55 Best Books of 2021 – Most-Anticipated Books to Read in 2021 – Good Housekeeping

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best books of 2021


No matter what else happened, 2021 was a banner year for amazing new books. Whether you promised yourself you’d read more this year, or you simply need a new book club recommendation to sink your teeth into, our list of the best books of 2021 has you covered.

So what should you read next? This year, there are lots of exciting new releases from some of our favorite authors, as well as stunning debut books from a diverse group of newcomers in just about every genre you can think of. For 2021, many of our top book picks offer us critiques on our society today, a peek into complicated family dynamics, steamy romance novels that will remind you that love isn’t dead after all, spooky thriller books that will send shivers up your spine, historical books that dip back into the past and creepy ghost stories that will keep you up past your bedtime.

And while some of these books may not be on shelves quite yet (or may be delayed due to supply chain issues), you should hit that preorder button anyway. Ordering books in advance not only gives you mail to look forward to that isn’t a bill, but it helps support authors too. If you think we’ve missed something that should be included on our list, let us know in the comments — we always love discovering new books. Sound off about what you thought if you’ve read one of our favorites, too!

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1 The Push: A Novel
Ashley Audrain

Now 39% off

Fans of psychological thrillers, crack open this one about the relationship between mothers and daughters. Before Blythe’s daughter is born, she wants to create the deep bond she never had with her own mom. But when Violet arrives, she’s convinced something’s wrong with her little girl. The tragic events that follow will make you question her sanity and the story she’s telling us.  

RELATED: The 35 Best Psychological Thriller Books to Scare Yourself Silly

2 A Crooked Tree: A Novel
Una Mannion

Now 48% off

One fateful night, 15-year-old Libby’s harried single mom orders her sister Ellen, 12, to get out and walk home after their bickering gets to be too much. What follows not only shatters the girls’ innocence, but sets off a chain of events that reveals the darkness in their sleepy town. This novel drives home how one moment can change everything. 

3 Let Me Tell You What I Mean
Joan Didion

Now 38% off

Joan Didion needs no introduction, and neither does this incisive collection of works, mostly drawn from early in her career. Topics include Martha Stewart, a Gamblers Anonymous meeting, writing itself and her own doubts about it all. Didion fans shouldn’t sleep this one, and neither should anyone else. 

4 The Wife Upstairs: A Novel
Rachel Hawkins

Now 50% off

The plot might feel familiar in this feminist twist on a classic gothic romance. Broke dog walker Jane has her sights on the wealthy Eddie Rochester. Eddie’s got a past, but then again, so does she. Read to find out whether either of them can ever escape their secrets, or if their forbidden tryst is doomed to failure.

5 Summerwater: A Novel
Sarah Moss

Now 47% off

A creeping aura of disquiet pervades this quietly unsettling novel set in a cluster of cottages in rural Scotland. Lacking cell service, the families spend their days watching each other’s movements through the blinds, learning perhaps a little too much about the others. It’s a slow burn, but the payoff at the end will leave you breathless. 

6 How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House: A Novel
Cherie Jones

Now 50% off

This transporting novel set in Barbados reveals the way even the most disparate lives are interconnected. It delves into wealth and class, love and crime — and the emotional turmoil that roils in a rapidly gentrifying area and the people who live there.  

RELATED: 25 Books By Black Authors to Add to Your Reading List

7 Life Among the Terranauts
Caitlin Horrocks

Now 54% off

In a series of vivid, immersive short stories, we meet characters living in ever-so-slightly fanciful realities and others navigating deeply human experiences that could be ripped from our own lives. Whether you enjoy sci-fi, realistic fiction or bite-sized escapes from the real world, you’ll find something to love here. 

8 The Removed: A Novel
Brandon Hobson

The Echota family is never the same after their son Ray-Ray is killed in a police shooting. His mother Maria struggles with her husband Edgar’s worsening dementia, while their daughter Sonja leads a solitary life and her brother Edgar battles drug addiction. As the anniversary of Ray-Ray’s passing approaches, Maria and Edgar take in a foster son whose arrival just might be the change the family needs. 

