2020 felt like horror, romance, cookbooks, and a post-apocalyptic sci-fi thriller novel all wrapped up in one. Whether you felt more like a Jane Austen protagonist, living a quiet domestic life, or Ms. Frizzle, The Magic School Bus teacher, trying to impart some home-schooled science knowledge to your young pupils, or one of the weary group of nomadic actors struggling to survive mid-pandemic in Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven, we get it. And we’re here to remind you that even in the midst of chaos we can always find comfort in books.
The good news is that no matter what the next year holds, the forthcoming books are glorious. Here are 40 of the best new books in 2021 that we can’t wait to escape into.
Klara and the Sun
In Kazuo Ishiguro’s first novel since winning the Nobel Prize in Literature, we meet Klara, an Artificial Friend, who observes the world from where she sits in the store. She wonders about the passersby outside and which customer will pick her. A lovely meditation on love and belonging told through the eyes of a remarkable narrator.
A Swim in a Pond in the Rain
Writers, make a little extra room on your bookshelf for author George Saunders’s masterclass on successful storytelling. Using classic Russian short stories, Saunders shows the reader how to hone their craft.
My Year Abroad
Award-winning author of Native Speaker and On Such a Full Sea is back! His latest novel follows Tiller, an average student with few plans for the future whose chance meeting with a successful businessman with enviable resources sweeps him up into a wild life of luxurious globetrotting.
First Person Singular
Haruki Murakami dazzles in this new collection of short stories that are all told in the first person. Who knows, some of the narrators might even be Murakami himself.
Zo and Ethan are like any other married couple until the #MeToo Movement fractures their seemingly simple life. Zo is transformed by her outrage and hardly recognizable to her husband. Ethan finds himself questioning everything as a scandal at his office erupts and a carefree new babysitter brings new energy into the home. Inspired by a classic Edith Wharton tale of a love triangle in a small town, The Smash-Up is guaranteed to pack a walloping punch.
How to Avoid a Climate Disaster
Bill Gates has over a decade of experience researching the cause and effects of climate change. In his practical guide to thwarting climate disaster, he provides clear steps to help save our planet.
Martha Hall Kelly
Martha Hall Kelly, bestselling author of Lilac Girls, is back with a story of three women—Georgeanna Woolsey, a Union nurse during the Civil War whose calling leads her to cross paths with Jemma, a young enslaved girl who is sold off and conscripted into the army, and Anne-May Wilson, a Southern plantation mistress whose husband enlists—trying to survive against all odds in the midst of the Civil War.
Robert Jones, Jr.
Two young enslaved men, Samuel and Isaiah, find love and comfort in the barn where they tend to the animals. Their love, once so simple, is tested when changes on the plantation threaten their intimate sanctuary. A piece of historical fiction that reminds us of Toni Morrison’s classic, Beloved. This emotional read doesn’t feel like a debut but rather the work of a seasoned author.
When the Stars Go Dark
As a seasoned missing persons detective, Anna Hart is intimately familiar with the darker side of humanity. Some of the darkest periods of her life helped her understand how victims meet predators. When personal tragedy hits, she returns to the town where she grew up with her foster family, only to find out that a local teenage girl is missing and it could be a pattern.
A Bright Ray of Darkness
Acclaimed actor, director, and writer, Ethan Hawke, beautifully weaves the story of a man disgusted with himself in the wake of a divorce as he prepares for his Broadway debut in Henry IV.
Project Hail Mary
Ryland Grace is the only survivor of a last-chance mission to save Earth. He wakes up on an unsophisticated spaceship millions of miles from his planet with a hazy memory of the task before him. The extinction of humanity rests in his hands and when hope is lost, a surprising ally arrives to give him a fighting chance.
Not only is this Jhumpa Lahiri’s first novel in over a decade but it’s her first work originally written in Italian and translated into English by the author herself. Bursting with her trademark themes of love, estrangement, family, belonging and desire, this is Lahiri’s finest work yet.
