approach, Smith’s moving travelogue visits seven iconic US buildings constructed by enslaved Black labour and forces the current generation to acknowledge the hidden legacy of slavery.
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Politics

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Ten hotspots for the future of geopolitics explored with clarity and wit in this cogently argued volume from the foreign affairs journalist and author of Prisoners of Geography and Worth Dying For.

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Former CIA analyst and North Korea expert Jung H. Pak lifts the lid on one of the most enigmatic and tyrannical leaders of our time in this piercing study of power, personality and propaganda.
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Provocative but informed, Eyal’s penetrating dissection of the iniquities of globalisation draws in lessons from both past and present to deliver a compelling argument against hollow institutions and the arrogance of political elites.
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As gripping as a thriller, We Are Bellingcat tells the incredible true story of the innovative practitioners of open-source intelligence and how they’ve helped to uncover some of the biggest stories of our day.
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A bold and provocative look at white male power from the New York Times number one bestselling author of So You Want to Talk About Race.
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£14.99
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Fenton’s meticulous and astounding reportage unravels the full story of Baltimore’s infamous Gun Trace Task Force and the shocking depths of systemic corruption within which it operated.
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Popular Science 

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An antidote to the gloomier forecasts of impending climate disaster, Bill Gates's sprightly and infectiously proactive book offers practicable, sustainable solutions to reversing global climate change.
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£25.00
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Collating Dawkins’s pieces on great science writers and the theories that they espouse, Books Do Furnish a Life is a masterful compendium of lightly-worn learning and confirmation of the author’s remarkable insight.
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Tracing the vexed history of attitudes to women’s health from witch trials and Hysteria to the present day, Cleghorn’s volume demystifies a wealth of misdiagnoses from male physicians and psychiatrists.
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Fortey’s immense knowledge and sparkling prose bring to life the history of four billion years of evolution, as well as offering a fascinating glimpse into the formative years of a great scientist.
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Approaching the creation of the universe from a fresh and fascinating angle, CERN physicist Tonelli traces seven cosmological epochs and the development of competing historical theories about how everything first began.
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Nature

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A brilliantly accomplished mix of powerful memoir and revelatory nature writing, Sethi’s account of finding solace in the Northern countryside following a traumatic racial attack is a defiant act of reclamation and an astonishing piece of testimony.
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£19.99
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The author of The Hidden Life of Trees expounds on humanity’s profound bonds with the natural world in this informed yet highly accessible guide to the flora and fauna all around us.
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A breathtaking blend of history, nature writing and memoir, Thin Places is a moving account of growing up in Derry during the Troubles, and a meditation on the healing beauty of nature.
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From the author of the acclaimed Extraordinary Insects comes a fascinating investigation into humanity’s relationship with the natural world and the myriad ways that flora and fauna help to sustain human life.
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Sport

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One of the most unconventional footballers of the pre-Premier League age, Pat Nevin delivers a characteristically thoughtful and eloquent memoir of a future ordained by ability rather than intention.

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The Jamaican commentator and former cricketer expands on the game-changing distillation of the Black Lives Matter movement that he delivered live on air, in this powerful, eloquent work which combines Holding’s own testimony about racial abuse with thoughtful interviews from across the world of sport.
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