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The 10 Best Fiction Books of 2021

books and authors of 2021

T he year 2021 was poised to be a great one for established, fan-favorite authors. We were blessed with new work from a buzzy roster of titans, from Colson Whitehead to Lauren Groff to Kazuo Ishiguro . But while they, along with several others, did not disappoint (see TIME’s list of the 100 Must-Read Books of 2021 ), it was debut authors who truly shined. In an industry that has long been criticized for exclusion—and where it’s increasingly difficult to break out from the crowd—a crop of bright new voices rose to the top. From Anthony Veasna So to Torrey Peters to Jocelyn Nicole Johnson and more, these writers introduced themselves to the world with fiction that surprised us, challenged our perspectives and kept us fulfilled. Here, the top 10 fiction books of 2021.

10. Klara and the Sun , Kazuo Ishiguro

books and authors of 2021

The eighth novel from Nobel Prize–winning author Kazuo Ishiguro, longlisted for the Booker Prize, follows a robot-like “Artificial Friend” named Klara, who sits in a store and waits to be purchased. When she becomes the companion of an ailing 14-year-old girl, Klara puts her observations of the world to the test. In exploring the dynamic between the AI and the teen, Ishiguro crafts a narrative that asks unsettling questions about humanity, technology and purpose , offering a vivid view into a future that may not be so far away.

Buy Now: Klara and the Sun on Bookshop | Amazon

9. Open Water , Caleb Azumah Nelson

books and authors of 2021

In his incisive debut novel, Caleb Azumah Nelson tells a bruising love story about young Black artists in London. His protagonist is a photographer who has fallen for a dancer, and Nelson proves masterly at writing young love, clocking the small and seemingly meaningless moments that encompass longing. In just over 150 intimate pages, Nelson celebrates the art that has shaped his characters’ lives while interrogating the unjust world that surrounds them.

Buy Now: Open Water on Bookshop | Amazon

Read more about the best entertainment of the year: TV shows | Movies | Songs | Albums | Podcasts | Nonfiction books | YA and children’s books | Movie performances | Video games | Theater

8. Afterparties , Anthony Veasna So

books and authors of 2021

The nine stories that constitute Anthony Veasna So’s stirring debut collection, published after his death at 28, reveal a portrait of a Cambodian American community in California. One follows two sisters at their family’s 24-hour donut shop as they reflect on the father who left them. Another focuses on a high school badminton coach who is stuck in the past and desperate to win a match against the local star, a teenager. There’s also a mother with a secret, a love story with a major age gap and a wedding afterparty gone very wrong. Together, So’s narratives offer a thoughtful view into the community that shaped him, and while he describes the tensions his characters navigate with humor and care, he also offers penetrating insights on immigration, queerness and identity.

Buy Now: Afterparties on Bookshop | Amazon

7. Cloud Cuckoo Land , Anthony Doerr

books and authors of 2021

The five protagonists of Anthony Doerr’s kaleidoscopic and remarkably constructed third novel, all living on the margins of society, are connected by an ancient Greek story. In Cloud Cuckoo Land, a National Book Award finalist, a present-day storyline anchors a sweeping narrative: in a library, an ex-prisoner of war is rehearsing a theatrical adaptation of the Greek story with five middle schoolers—and a lonely teenager has just hidden a bomb. Doerr catapults Cloud Cuckoo Land forward and back from this moment, from 15th-century Constantinople to an interstellar ship and back to this dusty library in Idaho where the impending crisis looms. His immersive world-building and dazzling prose tie together seemingly disparate threads as he underlines the value of storytelling and the power of imagination.

Buy Now: Cloud Cuckoo Land on Bookshop | Amazon

6. The Life of the Mind , Christine Smallwood

books and authors of 2021

The contemporary fiction landscape is full of protagonists like Christine Smallwood’s Dorothy: white millennial women who are grappling with their privilege and existence in a world that constantly feels like it’s on the verge of collapse. Plot is secondary to whatever is going on inside their heads. But Dorothy, an adjunct English professor enduring the sixth day of her miscarriage, stands apart. In Smallwood’s taut debut, this charming yet profound narrator relays amusing observations on her ever-collapsing universe. Languishing in academia, Dorothy wonders how her once-attainable goals came to feel impossible, and her ramblings—which are never irritating or tiring, but instead satirical and strange—give way to a gratifying examination of ambition, freedom and power.

Buy Now : The Life of the Mind on Bookshop | Amazon

5. The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois , Honorée Fanonne Jeffers

books and authors of 2021

The debut novel from poet Honorée Fanonne Jeffers, longlisted for a National Book Award, is a piercing epic that follows the story of one American family from the colonial slave trade to present day. At its core is the mission of Ailey Pearl Garfield, a Black woman coming of age in the 1980s and ’90s, determined to learn more about her family history. What Ailey discovers leads her to grapple with her identity, particularly as she discovers secrets about her ancestors. In 800 rewarding pages, Jeffers offers a comprehensive account of class, colorism and intergenerational trauma. It’s an aching tale told with nuance and compassion—one that illuminates the cost of survival.

Buy Now: The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois on Bookshop | Amazon

4. Detransition, Baby , Torrey Peters

books and authors of 2021

Reese is a 30-something trans woman who desperately wants a child. Her ex Ames, who recently detransitioned, just learned his new lover is pregnant with his baby. Ames presents Reese with the opportunity she’s been waiting for: perhaps the three of them can raise the baby together. In her delectable debut novel, Torrey Peters follows these characters as they become entangled in a messy, emotional web while considering this potentially catastrophic proposition—and simultaneously spins thought-provoking commentary on gender, sex and desire.

Buy Now: Detransition, Baby on Bookshop | Amazon

3. My Monticello , Jocelyn Nicole Johnson

books and authors of 2021

Jocelyn Nicole Johnson’s searing short-story collection is one to read in order. Its narratives dissect an American present that doesn’t feel at all removed from the country’s violent past, and they build to a brutal finish. The unnerving standout piece—the titular novella—follows a group of neighbors who seek refuge on Thomas Jefferson’s plantation while on the run from white supremacists. Johnson’s narrator is college student Da’Naisha, a Black descendant of Jefferson who is questioning her relationship to the land and the people with whom she’s found herself occupying it. The story is as apocalyptic as it is realistic, a haunting portrait of a community trying to survive in a nation that constantly undermines its very existence.

Buy Now: My Monticello on Bookshop | Amazon

2. The Prophets , Robert Jones, Jr.

books and authors of 2021

At a plantation in the antebellum South, enslaved teenagers Isaiah and Samuel work in a barn and seek refuge in each other until one of their own, after adopting their master’s religious beliefs, betrays their trust. In The Prophets, a National Book Award finalist, Robert Jones, Jr. traces the teens’ relationship, as well as the lives of the women who raised them, surround them and have been the backbone of the plantation for generations. In moving between their stories, Jones unveils a complex social hierarchy thrown off balance by the rejection of the young mens’ romance. The result is a crushing exploration of the legacy of slavery and a delicate story of Black queer love.

Buy Now: The Prophets on Bookshop | Amazon

1. Great Circle , Maggie Shipstead

books and authors of 2021

The beginning of Maggie Shipstead’s astounding novel , a Booker finalist, includes a series of endings: two plane crashes, a sunken ship and several people dead. The bad luck continues when one of the ship’s young survivors, Marian, grows up to become a pilot—only to disappear on the job. Shipstead unravels parallel narratives, Marian’s and that of another woman whose life is changed by Marian’s story, in glorious detail. Every character, whether mentioned once or 50 times, has a specific, necessary presence. It’s a narrative made to be devoured, one that is both timeless and satisfying.

Buy Now: Great Circle on Bookshop | Amazon

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Write to Annabel Gutterman at [email protected]

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The 50 Best Books of 2021

The year was a banner showing for literary treasures.

best books of 2021

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With such an embarrassment of riches on offer, ranking these books is a downright impossible task, so we present our selections in no particular order. In this singularly strange and challenging year, books comforted us, allowed us to travel even when borders were closed, and ultimately, kept us sane. We made it to the end of this terrible, horrible, no good, very bad year, and we're still reading. Congratulate yourself for that—and don't waste any time stocking up your "to be read" pile.

Virtue, by Hermione Hoby

“That was just what you did on weekends—brunch and protest,” narrates Luca Lewis from the distant remove of 2027, looking back on his formative time as a magazine intern in New York City during the heated year of 2016. As he learns the elite ways and means of the rarefied magazine world, Luca dismisses a Black coworker’s efforts to recruit him to workplace activism, then becomes infatuated with a wealthy creative couple and their life of privilege. It takes a tragedy to awaken Luca to his misbegotten allegiances in this trenchant story of complacency and social consciousness.

The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story, edited by Nikole Hannah-Jones

In this groundbreaking compendium of essays, poems, works of fiction, and photography, Hannah-Jones expands on her Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times Magazine project about the “unparalleled impact” of chattel slavery on American life. These bracing and urgent works, by multidisciplinary visionaries ranging from Barry Jenkins to Jesmyn Ward, build on the existing scholarship of The 1619 Project , exploring how the nation’s original sin continues to shape everything from our music to our food to our democracy. This collection is an extraordinary update to an ongoing project of vital truth-telling.

I Love You but I've Chosen Darkness, by Claire Vaye Watkins

In this daring work of autofiction, a writer named Claire Vaye Watkins boards a plane to a speaking engagement in her hometown of Reno, where she aims to put the discontents of marriage and motherhood behind her. When her past rushes up to meet her, from her self-destructive first love to her father’s entanglement with the Manson Family, Claire’s brief getaway slides into a monthslong stay. Seared in visceral realizations about the pain of her past, Claire can’t go back home again, but how can she move forward? Boldly imagined and authoritatively told, this ambitious novel reminds us that Watkins is one of the most visionary writers working today.

Harrow, by Joy Williams

In her first novel since The Quick and the Dead , the inimitable Williams remains as beguilingly strange as ever. When teenage Khristen’s boarding school for gifted children shutters its doors, she roves across the desiccated American West until she washes up at Big Girl, a toxic lake frequented by the elderly residents of a “razed resort.” Together with these ecological terrorists and creative visionaries, Khristen queues up to wait for a looming climate apocalypse, while Williams meditates on finding hope, compassion, and reason as the doomsday clock ticks down.

Reprieve, by James Han Mattson

It’s April 1997, and four hopeful contestants have made it to the final room of the Quigley House, a “full contact” haunted escape room in Lincoln, Nebraska. If they can endure the home’s six cells of ghoulish horror without shouting “reprieve,” they’ll win a substantial cash prize, but not everyone will make it out alive. When a man breaks into Quigley House and murders one of the contestants, Reprieve sifts through its characters’ back stories and witness statements to solve the crime. Mattson crafts a nail-biting horror saga while also implicating us in our sick obsession with tales of this kind. Unrelenting and unforgettable, Reprieve is an American classic in the making.

My Body, by Emily Ratajkowski

Superstar model, entrepreneur, and actress Emily Ratajkowski explodes onto the literary scene with My Body , a revealing and personal exploration of what happens when a woman’s body becomes a commodity. My Body is a fascinating memoir of the objectification and misogyny Ratajkowski experienced as a young model, but also a searing work of cultural criticism about sexuality, power, fame, and consumption. My Body is the brilliant debut of a fearless multihyphenate from whom we’re eager to read more. Read an exclusive interview with Ratajkowski here at Esquire .

Everything and Less: The Novel in the Age of Amazon, by Mark McGurl

With its staggering American market share of 50% of printed books and upwards of 75% of ebooks, Amazon has changed literary life as we know it. That's not all the Everything Store has done. According to Mark McGurl, it’s transformed not just how we buy, but what we buy as well as what we read and how we write. In Everything and Less , McGurl draws a line from Amazon’s distribution model to the contemporary dissolution of genre boundaries, arguing that Amazon’s algorithm has effectively turned all fiction into genre fiction. In lucid and well-argued prose, McGurl goes spelunking through the many genres shaped by Amazon’s consumerist logic, from the familiar realms of science fiction to the surprising outer reaches of billionaire romance and Adult Baby Diaper Erotica. Perceptive and often deeply funny, Everything and Less raises compelling questions about the past, present, and future of fiction. Read an exclusive interview with McGurl here at Esquire .

Farrar, Straus and Giroux Beautiful World, Where Are You, by Sally Rooney

Expectations were high for Beautiful World, Where Are You , Rooney’s first outing since she became a global literary phenom—and her 2021 novel doesn’t disappoint. In these pages, Rooney explores the intertwined lives of four twenty-somethings: in one corner, we have Alice, a novelist who takes up residence in the Irish countryside following a psychiatric breakdown, and Felix, a local warehouse worker with whom Alice begins a noncommittal tryst. Alice’s oldest friends are Eileen, a dissatisfied magazine editor with big ideas, and Simon, Eileen’s on-again, off-again beau, an earnest and devout political activist. In Alice, Rooney’s anxieties about precocious literary success come into view. At once stylistically consistent with her previous novels and touched with a maturing sensibility, Beautiful World, Where Are You lucidly explores the ways we break up and make up in a world on fire.

Palmares, by Gayl Jones

When Toni Morrison discovered Jones in the seventies, she said of her debut novel, Corregidora , “No novel about any Black woman could ever be the same after this.” Palmares , Jones’ long-awaited fifth book, is a blistering return to form worth the two decade wait. Set in colonial Brazil, Palmares is the story of Almeyda, a young enslaved woman spirited away to Palmares, the last of the nation’s seven fugitive slave settlements. When Palmares is razed in the night by Portuguese soldiers, Almeyda travels Brazil’s luscious landscapes in search of her missing husband, only to find that it may take a medicine woman’s enchantments to bring him back. Gorgeously suffused with mystery, history, and magic, Palmares is a remarkable new outing from a major voice in American letters.

A Calling for Charlie Barnes, by Joshua Ferris

With A Calling for Charlie Barnes , Ferris has written his finest novel yet: a fabulist yarn about a flawed father in the twilight of his life, whose numerous get-rich-quick schemes and busted marriages have vaulted the American Dream forever out of his reach. Our narrator is Jake Barnes, Charlie’s son, whose earnest but unreliable memories of his father call the narrative’s very fabric into question: how can we rightly remember those closest to us? Does our intimacy blot out the truth? By turns lively, laugh-out-loud funny, and tear-jerking, this is Ferris at the height of his powers.

Billy Summers, by Stephen King

King’s latest endeavor begins with a familiar premise: ex-Marine sniper Billy Summers, a principled hit man on the eve of retirement, agrees to do one last job. With a $2 million payout looming, Billy goes undercover to assassinate a criminal, but the cover his employers dream up hits a nerve: while masquerading as a novelist, avid reader Billy sets to the task of writing his own lightly fictionalized autobiography, unspooling the wounds of a traumatic childhood and a bruising tour of duty in the Iraq War. Billy's escape from the wreckage of the job is complicated by Alice, a young woman he rescues after her brutal gang rape, who becomes an unlikely partner in his plans to get even. Remembering a Tim O'Brien aphorism, that fiction "was a way to the truth," Billy writes his way through the morass of his past and present, making for a poignant story about how fiction can redeem, heal, and empower. Read an exclusive interview with King here at Esquire .

Doubleday Harlem Shuffle, by Colson Whitehead

Whitehead goes back to his literary beginnings in his first noir since 1999's The Intuitionist . In Harlem Shuffle , it’s 1959, and used furniture salesman Ray Carney is expecting a second child with his wife. The son of a small-time crook, Ray has worked hard to become an upstanding member of his community, but when money gets tight, Ray is soon wrapped up in a risky caper to rob “the Waldorf of Harlem.” Whitehead’s Harlem—“that rustling, keening thing of people and concrete”—pulses with a vibrant heartbeat, evoked through bars and greasy spoons and Strivers’ Row townhomes. In this page-turning novel about how good people come to justify lives of crime, a master storyteller delivers beautifully rendered people and places.

