books of 2021. Photo: KnowInsiders
books of 2021. Photo: KnowInsiders

Reading books is definitely one of the most favorite activities in people's free time.

This year, there are lots of exciting new releases from some of our favorite authors, as well as stunning debut books from a diverse group of newcomers in just about every genre you can think of.

For 2021, many of our top book picks offer us critiques on our society today or a peek into complicated family dynamics; we've also got steamy romance novels that will send shivers up your spine, historical books that dip back into the past and creepy tales of suspense that will keep you up past your bedtime.

List of 20 Best Books of 2021

(Ranking by Amazon and Knowinsiders)

1. The Push: A Novel by Ashley

2. All's Well: A Novel by Mona Awad

3. The Lincoln Highway by Amor Towles

4. The Plot by Jean Hanff Korelitz

5. The Turnout by Megan

6. Filthy Animals by Brandon Taylor

7. The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah

8. Harlem Shuffle by Colson Whitehead

9. The Paris Library by Janet Skeslien Charles

10. Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid

11. The Rose Code by Kate Quinn

12. Great Circle by Maggie Shipstead

13. Somebody's Daughter: A Memoir by Ashley C. Ford

14. One Last Stop by Casey Mcquiston

15. People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry

16. The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah

17. "Concrete Rose" by Angie Thomas

18. Outlawed by Anna North

19. What Comes After: A Novel

20. This Close To Okay by Leesa Cross-Smith

*****

Each year, the team of Amazon Book Editors read through thousands of books across genres to choose the best 100 books of the year.

Which are the 20 Best Books?

1. The Push: A Novel by Ashley

Photo: Good Morning America
Photo: Good Morning America

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

2. All's Well: A Novel by Mona Awad

Photo: Entertainment Weekly
Photo: Entertainment Weekly

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

3. The Lincoln Highway by Amor Towles

Photo: WITF
Photo: WITF

"Towles (A Gentleman in Moscow) might just have written one of the best novels of this decade, delivering one of the greatest gifts of fiction: hope. Filled with 1950s nostalgia and the gentle naïveté and hijinks of those who are young, optimistic, and on a mission, The Lincoln Highway follows four kids whose paths collide as they search for their mother and a stashed wad of cash." – Al Woodworth, Amazon Book Review

4. The Plot by Jean Hanff Korelitz

Photo: Vulture
Photo: Vulture

"A story within a story that is a Rubik’s Cube of twists, The Plot follows an uninspired author fading into obscurity until his new book rockets him to fame. Only the plot isn’t his, and someone knows it. Korelitz keeps us guessing—even when all seems clear—right up to the knockout ending." – Seira Wilson, Amazon Book Review

5. The Turnout by Megan

Photo: Time Magazine
Photo: Time Magazine

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

6. Filthy Animals by Brandon Taylor

Photo: Time Magazine
Photo: Time Magazine

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

7. The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah

Photo: Confidence Book Club
Photo: Confidence Book Club

"Set during the Great Depression and featuring an unlikely heroine who will lodge herself in your heart, The Four Winds is a reminder, when we so urgently need it, of the resiliency not only of the human spirit, but of this country as well. Hannah's latest story reads like a classic." – Erin Kodicek, Amazon Book Review

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8. Harlem Shuffle by Colson Whitehead

Photo: Fredericksburg
Photo: Fredericksburg

"The two-time Pulitzer Prize winner of The Nickel Boys and The Underground Railroad tells a blisteringly entertaining tale of schemers and dreamers, mobsters and crooks, elaborate heists and furniture fronts, and the thrilling mischief of those who are up to no good and others who are just trying to make a living." – Al Woodworth, Amazon Book Review

9. The Paris Library by Janet Skeslien Charles

Photo: i've read this
Photo: i've read this

This historical fiction novel is based on the little-known but true story of World War II librarians at the American Library in Paris. It begins in 1939, where young librarian Odile faces the fear of losing her library as the Nazis invade her city. In 1983, Lily is a teenager in Montana whose school project leads her to interview her French neighbor, uncovering her mysterious past and the secret that may connect them. This is not a war novel, but a descriptive and deeply intriguing piece of historical fiction that will pull on the heartstrings of all book lovers.

10. Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Photo: Chapters of May
Photo: Chapters of May

Taylor Jenkins Reid novels are known for being absolute page-turners, and "Malibu Rising" is no different. This book bounces between an epic, life-changing party over 24 hours and the family history of four famous siblings. Together, they're a fascination to the world, children of the legendary rockstar Mick Riva. They're all looking forward to their annual party for different reasons except Nina, recently abandoned by her husband and resentful of the spotlight. By morning, the house will be up in flames, but before that the party will become completely out of control and the secrets of the family will rise to the surface.

11. The Rose Code by Kate Quinn

Photo: KRCU
Photo: KRCU

In 1940, three very different women come together during the war to help break German military codes, creating deep bonds that are broken by the pressure of secrecy and the pain of loss through the war. Seven years later, the women are reunited at a royal wedding by a mysterious letter and must revisit a past of betrayal and heartbreak in order to crack one final code and stop an elusive enemy. This is a brilliant and riveting read, a bestseller with perfectly plotted narratives that has quickly become an undeniable 2021 favorite.

12. Great Circle by Maggie Shipstead

Photo: Maggie Shipstead
Photo: Maggie Shipstead

"Shipstead has accomplished the impossible—an epic novel that is ambitious, literary, and utterly accessible. Great Circle follows two women who yearn for adventure and freedom—aviator Marian Graves and starlet Hadley Baxter—and like flying, it’s the thrill of the century." – Sarah Gelman, Amazon Book Review.

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13. Somebody's Daughter: A Memoir by Ashley C. Ford

Photo: She Reads
Photo: She Reads

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

14. One Last Stop by Casey Mcquiston

Photo: Reading, Reading, Reading
Photo: Reading, Reading, Reading

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

15. People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry

Photo: Reading, Reading, Reading
Photo: Reading, Reading, Reading

From the author of the 2020 hit "Beach Read" comes another summer favorite of two unlikely friends that vacation together every summer. Alex and Poppy couldn't be more opposite: Alex, a quiet boy with hometown charm, and Poppy, a wanderlust-fueled wild child. After sharing a ride home in college, the two form a friendship, sharing a vacation together every summer for a decade, until two years ago when they ruined everything. Now, Poppy and Alex come together for one more trip to see if they can mend their friendship or if there's really something more between them.

16. Harlem Shuffle by Colson Whitehead

Photo: Fredericksburg
Photo: Fredericksburg

"The two-time Pulitzer Prize winner of The Nickel Boys and The Underground Railroad tells a blisteringly entertaining tale of schemers and dreamers, mobsters and crooks, elaborate heists and furniture fronts, and the thrilling mischief of those who are up to no good and others who are just trying to make a living." – Al Woodworth, Amazon Book Review.

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17. "Concrete Rose" by Angie Thomas

Photo: Time Magazine
Photo: Time Magazine

"Concrete Rose" is the prequel to the super popular YA novel "The Hate U Give". In this book, readers meet Maverick Carter: a 17-year-old high school student who deals with the gang his father once ruled. When Maverick learns he's a father, he decides to "go straight" by no longer dealing drugs, working a part-time job, finishing high school, and being there for his son. Torn between loyalty and responsibility, this book is Maverick's coming-of-age journey as he decides what it means to him to be a father and a man.

18. Outlawed by Anna North

Photo: The AU Review
Photo: The AU Review

This book is a fast-paced and dangerous story that's piqued readers' interest by breaking the mold of traditional Westerns with a queer, feminist Western girl gang. In 1984, Ana is a respected midwife who hasn't been able to get pregnant after a year of marriage. With the fear of being hanged as a witch, Ana joins the Hole in the Wall Gang, a group determined to create a safe haven for outlawed women. When the gang devises a risky plan, Ana must decide if she's willing to risk her life for the chance of a new future for them all.

19. What Comes After: A Novel

Photo THE READER'S EDIT -
Photo THE READER'S EDIT -

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

20. This Close To Okay by Leesa Cross-Smith

Photo: TREMG
Photo: TREMG

This story takes place over a single weekend after Tallie convinces a man named Emmett to step back from the edge of a bridge and join her for coffee. As a therapist, Tallie aims to create a safe space for Emmett though hesitant to admit it's also her job. As Emmett begins to confide in Tallie, she releases her own heavy truths and challenges. This book is touching, the tale of two strangers meeting under wild circumstances and finding solace in each other.

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