- Many exciting new and bestselling books have already been published in 2021.
- These new books span a variety of genres such as nonfiction, fantasy, thriller, and young adult.
- Below, Business Insider has highlighted their 26 top picks for 2021 so far.
We're already almost halfway through 2021: The days are longer, the grass is greener, and reader's favorite books of the year (so far!) are starting to emerge.
Many of the new books from the first half of the year are reflective of the world's conversations last year. New novels feature characters that are diverse in more than one way, exploring problems such as social justice, immigration, and what it means to be human in this world. Meanwhile, nonfiction releases tackle climate change, personal growth, and racism while offering logical solutions.
Though we're only five months into 2021, incredible books have already been published. Whether you're looking for a fun young adult read or a self-help book that addresses a complex problem, the books we recommend might make your favorites list at the end of the year.
Have you read?
The 26 best new books in 2021:
- Historical Fiction
- Young Adult
- Fiction and Poetry
A new memoir of an extraordinary life
For more than 60 years, Cicely Tyson was revered for her acting in American theater and film. Also a lecturer and activist, Cicely Tyson's story is one of authenticity, known and understood by any reader to pick up her book. It's a memoir of a full life, a timely and timeless story of the perseverance and triumph of Black women. Cicely is reflective and open, transferring her charisma to the page as readers follow her through great moments of her life, published just two days before her death at 96 years old.
A bestselling self-help book to change how we talk about trauma
While many of us blame ourselves for our emotions, Oprah Winfrey and Dr. Bruce Perry encourage us to shift the question from "What's wrong with you?" to "What happened to you?" Dr. Bruce Perry is a brain and trauma expert who offers scientific insight to the trauma-based reasoning behind our less favorable behavioral patterns. Combined with Oprah's personal and vulnerable anecdotes, the book weaves science and storytelling together to shift how we view trauma so our futures can be defined by more than our pasts.
A new look at the economic effects of racism
Heather McGhee is an American political commentator and strategist with an economic specialty who noticed racism as a common root problem to economic crises. Her book details her personal journey to uncover what she calls the "Solidarity Dividend": Gains that occur when people come together to accomplish what we can't do on our own. Heather McGhee uses stories from across America to demonstrate how white supremacy's collateral damage includes white people themselves and outlines her own message for a new future.
A popular new psychology book to encourage rethinking
This book blends psychology and self-help to prove how doubt, failing, and rethinking are instrumental to improving ourselves and our world. Adam M. Grant is a psychologist whose research has shown that intellectual humility, or the ability to take constructive criticism, often has more benefits to productivity than first-time successes. In three sections, he outlines why we struggle to embrace feedback, how we can help others rethink effectively, and how our communities can shift to encourage rethinking.
A collective historical collaboration
In an unparalleled and defining collection, "Four Hundred Souls" is a chronological account of 400 years of Black American history, told by 90 of America's most profound Black writers. In a book that reclaims the ways history was written, it outlines major events with people all but forgotten by American history. Through poems and essays, each author covers five years of Black American history, beginning with the arrival of 20 enslaved Ndongo people one year before the arrival of the Mayflower.
The biography of a Nobel Prize winner
Jennifer Doudna became obsessed with science, DNA, and the code of life in the sixth grade. Now, she's known as the co-creator of CRISPR — a tool that can edit DNA. This biography depicts how Jennifer Doudna's childhood interest in nature evolved into a Nobel Prize and the potential to change how science affects all aspects of human life. This book also outlines the moral and ethical implications of DNA-editing as well as the ways in which it could improve our physical and mental health.
A bestselling Great Depression historical novel
After "The Nightingale," Kristin Hannah truly became known as an outstanding historical fiction writer. This novel is set in 1934 Texas, where the Great Depression and an insufferable drought has farmers struggling to keep their livelihoods. Elsa is one of them, torn between fighting for her homeland or going to California with the hope of a brighter future. It's a portrait of the American Dream, a heartbreaking story that reads so easily despite the complexity of Kristin Hannah's characters and detailed portrait of life during the Great Depression.
A forbidden love story between enslaved men
This is a magnificent story of love thriving despite the heavy backdrop of slavery. Isiah and Samuel are two enslaved young men, caring for animals on a southern plantation. Their intimacy and refuge in each other protects them from the harsh world — until an older fellow slave begins preaching the master's gospel to gain his favor. When the enslaved people begin to turn on each other, not only is Isiah and Samuel's relationship threatened, but the harmony of the entire plantation.