Riverhead Books Matrix, by Lauren Groff

Groff’s first novel since Fates and Furies (which dropped in 2015) turns the clock back— way back. In these incandescent pages, Groff reverently imagines her way into the life and lore of Marie de France, the twelfth-century poet considered the first woman to write poetry in French. Cast out from the court by Eleanor of Acquitaine, seventeen-year-old Marie washes up at an impoverished English abbey, where she transforms from a reluctant refugee to a fiercely devoted leader. Through great works of construction and community, Marie fashions the now-wealthy abbey into an “island of women,” all while furtively writing the divinely-inspired poems that made her name. Woven from Groff’s trademark ecstatic sentences and brimming with spiritual fervor, Matrix is a radiant work of imagination and accomplishment.

Doubleday Nightbitch , by Rachel Yoder

In this unforgettable debut novel, Yoder delivers an outrageous Kafka-esque parable about the mundanity and monstrosity of early motherhood. Our protagonist, an artist turned stay-at-home parent known only as “the mother," has become a husk of herself after two years of raising a toddler without the support of her husband, who's all-too often away on weekly business trips. Soon, her mind and body begin to change; she grows dense patches of hair, her teeth sharpen, and she develops canine impulses. It’s only through her surreal transformation into "Nightbitch" that she experiences liberation from the pressure cooker of motherhood. Yoder touches on a kaleidoscope of themes, from the towering inferno of female rage to grieving the loss of self that accompanies motherhood, all of it undergirded by feral, ferocious scenes of our heroine feasting on rabbits and pissing on the lawn. Nightbitch will grab you by the scruff and refuse to let go. Read an exclusive interview with Yoder here at Esquire .

Avid Reader Press Falling, by T.J. Newman

Written by a former flight attendant while she worked red eye trips, this bruising thriller unfolds over the course of one transcontinental flight. When the pilot’s family is kidnapped, he has a choice: crash the plane to save his loved ones, or deliver his 130 passengers safely and let his family die. With a terrorist organization holding the plane captive, the pilot and his resourceful crew must race against time to do the impossible; meanwhile, an impulsive FBI agent stationed on the ground goes rogue to save lives. Expect major anxiety as this nail-biter barrels to a stunning conclusion.

Flatiron Books Somebody's Daughter, by Ashley C. Ford

In this searingly honest memoir, Ford recounts her turbulent coming of age in Indiana, where she was raised by a volcanic and sometimes abusive mother. Her childhood was haunted by the specter of her incarcerated father, whom she visited only occasionally during his decades in prison, but idealized as the loving and supportive parent she lacked. When an adult Ford learns that her father will be released after almost thirty years, she is ushered to reckon with the heinous crime he committed. Ford’s vulnerability on the page is an extraordinary feat, as she masterfully traces how the yearning girl she once was became the empowered woman she is today.

Atria Books The Other Black Girl, by Zakiya Dalila Harris

Get Out meets The Devil Wears Prada in the summer’s buzziest debut: a blistering work of semi-autobiographical fiction about Nella, the lone Black employee at Wagner Books. The arrival of Hazel, another Black editorial assistant, seems like the answer to Nella’s prayers—but Hazel isn’t the ally she seems to be. When Nella begins to receive threatening anonymous notes demanding that she leave Wagner, she immediately suspects Hazel. The truth is far more sinister, exposing Nella to a dangerous conspiracy that alters her worldview forever. In this powerful story of racism, privilege, and gatekeeping’s damage to the Black psyche, Harris puts corporate America on blast. Read an exclusive interview with Harris here at Esquire .

Little, Brown and Company How the Word Is Passed, by Clint Smith

The summer’s most visionary work of nonfiction is this radical reckoning with slavery, as represented in the nation’s monuments, plantations, and landmarks. As he tours the country, Smith observes the wounds of slavery hiding in plain sight, from Confederate cemeteries to plantations turned tourist traps, like Monticello. As he considers how the darkest chapter of our nation’s past has been sanitized for public consumption, Smith explores how slavery has shaped our collective history, and how we might hope for a more truthful collective future.

CUSTOM HOUSE Appleseed, by Matt Bell

In this epic speculative novel, Bell braids three narrative strands: the eighteenth-century rise of a proto-Johnny Appleseed, a portrait of civilization on the brink of ecological collapse fifty years from now, and the tale of the next millennium’s inhospitable Earth, plunged into a new Ice Age. Together, these narrative threads coalesce into a gripping meditation on manifest destiny and humanity's relationship to this endangered planet, making for a breathtaking novel of ideas unlike anything you've ever read.

Harper Perennial An Ordinary Age, by Rainesford Stauffer

All too often, we’re told that young adulthood will be the time of our lives—so why isn’t it? Stauffer explores the diminishing returns of young adulthood in this soulful book, providing a meticulous cartography of how outer forces shape young people’s inner lives. From chronic burnout to the loneliness epidemic to the strictures of social media, An Ordinary Age leads with empathy in exploring the myriad challenges facing young adults, while also advocating for a better path forward: one where young people can live authentic lives filled with love, community, and self-knowledge.

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Our 20 Favorite Books of 2021

Playful, majestic, dazzling. These titles stole our hearts.

best books 2021

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2021 marked the release of new books by some of our most prominent authors—among them Richard Powers, Jonathan Franzen, Louise Erdrich, Amor Towles, Ann Patchett, Anthony Doerr, Colson Whitehead, and Maggie Shipstead, whose latest works made it onto our Top 20 List. Some of them, like Shipstead’s Great Circle, are epics in which the heroes and heroines’ adventures light up the reader’s imagination, while others go a bit more micro. For example, Whitehead’s Harlem Shuffle is a 1960s period piece in which a furniture dealer gets suckered into a caper; Erdrich’s The Sentence is a contemporary novel set in a Minneapolis bookstore exactly like the one the author owns.

Two of the debut novels on our list—the breathtaking The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois , by Honorée Fanonne Jeffers, and Nathan Harris’s The Sweetness of Water —were also selected for Oprah’s Book Club. Fiction from rising stars Patricia Engel, Mariana Enriquez, and Virgina Feito also wowed us.

Maggie Nelson is one of America’s leading intellectuals, and her brilliant collection, On Freedom , is a must-read for anyone who wants to deconstruct the most urgent social debates of the day. And the The Man Who Lived Underground , which Richard Wright wrote in the 1940s but was unable to get published at the time, underscores that great literature never loses its relevance: His tale of police brutality and racial inequality reads like it happened today. And then there’s Pulitzer Prize–winning historian Annette Gordon Reed’s On Juneteenth, her stirring personal ode to a holiday that is only now finally getting its due.

And for fun, New York, My Village , by Uwem Akpan, satirizes the self-serious book publishing business, while James LaPine’s sublime Putting It Together is a reminder, amid all our world’s uncertainty, that making art and sharing it with audiences is one of those life-affirming acts we were put on this planet for.

Drumroll, please...

Cloud Cuckoo Land, by Anthony Doerr

The man who lived underground, by richard wright.

This previously unpublished novel, written in the 40s by the iconic author of Native Son , indicts police brutality and white supremacy through the terrifying saga of Fred Daniels, a Black man framed for double murder. Wright’s publisher refused to release the book at the time, deeming it incendiary. But this powerful, eerily prescient allegory finally saw the light of day earlier this year, at last getting the platform it has long deserved.

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Harper The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois, by Honorée Fanonne Jeffers

This sweeping kitchen-table epic is the Great American Novel told through the family and ancestors of its protagonist, Ailey Pearl Garfield. Their narratives are anchored in centuries of oppression, sexual violations, and wounds made bearable by the humor, love, and resilience of Black matriarchs, then and now.

On Freedom: Four Songs of Care and Constraint, by Maggie Nelson

The acclaimed author of The Argonauts challenges, excites, and ignites with this cerebral mélange of reporting, memoir, and scholarship on topics ranging from cultural appropriation to climate change, to the distinction between obligation and responsibility. Settle in and observe Nelson’s mind at work and on fire.

Great Circle, by Maggie Shipstead

Shipstead’s exhilarating feminist epic is an ode to independence, persistence, and aviation. Marian Graves is the unforgettable protagonist at the heart of this Booker-nominated novel, who from an early age wants only to learn to fly. How she manages to make this dream come true as an orphan growing up in early-20th-century Montana is a study in courage, a thrilling ascent into a writer’s untethered imagination.

Farrar, Straus and Giroux Putting It Together, by James Lapine

The three-time Tony winner and Theater Hall of Fame inductee recounts the making of storied musical Sunday in the Park with  George , which he created with Stephen Sondheim. This illustrated book includes scintillating behind-the-scenes conversations with cast and crew. Anyone interested in how art is made will love Lapine’s tale of legends in collaboration.

The Sweetness of Water, by Nathan Harris

Newly freed in Old Ox, Georgia, two brothers, Prentiss and Landry, work on the homestead of George and Isabelle Walker—a couple mourning their son presumed lost to the Civil War—while also exploring the boundaries of their independence. A forbidden romance between Confederate soldiers underscores the tension between intimacy and duplicity in this singular debut, which also demonstrates how simple acts—of valor or violence—can ripple through time and space.

The Lincoln Highway, by Amor Towles

Towles’s picaresque tale is a paean to American mythology and the innocence of youth. In June 1954, four boys—Emmett, a Nebraska teenager just released from juvie; his little brother, Billy, a savant; Duchess, a streetwise hustler; and Woolly, heir to a Manhattan fortune—hit the road, staking out their dreams on opposite coasts but each drawn inevitably to New York. The author of A Gentleman i n Moscow has delivered a novel at once magical and melancholy.

New York, My Village, by Uwem Akpan

When Ekong Udousoro ventures from Nigeria to Manhattan to work as a book publishing fellow, he’s at first entranced and then gradually disillusioned by the patronizing, cultural superiority of his American colleagues. This satiric first novel, by the author of the memoir Say You’re One of Them , is both hilarious and spot-on.

Infinite Country, by Patricia Engel

Fifteen-year-old Talia escapes an all-girls correctional facility in the Colombian mountains on a mission to get back to Bogotá, where her father is waiting with her plane ticket to the U.S. It’s her one chance to unite with her mother and the siblings she has never met. Alternating between Talia’s journey and her parents’ struggles as undocumented immigrants separated by deportation, Engel’s astounding novel is an ode to family and heritage.

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Crossroads, by Jonathan Franzen

His strongest work since The  Corrections , Franzen’s sumptuous new novel maps the interior lives of the Hildebrandts, a suburban family mired in the quicksand of desire and deceit. It’s Christmas 1971, and a disingenuous pastor, his depressed wife, and their four children are torn between religious beliefs and roiling cultural change. Franzen embroiders his narrative with piercing social observation, an American Balzac.

Bewilderment, by Richard Powers

A grieving astrophysicist, his neuroatypical 9-year-old son, and the fern-fringed trails and waterfalls of Tennessee’s Smoky Mountains: From these elements the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of The  Overstory weaves a gorgeous, generous heartbreak of a novel that mourns our ailing planet, as well as our ailing souls.

Harlem Shuffle, by Colson Whitehead

The two-time Pulitzer winner tilts genre on its head with an immersive, witty tale about a heist run amok. As the 1960s commence, Ray Carney, a Harlem furniture dealer, gets sucked into a hotel robbery. Afterward he dodges dangers real and imagined, glomming onto an American Dream that shrugs off his aspirations.

Hogarth The Dangers of Smoking in Bed, by Mariana Enriquez

An emerging Argentine star goes for Gothic gold, gleefully poking the scars of friendships and attraction in this spine-tingling, luminous collection whose enthralling characters all dance across the spectral line between our world and the beyond.

Mrs. March, by Virginia Feito

Feito’s electrifying debut novel opens a scary window into a husband’s gaslighting and its effects on his increasingly unhinged wife, Mrs. March... or is the gaslighting just in her head? Our heroine is beginning to fear that the walls of the Marches’ sumptuous Manhattan apartment have ears. Elisabeth Moss is set to star in the film version.

Intimacies, by Katie Kitamura

In the aftermath of her father’s death, the narrator of Kitamura’s crystalline novel trades New York for The Hague, translating in the World Court for a West African dictator accused of ethnic cleansing while fumbling through a tortuous romance. Kitamura is drawn to seductions, sexual and otherwise, and her slim, graceful novel punches above its weight, reckoning with the ways we deceive each other and ourselves.

These Precious Days: Essays, by Ann Patchett

To read this collection is to be invited into that sacred space where a writer steps out from behind the page to say  Hello; let’s really get to know each other.  Stoic, kindhearted, fierce, funny, brainy, Patchett’s essays honor what matters most “in this precarious and precious life.”

The Sentence, by Louise Erdrich

The 2021 Pulitzer Prize–winning novelist for The Night Watchman returns with a beguiling ode to bibliophiles set in an unnamed bookstore in Minneapolis that very closely resembles BirchBark, the shop Erdrich owns in real life. Her quirky, captivating characters—ex-con Tookie chief among them—care deeply about each other and our troubled world, but perhaps their deepest passion is for...books.

Major Labels, by Kelefa Sanneh

From Beyoncé to Kurt Cobain to De La Soul, the stars align in this virtuosic survey of popular music’s seven pillars: rock, R&B, country, punk, hip-hop, dance, and pop. Sanneh brings a contagious zeal for genres and cross-fertilizations to artists and records that are now playlists for an increasingly diverse America. “Over the past half-century, many musicians and listeners have belonged to tribes,” he writes. “What’s wrong with that?”

On Juneteenth, by Annette Gordon-Reed

A Harvard law professor and author of  The Hemingses of Monticello,  which won both the National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize, Gordon-Reed is the textbook definition of public intellectual; and yet she gets personal in this slender, evocative memoir, blending textures from her small-town Texas girlhood with the unofficial celebration of slavery’s demise and the broader canvas of race in America, as when she integrated her public school: “My great-great-aunt…the one who lived in Houston and was also quite extravagant—bought boxes and boxes of dresses, tights, blouses, skirts, and hats from the most upscale department store in the city at the time, Sakowitz… Making sure I was dressed to the nines was her contribution to the civil rights movement.”

Headshot of Leigh Haber

Leigh Haber is Vice President, Books, Oprah Daily and O Quarterly. She is also Director of Oprah's Book Club. 

Headshot of Hamilton Cain

A former book editor and the author of a memoir, This Boy's Faith, Hamilton Cain is Contributing Books Editor at Oprah Daily. As a freelance journalist, he has written for O, The Oprah Magazine, Men’s Health, The Good Men Project, and The List (Edinburgh, U.K.) and was a finalist for a National Magazine Award. He is currently a member of the National Book Critics Circle and lives with his family in Brooklyn.  

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The best books of 2021, chosen by our guest authors

From piercing studies of colonialism to powerful domestic sagas, our panel of writers, all of whom had books published this year, share their favourite titles of 2021

Kazuo Ishiguro

Author of Klara and the Sun (Faber)

Kazuo Ishiguro

The beautiful, horrible world of Mariana Enriquez, as glimpsed in The Dangers of Smoking in Bed (Granta), with its disturbed adolescents, ghosts, decaying ghouls, the sad and angry homeless of modern Argentina, is the most exciting discovery I’ve made in fiction for some time. Horrifying in another way, Jonathan Calvert and George Arbuthnott’s Failures of State (Mudlark) is a brilliantly presented indictment of the UK’s fumbling attempt to meet the Covid challenge. Read alongside Jeremy Farrar’s more personal Spike: The Virus v The People (Profile) and Michael Lewis’s compelling The Premonition (Allen Lane), we see a disturbing common trait emerging in our country and others: the unwillingness to prioritise people’s lives over ideas and ingrained structures.

Bernardine Evaristo

Author of Manifesto: On Never Giving Up (Hamish Hamilton)

Bernardine Evaristo

I have been deeply impressed by recent books that invite us to reconsider aspects of British and global history, culture and identity beyond the often distorted, dishonest and pumped-up myth-making that has long prevailed. History is an interpretation of the past and these three books, each one powerfully persuasive and offering new ways of seeing, are in conversation with each other. Empireland : How Imperialism Has Shaped Modern Britain (Penguin) by Sathnam Sanghera, The New Age of Empire : How Racism and Colonialism Still Rule the World (Allen Lane) by Kehinde Andrews and Green Unpleasant Land : Creative Responses to Rural England’s Colonial Connection s (Peepal Tree Press) by Corinne Fowler.