9 Girl A: A Novel
Abigail Dean

Now 65% off

After Lex escapes from an abusive childhood, she does her best to put it all behind her. But when her mother dies in prison and leaves their family home to her and her siblings, the woman formerly known as “Girl A” has to reconnect with the only people who really know what happened to them. This gripping story about family dynamics and the nature of human psychology will hold you tight all the way through. 

10 The Kindest Lie: A Novel
Nancy Johnson

Now 52% off

When Ruth gets pregnant as a teenager, she gives up her son for adoption and leaves town for an Ivy League education, hoping they’re both on a path toward better things. But she never really gets over him, so when her husband wants to start a family years later, she’s drawn back home to find out what happened to her baby. What follows is a heart-wrenching story of family, racism, poverty and love. 

RELATED: The 20 Best Feminist Books to Put on Your Reading List This Year

11 My Year Abroad: A Novel
Chang Rae-Lee

Now 46% off

This wildly original novel carries us across the world as Tiller, a mediocre college kid, gets tied up with Pong, an international businessman who takes him on the trip of a lifetime. We bounce between those adventures and the life Tiller finds afterward with Val, a single mom in witness protection, as he tries to figure out what it all means. It’s by turns dark, humorous and almost sneakily insightful. 

12 This Close to Okay: A Novel
Leesa Cross-Smith

Now 49% off

We all carry our past with us, and that’s never clearer than in this powerful story about two strangers who come together when they both need someone the most. Recently divorced therapist Tallie Clark pulls over when she sees Emmett about to jump from a bridge. She coaxes him to safety, and over the course of the emotional weekend that follows, we learn that Emmett’s not the only one who needed saving. 

13 The Kitchen Front: A Novel
Jennifer Ryan

Now 17% off

You’ll feel like you stepped back in time with this historical fiction set in WWII Britain. Four women from very different walks of life compete in a cooking competition to become a presenter on the BBC, and learn a lot about themselves — and each other — along the way. It’s uplifting, a little scandalous and even includes recipes so you can cook along with them.  

14 No One Is Talking About This: A Novel
Patricia Lockwood

Now 34% off

This fragmented, genre-bending story about a woman who earns social media fame and wonders about what “the portal” is doing to society, her brain and the people who use it, feels both strange and intimately familiar. It’s bizarre, oddly funny, at times piercing and absolutely a must-read for all of us social media users.

15 All Girls: A Novel
Emily Layden

Now 64% off

When scandal strikes a prestigious New England Prep School, all of the students handle the fallout a bit differently. This striking debut follows nine young women as they navigate their own coming-of-age in the shadow of a controversy that feels all too familiar. 

16 Klara and the Sun: A novel
Kazuo Ishiguro

Now 50% off

The hotly-anticipated latest novel from Nobel Prize in Literature-winner Kazuo Ishiguro deals with themes both personal and universal, familiar and futuristic. The 2017 Nobel committee described Ishiguro’s books as “novels of great emotional force” that “uncovered the abyss beneath our illusory sense of connection with the world.” Read this one and you’ll understand why. 

17 The Lost Apothecary: A Novel
Sarah Penner

Now 53% off

If you’ve ever wanted to really get back at someone, have we got a book for you. In 18th century England, a secret apothecary sells disguised poison to the victims of oppressive men. That is, until a client makes a horrible mistake. Meanwhile, in modern-day England, an aspiring historian stumbles onto the story with potentially devastating results. 

18 Libertie: A Novel
courtesy of Kaitlyn Greenidge

Now 48% off

Growing up in Brooklyn during the Reconstruction, Libertie knows her physician mother wants Libertie to follow a similar path. But instead, Libertie accepts the proposal of a Haitian man to pursue a new life, only to discover she’s still not his equal on the island. Inspired by the story of one of the first Black female physicians in the U.S., this is a gorgeous meditation on what freedom means.

19 The Beauty of Living Twice
Sharon Stone

Now 54% off

In a gorgeous memoir that talks about how she put her life back together after a massive medical event, actress and humanitarian Sharon Stone lets us all in to her world. Whether you’ve followed her work or not, this slice of life makes a great read. 

