Happy Holidays and Seasons Greetings to everyone celebrating a holiday at this time of the year: Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa, Yule (Winter Solstice) Greetings, and Merry Christmas. Although I’m not celebrating any major religious holidays, I’m always ready to provide bookish recommendations to friends and family. This year, rather than simply doing a “best of 2021” list (books published and read in 2021), I decided to break my list down into general fiction, historical fiction, romance, and other fiction. (Yes, I have quite a number of recommendations, thus the breakdown.) Please note that some of the books included in these lists may have been reviewed here, others were not.
Let’s get things started with my best of 2021 in general fiction. If you haven’t already read any of the books on these lists, then I hope one or two will pique your reading interest and you’ll grab copies for yourself (or to gift).
I read this one at the very beginning of 2021 and at that time, it didn’t make a huge impact (sorry but bad migraine days usually result in bad everything including bad impressions of books being read). Since that initial reading, I’ve had time to re-evaluate and I’ve come to the conclusion that my pain levels during my reading played a major role in my initial response. As a result, this book is my first recommendation.
ISBN: 9781250245496 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9781250245502 (trade paperback – released November 2, 2021)
ISBN: 9781250245519 (ebook)
ISBN: 9781250752451 (digital audiobook)
ISBN: 9781250752468 (audiobook on CD)
ASIN: B08DRR2K6X (Audible audiobook)
ASIN: B08BKLVZRJ (Kindle edition)
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Release Date: January 5, 2021
Meet Jane. Newly arrived to Birmingham, Alabama, Jane is a broke dog-walker in Thornfield Estates—a gated community full of McMansions, shiny SUVs, and bored housewives. The kind of place where no one will notice if Jane lifts the discarded tchotchkes and jewelry off the side tables of her well-heeled clients. Where no one will think to ask if Jane is her real name.
But her luck changes when she meets Eddie Rochester. Recently widowed, Eddie is Thornfield Estates’ most mysterious resident. His wife, Bea, drowned in a boating accident with her best friend, their bodies lost to the deep. Jane can’t help but see an opportunity in Eddie—not only is he rich, brooding, and handsome, he could also offer her the kind of protection she’s always yearned for.
Yet as Jane and Eddie fall for each other, Jane is increasingly haunted by the legend of Bea, an ambitious beauty with a rags-to-riches origin story, who launched a wildly successful southern lifestyle brand. How can she, plain Jane, ever measure up? And can she win Eddie’s heart before her past—or his—catches up to her?
My next best read in general fiction is another Southern story and one I thoroughly enjoyed. Part coming-of-age tale combined with a moral tale, this story has a little bit of everything for every reader desiring a good story told well. Psst, it has even been considered a more contemporary retelling of The Great Gatsby, so if you’re into retellings, here you go!
ISBN: 9781616206802 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9781643752006 (paperback – Released October 5, 2021)
ISBN: 9781643751078 (ebook)
ISBN: 9781649040237 (digital audiobook)
ASIN: B08QXZMS9Q (Audible audiobook)
ASIN: B08519FF6Z (Kindle edition)
Publisher: Algonquin Books
Release Date: January 5, 2021
When Charlie Boykin was young, he thought his life with his single mother on the working-class side of Nashville was perfectly fine. But when his mother arranges for him to be admitted as a scholarship student to an elite private school, he is suddenly introduced to what the world can feel like to someone cushioned by money. That world, he discovers, is an almost irresistible place where one can bend—and break—rules and still end up untarnished. As he gets drawn into a friendship with a charismatic upperclassman, Archer Creigh, and an affluent family that treats him like an adopted son, Charlie quickly adapts to life in the upper echelons of Nashville society. Under their charming and alcohol-soaked spell, how can he not relax and enjoy it all—the lack of anxiety over money, the easy summers spent poolside at perfectly appointed mansions, the lavish parties, the freedom to make mistakes knowing that everything can be glossed over or fixed?
But over time, Charlie is increasingly pulled into covering for Archer’s constant deceits and his casual bigotry. At what point will the attraction of wealth and prestige wear off enough for Charlie to take a stand—and will he?
I read this book early in the year, and yes, I gave a copy to my 87-y.o. mother to read. We both enjoyed it and it made a lasting impression. It’s much more than a story about race, it’s about striving to be better, regrets, and the power of reaching out to others.
ISBN: 9780063005631 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9780063005655 (ebook)
ISBN: 9780063005662 (digital audiobook)
ASIN: B0872K2Y82 (Audible audiobook)
ASIN: B086ZRRYCW (Kindle edition)
Publisher: William Morrow Books
Release Date: February 2, 2021
A promise could betray you.
Read an excerpt here.
I had the pleasure of reading this book with my online book group, Mocha Girls Read. This is just one of the many powerful and realistic fictional stories I’ve read this year dealing with friendship, family, and race relations. A definite #mustread.
ISBN: 9781982181031 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9781982181055 (ebook)
ISBN: 9781797131092 (digital audiobook)
ASIN: B08WT2PVKZ (Audible audiobook)
ASIN: B08VJM1568 (Kindle edition)
Publisher: Atria Books
Release Date: October 5, 2021
A GOOD MORNING AMERICA BOOK CLUB PICK
Named a Best Book Pick of 2021 by Harper’s Bazaar and Real Simple
Named a Most Anticipated Book of Fall by People, Essence, New York Post, PopSugar, New York Newsday, Entertainment Weekly, Town & Country, Bustle, Fortune, and Book Riot
Told from alternating perspectives, an evocative and riveting novel about the lifelong bond between two women, one Black and one white, whose friendship is indelibly altered by a tragic event—a powerful and poignant exploration of race in America today and its devastating impact on ordinary lives.
I recommended this next book earlier prior to the release date and again later in the year in a review. Seriously y’all, I can’t say enough good things about this book. Okay, I can add that my 87-y.o. mother enjoyed it as much as I did (thank you, Ms. Nolfi for thinking about us and sending us the signed books). The book is The Passing Storm by Christine Nolfi. It is a story about secrets, forgiveness (of others and of self), tragedy, survival, second chances, love, and family being more than DNA.
ISBN: 9781542029124 (paperback)
ASIN: B08SXRK8M1 (Audible audiobook)
ASIN: B08MZPFY3J (Kindle edition)
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Release Date: November 1, 2021
A gripping, openhearted novel about family, reconciliation, and bringing closure to the secrets of the past.
Early into the tempestuous decade of her thirties, Rae Langdon struggles to work through a grief she never anticipated. With her father, Connor, she tends to their Ohio farm, a forty-acre spread that itself has enjoyed better days. As memories sweep through her, some too precious to bear, Rae gives shelter from a brutal winter to a teenager named Quinn Galecki.
Quinn has been thrown out by his parents, a couple too troubled to help steer the misunderstood boy through his own losses. Now Quinn has found a temporary home with the Langdons—and an unexpected kinship, because Rae, Quinn, and Connor share a past and understand one another’s pain. But its depths—and all its revelations and secrets—have yet to come to light. To finally move forward, Rae must confront them and also fight for Quinn, whose parents have other plans in mind for their son.
With forgiveness, love, and the spring thaw, there might be hope for a new season—a second chance Rae believed in her heart was gone forever.
I consider myself incredibly fortunate to have read a host of great books this year. I’m grateful to the authors, publishers, publicists, virtual book tour companies, and book clubs that have afforded me the opportunity to read so many wonderful titles. Please note that this is just my first “best of 2021” post, I hope you’ll return to read future posts focusing on historical fiction, romance, and other fiction (Sci-Fi, AfroFuturistic, etc.) reads of 2021. Until then…
Happy Reading, y’all!