Best Books of 2021: 31 Books to Obsess Over
It is finally time to give you our list of the best books of 2021. It was a crazy year with delayed in publishing, delays in shipping, closures and pandemics. The one thing that didn’t suffer was the amazing creativity of the writers who found a way to transport us, enlighten us and entertain us throughout a year of uncertainty.
This year we put our best books of 2021 into categories. So, whether you like thrillers, YA, historical fiction or fantasy, we have our favorites all in one place for you to read now.
Best Thrillers Books of 2021
The Maidens by Alex Michaelides
What an amazing thriller. Alex Michaelides did it again! This books was insane with the twists and turns. It kept me in the edge of my seat and my heart beating a little faster!
Mariana is a therapist who is still grieving the loss of her husband when she gets a call from her niece, Zoe. Zoe’s best friend Tara is missing and Zoe is afraid something has happened to her.
One by one, When women start dying at Cambridge and Mariana gets deeply involved as she tries to solve the mystery.
The Perfect Daughter by DJ Palmer
When police come to Grace’s door, she is terrified that something has happened to her teenage daughter, Penny. Instead, she finds out her daughter has been arrested for murder.
What follows is a year and a half in a Psychiatric facility while Penny awaits her trial and try to determine if the multiple personalities are real or a made up ruse to get away with murder. Because Eve, the protector, has kept Penny and the other personalities away.
This thriller is brilliantly crafted and had me guessing until the very end. It was amazing to listen to as each personality had a distinct voice. I couldn’t put it down! There was no question that this thriller would make the list of best books of 2021.
The Push by Ashley Audrain
This is a book that will scare the pants off most mothers. It’s compulsively readable.
Blythe Conner comes from a long line of bad mothers, but she’s determined not to be one. When she has Violet, she struggles to connect with her.
The reader is left wondering if Blythe is a mother who sees the worst in her child or if there really is something off with Violet. Something that even her husband can’t see.
Best Detective Fiction Books of 2021
We Begin at the End by Chris Witaker
This book was recommended to me by a dear friend who I trust so much when it comes to book recommendations. She was not wrong.
Duchess Day Radley is 13 years old and extremely protective of her five year old brother and often acts as a parent to her own mother, Star. Walk is the town chief of police and has never forgiven himself for giving testimony that sent his best friend Vincent to jail for thirty years.
Now, Vincent is out of Jail and Starr is murdered. I was not prepared for the emotional punch that this book delivered with each and every page.
The Madness of Crowds (Chief Inspector Ganache #17) by Louise Penny
Just when I thought Louise Penny could not get any better, along came The Madness of Crowds. This is the first book I’ve read that addresses the pandemic and Penny did it perfectly.
People have just started to re-emerge from lock down when Gamache is asked to provide security at a statistics lecture. It seems harmless enough right?! Wrong!
This book has all the people that you know and love from three pines🌲 with all the story telling and tension I’ve come to love in this series!
As usual, Robert Bathurst nails the narration of the novel. This is truly a book series that audiobooks bring to life!
Thank you Macmillian Audio for my copy of this book. All opinions are my own.
The Last Thing He Told Me by Laura Dave
I raved about this book when I read it earlier this month! Well chosen, Reese! The story of a stepmother and her daughter as they try to find the girl’s father after his abrupt departure.
This mystery has so much heart as you see Hannah bond with and try to protect her new stepdaughter, Bailey. I did not see the ending of this book coming, but absolutely adored it.
Best Fantasy Books of 2021
Under the Whispering Door by T.J Klune
How many stars can I give? T.J Klune has done it again with the wonderful book. House on the Cerulean Sea was my favorite book last year and I am not sure that anything will top it. I read it in a day and loved every minute of this wonderful book.
Wallace is dead. When the reaper collects him at his funeral and brings him to a strange tea shop, Hugo is waiting with the promise of helping him cross over. This light fantasy will make you smile until the last page. This best of 2021 is possibly my favorite on the entire list.
