Autumn reading list 2021

Our autumn reading list 2021 celebrates authors who have broken through against the odds and made wonderful contributions to the literary world with amazing debut novels.

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Posted 27 September 2021
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Autumn reading list 2021

Getting published is no feat in an average year – let alone a year when a global pandemic forced bookshops to close and cancelled literary events. So, we wanted to shine a light on books from some of the wonderful writers who have broken through.

Open Water novel McCarthy Stone

1. OPEN WATER by Caleb Azumah

Caleb Azumah cites Zadie Smith as an inspiration and his characters even reference her in his debut novel – a book written at a time full of grief for this debut novelist, having lost three grandparents, his godfather and an aunt in the lead up to its conception. Open Water is an exciting, ambitious debut – a tender and touching love story which explores the security of love and the vulnerability triggered by violence, fear and loss. A glorious celebration of black exuberance and artistry.
Learwife McCarthy Stone

2. LEARWIFE by J. R. Thorp

An exciting new writer who gives an unforgettable voice to a woman whose absence has long been a tantalising mystery – Learwife is the mesmerising untold story of the wife of Shakespeare’s King Lear. J R Thorp provides a platform for women written out of history and is a debut novelist to look out for in years to come. Long exiled to a nunnery and mulling over her life, Learwife is a breathtaking novel of loss, renewal and how history bleeds into the present.
Moth McCarthy Stone

3. MOTH by Melody Razak

Melody Razak’s debut novel Moth has received glittering reviews from a variety of literary royalty, and we couldn’t agree more. It transports you to the heart of Partition-era Delhi and provides a brave new voice in British Fiction. The story centres around a liberal Brahmin family living in Delhi during India’s independence – it’s absolutely gripping and incredibly moving. Razak creates memorable characters through gorgeous prose.
Paper-Lantern-McCarthy Stone

by Will Burns

Will Burns’ The Paper Lantern is a powerful read that challenges the shifts in mood and
understanding that a middle England town tussles with during the lockdown period of
2020. Although an unnamed single speaker narrates the surreal transformative journey
within the pages, Burns’ debut novel is semi-autobiographical. It’s a book that speaks powerfully about what it is to be English, and the impact of coronavirus on our national psyche.
The Dictionary of Lost Words McCarthy Stone


Shortlisted for the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction, Pip Williams’ debut novel The Dictionary of Lost Words is a charmingly rich book that is a glorious ode to words and language. It’s thoughtprovoking and set in a time when women’s voices were clamouring more than ever to be heard. In 1901, the word ‘bondmaid’ was discovered missing from the Oxford English Dictionary – this is the story of the girl who stole it.
The Nephilim Assignment McCarthy Stone

by A. S. George

An enticing debut novel, set to be a trilogy, which has been described as ‘like a collision between Dan Brown and Raiders of the Lost Ark’, The Nephilim Assignment is from an exciting new author who works for the NHS and as a Duty Manager for McCarthy Stone in her busy day jobs. The central character, Steve Garrett, is an ardent reporter for a local newspaper with a special assignment to interview a dying ex-Nazi officer.

Interview with an ape McCarthy Stone

by Felice Fallon

Felice Fallon’s inventive debut novel Interviews with an Ape is a story of humanity’s complicated relationship with the natural world, the curious animals who inhibit it and most poignantly, ourselves. She conjures a world where a gorilla called Einstein communicates with humans through sign language and narrates the heartbreaking tales of vulnerable creatures from the animal kingdom. It’s a timely rallying call which forces the reader to question the impact of humankind’s actions.

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