Damon Galgut

Damon Galgut

Author of The Promise (Chatto & Windus)

I seldom read books when they first appear, but there were two slim volumes that especially impressed me this year. Burntcoat (Faber) by Sarah Hall is in the vanguard of a new genre of pandemic/lockdown fiction: the connections between isolation and creation are laid bare in a disquieting dystopia of the not-quite-now. Small Things Like These (Faber) by Claire Keegan, on the other hand, casts its gaze backward, to Ireland in 1985; its balance of crystalline language and moral seriousness makes it profoundly moving.

Wole Soyinka

Author of Chronicles From the Land of the Happiest People on Earth (Bloomsbury)

Wole

I sometimes suspect that I was actually found abandoned in a tree, adopted and raised as a family secret. Amos Tutuola, Gabriel García Márquez, DO Fagunwa, Shahrnush Parsipur and other exponents of tree anthropomorphism are perhaps the outsiders in the know. Now they are joined by Elif Shafak in The Island of Missing Trees (Viking) with her integrative literary sensibility, and the genre sprang back on its feet, tender and savage by turns in a Greco-Turkish-Cypriot historic setting. The rigorous questioning of nation and identity, given my incessant preoccupations, made it a truly therapeutic literary meal.

Colm Tóibín

Author of The Magician (Viking)

Colm

I enjoyed Hugo Hamilton’s The Pages (Fourth Estate), narrated with verve and ingenuity by an actual book, a novel by Joseph Roth, which got saved from the Nazi bonfire and then taken on a picaresque journey across the Atlantic and back to Germany. I also enjoyed the social historian Patrick Joyce’s Going to My Father’s House (Verso), a haunting meditation on Ireland and England, war and migration, Derry and Manchester. I admired the originality of his observations and his tone of melancholy, calm wisdom. I love John McAuliffe’s Selected Poems (Gallery) for the way that ordinary things are rendered and rhythm handled so deftly and artfully.

Rachel Kushner

Rachel Kushner

Author of The Hard Crowd: Essays 2000–2020 (Jonathan Cape)

My generation is very much marked by Dennis Cooper’s George Miles cycle: in the 1990s, everyone read these books; I was awed by them. For many years, Dennis took a break from novels to focus on theatre and film. He’s back with I Wished (Soho Press), which is classic Dennis Cooper: intricate, funny, destabilising and totally unforeseen. Wolfgang Hilbig is apparently one of the most acclaimed German writers, but was new to me. I’ll confess I fell for the blurb on the back of The Interim (Two Lines Press): the great László Krasznahorkai calls him “an artist of immense stature”. As soon as I started reading, I had to agree. This novel, translated by Isabel Fargo Cole, is comic and terrifying and profound.

Elif Shafak

Author of The Island of Missing Trees (Viking)

Elif

This year, reading Anita Sethi’s I Belong Here (Bloomsbury) was an unforgettable journey. Sethi wrote this book after being the victim of a horrible racist attack on a train from Liverpool to Newcastle. The genius of the author is how she takes the narrative of hatred and discrimination hurled at her and turns it upside down by “going back to where she is from” – the landscapes of the north. Through long walks in nature as she finds a true sense of belonging, connectivity, renewal and hope, so do we, her readers. I found it not only deeply moving but also quietly transformative. Another read that stayed with me this year has been Kerri ní Dochartaigh’s fabulous Thin Places (Canongate). Born in Derry, at the height of the Troubles, the author’s voice is piercingly honest, movingly heartfelt. There is so much soul and knowledge and compassion, it gave me shivers.

Author of Burntcoat (Faber)

Sarah

Sea State (Fourth Estate) by Tabitha Lasley completely took me by surprise. Part memoir, part investigation into oil-rig culture, part critique of gender and class dynamics, it’s incredibly compelling, often dark as the drilled-for product. Lasley infiltrates this masculine offshore industry, with its dangers, profit and comradeship. She also explores female loneliness and desire, accommodation of a male-designed world and the spaces where women hold power. Reissued this year with impassioned praise from fellow authors such as Marlon James, Patricia Lockwood and Max Porter, Mrs Caliban (Faber) by Rachel Ingalls is a work of true verve and imagination. Along with her suburban housewife and lab-tested reptilian lover, Ingalls deftly, wittily and rather incredibly liberates readers from the awfulness of convention to a state where weirdness and otherness are beautiful and right.

Author of Sorrow and Bliss (Weidenfeld and Nicolson)

meg

After the joy of discovering that one of your favourite authors has a new book out can follow a peculiar kind of anxiety, because what if you don’t like it as much as the others? I needn’t have worried with Rachel Cusk’s Second Place (Faber). It is stunning, in all senses. Assembly (Hamish Hamilton) by Natasha Brown left me winded for how clever and sad and beautiful and spare it was. Truly the perfect novel. And I adored Ann Patchett’s new essay collection, These Precious Days (Bloomsbury), which I read in November and will end the year by listening to her read, as audio. Because it’s Ann Patchett, one time through isn’t enough.

Caleb Azumah Nelson

Caleb Azumah Nelson

Author of Open Water (Viking)

This year, I loved Transcendent Kingdom (Viking) by Yaa Gyasi, the story of a family of four who travel from Ghana to Alabama to make a new life for themselves. Through the course of the novel, the family’s history begins to unfold, illuminating stories that have gone unspoken for generations. It’s a brilliant novel, with not a word out of place. I also really enjoyed Vanessa Onwuemezi’s Dark Neighbourhood (Fitzcarraldo), a collection of short stories from an unforgettable, searing voice. They occupy a hallucinatory landscape, often veering into the surreal, and each pulses with an electric energy.

Lauren Groff

Author of Matrix (Heinemann)

Lauren

I have been in headlong love with Patricia Lockwood’s hilarious and subversive mind since her memoir Priestdaddy , but her first novel, No One Is Talking About This (Bloomsbury) , sent me reeling. Everything about this book, from its structure to its prose to the way it hits a reader unawares in the second half, is testament to Lockwood’s wicked genius. Everyone Knows Your Mother Is a Witch (Fourth Estate) by Rivka Galchen flew a bit under the radar, but it is a wise meditation on the kind of hysterical scapegoating we see so often in the age of the internet, though based on a historical fact: that the mother of astronomer Johannes Kepler was once accused of witchcraft. I loved this book intensely when I read it this summer and have thought of it nearly every day through this strange autumn. I’ve been thinking deeply about anagogical literature recently and very few living writers write so achingly toward God as Kaveh Akbar. Real faith, Akbar writes in Pilgrim Bell (Chatto & Windus), “passes first through the body/ like an arrow”; each of the poems in this collection finds its target.

Chibundu Onuzo

Author of Sankofa (Virago)

Chibundu

My favourite nonfiction book published in 2021 was Otegha Uwagba’s We Need to Talk About Money (Fourth Estate). It’s a memoir that shows how money has affected every stage of Uwagba’s life, from growing up on a council estate, to winning a scholarship to a private school, to negotiating her salary when she entered the workforce. Uwagba is particularly nuanced about class and race. My favourite novel published in 2021 was Our Lady of the Nile (Daunt) by Scholastique Mukasonga. It’s set in the 1980s, in a Rwandan girls boarding school. It follows all the girlish intrigues, of who is the most popular, who is the prettiest, but this is no Malory Towers . Looming in the background is the coming genocide. Both playful and sinister, this is an excellent read.

Olivia Laing

Author of Everybody: A Book About Freedom (Picador)

Olivia

Anyone with a mother ought to read My Phantoms by Gwendoline Riley (Granta), a novelist of uncompromising brilliance. It mines the same narrow, dangerous territory as Beryl Bainbridge and Ivy Compton-Burnett: the dysfunctional family unit. Riley homes in on the failing relationship between a mother and daughter, anatomised by way of astonishingly precise dialogue, alongside angular, razor-sharp sentences that delineate an entire emotional landscape. Ouch and wow. There’s a similar marvel of ventriloquism in Adam Mars-Jones’s Batlava Lake (Fitzcarraldo), a story about war and soldiers delivered by the hopeless, weirdly endearing Barry, which builds to a blindsiding final paragraph.

Sunjeev Sahota

Sunjeev Sahota

Author of China Room (Harvill Secker)

Barbara Ehrenreich is an incisive diagnostician of societies and in Had I Known: Collected Essays (Granta) she is clear-eyed on the ways in which the American working class has been politically abandoned and culturally demonised. Much of the analysis applies to our own country. On the novel front, I could not recommend more strongly Gwendoline Riley’s My Phantoms (Granta): flinty, bracing, exquisite.

Anthony Doerr

Author of Cloud Cuckoo Land (Fourth Estate)

Anthony

In The Dawn of Everything: A New History of Humanity (Allen Lane), David Graeber and David Wengrow offer an engrossing series of insights into how “the conventional narrative of human history is not only wrong, but quite needlessly dull”. They re-inject humanity into our distant forebears, suggesting that our prevailing story about human history – that not much innovation occurred in human societies until the invention of agriculture – is utterly wrong. I could have lived in the first hundred pages of Piranesi (Bloomsbury) by Susanna Clarke for ever. It’s a dream of a novel. Zorrie (Riverrun; published early next year) by Laird Hunt is a tender, glowing novel that is just as beautiful as Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead or Denis Johnson’s Train Dreams .

Ferdinand Mount

Author of Kiss Myself Goodbye: The Many Lives of Aunt Munca (Bloomsbury)

Ferdinand

These days, I seem to read mostly female novelists from the colder parts of North America. You can’t get much farther north than the Ontario of Mary Lawson’s icy, compelling stories of calamity and redemption. A Town Called Solace (Chatto) keeps you breathless with anxiety, then relief and finally even joy. I felt the same total engagement with Gill Hornby’s Miss Austen (Arrow). She reconstructs in beautifully simple detail the story of Jane Austen’s sister, Cassandra, and her struggle to protect Jane in life and death. It is also an unforgettable account of an unremembered life.

Kehinde Andrews

Author of The New Age of Empire (Allen Lane)

Kehinde

David Harewood’s documentary Psychosis and Me was an eye-opener for his honesty in reflecting on his experiences in the mental health system. His book Maybe I Don’t Belong Here (Bluebird) is one of the most powerful testimonies to the impact of racism I have ever read. In a similar vein, Guilaine Kinouani’s Living While Black (Ebury) highlighted the severe problem of racism in the psychological professions that has hallmarked so much of our experiences in the UK, an unfortunate experience we have in common with our American cousins. I had been looking forward to learning more about one of the most important US civil rights activists Fannie Lou Hamer and Keisha Blain’s Until I Am Free (Beacon) did not disappoint.

Ruth Ozeki

Author of The Book of Form and Emptiness (Canongate)

Double Blind (Harvill Secker) by Edward St Aubyn is about nature, science, rapacious capitalism, psychoanalysis and human folly, and it is both moving and so funny I had to stop every few pages to wipe tears from my eyes. Nobody’s Normal (WW Norton) by Roy Richard Grinker is a compassionate, well-researched chronicle of the historical stigmatisation of mental illness. Since “normal” is a social construct, why can’t we change it? I love how Katie Kitamura can channel a mind and in Intimacies (Vintage) it is the mind of an unnamed interpreter living in The Hague, interpreting for a former president on trial for war crimes.​​

Monique Roffey

Author of The Mermaid of Black Conch (Vintage)

Monique

Still Life (Fourth Estate) by Sarah Winman gets my vote, not just for its mastery and sweep (Tuscany, the East End of London, war and beyond war, old gay ladies, young men) and the overarching theme of the power of love, but for its talking parrot as character, Claude. Claude gets some of the best lines. Also, Fortune (Peepal Tree Press) , by Amanda Smyth, another historic novel, a clandestine love story set amid Trinidad’s early oil drilling years in the 1920s. I also loved English Pastoral : An Inheritanc e (Penguin) by James Rebanks, out in paperback this year. His family have farmed the same land for 600 years. We’ve lost so much, but Rebanks gives us solutions and myth-busts; a poignant and sad book we need in a time of climate emergency.

Elizabeth Day

Author of Magpie (Fourth Estate)

Elizabeth

My two favourite novels of the year were Sorrow and Bliss (Weidenfeld & Nicolson) by Meg Mason, for being hilarious, moving and utterly humane, and Damon Galgut’s The Promise (Chatto). The label “masterpiece” is far too liberally applied these days, but I did think Galgut’s book was deserving of it. In nonfiction, I enjoyed We Need to Talk About Money (Fourth Estate) by Otegha Uwagba, which challenged me to rethink my relationship with my finances and did so in a witty, intelligent and surprisingly touching way.

Author of The Echo Chamber (Doubleday)

John

Kevin Power’s long-awaited second novel, White City (Scribner), was a triumph. There’s not enough humour in contemporary fiction but Power brought the laughs and the pathos to this account of a young Dubliner, reared with privilege, who gets involved in a dodgy land deal in the Balkans. In nonfiction, I was impressed by Helen Joyce’s Trans: When Ideology Meets Reality (Oneworld), a scholarly, compassionate and courageous examination of a subject that’s sparked an unhelpful civil war within the LGBTQ community. Unlike those of her online counterparts, Joyce’s arguments are well researched, soundly made and avoid the toxicity that mars so much conversation on this topic.

Courttia Newland

Courttia Newland

Author of A River Called Time (Canongate)

Keeping the House (And Other Stories) by Tice Cin is a truly beautiful debut. A mistress of deftly sketched characters that become whole humans in a few lines, Cin tells stories of working-class, inner-city life steeped in truth, emotion and vulnerability. She is one of a new generation of writers who see the splendour of these streets and articulate it with great majesty. Jo Hamya’s Three Rooms (Vintage) is written in a classical style that’s no less incisive for its formality. From the first paragraph, I was hooked. Tension drips through every scene and Hamya depicts London so well. There’s quiet, raw power in this book and its author.

Cathy Rentzenbrink

Author of Everyone Is Still Alive (Phoenix)

Cathy

I like a novel to grab me and The Book of Form and Emptiness (Canongate) by Ruth Ozeki gave me very peculiar dreams for a long time, as though it did not want to release me to other things. I enjoyed the robust style of Empireland (Penguin) by Sathnam Sanghera, an illuminating examination of the “toxic cocktail of nostalgia and amnesia” that still hugely influences our life today. Erudite and reassuring , Four Thousand Weeks (Vintage) by Oliver Burkeman persuaded me to accept that my time on Earth is finite so I should therefore not fritter it away in overwork and overwhelm.

Author of Razorblade Tears (Headline)

SA

Her Name Is Knight (Thomas & Mercer) by Yasmin Angoe is a dazzling, suspenseful tale of international intrigue and revenge with a protagonist who is as deadly as she is beautiful. A feared assassin, Nena Knight soon finds her latest mission to be her most dangerous as it puts her life and her heart at risk. Arsenic and Adobo by Mia Manansala is a quirky, cosy mystery full of humour and heart with a clever heroine who is as talented in the kitchen as she is at a murder scene. A fantastic debut. The Heathens (Little, Brown) by Ace Atkins is pure, uncut, US southern noir with a modern social media twist. Few writers know the tortured soul of the south better than Atkins and he is at the top of his game here.

Fintan O’Toole

Fintan O’Toole

Author of We Don’t Know Ourselves: A Personal History of Ireland Since 1958 (Head of Zeus)

Sally Rooney’s Beautiful World, Where Are You (Faber) has really stayed with me. For all its wit and style, it has a deep seriousness about the world. Rooney has an old-fashioned belief that the novel can be a place in which the question of how we should live is continually at play. Damon Galgut’s The Promise (Chatto) sustains the same moral purpose while being funny, angry and absurd all at once. Paul Muldoon had a remarkable year. His conversations with Paul McCartney for The Lyrics (Allen Lane) spark endlessly fascinating reflections on the relationship between life and creativity. And his new collection, Howdie-Skelp (Faber), is dazzling, moving, profound and playful.

