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Look to the future — what to read in 2021


Coronavirus did much to shape the book world in 2020 — and will continue to do so in the new year, whether in the form of titles postponed by the pandemic or as the subject of new ones. January brings the first of a number of dispatches from the frontline of the crisis — Breathtaking by Rachel Clarke (Little Brown) and Intensive Care by Gavin Francis (Profile), which detail the heartbreaking realities of a healthcare system under extreme pressure.


For others, Covid-19 is a departure point for bigger investigations of flawed politics and economics, and the spur to outline a better future. In Doom (Allen Lane, May), historian Niall Ferguson asks why humanity is so bad at preparing for disasters. For economist Mariana Mazzucato, the crisis has provided an opportunity to remake capitalism, a case she argues in Mission Economy (Allen Lane, January). Others spotting opportunity in a crisis include former UK prime minister Gordon Brown with Seven Ways to Change the World (Simon & Schuster, June). On a more ambivalent note, economist and habitual gloomster James Rickards tallies up the winners and losers of a post-pandemic world in The New Great Depression (Portfolio, January).


As 2020 came to a close, coronavirus seemingly collided with that other dominating issue in Britain — Brexit — as the recent tailback of trucks at Dover appeared to offer a taste of chaos to come. How we got here and where we might now go are the subject of numerous new books. In January, in This Sovereign Isle (Allen Lane), Robert Tombs, professor of history at Cambridge and prominent Brexiter, argues that Britain has always been different from the rest of Europe; meanwhile FT columnist Philip Stephens charts Britain’s post-imperial geopolitical path from Suez to Brexit in Britain Alone (Faber).


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