The Ladies of the Secret Circus by Constance Sayers
Have you ever loved a book so much that you couldn’t put it down but also didn’t want it to end? That is how I felt about book!
In 2004 Lara Barnes’s fiancé disappears on their wedding day. As Lara searches for answers, she starts to unravel a family mystery that goes back to 1925. This book has everything. It’s a dark fantasy filled with mystery, disappearances, and magic. I don’t want to give more detail because I don’t want to spoil any part of this book- it is my favorite fantasy of 2021 so far!
Dreams Lie Beneath by Rebecca Ross
I adored this stand alone YA fantasy novel in which local wardens are responsible for recording dreams and later fighting the same dreams when they appear on the night of the new moon.
Clementine is training to be a warden under her father, but he loses his post, she swears revenge on the challengers. While plotting her revenge, she also seeks to overturn the curse that’s haunting the entire kingdom.
Best Romance Books of 2021
Dial A for Aunties by Jessie Q Sutano
I heard great things about this romantic comedy/ murder mystery mashup. It sounds like the weirdest combo, right? This book had me laughing out loud.
Meddelin Chen has an amazing, meddling Chinese-Indonesian family. Meddelin and her four Aunts run a wedding business together. When Meddelin accidentally kills her date and he ends up in a cooler at a wedding with two thousand people, what can go wrong?
This comedy of errors is being adapted by Netflix and if it is anything like the book, it will be amazing too. This laugh out loud book was an easy choice for the best books of 2021.
Click HERE to Check out the Ultimate List of Feel Good Books
Highland Games by Evie Alexander
I gushed about this on Instagram, but I’m gonna gush about it again here too. I love a good Scottish romance, which longterm readers know because of our Outlander book list.
This one has Zoe deciding to pack up her London life and move into the rustic, decrepit cabin on a castle estate her uncle left for her when he died. The problem is Rory, the castle’s caretaker, wanted the cabin for himself.
Rory starts messing with Zoe to get her to leave Scotland, but when he realizes he needs her help, sparks fly! This is the first in a new series about Rory and Zoe and their Scottish hometown.
It was charming, funny, STEAMY, and heartwarming. I personally can’t wait to read the next book in the series.
Life’s Too Short by Abby Jimenez
Vanessa Price is a famous YouTube star whose life motto is to live life to the fullest every say. Her mother and sister but dies before they were 30. When she suddenly finds herself with custody of her half-sisters baby, life takes a spin in the other direction.
Adrian is the complete opposite of Vanessa. He is a lawyer who plans everything. When these two meet, they are just what the other needs.
I absolutely adored this book that will make you think about what you want out of life with a perfect dash of Romance.
Best Celebrity Book Club Picks of 2021
The Husbands by Chandler Baker
Ladies, get your book clubs geared up for Chandler Baker’s newest novel. It’s part mystery, part social commentary, but it’s the latter that packs a punch.
Baker examines the mental load that women carry as wives and mothers, particularly working women, and how it differs from what society expects of men.
A murder in the desirable Dynasty Ranch neighborhood has lawyer, and prospective buyer, Nora looking into what happened. With all the step ford style husbands she is meeting, she’s starting to wonder what kind of place Dynasty Ranch is after all.
The Love Songs of W.E.B. DuBois by Honoree
Wow. This is one of the best books I’ve listened to this year, and yes, I recommend it on audio for a few reasons.
First, the different narrators help tell this dual timeline story. Through one narrator, we learn about Ailey’s life as an African American woman in the 20th century. The other narrator tells the story of the female ancestors of Ailey’s going all the way back to her Indigenous, black, and white relatives from two centuries earlier.
Though Ailey and her ancestors, the weight of what it means to be black woman in America means. The sacrifices, injustices, struggles, and harrasments endured by Ailey and her kin in the present day and the past are explored with a depth so real, I forgot it was a fictional story at times.
The second reason this book is great on audio? It’s LONG. It clocks in at over 800 pages or almost 30hrs of audiobook time. The narrators sucked me in and those 30 hrs flew by.
