Wondering what books might top the bestseller lists early next year? Here are our nonfiction and fiction picks for compelling reads to look forward to in 2021, featuring a variety of styles from both well-known authors and cult favorites.
A Swim in a Pond in the Rain: In Which Four Russians Give a Master Class on Writing, Reading, and Life by George Saunders
Release Date – January 12, 2021
Taken from twenty years’ worth of graduate classes on Russian short stories at the Syracuse University graduate creative writing program, acclaimed author George Saunders comes up with a work of literary criticism that is a love letter in equal parts to his students, readers, and the four Russian authors whose work has held Saunders in thrall.
Saunders, himself one of America’s most honored living writers, turns his sights on the life lessons that the stories of Chekhov, Turgenev, Tolstoy and Gogol can provide to those of us here today, and approaches their work from the basic premise that reading is a fundamental way of understanding people and by extension the world in which we live.
Run to Win: Lessons in Leadership for Women Changing the World by Stephanie Schriock with Christina Reynolds, foreword by Kamala Harris
Release Date – January 12, 2021
Political activist Stephanie Schriock serves as president of the nonprofit group Emily’s List, which is devoted to helping women candidates for political office raise money.
Joined by fellow Emily’s List executive Christina Reynolds and featuring a forward by Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, Run to Win: Lessons in Leadership for Women Changing the World offers advice for any woman looking to take on a leadership role, whether as a candidate or in a traditional workplace. The book focuses on lessons learned in the political arena, but they are easily extrapolated for all women seeking to advance in traditionally male-dominated fields.
Let Me Tell You What I Mean by Joan Didion
Release Date – January 26, 2021
Writer Joan Didion arguably changed journalism and the literary essay both during her five-decade-long career. Taken together, her career output marks her as one of the most insightful social historians of our time.
Didion, winner of the National Book Award, has a stunning eye for detail and for an almost meditative sense of deeply considering the subject matters of her work. After a string of award-winning memoirs focused on the sudden death of her longtime husband John Gregory Dunne and her daughter Quintana Roo, this collection gathers 12 previous essays never before presented in book form. Her essay Why I Write, included here, explicates her process; that alone is worth the investment. Here Didion turns her insightful eye on such characters as Martha Stewart and Nancy Reagan, the portraiture of Robert Mapplethorpe, and an undergraduate creative writing workshop at Berkeley.
Mike Nichols: A Life by Mark Harris
Release Date – February 2, 2021
Perhaps no other individual personifies the creation of modern Hollywood than the late Mike Nichols. From his start in the 1950s as an improvisational comedian to his rise to stardom as a performing partner of Elaine May, to his evolution as a director (Nichols was behind the camera for the legendary film The Graduate, among many others), Nichols was a game-changing artist. Married for many years to CBS and then ABC News personality Diane Sawyer, Nichols managed to be part of the cultural swirl of both New York and Los Angeles.
He was also one of the few artists ever to win the four major awards in the performing arts, the Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony Awards, or E.G.O.T. Nichols’ story—he was born Mikhail Igor Peschkowsky, a refugee from eastern Europe—is itself the stuff that films are made of. In the expert hands of writer Mark Harris, well known for his other books on Hollywood, the book offers a thorough overview of Nichols’s amazing life in a well-paced and insightful biography that will appeal not just to fans of film, television and the performing arts, but to anyone who enjoys a larger-than-life story.
Release Date – February 16, 2021
Microsoft founder Bill Gates turns his attention to the climate crisis in a book taken from over a decade of personal study and investment in technologies to address problems caused by climate change.
As he noted on his personal blog back in October, many of the solutions we need already exist, and he’ll use the book as a platform to argue for the necessary steps to cut greenhouse gas emissions to zero.
The Removed by Brandon Hobson
Release Date – February 2, 2021
One of the nation’s foremost Native American authors, Brandon Hobson, returns with a rich new novel that investigates how the murder of a beloved son permeates every aspects of the survivors’ existence, both personally and spiritually.
As an enrolled member of the Cherokee Nation Tribe of Oklahoma, Hobson uses his knowledge of Cherokee tradition to amplify the story of a family in grief. His first novel, Where the Dead Sit Talking, was a finalist for the National Book Award in 2018, and this novel may well be a similarly lauded title.
The Low Desert: Gangster Stories by Tod Goldberg
Release Date – February 2, 2021
There’s an oft-misunderstood thing about true crime writing: it can be, like real life, laugh out loud funny, even as the bad guys, the occasional cop, or the innocent passerby is being victimized.
Noted crime writer Tod Goldberg returns with a dozen stories that expand upon the saga of Chicago hitman-turned-Vegas-Rabbi Sal Cupertine, whose story drove the acclaimed novel Gangsterland and its follow-up Gangster Nation. Goldberg examines the inner workings of Southern California’s Inland Empire by examining the people; as Booklist said in an advance review, the characters here are criminals, but they are not villains. They are also memorable, profane, violent, funny and most of all, human.