Author of Bessie Smith (Faber)

Jackie

I loved Neil Bartlett’s Address Book (Inkandescent). It took me back to all the addresses I’ve lived in - the lesbian squat in Vauxhall, John le Carré’s house in Hampstead! Brilliantly written, interweaving seven different characters across various times, Bartlett’s precise storytelling pulled me in. I’m glad we have him. He is a pioneering chronicler of queer lives. Ian Duhig’s New and Selected Poems (Picador) is a must have, must read gathering of the best of his work. Always fascinating, Duhig is poetry’s best chronicler of both ordinary lives, strange lives. His eclectic and effervescent work draws on folklore and myth to tell the stories we never get to hear. Duhig is interested in everything. He makes his reader sit up and take stock. I was inspired by the beauty and the power of the fabulous collective 4 Brown Girls Who Write – their poetry reminds me of the strength and exhilaration of a collective voice. Beautifully produced by Rough Trade Books, each of the four poets produces a standalone pamphlet that comes to form part of an incredible whole. The perfect stocking pressie. I was touched by Michelle Zauner’s cathartic memoir about losing her mother, Crying in H Mart (Picador). Zauner writes about food, music, grief and love candidly, bravely.

Chris Power

Author of A Lonely Man (Faber)

Chris

Two novels that stunned me this year involve characters overwhelmed by the force of another’s personality. The narrator of Gwendoline Riley’s My Phantoms (Granta) reckons with her parents, one dead, one ailing, who emerge as both spiteful and pitiable. Riley is an immensely talented writer whose sentences cut like knives and she doesn’t flinch when blade meets bone. Similarly dauntless, in Second Place (Faber), Rachel Cusk abandons the distinctive style of her Outline trilogy for a new voice. When M invites L, a painter she admires, to her remote coastal home, psychic combat ensues. It’s a profound book and a funny one, which hasn’t been mentioned enough.

Megan Nolan

Megan Nolan

Author of Acts of Desperation (Jonathan Cape)

After the past few years, when even the most ignorant among us took to slinging around virology terms as though we knew what we were talking about, I’ve found myself drawn to accounts and oral histories of the Aids crisis. Let the Record Show (Farrar) by Sarah Schulman is profoundly moving, as most are, but also does the important work of reasserting the place of women and people of colour in the history of Act Up. Paul (Granta) by Daisy Lafarge is a mesmerising novel about a young woman’s trip to France and ensuing entanglement with a man whose grotesque secrets begin to surface. It moves at a pace it feels Lafarge invented herself. It’s enviably, coolly intelligent without ever becoming ironic or snide and just one more exposition of Lafarge’s many gifts following on from her poetry collection Life Without Air .

Joshua Ferris

Author of A Calling for Charlie Barnes (Viking)

Joshua

Three great pleasures for me this year came from reliable sources. Jo Ann Beard’s essays in Festival Days (Little, Brown) are some of her finest. Dana Spiotta’s novel Wayward (Virago) is razor-sharp on any number of things, above all the insoluble ravages of time. Then there were three writers new to me whose books were both reinvigorating and enlightening: Angélique Lalonde’s Glorious Frazzled Beings (Astoria), Miriam Toews’s Fight Night (Bloomsbury) and Casey Plett’s A Dream of a Woman (Arsenal Pulp Press).

Lisa Taddeo

Author of Animal (Bloomsbury)

Lisa

Magpie (Fourth Estate) by Elizabeth Day is that rare novel that moves and taunts like a thriller, but also envelops and comforts like Middlemarch . I didn’t want it to end, I wanted to read it in fancy bars for ever. As for The Right to Sex (Bloomsbury) by Amia Srinivasan , I cannot say enough about this book. How crucial. How brilliant. How absolutely gratifying to see a mind at work like Srinivisan’s, handling the profane and the erudite with equal clear, unflinching diamond prose.

Sathnam Sanghera

Author of Empireland (Viking)

Sathnam

My novel of the year would be A Calling for Charlie Barnes (Viking) by Joshua Ferris, a hilarious skewering of the American Dream by the man who must be the funniest writer we have. I also really appreciated The Anarch y (Bloomsbury) by William Dalrymple, out in paperback this year, which does a great job explaining the East India Company, responsible, more than anything else, for Britain’s involvement in the subcontinent. And Imperial Nostalgia (Manchester University Press) by Peter Mitchell, which explains how the delusions of the Raj continue to shape our national psychology today.

Joan Bakewell

Author of The Tick of Two Clocks: A Tale of Moving On (Virago)

Joan

The sensitivity of Susie Boyt’s story of family love, Loved and Missed (Little, Brown), wrings the heart: it shows tenderness to each, makes you care for all… a gentle masterpiece. The Promise (Chatto) by Damon Galgut is a remarkable tale of four generations of one South African family and of the country itself. Like his earlier books, which I have also enjoyed, it reveals him as a master of human complexity. No wonder it won the Booker. Mothering Sunday (Scribner) by Graham Swift was not published this year, I know, but was picked up by me at the secondhand stall of Didcot Parkway station. It’s now released as a film. Reading it, I discovered a total gem: not a word out of place, not a false sentiment. Can the film be as good?

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books and authors of 2021

The Award-Winning Novels of 2021

The year's big literary prize-winners.

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The wait for a return to the raucous, glitzy literary awards ceremonies and afterparties of yesteryear goes on. Yes, for the second season running, statuettes were delivered by mail, speeches were made over zoom, and victorious authors donned formalwear to get tipsy in their apartments when they should have been spotlit at auditorium podiums, drinking in the cacophonous applause of their peers.

Still, a prize is no less prestigious for having been awarded in abstentia, and it’ll take more than a protracted global pandemic to stop up from tipping our caps to the year’s literary champs.

From the Pulitzer to the Booker, the Nebula to the Edgar, here are the winners of the biggest book prizes of 2021.

Congratulations to all!

Pulitzer Prize for Fiction

Awarded for distinguished fiction published in book form during the year by an American author, preferably dealing with American life. Prize money: $15,000

Louise Erdrich, The Night Watchman (Harper)

“In this season of literary wildfires, when cultural borrowings have unleashed protests that have shaken the publishing industry, the issue of authenticity is paramount. Erdrich retakes the lead by offering the reader the gifts of love and richness that only a deeply connected writer can provide. You never doubt these are her people. The author…delivers a magisterial epic that brings her power of witness to every page. High drama, low comedy, ghost stories, mystical visions, family and tribal lore—wed to a surprising outbreak of enthusiasm for boxing matches—mix with political fervor and a terrifying undercurrent of predation and violence against women. For 450 pages, we are grateful to be allowed into this world … I walked away from the Turtle Mountain clan feeling deeply moved, missing these characters as if they were real people known to me. In this era of modern termination assailing us, the book feels like a call to arms. A call to humanity. A banquet prepared for us by hungry people.”

–Luis Alberto Urrea ( The New York Times Book Review )

Finalists: Daniel Mason, A Registry of My Passage Upon the Earth  (Little, Brown and Company) Percival Everett, Telephone (Graywolf)

* National Book Award

Recognizes an outstanding work of literary fiction by a United States citizen. Prize money: $10,000

James Mott, Hell of a Book (Dutton)

“There’s an intimacy to Jason Mott’s fiction, retained even when the scope of his narrative widens. But even by these standards, his fourth novel is a uniquely tight, personal story that digs into deeply emotional territory. Through two interwoven storylines unfolding in a witty, often devastatingly incisive style, Hell of a Book is a journey into the heart of a very particular American experience, one that far too many don’t live to tell … You may think you see where these two stories are headed, where they will converge and knit together, and what they will have to say at the end, but you don’t. And even if you could, Mott’s bittersweet, remarkably nimble novel would still keep you turning the pages … a masterwork of balance, as Mott navigates the two narratives and their delicate tonal distinctions. A surrealist feast of imagination that’s brimming with very real horrors, frustrations and sorrows, it can break your heart and make you laugh out loud at the same time, often on the same page. This is an achievement of American fiction that rises to meet this particular moment with charm, wisdom and truth.”

–Matthew Jackson ( BookPage )

Finalists: Anthony Doerr, Cloud Cuckoo Land (Scribner) Lauren Groff, Matrix (Riverhead) Laird Hunt, Zorrie (Bloomsbury) Robert Jones Jr., The Prophets (G.P. Putnam’s Sons)

* Man Booker  Prize

Awarded for the best original novel written in the English language and published in the UK. Prize money: £50,000

Damon Galgut, The Promise (Europa Editions)

“Damon Galgut’s remarkable new novel, The Promise , suggests that the demands of history and the answering cry of the novel can still powerfully converge. As a white South African writer, Galgut inherits a subject that must feel, at different times, liberating in its dimensions and imprisoning in its inescapability … The Promise is drenched in South African history, a tide that can be seen, in the end, to poison all ‘promise’ … Galgut’s novel most closely resembles the work of predecessors like Woolf and Faulkner in the way it redeploys a number of modernist techniques, chiefly the use of a free-floating narrator. Galgut is at once very close to his troubled characters and somewhat ironically distant, as if the novel were written in two time signatures, fast and slower. And, miraculously, this narrative distance does not alienate our intimacy but emerges as a different form of knowing … His new novel exercises new freedoms. One is struck, amid the sombre events, by the joyous, puckish restlessness of the storytelling, which seems to stick to a character’s point of view only to veer away, mid-sentence … Galgut uses his narrator playfully, assisted by nicely wayward run-on sentences … Galgut outsources his storytelling, handing off a phrase or an insight to an indistinct community of what seem to be wise elders, who then produce an ironically platitudinous or proverbial commentary … Galgut’s narrator skims across his spaces, alighting, stinging, moving on to the next subject. As the novel proceeds, his narrator seems to grow in adventurous authority.”

–James Wood ( The New Yorker )

Finalists : Anuk Arudpragasam, A Passage North  (Hogarth) Patricia Lockwood, No One Is Talking About This  (Riverhead) Nadifa Mohamed, The Fortune Men (Knopf) Richard Powers, Bewilderment (W. W. Norton) Maggie Shipstead, Great Circle (Knopf)

* Man Booker International Prize

Awarded for a single book in English translation published in the UK. Prize money: £50,000, divided equally between the author and the translator

At Night All Blood is Black David Diop

David Diop, tr. from French by Anna Moschovakis,  At Night All Blood is Black (FSG)

“… astonishingly good … Alfa understands that his revenge is growing ghoulish; he understands that France as a colonial force is exploiting his bravery and his grief; he understands, even, that he is in part responsible for Mademba’s suffering, which is perhaps the novel’s most harrowing thread. But Alfa’s understanding cannot free him. He is, in effect, doomed by his own comprehension. Diop’s prose, which is at once swift and dense, captures that effect well. He and his translator, Anna Moschovakis, wall the reader into Alfa’s mind and his story, refusing even the smallest glimmer of light.”

–Lily Meyer ( NPR )

Finalists : Mariana Enríquez, tr. from Spanish by Megan McDowell, The Dangers of Smoking in Bed  (Hogarth) Olga Ravn, tr. from Danish by Martin Aitken, The Employees  (New Directions) Benjamín Labatut, tr. from Spanish by Adrian Nathan West, When We Cease to Understand the World (New York Review of Books) Maria Stepanova, tr. from Russian by Sasha Dugdale, In Memory of Memory (New Directions) Éric Vuillard, tr. from French by Mark Polizzotti, The War of the Poor  (Other Press)

* National Book Critics Circle Award 

Given annually to honor outstanding writing and to foster a national conversation about reading, criticism, and literature. Judged by the volunteer directors of the NBCC who are 24 members serving rotating three-year terms, with eight elected annually by the voting members, namely “professional book review editors and book reviewers.”

Maggie O’Farrell, Hamnet (Knopf)

“… told with the urgency of a whispered prayer—or curse … Unintimidated by the presence of the Bard’s canon or the paucity of the historical record, O’Farrell creates Shakespeare before the radiance of veneration obscured everyone around him. In this book, William is simply a clever young man—not even the central character—and O’Farrell makes no effort to lard her pages with intimations of his genius or cute allusions to his plays. Instead, through the alchemy of her own vision, she has created a moving story about the way loss viciously recalibrates a marriage … This is a richly drawn and intimate portrait of 16th-century English life set against the arrival of one devastating death. O’Farrell, always a master of timing and rhythm, uses these flashbacks of young love and early marriage to heighten the sense of dread that accumulates as Hamnet waits for his mother … None of the villagers know it yet, but bubonic plague has arrived in Warwickshire and is ravaging the Shakespeare twins, overwhelming their little bodies with bacteria. That lit fuse races through the novel toward a disaster that history has already recorded but O’Farrell renders unbearably suspenseful.”

–Ron Charles ( The Washington Post )

Finalists: Martin Amis, Inside Story (Knopf) Randall Kenan, If I Had Two Wings (W.W. Norton) Souvankham Thammavongsa, How to Pronounce Knife (Little, Brown) Bryan Washington, Memorial (Riverhead)

* Kirkus Prize

Chosen from books reviewed by  Kirkus Reviews  that earned the Kirkus Star. Prize money: $50,000

Joy Williams, Harrow (Knopf)

“Williams’ tone is caustic and discomfiting; it brings to mind the moment in which we are living, when matters of science and public health are regularly ridiculed or redirected in favor of political or economic platitudes…At the same time, her vision is too capacious for Harrow to be read so narrowly … The implication is that chaos is both our invention and our destiny, which means there can be no solace or forgiveness for our collusion with it. This is the source of Williams’ fierce and unrelenting anger, and it invests Harrow with a potent moral weight … a piece of writing in the vein of Samuel Beckett or Franz Kafka, its humor weaponized by rage … ‘Before the eyes can see, they must be incapable of tears,’ Williams tells us—excavating, as she does throughout this magnificent and moving novel, the middle distance between silence and experience.”

–David L. Ulin ( The Los Angeles Times )

Finalists: Honorée Fanonne Jeffers, The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois (Harper) Colson Whitehead, Harlem Shuffle (Doubleday) Jocelyn Nicole Johnson, My Monticello (Henry Holt) Mariana Enríquez (tr. by Megan McDowell), The Dangers of Smoking in Bed  (Hogarth) Pajtim Statovci (tr. by David Hackston), Bolla (Pantheon)

* Women’s Prize for Fiction

Awarded to a female author of any nationality for the best original full-length novel written in English and published in the United Kingdom.

Susanna Clarke, Piranesi (Bloomsbury)

“… the sweetness, the innocence of Piranesi’s love for this world is devastating to read. Clarke’s writing is clear, sharp—she can cleave your heart in a few short words. In these brief but gut-wrenchingly tender interactions we are felled by the loneliness Piranesi can’t fully grasp. The concept is gone from his mind of what he longs for the most … This crossing of realms—the magical and scientific; the mystical and profane—in both Jonathan Strange and Piranesi is an alluring combination. As if Marie Curie meets Cleopatra on Mary Anning’s beach. The mystery of Piranesi unwinds at a tantalizing yet lightening-like pace—it’s hard not to rush ahead, even when each sentence, each revelation makes you want to linger … Humans seek connection and knowledge—but how do we define those quests? How do we approach those paths? Both worlds in this enthralling, transcendent novel come with magic and reason, beauty and warmth, danger and destruction. However ill-gotten, Piranesi has achieved an equilibrium, a delicate peace with the contradictions of pain and love. How do we do the same? How do we bear the pain of our limits, and what must we give up to survive?”

–Vikki Valentine ( NPR )

Finalists: Brit Bennett, The Vanishing Half (Riverhead) Claire Fuller, Unsettled Ground (Tin House) Yaa Gyasi, Transcendent Kingdom (Knopf) Cherie Jones, How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House (Little, Brown) Patricia Lockwood, No One Is Talking About This (Riverhead)

* PEN/Faulkner Award

Awarded to the author of the year’s best work of fiction by a living American citizen. Prize money: $15,000

Deesha Philyaw, The Secret Lives of Church Ladies (West Virginia University Press)

“… juicy goodness bursts from every page … While continually acknowledging the importance of the church in the Black community, Philyaw sees the contradictions it creates with clarity, sometimes painful, sometimes hilarious … This collection marks the emergence of a bona fide literary treasure. As one of Philyaw’s characters might say, praise the Lord.”