A World War II novel about code-breaking women
In 1940, World War II engulfed Europe, and three women from England volunteered to train as code breakers while Britain prepared to join the fight against Germany. Osla, Mab, and Beth each have their own undeniable assets to code breaking. Seven years later, the three women are sworn enemies, torn apart by the pressures of secrecy and reunited over a mysterious letter — the key to which lies in the betrayal that tore them apart.
An historical story about the power of books
Odile was a librarian at the American Library in Paris in 1939 when the Nazis invaded the city. With her fellow librarians, Odile joined the Resistance armed with books. Nearly 45 years later, Lily is a teenager living in Montana when her elderly neighbor's interesting past and common passions offer her the adventure for which she's been searching. This book is about heroism, life during World War II, and the timeless love of literature.
A new YA book that asks deep questions
When Kezi Smith is killed after attending a social justice rally, she becomes immortalized as a victim in the fight against police brutality. As Happi, her sister, mourns, she finds herself questioning the perfect and angelic ways in which Kezi is remembered. Struggling with big philosophical questions after her sister's death, Happi sets out to honor her sister in her own way, spurring a life-altering ride of discovery. This book is poignant and deeply interesting, addressing from a new angle the mentality that victims are either "thugs" or "one of the good ones."
The story of an Indian American teenager
"Red, White, and Whole" is the story of Reha, a teen torn between her traditional home and her school, where she is the only Indian American student. Her parents rarely notice this clash of worlds unless Reha isn't meeting their expectations. When Reha's mother is diagnosed with leukemia, Reha decides she will be the ideal daughter in the hopes of saving her mother's life. Though fictional, many of the struggles in this book are very real for teenage immigrants and children of immigrants. The emotion packed into these pages might break your heart and leave you shedding more than a few tears.
A coming-of-age YA novel
A prequel to "The Hate U Give," this YA takes place 17 years prior to Starr's story, where Maverick Carter is torn between making money by dealing for the King Lords or finishing school and working an honest job. When Maverick finds out he's a father, his life and priorities change, even though he's still torn between loyalty and responsibility. In this coming-of-age novel, Maverick tackles big issues with real consequences and finds what it really means to be a father.
A new science-fiction thriller
All Ryland knows is he's been asleep for a very long time, he's millions of miles from Earth, and he's the sole survivor of a last chance space mission with an impossible task ahead of him: Conquering an extinction-level threat to the human race. Full of perfectly geeky sci-fi excitement paired with nail-biting thriller elements, this story is an exciting read with Andy Weir's trademark humor throughout.
A bestselling, suspenseful thriller with two narrators
"The Good Sister" by Sally Hepworth, available on Amazon and Bookshop, from $16.79.
Fern and Rose are twin sisters who've escaped their mother's sociopathic home and are trying to live normal lives. Rose spent her childhood protecting Fern, so when Rose finds she can't have a baby, Fern sees an opportunity to repay her for everything she's done. As the long-buried secrets begin to reveal themselves, this thriller holds tight and refuses to let you go until the final pages. It's a domestic suspense of skewed memories and creepy double meanings.
Stephen King's latest release
In this coming-of-age storyline mixed with the supernatural elements that Stephen King writes best, Jamie is an extraordinary child who just wants an ordinary childhood. Though his mom urges him to keep it a secret, Jamie's ability to see the supernatural pulls him into a police pursuit of a killer threatening to strike from beyond the grave. "Later" is Stephen King at his finest: Creepy, compelling, and complex.
The final book of an epic fantasy series
This is the fifth and final novel of Sarah J. Maas's super-popular "A Court of Thorns and Roses" series. What began as a "Beauty and the Beast" re-telling morphed into a sexy, fantastical series with wolves, faeries, and nymphs while also tackling mental health, healing, and self-love. If you are a fantasy reader, this is a series you need to read, knowing that this final installment lives up to the high expectations.
