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The 20 Best Books of 2021 For Your Next Read

Some say that reading any book is better than reading no books at all, and while that might be true, why settle for subpar storytelling when you can enjoy something truly great? To that end, we’re taking a look at the best books of 2021.

There’s been some fantastic literature released this year from both renowned authors and debut novelists. So without further ado, let’s get to the books.

The Committed by Viet Thanh Nguyen

Five years ago, Viet Thanh Nguyen won the Pulitzer Prize for his debut novel The Sympathizer, which followed the experiences of a refugee and double agent from the Vietnam War grappling with the fallout from the conflict. In his thrilling sequel The Committed, Nguyen picks up the narrative to take a hard look at the consequences of colonialism.

Animal by Lisa Taddeo

While Lisa Taddeo had already made a name for herself in the realm of journalism — especially with her bestselling book Three Woman— her debut novel Animal has instantly established her as one of the most confident fiction writers of our time. In Animal, Taddeo tells the story of a young woman who attempts to reassert control over her life after multiple traumas inflicted by men.

Let Me Tell You What I Mean by Joan Didion

As one of the greatest writers of her generation — and the 20th century in general — it’s an event any time a Joan Didion book is released. Here we have a collection that characteristically spans a diverse range of topics, from Gamblers Anonymous to Martha Stewart.

Second Place by Rachel Cusk

When a woman invites a renowned artist to stay with her family at their remote home, she becomes fixated on the idea that his work provides some clue to a mystery that’s been plaguing her. This examination of art, family, and fate is a must-read from Rachel Cusk, who many already know from The Outline trilogy.

The Push: A Novel by Ashley Audrain

When Blythe is pregnant, she promises herself that she will bond with her daughter in a way that she and her own mother never did. Once Violet is born, however, Blythe begins to suspect that there is something horribly wrong with her. In this audacious psychological thriller, writer Ashley Audrain puts a new twist on a classic story.

This Is Your Mind on Plants by Michael Pollan

Michael Pollan — one of the most acclaimed journalists of our time — has tackled the issue of how food affects the human body before. Now he turns his analytical eye on three specific plants and the chemicals they contain: Coffee and caffeine, poppies and opium, and San Pedro cacti and mescaline.

The Wife Upstairs: A Novel by Rachel Hawkins

When money-troubled dog-walker Jane sets her sights on a rich man named Eddie, it isn’t long before she learns that they’re both hiding secrets that could either doom any hope of a relationship or bring them together. The latest from the bestselling author Rachel Hawkins, this brings a contemporary feminist approach to a classic gothic romance.

The Employees: A Workplace Novel of the 22nd Century by Olga Ravn

On the Six-Thousand Ship, the crew consists of both humans and their humanoid creations. While transporting bizarre objects from the planet New Discovery, humans and non-humans alike find themselves strangely obsessed with them. Hailed for its unique structure, The Employees has already garnered author Olga Ravn a nomination for the prestigious Booker Prize.

A Crooked Tree: A Novel by Una Mannion

After a mother becomes tired of arguing with her 12-year-old daughter, she pulls over and orders her out of the car, telling her to walk home. The consequences destroy the girl’s life, reveal the horrible truth about the seemingly peaceful small town in which they live, and raise important questions about fate.

Summerwater: A Novel by Sarah Moss

In this slow-building novel set in rural Scotland, several families go to stay in a collection of isolated cottages. Bored by the lack of cell phone service, they begin watching one another through their blinds. In Sarah Moss’s slow-burning thriller, a gradual atmosphere of unease pays off in a stunning finale.

Life Among the Terranauts by Caitlin Horrocks

Having made a splash with her novel The Vexations, Caitlin Horrocks follows up with a collection of short stories that will appeal to diverse tastes, from sci-fi to realism. In Life Among the Terranauts, we see a series of all-too-human experiences set against somewhat fantastic backdrops.

The Removed: A Novel by Brandon Hobson

After the Echota family loses son Ray-Ray in a police shooting, their lives descend into an abyss of mental illness, drug addiction, and relationship troubles. With the anniversary of Ray-Ray’s death on the way, the family fosters a son who brings unexpected change to the situation.

Girl A: A Novel by Abigail Dean

Lex might have thought she escaped her abusive childhood, but after her imprisoned mother dies and leaves her home to Lex and her siblings, suddenly she’s forced to return and confront the past. Girl A is a captivating look at the complex nature of family.

My Year Abroad by Chang Rae-Lee

In a novel that skips around in terms of geography and genre, dismally mediocre Tiller heads out on adventure with an exciting international businessman named Pong. Later as we watch Tiller navigate a relationship with a single mom who is hiding out in witness protection, he tries to determine the meaning behind all his travels.

No One Is Talking About This by Patricia Lockwood

Taking a look at how social media is impacting our lives through a lens that fuses realism with science fiction, Patricia Lockwood tells the tale of a woman who finds unexpected fame online and a strange new piece of technology called “the Portal.”

Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro

In 2017, Kazuo Ishiguo was honored with the Nobel Prize for Literature because, as the Nobel committee explained, his work “uncovered the abyss beneath our illusory sense of connection with the world.” In his latest work Klara and the Sun he does it again via a narrative that makes the future seem strangely familiar.

The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner

In Sarah Penner’s latest, she borrows elements from gothic romance to tell a thoroughly modern tale that is nevertheless set in 18th century England. The story of an underground apothecary who provides poisons for the victims of abusive men to get revenge, The Lost Apothecary is a novel take on the timeless theme of women scorned.

Caul Baby by Morgan Jenkins

When Leila asks the Harlem Melacons — a family that holds power thanks to its magically healing caul — to save her baby, no one could foresee how this simple request for help could have such profound consequences. The latest from bestselling author Morgan Jenkins, Caul Baby will grab the attention of anyone who enjoys a good mystery.

How Beautiful We Were by Imbolo Mbue

A highly imaginative tale from the renowned writer Imbolo Mbue, How Beautiful We Were looks at a fictional African village as it fights back against destruction at the hands an American oil company. This is essential reading for anyone who is interested in colonialism, capitalism, and where the two intersect.

Filthy Animals by Brandon Taylor

In Filthy Animals—the latest from the much-heralded author Brandon Taylor—we watch as a young man attempts to navigate the relationships of a trouble crew of Midwestern artists. It’s a story of sex, violence, and bad babysitting gigs, and it’s one of the most engaging reads of the year.

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