–Marion Winik ( The Star Tribune )

Finalists: Matthew Salesses, Disappear Doppelgänger Disappear (Little a) Rufi Thorpe, The Knockout Queen (Knopf) Robin Wasserman, Mother Daughter Widow Wife (Scribner) Steve Wiegenstein, Scattered Lights  (Cornerpost Press)

* PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Fiction

Awarded to an exceptionally talented fiction writer whose debut work represents distinguished literary achievement and suggests great promise. Prize money: $25,000

Further News of Defeat

Michael X. Wang, Further News of Defeat (Autumn House Press)

Finalists: Dima Alzayat, Alligator & Other Stories (Two Dollar Radio) Miriam Cohen, Adults and Other Children: Stories   (Ig Publishing) Mary South, You Will Never Be Forgotten: Stories (FSG Originals) Shruti Swamy, A House Is a Body: Stories (Algonquin Books)

* Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction

Awards established in 2012 to recognize the best fiction and nonfiction books for adult readers published in the U.S. in the previous year. Administered by the American Library Association.

Prize money: $5,000 (winner), $1,500 (finalists)

James McBride, Deacon King Kong (Riverhead)

“… a feverish love letter to New York City, people, and writing. The prose is relentless and McBride’s storytelling skills shine as he drags readers at breakneck speed trough a plethora of lives, times, events, and conversations. The novel is 370 pages, but McBride has packed enough in there for a dozen novellas, and reading them all mashed together is a pleasure … fast, deep, complex, and hilarious. McBride’s prose is shimmering and moving, a living thing that has its own rhythm, pulls you in from the first page and never lets go. His story focuses on the people that make the Big Apple what it is: the strange, the poor, the insane, the mobsters. He also showcases the city’s wonderful diversity, filling his pages with Puerto Ricans, African Americans, Italians, and Irish folks … McBride has a talent for writing about big ensembles … full of heart, humor, and compassion. It contains page-long sentences that sing and individual lines that stick to your brain like literary taffy. This is a narrative about flawed, poor people navigating an ugly, racist world and trying their best with the help of God, each other, or the bottle; their stories are unique, but the struggles are universal—and that makes this a novel about all of us. In Deacon King Kong , McBride entertains us, and shows us both the beauty and the ugliness of humanity. I say we give him another National Book Award for this one. It’s that good.”

–Gabino Iglesias ( NPR )

Finalists: Ayad Akhtar, Homeland Elegies (Little Brown) Megha Majumdar, A Burning (Knopf)

* International DUBLIN Literary Award

An international literary award presented each year for a novel written in English or translated into English. Prize money: €100,000

Lost Children Archive_Valeria Luiselli

Valeria Luiselli, Lost Children Archive (Knopf)

“I wrote down the microchemical raptures I was having, one after the next, from beginning to end of this revelatory novel … The Lost Children Archives [is] a semi-autobiographical gloss that Lueselli skillfully crafts without dipping into the pedantic accumulations that sometimes overwhelm such books … It is a breathtaking journey, one that builds slowly and confidently until you find yourself in a fever dream of convergences. The Lost Children Archive is simply stunning. It is a perfect intervention for our horrible time, but that fleeting concurrence is not why this book will be read and sampled and riffed on for years to come … The Lost Children Archive contains multitudes, contradictions, and raises difficult questions for which there are no easy answers. It is a great American novel. It is also a great human novel.”

–Rob Spillman ( Guernica )

Finalists: Bernardine Evaristo, Girl, Woman, Other (Grove) Colum McCann, Apeirogon (Random House) Fernanda Melchor, Hurricane Season (New Directions) Ocean Vuong, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous (Penguin Press) Colson Whitehead, The Nickel Boys (Doubleday)

* Center for Fiction First Novel Prize

An annual award presented by The Center for Fiction, a non-profit organization in New York City, for the best debut novel. Prize money: $10,000

Kirsten Valdez Quade, The Five Wounds (W. W. Norton)

“In three parts that unfold over the course of a year in the aptly named New Mexico town of Las Penas, The Five Wounds is a knife-sharp study of what happens to a family when accountability to other people goes out the window. Quade’s characters are experts at pushing love away, especially when intimate connection is most necessary … As each member of the Padilla family battles their personal demons, hope shimmers like a mirage over everyday life, a sweet what-if that Quade expertly suspends above the text … it is a treat to see the author’s exceptional command of pacing on display in a novel. Proof that what you say is just as important as how you say it, her precise lines are wanting in neither substance nor style, and her darkly hilarious, tender, gorgeous use of language is one of the crowning pleasures of the novel … an irreverent 21st-century meditation on the restorative powers of empathy.”

–Elena Britos ( BookPage )

Finalists: Priyanka Champaneri, The City of Good Death (Restless Books) Linda Rui Feng, Swimming Back to Trout River   (Simon & Schuster) Honorée Fanonne Jeffers, The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois   (Harper) Violet Kupersmith, Build Your House Around My Body (Random House) Patricia Lockwood, No One Is Talking About This (Riverhead) Jackie Polzin, Brood   (Doubleday)

* Los Angeles Times Book Prize

Recognizes outstanding literary works as well as champions new writers. Prize money: $1,000

(Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction)

“… a collection of luminous stories populated by deeply moving and multifaceted characters … No saints exist in these pages, just full-throated, flesh-and-blood women who embrace and redefine love, and their own selves, in powerfully imperfect renditions. Tender, fierce, proudly Black and beautiful, these stories will sneak inside you and take root.”

Finalists: Maisy Card, These Ghosts Are Family (Simon & Schuster) Meng Jin, Little Gods (Custom House) Douglas Stuart, Shuggie Bain (Grove) Shruti Swamy, A House is a Body (Algonquin)

David Diop, tr. by Anna Moschovakis,  At Night All Blood is Black (FSG)

“From the very first pages, there is something beguiling about At Night All Blood Is Black, a slim, delicate novel by the Senegalese-French writer David Diop … This transgression against the dead—or the delusion of such—fills the story with a mythic affliction that recalls the old sailor’s in Samuel Coleridge’s epic poem The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. The narrative voice brims with innuendoes and habitual repetitions like ‘I know, I understand’ and ‘God’s truth,’ which imbue the character with an edgy eccentricity … But this book is about more than a lone man’s spiritual burden. Diop realizes the full nature of war—that theater of macabre and violent drama—on the page. He takes his character into the depths of hell and lets him thrive there … As violent and disturbing as these encounters are, they are rendered with such artistic grace that one derives a strange pleasure in reading about even the bloodiest of nights. The novel, though originally written in French, is grounded in the worldview of Senegal’s Wolof people, and the specificity and uniqueness of that culture’s language comes through even in Anna Moschovakis’s translation … By the time we reach its shocking yet ultimately transcendent ending, the story has turned into something mystical, esoteric; it takes a cyclic shape … More than a century after World War I, a great new African writer is asking these questions in a spare yet extraordinary novel about this bloody stain on human history.”

–Chigozie Obioma ( The New York Times Book Review )

Finalists: Peter Cameron, What Happens at Night (Catapult) Akwaeke Emezi, The Death of Vivek Oji (Riverhead) Danielle Evans, The Office of Historical Corrections (Riverhead) Sarah Shun-lien Bynum, Likes   (Riverhead)

* Edgar Award

Presented by the Mystery Writers of America, honoring the best in crime and mystery fiction.

(Best Novel)

Deepa Anappara, Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line (Random House)

“In Jai, Anappara has created a boy vivid in his humanity, one whose voice somersaults on the page. Rich with easy joy, Anappara’s writing announces the arrival of a literary supernova … Telling a story from the perspective of a child always risks a descent into sentimentality. There’s not a lick of it here … We marvel at…threads, so vibrantly woven by Anappara … This is the power of this novel, how it keeps us grounded—not in the flats of the hi-fi dwellers but in something closer to India’s heart, which she locates in the minds of children with bony shoulders and dirty feet.”

–Lorainne Adams ( The New York Times Book Review )

Finalists: Caroline B. Cooney, Before She Was Helen (Poisoned Pen Press) Richard Osman, Thursday Murder Club (Pamela Dorman Books) Ivy Pochoda, These Women (Ecco) Kwei Quartey, The Missing American (Soho Crime) Heather Young, The Distant Dead (William Morrow)

(Best First Novel)

Please See Us by Caitlin Mullen (Gallery Books)

“What Mullen’s debut gives readers is a wrenchingly detailed, utterly credible story of women whose peril comes from poverty … Mullen is brilliant at depicting their points of view … Mullen builds almost unbearable suspense about whether the two friends will join the women in the marshes.”

–Connie Fletcher ( Booklist )

Finalists: Nev March, Murder in Old Bombay (Minotaur Books) Elisabeth Thomas, Catherine House (William Morrow) David Heska Wanbli Weiden, Winter Counts (Ecco) Stephanie Wrobel, Darling Rose Gold (Berkley)

* Nebula Award

Given each year by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America for the best science fiction or fantasy novel.

Martha Wells, Network Effect (Tor)

“Like the series-to-full-length movie format it follows, everything is a bit wider and a bit heavier, but all the hallmarks of the series are there. We get a return of some beloved characters, more dodgy corporate interlopers, more robots-on A.I.-on-robot…action, and a bigger mystery. But now, with a little more room to breathe, Wells draws out all of those elements in a way that extends the enjoyable experience of the novellas, yet doesn’t drag. Network Effect is more than twice the size of All Systems Red , but you’ll come to the final pages and hardly notice … what makes it all stand out is the way Wells writes Murderbot’s engagements with the world and the humans that inhabit it. It feels legitimately the way I imagine a sentient computer system that is smarter than all of us—but also watches a lot of trash TV—would view the world … The other strength of the series is a bit more subtle; it lies in the way Murderbot approaches gender …This approach continues in Network Effect, with what appears to be the beginnings of a non-traditional romantic relationship that has been bubbling since early in the series, and that I hope Wells will give us more of. And that’s the hallmark of any good series—it leaves you wanting more. Murderbot and the world it inhabits constantly leave you wanting more, in the best possible way … Network Effect is a wonderful continuation of the series, and I highly recommend it if you enjoyed the first books. But if you haven’t read those yet, you really should before trying this on for size. It’s OK, we’ve got time. Not done yet? Sigh … humans.”

–Steve Mullis ( NPR )

Finalists: Susanna Clarke, Piranesi (Bloomsbury) N. K. Jemisin, The City We Became (Orbit) Silvia Moreno Garcia, Mexican Gothic (Del Rey) C. L. Polk, The Midnight Bargain (Erewhon) Rebecca Roanhorse, Black Sun (Saga)

* Hugo Award

Awarded for the best science fiction or fantasy story of 40,000 words or more published in English or translated in the prior calendar year.

“As always, Wells is deftly skilled with her characters, showing us compelling people with very human needs and fears—even when some of them aren’t human. But she’s even defter with humour: perhaps my favourite part of Network effect happens after Murderbot ends up freeing another SecUnit from its governor module … And, as always, Wells has written some really great, tense action. This is a perfectly paced space opera adventure novel, one in which Murderbot continues to grow as a person. An enormously relatable person. The conclusion is deeply satisfying while also holding out the possibility of more Murderbot stories to come. I could read about Murderbot all week. While I recommend Network Effect highly, and while I suspect that a reader could start here and still enjoy the story, this is a novel that will work best in the context of what has come before.”

–Liz Bourke ( Locus )

Finalists: Rebecca Roanhorse, Black Sun (Saga) N. K. Jemisin, The City We Became (Orbit) Tamsyn Muir, Harrow the Ninth (Tor) Susanna Clarke, Piranesi (Bloomsbury) Mary Robinette Kowal, The Relentless Moon (Tor)

* Bram Stoker Award

Presented by the Horror Writers Association for “superior achievement” in horror writing for novels.

Stephen Graham Jones, The Only Good Indians (Gallery/Saga Press)

“Jones, a Blackfeet writer who has published more than 20 books, ‘likes werewolves and slashers,’ according to his author bio, but he has also spent a lifetime interpreting Native American culture and mythology for contemporary readers. So he does here, exploring Native American deer and elk mythology and delving into the importance of elk ivory … Jones writes in clear, sparkling prose. He’s simultaneously funny, irreverent and serious, particularly when he deploys stereotype as a literary device … The Only Good Indians is splashed with the requisite amounts of blood and gore, but there’s much more to it than that.”

–Martha Anne Toll ( The Washington Post )

Finalists: Alma Katsu, The Deep (G. P. Putnam’s Sons) Silvia Moreno Garcia, Mexican Gothic (Del Rey) Todd Keisling, Devil’s Creek (Silver Shamrock Publishing) Josh Malerman, Malorie (Del Rey Books)

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The New York Times Best Sellers - February 25, 2024

Authoritatively ranked lists of books sold in the united states, sorted by format and genre..

This copy is for your personal, noncommercial use only.

  • Combined Print & E-Book Fiction

THE WOMEN by Kristin Hannah

New this week

by Kristin Hannah

In 1965, a nursing student follows her brother to serve during the Vietnam War and returns to a divided America.

  • Apple Books
  • Barnes and Noble
  • Books-A-Million

THE TEACHER by Frieda McFadden

THE TEACHER

by Frieda McFadden

A math teacher at Caseham High suspects there is more going on behind a scandal involving a teacher and a student.

HOUSE OF FLAME AND SHADOW by Sarah J. Maas

2 weeks on the list

HOUSE OF FLAME AND SHADOW

by Sarah J. Maas

The third book in the Crescent City series. Bryce wants to return home while Hunt is trapped in Asteri's dungeons.

BRIDE by Ali Hazelwood

by Ali Hazelwood

Issues of trust arise when an alliance is made between a Vampyre named Misery Lark and a Were named Lowe Moreland.

FOURTH WING by Rebecca Yarros

41 weeks on the list

FOURTH WING

by Rebecca Yarros

Violet Sorrengail is urged by the commanding general, who also is her mother, to become a candidate for the elite dragon riders.

  • Combined Print & E-Book Nonfiction

KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON by David Grann

115 weeks on the list

KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON

by David Grann

The story of a murder spree in 1920s Oklahoma that targeted Osage Indians, whose lands contained oil.

THE BODY KEEPS THE SCORE by Bessel van der Kolk

180 weeks on the list

THE BODY KEEPS THE SCORE

by Bessel van der Kolk

How trauma affects the body and mind, and innovative treatments for recovery.

THE WAGER by David Grann

42 weeks on the list

The survivors of a shipwrecked British vessel on a secret mission during an imperial war with Spain have different accounts of events.

THE BOYS IN THE BOAT by Daniel James Brown

131 weeks on the list

THE BOYS IN THE BOAT

by Daniel James Brown

The story of the American rowers who pursued gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games; the basis of the film.

MEDGAR & MYRLIE by Joy-Ann Reid

MEDGAR & MYRLIE

by Joy-Ann Reid

The MSNBC host details how the wife of the civil rights leader Medgar Evers carried forward their legacy after his assassination in 1963.

  • Hardcover Fiction

40 weeks on the list

IRON FLAME by Rebecca Yarros

14 weeks on the list

The second book in the Empyrean series. Violet Sorrengail’s next round of training might require her to betray the man she loves.

THE HEAVEN & EARTH GROCERY STORE by James McBride

25 weeks on the list

THE HEAVEN & EARTH GROCERY STORE

by James McBride

Secrets held by the residents of a dilapidated neighborhood come to life when a skeleton is found at the bottom of a well.

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OUTLIVE by Peter Attia with Bill Gifford

46 weeks on the list

by Peter Attia with Bill Gifford

A look at recent scientific research on aging and longevity.

OATH AND HONOR by Liz Cheney

10 weeks on the list

OATH AND HONOR

by Liz Cheney

The former congresswoman from Wyoming recounts how she helped lead the Select Committee to Investigate the Jan. 6. Attack on the United States Capitol.

THE WOMAN IN ME by Britney Spears

16 weeks on the list

THE WOMAN IN ME

by Britney Spears

The Grammy Award-winning pop star details her personal and professional experiences, including the years she spent under a conservatorship overseen by her father.

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THE HOUSEMAID by Freida McFadden

THE HOUSEMAID

by Freida McFadden

Troubles surface when a woman looking to make a fresh start takes a job in the home of the Winchesters.