I will say, this book made me consider my White Privilege in a way no non-fiction book could have. It’s a heavy story, but very worth the read. For more historical fiction, check out our Ultimate List of Best Historical Fiction
Black Buck by Mateo Askaripour
Thanks to HMH Books and Libro
For a complete list of all the Read with Jenna, Reese Witherspoon and GMA books ranked, you can check out the posts
Best Literary Fiction Books of 2021
Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doerr
I don’t know how to begin to describe this book. This is NOTHING like All The Light We Cannot See and yet, I absolutely loved it. It is part historical fiction, part sci-fi and absolutely amazing.
The book is set in Constantinople in the fifteenth century, Five hundred years later in a library in Idaho and in a spaceship traveling to a new planet sometime in the near future. Even while trying to describe this book, it does not seem to go together and yet, the story of Cloud Cuckoo Land (a story within the Novel) acts as the glue that brings the characters together. The end result is an amazing book with a very powerful message.
This is not an easy read but is well worth it.
A Thousand Ships by Natalie Haynes
I absolutely loved this take on the traditional greek stories surrounding the Trojan War. They are all told by the women in the mythology which is certainly a perspective that doesn’t get much play.
Penelope’s chapters in particular had me laughing out loud. I can’t recommend this one more to greek mythology lovers.
Hell of a Book by Jason Mott
There are so many layers to this book that is a book about a fictional author and his book “Hell of a Book”. I can see why Jenna chose this book as her July 2021 pick.
The novel tells the story of Soot- a young black boy in a rural town. As we hear the story of Soot we also have the author talking to “The Kid”, a young black boy who may of may not be invisible.
The description of the book does not do it justice. It is a powerful and poignant commentary on family, children, and the lengths that parents will go to in order to protect their black children. This book is haunting.
Best Historical Fiction Books of 2021
The Rose Code by Kate Quinn
Thanks to William Morrow for my free review copy. All opinions are my own. Kate Quinn does it again with this story about 3 female code breakers working during WWII. Beth, Mab, and Osla’s stories each could have been their own book, instead, we got an epic tale of intertwining friendship with a spy mystery to boot!
Oh, and did I mention that Osla dates Prince Philip before he marries Queen Elizabeth II AND that part of the storyline takes place in the lead-up to the royal wedding?
The Paris Apartment by Kelly Bowen
Oh how I loved this book.
The Paris Apartment by Kelly Bowen. Part historical fiction, part mystery and part love story, this book was so well-written and the story was delivered perfectly.
In 2017 Aurelia inherits an apartment in Paris when her grandmother dies. She is not prepared for what she finds inside the apartment that she never new existed. Now she must get the help of an art restorer to discovery the history and the mystery surrounding the apartment and its contents.
in 1942 Estelle is living in Paris under Nazi occupation. When the Germans come to take away her beloved friends, Estelle does everything she can to help them.
The Paris Library by Janet Skeslien Charles
WWII fiction felt a little been-there, done-that to me recently but this book has me back to loving the sub-genre. What makes this story different is the setting – The American Library in Paris. I loved hearing about the librarians and how they tried to help their Jewish subscribers. The story sucked me and had me thinking about the war in a new light. I need to add it to our best books about WW2 list for sure. 4.5 stars.
Band of Sisters by Lauren Willig
Thanks to William Morrow for my review copy. All opinions are my own. This is an incredible novel about the women of Smith College who went to help French war victims on the war front. The band of 15 women in this novel is based on the 18 real-life heroes of Smith College.
These ladies started from scratch to help those ravaged by war only to have the war come back and destroy the lands around them again. But they never faltered in their quest to help the war-torn villages of women and children impacted by the war. The book gives a well-rounded feeling of what these women needed to do to save the lands and the people. 5 stars.
For the Ultimate List of Best Historical Fiction Books, click here
Best Contemporary Fiction Books of 2021
The Very Nice Box by Laura Blackett and Eve Gleichman
The quirky personality of Ava, the protagonist in The Very Nice Box, is reminiscent of Eleanor Oliphant. Being inside Ava’s unique brain was a real treat.
