The Really Rather picks for best books of 2021 differ from most other lists in that they’re compiled by non-fiction writers who become fiction readers and aficionados by choice in their spare time.
Why is this significant? Because we know a thing or two about the written word—after all, we spend all day writing. So for recreational reading, we like to get as far away from reporting and opining as we possibly can get: bye bye facts, charts and credible sources. Hello pure imagination! It’s our great escape.
When you think about it, books are a much better deal than movies. Theater tickets average about $10.00 a piece in the U.S., and when you add on the price of drinks, popcorn, sundry other treats, parking, gas and perhaps even a babysitter, that price more than triples. That’s for about 2.5 hours of entertainment.
On the other hand, a well-written novel takes most readers about six to eight hours to read, and if you wait for it to come out in paperback or read it on Kindle, the most it’s likely to cost you is $14.99. That’s a lot more entertainment bang for your buck, and far more hours of blissful escape.
Then there are the additional stimulating hours we have discussing our favorite novels with friends and family and in our book groups! The book fun never stops!
But we don’t have to sell you on fiction — you wouldn’t be reading this if you weren’t already hooked. You’re just interested to see how many choices on our best books of 2021 list you’ve already read, and/or find some great suggestions for your next read.
So without further ado, here are our choices for:
The 5 Best Books of 2021(Fiction)
1. The Lincoln Highway
Amar Towles (A Gentleman in Moscow, Rules of Civility) has written an instant classic, already one of the best books of this century. He’s now in good company with some of the most esteemed American authors— his latest has the heart of Mark Twain and the soul of John Steinbeck. It’s a scintillating road trip novel, set in 1954, when earnest, 18-year-old Emmett and and his precocious little brother Billy set out from their farm in the Midwest for San Francisco to find the mother who abandoned them. But they’re forced to take a detour in the opposite direction when confronted by a couple of questionable frenemies from Emmett’s unfortunate past.
2. Klara and the Sun
Who knew a tale of artificial intelligence could be so moving and heart wrenching? Nobel laureate Kazuo Ishiguro (Never Let Me Go, Remains of the Day) gives us a tender vision of the not too distant future, when privileged children have “Artificial Friends” who care for them and serve as helpful companions. Ego-free AI creation Klara gets her power from the sun, and learns to observe and act selflessly, as programmed, with her young charge and the very human others in her sphere. It’s so beautifully written that tears creep to the corners of our eyes just thinking about it.
3. Cloud Cuckoo Land
Part historical fiction, part apocalyptic sci-fi thriller, this engrossing novel by Anthony Doerr, the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of All the Light We Cannot See, was an instant New York Times bestseller and finalist for the 2021 National Book Award. It weaves together characters and events from three times and places: Fifteenth Century Constantinople, a small town in present-day Idaho, and on a futuristic space ship carrying humankind’s only hope for survival. All are bound by the thread of an ancient work of literature. Follow these characters on their fascinating journeys, and you’ll never want to return.
4. The Four Winds
The Grapes of Wrath from a woman’s perspective, Kristen Hannah’s The Four Winds is the riveting and soul searing story of a mother who packs up her children and precariously makes her way from the devastation of the Dust Bowl to the the “promised land” of California, which could turn out to be worse. A breathtaking portrait of Americans at their abusive worst and resilient best, the intense passages of and loss are profoundly moving.
5. Malibu Rising
Perhaps not as literary as the other books on our list, we’d be happy reading author Taylor Jenkins Reid’s grocery list — especially when it’s set in on of the locations where we’ve spent some of the happiest times of our lives. It follows the offspring of crooner Mick Riva, a superstar character from Jenkins Reid’s fabulous The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, as the four siblings throw the party of the year, which will irrevocably change their lives, as well as those of all who attend. A wry look at privileged Californians and those who are not so well endowed, a better beach read has never been written.