ICEBREAKER by Hannah Grace

52 weeks on the list

by Hannah Grace

Anastasia might need the help of the captain of a college hockey team to get on the Olympic figure skating team.

TWISTED LOVE by Ana Huang

35 weeks on the list

TWISTED LOVE

by Ana Huang

The first book in the Twisted series. Secrets emerge when Ava explores things with her brother’s best friend.

  • Paperback Nonfiction

277 weeks on the list

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153 weeks on the list

CASTE by Isabel Wilkerson

by Isabel Wilkerson

The Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist examines aspects of caste systems across civilizations and reveals a rigid hierarchy in America today.

EVERYTHING I KNOW ABOUT LOVE by Dolly Alderton

34 weeks on the list

EVERYTHING I KNOW ABOUT LOVE

by Dolly Alderton

The British journalist shares stories and observations; the basis of the TV series.

  • Advice, How-To & Miscellaneous

ATOMIC HABITS by James Clear

220 weeks on the list

ATOMIC HABITS

by James Clear

THE CREATIVE ACT by Rick Rubin with Neil Strauss

56 weeks on the list

THE CREATIVE ACT

by Rick Rubin with Neil Strauss

HOW TO KNOW A PERSON by David Brooks

HOW TO KNOW A PERSON

by David Brooks

DEAR BLACK GIRLS by A'ja Wilson

DEAR BLACK GIRLS

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THE SUBTLE ART OF NOT GIVING A F*CK by Mark Manson

320 weeks on the list

THE SUBTLE ART OF NOT GIVING A F*CK

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HEROES by Alan Gratz

by Alan Gratz

The friends Frank and Stanley give a vivid account of the Pearl Harbor attack.

WONKA by Sibéal Pounder

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The movie novelization and prequel to "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," written by Roald Dahl.

WONDER by R.J. Palacio

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A boy with a facial deformity starts school.

REFUGEE by Alan Gratz

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THE SUN AND THE STAR by Rick Riordan and Mark Oshiro

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12 Top Authors Pick the Best Books of the Year

David baldacci, louise penny and others offer their favorite reads from 2021 and of all time.

Christina Ianzito,

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As we’ve noted in our  seasonal roundups , 2021 has been a fantastic year for books — so much so it can be hard to choose which one to read next. We asked top authors for one novel or work of nonfiction that stood out for them this year, as well as a less recent book that they particularly loved. Here’s what they said.

Dean Koontz

Best-selling author of suspense novels, most recently  Quicksilver

When Christmas Come s by Andrew Klavan (2021) : This is an exciting but tender, heartfelt crime novel about an English professor’s attempt to clear a former Army Ranger of murder. It’s fast-paced, haunting, with a central character you’ll love.

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Breakfast at Tiffany’ s by Truman Capote (1958): An enchanting country kid becomes a Manhattan party girl, Holly Golightly, who retains a heartbreaking innocence that makes her unforgettable. Exquisite prose and a sweetly semi-tragic ending make this novella a minor classic.

Jodi Picoult

Author of more than 25 novels, including the new  Wish You Were Here

The Soulmate Equation  by Christina Lauren (2021): A charming novel about the intersection of science and romance, and what happens when DNA can predict your perfect match. Is that a blessing or a curse? And does destiny matter more than individual choice? 

The Book Thief  by Markus Zusak (2005):  A story about the resilience of humans, and how one little life can make a difference in thousands of others. And it’s narrated by Death, which is a mic drop in and of itself.

David Baldacci

Blockbuster thriller author, most recently of  Mercy

The Code Breaker: Jennifer Doudna, Gene Editing, and the Future of the Human Race  by Walter Isaacson (2021): The story of biochemist Jennifer Doudna, who helped to develop a gene editing technology, ushering in wondrous possibilities and unsolvable ethical dilemmas. It’s written in the unputdownable style of a novel as Isaacson does so well. 

The Drowning Pool by Ross Macdonald (1950): A body of a woman in a pool leads to everything that Macdonald (real name Kenneth Millar) did so well: exploring the darkest of family secrets, the chasm between rich and poor, the dirt that clings to every pore of humanity, and most brilliantly of all, Macdonald’s detective, Lew Archer, who tries to make sense of the insensible. Macdonald is the best of the crime noir writers, taking up the mantle from Hammett and Chandler and lifting it to a rarefied level. 

​Louise Penny

​Canadian author of the Chief Inspector Gamache series, including her latest,  The Madness of Crowds . Penny also cowrote the recent thriller  State of Terror  with Hillary Rodham Clinton

​When Harry Met Minnie: A True Story of Love and Friendship  by Martha Teichner (2021): About the bond between two rescue dogs and their owners, this is a warm, intelligent, funny and most of all a luminous celebration of love and friendship and how life-changing events can spring from the mundane.

A Fish Caught in Time: The Search for the Coelacanth  by Samantha Weinberg (2000): In 1938, fishermen off the coast of South Africa brought up something extraordinary in their nets: a coelacanth, a huge fish with limb-like fins thought to be extinct for some 65 million years. This is the riveting story of what was described as the “greatest scientific find of the century.”

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Erik Larson

Bestselling nonfiction writer whose books include 2021’s  The Splendid and the Vile

Klara and the Sun  by Kazuo Ishiguro (2021): A moving exploration of loneliness and artificial intelligence, as told through the observations and experiences of an “Artificial Friend” named Klara, acquired to be the companion of a dying girl. It kept me thinking for weeks afterward.

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The World That We Knew  by Alice Hoffman (2019) : Set in Nazi Germany, this novel traces the wrenching journey of a Jewish girl named Lea and her mystical guardian, Ava, a golem Lea’s mother hopes will protect her — a thrilling story of the lasting power of love.

Author of 2013’s award-winning  A Tale for the Time Being  and 2021’s  The Book of Form and Emptiness , among other novels. She’s also a Zen Buddhist priest.

The End of Bias: A Beginning  by Jessica Nordell (2021): Implicit and unconscious bias exists in us all and underlies our most destructive human behavior. Nordell’s examination, based on 15 years of research and filled with fascinating case studies, is lively, informative, optimistic, compassionate and necessary. The takeaway is: We can change our biased behavior, so let’s start now.

One Hundred Years of Solitude  by Gabriel García Mǻrquez (1967): This sprawling masterpiece of a novel about a multigenerational Colombian family named Buendía was the first encounter I had with magical realism. It was the book that made me want to be a fiction writer. “Wait, I want to do that!” I remember thinking.

Lisa Jewell

British author of popular thrillers, most recently  The Night She Disappeared

The Plot  by Jean Hanff Korelitz (2021): This tale of a frustrated writer stumbling upon the perfect plot for a novel but having to negotiate a moral minefield to use it in his own work is so clever, so taut, so dazzling, I read it in about five hours flat. There is not one bum note or wasted word. 

The Push  by Ashley Audrain (2020): A mesmerizing exploration of the dark side of motherhood; what happens if your perfect baby girl turns out not to be made of sugar and spice and all things nice? Are you a bad mother? Or is your daughter a bad child? Spellbinding.

Chris Bohjalian

Author of best-selling novels, including 2021's  The Hour of the Witch

Woodrow on the Bench: Life Lessons from a Wise Old Dog  by Jenna Blum (2021): I feel I got to know Woodrow, novelist Jenna Blum’s black lab, in Blum’s wise, wrenching and devastatingly beautiful memoir of his last half-year. After reading it, you will never again look into your dog’s — or any dog’s — eyes and not feel the bond that can exist between a person and their pet.

The Friend  by Sigrid Nunez (2018): Wistful and elegiac, but also rich with gentle humor, this is the story of a woman, her literary mentor who kills himself, a tiny apartment and an aging Great Dane. I loved it, with its explorations of the bonds between humans and our closest animal companions.

Janet Evanovich

A fixture on best-seller lists since 1994; her most recent book is this year’s  Game On

Black Ice  by Brad Thor (2021): Scot Harvath is back and better than ever in this fun, fast-paced thriller set in the beautiful country of Norway and the Arctic. You don’t need to have read the others in the series, your pulse will be pounding either way.

Heroes’ Feast: The Official D&D Cookbook  by Kyle Newman, Jon Peterson and Michael Witwer (2020): This beautifully illustrated and charmingly written cookbook is not just for Dungeons & Dragons fans, but for anyone with an adventurous heart and a love for other-worldly travel.

Wanda M. Morris

Debut author of the buzzed-about new legal thriller  All Her Little Secrets ​

Revival Season by Monica West (2021): A 15-year-old girl must come to grips with who her father, a famous Baptist preacher in the South, really is and the newfound power she possesses in a community where women are thought to be invisible and powerless. I love this coming-of-age story that is both compassionate and suspenseful, as well as a complicated and moving story about family and faith.

​Defending Jacob by William Landay (2012): A quiet suburb is rocked when the local assistant district attorney's teenage son is charged with the murder of a classmate. This book enthralled me, not only because of the outstanding storytelling, but because it posed the scenario every parent, including me, grapples with — how far would you go to save your child?

Anthony Horowitz

British TV writer behind PBS's Foyle's War and author of best-selling mysteries, such as the recent  A Line to Kill

Checkmate in Berlin by Giles Milton (2021): This is a fantastic story of Berlin at the end of World War II. It starts with the disease and destitution that Berliners faced when the fighting stopped, moves through the increasing tension and menace of the Cold War and climaxes with the logistically impossible Berlin Airlift that managed to save thousands of lives. In Giles Milton’s expert hands, focusing on the larger-than-life characters who made this all happen, history is as enthralling as any fiction you’ll ever read. 

The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters (2009): I love the work of Sarah Waters, who brings the 19th and early 20th century to vivid life like no other writer. The Little Stranger is a superlative ghost story … if it is a ghost story. It’s hard to say. Certainly, Hundreds Hall, the grim, decaying mansion where it is set, contains a malign presence of some sort. But can we believe Dr. Faraday, the country GP called to the house, or is he the ultimate unreliable narrator? This book will linger in your mind long after you read it. It will haunt you.

Best-selling author of international thrillers, including  Black Ice .

Steel Fear  by Brandon Webb and John David Mann (2021): A serial killer is loose on an aircraft carrier. It’s an absolutely chilling thriller.

One Second After  by William Forstchen (2009): In the aftermath of a mysterious event that cripples all modern electronics, the residents of a small college town must band together to survive. One of the best books I have read in the last 10 years.

Christina Ianzito is the travel and books editor for aarp.org and  AARP The Magazine , and also edits and writes health, entertainment and other stories for aarp.org. She received a 2020 Lowell Thomas Award for travel writing.

Editor's note: This article was originally published on December 8, 2021. It's been updated to reflect new information. 

Christina Ianzito is the travel and books editor for aarp.org and AARP The Magazine , and also edits and writes health, entertainment and other stories for aarp.org. She received a 2020 Lowell Thomas Award for travel writing.

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Here are the Books We Love: 380+ great 2023 reads recommended by NPR

Here are the Books We Love: 380+ great 2023 reads recommended by NPR

November 20, 2023 • Books We Love returns with 380+ new titles handpicked by NPR staff and trusted critics. Find 11 years of recommendations all in one place – that's more than 3,600 great reads.

11 books to look forward to in 2024

11 books to look forward to in 2024

December 30, 2023 • The first few months of the year are stacked with exciting and interesting reads. Get ready for big swings from old pros and exciting new debuts.

Kelly Link's debut novel 'The Book of Love' is magical, confusing, heartfelt, strange

Kelly Link's debut novel 'The Book of Love' is magical, confusing, heartfelt, strange

February 15, 2024 • Short-story writer Kelly Link's first novel delves into the complications of love and friendship, family drama, grief, resilience, and the power of adaptability, while delivering a supernatural tale.

Looking for love? You'll find it in 2024 in these 10 romance novels

Valentine's Day

Looking for love you'll find it in 2024 in these 10 romance novels.

February 14, 2024 • Who says romance is reserved for Valentine's Day? Love stories are a treat to be savored year-round. Here are some of the best romance novels hitting the shelves in the first half of the year.

Unlocking desire through smut; plus, the gospel of bell hooks

Author and cultural critic bell hooks poses for a portrait on December 16, 1996 in New York City, New York. Karjean Levine/Getty Images hide caption

It's Been a Minute

Unlocking desire through smut; plus, the gospel of bell hooks.

February 13, 2024 • This week, we're asking: do the fantasies we read in romance novels say anything about what we want in our real-life relationships? Devoted readers share how the genre has impacted their love lives. Host Brittany Luse revisits her conversation with writer Rebekah Weatherspoon about how she builds a world of desire.

'I Love You So Much It's Killing Us Both' is a rare, genuinely successful rock novel

'I Love You So Much It's Killing Us Both' is a rare, genuinely successful rock novel

February 13, 2024 • Mariah Stovall manages to convey the essence of punk and emo through the prose itself; this is an excellent novel, compassionate and filled with a sparkling intelligence about the human condition.

The secret to lasting love might just be knowing how to fight

The secret to lasting love might just be knowing how to fight

February 13, 2024 • The Gottmans have been studying marriage and relationships for 40 years. In a new book, Fight Right , they explain how successful couples resolve their conflicts.

Move over, senior center — these 5 books center seniors

Move over, senior center — these 5 books center seniors

February 10, 2024 • These books, including Roxana Robinson's Leaving, which comes out on Tuesday, all concern older women — some in their 60s, others in their 90s — who fully intend to enjoy all their years.

Is Bigfoot real? A new book dives deep into the legend

A person dressed as Bigfoot makes their way through the snow during a blizzard in Boston in January 2015. John O'Connor's The Secret History of Bigfoot explores the myth and its lingering appeal. Kayana Szymczak/Getty Images hide caption

Is Bigfoot real? A new book dives deep into the legend

February 9, 2024 • The Secret History of Bigfoot is a smart, hilarious, and wonderfully immersive journey into the history of Bigfoot, the culture around it, the people who obsess about it, and the psychology behind it.

Maurice Sendak delights children with new book, 12 years after his death

February 9, 2024 • Maurice Sendak's previously unpublished Ten Little Rabbits was released this week. On a visit to the late writer's home, we learned he whistled while he worked. (Story aired on ATC on 2/6/24.)

Pregame the Super Bowl with our favorite football fiction

Super Bowl 2024

Pregame the super bowl with our favorite football fiction.

February 8, 2024 • Of course, leave it to the gigantic nerds at NPR to throw a literary tailgate ... but to thine own self be true, even if it means getting stuffed into your locker later this afternoon.

Books from Mexico, Netherlands, and Japan bring rewrites of history, teen tales

Books from Mexico, Netherlands, and Japan bring rewrites of history, teen tales

February 8, 2024 • Books from writers Álvaro Enrigue, Simone Atangana Bekono, and Kiyoko Murata may not come from the same place — but they still work in conversation with each other.

Reexamining the 'upskirt decade' and the public ridicule of female pop stars

Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake perform at the Super Bowl halftime show in 2004. Jeff Haynes/AFP via Getty Images hide caption

Interview highlights

Reexamining the 'upskirt decade' and the public ridicule of female pop stars.

February 8, 2024 • The new book Toxic: Women, Fame, and the Tabloid 2000s reassesses a time when popular culture policed, ridiculed and even took down a variety of women in the public eye.

How the art world excludes you and what you can do about it

In her new book Get the Picture, journalist Bianca Bosker explores why connecting with art sometimes feels harder than it has to be. Above, a visitor takes in paintings at The Royal Academy Summer Exhibition in London in 2010. Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images hide caption

How the art world excludes you and what you can do about it

February 7, 2024 • First of all, can we stop using the word "liminal"? Bianca Bosker spent five years doing in-depth research for Get the Picture — an irreverent book about "strategic snobbery" in the art world.

A foster parent reflects on loving — and letting go of — the children in his care

Mark Daley is the founder of The Foster Parent , a national platform to connect interested families with foster organizations. Mark Daugherty/Simon & Schuster hide caption

A foster parent reflects on loving — and letting go of — the children in his care

February 6, 2024 • Mark Daley always knew the goal was reunification — but he was still devastated when the young boys in his care returned to their birth family. He writes about the experience in his new memoir, Safe.

