The 15 New Books We Can’t Wait to Read in 2021
What should you put on your must-read list this year? We’ve got a few ideas!
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Goodreads’ top picks
As we all know, 2020 was the year for staying home. Maybe you conquered remote learning with the kids. Maybe you learned to bake sourdough bread. Or maybe you caught a few moments of escape through the words of your favorite authors. While we’ll hopefully be getting out more in 2021, we’ll still be happy to come back home and cozy up with some amazing new books. So, which ones will be your friends this year? A new sci-fi thriller by Andy Weir or a deliciously engrossing new author’s debut? Goodreads has searched millions of readers’ lists to compile the most anticipated new books to read in 2021. The result is a dizzying range of historical fiction, funny books, romances, nonfiction, and more. Get ready for some new favorites!
The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah
Anyone who fell for Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale is bound to fall under this book’s spell, too. Hannah has traveled the world throughout her wide range of fiction and historical fiction. She’s taken readers from the harrowing mountain journeys of the French Resistance during World War II to a coming-of-age story in the Pacific Northwest. In The Four Winds, she draws readers to Texas during the Dust Bowl era. One Goodreads reviewer says the story of one couple’s American dream is “poetic, shocking, heart wrenching, tear jerking, [and] poignant.” This book was released on February 2, so you can get it today from your library, an independent bookstore, or Amazon.
The Push by Ashley Audrain
Mothers will either love or hate Ashley Audrain’s debut novel. This chilling psychological drama focuses on new mother Blythe and her struggle to connect with one child—followed by a warm, natural relationship with her second child. While the story contains obvious themes of family and relationships, readers should go in knowing that it also deals with the topic of abuse. Writer Kristin Hannah praises The Push as “starkly original and compulsively readable.” For mothers, daughters, and those who love them, this novel will pull you in, make you uncomfortable, and challenge your notion of the responsibilities of parents and children. Audrain’s novel also made our list of the best new fiction books.
The Prophets by Robert Jones, Jr.
In his debut novel, Robert Jones, Jr. doesn’t hold back. The queer love story of two enslaved Black men on a Deep South plantation thrums with lyricism and deep hope for love that can thrive in all times and in all places. Goodreads reviewer Maureen says, “Let me say right now that in author Robert Jones, Jr., there is a master wordsmith at work, taking the written word and transforming it into something magical.” Though protagonists Isaiah and Samuel anchor the book, it’s shot through with a variety of viewpoints and characters. On Goodreads, the author notes, “There are a few scenes of r*pe and sexual assault of varying levels of detail. Discretion is advised, particularly for survivors.” Don’t miss these other books by Black authors you’ll want to know about.
Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know by Adam Grant
Nonfiction fans, take note: Organizational psychologist Adam Grant has a new eye-opener for you. Think Again is about learning to doubt your own habits and thought patterns, embracing new ideas, and seeking feedback so that you don’t become stagnant in your life or leadership. Those are bold statements, but readers say Grant delivers. The book was released February 2, and so far, author Brené Brown, PhD, has called it “the right book for right now,” while filmmaker M. Night Shyamalan says, “Think Again helped me learn about how great thinkers and achievers don’t let expertise or experience stand in the way of being perpetual students.”
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Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro
There’s no shortage of futuristic world-building writing out there. But Kazuo Ishiguro is exceptional at it. In Klara and the Sun, a non-human automated being—called an “Artificial Friend”—stands in a store, waiting for a human customer to choose and love her. Over the days and weeks, she observes the lives around her. As the world changes, Klara keeps watching. Like Ian McEwan’s Machines Like Me, this book asks questions about what it means to be human and what is required for a being, heart, or soul to experience love. Perhaps unlike McEwan’s story, Klara and the Sun has a main character that warms reviewers’ hearts with her insight and noble desires. If you love this genre, make sure to read these fantasy books, too.
Every Last Fear by Alex Finlay
Here’s a memorable first line for you: “They found the bodies on a Tuesday.” Thus begins Alex Finlay’s debut thriller, which crackles with tension and fast-paced action while still offering readers a glimpse of heart and passion. One Goodreads reviewer says it reads like a movie, while another writes, “Everyone who knows me also knows that I love murder and mayhem. This, though. This broke my brittle, dried-up beef jerky heart!” In the story, a college student named Matt Pine returns home to the news that his entire family died while on vacation in Mexico. Unfortunately, it’s not the first time one of Matt’s family members was involved in a tragic murder.
