2020 was filled with screens. We watched TV shows incessantly, even the bad ones (might I remind you of Too Hot to Handle and Tiger King?) We sat at our computers, hastily emailing and messaging our coworkers. We endured Zoom calls for any and every occasion and meeting, even the ones that most definitely could have been an email. And yes, we doomscrolled. If we’ve ever needed an excuse to indulge in a really good book (we don’t!), 2021 is the time. Thankfully, this year is brimming with page-turners, must-reads, and novels that will make you ache over effortlessly refined sentence structure (just me?). That’s why we’ve rounded up our favorite fiction picks of the new year. If it’s out now, snag your copy; if not, get ready to prepare to pre-order.
Bloomsbury Publishing Outlawed
Welcome to the new feminist frontier, literally. Anna North’s provocative Western follows Ada, a 17-year-old who has to flee her town after she’s unable to get pregnant a year into marriage. It features everything you ever wanted in a read: Queer cowgirls, a group of feminist outlaws, heists, and so much more. Think The Handmaid’s Tale meets season one of Westworld.
One World Detransition, Baby
Marie Claire’s February #ReadWithMC pick grapples with self-identity, queer parenting, and polyamorous relationships, all of which debut author Torrey Peters handles with dexterity and empathy. The writing is witty and exacting, the plot is raw and messy, and the culmination? You won’t be able to put it down.
Pamela Dorman Books The Push
Nothing like a psychological thriller to kick off a new year that is hopefully not as psychologically disturbing as last year. In Ashley Audrain’s pulsating fiction, a new mother begins to suspect not all is right with her baby.
St. Martin’s Press The Wife Upstairs
This reimagined, modern adaptation of Jane Eyre trades in gothic mystery for Southern secrecy. In Rachel Hawkins’ latest page-turner, expect the forbidden romance you loved in the original tale with all the modern, shiny trimmings.
Simon & Schuster Aftershocks
So this one is actually not a fiction book, but we couldn’t not include—it’s that good. Nadia Owusu’s powerful memoir chronicles her nomadic childhood and, perhaps an even more complicated journey, the one to self-discovery.
Riverhead Books No One Is Talking About This
Welcome to the existential crisis we’re all going through. You know, the paralyzing, catatonic state you enter when endlessly scrolling the social media void? Author Patricia Lockwood has captured that feeling. In her latest, a social media celebrity travels the world and becomes increasingly sucked into her virtual reality—until a shocking text brings her back to the real world. Meta yet relatable and sharp, you will be talking about No One Is Talking About This.
Catapult Fake Accounts
I’m sensing a theme here. In Lauren Oyler’s Fake Accounts, social media serves as plot glue. The night before Donald Trump’s inauguration in 2016, a young woman discovers her boyfriend is an infamous internet conspiracy theorist. Subversive and irreverent, Fake Accounts might finally compel you to swear off internet lurking…or make you lurk even more.
Grand Central Publishing What’s Mine and Yours
Author Naima Coster has achieved a rare thing: She’s written a book both timely and timeless, one that transcends era and audience. Traversing perspectives and timelines, the reader follows two different families from North Carolina after their lives inextricably collide.
Scribner Milk Fed
Obsessive calorie counter Rachel harnesses her compulsive energy into a fascination with Miriam, an Orthodox Jewish woman who works at a frozen yogurt shop. Dangerously delicious and utterly idiosyncratic, Milk Fed is the honest, compelling convergence of diet culture, religion, and sex that we’ve been craving.
Little, Brown and Company How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House
Set in the ritzy, rapidly gentrifying beach town of Baxter Beach, Barbados, this novel examines issues of class, race, and lessons taught (and disobeyed) over generations. A plot driven by page-turning crime is balanced with subtle charter studies, making How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House just as thrilling as it is poignant.
Riverhead Books My Year Abroad
In Chang-rae Lee’s My Year Abroad, Tiller, an average-at-best student and Pong, a Chinese immigrant and entrepreneur, become an unlikely pair of businessmen. The story telling and format is radical, and that’s what makes it so much fun.
Little, Brown and Company Who is Maud Dixon?
Alexandra Andrew’s buzzy new novel has all the makings of a book-turned-blockbuster. Our heroine Florence is an entry-level publishing employee who lands a dream gig assisting a big-time—and completely anonymous—writer. After a mysterious accident abroad makes her new boss go missing, Florence decides it might be time for some good, old fashion identity fraud.
Knopf Crying in H Mart
Not really fiction, but we couldn’t resit plugging this excellent work (and a #ReadWithMC bookclub pick!). Michelle Zauner’s memoir is a delicious and satisfying read set in the popular Korean grocery store chain. Zauner thoughtfully tackles family, food, and grief.
Simon & Schuster The Last Thing He Told Me
When her husband of one year suddenly disappears (among the most mysterious of circumstances, as any “gripping thriller!” would have) a woman is left to discover the truth— and, protect her step-daughter, who as it happens, hates her. I kid, but it is gripping. Let the drama commence!
Atria Books The Other Black Girl
Zakiya Dalila Harris’s brilliant debut is a sharp, sly, and wickedly-funny not-so-satrical peek inside the publishing industry’s racial bias. In The Other Black Girl, editorial assistant Nella Rogers is the only Black person at her job until a new girl joins the team. But then, things start to get sinister…You’ll tear through this nimble and quick-witted social commentary by flashlight under the covers.
Avid Reader Press / Simon & Schuster Animal: A Novel
The writer behind the widely popular nonfiction hit Three Women, Lisa Taddeo, is now gifting us with fiction. Bravely and boldly capturing generational female rage, Animal is the cathartic read of 2021.