Maurice Sendak delights children with new book, 12 years after his death

Book News & Features

February 6, 2024 • The late author-illustrator, creator of Pierre and Where the Wild Things Are , loved whistling, Mozart, and Mickey Mouse curios. His trademark whimsy can be found in the new book Ten Little Rabbits .

Police raided George Pelecanos' home. 15 years later, he's ready to write about it

Writer George Pelecanos reads The Washington Post every morning in his home. Keren Carrión/NPR hide caption

Police raided George Pelecanos' home. 15 years later, he's ready to write about it

February 5, 2024 • Crime fiction author and screenwriter George Pelecanos is known for his gritty realism. His latest short story collection takes that same unsparing look at his own past.

Target pulls Black History Month book that misidentified 3 civil rights icons

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Black History Month 2024

Target pulls black history month book that misidentified 3 civil rights icons.

February 2, 2024 • The magnet book mixed up W.E.B. Du Bois, Booker T. Washington and Carter G. Woodson. Target said it will no longer sell the book in stores or online and that it notified the publisher of the errors.

Hallmark recasts 'Sense and Sensibility' and debuts other Austen-inspired films

Actors Susan Lawson-Reynolds, Beth Angus, Deborah Ayorinde, and Bethany Antonia in Hallmark's adaptation of Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility . Steffan Hill/2024 Hallmark Media hide caption

Hallmark recasts 'Sense and Sensibility' and debuts other Austen-inspired films

February 1, 2024 • This month, the network debuts Loveuary , a quartet of films inspired by the creativity and fandom of Regency-era novelist Jane Austen, including Sense and Sensibility with a mostly Black lead cast.

6 books to help young readers learn about Black history

Brittni Robertson Powell, with the New Orleans-based bookstore Baldwin & Co. looks through her choice for Black History Month: I Am Ruby Bridges. Aubri Juhasz/Aubri Juhasz hide caption

6 books to help young readers learn about Black history

February 1, 2024 • Five authors, librarians and book shop owners suggest turning to literature to help teach kids about Black history, culture and themes for this Black History Month.

Academy of American Poets receives its largest-ever donation

Attendees at the One Word Poetry Festival's Youth Poet Laureate Commencement in Rock Hill, S.C., in 2022. Mick Lowry/Academy of American Poets hide caption

Academy of American Poets receives its largest-ever donation

January 31, 2024 • The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has awarded two grants totaling more than $5.7 million to support the organization's Poet Laureates as well as a national alliance of organizations promoting poetry.

Ayesha Rascoe on 'HBCU Made' — and some good old college memories

Both Ayesha Rascoe and host Brittany Luse are alums of Howard University. Drew Angerer/Getty Images/Mike Morgan hide caption

Ayesha Rascoe on 'HBCU Made' — and some good old college memories

January 30, 2024 • We're taking it way back — all the way to college. This episode is a mini-reunion: host Brittany Luse and Ayesha Rascoe, host of NPR's Weekend Edition, are both alumnae of Howard University — they even attended during some of the same years. Howard is an HBCU: a historically Black college or university. There are around a hundred in the US, and they've had a big impact on both graduates and American culture writ large. Ayesha has edited a book of essays all about that impact, called HBCU Made: A Celebration of the Black College Experience. Brittany chats with her about the book and what makes HBCUs special — they also trade tales from their own time as students.

'Your Utopia' considers surveillance and the perils of advanced technology

'Your Utopia' considers surveillance and the perils of advanced technology

January 30, 2024 • The best of Bora Chung's new stories impart a feeling of disorientation, evoking worlds that seem at first like utopias only to disclose, upon deeper inspection, dystopias.

A sex educator on the one question she is asked the most: 'Am I normal?'

Sex educator Emily Nagoski, author of the new book Come Together: The Science (and Art!) of Creating Lasting Sexual Connections , discusses what it means to be sex positive. Kelvin Murray/Getty Images hide caption

A sex educator on the one question she is asked the most: 'Am I normal?'

January 30, 2024 • Emily Nagoski is a sex educator and author of a bestseller on enhancing your sex life. The book did so well that it got in the way of her own.

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books and authors of 2021

The 15 Top Authors, Based on Goodreads Stats

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Emily Martin

Emily has a PhD in English from the University of Southern Mississippi, MS, and she has an MFA in Creative Writing from GCSU in Milledgeville, GA, home of Flannery O’Connor. She spends her free time reading, watching horror movies and musicals, cuddling cats, Instagramming pictures of cats, and blogging/podcasting about books with the ladies over at #BookSquadGoals (www.booksquadgoals.com). She can be reached at [email protected].

View All posts by Emily Martin

What a time to be alive! To be fair, there’s a lot that could be better about the world right now, but there is one major thing we have going for us right now: We have lots of incredible books to read from some truly noteworthy authors. But who are the top authors and what books are contemporary readers loving the most? I want to break it down for you with this list of the 15 top authors.

So with all the myriad ways readers show their support for their most beloved authors online, how did I come to make this final list? Just to keep the research a little more focused, I stuck with Goodreads stats of various kinds. First of all, I looked at the list of authors who are the most followed on Goodreads. From there, I cross-referenced this list with the list of books that are most read and the most shelved on any given year, starting in 2021 and going back to 2016, just to keep the list current to what people have been reading the most over the past five years or so.

From there, what I got was this scientifically proven (disclaimer: none of this is scientifically proven) list of the top authors of our time (disclaimer again: our time being 2016–2021). Note that this is just one methodology for finding the top current authors. This methodology is less based on the quality of writing and more based on the popularity of the author and their books. But popularity has merit, I say! And it’s worth considering.

“Get on with the list,” you say? Okay, I hear you. Without any further messing around, here’s a list of the 15 top authors, based on Goodreads stats, ranked from 15th place to 1st place. Enjoy!

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas cover

15 – Angie Thomas

Angie Thomas is a young adult author who is most well-known for her 2017 novel The Hate U Give . The novel debuted at number one on The New York Times Best Seller List and went on to win several awards, including The William C. Morris Award, the Michael L. Printz Award, the Coretta Scott King Award, and Waterstones Children’s Book Prize. In 2021, Thomas wrote a prequel to The Hate U Give, entitled Concrete Rose . This year, she also co-authored a novel called Blackout with Dhonielle Clayton, Tiffany D. Jackson, Nic Stone, Ashley Woodfolk, and Nicola Yoon.

cover image of Verity by Colleen Hoover

14 – Colleen Hoover

Colleen Hoover is a notable author on this list because she is the first author to ever write a self-published novel that made it to #1 on the New York Times Best Sellers List. That novel was Hopeless , but the novel Hoover is probably best-known for now is Verity , which you’ve probably seen all over BookTok. Colleen Hoover is a popular author across social media, especially Goodreads, where she’s won multiple Goodreads Choice Awards, in 2012, 2013, 2015, and 2016. Every single one of her full-length novels since 2021 have been best sellers.

American Gods by Neil Gaiman

13 – Neil Gaiman

Neil Gaiman is an author who writes across several genres, including short fiction, novels, comic books, graphic novels, nonfiction, and films. Gaiman has won several awards, including the Hugo, Nebula, and Bram Stoker awards. He is also the first author to win both the Newbery and the Carnegie medals for the same book, The Graveyard Book . It’s hard to choose one book of Gaiman’s that is the most popular because all of his novels have their fans, but American Gods is one of Gaiman’s best-selling works and has won multiple awards.

da vinci code cover

12 – Dan Brown

Dan Brown writes thriller/mystery novels that explore conspiracy theories, cryptography, and art. Brown’s novels have sold over 200 million copies. He is best known for his Robert Langdon book series, which dives deep into religious themes and history. Three out of five of the Robert Langdon novels have been adapted into films: The Da Vinci Code , Angels and Demons , and Inferno . And in 2021, Brown’s novel The Lost Symbol was adapted into a television series. Dan Brown has also donated millions of dollars in support of scholarship.

Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead book cover

11 – Colson Whitehead

Colson Whitehead is an author who is the recipient of many awards, including a MacArthur Genius Grant in 2002. His 2016 novel The Underground Railroad won the National Book Award for Fiction and the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. The Underground Railroad was also recently adapted into a television series on Amazon, so that would explain the resurgence of interest in this book on Goodreads. Whitehead’s 2020 novel The Nickel Boys won him another Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. So yes, the hype is real.

On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous Ocean Vuong Novel

10 – Ocean Vuong

The year 2019 was big for poet and author Ocean Vuong. It was the year his debut novel On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous was released, and it was the year he received a MacArthur Genius Grant. But in 2021, Vuong is still going strong with readers on Goodreads, and it looks like he will be for years to come. Last year, it was announced that Vuong would be the seventh author to contribute to the Future Library Project , a collection of works by contemporary authors that will remain unread until 2114.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo Book Cover

9 – Taylor Jenkins Reid

Taylor Jenkins Reid is a popular contemporary author for many readers not only on Goodreads, but also on BookTube and BookTok. She is best-known for her novels The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo , Daisy Jones and the Six , and Malibu Rising . Daisy Jones and the Six, which is loosely based on the classic rock band Fleetwood Mac, is currently being adapted into an Amazon miniseries produced by Reese Witherspoon, starring Riley Keough as Daisy Jones and Sam Claflin as Billy Dunne.

Mexican Gothic cover

8 – Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Silvia Moreno-Garcia is a Mexican Canadian author of speculative fiction. She received the Copper Cylinder Adult Award for her debut novel Signal to Noise and the August Derleth Award for Best Horror Novel for her 2020 novel Mexican Gothic . Garcia was also a finalist for the Nebula Award for both Gods of Jade and Shadow and Mexican Gothic, and a finalist for the Bram Stoker Award for Mexican Gothic. Mexican Gothic is also in development as a limited series for Hulu, produced by Kelly Ripa and Mark Consuelos’s Milojo Productions.

cover of the vanishing half by brit bennett, featuring several different color shapes that appear abstract at first, but are actually the overlapping faces of two women

7 – Brit Bennett

Brit Bennett went straight to The New York Times Best Seller list with her debut novel The Mothers , and she was also named in the National Book Foundation’s “5 under 35” list of promising debut novelists. With her second novel, The Vanishing Half , Bennett once again found herself on top of the NYT Best Sellers list, and The New York Times also chose this novel as one of its top ten best books of 2020. Now, both novels are being adapted; Kerry Washington is producing a film adaptation of The Mothers, and The Vanishing Half has been acquired by HBO for a limited series with Bennett serving as executive producer.

cover of six of crows

6 – Leigh Bardugo

Leigh Bardugo’s novels long been popular amongst Goodreads readers, but the recent Netflix adaptation of Shadow and Bone has introduced a whole new group of readers to the series and its spinoff Six of Crows (this story is also a part of the series adaptation). In 2019, Bardugo also published her first adult novel, Ninth House , a paranormal fantasy set at Yale University. Ninth House was listed in Tor’s Best Books of 2019 and Paste’s 19 Best Novels of 2019 . Both Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom were listed in Paste’s 50 Best Fantasy Books of the 21st Century (So Far) .

a court of thorns and roses

5 – Sarah J. Maas

Next up on the list is another author of a widely beloved fantasy series: Sarah J. Maas. In fact, Maas is known for not one but two fantasy series, Throne of Glass and A Court of Thorns and Roses . Maas’s books have sold over 12 million copies and have been translated into 37 languages. In 2020, Maas released the first book in her new Crescent City Series, House of Earth and Blood . The next novel in the series, House of Sky and Breath , is coming in 2022. There are also more books in the Court of Thorns and Roses series in the works.

klara and the sun cover

4 – Kazuo Ishiguro

Kazuo Ishiguro is a British novelist who is known for playing with genres like speculative fiction, science fiction, and historical fiction in his literary novels. In 2017, Ishiguro won the Nobel Prize in Literature. T he Swedish Academy described Ishiguro as an author “who, in novels of great emotional force, has uncovered the abyss beneath our illusory sense of connection with the world.” His 2021 novel Klara and the Sun is his first novel since winning the Nobel Prize. His latest novel has been widely acclaimed by readers and reviewers and compared to another of Ishiguro’s beloved novels, Never Let Me Go .

cover of Divergent by Veronica Roth

3 – Veronica Roth

Veronica Roth is an author who is best-known for her young adult series Divergent , which was released in 2011–2013 and later adapted into a film series starring Shailene Woodley and Theo James. Although the Divergent novels were the first books Roth wrote and remain some of her most popular books, the author continues to write inventive fantasy stories that keep readers interested. Most recently, Roth released her first adult novel, Chosen Ones , the first novel in a fantasy duology.

Book cover for The Shining

2 – Stephen King

If you don’t know who Stephen King is, then you’ve probably been living under a rock, but just in case you’ve somehow missed it, here’s the deal with this best-selling author. Stephen King writes across many genres: horror, science fiction, fantasy, suspense, and more. King has won several awards for his works, including multiple Bram Stoker Awards, World Fantasy Awards, and British Fantasy Society Awards. And in 2003, the National Book Foundation awarded him the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. Stephen King’s novels are all top-selling books, but if you were wondering which of King’s novels is the best-selling of all 63 of his books, it’s The Shining .

turtles all the way down book cover

1 – John Green

Is John Green who you expected to see at the top of this list? John Green has had many of his young adult novels hit The New York Times Best Sellers list, including The Fault in Our Stars and Turtles All the Way Down . In 2014, Green was named one of the 1 00 Most Influential People in the World by Time . Part of the reason he is so popular and consistently read by so many people on Goodreads is his involvement in creating so much online content. He and his brother Hank Green are big YouTubers, and John Green also has a podcast The Anthropocene Reviewed , which was adapted into a book of essays.

And there you have it! Hopefully some of the people on these list ended up being surprises to you. I have to say I was a little surprised at how it all shook out, but you can’t argue with science (disclaimer: this still isn’t science)!

Love lists where we talk about the best of the best? Here are 20 of the best children’s authors . And if horror’s more your speed, here’s a totally scientific list of the best horror authors of all time !

books and authors of 2021

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Books and Authors 2024 PDF List for Competitive Exams (UPDATED)

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Important Books and Authors 2024 PDF

List of Books and Authors 2024 PDF: General Awareness Plays an Important Role in Government exam. Learning Questions Based on Static Gk Chapters famous books and authors in India pdf Leads You to Score More Marks in Exam. In this Post, We Are Providing You List of Important Books and Authors for 2023 in Scoring Topics for competitive exams Like   SSC exams, Bank Exams, Government exams , or the UPSC exams.

The questions Related to Important books and authors have been covered under the Static GK a piece of the General Awareness segment. Questions in view of Important Books and their Authors are normally asked in Competitive Exam, IBPS SO, IPPB Officer, IBPS RRB, RBI, LIC AAO, SBI PO, SBI Clerk, IBPS PO, IBPS Clerk, and other Exams your insight in Current Affairs General Awareness segment.

Today we are giving you an article on Important Books and Authors in PDF design. A few questions are normal in Upcoming Exams. Check the famous and award-winning books and authors for 2023, 2022, 2021,

Also, Check the Indian Famous List of Books and Authors in Hindi

Books and Authors pdf

Books and Authors 2024 Updated list: Overview

Important books and authors january 2024, important books and authors 2023 (january to december), important books and authors december 2023, important books and authors november 2023, important books and authors october 2023, 4 books on g20 summit: showcasing g20’s presidency success, important books and authors september 2023, important books and authors august 2023, important books and authors july 2023, important books and authors june 2023, important books and authors may 2023, important books and authors april 2023, important books and authors march 2023, important books and authors february 2023, important books and authors january 2023.

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One liner notes based on books and authors.

  • A new publication “ The Little Book of Green Nudges ” has been launched by the  United Nations Environment Programme . 
  • Pope Francis  is set to release the book  “Let Us Dream”  in December 2020. In the book, Pope Francis explains how a crisis can teach an individual to deal with problems they face in their lives
  • Indian Army Chief,  General Manoj Mukund Naravane  has released a book titled  “National Security Challenges
  • A book title  ‘Cricket Drona’  on renowned coach  Vasudev Jagannath Paranjpe or Vasoo Paranjape  released on September 2, 2020
  • Interior designer,  Gauri Khan  has authored her first book titled  “My Life In Design”,  which will be published by  Penguin Random House India  in 2021.
  • A book titled  “Who painted my lust red?”  has been authored by  Sree Iyer.  The book is something about when  Bollywood meets Cricket meets Politicians.
  • Union Minister,  Jitendra Singh  has released a book on cancer named  “Gastric Cancer”  edited by  Dr. Ashok K. Vaid.  

