12 Authors Share the Best Books They Read in 2021

A collage of the covers included in this article

Best Of season is here again! The beauty of these lists is that each is entirely personal and unique, meaning it’s a great time of year to pick up book recommendations. Earlier this week, we shared the NetGalley team’s favorite books of the year. Now, 12 authors each share one of the best books they read in 2021!

Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Malibu Rising covers the day leading up to the Riva family’s annual end-of-summer party at the beach house of eldest sibling, Nina. The narrative deftly weaves between the past and present, telling the story of the Riva parents, the numerous affairs of their celebrity father and his eventual abandonment, and examines the inner lives of the four adult children as the night unfolds and the party goes increasingly off the rails. Secrets come to light, bonds are tested, roles are evaluated and reconsidered. A must-read!” —Vanessa King, author of A Certain Appeal

How to Marry Keanu Reeves in 90 Days by K.M. Jackson

How to Marry Keanu Reeves in 90 Days by K.M. Jackson was my standout this year. I knew I’d love it—I had a Bill and Ted-era Keanu poster on my wall growing up. I knew the Keanu references and that K.M. Jackson’s always on-point banter would shine, but this book turned out to be so much more. A 40-something heroine who doesn’t have it all figured out yet. Her long-time friend who cares for her in the perfect, tender yet exasperated way. A road trip. Celebrity cameos. Exploring moving on after trauma. And of course, the magic that only Keanu can bring.” —Farah Heron, author of Accidentally Engaged

Razorblade Tears by S.A. Cosby

“No one captures the South like S.A. Cosby. The premise is simple: Two men are killed, two fathers try to solve the crime. But there’s nothing simple about racism and homophobia. Add revenge and justice, and the result is staggering. Razorblade Tears is as heartbreaking as it is violent, a gut-punch of a book.” —Samantha Downing, author of For Your Own Good

The Book of Form and Emptiness by Ruth Ozeki

“Ruth Ozeki’s The Book of Form and Emptiness tells the story of 14-year-old Benny Oh the year he loses his father and starts hearing the objects in his world speak. Told in multiple points of view, including that of the actual Book you’re reading, Ozeki’s novel collects dreamers and misfits, crows and ferrets, street poets and performance artists, and all the objects that we love and discard and weaves them into a coming-of-age story for a climate in crisis and a world where stories still have the power to fundamentally transform. Full of rebellion, philosophy, love, and magic, this transcendent book is perfect for seekers of any age.” —Michelle Ruiz Keil, author of Summer in the City of Roses

The Jasmine Throne by Tasha Suri

“​​The Jasmine Throne grabbed me by the throat on the first page and it never let go after that, dragging me through the story to the very end. I loved every second of it. I adore a murdery ruthless princess, and Malini was that and so much more. Priya made my heart ache and made me cheer at the same time because she’s such a freaking BAMF. Throw in a slow-burn romance between them that I wanted to eat with a spoon, and you have a book that I am basically thrusting into people’s hands!” —Katee Robert, author of Neon Gods

The Ones Who Don’t Say They Love You by Maurice Carlos Ruffin

“I loved Maurice Carlos Ruffin’s The Ones Who Don’t Say They Love You, a short story collection that doubles as a heartfelt tribute to New Orleans. A NOLA native himself, Ruffin illuminates the city’s rich culture by centering the narratives of varied and often-unsung individuals such as grass-cutters, sex workers, and caterers. The result is a vivid and unforgettable portrait of one of America’s greatest cities, and I’m positive I’ll never see the Big Easy the same way again.” —Zakiya Dalila Harris, author of The Other Black Girl

Yellow Wife by Sadeqa Johnson

“In a year with many outstanding historical fiction books, it’s challenging to recommend only one book—there are dozens to suggest! That said, I’ve been delighted to see works by diverse authors appear on the shelves in greater numbers, and I was particularly moved by Sadeqa Johnson’s novel, Yellow Wife. Based on the real-life figure Mary Lumpkin, this powerful story about an enslaved concubine of the owner of a slave-trading post not only explores the horrors of slavery in the mid-1800s but also the joys of motherhood, even in the most trying of circumstances. A must-read.” —Marie Benedict, author of Her Hidden Genius

The Upstairs House by Julia Fine

“As the parent of two kids, there was a time not-so-long-ago when Margaret Wise Brown’s Goodnight Moon was in heavy rotation in our house… so Julia Fine’s postpartum haunter hits pretty close to the bedtime bone. Akin to Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves if it were narrated by a quiet old woman who was whispering ‘hush,’ this unnerving novel explores the cerebral side of the supernatural, walking that fine line between what’s real and what’s merely a comb and a brush and a bowl full of mush.” —Clay McLeod Chapman, author of Whisper Down the Lane

The Councillor by E.J. Beaton

“In the wake of the Queen’s murder, Lysande must choose a new ruler for the kingdom while simultaneously investigating the assassination that killed her friend and mentor. Intricately imagined politics, lyrical prose, and multi-faceted characters drew me into this book and kept me lost within its pages. I love a smart, ambitious, flawed protagonist, and Lysande is all three. I adored the shifting alliances, the magic and monsters, and the heart-aching exploration of grief for a person who, in death, cannot live up to the image once held of them.” —Andrea Stewart, author of The Bone Shard Emperor

Something New Under the Sun by Alexandra Kleeman

“Why we’re not collectively and continually freaking out about climate change is beyond me. Already devastating different corners of the globe, the consequences of our warming world can still feel distant. In Something New Under the Sun, Alexandra Kleeman brings the crisis closer to home so we can better grasp the future that, in many ways, is already here. With masterful prose, Kleeman describes a burning California where water is scarce and largely replaced by a privatized synthetic version causing dementia. Part warning, part eulogy for our planet, this important book depicts how we’ve managed to destroy the very ecosystem that sustains us.” —Sara Goudarzi, author of The Almond in the Apricot

The Plot by Jean Hanff Korelitz

“A midlist writer trying desperately to capture his past promise by plagiarizing the plot of a novel from a talented student—what could possibly go wrong? And how could I resist this jaunty, fast-paced thriller that so accurately describes the pratfalls and, yes, the humiliations of the writing life? I found myself alternating between laughing out loud and groaning in recognition at the descriptions of book readings where no one showed up, the mind-numbing repetitiousness of questions by interviewers, the anxieties and the hubris, the envy and the neediness. And I couldn’t stop turning the page.” —Thrity Umrigar, author of Honor

Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir

“I’d like to still be out there—in space, inside a ship, on another planet. That’s what Andy Weir’s Project Hail Mary did for me this year. I don’t even like science fiction. Well, I didn’t use to. Weir’s The Martian was my first introduction into this whole new world, or should I say these new and faraway planets. Project Hail Mary had me from the first word, and I even teared up a little when it was over because it was time to say goodbye to all the wonderful characters. It’s probably one of my all-time favorites.” —Paige Shelton, author of The Burning Pages

What was your favorite book of the year?

Kelly Gallucci

Kelly Gallucci is the Executive Editor of We Are Bookish, where she oversees the editorial content, offers book recommendations, and interviews authors and NetGalley members. When she's not working, Kelly can be found color coordinating her bookshelves, eating Chipotle, and watching way too many baking shows.

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