For months, I’ve been reading as many new book releases as I can in search of the best books of 2021. Find out which popular releases are the best new books of 2021.
What are the best books of 2021?
For months, I’ve been reading as many new releases as I can get my hands on so that I can give an informed opinion on the best books of the year.
With the year almost over, I wanted to consider the top books to read in 2021. You’ll find plenty of beloved authors and some new ones on my best-of-the-year book list.
Remember, this is just my opinion. I’d love to hear what books you think are the best of the best in the comments below!
Best Books of 2021
Taylor Jenkins Reid
Taylor Jenkins Reid has done it again with one of the best books of 2021. In 1983, four famous siblings throw an epic summer party at their Malibu mansion. Secrets come out, the party gets out of control, and a fire will burn it all down by dawn. Malibu Rising is a gorgeous family drama that surpasses a simple beach read. The story of the Riva children abandoned by their famous rockstar father is heartbreakingly sad and yet still hopeful. The characters come alive as each sibling ponders if they can escape their parents’ fates.
After a car accident, Sunday Brennan returns to her large Irish family in New York. Five years earlier, she had abandoned them and her high school sweetheart with no explanation. Determined to rebuild her relationships, Sunday is startled when a man threatens the family’s business and forces the family to confront painful mistakes. Delving into the ways guilt and shame can affect our interactions, We Are the Brennans is the best book to read in 2021 for book clubs.
Qian Julie Wang
When Qian was seven years old, her family immigrated to the United States. As her parents struggled to cope with the transition from respected professors to “illegal” sweatshop laborers, Qian finds herself an outcast at school and seeks comfort in the library. When her mother becomes ill, Qian’s fears multiply in this moving coming-of-age memoir about the immigrant experience in the US.
Inti Flynn arrives in Scotland with one purpose – to reintroduce gray wolves into the highlands despite the fierce resistance from the local population. When a farmer is mauled to death, Inti buries the evidence, terrified the locals will accuse her beloved wolves. But if the wolves aren’t to blame, who caused his death? And will it happen again? One of the best books to read this year, this hauntingly beautiful novel about healing from trauma – in people and in nature – will hook you from the beginning.
In a small town in Massachusetts in the 1960s, Dahlia and Louie Moscatell have finally found a rhythm as long-term foster parents. Then a social worker begs them to take on one more foster child – a six-year-old indigenous girl who will change their family dynamics forever. Patry Francis hits the emotions hard in this powerful story of love and family and the struggles of the foster care system. You’ll cry with their heartaches and rejoice in their victories, and I can emphatically declare this one of the best books of 2021.
Best Historical Fiction of 2021
In the Texas panhandle in 1934, severe drought plagues the land. With crops failing, dust storms whip up, leaving the farmers fighting for survival. In the perilous times of the Great Depression, Elsa Martinelli must decide whether to stay and fight for her land or head west to California which offers her family a better life. With her characteristically gorgeous storytelling, you’ll find yourself caught up in the disastrous calamity of the Dust Bowl and emotionally caught up in Elsa’s impossible decision. Kristin Hannah’s fans will not be disappointed with her newest release, which has spent over twenty weeks among the New York Times best sellers in 2021.
In 1960s Harlem, Ray Carney has a reputation as an upstanding used furniture salesman. Although Ray strives to live up to what he knows he can be, times aren’t like they used to be, and he occasionally supplements his income with a side gig fencing items for the underworld of Harlem. When Ray’s cousin ropes him into being the fence for a heist gone wrong, Ray finds himself caught up with shady cops and local gangsters.
After spending a year at a prison work farm for involuntary manslaughter, eighteen-year-old Emmett Watson returns to his Nebraska hometown. With his mother gone and his father recently deceased, Emmett plans to pick up his eight-year-old brother and head West. But his plans are derailed when two friends from the work farm suddenly appear with a scheme of their own.
In 1791, Nella uses her London apothecary shop to sell poisons for women to use against abusive men. The only rules are that the poisons cannot be used against another woman and that you must leave a record in the apothecary’s register. When she befriends a 12-year-old girl, the consequences will last generations. With feminist themes throughout the book, this beautifully rich novel would be a great one for a book club discussion.
Best Book Club Books 2021
Sela is in desperate need of a kidney transplant. She’s possibly found the perfect match; but how do you turn someone else’s life upside down by revealing that you are her previously unknown half-sister, the product of her father’s affair? As Sela begins to connect with Caroline, she must decide which she wants more – a sister or a kidney. With realism and nuance, Strawser’s family drama of complicated relationships was a surprise entry on my top books of 2021.