Important GK Questions Based on Books and Authors

Q.Who is the author of the book ‘The One and Only Sparkella‘?

A) Channing Tatum B) Ruth Rendell C) Kate Atkinson D) Ruth Ware

Q.Who is the author of the book “Let Us Dream”?

A) Pope Francis B) Zadie Smith C) David Mitchell D) Hilary Mantel

Q.Who is the author of the book “The Commonwealth of Cricket: A Lifelong Love Affair with the Most Subtle and Sophisticated Game Known to Humankind’’?

A) Ramachandra Guha B) Chetan Bhagat C) Sudha Murty D) S. Jaishankar

Q.Who is the author of the book “Samvad Upanishad’ & ‘Akshar Yatra”?

A) Gulab Kothari B) Sudha Murty C) Kazuo Ishiguro D) Chetan Bhagat

Q.Who is the author of the book Breaking The Cocoon @ 40?

Sudha Murty Chetan Bhagat Radha Nair Karan Johar

Q.Who is the author of the book “Azaadi”

A) Chetan Bhagat B) Sudha Murty C) Shashi Tharoor D) Arundhati Roy

Important Books and Authors 2023 PDF: FAQs

Q. what are the best books by indian authors.

Ans: Here are the Some best books by Indian authors 1.  White Tiger 2. The Great Indian Novel 3. Train to Pakistan 4.The Guide

Q. What are the 10 best Indian Books that one must read?

Ans: Malgudi Days, The Talkative Man, The Guide – R. K. NarayanJaya, Sita – Devdutt Patnaik The Namesake – Jhumpa Lahiri Feluda Series, Professor Shonku Series – Satyajit Ray Everything is written by Rabindranath Tagore Mere bachpan ke din & Gillu – Mahadevi Varma Grandfather’s private zoo, Adventures of Toto – Ruskin Bond Collected Stories – Khushwant Singh The God of small things – Arundhati Roy The collector’s wife – Mitra Phukan

Q. Which is the Best Selling Book by Indian authors.?

Ans: The Courtesan, the Mahatma and the Italian Brahmin by Manu S. Pillai is one of the Best Selling books by Indian authors

Q. Where can I download the books and authors’ PDFs?

Ans. –  You can download the Books and authors pdf 2020 from DreamBigInstitution.com

Q. Who are the top 10 authors of all time?

Ans: 1. Leo Tolstoy, 2. William Shakespeare, 3. James Joyce, 4. Vladimir Nabokov, 5. Fyodor Dostoevsky, 6. William Faulkner, 7. Charles Dickens, 8. Anton Checkhov, 9. Gustave Flaubert, 10. Jane Austen

Books and Authors 2024 PDF List for Competitive Exams (UPDATED)

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Books and Authors 2023, List of Books Writers & Authors

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Books and authors 2022, books and authors 2021, books and authors 2020, books and authors 2019, books and authors 2018.

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Books and Authors: Famous Books and their Authors are part now of every exam. For the important Government exams, if have come up with important books and their authors. The government exams, like RRB, Bank Exams, UPSC, IBPS, and SSC, are some of the exams in which two or three questions from books and authors are asked in the general awareness section. Check the famous and award-winning books and authors for 2023, 2022, 2021, 2020 , 2019 and 2018 .

Books and authors have played pivotal roles in the evolution of societies. Throughout history, written works have been catalysts for change. They have challenged oppressive systems, championed human rights, and sparked movements for social justice. Authors are the magicians who conjure worlds out of thin air. They craft characters with unique voices, settings with vivid details, and narratives that transport readers to distant realms. Through their creative brilliance, authors enable us to experience the lives, struggles, and triumphs of fictional and historical figures alike. 

The relationship between books and authors is one of profound influence and symbiosis, shaping societies, sparking revolutions, and expanding the horizons of the mind. In he below table, we have explored the names of Books and Authors 2023.

The list of Books and Authors of 2022 has been enlisted below and will be updated with the release of new books. 

Check the complete list of Books & Authors of 2021 in the below table. 

Check the important books and its authors of 2020 in the table below.

Check the important books and its authors of 2019 in the table below.

Check the important books and its authors of 2018 in the table below.

Q 1. Who won the Jnanpith Award 2023?

Q 2. Won won the Man Booker Prize 2019?

Q 3. Who won the Man Booker International Prize 2019?

Q 4. Who won the Saraswati Samaan 2019?

Q 5. Who won the Pulitzer prize for fiction 2019?

Q6. Who is the author of ‘Bose: The untold story of an inconvenient nationalist’?

Q7. Which book is shortlisted for International Booker Prize 2022?

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books and authors of 2021

Updated List Of Important Books & Authors PDF 2022

books & authors pdf

Updated List Of Important Books & Authors PDF: Books and Authors is one of the most important parts of Static GK for competitive exams. It has been seen that questions from books and authors released in recent months are asked in SSC, Railway, Banking, UPSC, State PCS, and other exams.

In previous year exams, 3 to 4 questions have been asked about this topic. In this article, we are going to provide you Updated List Of Important Books & Authors in 2022 PDF . You will get the latest books and authors’ current affairs 2022 pdf on this page.

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List Of Important Books & Authors PDF 2022

Latest books and authors 2022 pdf.

Books & Authors Current Affairs 2022 read all the latest Books & Authors Current Affairs Updates for 2022 at Examstocks.com . This is the right place to get quick updates of the Latest Books & Authors Current Affairs 2022 and events not only for the competitive exam but also for the interview.

  • Also, Check –  Important Awards And Honours 2022 PDF

Here we have shared the list of Important books and authors in year wise manner. You can note down them in your notebook and revise them before appearing in your exams.

List of Important Books Released in 2022

Download books and authors 2022 pdf in hindi (jan to oct 2022), download books and authors 2022 pdf in english (jan to oct 2022), list of important books released in 2021.

Latest Current Affairs 2022 For Competitive Exams PDF

How To Remember Books & Authors?

Here we have shared some simple ways and Important tips to remember books and authors:

  • Download the pdf provided below and go through it.
  • In the pdf, we have attached pictures of book covers with their authors.
  • Solve Books and authors quiz.
  • Practice books and authors’ questions and answers from previous year exams.
  • Make short notes and mnemonics.
  • Take help from youtube lectures.

You can download the books and authors 2022 pdf by clicking on the download link given below.

Download Books And Authors 2022 PDF (January To May 2022)

Download books and authors 2021 pdf (july to december 2021), download books and authors 2021 pdf (january to june 2021), download books & authors previous year questions pdf by tcs , download latest books and authors 2020 pdf, download list of books & authors 2020 pdf (nov-dec 2020).

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books and authors of 2021

Sistah Scifi is behind those book vending machines in Oakland and Seattle

Isis Asare, owner of Sistah Scifi.

Independent bookstores are the heartbeats of their communities. They provide culture and community, generate local jobs and sales tax revenue, promote literacy and education, champion and center diverse and new authors, connect readers to books in a personal and authentic way, and actively support the right to read and access to books in their communities.

Each week we profile an independent bookstore, sharing what makes each one special and getting their expert and unique book recommendations.

This week we have Sistah Scifi , a digital-first bookstore with real-world roots in Seattle and Oakland, California!

Sistah Scifi

Owner Isis Asare launched Sistah Scifi in 2019. Located primarily in cyberspace, Sistah Scifi is among the first Black-owned bookstores focused on science fiction and fantasy in the country.

Check out: USA TODAY's weekly Best-selling Booklist

In 2023, Asare introduced Sistah Scifi Book Vending Machines in Seattle and Oakland, California. An exciting way to bring books out into the community, the store partners with local businesses and organizations to place the machines.

In addition to the Book Vending Machines, Asare has added in-person events to Sistah SciFi’s lineup.

“We launched a Sistah Scifi West Coast Tour program to help Sistah Scifi authors increase awareness of their book launches,” said Asare.

This latest tour features Shawneé and Shawnelle Gibbs, authors of Ghost Roast.

Sistah SciFi is also preparing for a "The Science Behind Science Fiction: Womb City," an event for Tlotlo Tsamaase’s upcoming novel.

When asked about the importance of independent bookstores, Asare said, “It’s about the connection, the community, the world building. The first step in changing the future is coming together, and there is no better place to do that than at your local bookstore.”

Check out some of Sister Scifi’s favorite books:

  • For classic speculative fiction: "Parable of the Sower" by Octavia E Butler.
  • For contemporary: "An Unkindness of Ghost" by Rivers Solomon.
  • For new releases: "Womb City" by Tlotlo Tsamaase.

Books | ‘Murderbot Diaries’ author Martha Wells…

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Books | ‘murderbot diaries’ author martha wells says a book was ‘lifeline’ during ice storm.

books and authors of 2021

Martha Wells is the author of a number of science-fiction and fantasy novels and series, including the Murderbot Diaries, which began with “All Systems Red” and includes the recent “System Collapse.” She also has a revised, single-volume collection of two novels out later this month, “The Book of Ile-Rien: The Element of Fire & The Death of the Necromancer.” Wells talked to Erik Pedersen in 2021 about how she felt about her future, prior to the success of Murderbot . “I was kind of at that point in my career where, you know, women writers my age were supposed to quietly fade away,” she said. “I could not sell another book.” She’s since sold lots of books – and recommended more  – and here in the Q&A she shares some she’s been reading recently.

Q. What are you reading now?

I recently finished reading Andrea Hairston’s new book, “The Archangels of Funk.” It’s a brilliant, fun, hopeful take on the slow apocalypse, with AI and magic and aliens and lovely engaging characters. Now I’m reading Sharon Shinn’s new novel, “Whispering Wood,” set in her Elemental Blessings series. She’s my favorite romantic fantasy writer and it’s so good to have a new book in this series.

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Q. How do you decide what to read next?

It’s pretty random, just whatever catches my attention. Sometimes I plan to read something, then get a new book and look at the first few pages, and end up reading that instead.

Q. Do you remember the first book that made an impact on you?

I don’t know if it’s the first book, but it’s one I read very early, really too early, and I still remember it vividly. It’s “Malevil” by Robert Merle. My parents had a lot of Reader’s Digest volumes of abridged and somewhat bowdlerized novels, and I read “Malevil” first in this abridged version and then got the real version from the library. I was probably in middle school, and it was very much a book intended for adults. It’s an SF story set in the ‘70s, of post-apocalyptic survival by a small group of people in a restored French castle. It’s in first person, but there’s a second narrator who makes later notes and additions, adding his version of the parts the first narrator left out. There was a lot of technique in it, like an unreliable-to-a-certain-extent narrator, that very much influenced me.

Q. Do you have any favorite book covers?

The cover for “A Wizard of Earthsea,” by Ursula Le Guin, the 1975 Bantam edition, the art by Pauline Ellison with the dragon winding through the island city. I found it in a bookstore in a mall and it completely captured my imagination. The Earthsea trilogy had a big influence on me, too.

Q. Do you have a favorite book or books?

I really love the “Rivers of London” series by Ben Aaronovitch . It’s a fantasy series set in modern-day London about wizards who deal with supernatural crime. It combines a lot of my favorite things, fantasy, mystery, an appreciation of the history of the place the characters occupy and how that history and past affects the present. Characters being smart, caring about each other, figuring out how their magic works using scientific methods, a vast and detailed world. The books really reward re-reading, too, with little details that become important later.

Q. Which books do you plan, or hope, to read next?

That’s a good question. Right now I’m trying to decide between S.L. Huang’s “The Water Outlaws,” Brent Lambert’s “A Necessary Chaos,” and “Silver Nitrate” by Sylvia Moreno-Garcia . They’re all very different books and I’m looking forward to all of them and it’s tough deciding which one to start next. I’m also very much looking forward to whatever N.K. Jemisin writes next, and Kate Elliott’s next book in her space opera trilogy. I loved the most recent one, “Furious Heaven.”

Q. What’s a memorable book experience – good or bad – you’re willing to share?

I read Nnedi Okorafor’s novella “Remote Control” during the snow and ice storms that caused the massive failure of the Texas power grid in February of 2021. Our house at the time was built in 1967 and had very little insulation, so without heat, it was in the low 30s to high 20s inside. We were going for 12-hour stretches without power, and we were in danger of hypothermia. That book was a lifeline for me. It gave me time I could mentally step out of the situation I was in, which is the best thing a book can do for you. I also love her other work, particularly the “Akata Witch” books.

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Florida school asks parents for permission to have book by an African American author read to students

A Florida school district is drawing fire for asking parents to consent to having their children participate in the reading of an African American author’s book to comply with state law.

“I had to give permission for this or else my child would not participate???” wrote one parent, Charles Walter, who posted a photo of a Miami-Dade County Public Schools permission slip to X on Monday evening.

The form describes the activity as a “read aloud” scheduled for Tuesday from 1 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. in the library. Next to “types of guest that may attend the activity or event,” it says: “fireman/doctor/artist.”

books and authors of 2021

In an interview Tuesday, Walter, 46, said the form came from his daughter Eva’s first grade teacher at Coral Way K-8 in Miami.

Walter said that, after he saw it, he gave the teacher verbal consent for Eva to take part but was told that if his daughter didn’t return a signed form, she could not participate.

“My daughter didn’t even mention it to me,” Walter said. “She didn’t want me to sign it because she thought it would be boring.”

He added: “The idea that kids can have a say in what activities they participate in is really strange. And then the idea that some kids would be taken out of class, that just seems bizarre.”

The requirement was implemented to comply with the Parental Rights in Education law, which was signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis in 2022. Supporters say it gives parents greater control over their children’s education, while critics call it the “Don’t Say Gay” law. The law was expanded to prevent classroom discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity in all grades.

DeSantis, a Republican, has signed legislation on several education issues, including what he has called the “ Stop WOKE ACT ,” which limits how race can be taught in school. He has also accused public schools of liberal indoctrination.

Walter, whose other daughter is a fourth grader at the same school, said he has never had to sign a permission slip for either child to participate in a read aloud or listen to a guest speaker at school in the past.

The permission form policy has been in effect in Miami-Dade County public schools since at least November and requires schools to obtain parental consent for various activities, including when a guest speaker visits a class.

Administrators at Coral Way K-8 declined to comment and referred NBC News to the Miami-Dade County Public Schools district.

A spokesperson for the school district said in a statement: “We realize that the description of the event may have caused confusion, and we are working with our schools to reemphasize the importance of clarity for parents in describing activities/events that would require parental permission. However, in compliance with State Law, permission slips were sent home because guest speakers would participate during a school-authorized education-related activity.”

The district spokesperson did not immediately return a request for comment about what book was read to the students or by whom. Walter said all his daughter remembered was that the book was about a boy who could do anything and that all of her classmates were present for the read aloud.

In a statement Tuesday evening, the state’s education commissioner, Manny Diaz Jr., said: “Florida does not require a permission slip to teach African American history or to celebrate Black History Month. Any school that does this is completely in the wrong.”

At a recent school board committee meeting that was posted online, board member Steve Gallon III expressed concern about whether the policy was being implemented fairly and wanted to know if a teacher would be required to obtain permission from parents to have a Holocaust survivor speak. “I don’t want this to be a narrative that is restricted to Black history and African American history,” Gallon said during the Feb. 7 meeting.

John Pace III, the deputy superintendent, and the district’s general counsel, Walter Harvey, responded that any guest speaker, including a Holocaust survivor, would require parental consent. Pace called the permission slips “extracurricular, parent permission forms” and said that they were not required for classroom instruction on African American history or the Holocaust.

Walter’s post on X drew more than 2,000 shares as of Tuesday afternoon and had been liked more than 3,500 times.

“It was obviously quite shocking to receive the form,” Walter said. “I hope that the school district recognizes that people aren’t in agreement with this policy and reconsider.”

books and authors of 2021

Janelle Griffith is a national reporter for NBC News focusing on issues of race and policing.

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