Award-winning psychologist, Ethan Kross, draws on real case studies from his lab to illustrate the importance of positive self-talk to our overall health and success. From a Harvard undergrad navigating his double life as a student and a spy, to a pitcher who forgets how to pitch, Kross shows us how to befriend our inner coach and use the skills we already possess to unlock a happy, successful life.
My Time Will Come
At fourteen, Ian Manuel was sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole. In his own words, Manuel describes growing up in one of the toughest neighborhoods in Florida and the botched mugging of a woman that would change his life forever. Through grit, serendipity, and the help of strangers including legendary activist, Bryan Stevenson, Manuel found his way to freedom and is here to tell his inspiring story.
In the tiny farm town of Emmett, Idaho, there are two kinds of people: those who leave and those who stay. Grace Olmstead, a young journalist and one who left, looks back on her upbringing and questions what we owe to the places we come from.
The Dangers of Smoking in Bed
If you loved her story collection, Things We Lost in the Fire, this book has your name all over it. A delicious mix of unconventional stories ruminating on the dark, twisted side of humanity, this collection is as timely as it is disturbing. Open a bottle of your darkest red wine and tuck into this read…but maybe leave a light on.
The Swallowed Man
We love a reimagining of a classic tale and The Swallowed Man is no exception. Brilliant storyteller Edward Carey reimagines the life of Pinocchio and his father Geppetto in this modern retelling that explores themes of toxic masculinity, parenting, and father-son relationships.
The Beauty of Living Twice
Actress and icon Sharon Stone was at the pinnacle of her career when she suffered a massive stroke that swept away her fame and fortune and left her rudderless and reeling. Her deeply intimate memoir is a celebration of one woman’s strength and resilience. Known for refusing to “play nice,” the book includes all of the intimate details fans of celebrity memoirs crave.
New loves Otto and Xavier receive an unusual gift to celebrate their new commitment: a ride on The Lucky Day sleeper train. What begins as an exciting trip aboard a former tea-smuggling train takes a turn when they realize they are the only passengers on board except for a woman with a strange message for them.
The Gilded Ones
Sixteen year old Deka grew up feeling different. Desperate for belonging, she hopes after the blood ceremony, she will finally join her village. When her blood runs gold, signaling her impurity, she knows her fate is worse than death. Then, a strange woman appears and tells her about other girls like her. For the first time, Deka has a choice: stay and face her fate or join the alaki, a group of girl warriors, in the fight of her life.
Dusk, Night, Dawn
Anne Lamott is here to meet the chaos of this past year with warmth, grace, and advice drawn from her own life aimed at helping us cope by accepting our flaws and embracing our humanity.
Crying in H Mart
Indie rockstar Michelle Zauner grew up as one of the only Asian American kids in her class in Eugene, Oregon. If that wasn’t enough, she had her mother’s extremely high expectations waiting for her at home. As she grew up and started a life of her own, Zauner felt farther away from her Korean roots until her mother’s terminal cancer diagnosis brought her back home to face what she left behind.
A practical guide for businesses and organizations alike seeking to create more diverse, inclusive and equitable workspaces. Presented by Dr. Robert Livingston, a leading social psychologist and expert in diversity and leadership, this book will help move the reader past lip-service towards tangible action.
Leda and the Swan
It’s Halloween night on a perfect East Coast college campus. After a particularly wild night, Leda wakes up in her crush, Ian’s, room uncertain of what happened between them. Then she finds out that a woman she spoke with last night at the party is missing and she happens to be Ian’s old girlfriend. As Leda obsesses over finding the missing woman, she questions whether she is falling in love for the first time or is in way over her head.
Blythe Connor always wanted to be the mother she never had but when baby Violet arrives, things are not what they seem. Blythe’s husband, Fox, dismisses her concerns, causing Blythe to question her sanity. Is it the grueling lack of sleep that comes with the early days of new parenthood or is something wrong with Violet?