20 Caul Baby: A Novel
Morgan Jerkins

Now 45% off

The Harlem Melancons are powerful and prosperous, thanks to their magical caul that has healing properties. When neighbor Leila turns to them to save her baby and the deal falls through, it sets off a chain of events that will reverberate through the Melancon clan and Harlem itself. This engrossing story is rich with mystery, page-turning tension and the powerful ways family can hold us even in toxic circumstances. 

21 Of Women and Salt: A Novel
Gabriela Garcia

Now 52% off

As Carmen tries to help keep her daughter Jeanette’s addiction under control, Jeanette yearns to learn more about her family. When she travels back to Cuba to seek answers, she learns how secrets can fester over generations. This sweeping story takes us from the Cuban cigar factories of the 19th century to present-day Miami as we see the ways betrayal, tragedy and women’s choices embed themselves in our histories. 

22 Good Company: A Novel
Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney

Now 57% off

When Flora stumbles upon a secret her husband has been hiding from her, it makes her question not only their decades-long marriage, but her relationship with her best friend Margot, too. This page-turner will make you think about the role friendship can play in both large and small decisions in our lives. 

23 How Beautiful We Were: A Novel
Imbolo Mbue

Now 40% off

As the fictional African village of Kosawa is slowly being destroyed by an American oil company and their government seems to only care about its own interests, the people who live there decide to fight back. This exploration of capitalism, colonialism and what a difference the little guy will really make you think.

24 Detransition, Baby: A Novel
Torrey Peters

Now 17% off

Life isn’t always linear, and neither are Reese and Ames’ journey in this story of love, loss and chosen family. When Ames’ impregnates his coworker Katrina, he thinks co-parenting with her and his ex Reese might be a win-win-win: Reese has always wanted a baby, Ames misses Reese, and three adults is better than two, right? Well, it’s not that simple. This book shows us, above all, that nothing ever is. 

25 Peaces: A Novel
Helen Oyeyemi

Now 53% off

Atmospheric, lyrical and deeply weird, this story about Otto and Xavier traveling on a mysterious private train with their pet mongoose feels like a fever dream in the best way. When the pair discovers another secretive passenger on the train, the mysteries that unravel show them connections between their past, present and each other. 

26 Sunshine Girl: An Unexpected Life
Julianna Margulies

Now 46% off

Known for her roles on ER and The Good Wife, Julianna Margulies had an unconventional childhood that taught her to seek order in chaos and find sunshine even in dark places. This honest portrait of her faith, fate and resilience as she finds her way in the world as both a woman and an actor is deeply personal and relatably universal. 

27 Unsettled Ground
Claire Fuller

Now 40% off

Twins Jeanie and Julius, 51, live insular lives with their mother Dot in the rural English countryside, until she dies suddenly and leaves them with a financial mess and long-buried secrets. The two have to find their way in the world for the first time, in a quiet tale of loss and survival. 

28 While Justice Sleeps: A Novel
Stacey Abrams

Now 46% off

The political powerhouse is also a fantastic novelist, as evidenced by this juicy legal thriller that takes us inside the hallowed halls of the Supreme Court. When a pivotal justice falls into a coma and names his clerk as his legal guardian, she discovers a controversy that may prove downright dangerous. As she races against time to solve the clues to the conspiracy her boss uncovered, you’ll find yourself holding your breath too.  

29 Build Your House Around My Body
Violet Kupersmith

Now 37% off

This deliciously unsettling book is a ghost story, a revenge caper and a historical fiction novel all tangled up in one. The daughter of a wealthy Vietnamese family has a strange encounter in a rubber plantation in 1986 and a young expat disappears in Saigon in 2011. Their stories, and many others, intersect in wonderfully strange ways.

30 What Comes After: A Novel
Joanne Tompkins

Now 39% off

Isaac and his neighbor Lorrie are both single parents, mourning the tragic loss of their teenaged sons and the shadow of a heinous act one of them committed. When a pregnant teen named Evangeline shows up on Isaac’s doorstep, Lorrie steps up to help out when he retreats to his Quaker faith. Her presence forces them all to reckon with their pasts and take a hard look at what they want for their futures.

31 The Rock Eaters: Stories
Brenda Peynado

Now 29% off

One of Peynado’s stories plays on the “thoughts and prayers” that echoes across the Internet after every school shooting, another features floating children who eat rocks to stay grounded. In still another, people’s appendages begin to dissapear and with them, their rights. Spanning time, space, and magical possibility, this collection is achingly beautiful and hauntingly prescient. 