Ava works as an engineer at a furniture company similar to Ikea. She has the same routine every day and is rather isolated socially until Mat Putnam bursts into her life.
As her backstory unfolds, this books goes from romance to thriller in the most delightful way. One of the most original vacation books of 2021. It’s a must-read for laughs and suspense.
The Final Revival of Opal and Nev by Dawnie Walton
This book was compared to Daisy Jones and The Six and I see why. It’s told in interview format and is about a band from the 70s. The comparison makes sense… and yet….
This book is wonderful in it’s own right! No comparison needed. It looks at sexism and racism in the music industry during this time period and is as thought-provoking as it is entertaining. It is a total must-read.
All the Lonely People by Mike Gayle
This book was my surprise star of the summer so far. I had not heard of the book and thought it sounded great. I loved every minute of it.
Hubert Bird is a widower who has weekly conversations with his daughter in Australia. He tells her amazing stories about how he spends his time. The problem? It is all made up.
Now with his daughter coming to visit, Hubert must find friends and a life to show his daughter.
Hubert gets a second chance at love and friendship but the book dives deeper into Huberts past as well. The depth and sincerity in this book are wonderful and I cannot say enough good things.
Thank you Libro.fm for my copy of this book. All opinions are my own.
We Are Not Like Them by Jo Piazza and Christine Pride
A contemporary fiction book set in Philadelphia! This is the story of 2 local girls, who have been best friends since childhood. Riley is a black woman living her dreams of being a reporter, while Jen is a pregnant white woman married to a cop.
Their friendship is put to the test when Jen’s husband kills an innocent black boy while in pursuit of a thief and Riley is the lead reporter covering the case.
Told from the perspective of both women, this gripping story covers systemic racism in the police force while dealing with the nuances of navigating a bi-racial friendship.
This doozy of a book was enthralling and thought-provoking. I knew it was a perfect book for book clubs from the very first chapter.
Best Women’s Fiction Books of 2021
Haven Point by Virginia Hume
What a wonderful read. I truly can’t explain how much this book swept me away to Haven Point as I learned about four generations of the Demarest family.
This story focuses on the great-grandmother, grandmother (Maren), mother, and daughter (Skye) as they spend their summers in the waspy coastal town. Secrets unfold, loves bloom and fade, and the ties that bond are explored.
A wonderful beach read with heart, I hope you take a chance and get swept away too.
Under the Southern Sky by Kristy Woodson Harvey
There are so many things that I love about this book and I cannot wait to talk about them all with Kristy on April 12th! It is rare to find a book that can bring me to tears on page 10 and keeps me turning the pages. I read this book in a day because I just couldn’t put it down.
This is a love story that has depth and tackles difficult topics like infertility without being too overwhelming. I LOVED this book.
Best YA Books of 2021
Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley
I have not read many books where the central characters are American
While this is characterized as
Once Upon a Broken Heart by Stephanie Garber
Just when I thought that nothing could top the Caraval series, Stephanie Garber writes this book. This YA fantasy will not disappoint her die-hard fans and for those that have never read Caraval, you can fall in love for the first time. I absolutely loved this book.
Evangeline Fox was raised in her father’s curiosity shop where she grew up learning about the legends. When Evangeline learns that the love of her life is about to marry her step sister, she offers the prince of hearts anything in exchange for stopping the wedding. This deal takes Evangeline to the North where the real adventure begins.
Thank you so much to Flatiron for my copy of this book. All opinions are my own.
Ace of Spades by Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé
Hello Dark Academia. Centered around Devon and Chiamaka, the only black students at an elite private school, this is one wild thriller.
After being chosen by prefects on the first day of their senior year, Devon and Chiamaka quickly become the targets of the mysterious Aces – a dangerous gossip girl type character out to ruin their lives.
I was on pins and needles as this thriller unravelled, addressing systemic racism in private institutions in the process.