A fresh story full of magical realism
Nora has regrets. On an evening when she feels like she's out of options and has ruined her life, she finds the midnight library. In the midnight library, the shelves go on forever — a different world inside each book, a life parallel to her own. Nora explores the lives she may have lived if she had made any single choice differently: Pursuing swimming or glaciology, undoing breakups, taking trips she'd previously canceled. This book has spurred some great conversations and leaves readers with the message that it's never too late to make the choices that can change their lives for the better.
A reimagining of a mythological legend
In "The Witch's Heart," fantasy meets Norse mythology to create an epic modern twist on a legend. Angrboda is a banished witch, forced to hide in the forest as a punishment from Odin for refusing to reveal the future. It is here that she meets Loki, and while their initial meeting breeds distrust, Angrboda soon falls in love with him. As she slowly recovers her powers, she knows she must protect her three children from growing dangers. This fantasy novel is a story of love, survival, and competing conflicts.
A perfect beach read
This is a fun and cute rom-com story — and the perfect beach read. Alex and Poppy could not be more different, yet for the past 10 years, they've taken a summer vacation together to celebrate their friendship — until one mistake led to them not speaking for two years. When Poppy thinks back on the last time she was happy, she knows it was on vacation with Alex, so she reaches out and they embark on one more vacation to make everything right. While reading this book, you'll feel every bit of love and heartbreak that Alex and Poppy endure.
The bestselling story of a family torn by immigration
A breathtaking book with a timely plot, this book follows a Columbian family fractured by immigration. Once their first child is born, Elena and Mauro flee a war-riddled Columbia for Houston, where they debate either overstaying their tourist visas or returning to Columbia and risking the safety of their children. When Mauro is deported, Elena is left in America — undocumented, caring for three children, and with few options for survival.
An emotional, funny new novel from a bestselling author
Jayne and June are estranged sisters. Jayne struggles to get by while juggling school, her mental health, her deadbeat boyfriend, and her social-media-obsessed friends. Meanwhile, June's life seems perfect, with her high-paying finance job and huge apartment — that is, until she's diagnosed with uterine cancer and desperately needs her sister's help. In this funny yet emotional contemporary novel, the sisters switch places to commit insurance fraud in the hopes of saving June's life. Though this book works through a lot of pain, the messages within are hopeful and uplifting.
A unique story of parenthood
"Detransition, Baby" is an unapologetically vulnerable novel about an unconventional family. Reese is a trans woman with a nearly perfect life, except for her inability to have a baby. When Reese and her ex-girlfriend (now Ames) broke up and Ames detransitioned, Reese's life seemed to self-destruct. Meanwhile, Ames thought himself infertile until his boss, Katrina, got pregnant with his baby. As Katrina is unsure if she wants to keep it, Ames sees an opportunity to give his ex the baby she always wanted.
A new novel about two intertwining Muslim families
"The Bad Muslim Discount" follows two families who immigrated from Pakistan and Iraq (respectively) to San Francisco in the 1990s. Anvar Farris' family unanimously decides to move to California and escape the fear growing in Pakistan, some of his family adjusting easily and others finding few ways to fit in as Muslims in America. Meanwhile, Safwa is a young girl growing up in Baghdad, who finds a far more dangerous route to escape the war. Anvar and Safwa's very different worlds collide and create a real picture of identity and faith in America, with fantastic dry humor spun throughout.
A historic inaugural poem
What is the World Economic Forum's Book Club?
The World Economic Forum launched its official Book Club on Facebook in April 2018. Readers worldwide are invited to join and discuss a variety of books, both fiction and non-fiction. It is a private Facebook group dedicated to discussing one book every month.
Each month, we announce a new book on our social media channels. We then publish an extract and begin a chapter-by-chapter discussion with group members. Selected comments and questions are sent to the author, who in return sends us a video response.
Unlike other book clubs, the group features the direct involvement of the authors, giving you - our global audience with members all around the globe - a chance to directly connect with some of the most influential thinkers and experts in the world.
We have featured authors such as Steven Pinker, Elif Shafak, Yuval Noah Harari, and Melinda Gates.
You can join the Book Club here.
Follow us on Twitter here.
Follow us on Instagram here.
This is the special edition of the inspirational poem read by Amanda Gorman at the 46th Inauguration on January 20, 2021. With a foreword from Oprah Winfrey, this poem plants the hope of America's future, demonstrates the power of poetry, and captivates readers with its breathtaking and uplifting messages.