32 One Last Stop
Casey McQuiston

Now 40% off

August, a jaded waitress at an iconic New York City diner, thinks she’s too smart to fall in love. But then she meets Jane, a punk-rock chick who jump-starts her heart. One problem: Jane is a time-traveling exile from the 1970s, and she literally can’t get off the train. It’ll take everything August has to save Jane and the life she’s carved out for herself. 

33 Somebody’s Daughter: A Memoir
Ashley C. Ford

Now 56% off

When Ashley’s father went to prison, he left her to struggle with her body, her mother and her identity as a poor Black girl, all while wishing her dad were there for support. After a sexual assault throws her into turmoil, Ashley finally learns what he did to land there, setting off a whole new reckoning. Not a light read, but a gorgeously poignant one. 

34 With Teeth: A Novel
Kristen Arnett

Now 40% off

A sharp, often wryly funny, sometimes heart-wrenching look into parenting, queer marriage and growing up, this searing novel feels like walking across a lawn gone crispy in the sun. It’s deeply satisfying and a little painful, all at once. 

35 Beautiful Country: A Memoir
Qian Julie Wang

Now 40% off

A coming-of-age memoir about an undocumented Chinese girl growing up in New York’s Chinatown, this lyrical book is full of small moments of joy, heartbreaking pain and the struggles of a family trying to survive in the shadows of society. It’s a uniquely American story, and an essential one. 

36 God Spare the Girls: A Novel
Kelsey McKinney

Now 48% off

For over a decade, preacher Luke Nolan has led the Hope congregation with his wife and daughters Abigail and Caroline dutifully by his side. But when his infidelity comes to light just weeks before Abigail’s wedding, the two sisters flee to their late grandmother’s ranch to figure out what they really owe their family — and themselves. 

37 Filthy Animals
Brandon Taylor

Now 37% off

In a series of deeply emotive linked stories, a young man struggles to find his way among a cast of artists in the Midwest all reckoning with their bonds to one another. Through a pair of dancers in an open relationship, a fraught night of baby­sitting and teens teetering toward violence, you’ll be drawn into the characters’ search for connection.

38 The Turnout
Megan Abbott

Now 39% off

There’s something dark lurking beneath the pink toe shoes and elegant relevés at the Durant ballet school in this novel that’s as taut as a dancer’s bun. Sisters Marie and Dara are toxically intertwined with one another and Charlie, Dara’s husband, and the fallout reveals itself over the course of this disturbing and gripping read. 

39 Beautiful World, Where Are You
Sally Rooney

Now 40% off

Rooney’s name needs no introduction, and neither does this book. In her typical fashion, it follows four people who feel like someone you might know and puts them in social and romantic entanglements that you’ll immediately invest in. 

Hermione Hoby

Now 41% off

Luca’s struggling to find his way amidst the literati of New York City, broke but all too aware of his privilege. Meanwhile, his best friend Zara throws herself into the rising social justice movement as Luca gets entangled in the lives of a glam older married couple he befriends. Lyrical but uncomfortably real, this novel invites readers to take a hard look at our ideals and what we will (or won’t) do to uphold them. 

41 All’s Well
Mona Awad

Now 46% off

Miranda’s marriage is over and her job as a college theater director is in peril. In short, her life is in shambles, all because of debilitating nerve pain from the accident that ended her stage career. She’d do anything to make it go away. And then, three strange benefactors offer to do just that, in this darkly comedic story that’s uniquely unsettling.

42 Afterparties: Stories
Anthony Veasna So

Now 36% off

These immersive short stories offer readers a sweeping, often funny, look into a Cambodian American community in California. Characters struggle with the shadow of the Khmer Rouge genocide, their own sexuality and conflicts related to family and friendship. The snippets of life in all its complexity resonate long after the last page. 

43 Harlem Shuffle
Colson Whitehead

Now 42% off

Harlem furniture salesman Ray doesn’t  set out to live the life of crime his father did, but times are hard and he has a family to feed. His careful facade as an upstanding citizen starts to crumble when he and  his cousin Freddie find themselves mixed up in a heist at the Hotel Theresa and things go about as wrong as they possibly could. 