In 2021, Amanda Gorman became the youngest presidential inaugural poet in US history when she read her poem, “The Hill We Climb,” at President Biden’s inauguration. A special edition hardcover copy of her inaugural poem with a foreword by Oprah Winfrey.
The Princess Diaries meets Crazy Rich Asians in Emiko Jean’s delightfully fun young adult beach read about a Japanese-American teenager who learns her birth father is the Crown Prince of Japan. Suddenly, Izumi is swept away into a life of royalty and struggles to fit in as a princess. Can she bridge the gap between being too Japanese for America and too American for Japan while still getting her happily ever after?
It should be the golden years for Stan and Joy Delaney now that they’ve sold their tennis academy and settled into retirement, so why aren’t they happy? When they welcome a bleeding stranger into their home, her arrival begins a cascade of events. Now Joy is missing, and the four grown Delaney children wonder if their father might have done it. With a twist you won’t see coming, Apples Never Fall is a perfect choice if you love domestic thrillers about complicated sibling relationships.
From the author of All the Light We Cannot See comes an ambitious work of literary fiction. Doerr’s novel toggles between three timelines – the Fall of Constantinople in 1453, present-day Idaho, and interstellar ship far in the future. Each piece explores the power of stories as a fictional ancient Greek comedy weaves throughout the entire book. The awe-inspiring power of the written word that Doerr evokes in every sentence will be appreciated by literary fiction lovers.
Thrilling New Fiction Books
Instamom Emmy Jackson is known for telling it as it is to her millions of Instagram followers. She knows exactly how to monetize her life as a “good-enough” mom. When Emmy’s online narrative pulls further from the truth, it begins to strain her marriage. Meanwhile, an obsessed follower begins stalking the family, with a major grudge against Emmy. This accurate portrayal of influencer life (with plenty of thrills thrown in for fun) will make you think about how putting our lives online affects us.
On their annual girls’ trip, Emily and Kristen are having the time of their lives in Chile. On the last night, Emily comes back to the hotel to find Kristen in the room with a dead body. Kristen claims that the cute backpacker she picked up attacked her and she killed him in self-defense. Except, the same thing happened last year. As Emily’s guilt over the cover-up reaches a boiling point, Kristen makes a surprise trip to visit her and Emily has serious doubts about their friendship.
Up-and-coming British actress Mia Eliot heads to Hollywood to get her mind off her recent shocking breakup. While auditioning, Mia does a favor for another actress which turns into much more of a hassle than she expected. Yet, the next time they meet, Mia swears that Emily is a completely different woman, and no one believes her. My surprise pick for the best psychological thriller of 2021, The Disappearing Act knows exactly when to hold your suspense and when to pivot with an engaging story that keeps you guessing.
After her roommate is murdered on campus, Charlie is desperate to get away. She posts a notice on her college rideshare board and snags a ride back to Ohio from a handsome stranger. However, Charlie quickly realizes that Josh is not whom he seems. Charlie’s fragile state of mind kept me gripped to this cat-and-mouse game. With plenty of twists and turns and a little over-the-top theatricality, Sager’s latest psychological thriller will keep his fans content and rightly makes its way onto my list of best thriller books in 2021 so far.
All children have imaginary friends, but Georgina begins to wonder when her seven-year-old son tells her he met a new friend, New Granny, at the park. Is Georgina just overreacting with the death of her mother still so painful? What if his imaginary friend isn’t imaginary? A great thriller book with an unreliable narrator to read this year, Ryan does an excellent job throwing in plenty of red herrings, keeping you on your toes the whole time.
Best Mystery Books of 2021
Coming home to help his parents move, Kieran Elliott is haunted by a reckless teenage decision that ended up costing the lives of three people during a storm. Now, a body is discovered on the beach of his hometown, and old memories are brought back to light. One of the best books of 2021, The Survivors is a slow atmospheric build that examines how guilt and loss shape our lives.
Before Owen Michaels disappeared, he smuggled a note to his new wife Hannah: Protect her. Hannah knows he’s referring to his sixteen-year-old daughter Bailey, but Bailey doesn’t want anything to do with Hannah. As Owen’s boss gets arrested and the FBI come knocking, Hannah and Bailey must come together to discover Owen’s secrets.