The Final Revival of Opal & Nev by Dawnie Walton
This book by Dawnie Walton will be a delight for fans of Daisy Jones & The Six or similar stories told as oral history. The scene: The kaleidoscopic magic of the 1970s music scene. The characters: Afro-punk star Opal and aspiring singer/songwriter Neville Charles. What follows is the story of a rock ‘n’ roll duo’s journey through racial tensions, political upheaval, personal rivalries, and—ultimately—a surprisingly suspenseful series of events. The Final Revival of Opal & Nev lands in bookstores March 30. Readers lucky enough to have snagged an advance copy recommend putting it on your “new books to read” list for the spring.
Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Welcome to the glittering end-of-summer party of the rich and famous. Four sibling starlets drink, dance, and reveal their secrets and passions before the night is over. Oh, and by dawn, the family mansion will be engulfed in flames. Intrigued? Then preorder a copy of Malibu Rising, Taylor Jenkins Reid’s newest page-turner. The author of Daisy Jones & The Six has drummed up a reputation for creating brilliant American novels, and early reviewers say this one is no exception.
Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir
Andy Weir rocketed to pop culture fame when his debut novel, The Martian, was turned into a film starring Matt Damon. But sci-fi fans know there’s more interstellar brilliance and solid storytelling where that came from. Project Hail Mary takes readers into the world of an astronaut who wakes up as the sole survivor on his spacecraft. What happened? Who should be blamed for his crewmates’ demise? And what must he do to continue the mission of saving humanity? Goodreads reviewer Jenna says of the book, “I finished it last night and I’m still floating around in zero gravity on that spaceship this morning.”
The Light of Days: The Untold Story of Women Resistance Fighters in Hitler’s Ghettos by Judy Batalion
From Schindler’s List and Casablanca to The Nightingale and A Train in Winter, there are countless World War II resistance stories for history buffs and fans of historical fiction. In The Light of Days, Judy Batalion shines a spotlight on the real-life crew of Jewish women who turned groups in the ghetto into resistance centers against the Nazis. From bribing Nazi soldiers with home cooking to furtively combing train lines, these women put their lives on the line for family, friends, and freedom. This book has already been optioned by Steven Spielberg, so it will likely join the ranks of these books that have become hit movies in the near future.
The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris
Zakiya Dalila Harris’ debut novel is a workplace drama, twisty psychological thriller, and witty social commentary all wrapped up in one package. The publisher’s book blurb describes it as “Get Out meets The Devil Wears Prada” and an “electric debut about the tension that unfurls when two young Black women meet against the starkly white backdrop of New York City book publishing.” Whether you’re hooked on psychological thrillers or interested in peeking behind the curtain of racial tensions in the publishing industry, you’ll want to short-list this as one of your new books to read.
Beautiful World, Where Are You by Sally Rooney
It’s a testament to Sally Rooney’s fan base that this novel landed on Goodreads’ “Most Anticipated” list despite a September 7 release date. The Irish author of Normal People and Conversations with Friends will take readers on a journey from Dublin to Rome as four tangled protagonists figure out what they believe about love, faith, and sex. Get ready for Rooney’s hallmark drama and heartrending insights. As Goodreads reviewer Eilidh wrote, “I’m ready for all of the rollercoaster feels this will undoubtedly bring.”
Harlem Shuffle by Colson Whitehead
Two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Colson Whitehead takes on Harlem in the 1960s in this story about a home furniture salesman who moonlights as a heist accomplice. The sometimes profound, sometimes lighthearted novel invites readers into both sides of the hero’s double life. Readers will wonder: Can their protagonist successfully walk the line between well-reputed family man and crook? The publisher writes, “Harlem Shuffle is driven by an ingeniously intricate plot that plays out in a beautifully recreated Harlem of the early 1960s. It’s a family saga masquerading as a crime novel, a hilarious morality play, a social novel about race and power, and ultimately a love letter to Harlem.”
The Hill We Climb and Other Poems by Amanda Gorman
In 2017, Amanda Gorman was named the first-ever National Youth Poet Laureate. In January 2021, she made headlines with her stirring poem “The Hill We Climb” as she read it to a national audience on Inauguration Day. And now, her books have begun selling out in pre-order, and her latest collection, The Hill We Climb and Other Poems, has been added to must-read lists everywhere. This can’t-miss gathering of poems will be released on September 21.
Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doerr
Fans of All the Light We Cannot See are bound to fall in love with Anthony Doerr’s 2021 release. A completely different tome than his last Pulitzer Prize–winning novel, Cloud Cuckoo Land weaves together several timelines around the central thread of an ancient text: the story of Aethon, who wishes to be a bird who can fly away to paradise. Goodreads reviewer Rebecca says, “The story sweeps through time, follows multiple [characters], and kept me turning page after page until the very end. It was sad, beautiful, brave, painful, and so very well done.” For something totally different but equally compelling, try these 20 true crime books you won’t be able to put down.