Lauren Groff

Now 50% off

When teenager Marie de France is sent to live at a destitute abbey in England, she thinks her life is over — but her real journey is just beginning. Spanning decades of Marie’s life as she goes on to lead the abbey and usher the nuns into prosperity and power, this expansive novel explores faith, sexuality, mysticism and a little bit of magic. It’s passionately feminist, funny and even a bit profane. 

45 The Book of Form and Emptiness
Ruth Ozeki

Now 20% off

Benny Oh hears voices, his mother’s hoarding is getting out of control after his father’s death and the only place he finds refuge is his local library. There, he meets a street artist and an unhoused philosopher who help him find his own way through a series of capers that will keep you riveted through the last page. 

46 Fault Lines
Emily Itami

Now 50% off

After a decade of marriage to a husband who basically ignores her and labor as full-time mom to two young children, Mizuki is about ready to jump off her Tokyo balcony. But when she meets the charismatic restaurateur Kiyoshi, she rediscovers what has been missing in her domestic life. In this romantic romp, she’ll have to choose between the life she has and the one that he shows her is possible. 

47 Cloud Cuckoo Land
Anthony Doerr

Now 39% off

In this intricately braided story, four characters are trying to find their way: Anna and Omeir, on opposite sides of the city walls during the 1453 siege of Constantinople; teenage Seymour, in an attack on a public library in present-day Idaho; and Konstance, on an interstellar ship decades from now. It’s a stunning, mind-bending tale of survival and how closely we’re all connected. 

48 Win Me Something
Kyle Lucia Wu

Now 12% off

As a biracial kid, Willa feels isolated from both her white classmates and her Asian ones. Since her parents divorced and started new families, she’s grown apart from them too. When she gets a job as a nanny to a wealthy family, she forms a bond with their daughter, Bijou, that’s closer than she’s ever had. It’s a story about growing up and finding your place in the world — or creating one of your own. 

49 Trashlands
Alison Stine

Now 31% off

In a near-future dystopia where plastic is currency, Coral and the other residents of Trashlands are just doing what they can to survive. But when a reporter arrives, he brings the possibility of another life, one Coral and her friends scarcely dare imagine.

50 Our Country Friends
Gary Shteyngart

Now 38% off

Eight friends with strong personalities, long-buried secrets, a little romance and a lot of time on their hands hole up together in a country estate during the first six months of the COVID-19 pandemic. Packed with drama, humor, love and betrayal, this book will make you hug your loved ones a little tighter. 

51 The Sentence
Louise Erdrich

Now 29% off

What do you do when a customer won’t leave the bookstore? What if that customer is dead? That’s the central conundrum in this hunting novel set in a Minneapolis bookstore during the upheaval of the COVID pandemic and racial justice reckoning of 2020 that’s all about love, loss, fear and how we cope with all of the above. 

52 These Precious Days: Essays
Ann Patchett

Now 28% off

These wide-ranging yet intimate essays cover seemingly mundane daily activities like a home organization project that helps her discern what’s really important, touch on lessons learned while traveling and crafting and describe the revelatory nature of welcoming a friend to live with her. With essays that feel both profoundly original and strikingly familiar, let Patchett welcome you home.

53 Bright Burning Things
Lisa Harding

Now 37% off

This emotional story takes us deep into the throes of addiction, trauma, motherhood and the pain of trying to juggle them all. Sonya’s a former actor whose relationship with her son is the brightest spot in her life, but her drinking threatens to drown them both. It’s a stunning book, and one readers won’t soon forget. 

54 Hell of a Book
Jason Mott

Now 37% off

This National Book Award-winner is about a book tour, but it’s also not about that at all. It’s also the story of a young Black boy known as Soot, and The Kid who may or may not be imaginary. And it’s a story about police violence, racism, art and its value, as well as what it’s like to be Black in America today. 


Written By GH Staff!

Biography of a Body

Lizz Schumer

This lyrical memoir told in essays and snippets of verse, follows as the narrator explores what it means to grow up a woman, as well as all of the societal pressures, uncertainties and challenges that brings. Shifting between time, place and perspective, it will feel familiar to those who have also traveled a wandering path toward the person they want to become.

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