Kink, edited by R.O. Kwon and Garth Greenwell
Release Date – February 9, 2021
A veritable who’s who of literary fiction fills this short story anthology, edited by acclaimed authors Kwon and Greenwell. What’s refreshing about this volume is the frankness with which the individual preferences, fetishes and sexual longings of the characters are treated with dignity, given their rightful place as a fact of everyday life.
Kwon, a Korean-born writer whose debut The Incendiaries was named a best book of the year by over 40 publications, and Greenwell, whose two novels have won wide praise and been finalists for major prizes, fill these pages with stories from a dazzlingly diverse set of voices talking about, “love, longing, BDSM and sexual kinks.” Featured authors include Alexander Chee, Melissa Febos, Roxane Gay, Carmen Maria Machado and Brandon Taylor.
Foregone by Russell Banks
Release Date – March 2, 2021
Perhaps it is a curse for an author to be labeled a writer’s writer, but Russell Banks certainly is the kind of novelist that other writers both envy and emulate. His books, like The Sweet Hereafter, have frequently been adapted into films. And over the course of his career, he has managed the difficult trick of producing novel after novel, each wildly different.
His career output ranges from a door stopper of a book about abolitionist John Brown to Rule of the Bone, which covers the travels of a middle-class teenager from an upstate New York trailer park to the marijuana farms of Jamaica. In his latest work, Banks tells the story of filmmaker Leonard Fife, an American living in exile, having fled to Canada to avoid the Vietnam-era draft. Nearing the end of his life, Leonard agrees to sit for interviews as the subject of a documentary about his work, using the questions as a chance to bear all the secrets of his life.
How Beautiful We Were by Imbolo Mbue
Release Date – March 9, 2021
Fresh off the success of her first novel Behold the Dreamers, a book that won the PEN/Faulkner Award and was an Oprah Book Club selection, Imbolo Mbue returns with a new novel about the fictional African village of Kosawa, whose existence is threatened by an American oil company.
With promises broken and with the children of the village getting sick from contaminated drinking water, the villagers decide to fight back. Led by a young woman named Thula, the villagers and their stories provide a stunning investigation into power, politics, economics and our willingness to fight for freedom.
The Souvenir Museum: Stories by Elizabeth McCracken
Release Date – April 13, 2021
The San Francisco Chronicle once said that Elizabeth McCracken, the acclaimed author of six books, filled the pages of her work with “subtle, enticing secrets of the heart,” and this forthcoming story collection offers more of the same.
Her characters are quirky, memorable, and McCracken puts them in situations that manage the difficult trick of being both familiar and unexpected, just like real life.
Written with a surplus of wit and intelligence, McCracken’s books are always a cause for celebration. What readers should also look for is the signature way her wry humor illuminates some of the most difficult times in the lives of her well-loved characters. Her most recent collection won the Story Prize, and this one arrives with a good bit of fanfare, having received a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly. As an added bonus, the title story is available online in the January 2021 edition of Harper’s Magazine.
From fiction to nonfiction here is a new book coming out in 2021 for everyone. Will the next book on your reading list be a hard copy or are you more of an e-reader?
2021 is the perfect time to reel in your Netflix bingeing and find your new best friend in a book.
You might also be interested in: 15 Ways To Start Reading More Books Right Now
The 11 Most Anticipated Books of 2021:
- A Swim in a Pond in the Rain: In Which Four Russians Give a Master Class on Writing, Reading, and Life by George Saunders
- Run to Win: Lessons in Leadership for Women Changing the World by Stephanie Schriock with Christina Reynolds, foreword by Kamala Harris
- Let Me Tell You What I Mean by Joan Didion
- Mike Nichols: A Life by Mark Harris
- How to Avoid a Climate Disaster: The Solutions We Have and the Breakthroughs We Need by Bill Gates
- The Removed by Brandon Hobson
- The Low Desert: Gangster Stories by Tod Goldberg
- Kink, edited by R.O. Kwon and Garth Greenwell
- Foregone by Russell Banks
- How Beautiful We Were by Imbolo Mbue
- The Souvenir Museum: Stories by Elizabeth McCracken
Steve Kistulentzview post
Steve Kistulentz is the author of the novel Panorama, a must read selected by publications as diverse as Entertainment Weekly and the New York Post. He is also the author of two collections of poetry, Little Black Daydream (2012), an editor’s choice selection in the University of Akron Press Series in Poetry, and The Luckless Age (2010), selected from over 700 manuscripts as the winner of the Benjamin Saltman Award. He teaches at Saint Leo University in Florida, where he serves as director of the graduate creative writing program.view post