Top Reads 2021 | Essays | Granta

Top Reads 2021 | Essays

With another year under our belts, here are ten of our most popular essays from 2021, on abandoned whaling communities in the Bering Strait to Joni Mitchell’s Blue album.


Lice | AK Blakemore

‘I often had head lice as a child . . . Mum would sit on the lip of the tub and comb and comb, pulling faces, flicking clots of Pantene freckled with their little bodies into the sink’.

AK Blakemore on lice.


A Bleed of Blue | Amy Key

‘I was trying simultaneously to numb the grief I felt and to burrow into that grief, so I could stand in it.’

On love, its absence and Joni Mitchell’s Blue album.


On Vulnerability | Katherine Angel

‘Being porous – being susceptible to the other’s needs and desires – is what makes one tender to the feelings of others, and what puts one at their mercy.’

Katherine Angel on vulnerability


Bleak Midwinter | Catherine Taylor

‘In a sense, we had been waiting for the Ripper to visit for months, even years.’

Catherine Taylor on growing up in Sheffield and Peter Sutcliffe.


Breast or Tooth? | Tishani Doshi

‘In the nineteenth century, a woman called Nangeli in Kerala sliced off her breasts and offered them to the tax collectors on a plaintain leaf as protest against having to pay the breast tax.’

Tishani Doshi on breasts and police violence in India.


Having and Being Had | Eula Biss

‘A white set designer and a white director work to create an authentic African American interior. The commercial, they tell us, is going to feature an African American grandmother serving a holiday turkey.’

Eula Biss on complicity and capitalism.


On Mistaking Whales | Bathsheba Demuth

‘Before a gray whale becomes a home, or a barrel of oil, or a metaphor, before she enters the realm of human meaning, she is a being complete in herself.’

Bathsheba Demuth visits the abandoned whaling communities of the Bering Strait.  


A Series of Rooms Occupied by Ghislaine Maxwell | Chris Dennis

‘What is the metaphor of the room? Of the house. Of the neighborhood.’

Chris Dennis on incarceration.


On Running | Larissa Pham

‘Maybe that’s why running has its adherents: there are those who are drawn to its simplicity, who find beauty in its pure, egalitarian punishment. Who even find joy in it.’

Larissa Pham on running.


Mr Brown, Mrs White and Ms Black | Kei Miller

‘Mr Brown only thinks these thoughts. He would never share them with anyone, because these are the kinds of thoughts that implicate him.’

Three stories of race in Jamaica, by Kei Miller.


Title photo courtesy of Amy Key.