Based on their wildly popular course, Humor: Serious Business, at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, authors Jennifer Aaker and Naomi Bagdonas show the value of humor in the workplace and how you can use it to your advantage.
What Comes After
Single mother Lorrie and her next-door neighbor, Isaac, privately grieve the death of their teenage sons until a mysterious pregnant teen named Evangeline brings them together to imagine a brighter future for all three of them.
The Witch’s Heart
If you simply can’t be bothered with reality anymore, we invite you to escape into this retelling of Norse mythology. Littered with characters like Freya, Odin, and Thor, this read will transport you to another time and place. Did we mention the author is a Viking reenactor?
Four Hundred Souls
Ibram X. Kendi
Award-winning author Dr. Ibram X. Kendi and award-winning historian Keisha N. Blain teamed up to edit the first comprehensive, single volume history of African Americans from 1619–2019. With the help of over ninety African-American writers from all disciplines, this work is the first to focus on the full scope of African American history and is sure to be an essential keepsake.
The Soul of a Woman
Isabel Allende was a feminist by kindergarten. Watching her mother struggle to raise a family on her own without a voice, she devoted her life to improving the lives of women. Now, with her meditation on modern womanhood, she urges readers to take up the torch and fight for future generations of feminists.
Reese had everything she thought a trans woman could ever want: a loving girlfriend in Amy, a good job, and a beautiful apartment in New York. Then Amy decides to detransition and live as Ames, throwing both their lives out of orbit. When Ames’s new lover reveals she’s pregnant, Ames and Reese find themselves confronting their feelings on gender, sex, motherhood, and love in this brilliant, heartfelt debut.
Run to Win
Okay, ladies now let’s get in formation! Grab a highlighter and some notecards because this inspirational guide is here to walk you through everything you need to know about running for office. Just remember us when you’re getting sworn in!
Let Me Tell You What I Mean
Twelve never-before-collected works from the brilliant mind of Joan Didion. Mostly drawn from the early years of her career, these essays let us peek behind the curtain and into the psyche of America’s most beloved writer.
How Beautiful We Were
The inhabitants of the fictional African village of Kosawa have had it. Local children are dying from drinking contaminated water, pipeline spills threaten their farmland, and promises from the American oil company causing the oil spills fall short. Left with little help from their country’s government, citizens of Kosawa decide to fight back but it comes at a great cost.
While Justice Sleeps
Avery Keene is a law clerk for the legendary Justice Howard, a grouchy older man with a swing vote on a number of important cases. When he suddenly falls into a coma and designates Avery as his power of attorney, she realizes how little she knew about the man she works for. Written by legendary leader, Stacey Abrams, this read is filled with heart-pounding suspense. We dare you not to finish it in one sitting.
Hour of the Witch
Mary Deerfield is twenty-four, beautiful, and married to a monster. After a particularly violent attack at the hands of her husband, she swears to divorce him but, in 1662, a woman doesn’t have many options. And of course, neighbors are always watching for signs of witchcraft.
Taylor Jenkins Reid
We didn’t get to attend any parties in 2020 and certainly none quite as lavish or dramatic as this one. In August 1983, four famous siblings throw their annual end-of-summer party. By morning, the family mansion is up in flames. Mark your calendars because this May, we have the hottest ticket to the biggest party of the year!
We Were Never Here
Friends, Emily and Kristen, meet up every year for an annual backpacking trip. With another amazing trip in the books, Emily returns to their suite on the last night to find a bloody scene and her friend claiming she killed a flirtatious backpacker in self-defense. The only problem is, this scene feels familiar and Emily is worried that she might not know everything about her best friend.
The Kitchen Front
In the midst of WWII in the fictional village of Cosgrove four women are desperate to change their circumstances. When a BBC radio program, The Kitchen Front puts on a cooking contest to encourage housewives to ration food they jump at the chance to win the prize, a job as the first-ever female co-host.