In a coastal Washington town, everyone was shocked when popular student Daniel goes missing. Soon after Jonah, the boy next door who had been Daniel’s friend his whole life, commits suicide, confessing to the murder but giving no explanation. Now Daniel’s father, Isaac, a devote Quaker, is struggling to deal with his son’s death. When Evangeline, a pregnant teenager, shows up at Isaac’s doorstep, she at first seems a blessing. As Isaac and Jonah’s mother Lorrie get to know Evangeline, their overlapping pasts threaten to derail the shared future they are building.
After a personal tragedy, Anna Hart leaves her life as a missing persons detective in San Francisco to return home to Mendocino, California. When she arrives, she gets drawn into the case of a local missing teen, one that is hauntingly similar to an unsolved murder from her childhood. Instead of page-turning action, McLain’s character study of a cop haunted by her own traumas who see herself in the victims gives a slow atmospheric build-up similar to Liz Moore’s Long Bright River.
Fantastical Best Selling Books 2021
In his first novel since winning the Nobel Prize in Literature, Kazuo Ishiguro ponders the meaning of love through an unusual narrator. Klara is a robot, an Artificial Friend waiting to be bought and taken home to be a companion to a lonely child. Ishiguro’s brilliant writing brings Klara to life, with her keen observations about the world around her, forcing you to piece together complex situations as perceived through the lens of innocence.
Growing up, Lex and Jax were inseparable, spending summers at their grandmother’s estate in Vermont, known for its underground springs rumored to grant wishes … but also take things in return. When Lex dies in the pool, Jax returns home and begins to learn more about the house’s supernatural history, including the story of a woman in 1929 desperate to have a baby. The Drowning Kind is a perfectly spooky read making you wonder: Is something in the water or is it just Lex’s manic imaginings?
Already set apart by her unnatural intuition, sixteen-year-old Deka is considered an outcast when her blood runs gold. Instead of being an outcast, she decides to leave her village and join an elite band of powerfully magical girls to fight for the emperor. This new young adult fantasy has been the talk of young adult fiction in 2021.
Best Books 2021 Nonfiction
A powerful memoir about growing up a Korean American from the indie singer known for her Japanese Breakfast project. Growing up in Eugene, Oregon, Michelle Zauner struggled to fit in as the only Asian-American student in high school, burdened by the high expectations of her mother. Moving East, she began working in the restaurant industry and joined a fledgling band. But not until her mother’s terminal cancer diagnosis did Zauner feel like she discovered her identity and understand her Koreanness.
In the years leading up to the second world war, a group of military strategists, nicknamed “The Bomber Mafia,” wondered if precision bombing of strategic targets could make war less lethal. Gladwell ponders how technology and the best intentions collide in the heat of war while examining the firebombing of Tokyo. Weaving together stories of a Dutch genius, pyromaniacal chemists, and two competing generals, Gladwell makes you consider the incalculable costs of war. Since The Bomber Mafia is easily the winner of the best nonfiction audiobooks in 2021 because it was created as an audiobook first, using historical audio excerpts to enhance Gladwell’s already stellar writing.
A new memoir from the owner and chef of an acclaimed restaurant in Maine tells of the challenges of finding your voice and rebuilding a life. Growing up in rural Maine, Erin French fell in love with food while working at her father’s diner. After dropping out of college when she got pregnant, French eventually established her own successful restaurant. When a crumbling marriage and addiction cause her to lose it all, French manages to slowly rebuild her personal and culinary life and find solace in the food she loves. A stunning memoir, French’s down-to-earth writing of her experience will cut straight to anyone’s heart while foodies her will love her luscious culinary descriptions.
Grant reminds us that just like we refresh our wardrobe from time to time, we need to routinely reexamine our beliefs and ways of thinking. Often our beliefs become habits, and Grant argues that being too attached to one identity and thought process can kill our creativity. Instead, we need to start spending as much time rethinking as we do thinking. Grant is an excellent writer and he does a superb job keeping you engaged as he discusses thought-provoking concepts.
Patrick Radden Keefe
In one of the best non fiction books of 2021, Patrick Radden shines with a brilliant piece of investigative reporting chronicling the life of three generations of the Sackler family. One of the richest families in the world, their name adorns some of the most storied institutions. Yet, the source of their wealth has long remained hidden: the making and marketing of OxyContin, the painkiller that sparked the current opioid crisis.
What do you think are the best books of 2021?