The Best New Books to Read in 2021 (So Far)
Drumroll, please: 2021 has arrived—and with it, a whole batch of new books for avid readers to devour. This is Real Simple’s definitive list of the best books of 2021. We’ll be updating it with the latest and greatest books launching each month. (If you’re looking for the best books of 2020, we have those, too.)
The world has plenty of interesting books to read, and more are written, edited, and released every year. To help make it a tiny bit easier to find something to read, we’re curating the list so only the most compelling, fascinating, thought-provoking books (in our opinion, of course) are featured. If you’re seeking a good book club book, wanting a book you can read with a friend or partner, or just want to stay updated on the best books of 2021, check back here each month for our latest picks.
Like previous annual best book lists, this will feature fiction, memoirs, thrillers, nonfiction, and more. Like you, we love to read anything we can get our hands on, and you’ll see the best books that come across Real Simple editors’ desks right here. Start building your 2021 reading list now—you may need to learn how to read more books if you want to get through all of these before 2022 rolls around.
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The Prophets by Robert Jones Jr.
In this powerful novel about a Deep South plantation, enslaved Isaiah and Samuel share a private, abiding love that’s a refuge from the daily brutality they endure—and that has consequences for everyone around them. The Prophets by Robert Jones Jr. is an original, heartbreaking testament to love, and to the supremacy of good over evil.
Before the Ruins by Victoria Gosling
The only relic from Andy’s troubled childhood is her friend Peter. The two occasionally meet for drinks in London, where they carefully avoid discussing one particular summer: On an abandoned manor decades earlier, they played a game that ended in tragedy. But then Peter disappears, and Andy is forced to untangle what she’s tried so hard to forget. Before the Ruins by Victoria Gosling is a lush and layered thriller that mystery lovers will savor.
The Rib King by Ladee Hubbard
In the early 1900s, the Barclays, a white family with a cadre of Black servants, are desperate for cash. They begin selling their cook’s delicious rib sauce and slapping a humiliating caricature of their groundskeeper on the label (without compensating either long-time employee). Through its searing portrayal of exploitation, The Rib King by Ladee Hubbard conveys a modern message about how African American stereotypes are used for profit.
The Push by Ashley Audrain
After giving birth to her first child, Blythe Connor vows to be the doting mother she never had. But when she finds it difficult to connect with baby Violet, she’s alarmed, frustrated, and increasingly convinced there’s something dangerously wrong with the girl. The Push by Ashley Audrain is a chilling page-turner that asks provocative questions about nature versus nurture and what makes a good mother.
What Could Be Saved by Liese O’Halloran Schwarz
Laura Preston ignores her sister’s warning and travels to Bangkok to reunite with their brother, who went missing 40 years earlier when they lived in the city for their father’s mysterious job. As the story unfurls, shocking family secrets are slowly revealed. What Could Be Saved by Liese O’Halloran Schwarz is a rich, complex novel that shifts between present-day Washington, D.C., and 1970s Thailand—just the kind of book you want to sink into on a winter day.